Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #21 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2013

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Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#21 – Where Gettin’ a Little Crafty Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

 

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Morning Five: 09.04.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 4th, 2013

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  1. Labor Day is in the rear-view mirror now, so prepare yourselves for two solid months of preview material from the college basketball writing industry. Frankly, in the need to fill space with relevant content, we all probably overdo it a tad, but with the start of practice mere weeks away and preview magazines already hitting the newsstands, it’s hard to not get excited. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner has put together his third annual “non-conference primer” for us, which, if you’re not familiar, breaks down the slates at a number of the top programs in America. He slots 13 schools into four separate categories ranging from “This is how you do it” (Kansas) to “Not good enough, given context” (Louisville, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and UCLA), and there’s not much room for disagreement. Even more agreeable is that simply reading about some of these games is more than enough reason to start daydreaming.
  2. One of the schools that falls into Glockner’s “Certainly acceptable” category is Michigan, which boasts non-conference games with Duke, Stanford, Arizona, Iowa State and possibly a rematch with VCU in the Puerto Rico Shootout. The rise of John Beilein’s Wolverines over the last few years has been well-documented as a trademark success story where great coaching, recruiting and player development all intertwined, and now Michigan fans everywhere can get the inside scoop on the progression with former walk-on Josh Bartelstein’s new eBook, “We On.” Bartelstein originally started blogging behind-the-scenes for MGoLive.com with his “Bartelstein Blog” while Michigan was sitting at 1-6 in the Big Ten during his sophomore year. The Wolverines went on to make the NCAA Tournament that season, following it up the next two years with a Big Ten championship and a trip to last year’s national title game. With a courtside seat for all the fun, Bartelstein’s documentation of the rise of Michigan basketball will sell for $7.99 and is sure to inspire some copycats along the way. Does Andrew Wiggins blog?
  3. One basketball player who wouldn’t have trouble finding a willing readership if he ever decided to blog is LeBron James. The two-time NBA champion never attended a single day of college, but when you’re as marketable as he is, you don’t have to. The Ohio State University has already claimed James as its own (remember, James’ talents are originally from Akron), wearing his line of basketball shoes and gear since 2007. Never one to miss a great recruiting opportunity, Thad Matta has decided to dress up the Buckeyes’ locker room with a nameplate and locker filled with James’ OSU product line. This is simply brilliant — we’re guessing that most 16- and 17-year olds don’t realize that James was a prep-to-pros kid a decade ago — so, in the worst case, recruits are impressed by the school’s association with the World’s Best Player; in the best case, they might believe he actually played in Columbus. That sound you just heard was John Calipari getting out his hammer to nail a photo montage of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett on the wall of the locker room at Rupp Arena. Hey, friends of the program…
  4. One of the nastiest rumors of the summer involved Louisville hardwood hero Kevin Ware, he of the gruesomely snapped leg against Duke in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. We won’t lower ourselves to discuss the content of the Kentuckiana rumor-mongering other than to say that his head coach, Rick Pitino, summarily dismissed any accusation that Ware had been suspended from the team. Pitino also said that Ware was recovering nicely but he is still a month to six weeks from getting back onto the basketball court, and even then, he’s likely to have some issues trusting his body for a while. With all the depth that Louisville will have in this year’s backcourt, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to foresee a redshirt year for the junior should he take a bit longer to come around after what was such a devastating injury. And who would blame him (other than the conspiracy theorists, of course)?
  5. We’ll end with a sad note today as Butler’s friendly canine mascot, Blue II, passed away over the Labor Day weekend. The English bulldog became synonymous with Butler basketball as the school spent the better part of his nine-year lifespan rising from the role of plucky mid-major to that of a national program. His final blog post located here, entitled “I Leave You With ‘Thanks,'” is pretty much the tear-jerker that you’d imagine it would be, inasmuch as you can suspend reality to give the slobbery mascot his own voice. That suspension of belief wasn’t very hard for this writer, nor would it likely be hard for many millions of other dog owners who too consider man’s best friend an indispensable part of the family. A snarky commenter on Twitter yesterday suggested that, given the short life span of dogs, it’s best to consider them merely as pets and remain “detached” so as to not suffer after they’re gone. To that we say, that’s no way to live, sir, no way to live at all. Rather, we should strive to attach with all your heart’s desire — these furry little creatures will never let you down. RIP, Blue II.
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Analyzing Lindy’s and Sporting News’ Preseason Top 10 Rankings

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 30th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College football’s season kickoff Thursday night offered another small reminder that Division I’s basketball brethren aren’t too far away from getting things started themselves. People have begun analyzing and prognosticating how the upcoming season – expected to be one of college hoops’ best in the past decade – will shake out, which teams will win which leagues, who can compete for a national championship, which likely one-and-done freshmen will leave the most memorable imprints on the game. All of this stuff is fun and exciting and at the same time frustratingly titillating, and the rush of emotional anticipation will resonate even more acutely as we move closer to November. Two notable preseason rankings were unveiled this week, and while there will be many of the same rolled out over the next two months, the relative dearth of interesting college hoops news this week was just the invitation I needed to dissect the contents of a pair of speculative team orderings.

Pushing Louisville down to 7th was a big oversight by Lindy’s (Getty Images)

The two rankings come courtesy of Sporting News and Lindy’s. Nothing about either list was particularly surprising or puzzling, with the inexplicable exception of one certain defending national champion being excluded from one of the top 5s (more on this below). There isn’t too much to dig into here, but if it means discussing the best teams entering college basketball this season in a totally speculative context, I’m not going to say no. If there is a fun aspect to the college basketball offseason, it is this: criticizing other people’s rankings.

  • Talking point No. 1, undoubtedly, is Louisville’s shocking No. 7 ranking on Lindy’s top 10 list. Not only are the Cardinals expected, in many corners, to compete for a national championship, they bring back the core of the team that won the national championship last season. What compelled the college hoops hive minds at Lindy’s to push the Cardinals down six spots from their championship perch, I can’t possibly begin to explain. Save for the loss of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, Louisville is just as deep and talented as it was last season. Protecting the rim could be an issue, especially if 6’8″ forward Montrezl Harrell doesn’t morph into the formidable post defender Rick Pitino needs to make his high-pressure defense flourish, but the Cardinals should again rank among the nation’s top five or so defenses; return one of the most talented backcourts in the country, including Ken Pomeroy’s 2012-13 Player of the Year, Russ Smith; and have the added motivation of – and this almost sounds insane, considering where UL finished up last April – trying to dethrone Kentucky from its preseason national championship front-runner status. That rivalry is vicious and impassioned and highly entertaining in any season. Imagine what it will be like this year, with a reloaded Cardinals team and UK welcoming in the most highly rated recruiting class since the Fab Five. The Bluegrass rivalry tangent misses the point, sure, but whatever measure you wish to use to vet Louisville’s preseason merits, a No. 7 ranking seems drastically low. Maybe it was a typo (ed. note: European sevens sometimes look like US ones.)?

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Morning Five: 08.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2013

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  1. There’s perhaps nothing more frustrating (yet printable) than good ideas gone bad. Several years ago the Big 12 and Pac-10 tried to capitalize on the popularity of the ACC/Big East Challenge by staging its own “Hardwood Series” event. The only problem was that it started sometime in November and ended around Christmas. It was no more a real “event” than Congress is the voice of the people these days. That same year, the Big East and SEC got into the act, staging a somewhat better neutral-site series that at least took advantage of proximity in time (the games were usually on back-to-back days, but didn’t include enough teams). Still, it was tough to jazz big state school SEC fans up about playing small (mostly) Catholic schools like Villanova and St. John’s — the match-ups just didn’t make for a good fit. The SEC and Big 12, however, represent like upon like. Both leagues are full of mostly rural states that care a lot about college athletics, even if football will always trump basketball in most of those places. An SEC/Big 12 Challenge, at least on paper, had real promise. Alas. The 2013 schedule was released yesterday, and the powers-that-be have fallen into the same trap that the Pac-10 and Big 12 engineered back in 2007 — the games begin on November 14 (Texas Tech @ Alabama) and end December 21 (Oklahoma @ Texas A&M), some 37 days apart. Furthermore, the two best games — Kentucky at Baylor on December 6 and Kansas at Florida on December 10 — were already scheduled regardless of this event. Memo to SEC and Big 12 bigwigs — if you want people to really care, get it right next year.
  2. From a possible good idea gone bad to a possible bad idea gone good, Andy Glockner of SI.com used his Twitter cachet to put together a pretty phenomenal list of “rappers taking stage names that include small D-I basketball programs” last night. The derivation of the list came from a social media-fueled hubbub surrounding a rapper named Kendrick Lamar, who apparently decided to bring back some of the gangsta vibe of one-upmanship prevalent to the genre two decades ago, long before Jay-Z, Kanye and Dre completely monetized the industry. Our two favorites from the list were, without question, Big Daddy Duquesne and A Tribe Called Quinnipiac, although Florida Gulf Coastface Killah is damn good too. What, no Wichi2pac Shakurs? No Beastie Boise? Dayton La Soul? OK, we’ll stop now, but hey, it’s August.
  3. There was actually one piece of substantive news yesterday in the college hoops universe, and if this the entirety of this saga is any indication, absolutely no one will notice. The NCAA ruled on Tuesday that San Diego will not face any additional sanctions related to the Brandon Johnson game-fixing charges, and there’s no reason why it should have. The school had already admitted a secondary violation based on his efforts to point-shave and later solicit teammates to help him during the 2009-10 season, and there was no evidence that any additional staff members or other athletes had any knowledge of the criminal activity. Johnson is currently serving a six-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to a solicitation charge, while his former assistant coach TJ Brown is serving out a one-year sentence for his part in the scheme. Meanwhile, similar crimes are without a doubt being concocted and/or facilitated throughout the game, but all you’ll hear from the media and talking heads is a whole lot of crickets. It’s a very strange phenomenon.
  4. If you have unlimited funds lying around in an offshore account somewhere, you might want to take a look at this offering. Former Ohio State Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas is auctioning off all of his prized memorabilia, including his 1960 Olympic gold medal (considered one of the best basketball teams ever assembled), his 1960 OSU national championship ring, his 1973 New York Knicks championship ring, and his 1979 HOF induction ring. According to Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger, Lucas’ haul at the minimum auction prices along would total over $500,000 — and there’s no doubt that a collection of such rare pieces will fetch quite a bit more than that. If you do have money to burn, the items are located here, and we have to admit that the 1971 SF Warriors practice jersey for only $500 looks rather enticing.
  5. Let’s finish with some recruiting news, or quasi-news, as it were. The consensus top player in the 2014 class, Jahlil Okafor, and a top five player in his own right, Tyus Jones, have talked extensively about playing together in college. Many of the recruiting pundits seem to believe their package deal is a strong likelihood. On Tuesday, Jeff Borzello reported that Jones released his list of official visits, which included three crossover visits with Okafor at Baylor, Kansas and Duke, but visits at different times at Kentucky. Is there meaningfulness behind the shared visits — does it mean that Scott Drew, Bill Self and Coach K are the finalists for the duo’s services? Or is it all simply much ado about nothing, something to pass the time as we slowly slide toward fall. We’ll find out soon enough.
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Morning Five: 06.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 5th, 2013

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  1. In what turned out to be a rough Tuesday in terms of college basketball-related news, a federal grand jury in Alabama unsealed an indictment that alleges former Auburn guard Varez Ward of attempting to throw a game against Arkansas in the 2011-12 season. Ward, a junior at the time, is accused of two counts of sports bribery (or more commonly known as point-shaving) where he allegedly conspired with gamblers and tried to solicit other players to throw the game. (full indictment here) Ward only played 19 seconds in that contest against the Hawgs, suffering a thigh bruise very early that kept him on the bench for the rest of the game in an eventual three-point loss. Last year the FBI said that it was also looking into a February 2012 game against Alabama where Ward scored three points and committed six turnovers, but that game was not referred to in yesterday’s indictment. According to this report from last year, Ward was suspended by Auburn assistant coaches in late February after another player blew the whistle on him; another teammate originally under suspicion was later cleared. Ward never suited up for Auburn again, but he may very well be wearing the orange (jumpsuit) full-time if these charges stick. He faces five years in prison on each count. We’re not going to get preachy on this issue, but we will refer back to one of the first articles we ever wrote on this here website: This sort of thing happens a lot more than anyone cares to admit
  2. Meanwhile, more discouraging news from the great state of Alabama came out on Tuesday as Crimson Tide forward Devonta Pollard was charged by local authorities with conspiracy to commit kidnapping related to an April 30 abduction of a six-year old girl named Jashayla Hopson. The details are somewhat murky at this point, but it appears that Pollard may have been assisting his mother, Jessie Mae Pollard, in antagonizing the youngster’s mother who was caught up in a land dispute with her. But this is no trumped-up charge where someone was held against their will for a minute or two — if the allegations are true, Hopson was picked up at her elementary school and held for a full day before being dropped off on the side of a road unharmed. Pollard, his mother, and four others have been charged so far in this crime, with at least one other still pending. What a crazy world we live in.
  3. Ohio State president Gordon Gee has had himself quite a week, as reports of his insensitive comments made in December about Catholics, SEC schools, and Louisville have been making the rounds. The “pompous ass,” according to Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino, announced Tuesday that he is taking his volatile opinions into the sunset, choosing to retire from his post effective July 1. Gee says that he made his decision last week during a vacation, feeling that he needed time to “re-energize and re-focus.” Whether he was encouraged to retire or came to the decision on his own volition, the 69-year old president certainly has a fund-raising and bottom line resume that is unmatched within the industry, so if he chooses to continue his work elsewhere, we doubt he’ll have much trouble finding a place to land. He may not want to send any resumes out to Notre Dame, Louisville or any of those SEC schools, though.
  4. How about some better news? One of the problems with the John R. Wooden Classic played every December in Anaheim was that the stature of the lineup often didn’t seem to fit the stature of the name headlining the event. Naturally, UCLA was almost always involved, but usually the three other teams invited were a mixture of solid mid-majors (i.e., St. Mary’s, San Diego State) and some other mid-level programs (i.e., USC, Washington, Texas A&M). It was also just for one day, and it often fell during a period in the college basketball calendar in early to mid-December when viewers were getting much better match-ups during the same period (think: UNC-Kentucky or Kansas-Ohio State). The decision announced Tuesday to rebrand the event as the John Wooden Legacy and merge it with the Anaheim Classic during Thanksgiving weekend is a good one. Although the 2013 field is not great, featuring Marquette, Creighton, San Diego State and Miami (FL) as its marquee names, the four-year cycle of exempted events and ESPN’s coverage will no doubt encourage bigger-name programs to take the trip to SoCal in future years. We’d expect this to become one of the better such events during Feast Week starting in 2014 and beyond.
  5. Finally today, Andy Glockner at SI.com digs deeply through the KenPom statistical buffet and gives us what he calls “the extremists” — those returning players who are the best of the best in each of a number of key statistical categories. If you can name the top returnee in the nation in shot percentage at 40 percent, more power to you (answer: Wofford’s Karl Cochran), but certainly a couple of these names are on the short list for breakout seasons next year: Oregon State’s Eric Moreland (tops in defensive rebounding percentage at 28 percent); St. John’s Chris Obepka (tops in block percentage at 16 percent); and, VCU’s Briante Weber (tops in steal percentage at 7 percent). There’s more to the article than this, of course, so check it out on a lazy summer Wednesday.
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NCAA Game Analysis: Third Round, Sunday

Posted by CNguon on March 24th, 2013

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Here are the game breakdowns for Sunday’s slate. From 24 to 16…

#2 Ohio State vs. #10 Iowa State – West Regional Third Round (Dayton, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will likely have to be their usual stellar selves to get past Iowa State. (Getty)

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will likely have to be their usual stellar selves to get past Iowa State. (Getty)

Friday night against Notre Dame, Iowa State hit nine threes as they rolled over Notre Dame into the Round of 32. Maybe just as impressively, they turned it over just six times, forced 17 turnovers and limited a good three-point shooting Irish team to just four threes on the night. Let’s just go out on a limb and say that none of those things are likely to happen when they face Ohio State today. But that’s not to insinuate that the Cyclones don’t have a chance. This is a team that can get scoring from all eight of the players in their rotation and guys like Will Clyburn, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang are all inside/outside threats that are capable of creating matchup problems for their opponents. The problem is, the Buckeyes have shown their ability defensively to deal with versatile offensive teams; Michigan and Indiana are the top two offensive teams in the nation, and the Buckeyes have held each below one point per possession on one occasion earlier in the season. Of course, the thing is, on the other occasion when the Buckeyes faced those teams, they allowed an average of 1.21 points per possession and gave up a total of 21 three-pointers in those two games. In other words, while OSU has the ability to turn off the water for good offensive teams, there are just nights when good offense beats good defense. If Iowa State has it going, they’ve got enough talent to score enough points to beat Ohio State. The problem is, the Buckeyes have been pretty darn efficient offensively themselves of late and the Cyclones, meanwhile, are the third-worst defensive efficiency team remaining in the tournament. Iowa State’s offense has the ability to give Ohio State trouble, but it is just as likely that the Buckeyes will exploit that soft Cyclone defense.

The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State

#1 Indiana vs. #9 Temple — East Region Third Round (at Dayton, OH) — 2:45 PM ET on CBS.

Fran Dunphy's squad is known for defense, but lately the Owls have been putting up some major points. (Philly.com)

Fran Dunphy’s squad is known for defense, but lately the Owls have been putting up some major points. (Philly.com)

When you think of Fran Dunphy and Temple, you think of defense and a junkyard dog style of play. Not so much with this group. Since January 19, Temple has been an offensive juggernaut of sorts. The Owls have scored at least 70 points in their last 12 games and 16 of their last 17 games. Even in the one game they didn’t score 70, they fell only one point short of that mark. The point is the Owls can hang with Indiana offensively despite a talent disadvantage. The real question in this game is whether or not Temple can play the defense necessary to knock off the Hoosiers. Indiana is most vulnerable when teams slow the pace and get physical. Temple can surely get physical but we’re not sure the Owls can slow the pace against such a high-octane offense. For Indiana, the defensive key will be containing Khalif Wyatt. Although not a particularly great shooter, the Temple senior does it all. He gets others involved and averages 20.2 PPG with the potential to go for 30+ on any given night as he has done on six occasions this season, including in two of Temple’s last three games. Wyatt gets to the free throw line very well but one of Indiana’s many strengths is keeping opponents off the charity stripe. It’ll be very interesting to see if Wyatt can get to the line with regularity in this game. The Hoosiers have a significant talent advantage in this game but that was also the case with NC State, who Temple beat on Friday. Indiana can’t take this one for granted and must be focused defensively in the half court. Temple won’t turn the ball over often and Wyatt will be searching for contact all game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Indiana 

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Night Line: Buckeyes Find Signature Win In Bloomington

Posted by BHayes on March 6th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

They don’t come much better than this. In fact, they might not come any better than this. Ohio State walked out of Assembly Hall with a convincing 67-58 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night, securing a resume-defining win that could easily be considered the scalp of the year in college basketball this season. Only Wisconsin can join the Buckeyes in saying they walked out of Bloomington victorious in 2012-13, but the Badgers didn’t have to do it on Senior Night, nor with the rights to a Big Ten title on the line. Neither factor seemed to matter much to the Buckeyes, who put together a near-flawless final 10 minutes to earn the win. The loss for the Hoosiers may raise questions about their presumptive status as the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, but it also may serve as a perception-changer for the Bucks. Crazy as it sounds, one massive win may be all it takes to erase from the memory banks a season’s worth of misses versus the Big Ten’s upper echelon. Ohio State suddenly feels like a March contender.

Aaron Craft And Ohio State Did Their Best To Spoil Senior Night At Indiana

Aaron Craft And Ohio State Did Their Best To Spoil Senior Night At Indiana

It’s been business as usual in Columbus in many ways this season — another 20-win campaign, 12 more Big Ten victories (after tonight), a high seed awaiting on Selection Sunday. But these Buckeyes have flown a course far further off the national radar than Thad Matta teams of years past. Tonight’s startling victory may change that trajectory, but a glance at the Buckeyes’ profile also begs the question of why it took us so long to notice. Sure, the Bucks whiffed in a lot of big spots this season. But when you take inventory of their schedule (a whopping nine games against teams in KenPom’s current top 11), it’s pretty evident that a lot of good teams might have suffered the same fate given the circumstances. A handful of those games were there for their taking, with contests at Duke, Michigan and Michigan State all fitting that bill, so it isn’t as if they did much to embarrass themselves in those defeats. Tonight’s win doesn’t erase all doubts about the Bucks, but it puts previous missteps in a far more forgivable light.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 28th, 2013

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  1. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan gets right to the point: What’s the matter with Michigan? It’s been a strange few weeks for the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season but have now been blown out by Michigan State and upset by the only team in the conference who didn’t have a Big Ten win entering play Wednesday. Penn State gave the Wolverines a run for their money in Ann Arbor on February 17 and the Nittany Lions finally finished the deal on Wednesday in State College. Before that, Michigan snuck by Ohio State in overtime and was beaten by Wisconsin in overtime prior to the MSU loss. The problem, Brennan writes, has been their defense, which is giving up 1.11 points per possession over its last seven games. Michigan’s offense is and always has been there. But the defense is fading fast. Can they figure it out in time to play like a Final Four team when it matters most?
  2. All of Tubby Smith‘s naysayers have probably grown pretty quiet for the time being. The Minnesota head coach has had doubters ever since his time at Kentucky, and they were chattering pretty loudly when the Gophers experienced their fall from grace after beginning the season 15-1 and rising as high as No. 8 in the country. But Smith says he doesn’t really listen to what people are saying — good or bad — so whether the team is on a slide or they’ve just upset the No. 1 team in the national polls, it’s not something that gets to him.
  3. Almost every team has one player who sets the tone for the rest of the team. For Michigan State, that guy is Keith Appling. As Appling goes, so go the Spartans, and Appling hasn’t been going much of anywhere lately. He’s been a non-factor in both Indiana losses this season, and he hurt more than he helped against Ohio State this week by allowing Aaron Craft to dismantle the Spartans’ backcourt. If the Spartans have any fighting chance at working their way back into the Big Ten title chase, they’ve got to beat Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor. And to do that, they need Appling to play like an all-Big Ten-caliber player again. Tom Izzo is confident Appling will do just that, saying that Appling has done a good job of carrying this team all year long, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t find that in him again this weekend.
  4. As Ben Axelrod writes, Thad Matta had not made a midseason starting lineup change for anything other than an injury since the 2008-09 season — that is, until he moved Evan Ravenel to the bench in December. But that move has allowed Matta to bring an experienced senior off the bench and is working well for the Buckeyes. Ravenel had a career game against Michigan State, and he’s proven to be a guy who Ohio State wants on the floor at the end of games, despite losing his starting spot to Amir Williams. “That was kind of what we were looking for, a little bit more of what Evan had brought to the table last year when he would come in,” Matta said. “I thought he was pretty effective, especially down the stretch of the Big Ten season.”
  5. Last week, ESPN broadcasters spent some time during the Michigan State-Indiana game dissecting a play that officials were reviewing in which it appeared Derrick Nix hit Cody Zeller with a cheap shot. As further review took place on the web after the game, it appeared that Zeller may have staged the incident by grabbing Nix’s arm. Either way, it was hard to draw any real conclusions. Then there was another strangely similar incident in Tuesday’s Indiana-Minnesota game in which Indiana’s Will Sheehey fell to the ground clutching his face while defending Minnesota’s Andre Hollins in a trap on the baseline. Officials again went to the monitor to review it, and many on the Internet speculated again — is there something fishy going on at Indiana, with players trying to draw attention with these “dirty” plays? We’re used to flops on charges and blocks, but is this something else, something more?
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Previewing This Weekend’s Big Ten Games

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 15th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

We have reached the point in the season where it feels like every game has conference implications of some kind, and there’s no better period of time to enjoy them all than Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Weekends through the end of the season will be packed with quality basketball, so let’s take a hard look at this weekend’s slate of games and what’s in store.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes have a tough game against the Badgers in Madison on Sunday.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes have a tough game against the Badgers in Madison on Sunday.

  • Purdue @ Indiana (2:00 PM EST on Saturday, ESPN): The Hoosiers might end up winning this one comfortably but the game features an excellent match-up in the low post between Cody Zeller and A.J.Hammons (11.2 PPG). It is easy to forget when you evaluate Zeller’s game that he is only a sophomore and Hammons, a freshman, has shown flashes of brilliance in the paint as well. During the first version of this match-up in West Lafayette, Hammons scored 30 points but picked up two early fouls due to poor defense. But if the Purdue big man can manage to stay on the floor, you could see his strong array of post moves – a hook shot, a 10-foot jumper, a nice turnaround – against Zeller tomorrow. This will also be a good test of Zeller’s defense if the game ends up being relatively close late into the second half.
  • Michigan State @ Nebraska (8:00 PM EST on Saturday, Big Ten Network): Nebraska head coach Tim Miles continues to motivate his team to compete against the top dogs in the conference despite many tough losses. The Cornhuskers hung tight with the Spartans in East Lansing on January 13, only to lose the game 66-56, but don’t expect them to roll over and hand the game to the Spartans on Saturday night. Gary Harris continues to play through his back spasms and even if Travis Trice suits up, his minutes may be limited because he is still recovering from an injury. Despite these issues, Tom Izzo has enough talent on his team to not let this game slip away on the road as he is trying to make a case for the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and win the Big Ten title. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Power Rankings: February 15 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 15th, 2013

In this week’s power rankings, we take a look at what each team’s biggest improvement has been this year. Voters this week were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan.

The Spartans are surging after dismantling Michigan on Tuesday. (Justin Wan/The State News)

The Spartans are surging after dismantling Michigan on Tuesday. (Justin Wan/The State News)

  1. Indiana Hoosiers — The loss to Illinois last week hurt a little, but Indiana bounced back nicely and was able to hang on to the No. 1 spot in the country (as well the PRs). The Hoosiers took down Nebraska in fairly unspectacular fashion, but were very impressive in a road game against Ohio State. The schedule gets tougher, with games at Michigan and Minnesota coming up, so the Hoosiers have to play well on the road, where they’ve been very inconsistent as of late. However, Indiana proved that when it’s playing well, it is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were both very impressive against the Buckeyes and IU was able to pull out a nice win. Most Improved: This is a tough decision. We’ll go with Oladipo because of just how much he’s improved since last year. Cody Zeller has actually improved a lot within the course of the season after a so-so start too, though. Still, Oladipo has been the Hoosiers’ star and has his name in NPOY talk. Who could have guessed that at the beginning of the season?
  2. Michigan State Spartans — There’s no team in the conference on a streak like the Spartans (they’ve won 10 of their last 11 with their only blemish coming in a tightly-contested game at Indiana), one of the hottest teams in the country. The problem is, they’re trying to keep up with the one team that dealt them their only loss since 2012. The Spartans are somehow finding a way to get on without Travis Trice, and they’re doing a fantastic job of it. The romp over Michigan was the biggest statement made in Big Ten play this season, but things are going to get really tough on the Spartans now. Indiana comes to town Tuesday, followed by trips to Ohio State and Michigan before Wisconsin hits East Lansing. We’ll definitely get to see what Tom Izzo’s group is made of. Most Improved: On an individual level, this honor would have to go to Denzel Valentine, who has always been one of the Spartans’ most promising young players, but also one who needed to be reined in. But as he’s helped to fill the void left by Trice and cut down his turnovers, the Spartans have improved in the same department. After turning it over 18 times against Indiana, the Spartans have averaged just over 10 per game (including only five against Minnesota and eight against Michigan). This has to be remain the case if the Spartans are to continue this run.
  3. Michigan — The questions about Michigan have started to come up again. Earlier in the season, people questioned the Wolverines’ frontcourt and whether the freshmen could continue to play as well as they did early on. Well, Michigan seems to have hit a little bit of a wall, losing a nail-biter at Wisconsin and then getting blown out at Michigan State. The game against Michigan State was particularly draining, as the Spartans controlled the contest from the opening tip and basically nobody else played well other than Trey Burke and Mitch McGary. The remainder of the schedule is tough — although MSU and Indiana still have to go to Ann Arbor — and Michigan needs to get back on track before things spiral out of control. Most Improved: Over the first part of the season, McGary took a back seat to fellow freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. However, he has shown great improvement over the past few games. Michigan needs him to play well down the stretch, especially during Robinson’s current slump. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Power Rankings: Focus On Areas Needing Improvement

Posted by KTrahan on January 18th, 2013

This is the tenth installment of our weekly Big Ten Power Rankings which we will publish each Friday. This week’s voters were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan of the Big Ten Microsite.

In this week’s Big Ten power rankings we discuss each team’s week and look at the area each team needs to improve the most.

1. Michigan — After the loss to Ohio State, there were questions as to whether this young Michigan team could win big games on the road. That question was answered with a very impressive win at Minnesota. The Wolverines jumped out early and built on their lead in the second half, using stifling defense to turn the Gophers over and get points in transition. The loss to the Buckeyes was disappointing, but Michigan almost came back and won that game, and the Wolverines still looked like the better team at times. Wisconsin is technically leading the conference now, but Michigan looks to be in the best shape to win it. Area most needing improvement: It’s really tough to fault the Michigan frontcourt after how it played against Minnesota, but that group still needs to be more consistent after a weak showing against Ohio State. The Wolverines are guard-oriented and have a number of impressive shooters, but they still need to have stability inside.

John Beilein's Club Appears to be the Class of the Big Ten

John Beilein’s Club Appears to be the Class of the Big Ten

2. Minnesota — Should the Gophers be ranked ahead of Indiana despite losing to them in Bloomington? Minnesota’s three losses came to Duke, Michigan and IU, each of which definitely deserves to be ranked in the top 10 in the nation. But Indiana’s losses came to Butler and Wisconsin, two very good teams but not necessarily great at this point of the season. Because we are purely using that argument, the Gophers edge the Hoosiers slightly in this week’s power rankings. Area most needing improvement: Tough to pick a specific area of improvement for the Gophers but if we are really nitpicking, they could use more production from their bench. Maverick Ahanmisi (4.3 PPG) and Julian Welch (3.3 PPG) can give more breathing room to the starting guards during the tough Big Ten season by contributing more during the “easier” games. But most of it is out of their control because head coach Tubby Smith prefers a very tight rotation during the important games.

3. Wisconsin — The Badgers are rising  fast through the rankings. If you weren’t convinced with their dominant win over the Illini, you should be after the stunner that they pulled off in Bloomington. But we’ll still keep them ranked at No. 3 for now because of their losses early in the season. Having said that, if they beat Iowa on the road, we may bump them up over Indiana. Area most needing improvement: This one is easy for the Badgers — free throw shooting. Ryan Evans is shooting 38% from the line and as a team and the Badgers as a whole shoot 62%. That is just unacceptable and very unusual for a Bo Ryan-coached team that’s known for their disciplined approach to the game.

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The RTC Podblast: Episode 10.5

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2013

Welcome to this week’s RTC Podblast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114). There has been no shortage of big games this week and there will be even more on a blockbuster Saturday this weekend. We review everything and give our takes on who needs to do what, and when. The outline is below.

Remember that our full podcasts (roughly 45 minutes to an hour long) will publish on Tuesdays during the season, while our shorter (~15-20 minutes) podblasts will drop on Fridays with a quick look at the intervening week’s worth of news and action. Feel free to jump around using the outline below.

  • 0:00-5:31 – Michigan Bounces Back with a Win Over Minnesota
  • 5:31-7:44 – NC State Fails in Follow-up
  • 7:44-11:03 – UNLV Putting It Together?
  • 11:03-12:21 – Louisville-Syracuse Preview
  • 12:21-13:22 – Gonzaga-Butler Preview
  • 13:22-14:40 – Missouri-Florida Preview
  • 14:40-15:46 – Ohio State-Michigan State Preview
  • 15:46-16:28 – Oregon-UCLA Preview
  • 16:28-19:36 – Rapid Fire Predictions

Also make sure to add theRTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

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