Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Ten Resume Ranker: Mid-December Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 12th, 2015

Now that we’re almost a month into the season, it’s time to start taking a looking at Big Ten teams in terms of their early resumes. The conference appears to have three potentially elite teams, with four or five more capable of getting things on track and making run. It’s worth noting that Purdue went 8-5 in non-conference play with home losses to two bad teams a year ago, and let’s also not forget how Nebraska was 8-8 two seasons ago before winning 11 of their last 14 contests. So if your favorite team didn’t make the cut for this exercise, don’t fret. Sometimes teams take a while to come together and turn things around after the New Year. Teams below have been placed into their tiers based upon their resumes to date and using KenPom’s efficiency ratings as a reference point.

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin has two harmful home losses on their resume thus far. (Getty)

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin has two harmful home losses on their resume thus far. (Getty)

Outside Looking in: (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State) — Wisconsin can look to a neutral court win over VCU and a road win over Syracuse in the positive column, but those home losses to Western Illinois and Milwaukee are problematic. Nebraska had an opportunity to beat Miami (FL) at home and played Cincinnati well, but both games still resulted in a loss. The Cornhuskers really don’t have any bad losses but didn’t look great in losing to a Creighton team that Indiana blew out earlier in the season. Penn State is barely hanging on, but the Nittany Lions looked decent in losing to George Washington on the road this week. Beating Colorado in Las Vegas could be crucial, as they would get a bump from the Pac-12’s likely status as a solid and deep league. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 11th, 2015


  1. Hilton Coliseum still isn’t so magical for Iowa. The Hawkeyes got a whopping 30 first-half points from Jarrod Uthoff, 17 points in the first five minutes of the second half from Peter Jok and led by 20 early in the second half. Sounds like enough to win, right? No. The Hawkeyes shot 36.4 percent from the field in the second half, got only two points from Uthoff and turned the ball over three times in the final 65 seconds as the Cyclones came back for an 83-82 win. Iowa State’s Monte Morris hit the game-winner with 8.9 seconds left. The bigger controversy was The Des Moines Register reporter Randy Peterson’s broken leg suffered during the court-rushing after the game. His injury prompted more talk about the dangers and necessity of rushing the court.
  2. Thursday’s only other Big Ten game was Penn State’s 81-67 win over Canisius. The Nittany Lions shot 56 percent from the floor, but their 21 turnovers allowed Canisius to hang around until the end. The biggest storyline was freshman Josh Reaves dropping a series of vicious dunks on the Golden Griffins and finishing two points shy of his first career double-double. Penn State also played the game in its former home arena, Rec Hall, as part of a two-game series called Return to Rec.
  3. After a 24-point loss to SMU Tuesday night, Michigan once again saw its frontcourt exposed on both ends of the floor. The Wolverines’ four post players – Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner – produced a total of four points and eight rebounds against a much more athletic SMU front line. A closer look at Michigan’s frontcourt woes shows that those four players have a combined eight defensive rebounds, nine offensive rebounds and eight made field goals in Michigan’s three losses. Weak production like that will lead to similar results against big teams like Maryland and Purdue.
  4. Ten years after becoming head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Rob Jeter finally beat his former mentor and boss, Bo Ryan. His Panthers erased an 11-point halftime deficit en route to a 68-67 win on Wednesday night. Not only was this just the second loss to Milwaukee in Wisconsin history, but it defied all statistical odds. Among the defied statistical trends: The Badgers have only lost 24 home games in Ryan’s 15 seasons, have lost just 33 games after leading at halftime and have won all but 13 games when they had a better field goal percentage than their opponent. Despite the statistical advantage over the Panthers, Wisconsin’s shooting and depth woes persisted.
  5. Purdue’s defensive numbers are impressively low through the season’s first 10 games. The Boilermakers have allowed just 89.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks second nationally, per KenPom.com. Opponents also shoot just 35.7 percent on twos (first) and have a 37.3 effective field goal percentage (second). While Purdue has knocked off three KenPom top 65 teams, Matt Painter and his players wanted a challenge before having to face elite point guards like Melo Trimble and Yogi Ferrell in conference play. They figured to have one Wednesday night in high-scoring Howard guard James Daniel, who is averaging 28.4 points per game. However, Daniel didn’t play due to injury and Purdue steamrolled the Bison, 93-55.
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ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Five Stars Who Shined

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 3rd, 2015

The Big Ten ended up winning the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by a score of 8-6. Coming into Wednesday night tied at four wins each, the B1G notched four more victories to seal the deal. Along the way, there were several noteworthy performances from superstars and role players alike. Here are five stars who stood out over the course of the three-day event. If we think of the 14-game challenge as though it were a tournament, these five would have placed on the All-Tournament team.

Shep Garner was absolutely on fire in Penn State's win over Boston College Wednesday night. (Mark Selders)

Shep Garner was absolutely on fire in Penn State’s win over Boston College Wednesday night. (Mark Selders)

  1. Shep Garner, Penn State (30 points,two steals, 10-of-16 FG, 8-for-12 3FG): Garner came out against Boston College bombing away, as he drilled five three-pointers in the first nine minutes of the game. He ended up with the fourth-highest single-game point total in the Big Ten campaign, scoring a total of 30 of his team’s 67 points on the night. He also did a nice job at the top of the Penn State zone, finishing with two steals and a couple of deflections. All in all, this was definitely the best performance of the young season for the sophomore guard.
  2. Jordan Murphy, Minnesota (24 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks): Murphy notched a career-high in scoring with his 24 points, and he did so in a multitude of ways. He made his only three-point attempt, got to the basket repeatedly, and found some clean-up points on the offensive backboards. The freshman from San Antonio had been a solid player in the Gophers’ lineup up to this point, but this was definitely a breakout performance for the former VCU commitment. Read the rest of this entry »
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Drawing Battle Lines, Day Three: Making a Case for Wednesday’s Games

Posted by Brendan Brody and Matt Patton on December 2nd, 2015

After two days worth of games, the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge is deadlocked at four games apiece with six games left tonight. Michigan, Purdue, and Northwestern picked up wins for the Big Ten last night, while North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami notched wins for the ACC. To prepare for the final night of play, the ACC and Big Ten microsites are once again here to defend the leagues they cover. Brendan Brody (Big Ten) and Matt Patton (ACC) make the case for each team in their respective leagues for all six contests that will take place tonight on the ESPN family of networks.

acc big ten schedule

Penn State at Boston College (7:15 PM, ESPNU)

  • Matt: The Eagles are coming off a disastrous trip to California which they ended getting pummeled by Santa Clara. How the team responds is the x-factor. On paper this looks like a fairly even matchup, which should give the advantage to the home team. Additionally, Jim Christian’s team has the pieces to be a better offensive team than they’ve shown thus far.Expect Christian to throw a few different defensive looks at Brandon Taylor to try to keep him uncomfortable, but the Eagles will win or lose this on the offensive end. Boston College has to make shots, and will need a strong performance out of freshman Jerome Robinson and transfer Eli Carter.
  • Brendan: When they’ve won, Penn State has only given up 56.7 ppg. When they’ve lost, it’s because they’ve given up an obscene amount of three-pointers. Boston College has some shooters, but their two leaders in three-point attempts (Carter, and AJ Turner) are both shooting below 30 percent from deep. Look for the Nittany Lions to make sure they guard on the perimeter, and look for them to squeak out a close win in a low scoring game.

Wisconsin at Syracuse (7:15 PM, ESPN2)

Jim Boeheim (US Presswire)

Jim Boeheim Will Stay in New York For Another Game Tonight (US Presswire)

  • Brendan: Syracuse has been one of the biggest surprises nationally after starting the season 6-0. Wisconsin has struggled to a 4-3 mark, but have showed some flashes of getting things together despite playing a tough schedule. The key aspect that they can exploit in this game is in getting extra possessions on the glass. They rebound 41.0 percent of their misses, while the Orange struggle to close out possessions by snagging a defensive rebound (308th nationally in defensive rebounding rate). Look for the Badgers to take advantage of these extra possessions to get the road win here.
  • Matt: Raise your hand if through six games you thought Trevor Cooney would be the least efficient Orange player. Syracuse has totally reinvented itself, and it hasn’t needed Dajuan Coleman to do so. Michael Gbinije has been outstanding running the offense (with Cooney’s help). If the Orange can keep their starting five on the floor most of the game, they’ll be in good shape. Neither team will be interested in running the floor, so that’s an achievable goal. Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon can’t let Wisconsin’s ball movement hurt the Orange inside, though the Badgers have not had a banner year offensively to date.

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RTC Big Ten Preview: The Bottom Tier (#14-#8)

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 10th, 2015

It’s almost time to get rolling, as actual games begin in three days. That means that it’s time for us here at the Big Ten microsite to unleash our preseason predictions and superlatives for the upcoming season. Keep an eye out in the next few days for our preseason all-league teams and some other preview material before the first games tip off on Friday. After careful deliberation among our group of writers, here’s how we see the standings shaking out, starting with our projected bottom half of the conference.

It could be another long season for Eddie Jordan and Rutgers in their second Big Ten season (USATSI).

It could be another long season for Eddie Jordan and Rutgers in their second Big Ten season (USATSI).

  • 14. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights started last season 10-7 before proceeding to lose their last 15 games. That team lost three of their top four scorers and only returns two starters. Corey Sanders is a nice building block for the future, but Eddie Jordan needs his freshman point guard and some of the sophomores to really improve quickly in order to move out of the basement.
  • 13. Penn State: Pat Chambers is starting to get things going on the recruiting side of things, but losing DJ Newbill and Geno Thorpe means that his backcourt is going to be a question mark all season long. The Nittany Lions have the bodies with which to bang down low, but who scores for this team at the level of Newbill?

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Three Ways the Big Ten’s Bottom Tier Can Move Up

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 5th, 2015

Along with Rutgers, Minnesota, Penn State and Nebraska finished among the bottom four of the league standings last season. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they appear to have more than one fix they need to make in order to climb out of the Big Ten basement. The other three cellar-dwellers, however, are in better shape, with each having a reasonable chance to move up the ladder if a few things break their way this season. Here are three things that, if enabled, would allow the Gophers, Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers to make their way into the middle of the pack.

Richard Pitino needs heavy contributions from his freshmen to exceed expectations(Getty).

Richard Pitino needs heavy contributions from his freshmen to exceed expectations. (Getty).

Freshmen Playing Above Expectations (Minnesota): Richard Pitino did not sign a single top 100 recruit this year, according to 247sports.com, as the Gophers brought in the 11th best recruiting class in the league. Yet, given the team’s heavy personnel losses, freshmen will by necessity play a crucial role in the success of this year’s team. None started in the Gophers’ recent scrimmage against Minnesota-Crookston but the newcomers scored 31 of their team’s 74 points in an easy win. Jordan Murphy led the way with 19 points and nine boards on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, while fellow newcomers Dupree McBrayer, Kevin Dorsey and Ahmad Gilbert all contributed while playing at least 14 minutes each. Some recruits play above their rankings and some classes pan out better than expected. If Pitino’s incoming class can play better than its ranking and develop a couple solid Big Ten players as soon as this year, the Gophers are poised to finish in the middle of the pack. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fourteen Nuggets From B1G Media Day

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 16th, 2015

The air was filled with the traditional examples of coachspeak and cliches at B1G Media Day yesterday in Chicago, as each of the Big Ten’s 14 coaches took their annual preseason turns addressing the media horde. That’s not to say there weren’t some interesting quotes and moments sprinkled into the festivities, however, as a full day of questions is bound to unearth some nuggets of truth. Here’s a team-by-team look at the most revealing thing each coach had to say at the dais on Thursday.

Mark Turgeon is excited to play Georgetown in non-conference play.

Mark Turgeon is excited to play Georgetown in non-conference play( Getty).

  • Illinois: “Well I’m anticipating getting some of these guys back. I love the character in our locker room right now. I love the versatility of our team. That’s a big thing. We’ve got guys who can play multiple positions. We can play small. We can play big. They represent what we want to be about.”- John Groce, on his sunny outlook despite several early injuries.
  • Indiana: ” I’ve never had anybody that made the jumps he made athletically. He went up nine inches in his vertical jump in seven weeks and [we’ve] got guys that have not gone nine inches in four years.”- Tom Crean, on how freshman Thomas Bryant looked over the summer.
  • Iowa“I think this is one of the most unique teams I’ve had in in all my years in coaching in the sense that we have four starters back. Can almost count Clemmons as a fifth starter. And after that, everybody’s young, with the exception of Dom Uhl. He’s the only one who played; everybody else is a guy who sat out last year, freshman or in transfer didn’t play last year. So it will be a real challenge to get those young guys ready because I think, you know, in this league, five guys isn’t enough; you need at least 10.”- Fran McCaffery, on the mix of youth and experience on his roster.
  • Maryland:  ” Kind of a buzz would be an understatement. I think we need about 50,000 tickets. We could probably use about 100,000 tickets for that game. It’s going to be great. “- Mark Turgeon, on the excitement for Maryland’s huge match-up with Georgetown on November 17.

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Big Ten 2015-16 Way-Too-Early Power Rankings

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 8th, 2015

The “way-too-early” portion of this exercise holds even more weight this year because so many elite prospects are still uncommitted. Both Caleb Swanigan and Jaylen Brown —  elite McDonald’s All-Americans with program-changing potential — as well as Thon Maker, another possible immediate impact player, could still pick Big Ten teams. There are also a half-dozen or so NBA decisions pending from underclassmen that could significantly alter next season’s Big Ten landscape. What follows here is a look at where things stand right now, assuming that Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Nebraska’s Terran Petteway all leave early.

Melo Trimble returning for his sophomore year has Maryland looking like an early B1G title favorite for next season. (David J. Philip/AP)

Melo Trimble returning for his sophomore year has Maryland looking like an early Big Ten title favorite next season. (David J. Philip/AP)

  1. Maryland: The Terps should return three starters unless Jake Layman decides to leave early. Melo Trimble could be a national Player of the Year candidate and star freshman Diamond Stone will be an upgrade down low. The return and probable improvement of this year’s freshmen combined with newcomers like Stone and transfer Robert Carter Jr. should make this team deeper and better than this year’s unit that exceeded expectations.
  2. Michigan State: Losing Travis Trice and Branden Dawson to graduation will sting, but newcomers Eron Harris and Devonta Davis will do more than balance out those losses. Everyone else who played more than 10 minutes per game this season is expected to be back, and Denzel Valentine should develop into a star in his senior season. This year’s March run will be a catalyst for much bigger things in 2015-16.
  3. Indiana: This spot among the Big Ten’s top three could change if any of Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams or James Blackmon Jr. decides to leave, but all are expected to return. The primary addition that makes next season look so promising is that 6’10” freshman Thomas Bryant will enter the program. The center who can run the floor and defend will give the Hoosiers what they were missing on the inside during an up-and-down 9-9 Big Ten season. If Tom Crean can get Thon Maker to commit to Indiana as well, he has enough talent on hand to become a top 10 team nationally next season. Read the rest of this entry »
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News & Notes: Day Two at the Big Ten Tourney

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 13th, 2015

An afternoon of upsets (Michigan and Penn State both toppled higher-seeded foes) gave way to a more predictable evening at day two of the Big Ten Tournament. Meanwhile, the two bubble teams in action may have each punched tournament tickets… to different, less-prestigious tournaments. Indiana may be good to dance after defeating Northwestern, but Illinois is surely NIT-bound after its decisive loss to Michigan. A few other news and notes on Thursday’s action from the United Center:

John Groce’s Seat Warming Up: Thursday’s loss to Michigan means Illinois is almost certainly headed to the NIT, where the Illini will seek to salvage some shred of meaning from a disappointing season. John Groce has recruited well since arriving in Champaign, but the former Ohio University head man has yet to finish a season with a winning Big Ten record. His only NCAA Tournament appearance at Illinois came in 2012-13, and that happened with a team largely constructed by his predecessor, Bruce Weber. Groce is going nowhere this offseason, but if the Illini find themselves in a similar spot next postseason, his job status will be far less certain. The good news for Illinois is that the return of Tracy Abrams and another talented incoming freshman class could, and maybe even should, lead to a happier result in Champaign a year from now. It will be interesting to see how much the Illini miss Rayvonte Rice next year. On the one hand, he was a legitimately efficient volume scorer – a player prototype that doesn’t exactly grow on trees. But Illinois’ 6-3 record without Rice this season raise the question of whether his ball-dominating nature might have often been counterproductive. We’ll find out in a critical 2015-16 campaign for Groce and the Illini.

John Groce, Rayvonte Rice And The Illini Saw Their Tournament Hopes All But Die Thursday Afternoon

John Groce, Rayvonte Rice And The Illini Saw Their Tournament Hopes All But Die Thursday Afternoon (Getty Images)

Nittany Lions Drop Hawkeyes: Iowa was a trendy sleeper pick heading into the action yesterday, but Penn State quickly and effectively ended the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Tournament. The loss changes little for the Hawkeyes except for the fact that Fran McCaffery’s team is now squarely staring down the barrel of a dreaded #8/#9 game. Things could be worse, though – they seem to be safely in the field, and unlike last year, shouldn’t be headed to Dayton. On the other side, Penn State won its third straight Big Ten game — no small feat considering the Nittany Lions had won just three of 17 league games before embarking on their recent surge. More good news for Penn State fans: Purdue awaits the Lions in the next round. No disrespect to the Boilers and their impressive 12-6 Big Ten season, but they are clearly the easiest option among the four teams that received double-byes. Penn State pushed Purdue to overtime in State College in their only meeting of the season; can the tournament’s most unexpected quarterfinalist find a way to extend its stay in Chicago for at least another day?

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