Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 01.22.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 22nd, 2016

After a three-week hiatus, the Weekend Look Ahead is back! The return is well timed: there are four top-notch games that may have lasting impact on both the Big Ten title race and NCAA Tournament seeding. Here are the games to watch in the B1G this weekend:

Denzel Valentine is will try to stop the Spartan's free fall when they host Maryland at home. (Getty)

Denzel Valentine will try to help stop the Spartans’ losing streak when they host Maryland at home Saturday. (Getty)

Northwestern at #25 Indiana (Saturday 12 pm ET, ESPNU). On Tuesday, the Wildcats almost got the marquee win their resume so desperately needs, ultimately losing in overtime at Maryland. Northwestern gets another shot to upset a ranked team on the road when they head to Bloomington on Saturday, while Indiana tries to keep up with Iowa as the only remaining teams undefeated in conference play. In addition to conference race ramifications, this game also treats us to a matchup between Bryant McIntosh and Yogi Ferrell – two of the best point guards in the Big Ten. The Wildcats competed with Maryland largely due to their defense stifling the Terps’ offense (only 0.91 points per possession for Maryland). They’ll have their hands full with an Indiana attack that has been on fire; most recently, it put on a clinic against Illinois in scoring an amazing 1.45 points per possession.

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Big Ten Player of the Year Ladder: Volume Two, Part I

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 20th, 2016

After finishing roughly two months of the college basketball season, it’s time to revisit the leaderboard for the Big Ten Player of the Year race. Injuries have played a role in shaking things up a bit since the last listing, but eight of the ten listed last time are still in the top ten. Isaac Haas has seen his productivity and minutes go down since conference play started and Robert Carter Jr also is off the list for now. Here’s a quick look at players 10-6, with players 5-1 to come shortly:

  • 10. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: (16.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 59.5 Free Throw Rate)- Hayes has struggled at times much like his team has. The easy looks that he was able to capitalize on with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker on the roster last season have gone away, but Hayes has still managed to score more than 20 points five times. He also has increased his assist rate from 11.9 to 21.9 percent as he has done a nice job facilitating for the Badgers.
  • 9. Caris LeVert, Michigan: (17.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.2 APG, 129.9 O-Rating)- Through no fault of his own, LeVert took a decent sized drop here because he has missed the last five games for Michigan due to a lower leg injury. The numbers he has put up to date still hold up however, as he leads the Wolverines in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.
Caris LeVert is still one of the top ten players in the B1G despite missing his teams' last five games. (Getty)

Caris LeVert is still one of the top ten players in the B1G despite missing his teams’ last five games. (Getty)

  • 8. Malcolm Hill, Illinois: (18.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 80.0% FT)- Even though Illinois is off to a 1-4 start in conference play, Hill has still been one of the most consistent and versatile performers in all the league. The junior has scored in double-figures in each game this season, and has also lead the Illini in rebounds five times, and lead them in assists seven times.

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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 20th, 2016

Because of the Martin Luther King holiday, this week’s weekend wrap-up post includes the rare Monday Big Ten game. In what was the third weekend of Big Ten play, it’s fitting that three-pointers played a large role in many of the outcomes. Northwestern and Illinois suffered losses where they shot too many while Maryland and Iowa made double-digit shots from deep as they cruised to home wins. The rest of the best and worst from the weekend follows below:

Andrew White notched a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds Saturday for Nebraska. (Getty)

Andrew White notched a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds Saturday for Nebraska. (Getty)

Player of the Weekend: Andrew White III has had better shooting efforts than what he put forth Saturday for Nebraska in their win at Illinois, but this game may have been his best all-around effort. The junior continued to show that he’s more than just a shooter in going for a season-high 13 rebounds, and also dishing out a season-high three assists. White and Shavon Shields outscored Illinois’ potent duo of Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn 35-32, but more importantly White III keyed the 42-24 advantage for the Cornhuskers on the boards as they evened their conference record at 3-3 in winning their third game in a row.

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Big Ten Seeding Forecast: 01.19.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 19th, 2016

All the Big Ten teams are now about one-third of the way done with their conference schedule, so it seems like a natural breaking point to do a quick projection on each team’s finish. The table below presents the probabilities each team places at every seed (1-14) in the Big Ten Tournament. These numbers are based on the probability of the outcome for each game set by KenPom. One caveat is that these projections do not include tiebreakers, and therefore may be more positively skewed for some teams–although not by a large degree. This table will be updated in a few weeks and right before the final week of regular season. Follow the handle @AlexPMoscoso on Twitter for intermittent updates to the projected seedings. Below the table are some take-away points from this analysis.

big ten seeding 18 jan 2016

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Bryant McIntosh: Northwestern’s Unlikely All-Big Ten Player

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 14th, 2016

It was November 13, 2013, when the perennially woeful Northwestern basketball program and its up-and-coming coach, Chris Collins, inked the best class in the school’s history — a group that ESPN ranked 21st nationally. Vic Law was the crown jewel. The south Chicago suburb native was a 6’7″ wing with length, versatility, and high-major athleticism — the type of player who typically doesn’t find his way to Evanston. In fact, Law’s surprising commitment to the Wildcats — he had offers to more notable programs such as Colorado, Providence, and VCU — was seen by many as a leap of faith in Collins. Now, over two years later, Law is out for his sophomore season after undergoing surgery for shoulder injury following a so-so freshman season in which he averaged 7.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG. But while Law awaits his return to the floor next season, the 15-3 (3-2 Big Ten) Wildcats are being led by another commitment from that November day two years ago, a little-known point guard from Greensburg, Indiana, by the name of Bryant McIntosh.

Bryant McIntosh has emerged as one of the best guards in the Big Ten.

Bryant McIntosh has emerged as one of the best guards in the Big Ten. (Getty)

McIntosh had been off the radar of most major recruiting services and had committed to Indiana State before picking up interest from several high-major programs during the July recruiting period prior to his senior year. He then quickly rescinded his pledge to the Sycamores and chose Northwestern over Purdue. Like Law, McIntosh was swayed by the charisma of Collins as well as a promise of being the four-year point guard of a squad evolving into a legitimate Big Ten program. Unlike Law, McIntosh has outperformed all expectations in turning into the breakout star of the Wildcats’ 2014 recruiting class. In fact, he has been so good that in just his second season he has become a first team All-Big Ten caliber player. Take a look at his season numbers below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 01.13.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 13th, 2016

morning5_bigten

  1. Northwestern kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive last night when the Wildcats edged Wisconsin at home, 70-65, its best win of the season so far. They were led by Bryant McIntosh, who scored 28 points, dished out five assists and is emerging as one of the best guards in the league. The sophomore is averaging 15.4 PPG (10th in B1G) and 7.2 APG (first) this year. As for Northwestern’s at-large prospects, the Wildcats have yet to register a win against another likely NCAA Tournament team, so there’s still work ahead. A win at College Park next Tuesday would be a great place to start.
  2. Michigan delivered Maryland its first conference loss of the season when the Wolverines squeaked out a 70-67 victory at home with star Caris Levert still sidelined by a leg injury. Zak Irvin stepped up in Levert’s absence by scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. This game could represent a season turning point for the Wolverines, a team that had previously been blown out by elite competition. Michigan’s guards were able to stymie the Terrapins’ perimeter offense, as Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined to score only 10 points. If John Beilein can get his guys to play that level of defense for the rest of the season, the 3-1 team will become contenders for a Big Ten championship.
  3. On Monday, the Big Ten awarded Iowa‘s Mike Gesell its Player of the Week honors. The senior point guard registered the first double-double of his career in scoring 22 points and dishing 10 assists in a last week’s win over Nebraska. Gesell is playing the best basketball of his life right now — he is averaging 2.5 PPG and 3.0 APG more than last season while also improving his true shooting percentage by 11 percent. There’s no question that Jarrod Uthoff is Iowa’s most important player, but Gesell has emerged as the team’s Robin.
  4. Indiana‘s Thomas Bryant was awarded Freshman of the Week for the second time this season after dominating Ohio State’s frontcourt on Sunday — scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the blowout win. Perhaps the biggest improvement the young center has made during the season is with his defense. During Indiana’s loss to Wake Forest at the Maui Invitational, Bryant was consistently exposed on the pick-and-roll by the Demon Deacons’ Devin Thomas. In Big Ten play, the young Hoosier has gotten better off those screens with the proof being his 93.1 defensive rating during conference games. Indiana’s defense, once thought to be a major liability hindering the team’s success, is now being anchored by one of its youngest players.
  5. One of the most perplexing results of the season to this point is Purdue’s disappointing Sunday loss to Illinois. The Boilermakers were not able to take advantage of the Illini’s thin frontcourt and their top-ranked defense allowed Illinois to shoot 52.9 percent from the three-point line. Juan Crespo from SBNation identifies part of the problem, which is that they don’t have a lineup of five players whom Matt Painter can completely trust. Painter may still need to work on different lineups to prevent some of the offensive stalls that still arise too frequently for the Boilermakers. He’ll have a chance to straighten things out on Thursday night against Penn State.
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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 12th, 2016

Much like the NFL Wildcard games, the road was friendly to visiting Big Ten teams over the weekend. Impressive home wins from Indiana and Illinois on Sunday halted a four-game visitor’s winning streak, but blowouts were also a common theme, as only one of the weekend’s six contests featured a single-figure final scoring margin. As always, there were several impressive performances individually and from certain teams. Here are the weekend’s superlatives.

Malcolm Hill proved he's one of the best scorers in the Big Ten Sunday by scoring 30 points against Purdue. (Stephen Haas, Herald and Review)

Malcolm Hill proved he’s one of the best scorers in the Big Ten Sunday by scoring 30 points against Purdue. (Stephen Haas, Herald and Review)

Player of the Weekend: Illinois’ Malcolm Hill figured he would need to be a scorer when Purdue’s Raphael Davis started the game guarding his high-scoring teammate Kendrick Nunn. Hill did so to the tune of 13 points from a variety of different spots on the floor. When Davis moved over to Hill in the second half, Nunn went off for 18 points of his own. Hill, who had already by then found his groove, contributed 17 more as the juniors combined for 35 of the Illini’s 47 points coming after the break. Hill also led the team in rebounds (nine), tied for the team lead in assists (three), and added a pair of blocks. In a lost season in Champaign, Hill has been a bright spot in hitting for double figures in all 17 games. The total package that he brings beyond just scoring was on full display in Illinois’ impressive win, its first of the Big Ten season.

Super Sub of the Weekend: Maryland barely squeaked by Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday, and although it wasn’t to the level of his 39-point, 12-rebound performance against Penn State last week, Diamond Stone was quietly efficient in the victory. On a day when the Terps didn’t get much from Jake Layman or Rasheed Sulaimon, Stone went 4-of-5 from the field en route to an 11-point outing. In what was no doubt an emotional homecoming for the freshman from Milwaukee who spurned his home state school, Stone didn’t overdo it and was a key reason that the Terrapins remained perfect in league play at 4-0.

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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 7

Posted by Adam Levy on January 8th, 2016

After a two week holiday hiatus, the Layup Line is back and better than ever. Conference play has finally begun, and the Big Ten is already off to an interesting start. Four teams are undefeated (Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State), and four are still winless (Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Rutgers). There has been lots of good, lots of bad and lots of ugly, so let’s dive right into the nitty gritty of the last two weeks.

REPORT CARD

A: Iowa Hawkeyes

Fran McCaffery's Team is Firing On All Cylinders (USA Today Images)

Fran McCaffery’s Team is Firing On All Cylinders (USA Today Images)

Sure, Indiana and Ohio State are also 3-0 in Big Ten play but neither has wins as impressive as that of Iowa. How the Hawkeyes scored 50 points in the second half against the best defensive team in the nation is beyond explanation, but it happened. And if we forget about Denzel Valentine, Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons for a moment, Jarrod Uthoff has been the best player in the country. If March Madness started tomorrow, Uthoff would likely be a First Team All-American. Offensively, the Hawkeyes currently rank 11th in efficiency, eighth in turnover percentage, 39th in effective field goal percentage and 21st in three-point percentage. Defensively, they rank 36th in efficiency, 10th in opponents’ free throw rate, 32nd in opponents’ three-point percentage and fifth in block percentage. No disrespect to Mike Gesell and Peter Jok and their to-this-point stellar seasons, but this team would not be nearly as effective without Uthoff. It most certainly could not have beaten Purdue in the fashion it did without his 25-point, four-block effort.

Oh, and Iowa also beat Michigan State and Nebraska handily. It’s high time to buy stock in the most underrated team in the country.

B: Diamond Stone

Capture2

If there is such a thing as freshman jitters, Diamond Stone had ‘em. The Maryland center is now a completely different player than the one we witnessed in the first month of the season — a huge development for a team with serious Final Four aspirations. As of last week, Maryland is one of six major conference teams scoring more than a point per possession on post-ups (1.02 PPP); last season it managed just 0.75 PPP in those situations. Mark Turgeron can thank Stone for that, a player who is coming off a sweep of the Big Ten’s weekly awards (Player and Freshman of the Week) and an epic 39-point, 12-rebound performance in a comeback win against Penn State. It’s Diamond’s world right now.

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Big Ten Observations: Ohio State at Northwestern

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 7th, 2016

Ohio State moved to 3-0 in Big Ten play in an ugly win over Northwestern last night. The Wildcats moved to 1-2 in dropping another important home game that could come back to bite them on Selection Sunday. Here are four quick observations from the Buckeyes’ convincing 65-56 win in Evanston.

Kam Williams was the spark Ohio State needed from the bench Wednesday night. (USAT Images)

Kam Williams was the spark Ohio State needed from the bench Wednesday night. (USAT Images)

  • Kam Williams Looms as a Potential Game-Changer: In a game where neither team could make perimeter shots (11-of-43 combined from three-point range), Williams knocked in five buckets from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard was off to a nondescript start to this season (6.3 PPG in 17.2 MPG during non-conference games), but on a team where the next best outside shooter hits only 34 percent from deep, Williams’ development as a scoring option could allow the Buckeyes to make a run at a top four finish.
  • Ohio State’s Defense Keeps Improving: Ohio State is currently ranked 19th in defensive efficiency and much of that success can be attributed to their size — the Buckeyes don’t have anyone smaller than 6’4″ in their starting five. That length allows Thad Matta‘s group to defend at an elite level, and this was on full display last night. The Buckeyes blocked eight shots, holding Northwestern to 0.82 points per possession and 35.7 percent from two-point range. And despite some offensive limitations, Trevor Thompson and Daniel Giddens are becoming defensive menaces.

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Evaluating the Big Ten’s Performance in Non-Conference Play

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 29th, 2015

The book has officially been closed on the non-conference portion of the Big Ten schedule. As a collective, the league finished with a 130-49 record. This is a tad worse from last season’s 136-44 mark, and even further down from the conference’s 122-32 mark of two seasons ago. And as much as league official would like to do so, this can’t all be blamed on Rutgers’ 6-7 record to start the season. Despite the fact that the conference appears to have fallen off a bit, there are a number of positives and negatives to glean from this season’s opening chapter.

Northwestern finished up non-conference play with a 12-1 record, putting themselves in position to make their first every trip to the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Northwestern finished up non-conference play with a 12-1 record, putting themselves in position to make their first every trip to the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

A three-team pack has emerged as the clear front-runners heading into conference play. Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue have all impressed and can be viewed as potential Final Four teams. The trio has combined to lose only two games on the year, with both of those defeats coming to teams that are currently ranked in the top 10. Sparty has beaten a whopping seven teams among the KenPom top 100, while the Boilermakers have beaten four and the Terps three. All three of these teams are in line for protected seeds come March if they perform well during conference play.

Among other Big Ten teams, Northwestern has done exactly what it needed to do in getting to 12-1 with its sole loss to preseason No. 1 North Carolina. The Wildcats’ schedule wasn’t arduous but they avoided any resume-disrupting losses. They still may not end up in the NCAA Tournament, depending on how conference play goes, but Chris Collins’ team has done a nice job positioning itself for it. Iowa also really can’t complain after getting to conference play at 9-3. The Hawkeyes put together a 3-3 record against teams in the KenPom top 100, and also avoided the bad loss bugaboo.

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Morning Five: 12.28.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 28th, 2015

morning5

  1. It seems like we have been saying this could be the year that Northwestern makes the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever for several years now. The hopes this year took a massive hit yesterday when they announced that senior center Alex Olah would be out indefinitely with an injury to his foot. Olah, who had been averaging 12.8 points (on 59.8% FG), 6.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, helped lead the Wildcats to an 11-1 record (they sit at 12-1 after a win last night over Loyola) with their only loss coming against North Carolina. Northwestern will rely on freshman Dererk Pardon, who had 6 points (3-3 FG) and 4 rebounds last night, to fill in for Olah, but if they have any realistic hope of making the NCAA Tournament this year they will need Olah back pretty soon.
  2. With several conference tournaments being played every year in Las Vegas the NCAA’s refusal to have any of its postseason events there has always seemed strange to us. Now that the NCAA has expressed some interest in softening its stance and considering Las Vegas as a potential postseason site some within the city are beginning to push hard for inclusion. While including Las Vegas in NCAA postseason tournaments probably wouldn’t do much to affect the city’s bottom line (it is basically hosts multiple conventions every single day of the year) it would help lend a sense of legitimacy to the city and also be used as a springboard into talking to the NCAA and other states about increasing the reach of legalized gambling.
  3. Over the past few years we have noted the proliferation of cable networks dedicated to conferences and in some cases teams (we will get to the latter in a minute). These networks have been cited as one of the driving forces behind conference realignment as network contracts in addition to the ones they sign with established networks help drive large sums of money into the pockets of the schools within the conference. The most unique of these arrangements is The Longhorn Network, which as its name suggests is dedicated to Texas. While Texas is undoubtedly one of the biggest brands in college sports (it tops most lists in terms of licensing revenue) the school’s revenue-producing sports (basketball and football) have struggled recently and the network itself has not been doing well financially. While the details behind those struggles are more complex than just the school’s on-field/-court struggles (those details are in the article), it does serve to underscore the tenuous nature of some of these television contracts.
  4. Former Cincinnati assistant coach Al Hmiel decided to come clean recently regarding his history as a college basketball “slimeball”. Hmiel says his decision to “come clean” was the result of hearing about Louisville’s ongoing scandal and how some people were trying to use the recruits as scapegoats. Hmiel basically admits to doing just about every conceivable thing you could imagine to make a player eligible or, in some cases, ineligible. Hmiel’s comments will probably generate a fair amount of reaction over the next few weeks particularly from former players and/or coaches who were mentioned or were at the school when Hmiel was there, but based on the response we have seen online the accusations might not be that ridiculous.
  5. Normally the suspensions of student-athletes for impermissible benefits lead to a bunch of media outrage so we were a bit surprised to see the eight-game suspension of Vermont guard Dre Wills for reselling his textbooks didn’t generate more ridiculous headlines (ok, it did from some of the usual suspects). Wills, a junior who was averaging 6.8 points and 5 rebounds per game, apparently violated his athletic scholarship by selling back his textbooks. It’s not really clear how much money Wills got from reselling those books (from personal experience we can tell you it was probably very little), but since his scholarship almost certainly paid for those books we can understand why he can’t just resell the books and collect the profit.
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Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on December 25th, 2015

Your class, company, or family probably plays Secret Santa during the holidays. To get in the giving spirit this Christmas, we’ll play Secret Santa with the Big Ten’s 14 teams and coaches. As much fun as it would be to give Richard Pitino more hair gel or Tom Izzo some stilts, we’ll stick to practical basketball-related gifts that each Big Ten coach would be thrilled to unwrap.

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Here are the gifts we gave each coach and team (in alphabetical order):

  • Illinois (John Groce): This is one of the easier teams to shop for: The injury bug has cursed Illinois, so it gets healthy players from Santa. The Fighting Illini are playing this season without their starting point guard (Tracy Abrams), power forward (Leron Black) and center (Mike Thorne, Jr.).
  • Indiana (Tom Crean): Another easy team to shop for. If you haven’t heard of Indiana’s horrific defensive efforts, you’ve been living under a rock. The Hoosiers gave up 70 points to Kennesaw State and 72 to Alcorn State, respectively. Those teams rank 322 and 349 in the KenPom ranks, and average 64.1 and 60.3 PPG, respectively. Crean needs to start thinking of new ways to get his players to play better defense. Santa gives him a “D-Fense” sign that he can throw at players after bad defensive efforts. Better loosen up your arm, Tom.
  • Iowa (Fran McCaffery): The Hawkeyes aren’t elite in any one area, but don’t have a lot of gaping holes. They do struggle to get to the foul line, with a 25.8 free throw rate, which ranks 337th in the nation, per KenPom. Santa gives Iowa more free throw chances, especially to Peter Jok. The junior wing is Iowa’s second-leading scorer, but has attempted just 23 free throws.
  • Maryland (Mark Turgeon): The one knock on the Terps has been turnovers. They turn it over on 20 percent of their possessions and have six players who turn the ball over at least 19 percent of their used possessions. Maryland finds sturdy handles under its tree this year.

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