Introducing the B1G All-Freshman team: Non-Conference Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 31st, 2013

In the first two months of the B1G season, many freshman have debuted to largely mixed results. Coming into the season, there were 13 freshmen in the league who made the top 100 of the recruiting services consensus index, and some have had a greater impact than others so far. What follows is the five best of the bunch as we head into league play starting this afternoon.

Noah Vonleh (right) has been the best freshman in the B1G so far this season.

Noah Vonleh (right) has been the best freshman in the B1G so far this season.

  • Noah Vonleh, Indiana (12.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 56.3% FG). Vonleh has been the best Big Ten freshman by far in the non-conference season. He’s leading the conference in rebounding, and is getting it done on both the offensive and defensive backboards. He’s especially good at grabbing defensive rebounds, doing so at a rate of 29.3 percent (good for eighth in the country). Indiana has struggled to keep him involved in the offense, but he’s shooting a high percentage despite getting many of his points from put backs and trips to the free throw line. If Indiana wants to get off of the bubble and ensure another NCAA Tournament appearance, Vonleh has to be a bigger part of the offense.
  • Bryson Scott, Purdue (9.7 PPG, 1.3 SPG). Scott has fit in rather nicely as a complement to the Johnson brothers pairing at the guard spot for the Boilermakers. He’s shown a strong ability to pressure the ball on defense, where he’s getting steals at the sixth best rate in the conference (4.2%), and he’s also done a nice job in being aggressive and drawing fouls, doing so at the second best rate in the league. He’s already led Purdue in steals seven times and scoring four times, despite only playing 17.5 minutes per game. Matt Painter has played its freshman class a decent amount this season, but Scott has been the player making the greatest impact. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Indiana and Purdue Both Face Questions Following Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 16th, 2013

It wasn’t a good day for the Big Ten contingent at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis on Saturday. Indiana and Purdue both lost games they really needed to win, and now find themselves still without a marquee win on their NCAA resumes. The losses also gave Indiana (1-2 in Crossroads Classic history) and Purdue (0-3) losing records versus their in-state brethren Notre Dame (2-1) and Butler (3-0) in the event. So maybe the B1G schools don’t actually rule the state after all. Here are three keys from each of Saturday’s games and some questions facing the Hoosiers and Boilermakers following each.

Notre Dame 79, Indiana 72

Indiana's Will Sheehey battles with Notre Dame's Jerian Grant for a ball in the Crossroads Classic. Indiana faces plenty of questions following the loss to the Irish (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).

Indiana’s Will Sheehey battles with Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant for a ball in the Crossroads Classic. Indiana faces plenty of questions following the loss to the Irish (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).

  • Physicality Inside. Everyone thought it would be the Notre Dame guards who could lead the Irish to an upset victory, but everyone was pretty much wrong. Jerian Grant had a very good game (23 points), but it was the Irish’s inside play of Garrick Sherman (16/6) and bench players Tom Knight (yes, he still plays basketball) and Zach Auguste that killed Indiana inside. These players routinely went right at Vonleh and the other Hoosiers and just outmuscled them in the paint. The Hoosier freshman is very athletic and talented but he had no answer when they backed him down. This is an issue that could rear its head often for this team during Big Ten play if Vonleh doesn’t toughen up or the Hoosiers don’t find someone to match up defensively with the strong inside players in the conference.
  • Go-to Scorer. Indiana never took the lead in this game despite coming close over and over again. The Hoosiers would pull within a few points or tie the game and could never quite get over the hump. Each time, Indiana either froze on assessing its options or the leaders who tried to take charge didn’t come through. Examples included Will Sheehey quickly pulling up for a three-pointer and missing, or Yogi Ferrell taking an isolation drive that was rejected. These two or someone else needs to emerge for Indiana to close out games like these in the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Previewing the Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 14th, 2013

In a state that considers itself the mecca for hoops, Indiana’s premiere college basketball programs are set to play in the Crossroads Classic’s third edition later today. In the past two years the event has brought buzzer-beaters and an upset over a No. 1 team, but this season, all four teams desperately need a win here to help their future NCAA hopes. It’s a day for state supremacy and bragging rights at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — on a Saturday afternoon of great basketball around the country, the Crossroads Classic is unlikely to disappoint. Below you will find three keys to both games for Indiana and Purdue to notch wins in this afternoon’s event.

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic is Becoming a Hoosier State Tradition

Notre Dame vs. Indiana 3:15 PM, ESPN

  • Take care of the ball. The Irish are the more experienced team taking on the relatively young Hoosiers. This becomes especially important in the backcourt where Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell faces Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. These two take care of and share the ball extremely well (Notre Dame is third in the country in assists per game). Ferrell will need to match their composure and not make mistakes if Indiana hopes to walk away with the victory here.
  • Use its athleticism. Indiana struggled against Syracuse’s zone with all of its tall, athletic and physical players. Notre Dame at least has the tall and physical part going for it. This means that the Hoosiers will need to use their athleticism to get out and run. If Indiana can turn this into a track meet game, it has a better chance of winning the contest where its athleticism can outmatch Notre Dame’s experience. This also helps alleviate the Irish having a strong starting five versus Indiana typically having to rely on a couple players to explode (read: Noah Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Ferrell).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Four Thoughts on Indiana’s Loss to Syracuse

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 4th, 2013

Indiana was dismantled by Syracuse Tuesday evening, 69-52. The Hoosiers were looking to avenge last season’s Sweet Sixteen loss in the NCAA Tournament, but that lengthy Syracuse 2-3 zone stumped Tom Crean’s offense again. Here are four thoughts on last night’s game and what it means for Indiana going forward.

The Rematch Looked a Lot Like the Original. (Getty)

The rematch looked a lot like the original. (Getty)

  1. Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh led Indiana with 12 and 17 points, respectively, but after that there was minimal offensive production from the other Hoosiers. Senior Will Sheehey really struggled from the field, going 1-of-7 and finishing with only three points. Ferrell will get his from long-range shooting and Vonleh can finish on the blocks and on putbacks, but Sheehey has to give Tom Crean another offensive weapon for this team to be successful. Over the previous two seasons, IU hadn’t faced a problem of offensive inconsistency, with players like Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo able to create their own shots. This season, the veteran Sheehey needs to really improve as a three-point threat to keep the offense flowing (he’s shooting a career-low 21.7 percent). With Sheehey also Indiana’s best on-ball defender, it’s proving tough for him to transition from defense to offense.
  2. One way to beat a 2-3 zone is shooting from beyond the arc. Indiana didn’t follow through on that tip, shooting a dreary 28 percent in last night’s game. Last year, the Hoosiers had four players who shot over 40 percent from distance. This year, Ferrell has the highest percentage at 38 percent, and he was the only one to make a three against Syracuse (4-of-7). Sheehey can normally knock down perimeter shots and freshmen Collin Hartman and Troy Williams can shoot as well, but the key shooter is sophomore Jeremy Hollowell.  Hollowell resembles his former teammate Christian Watford; a big, athletic wing who can stretch defenses with his bombs. The problem is that Hollowell only attempted one three-point shot against Syracuse; he needs to become more than just a specialty guy when he’s on the floor 29 minutes for Tom Crean’s team. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presents Giant Opportunity For Michigan

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 2nd, 2013

What to Make of Michigan Heading to Duke in the Headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Nobody ever said life after Trey Burke was going to be easy. Despite entering the season with both a top 10 ranking and preseason All-American (again) to lead the way, John Beilein had to know that this group of Wolverines would be a work in progress. Gone was not only the transcendent Burke, but also backcourt mate Tim Hardaway, Jr., a highly accomplished player in his own right. Also of concern: The fact that this year’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, entered the season on the mend. The bruising sophomore is recovering from a back injury, and even with a (relatively) healthy back a season ago, he had averaged only 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as he got acclimated to college basketball. Was he really ready to deliver All-American type production? Every team entered this season with question marks, but Michigan faced as many as any of their preseason top-10 cohabitants.

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

The Wolverines are now seven games into the season, and the top-10 ranking is gone. The same cannot be said for those pesky preseason questions. Michigan is 5-2 on the year, with an overtime victory over Florida State ranking as its lone victory of consequence (seriously, the average Pomeroy rating for the other four Wolverine conquests is 297). The back injury ultimately caused McGary to miss just two games, but his production since returning has hardly been like that of an All-American: 8.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 25 minutes per game. I’m not in the habit of judging a guy off of five post-injury games, but the jury remains out on whether McGary can live up to those expansive preseason expectations.

Nor has a verdict been offered on the Michigan point guard situation. Nobody expected Derrick Walton to become Trey Burke, but the freshman has averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.4 per game) as assists (3.3 per game), while also ceding crunch time minutes to backup Spike Albrecht. In the two Michigan losses (to Iowa State and Charlotte), Walton has averaged just 19 minutes a game. Clearly John Beilein is not ready to fully hand over the reins to the talented youngster, but like McGary, there’s still plenty of time for Walton to grow into his expected role.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rebounding Work Key for Indiana When Facing a Zone

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 22nd, 2013

After watching two weeks of the regular season and reading at least a month of preseason coverage, it is a well known fact that the Hoosiers may not have a consistent shooting threat from beyond the arc. Even though Yogi Ferrell has improved his long-range shot in the early-going (41%), Will Sheehey has been ice cold (24%) and without Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, there are few other options. Syracuse laid out a recipe for success against the Hoosiers during the NCAA Tournament last season, which is that Indiana struggles against an athletic zone. That specific game, combined with ongoing question marks about their long-range shooting, provides enough reason for opposing coaches to to use the strategy. But while a zone may serve to slow Indiana’s offense down, the Hoosiers will have a huge rebounding edge with their front line of Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams. For instance, Washington utilized a zone against the Hoosiers last night and it worked in one sense because Tom Crean’s squad shot just 3-of-14 from beyond the arc. However, the zone exposed the offensive glass and the Hoosiers nearly doubled up the Huskies on the boards, 47-27. This tradeoff should continue throughout the season because teams are likely to zone the Hoosiers, and Vonleh and Williams relentlessly attack the glass.

Noah Vonleh (right) is a rebounding machine.

Noah Vonleh (right) is a rebounding machine.

Vonleh was described as a “pogo stick” by the announcers during the game and it may be a fair description because he is proving his rebounding strength, especially on the offensive end. The freshman forward is averaging 12.5 RPG this season and grabbed four offensive boards against Washington. He has excellent footwork in the paint and uses his body to effectively to block out his defender. The Huskies did a good job of trapping Ferrell and Jeremy Hollowell in the high post, forcing them to shoot at the end of the shot clock, but Vonleh was in the right place at the right time to retrieve the caroms. In general, a zone defense leaves the offensive glass open because three defenders crowd the players around the free throw line, which leaves lanes to attack the glass. Even the mighty and athletic Syracuse zone has issues covering the offensive glass because the baseline or the weak side of the basket is usually wide open.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Fabulous Freshmen Usher in Next Era for Indiana

Posted by Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) on November 22nd, 2013

Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Washington and Indiana in New York.

Even the elite programs of college basketball will not contend for a national championship every year. There are ebbs and flows within every program, like when the big recruiting class gives you hope and the devastation when your superstar leaves prematurely. If everything goes well, the top programs will always contend but can only make a legitimate run at the title every few years. Last season was supposed to be that year for Indiana. They had Player of the Year candidates in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. They had experienced seniors in Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. They had depth, shooting, size and they spent several weeks at the top of the polls.

wash indiana 2ksports

Indiana

The Hoosiers also went cold at the wrong time, bombing out to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. Now, Oladipo is trying to figure out how to take care of the ball with the Orlando Magic. Zeller is trying to finally break into double figures for the Charlotte Bobcats. Watford and Hulls are only present in the record books, no longer on the court. No one expects Indiana to seriously contend for a national championship this season.

Yet last night against Washington at Madison Square Garden, Indiana showed it may not be too long before the Hoosiers are back near the top, and that was thanks to the presence of two promising freshmen, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams. Vonleh is a long, skinny post player who can be devastatingly active on the glass when he chooses. Physically, he looks like a younger Chris Bosh but he plays a different game, staying closer to the basket and doing his damage on the boards. Indiana plays a similar style to last season with Yogi Ferrell pushing the tempo and attacking defenses, but unlike that group spearheaded by Zeller, they do not spend a lot of time working the ball into the post. Right now Vonleh is left to find scoring opportunities from offensive rebounds and the occasional pick-and-roll finish.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Freshmen Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams Are Already Impact Players For Indiana

Posted by Walker Carey on November 16th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday evening’s game in Bloomington between Indiana and Samford.

It is well known that Indiana entered the 2013-14 season in a bit of a precarious position, as it was tasked with replacing four starters from last season’s regular season Big Ten championship squad. While it was assumed that several returnees would step into larger roles, most of the outside focus was centered on the incoming freshman class that Tom Crean was bringing to Bloomington. The two crown jewels of that six member recruiting class were highly decorated forwards Noah Vonleh (Haverhill, Mass./New Hampton School) and Troy Williams (Hampton, Va./Oak Hill Academy).

Noah Vonleh

Noah Vonleh Has Mimicked Julius Randle’s Double-Doubles Without the Hype

Noah Vonleh came to Indiana after an illustrious prep career that was capped off with his selection to the McDonald’s All-American squad. There was so much buzz surrounding Vonleh’s arrival in Bloomington that he was named Big Ten Freshman/Newcomer of the Year by numerous publications. The young forward’s 6’10″, 240 pound frame suggests that a majority of his production would come from the post, and while Vonleh is a dynamic player there, he gained high marks from coaches on the recruiting trail for his ability to use his athleticism and be productive from anywhere on the court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Openers: Time to Judge the One-Game Judgements

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 11th, 2013

Opening weekend has come and gone, and every Big Ten team has played at least one game, with Illinois and Iowa suiting  up for two. After the weekend, the Big Ten sits at 14-0. Of course, such a short examination period isn’t the best time to make judgments, but they certainly were out in force for some teams and players. With this post, we will examine some of the potential overreactions involving Big Ten teams. We’ll also try to gauge if that overreaction could be warranted as something to worry about as the season progresses or if really it was a one-game situation that will be forgotten by next week.

Iowa

Iowa is 2-0 and That’s About All That Matters at This Point

Illinois

It was an impressive opening two games for Rayvonte Rice, shooting 55 percent from the floor while putting up 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Thinking the redshirt junior (he transfered from Drake and sat out last season) will sustain close to these numbers against better teams is foolhardy, though. A big question mark coming into the season was how accurate Rice would be (he shot 43.6 percent in his last season at Drake) and it’s unlikely his strong opening weekend shooting will continue. He’ll be good, but not this good all season.

Indiana

It was quite the debut for heralded freshman Noah Vonleh, finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Some people even started comparing him to Cody Zeller after one game. Well, Vonleh certainly was spectacular in his debut, but let’s not put him down as an All-American already. This rebounding pace won’t continue at such a high rate and his offense still needs a lot of work. It’s likely he makes an All-B1G of some sort and could be Indiana’s best player, but one game against inferior competition isn’t All-American status just yet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

B1G Freshmen First Impressions

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 11th, 2013

I stay away from trying to analyze freshmen before they step on a college court for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I follow recruiting to the point where I generally know the top 100 players and pay attention to where they sign. I just don’t feel comfortable going off of high school/AAU scouting reports and am of the mind that every newcomer steps in with a clean slate until they play at least once in their college careers. What follows are simply some first impressions of a handful of Big Ten freshman as they made their collegiate debuts this past weekend.

Noah Vonleh won the first B1G Freshman of the Week award of the season after a double-double effort on Friday.

Noah Vonleh won the first B1G Freshman of the Week award of the season after a double-double effort on Friday.

Indiana had six freshmen make an appearance in its blowout win against Chicago State on Friday night. After getting a chance to see Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams for the first time, my first thoughts were about how much length and athleticism they provide. The Hoosiers should have a chance to be scary good defensively. Between these two and Jeremy Hollowell, they will influence a number of shots in the paint, causing teams simply launch threes instead of coming at them inside. Vonleh had a nice overall line with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks, but he really got my attention by grabbing offensive rebounds and leading the fast break. He showed flashes of a number of different skills that will no doubt have him on the NBA’s radar. Williams, on the other hand, was drawing comparisons to Victor Oladipo throughout the telecast, and while he may never get to that level defensively, he has a chance to become a legitimate stopper on that side of the ball. Stanford Robinson and Devin Davis didn’t get as much time as the other two, but they also are nice, athletic wings who have a chance to earn more minutes for the Hoosiers down the line, especially if they can knock down shots from the perimeter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Indiana Will Look For Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey to Fill New Roles

Posted by Walker Carey on November 9th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday evening’s game in Bloomington between Indiana and Chicago State.

Not very often does a team have to replace four career 1,000-point scorers, but that is the situation Indiana is in to begin the 2013-14 season. Gone from last season’s Big Ten champion Hoosiers are guards Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo and forwards Christian Watford and Cody Zeller. The talent level leaving Bloomington was so great that Oladipo was the second pick and Zeller was the fourth pick in last June’s NBA Draft. With all that talent and production now missing, Indiana enters this campaign as a bit of unknown. Sure, it brought in a highly-ranked recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Noah Vonleh, but as we all know, experience is a necessary attribute for success in a league like the Big Ten. Luckily for Tom Crean, the Hoosiers return two players with solid experience in sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell and senior forward Will Sheehey.

Yogi

Yogi Ferrell Didn’t Shoot Well on Friday Night, But His Floor Game Was Solid

As a freshman last season, Ferrell started every game for the 29-7 Hoosiers. His prowess as a floor general was evident throughout last season as he led the team with 4.1 assists per game – a figure that was also good for third-best in the Big Ten. While Ferrell was not counted on to score too much, he showed he was capable by averaging a respectable 7.6 points per contest. The Indianapolis native’s strong play was noticed by the coaches of the Big Ten as he was named by them to the league’s All-Freshmen squad. Now in his second year in the program, Ferrell is going to be called upon to be much more aggressive in the offense. As the team’s second-leading returning scorer, it is fair to figure that Tom Crean and his staff are going to look for the sophomore to increase his scoring output. Additionally, due to the great experience he gained last year, one would imagine that Ferrell will also take on a leadership role with the squad.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #8 to #5

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 7th, 2013

With the basketball season set to tip off for some Big Ten teams tomorrow, the five of us at the Big Ten microsite took a poll to see how the 12 teams will finish this upcoming season. If you missed it, yesterday we previewed teams #12 to #9, and today we look at the teams we believe to be in the middle tier. These teams have a chance to finish higher if their freshmen play well and returnees develop, but these same question marks mean they could easily tumble lower too. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see the four teams we picked to land at the top of the conference. And feel free to debate, argue and discuss how much or how little we know what we’re talking about.

8. Illinois

John Groce

John Groce Starts His Second Season With Numerous Questions

  • What they do well: Let’s be honest, there are a lot of question marks with this team thanks to only five returnees. In Groce’s first season as head coach, though, the team took good care of the ball, averaging a turnover on only 14.7 percent of possessions. The new guards will need to continue this trend as Illinois was 25th in the country last year in this statistic.
  • What they don’t do well: Sharing the ball was a struggle for Illinois. It only averaged 10.1 assists per game last season, ranking 319th in the NCAA.
  • Get to know: Rayvonte Rice. The redshirt junior has been lighting it up for Illinois in the exhibition contests and could earn the starting spot at the shooting guard position. He appears to have drastically improved his outside shot and with five freshmen on this team, his play and leadership will be needed.
  • Why they’ll finish eighth: The team takes time to gel and the freshmen, while talented, aren’t quite ready to compete for a Big Ten championship. The loss of players like Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson are too much for the program to overcome.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: They get solid guard play from Tracy Abrams and Rice’s outside shot isn’t just strong in exhibitions. The youth is as talented as believed to be as it wins a lot of early games and has a confidence that carries into Big Ten play.

7. Purdue

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story