Big Ten M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 21st, 2012

  1. Penn State was never on anyone’s short list to be a Big Ten Tournament contender, but it has one of the best players in the conference in guard Tim Frazier. The Nittany Lions’ prospects got even worse on Monday, as Frazier went down with an Achilles injury. Coach Pat Chambers confirmed on Tuesday that Frazier would miss the remainder of the season. Frazier should be able to get a medical redshirt to play next season, so that’s good news for Chambers’ rebuilding squad. However, this year will likely be rough without Frazier, who was Penn State’s leader last year in every major statistical category. Now, D.J. Newbill, Ross Travis and Jermaine Marshall all need to step up. If they all show improvement and take on bigger roles, the Nittany Lions could have a decent team next year when Frazier returns.
  2. On the subject of injuries, Michigan State may have taken a major hit when star freshman guard Gary Harris left the game with a left shoulder injury. Coach Tom Izzo did not sound optimistic about the situation, saying at best case Harris would be out with a sprain, and at worst would be out “a lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, lot longer.” Harris will get an MRI on Wednesday, but it’s a bad situation no matter what. Harris is the team’s leading scorer and has broken out early this year for the Spartans. He went out at the beginning of Tuesday’s game and MSU struggled without him, beating Boise State 74-70. If Harris is out for an extended period of time, MSU will need Keith Appling and Denzel Valentine to step up and provide more consistent scoring.
  3. It’s not often that you see a 6-foot-1 guard atop a list of rebounding leaders, but that’s exactly what Ben Brust has done at Wisconsin. In fact, he was tied for third in the Big Ten in rebounding before Tuesday’s games, behind Michigan State’s Derrick Nix and Indiana’s Cody Zeller. Brust has put together a phenomenal start for the Badgers. He’s second on the team in points per game, and leads in both rebounds per game and assists per game. He recorded a double-double in the opener against Southeastern Louisiana and did the same against Cornell. Tuesday, he had another double-double, this time leading the team in both points and rebounds with 20 and 12. Wisconsin needed someone to step up at guard in place of injured Josh Gasser, and it looks like the Badgers have found their guy.
  4. Ohio State’s team is full of young talent as it is, but the Buckeyes will be adding even more young stars in the coming years. This week, OSU got the commitments of 2014 forwards Jae’Sean Tate and Kieta Bates-Diop, both four-star recruits. Tate chose the Buckeyes over Michigan, while Bates-Diop chose them over Illinois, Michigan and Purdue. OSU just signed four-star forward Marc Loving and four-star guard Kameron Williams for the 2013 class, and are still on the board for some top 2014 prospects. It’s tough to judge recruits just based off their star ratings, but considering the other offers Tate and Bates-Diop had, this was a big win for OSU. The Buckeyes will have no shortage of talent in the years to come.
  5. Michigan has climbed to No. 4 in the rankings without playing anyone of not this year, but that changes when the Wolverines head to Madison Square Garden to face Pittsburgh in the 2K Sports Classic. After the matchup with the Panthers, Michigan will face either Kansas State or Delaware. This will be a chance for coach John Beilein to see how his young team performs on the big stage. He said that he hopes his team is ready after a week of fixing the “holes” they’ve had. There haven’t been too many holes for the Wolverines, who have dominated lesser competition behind star sophomore point guard Trey Burke, senior Tim Hardaway and freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Nick Stauskas. Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary have been impressive, as well, which is a tribute to this team’s outstanding depth. Now the Wolverines have to prove they can replicate that success on the big stage and against quality opponents. They’ll get that chance against Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
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Big Ten M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 7th, 2012

  1. Michigan State freshman guard Denzel Valentine got a rough awakening in his first college game, putting together a sloppy performance against St. Cloud State. He’ll have to be much better in the Spartans’ regular season opener against UConn in the Armed Forces Classic on Friday. While Valentine had five points, five assists and 10 rebounds in the exhibition, he also had eight turnovers, and coach Tom Izzo called for a better performance this weekend. Izzo went as far as to call Valentine the Spartans’ best passer, but he warned that the freshman needs to “learn to play at the speed of college instead of the speed of high school.” However, Izzo pointed out that Magic Johnson had “eight or nine” turnovers against Central Michigan in his MSU debut, and “he turned out OK.”
  2. The loss of Jordan Taylor looks, at least on paper, to be the biggest obstacle the Wisconsin lineup faces this season. However, the Badger Herald argues that not having Taylor on the team might be a good thing for the Badgers. There is no doubt that Taylor was a very talented guard, but because he was the Badgers’ go-to scorer, the author argues that he actually detracted from Bo Ryan’s system. In that system, everyone must be able to shoot, but since Taylor was the one very reliable option, others didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage. With Taylor now gone, other players who can collectively take on his role will be forced to step up.
  3. One thing is clear about Ohio State this year: The Buckeyes have a lot of pure talent. Experience, though? Not so much. This lack of experience means OSU has a bit of an identity crisis heading into the season. Last year, the Buckeyes could rely on Aaron Craft, William Buford or Jared Sullinger to make plays when needed, but with Buford and Sullinger now gone, Craft and DeShaun Thomas will be called upon to lead the way. Leadership is often something that a player either embraces or he doesn’t, and we have every reason to believe that both returnee upperclassmen will take on the challenge put forth on them by head coach Thad Matta. But one minor critique of Craft after Tuesday night’s exhibition game: It’s not “October” anymore.
  4. The biggest criticism of last year’s Purdue team was its size, as the Boilermakers were often forced to play forward Robbie Hummel at center. This year, there is a lot of inexperience in West Lafayette, but Matt Painter’s team certainly will have more than enough size to compete in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers add three freshmen who are 6’8″ or taller, including 7-footer AJ Hammons. Painter notes that Purdue must become a better rebounding team, and that the Boilermakers “are in trouble” if that is not the case, especially considering the scoring punch that they lose from Hummel. However, with so much size at his disposal, rebounding should improve if the freshmen pan out as expected. As long as Purdue can get “possessions back on the glass,” they should be able to make up for some of the loss of last year’s offensive output.
  5. Speaking of size, Northwestern should also have a much bigger, albeit much more inexperienced, frontcourt this season. The Wildcats add two 7-foot freshmen, two more freshman forwards, a junior forward transfer and a graduate forward transfer. Lost in the shuffle is Mike Turner, a redshirt freshman center, who, at 6’8″, is undersized for his position, but he should also be slated for some minutes for the Wildcats this year. Turner admitted that it’s a mismatch trying to size up to some of the larger centers in the league, but he is also a mismatch for many of those who will struggle to defend his quickness. Turner isn’t likely to start for the Wildcats, but after a year in anonymity, he should see the court enough to make some noise even if he’s much smaller than the opponents he matches up against.
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Big Ten M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Exhibition season has officially begun in college basketball and Minnesota kicked off the year with an 81-56 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato Thursday night. The Gophers started the exhibition with the same starting five as the end of last year — Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman, Rodney Williams and Elliot Eliason — because that group has performed well in practice together, but coach Tubby Smith also mixed in star forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was injured last season, and Mo Walker, who redshirted last season. Walker had eight points in 11 minutes, while Mbakwe had four points and three rebounds. Minnesota has another scrimmage against Southwest Baptist on Monday before opening the regular season on November 9 against American.
  2. If Michigan is going to have the season many media members predict — challenging for the conference crown — then the Wolverines’ freshmen are going to have to step up. They did just that in Thursday’s 83-47 exhibition win against Northern Michigan, as Nik Stauskus, Spike Albrecht and Glenn Robinson III led Michigan with 17, 16 and 13 points, respectively, along with junior Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 13 points. At one point, coach John Beilein had five freshmen in the game at the same time and he said he didn’t even realize it. Of course, there’s a long way to go before we crown his team as the next Fab Five, but these freshmen certainly didn’t disappoint in their first time on a college court. The Wolverines have another exhibition, this time against Saginaw Valley State, on Monday before opening the regular season on November 9 against Slippery Rock.
  3. Like Minnesota’s Mo Walker, Indiana’s Maurice Creek shined in his exhibition game following a redshirt year. Creek, who had to sit all of last year with a ruptured Achilles’, had 12 points to lead the Hoosiers in their 86-57 win over Indiana Wesleyan. Indiana also received contributions from preseason national player of the year Cody Zeller and Will Sheehey, who both had 11 points and five rebounds. Christian Watford had 11 points and six rebounds, while Victor Oladipo had 10 points and seven rebounds. This is a deep team, and while a win against Indiana Wesleyan proves nothing, IU certainly showed it has plenty of options and can spread the ball around.
  4. Wisconsin has yet to play a game this year, but it has already dealt with injuries to two key players — Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser. Bruesewitz will be back in the non-conference season, but Gasser is out for the season with a torn ACL. CBS Sports has a first-hand account of Gasser’s injury from guest blogger Zach Bohannon, a Badgers forward. Bohannon gives an emotional account of Gasser’s injury and the effect of an ACL injury on teams in general. It was a shocking injury for the Wisconsin players, as Bohannon said they saw Gasser as “indestructible.” It’s a humanizing account of “the face of the program” and puts the careers of college basketball players into perspective.
  5. The Big Ten is known for its low-scoring games and its defense, so it’s not surprising that two of the top 10 scariest defenders in the game, according to ESPN.com, play in the conference. ESPN ranks Ohio State’s Aaron Craft as the scariest defender in the country, citing his one-on-one defensive skills on the perimeter and his ability to steal the ball. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo checks in at No. 5, due to his versatility and ability to defend on the perimeter and in the post. Craft has a reputation throughout the nation as a top defender and he has an effect beyond standard statistics, as laid out by the Aaron Craft Turnometer created by Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn. Only a junior, Big Ten teams likely have two more years of dealing with Craft’s spectacular defensive skills.
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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on November 1st, 2012

The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for some of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we continue with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Check out their full schedule here.

Where we left off: Ohio State sure isn’t afraid to play anyone, and the Buckeyes proved that with last year’s non-conference schedule. OSU played Florida in the second game of the season, drew Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and played at Kansas. The Buckeyes won the first two but lost in Lawrence without top forward Jared Sullinger. Even the rest of the non-conference slate wasn’t a slouch, as OSU also visited South Carolina. That kind of schedule helped prepare the Buckeyes for a tough Big Ten slate, and they’ll be tested again this year before conference play begins.

Matta’s Team Will Be Challenged By the Buckeyes’ Non-Conference Schedule

Major tournaments: Ohio State will play some top-tier teams this non-conference season, so there’s little to nitpick, but the one criticism of the Buckeyes’ schedule is that they’re playing in a lackluster tournament. OSU will compete in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff, matching up with Rhode Island followed by either Washington or Seton Hall. Those games will be played in Uncasville, Connecticut, and games against Albany and Missouri-Kansas City — one before and one after the Uncasville games — will be played in Columbus. Washington would be a decent opponent, but considering the other tournaments around the country, this isn’t the most exciting set of match-ups around.

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Big Ten M5: 10.31.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 31st, 2012

  1. Ohio State is ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP poll, so it’s no surprise that the Buckeyes are a popular draw this season. Student season tickets sold out in five minutes, which, under a new system, is even faster than they went last year. However, some students are apparently upset with how quickly the tickets were sold and the system under which they’re sold. One girl, who wasn’t planning on buying tickets anyway, was mad because, if she wanted tickets, she might not have been able to get them. Really. However, one student had a good point that OSU could look into expanding its student section considering the heavy demand for tickets. The OSU athletic department said it will take a look at what the actual student attendance is at games and could consider a change in the size of the student section in the coming years if it necessitates.
  2. Most people are ranking Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State as the Big Ten’s best teams, but as ESPN.com argues, don’t forget about Michigan State. Many years, this Spartans team would be considered one of the top teams in the conference, but not in a league this stacked. MSU certainly has the talent to compete with the best in the Big Ten, despite its loss of Draymond Green — Derrick Nix and Keith Appling will be the leaders of the team, while Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson will add talented experience. Just because MSU isn’t considered a favorite in the preseason polls doesn’t mean the Spartans are a step below the perceived front-runners. If everyone works well together — and that’s typical under Tom Izzo — expect another great year in East Lansing.
  3. As you’ve probably heard, there are a number of “secret scrimmages” happening this week in college basketball — you can get the full list here — and a lot of the games are actually better than many of the non-conference real games we’ll be seeing next month. North Carolina-Georgetown? Xavier-West Virginia? Sign me up! The only problem: We aren’t allowed to watch them. One such top match-up between two NCAA Tournament contenders is Iowa vs. Creighton. The two played on Sunday, and while coaches are strongly discouraged from talking about the stats or score of the game, it was likely a good tune-up for the challenges this year’s schedule will bring. By playing a top squad rather than a cupcake, the Hawkeyes got an early test without it counting against the record. That experience could be very valuable once the tougher non-conference games come around.
  4. Michigan’s Crisler Arena got a facelift this offseason, and wow, does it look nice. You can check out all of the photos the Wolverine athletic department posted here. The arena looks very sleek and modern, especially in the entranceway. The concessions and the team store also look very nice. However, this isn’t a completely new arena and the school is pushing to hold onto the memory of the arena before the renovation, including using some of the old court as part of the walls. You can also check out the construction that went into the renovation in that photo slideshow — it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.
  5. This is an old nugget, but Tim Miles turned into the star of Big Ten Media Day thanks to his social media presence. The Nebraska coach was even trending worldwide on Twitter, which has to be the first time anything relating to Nebraska basketball was ever that popular. In all seriousness, Miles’ social media abilities — he has over 30,000 Twitter followers — has been important for the Cornhuskers and will continue to be important for a program trying to gain relevancy in a competitive landscape. According to the article, Miles tweeted at halftime of an NCAA Tournament game last year, and as a follower of his, I’ve seen his tweets range from his experiences at Oklahoma City Thunder games to wishing “Tom Osbourne” (actually spelled “Osborne”) well in retirement. At Big Ten Media Day, he tweeted a picture from the podium of his press conference. Miles sure knows how to connect with fans, and that will be good for a program trying to build a more consistent hoops following.
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Big Ten Team Previews: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 30th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Where We Left Off: Last season, Ohio State got off to an impressive start, beating No. 8 Florida in the second game of the season and blowing out No. 4 Duke by 22 points in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, a Jared Sullinger injury brought the Buckeyes back to earth in Lawrence, Kansas, and they dealt with some periodic inconsistency in the Big Ten. However, OSU still made a run in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Cincinnati and Syracuse en route to a Final Four loss against that same Kansas team. The Buckeyes lost Sullinger and William Buford, but return a number of returning solid players, putting them in position for yet another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Thad Matta Has Gotten to the Point of Annual Final Four Expectations in Columbus

Positives: The biggest positive on Ohio State is how much talent the Buckeyes return. You know you’re a good team when you can bury top recruits on the bench and still have one of the best teams in the country. Junior forward DeShaun Thomas is a favorite to become this season’s breakout player of the year and OSU also returns top junior point guard and defensive dynamo Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes also have a lot of talent in junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who was somewhat inconsistent last year, but showed his potential at times. Add in sophomore forward Sam Thompson and sophomore center Amir Williams, and this could still be the most talented lineup in the Big Ten. If OSU can put things together by the end of the season, this will be a very dangerous team in March again.

Negatives: What this Ohio State team has in talent, it lacks in experience. Craft is experienced at his position by now, and while Thomas brings a lot of hype, he wasn’t a superstar last year. Then there are Smith and Thompson, who were at best inconsistent last season, and center Amir Williams, who is also talented but barely played last year. The story is the same on the bench, with players like LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott, both highly-touted recruits who have yet to prove themselves on a college floor. This team is full of talent but short on experience, and in college basketball, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

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