Can Penn State Become This Season’s Nebraska?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 4th, 2014

Things could have been much different for Penn State last season had it avoided what happened on December 31. In its first conference game of the season at home against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions had the #5 team in the country squarely on the ropes. They were up 12 points with 1:14 to go in the first half when the wheels fell completely off. From that point on, they were outscored 46-18 and went on to lose not only that game but their next five as well. Would Penn State have had a better season if it had held on against the Spartans’ New Year’s Eve onslaught? We’ll never know. But despite a 6-12 conference mark, last season’s team was probably closer to contention than most people realize. Many of the key pieces are back. Can Penn State be the next surprise Big Ten team to move into the top half of the league and contend for an NCAA Tournament berth in the process?

DJ Newbill has to take on more responsibility for Penn State with the loss of Tim Frazier. (GoPSUsports.com)

DJ Newbill has to take on more responsibility for Penn State with the loss of Tim Frazier. (GoPSUsports.com)

Even without the services of all-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier this season, one positive that should help this squad is having John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson fully available. Johnson sat out the first 12 games last year after transferring over from Pitt. He is a knock-down shooter, but he struggled with some rust and finding his role in the rotation. As a result, on fewer attempts, his three-point numbers dropped from 38.4 percent as a freshman to 31.8 percent last season. He should find his way on the court for better than the 20.4 MPG he averaged last year, and thus should have a greater impact scoring the ball for a team with few reliable shooters (no regular hit more than 40 percent from deep). Dickerson is a bit of a project, but he seemed to get more comfortable as a defensive presence as the season progressed. The 7-footer gives the team more flexibility in lineup options, allowing the Nittany Lions to play Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor in the high post more often, where they are both competent shooters. Dickerson allows head coach Pat Chambers to run a four-man rotation of frontcourt bodies should anyone get into foul trouble, and his 11.8 block percentage would have ranked second in the league had he played enough minutes to qualify. He’s a legitimate rim-protector, and any offense he also happens to provide will be a bonus. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 6th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. The recent skid for Michigan State has plenty of people questioning if this team is still a top contender. First it was the defense, as the Spartans need to switch on screens without Branden Dawson was causing issues. With his return, though, a loss at Illinois still happened. That prompted the players to air their frustrations with each other in a “players-only” meeting this week. The interesting aspects are that the Spartans were blaming each other, showing a team divided instead of coming together. This late in the season that is never how a team wants to be interacting and playing. Tonight at home against Iowa provides a good chance to see if the issues really were put to bed or if what Tom Izzo calls “the biggest joke in athletics” is just that and the Spartans continue to struggle.
  2. It shouldn’t be news to anyone how big of a week is coming up for Nebraska. It certainly is known to head coach Tim Miles as he admitted he has been checking projections and RPI rankings the past three weeks as his team has began flirting with the bubble. Every game is important for the Cornhuskers right now as they need every possible win to get into the tournament. It certainly would help if they could push themselves up to fourth in the Big Ten as well. Miles may believe they are a tournament team, and now is the chance for them to prove it. Do that and they will have surprised everyone in the country by not just playing in March, but playing in the main event.
  3. Indiana‘s Will Sheehey won’t be a player that sits at the top of the Hoosier record books. Still, he did plenty for the program as he played his final home game last night against Nebraska. Sheehey hit the 1,000-point mark, but the biggest thing he will be remembered for is coming into the program along with Victor Oladipo and helping change the culture. He is a 4-year player that helped lead the transformation from desolation to its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade (he hit the winning shot against VCU in 2012 to reach it). He helped set a work ethic for the change, and while his last campaign has had road bumps, Sheehey’s legacy will be part of leading the revival.
  4. Penn State has strong guard play this season, that’s no question, but its future may be in the frontcourt. Lately, Pat Chambers has been playing his big men together on the court in Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack. Chambers says he plans to use the line-up for the remainder of the season but it struggles with staying on the court due to endurance and match-up issues. It is still one we will likely see in the future and it will be quite the change from a guard-oriented team to one that pounds the ball down low.
  5. We always like to discuss players and All-American status. For coaches it is typically limited to individual conference coaches of the year and the overall national one. Well, Bleacher Report’s Jason King decided to expand his list and he has two Big Ten coaches on his “King’s Court Coaches All-American Team.” Michigan’s John Beilein made the second team and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan made the third team. He also gave Tim Miles of Nebraska the “most-underrated” award. It’s tough to argue about the Big Ten coach positions, though Beilein could likely make a case for being on the First-Team after losing Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and then Mitch McGary midseason yet still winning an outright Big Ten title. Miles being omitted but listed as the “most underrated” also seems deserving and the right spot. Tom Izzo could make a case for an addition dealing with all the injuries, but for the most part, the Big Ten was represented accurately. This could also be seen as another nod for Beilein as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, which most have him or Miles winning it.
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Big Ten M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 5th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan head coach John Beilein made some interesting comments when asked about how strong the B1G is this season. The question of parity is not something that is easy to answer when discussing how the league stacks up against other conferences. This is especially true in the wake of how the first half of the conference season played out. Beilein seems to be in the camp that believes the league is stronger because of the fact that seemingly any team can beat any other team. Naysayers trumpet the notion that this just indicates that the league is mediocre.
  2. It appears as if Indiana fans are growing weary of head coach Tom Crean’s lineup shuffling. Audible boos were heard on Sunday against Michigan when at one point his lineup featured only one starter on the floor during a 6-0 Wolverines’ run. Crean was quoted as saying “we have to rest players… we’ve got to continue to build depth, and the only way to build depth is to get guys to be consistent.” Having depth is one thing, but playing 13 guys in a competitive game is a tad extreme. You have to wonder if the reason that players other than Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh are so inconsistent in their play is because they never can get into the flow of the game with constant substitutions.
  3. Nebraska has taken some great strides in recent weeks, but the Huskers still have not won a true road game during the 2013-14 campaign and winning a couple of games away from Lincoln will go a long way toward securing some sort of postseason tournament berth for this team. Head coach Tim Miles has not brought the subject up with his squad, as he believes the key is will be playing solid defense and not turning the ball over. The team has clearly established that it will be really difficult to beat at Pinnacle Bank Arena, but they won’t truly be taken seriously as a legitimate basketball program until they knock a team off on the road.
  4. Branden Dawson proved by coming back from his 2012 ACL injury that he’s a quick healer, returning to the court in a mere seven-plus months. Because of his previous recovery, Michigan State’s leading rebounder returning to the team earlier than the one-month prognosis wouldn’t necessarily surprise anyone. And as it turns out, he might be able to do just that. According to head coach Tom Izzo, he thinks Dawson will be able to start running today, and a return at around the four-week mark when the Spartans play Purdue and Michigan could very well be in the cards.
  5. Penn State and its recent resurgence has gone slightly unnoticed with the simultaneous rise of Northwestern and its even more unexpected 5-5 conference record. The Nittany Lions have won three in a row, however, and one of the keys for the team has been the ability to close things out in the waning minutes. Head coach Pat Chambers credits the team’s ability to “play for each other,” especially when things earlier in the game didn’t go their way. Now they have a decent chance at playing in the NIT with a 5-5 or 6-4 record through the rest of conference play.
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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #12 to #9

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013

With just a couple days before the regular season tips off, it’s time to get down to how the five of us on the microsite feel that the 12 teams will shake out once the season gets rolling. What follows are the teams that we picked to finish in the bottom third of the league. Before the games tip off for real on Friday, we will show you teams #8-#5, and then close it out with teams #4-#1. Feel free to let the debates, arguments and discussions about how much or little we know what we’re talking about.

12. Nebraska

  • What they do Well: Nebraska does not turn the ball over, as it ranked 30th last season nationally in turnover rate. This is partially due to playing at a slow tempo, but their guards take care of the ball.
  • What they don’t do well: They do not get many second chance opportunities, as they ranked 319th last season in offensive rebounding rate.
  • Get to knowShavon Shields. Shields made a decent impact last year, as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. He and fellow wing David Rivers will need to step up to offset the losses of Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley.
Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren't buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren’t buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

  • Why they’ll finish 12th: Tim Miles looks like one of the better young coaches in the land, but with this being one of the best and deepest conferences in the country yet again, they simply don’t have enough quality depth to compete just yet. Teams will exploit their lack of quality size and kill them on the boards.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: Tai Webster turns out to be much better than advertised, and he and Ray Gallegos will be able to produce on the perimeter, shooting a high percentage and taking care of the ball. Florida castoff Walter Pitchford uses his 6’10” frame to remedy the Huskers problem with offensive rebounding.

10 (tie). Northwestern

  • What they do well: Like Nebraska, the Wildcats are used to playing at a slow tempo to their advantage, ranking 37th nationally in turnover rate. This may or may not be the same strength this year as they look to play faster.
  • What they don’t do well: Northwestern ranked 337th in offensive block rate, meaning that they really struggled in finishing at the rim.
  • Get to know: Alex Olah. If Northwestern can get anything from this 7-foot Romanian, they’ll be balanced enough with their guards to surpass expectations in Collins’ first season at the helm.
  • Why they’ll finish 10th: There will be too much uncertainty as the players adjust to playing at a quicker tempo, transitioning from Bill Carmody and his Princeton offense to a more up-tempo style of play that Collins is implementing.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: The return of Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb will lead to a better perimeter attack more athleticism. Olah becomes a physical presence inside that they will need to create extra possessions.

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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part II

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013

Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape.  Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year.  Here’s our take:

Matt Painter's past success, and his very large contract, are among the reasons he'll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Matt Painter’s past successes, and his very large contract, are among the reasons why he’ll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas.  In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special.  Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.

Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits.  And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.

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Tim Frazier’s Return Makes Penn State Backcourt Best in the Big Ten

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 25th, 2013

Penn State isn’t known for being at the top of the B1G in anything basketball-related. But this season, even in a conference loaded with quality guards, the Nittany Lions will boast one of the top backcourt duos in the conference thanks to the return of Tim Frazier. Despite bringing in a decent recruiting class, head coach Pat Chambers has to be most excited to see the fifth-year senior returning from a ruptured Achilles injury that ended his season just four games into last season. At the time, Frazier was averaging 21.7 points and 5.0 assists per game as the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer and overall best player. Now, after being granted a final year of eligibility in Happy Valley, he is back and listed on the Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list despite not playing almost all of last season.

Tim Frazier's return from an achilles injury makes the Penn State backcourt one of the best in the B1G. (Photo credit: theschoolphilly.com)

Tim Frazier’s return from an Achilles injury makes the Penn State backcourt one of the best in the B1G. (theschoolphilly.com)

Losing Frazier was a big blow to Penn State’s hopes last season. He had earned first-team All-B1G honors as a junior after averaging 18.8 points per game, second best in the league, as well as the conference leader in assists (5.6 per game) and steals (2.4 per game). His season and play had been so strong that CBS named him No. 54 in their annual top 100 players list. His explosiveness and ability to pull up for a jumper and connect, made him a lethal offensive combination. Early reports from practice have Frazier looking back to form, and his abilities will help push Penn State out of the cellar.

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Big Ten M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 24th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The last time Michigan State won the national title, they had a big man named Andre Hutson, who was assertive in the paint, especially on the defensive end. This season, his squad is one of the favorites to win the title, and he has a freshman – Gavin Schilling – who is drawing comparisons to Hutson. The 6’9″, 240 lb forward, said his focus is to “run, rebound and defend” this season. Schilling will start out as a backup to Adreian Payne and Alex Gauna, but he may be able to provide some serviceable minutes in case one of the forwards gets into foul trouble going up against a rugged conference in January or February. If he ends up being as good as advertised, then he could be another piece that helps Michigan State make a run at another national title.
  2. Speaking of freshmen having an impact, Michigan has two terrific guards – Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin – who could contribute within John Beilein’s rotation. Both of them have the offensive skillset to help the Wolverines, but Beilein has enough scorers in Ann Arbor – he needs them to help on the defensive end as well. According to the coaching staff, both of them are quickly picking up the defensive principles, which should help them gain significant playing time this season. Irvin’s 6’6″ frame will help him guard the combo guards such as Gary Harris and Lenzelle Smith Jr during conference play. The Wolverines can score effectively, but if Irvin steps up on defense, he could elevate them to compete for a Final Four or beyond.
  3. The Hoosier fan base is very familiar with Eric Gordon’s offensive skills as he led Indiana to an NCAA Tournament during his freshman season in Bloomington. Gordon could score with the best of them, but his brother, Evan Gordon, is ready to show his skills to the Hoosier faithful. Gordon, a transfer guard, can provide an offensive spark and complement Yogi Ferrell’s production in the backcourt, as Tom Crean needs an experienced scorer on a team full of talented freshmen such as Noah Vonleh. Crean said, “He has to take his game to another level. He’s got to see his game rise on both sides of the court, offensively and defensively, and see that leadership rise. “
  4. Gordon is not the only transfer who can help his team in the Big Ten this year. Iowa’s Jared Uthoff sat out last year after transferring from Wisconsin, and will be ready to help the Hawkeyes return to the NCAA Tournament. Uthoff, a former Mr. Basketball in Iowa, is excited about the opportunity to play for the Hawkeyes. “It’s going to be a very special moment for me when I can step out on the court with this Hawkeye uniform on,’’ Uthoff said. Devyn Marble (15 PPG) will be the primary scoring option for the Hawkeyes, but if Uthoff can chip in offensively to back him up, that’ll be a huge boost this season.
  5. Scoring won’t be an issue for the Penn State backcourt of Tim Frazier and D.J.Newbill. Both of them can fill up the stat sheet, even though Frazier is coming from an injury. Penn State’s basketball program may not make any headlines but head coach, Pat Chambers, is doing his best to keep an upbeat attitude entering into his third season at Happy Valley. It is very likely that Chambers may not lead the Nittany Lions back to the NCAA Tournament over the next two years, but his ability to connect with the players will help on the recruiting trail and eventually lead the program back to relevancy in the Big Ten.
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Worst-Case Scenario at Penn State: Tim Frazier Out For The Season

Posted by jnowak on November 21st, 2012

Things went from bad to worse at Penn State this week. With Tim Frazier done for the season with a ruptured Achilles, the Nittany Lions lost basically their only source of consistent offense early in a season that had already turned ugly. Even after he was injured and played just six minutes in the Nittany Lions’ blowout loss at the hands of Akron (preseason selection to finish second in the MAC East Division), Frazier was still leading the club with 16.3 PPG. The Nittany Lions — with losses already to N.C. State and Akron, and close wins against St. Francis (Pa.) and Providence — are dead-last in the Big Ten in scoring offense, with 58.8 PPG. Take away Frazier’s average (he was second in the conference last year with 18.8 PPG) and that number into scary territory.

Without Tim Frazier, Penn State would be averaging 42.5 PPG this season. Now they’ll see what life without him is like. (Andy Lyons)

The Nittany Lions were already far too dependent on Frazier before the injury occurred. He played all but one minute in the Penn State’s first three games combined, totaling 65 points, which was 34 percent of the team’s total scoring output. It’s natural for a team — especially a lackluster one — to rely heavily on its best player, particularly when he’s an upperclassman. And with Frazier being a point guard, the offense is going through his hands anyhow. But with the Nittany Lions relying so heavily on the All-Big Ten player, it could potentially become a huge problem if, say, that player fouls out late in a game or endures an injury. What happens then? Well, we’re about to find out.

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Big Ten M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 12th, 2012

  1. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery is very optimistic about this third year in the Big Ten. He strongly believes that the depth on his roster will put Iowa back on the map and ready to contend for a postseason bid to the NCAA Tournament. Tough to disagree with the coach because returning wings Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White averaged 11.5 PPG and 11.1 PPG, respectively, last season. Another wing Zach McCabe should increase his production from 7.8 PPG. In addition to the returnees, Iowa’s top 25 recruiting class consisting of center Adam Woodbury will be an important part of the rotation. Depth is key for McCaffery’s offense which is designed to push the tempo of the game and consistently attack the basket. Iowa’s 65.8 possessions per game was the best during the Big Ten season in 2011-12.
  2. Another coach who is trying to push the tempo of the game is Illinois’ John Groce. The first-year coach would prefer to play an uptempo game but doesn’t believe he has the personnel yet to execute it. According to Groce, Illinois needs multiple guards who can comfortably handle the ball and strive for consistent movement. Returning guards Tracy Abrams (4.3 PPG) and Joseph Bertrand (6.5 PPG) have been working on their ball-handling skills but it might take some time for Illinois to reap the benefits on the court. The Illini averaged 63.6 possessions per game during the conference season but ranked towards the bottom of the league with a 20.9% turnover rate. The tempo will certainly increase in Champaign this season but the fans can only hope for the team to be more competitive than the 2011-12 disaster.
  3. Penn State fans don’t necessarily pay attention to basketball until bowl season is done. But there are several reasons to be excited about Pat Chambers’ team this season and Onward State lists five of them. Senior guard Tim Frazier (18.8 PPG and 6.2 APG) is obviously the best player on the team and arguably the best guard in the Big Ten. But the development of a couple underclassmen – Ross Travis and Jermaine Marshall – will be key for Chambers in his rotation. Ross, who was a true freshman last year, averaged only 4.4 PPG but showed flashes of brilliance during certain plays. Marshall should build upon his 10.8 PPG to play second fiddle to Frazier on the offensive end. Nittany Lions fans don’t have high expectations but certainly hope for improvement over last year’s performance as Chambers continues to build a solid foundation in State College.
  4. After a four-year hiatus, Purdue will bring back the Midnight Madness event to Mackey Arena tonight and the players are excited to resume this tradition on their home court. This is a very important event for the Boilermakers because there are several new faces on the team. Forwards Jay Simpson and A.J. Hammons hope to add some size to the frontcourt and will have ample opportunity to earn playing time. Another freshman guard, Ronnie Johnson, will join two other Johnsons – Terone (9.2 PPG) and Anthony (5.4 PPG) in the backcourt. Head coach Matt Painter is also hoping that the event will help with the recruitment of 2013 player the Boilermakers want, Bryson Scott. The event will incorporate both men’s and women’s basketball team along with the football team who will host Wisconsin on Saturday.
  5. Purdue’s in-state rival Indiana will have their own event, “Hoosier Hysteria,” on October 20 in Assembly Hall. ESPN SportsCenter anchor and a former IU graduate Sage Steele will emcee the annual event. The event will also benefit charities as fans are encouraged to bring canned food items for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. Both the women’s basketball coach, Curt Miller, and fifth-year head coach, Tom Crean, will address the fans and introduce their respective teams. There is plenty to celebrate in Bloomington nowadays as the Hoosiers are ranked #1 in the preseason polls by most publications. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller (15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG) has been the center of media attention as he has been a consensus preseason All-American pick and may end up being a top five pick in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery as well.
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Big Ten M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 8th, 2012

  1. The countdown to Jabari Parker’s final commitment continues. Parker, who is arguably the best high school recruit for the incoming 2013-14 season, has narrowed his list of schools to the final five and only one Big Ten team will be on his mind over the next month, Michigan State. The other four schools include BYU, Florida, Duke and Stanford. Michigan State’s head coach Tom Izzo is not known for recruiting the typical “one-and-done” player but Parker may be one of the best high school talents known in recent years. The high school senior will schedule on campus visits with each of the five schools and is expected to commit by the end of November. Parker averaged 19.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 4.9 APG at Simeon Career Academy of Chicago last season.
  2. Illinois’ athletic director Mike Thomas is under immense pressure this season because he replaced both of the head coaches of the major sports – football and basketball. Even though Illinois football is off to a 2-4 start and has not caught the fans’ attention, he hopes that the basketball coach, John Groce, can turn the attitude around rather quickly. Groce has clearly impressed the Orange Krush with his recruiting abilities by bringing in Kendrick Nunn for next season, but he is preaching toughness for the upcoming year. Groce has been pushing the current guards to be in “attack” mode and has been specifically focused on senior guard Brandon Paul to become more consistent. Paul averaged 14.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG as a junior but he needs to show more consistency if the Illini hope to turn it around after a disappointing season that did not even result in an NIT appearance. Illinois averaged 65.4 possessions per game during the Big Ten and Groce hopes to field a much quicker and faster team which will push the tempo of the game.
  3. President Obama’s love for basketball and his pickup games with various stars of the game has been well publicized over the years, but he is taking his game to the Big Ten country now. The Badger basketball squad spent five minutes with the President last week during his trip to Wisconsin and were promised a pick-up game after the election. Redshirt freshman point guard George Marshall helped organize the meeting by getting some help from his former high school teammates’ father who works with the President. Zach Bohannon, a redshirt junior, started the buzz about the meeting on Twitter. Marshall is one of the new faces that hopes to step into Jordan Taylor’s shoes to take over point guard duties. He averaged 17.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 5.4 APG during his senior season of high school in Chicago. Wisconsin does not have an experienced true point guard on the roster and Marshall ought to fill that role of running an efficient half court offense for Bo Ryan.
  4. Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft of Ohio State have been hyped for the upcoming season and will continue to remain the primary contributors of the Buckeyes throughout the season. But junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. has the opportunity to become a consistent second scoring option in this offense and certainly has the talent to take over games if needed. Smith has been working on his game during the offseason and appears to be very comfortable with his role as he hopes to fill in the void left by Jared Sullinger. Even though Smith averaged only 6.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season, he showed flashes of brilliance during certain key contests. Against Indiana, he scored 28 points and went off for 17 against Michigan. He has the shooting range and athleticism to succeed in Thad Matta’s offense as the Buckeyes appear to be one of the contenders to win the Big Ten again.
  5. Penn State’s football team has found its rhythm after an 0-2 start and seems to be one of the contenders to finish strong in a weakened Big Ten. The basketball team also seems to be in high spirits as Pat Chambers continues to mold the program by instilling toughness and more importantly, pushing the team for consistency. Football coach Bill O’ Brien will continue to act as the face of Penn State athletics in the media’s eyes due to the negative publicity of the Penn State football program, but Chambers may be the backbone and strong foundation that the athletic program needs during these times. Senior guard Tim Frazier is a good start as he has the ability to lead his team to a solid Big Ten season. Frazier stuffed the stat sheet last season by averaging 18.8 PPG, 6.2 APG and 4.7 RPG.
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Morning Five: 07.24.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 24th, 2012

  1. By now you have all heard about the unprecedented sanctions the NCAA levied against Penn State in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal. We won’t bother linking to any of the dozens (ok, thousands) of columns about the sanctions, but we will point out that people generally fall into a few clear camps: (1) the actions at Penn State were so heinous that the NCAA had to reach into heretofore uncharted territories; (2) the actions at Penn State were heinous, but a body more well-equipped and well-versed in such manners should be the one doling out the penalties; (3) a mix where you were OKwith the fine but not the scholarship reductions; or (4) you are a graduate of Penn State and you think the whole thing has been overblown. We received a variety of responses on Twitter, but if you would like to express your thoughts here (or just need more than 140 characters to speak your mind) leave a message in the comment section.
  2. On the periphery of the Penn State fallout is the rest of the school including the athletic programs of which we are obviously most interested in the men’s basketball team. For his part, head coach Pat Chambers does not feel sorry for himself and might even view this as a way for the basketball program to help out a school that has long been carried by its football program. As Jeff Goodman points out, if Chambers or others at Penn State need someone to look toward as a sign that things can get better is the resurgence of the Baylor basketball program and Scott Drew. Hopefully when Penn State comes out of this scandal they can make some in-game coaching adjustments.
  3. Despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament for consecutive years Minnesota rewarded Tubby Smith with a three-year extension through the 2016-17 season. We haven’t heard too many negative things about Tubby (outside of Kentucky fans who are, well, Kentucky fans), but giving him three extra years without any significant recent performance seems a bit strange to us. Smith has one of his better teams coming back and this coming season would appear to be a great gauge of whether or not Smith can turn the Gophers into an elite program and not just a middling team that tends to fade late in the season.
  4. Former Oklahoma State basketball player Darrell Williams was found guilty on three of five counts of sexual battery and rape by instrumentation stemming from an incident that was alleged to have occurred in December 2010. Williams, who has been suspended from the team since February 2011, broke down as did many of the others in the audience. The jury recommended that Williams serve a year in prison for each count he was convicted on, but the actually sentencing will not happen until August 24. Neither Travis Ford, who testified as a character witness for Williams, nor the Oklahoma State athletic department, had issued a statement as of late last night.
  5. How about some good, or, at least decent, news? Former North Carolina guard Hubert Davis has made more of a name for himself as a guffawer than an analyst in the last several years, but how many people under 40 have ever heard of Henrik Rodl, or, egads, Shammond Williams? At least Davis inserted himself into an NBA controversy many years ago, but regardless of that, he’s now an assistant coach (with some name recognition) at UNC, and he’s already making a new name for himself. Recruting for UNC is a little bit like recruiting for Google in that it’s the misses that cause the most attention, but we’d expect that Davis’ work will be as equally as compelling as his studio time. At least let’s hope so.
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Penn State

Posted by jnowak on June 1st, 2012

There were a few flashes of positivity — beating Illinois and Purdue, holding high-scoring Iowa to 64 points — but when those are the high-water marks, it can’t be considered much of a success for Penn State last season. The Nittany Lions finished dead last (they won just four Big Ten games) in a competitive conference during coach Pat Chambers‘ first season, but the cupboard was awfully bare when he arrived. He had just one returning starter (Tim Frazier) and two total players with any real contributing experience. There’s certain to be improvement next year. But before that time comes, let’s take a look back:

Tim Frazier was one of the few bright spots for Penn State this year. (CDC Photos/Christopher Weddle)

  • In a nutshell: Simply put, there just wasn’t a whole lot to work with on this team. In a year in which the Big Ten was as deep as ever, Penn State had as few weapons as any team in the conference. Frazier (more on him shortly) put the team on his back practically every game for a group that consistently struggled to make shots and score.
  • Overachievement: First off, one thing that should be noted is that the Nittany Lions finished at the top in the conference in offensive rebounding. This is all the more puzzling considering Frazier was the team’s leading rebounder at 4.7 RPG. Beyond that, freshman Ross Travis pulled down 4.2 boards per game. Back to Frazier, the junior guard may have defined overachievement more than any other player in the conference last year. With the departure of Talor Battle, Frazier filled in admirably and saw a remarkable scoring leap from 6.3 PPG to 18.8 PPG. He was named to the All-Big Ten First Team after finishing second in the conference in scoring, first in assists, and second in steals. He’ll definitely be a player to watch closely next year.
  • Underachievement: Team-wise, it was the offense that really hurt Penn State last year. They featured an All-Big Ten player, but only one other player (Jermaine Marshall) who averaged in double figures (10.8 PPG). As a team, the Nittany Lions finished last in field goal percentage and 11th in free throw percentage, scoring offense and three-point shooting. The Big Ten is a defensive-minded league, but you have to put the ball in the basket more often than that to win games.
  • Defining moment: In all honesty, if there was any stretch during the course of the season that really defined Penn State’s season, it was the final 12 games, in which the Nittany Lions won just twice. Give them credit — they beat lowly Nebraska and defensively-inept Iowa — but in a year where every team in the conference had the potential to be really tough on any given night, Penn State just didn’t have the goods to stack up. To further epitomize the team’s season during that stretch, Frazier had double figures in each game (and at least 16 points in 11 of those 12), but it was rarely enough.
  • Final grade: Considering what Chambers was given this year, there could not have been very high expectations in State College. He seems to have the right personality and style to bring this program to a higher level, and Frazier has one more year to help the club improve. But there was just not enough to work with this season. Final grade: D.
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