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:

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

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


  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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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.23.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 23rd, 2012

  1. No one was surprised that Indiana was able to easily handle their non-league match-up with North Carolina Central last night.  Cody Zeller had another solid game, as the freshman dropped in 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the way.  The victory gave IU 21 wins on the year, and with their NCAA ticket punched, the fan base is one again rabid for Hoosier basketball.  There is no question that Indiana has great fans, but with some lean years in the first few seasons under Tom Crean, the Crimson and Cream faithful are glad that their program is once again back to meeting expectations.
  2. One team still looking for a guaranteed invite to the Big Dance is Purdue.  Matt Painter is trying to lead the Boilermakers to their 6th straight tournament appearance, but it will be more difficult after the recent dismissal of Kelsey Barlow.  The versatile Barlow often guarded the opposing team’s best scoring option, and now Purdue will have to adjust its defensive schemes.  One player who has picked up his game recently is Robbie Hummel, who torched Nebraska for 29 points in the team’s 83-65 win last night.  With 18 wins and three games left to play, Purdue has to win two of its next three to get to that magic 20-win plateau that many believe will get the team into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Michigan’s rise to the top of the Big Ten has been a story worth watching this season.  But while young players like freshman point guard Trey Burke and sophomore shooting guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., have been getting the most press, the reason the program has been able to rise back up is also due to the efforts of two seniors.  Zach Novak and Stu Douglass were two unheralded recruits that have bought into the John Beilein system, and have made big plays and big shots throughout their careers.  The 6’4″ Novak has played out of position (at power forward) his entire career, and still has managed over 1,000 career points. Novak and Douglas also each rank in the Top 10 all-time in minutes played and three-pointers made in Michigan history.  They are a big reason why Michigan could win its first Big Ten title in 26 years.
  4. In a game that probably drew an audience of opposing fans as well as Michigan State fans, the Spartans were able to avoid an upset at the hands of Minnesota last night, 66-61.  The Gophers built a big second-half lead but were unable to hang on down the stretch, committing several turnovers and not finding good looks offensively.  For MSU, it was another example of being able to adjust and overcome in a difficult situation.  Keith Appling had two brutal fouls late in the game, sending a jump-shooter to the free throw line both times, but he atoned, going 6-for-6 from the foul line down the stretch to squash any Gopher comeback attempt.
  5. The Big Ten regular season has just a few games left and for seniors like Penn State’s Cam Woodyard that means only a few more guaranteed chances to play before the Big Ten Tournament.  Woodyard has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his Nittany Lion career; winning an NIT championship as a freshman, and also losing 12 games in a row his sophomore season.  He’s stepped his game up this season, and will be a key for Pat Chambers as Penn State tries to mount some late-season magic these next couple weeks.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 16th, 2012

  1. Not only was Indiana‘s 71-66 win over Northwestern a good one for the Hoosiers in terms of the Big Ten race and their NCAA profile, it was an important milestone for Tom Crean. After the first couple years of Crean’s tenure  at Indiana, he had a few 20-loss seasons on his resume, that that obviously was not good enough for the Indiana faithful. But Crean’s squad has turned the corner, and now boasts a 20-win season after their victory over the Wildcats. Not only should Hoosier fans be happy about the culture being changed back to a winning one, Indian also a much-needed win over Northwestern, who they were 1-6 against in their last seven against before last night.
  2. The game between Purdue and Illinois was a turning point of sorts for both schools, as each needed a win desperately, and it was the Boilermakers who not only got the victory, but grabbed it on the road. As the Illini continue to reel, Purdue has won two in a row after losing four out of their previous five. With a record of 17-9, 7-6 in the Big Ten, Purdue could very well be dancing in March if they keep up their winning ways. Also, grabbing a win in Champaign against a team that wanted it just as bad may show that Robbie Hummel and Co. may finally be coming together at the right time.
  3. It will be a battle tonight between Michigan State and Wisconsin, which has been one of the best basketball rivalries in the conference over the last few years. What has been a battle for the Badgers this season has been making shots. Wisconsin is the second-worst shooting team in the Big Ten this season at 42%, and if they want to try and win a conference championship, that number is going to have to go up. It will start with Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, and their teammates making a concerted effort to try and get to the basket and find better shots. If they are able to do that, and the #1 scoring defense in the conference can continue to hold opponents to 50 PPG, Wisconsin will be tough to beat.
  4. I know that if you are reading this site, you love college basketball. I’m going to assume if you are like me, you also like free food. Well, Pat Chambers cost his fans free food when he decided to have Penn State pull back on the reins in their most recent win against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a promotion going that states any time the team scores over 70 points at home, all the fans in attendance will win free Big Macs from McDonald’s. By Chambers direction, his squad only scored 67 points when they could have accounted for more had they tried. Not to let mouths in Happy Valley go hungry, Chambers stepped up and served 200 free Big Macs to fans who showed up at a local Mickey D’s.
  5. After a disappointing effort at home against Michigan State, Ohio State rebounded with a nice 78-68 win over Minnesota Tuesday night. Thad Motta clearly had his team playing much better basketball, and stars like William Buford (24 points) played much better than they did against Michigan State. Motta also used his bench much more liberally than he has all season, getting many players into the game early on against the Gophers. However, fans should not expect that trend to continue, as Ohio State is going to rely on their stars to try and capture a Big Ten crown.
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Making the Leap: Tim Frazier

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 14th, 2012

It is 1,244 miles from Houston, Texas, to Penn State University.  That is where Tim Frazier grew up.  He’s the only player from the city of Houston to be playing in the Big Ten conference, and only two other players (Nebraska senior Toney McCray and Northwestern freshman Trey Demps) are even from the state of Texas.  Tim Frazier has come a long way to be where he’s at, and his game has come even further.

It hasn’t been easy to notice the Nittany Lions this season, as their relation to first place in the Big Ten standings seems about as far away as Houston and University Park.  But it’s impossible to not notice the play of junior point guard Frazier, who has made an astronomical statistical jump from his sophomore season.  Last year, Frazier played in 34 games, averaging 30.0 MPG, 6.3 PPG,  and handing out 5.1 APG; good numbers considering his number one job was to facilitate offense for high-scoring guard Talor Battle.  With Battle gone this season, Frazier was expected to increase his scoring load and take leadership of the team, but not even the most die-hard Penn State fan could have imagined the lines that Frazier has been able to put up this season.

Tim Frazier has been phenomenal so far this season for Penn State (CDC Photos/Christopher Weddle)

Most points scored in the conference.  Second in scoring average.  First in assists.  Most minutes played.  Tops in steals.  Leading in free throw makes.  This is what Tim Frazier has been able to accomplish up to this point in 2011-12.  The 5’11” guard is also tied for 16th in rebounding at 5.0 RPG.  The term “do-everything player” not only describes Frazier’s statistical impact, but it also rings true because he is head and shoulders the most effective player on Pat Chambers’ squad.  The Nittany Lions are currently the worst-shooting team in the Big Ten conference at 38%, and they only average 61.0 PPG as a team.  Frazier’s 18.5 PPG means that on a nightly basis, he alone is scoring almost a third of PSU’s buckets.  To make the numbers even more astounding, please note that before this season, Frazier had scored over 20 points in a game exactly once in his career.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 13th, 2012

  1. Michigan State currently has control of the Big Ten after the Spartans’ hard-fought 58-48 win at Ohio State on Saturday. Michigan State used a combination of great defense, hustle plays, and just-effictive-enough offense to down the Buckeyes and end their 39-game home winning streak. So, has the question of how to beat Ohio State been answered? Give the Spartans tons of credit for their game plan, but William Buford and company didn’t do themselves any favors. Having Buford and Deshaun Thomas both go 2-12 from the field obviously hurt the Buckeyes.
  2. One key player Spartan head coach Tom Izzo knew he would need a great effort from was sophomore center Adriean Payne. The Dayton native was expected to supply critical defense on Jared Sullinger, and Payne and his defensive counterparts were effective forcing Sullinger into 10 turnovers. What the Spartans didn’t expect was for Payne to go 6-for-6 from the field and finish with a career-high 15 points. Given the chance to play in front of his family and friends in his home state, Payne made the most of his opportunity.
  3. One team preparing for their second shot at Ohio State will be Michigan, and the Wolverines will have plenty of time to do it. Coming off their 70-61 win over Illinois, John Beilein‘s club remains undefeated at home this season and will have six days to prepare for Ohio State. Beilein admits that getting that much rest at this point in the season can be beneficial as guys can rest their legs a bit. But Michigan doesn’t want to get out of the groove they are currently in especially junior guard Matt Vogrich, a 20% three-point shooter this season who has gone 5-for-5 from three in the last two games.
  4. While there was plenty of celebration for Penn State after their win over Nebraska this weekend, there was some sad news in Happy Valley as junior forward Billy Oliver announced he will end his playing career. Oliver is struggling with recuring symptoms related to his history of concussions and migraine headaches and after talking with coach Pat Chambers Oliver decided to hang it up. His roommate Tim Fraizer was saddened by his decision, but agreed that Oliver is doing what is best for him.
  5. March is only a couple of weeks away, and teams are gauging their NCAA Tournament chances with every win and loss. Minnesota is a team that many experts thought didn’t have much of a chance of qualifying for the Tournament a couple of months ago, but the Gophers have a chance to earn their way in with some quality wins. They will have plenty of chances to do that, with four of their last six opponents currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. It will take some upsets, but Tubby Smith and his crew know the road that lays before them if they want to go dancing again this year.
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