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


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.


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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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

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Noah Vonleh: RTC Big Ten’s Preseason Freshman of the Year

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 6th, 2013

By all accounts, this is the year of the freshmen. Not since the 2007-08 class of Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love has an incoming rookie class had this much talent. Players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon are expected to dominate college basketball for one year and then bolt for the NBA as lottery picks. Unfortunately for Big Ten fans, none of these top recruits chose one of its 12 schools as their destination.  However, this doesn’t mean the conference is devoid of incoming talent. According to, 13 of the top 100 recruits entering college basketball will play in the Big Ten but only one freshman stands out from the rest. Noah Vonleh, the conference’s highest ranked recruit at #8, is a big man from New Hampshire who will play for Indiana. He, perhaps not coincidentally, is the most prepared freshman to have immediate success in the rugged Big Ten.

noah vonleh

Noah Vonleh may be young, but he is battle-ready for the Big Ten.

Vonleh gives the Hoosiers something they’ve lacked since DJ White was in crimson and cream — a physical, back-to-the-basket big man with pro talent. Though he only recently turned 18 years old, the 6’9″, 240-pound Vonleh already has a Big Ten body — add a 7’5″ wingspan to his size, and you realize that he is plenty big, long and strong. He’ll need all of these tools when conference play begins in order to handle the physical play of the Big Ten. He will need to get acclimated quickly to begin to replace what they lost in the frontcourt. Last year’s trio of Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, and Victor Oladipo contributed 47.4 PPG and 20.6 RPG — a rather tall order for the freshman and his colleagues. It could take a while — as a case in point, last year’s best freshman big man, Michigan’ s Mitch McGrary, didn’t start putting it all together until March.

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Big Ten M5: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 5th, 2013


  1. The Cliff Alexander recruitment may now need to be classified as an official circus. Earlier in the day, long-time Illinois-based recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt tweeted that when Alexander announces, the “2 final caps on [the] table will be Illinois & DePaul,” effectively eliminating Kansas and Memphis from contention. After which, Gary Parrish of tweeted that Alexander had not in fact cut his list to these two schools. Schmidt later clarified that his tweet did not mean Alexander will necessarily cut his list but that these two schools would be there until the end. It seems with this recruitment there is a new rumor each and every day. Alexander is supremely talented, and his recruitment is certainly worth any headache it may cause John Groce and his staff. But the topsy-turvy nature of his recruitment reflects poorly on him and begs the question of whether Alexander will be as big of a distraction on the court as his recruitment has been. It’s probably in the interest of Alexander and those around him to get past this side show and back to basketball.
  2. Mitch McGary was instrumental in Michigan’s run to the National Championship game last March. After a somewhat disappointing freshman year, relative to his standing in the rankings, McGary finally put it together and averaged 14.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG during the NCAA Tournament. Though he had the opportunity to leave for the NBA, McGary decided to come back to lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship and another Final Four run. On Monday, McGary was selected by the Associated Press as a Preseason First Team All-American. The departure of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will give McGary ample opportunity to take on a bigger role and make another leap in his development. Now that his freshman jitters are gone, McGary will need to prove he can consistently be the star that everyone thinks he can be.
  3. Apparently, Yogi Ferrell is still not over Indiana’s loss to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. In case you forgot, Indiana’s high-powered offense was completely neutralized by Syracuse’s zone. Ferrell went scoreless in that game and the bad taste in his mouth has driven him to address one of his biggest weaknesses from last season: shooting. Last year, Ferrell shot a very pedestrian 40.3 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from beyond the arc, but he has taken this offseason to fix his mechanics and hit the gym hard. We may have gotten a taste of what’s to come when he hit six three-pointers in the Hoosiers’ October 26 exhibition game. If Ferrell can be a consistent threat from deep, that will open up the driving lanes for himself and Will Sheehey. It will also give more space down low for freshman Noah Vonleh to be effective scoring on the block.
  4. Drew Crawford is one good teammate. He was on pace to graduate at the end of the spring semester and could have applied for a graduate transfer to another school. He could have easily gone to a school where he would have had the opportunity to do something he’s never done before — play in the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the coach that had recruited and mentored him during his tenure at Evanston was now gone. He had every reason to go but decided to stay to help his school and teammates transition into the Chris Collins era. The current environment has both coaches and players eager to make moves to the next best situation, so what Crawford did here is refreshing. Northwestern will struggle this season and Crawford will most likely never play in the NCAA Tournament in his collegiate career, but his selflessness is to be commended and admired.
  5. Gary Harris was selected as the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year during media day. An outstanding freshman, he was hampered by a nagging shoulder injury last season and is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered back in August. If there is any concern with him this season, it’s his ongoing health. His performance during last night’s exhibition game may have alleviated some of those fears.  Harris scored 21 points and went 5-of-7 from deep. While projecting what a player will do in a season based off one exhibition game is unwise, we already know Harris is a special player and he will be in store for a special season as long as he can stay healthy.
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From Sixth Man to Star? Examining Indiana’s Will Sheehey

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 4th, 2013

It’s easy to see why Hoosier fans loved Will Sheehey last season. He came off the bench and brought a tenacity and scoring touch that helped Indiana maintain or push a lead when its stars took a breather. The then-junior’s stats were solid, which ultimately earned him the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year award and an invitation to play at the World University Games (where he averaged more than 10 PPG in 17 minutes of play a game). All of this got him enough notoriety to be listed No. 76 on’s top 100 players list, ahead of teammate and Big Ten all-freshman Yogi Ferrell. But that’s all last season because Sheehey is about to step into a completely new and bigger role, as is the rest of Indiana’s team with the departures of Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls. Sheehey is no longer a third or fourth option when he will hit the court, but likely the first or second along with Ferrell and Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh.

Will Sheehey has a much larger role for Indiana this season, and his play is crucial to the Hoosiers success (Andy Lyons/Getty Images).

Will Sheehey has a much larger role for Indiana this season, and his play is crucial to the Hoosiers success (Andy Lyons/Getty Images).

How Sheehey responds to this change in roles will have a huge impact on the Hoosiers this season. Sheehey is the team’s elder statesman now, so his leadership will be important, but he is also Indiana’s top returning scorer and rebounder. This puts pressure on him to continue to produce on the offensive end as teams focus on stopping him. Can he adjust to defenses no longer sagging off him to handle 1,000-point scorers and high NBA Draft picks? Last season he was mediocre from the three-point line at 34.6 percent from the field. He’ll likely need to bring that percentage up, but he’ll still need to use his underrated athleticism to attack the basket and find those easier mid-range jumpers. Last season he took 35 percent of his shots inside the paint and made them at a 70 percent clip. He also has an ability to run the floor that most people don’t realize, as you can see here with what he did against Minnesota. Even without another known outside threat for the Hoosiers (although Ferrell did make six three-pointers in the team’s first exhibition), Sheehey should use his driving ability and not settle for trying to fill a void with four or five threes a game. When he does get hot, though, Indiana needs to give him the ball. Last season, he set an Indiana single game record by going 9-of-9 from deep against Purdue, so when he’s feeling it he can take over a game.

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Who’s Got Next? Indiana Scores With Noah Vonleh; Nigel Hayes Becomes A Badger…

Posted by CLykins on November 13th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Indiana Adds Noah Vonleh To Loaded Class

As Saturday night concluded, the Indiana Hoosiers landed a significant piece to its 2013 recruiting class that quickly vaulted them up the class rankings to join the likes of Kentucky and Memphis. Five-star forward Noah Vonleh, who reclassified back into his original class of 2013 in September, ended his college recruitment quicker than expected by giving the Hoosiers a verbal pledge after his official visit during Indiana’s season opener. Vonleh, the No. 8 ranked prospect in the class of 2013, was also considering Connecticut, Georgetown, North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse.

While visiting, 2013 No. 8 prospect Noah Vonleh chose the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday night

“From Day One, Indiana has been recruiting me the hardest,” Vonleh told Adam Finkelstein of “They were just letting me know how they could develop me into the player I want to be at the next level. Their academics are good, they’re the No. 1 team in the country and they’ve got another great class coming in next year.” With the addition of Vonleh, head coach Tom Crean has landed his highest-ranked prospect since taking the Indiana job in 2008. At 6’9″ and 220 lbs., the Massachusetts native is best described as a freak athlete. He uses his great length especially well rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor, as he is arguably one of the best rebounders in the class, and altering shots with his shot-blocking. For a combo forward, he also has excellent ball-handling ability with an ever-improving jump shot. As his body continues to mature, with added strength to his 6’9″ frame he will be more efficient from the low post with his endless potential.

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Morning Five: Veterans Day (Observed) Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2012

  1. Friday was supposed to be about the games, but perhaps the biggest news all last week came out of NCAA headquarters where it declared UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad ineligible to play “due to violations of NCAA amateurism rules,” citing his travel and lodging on unofficial visits to two schools — reportedly Duke and UNC — in addition to the already discussed relationship between his family and financial advisors. Perhaps given the timing of the announcement, for which the NCAA probably figured it would receive criticism, they also mentioned how long it took the Muhammad family to produce the necessary documents (a full three months) meaning that the NCAA took a little over one week to come to a decision and within a few hours of completing the necessary interviews. It should be pointed out that this ruling does not mean that Muhammad is done for the season, as the NCAA did not specify the duration of his ineligibility and UCLA plans to appeal the ruling. As we said before we are not that surprised by this decision, but expect this to play out over the next few weeks. Hopefully Muhammad stays at UCLA long enough for a final decision to be made.
  2. As for the actual games, there were quite a few interesting storylines over the weekend, but the one that stood out was the cancellation of the two naval ship games on Friday night due to issues with condensation. The only outdoor game that was actually completed was the Sunday afternoon match-up between Syracuse and San Diego State and even that one had to be moved from Friday due to inclement weather. As we have said on this site before, the naval ship idea is nice as a morale boost for the troops and brings some good publicity to the sport when it is pulled off correctly, but as this weekend demonstrated there are too many confounding variables to make it a viable repeatable event. As much as we hate to say it just one year after the Carrier Classic was one of the highlights of last season, but the outdoor ship games need to go. If you want to do something to honor the troops on Veterans Day weekend, do something like what Michigan State and Connecticut did in Germany and play in front of them indoors — an airplane hangar works out just fine.
  3. On Friday we ran a column featuring the winners and losers of the week. If we were doing another one today, Tom Crean would have to be at the top of the winners list as he not only added Noah Vonleh, the #8 recruit in the class of 2013, but he also signed a contract extension that runs through 2020 and pays him $3.16 million per year in base salary. As big as the Vonleh signing is (he might end up being Cody Zeller’s replacement if Zeller opts to enter the NBA Draft after this season), the contract extension should be a huge recruiting tool for Crean particularly as he recruits against more established coaches at the other top schools around the country. Kentucky fans might still mock the Hoosiers and their Sweet Sixteen rings, but the way things are looking we could have a very competitive interstate rivalry over the next decade even if the schools can’t come to an agreement to play each other.
  4. Butler announced that it was starting a public fundraising campaign to get to the $16 million it needs to renovate Hinkle Fieldhouse. The school has already raised $11 million on its own, but needs to raise an additional $5 million to meet its goal. As much as we love Hinkle we understand the need to raise money to renovate it and help Butler stay competitive with the other high-level programs it competes against, but we are having a hard time with the naming opportunity section. For a place that seems essentially a temple/church of basketball, naming every nut and bolt in the place seems a little strange. Having said that if one of our generous benefactors wants to name something after us we would be willing to lend our name so long as it isn’t something particularly offensive, like a urinal.
  5. Over the years we have commented on more than one occasion about the Taylor King saga as the former McDonald’s All-American bounced around from school to school, but we never knew much about his background. Jeff Goodman was able to get access to Taylor and his family to produce an excellent piece about the issues that King was dealing with including an overbearing father and a marijuana problem. King is currently in Taiwan trying to make a comeback while getting his his life together. It seems like we often hear about players failing to live up to their potential and writers and fans inevitably make fun of them (hello, Reeves Nelson), but as this case illustrates there is usually a lot more going on in the background that we never know about at the time.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Dakari Johnson Reclassifies, Tyus Jones Cuts List…

Posted by CLykins on November 9th, 2012

Seven Sweet Scoops is the newest and hottest column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting analyst. Every Friday he will talk about the seven top stories from the week in the wide world of recruiting, involving offers, which prospect visited where, recent updates regarding school lists and more chatter from the recruiting scene. You can also check out more of his work at RTC with his weekly column “Who’s Got Next?”, as well as his work dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings.

1. Dakari Johnson Joins Class of 2013

As if the class of 2013 couldn’t get any better, it just did. Center Dakari Johnson of Montverde Academy (Florida) has announced his intentions to reclassify into the senior class. With the move, he will join Wayne Selden, Noah Vonleh and Andrew Wiggins as the four elite players from the class of 2014 to forego their junior seasons in high school. As Johnson becomes a part of the ever-more-impressive 2013 class, he will be ranked as the No. 12 overall prospect and immediately become the No. 1 overall center. A native New Yorker, Johnson transferred to Montverde from St. Patrick High (New Jersey) following head coach Kevin Boyle, who took the head coaching job there after the 2010-11 season. Due to transfer rules, Johnson was forced to sit out last season. At 6’10” and around 255 lbs., he is a handful for the opposition in the low post. He uses his strong frame very effectively with a soft touch around the rim. Due to his size, it proves to be a challenging task for defenders to keep him from where he wants to go down low. He is also very active on the glass, carving out space and rebounding the basketball at a high rate. Among those involved with Johnson include Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Syracuse. The Gators were the first school to see Johnson a day after his reclassification. His mother, Makini Campbell, has stated that he will be a spring signee.

Dakari Johnson now becomes the No. 1 center in the class of 2013 with his recent reclassification

2. Tyus Jones Releases List of Eight

The current No. 1 prospect in the class of 2014, Tyus Jones, has narrowed his recruiting list of potential suitors to eight. Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State made the recent cut for the electric point guard from Apple Valley High School (Minnesota). Jones took over the top spot in the 2014 class after the reclassification of Andrew Wiggins. At 6’1″, Jones is an efficient scorer, as displayed at the 2012 Nike EYBL Finals in the summer, where he was the tournament leader in scoring with 25.8 points per game. Capable of carving up any defense with outstanding speed, he exhibits a great understanding of passing lanes on the court. A heady player, Jones is always one step ahead of the opposition, elevating not only his game but his teammate’s games as well. He was also a vital component for the USA U-17 National Team where he helped lead the squad to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U-17 Championship, averaging 8.5 points and 5.4 assists per game. Outside of trimming his list, Jones has been apart of a rapid discussion in recruiting circles along with classmate and the No. 2 prospect, Jahlil Okafor. Both players have spoken publicly about being a “package deal” in college. Okafor is currently being pursued by five of the eight schools listed by Jones — Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Ohio State. Of those schools, the Blue Devils, Buckeyes and Spartans are currently in great shape of landing the top two junior prospects.

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