Big Ten M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 6th, 2014

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  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’s 2014-15 Schedule Brings Back the Rivalries

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 3rd, 2014

The Big Ten released its schedule of 2014-15 games late last week and it appears that the rivalries are back. The conference has said it won’t be protecting basketball rivalries in the long run, but at least next season all the major rivalries will have home-and-homes: Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Ohio State, Michigan-Michigan State, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Iowa-Minnesota, Northwestern-Illinois, and it even gives newcomers Maryland and Rutgers a home-and-home against each other. Before we fully focus on March Madness, here are a few thoughts on next season’s Big Ten schedule.

John Beilein and Michigan are competing for a conference championship this season and appear to have an advantage next year with the release of the 2014-15 B1G schedule. (Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com)

John Beilein and Michigan are competing for a conference championship this season and appear to have an advantage next year with the release of the 2014-15 B1G schedule. (Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com)

  • It is great to see the return of home-and-home rivalries next season. Indiana-Purdue and Ohio State-Michigan should never only play once, so hopefully next year’s effort to have them play twice continues or we could be in for a series of bland regular seasons in the near future. Rivalry games add intrigue and excitement for the fans even when the teams aren’t all that great (a good case in point was Mackey Arena for Purdue-Indiana a few weeks ago).
  • While it may be foolhardy to argue which teams will benefit from next season’s schedule as of today, the early winners appear to be Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue and Rutgers. The Wolverines will certainly be happy to see two of its away games at Maryland and Penn State while avoiding trips to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Wisconsin must feel a similar way by seeing its home-and-home includes Northwestern and Penn State with only away games to Maryland and Rutgers — the Badgers also avoid a trip to the state of Indiana entirely, as well as Michigan State and the Izzone. Purdue is ecstatic to see two of the worst home court advantages in the conference are on its away slate in Northwestern and Penn State. While Rutgers’ road games aren’t the friendliest, it could certainly be worse, and its home-and-home schedule with Maryland, Penn State and struggling Purdue and Indiana squads looks promising for an inaugural campaign.

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Whats Trending: Tom Izzo Dancing, Baylor Getting Baptized, Marcus Paige, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

So Tom Izzo apparently appears in a new Werner Ladders TV commercial. That’s clever and funny and all, but SB Nation‘s Brian Floyd already made the remix for us because that is how he rolls… just laying beats over video and hitting the “UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE” button.

Yes, that would be the renowned R&B hit “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

No for real. This is not a euphemism for getting shown up on defense while your opponent throws one down in your face. A handful of Baylor Bears were actually baptized last week. Isaiah Austin captured it all.

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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Some Quick Thoughts on Nebraska’s Win Over Penn State

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 21st, 2014

Nebraska has become the talk of the Big Ten, as they have played their way into serious NCAA Tournament consideration by knocking off Michigan State on the road. The last time they won against a heavyweight, they came out and lost the next game to Penn State. This time around, they took care of any potential letdown by winning 80-67. Here are four quick takeaways from last night’s foul fest in Lincoln.

If the injury to Walter Pitchford is serious, Nebraska might have to cancel potential NCAA Tournament plans. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

If the injury to Walter Pitchford is serious, Nebraska might have to cancel potential NCAA Tournament plans. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

  1. How serious is the Walter Pitchford injury? Pitchford went down with about 8:00 left to play in the game to a left leg injury. It looked as though Penn State’s Donovon Jack hit the leg with his shoulder. He wasn’t able to put any weight on it, and had to be helped off the court by his teammates. If he misses a significant amount of time, the Huskers will be stretched a little thin on the offensive end. Backup Leslee Smith will be able to provide rebounds and gives them a better defensive presence in the middle, but he can’t come close to matching Pitchford’s offensive abilities. Ray Gallegos would really have to step his game up to become a third scorer with Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields if Pitchford can’t play. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Valentine’s Day Candy Heart Messages

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 14th, 2014

It’s the day celebrating romance and love. It also marks the final home stretch of the regular season. In honor of this day, it felt appropriate (or just fun) to take aim at each Big Ten team and the thing they most want — in the form of a candy heart message. So, in alphabetical order, I give you the simple message each conference team would want most to come on a candy heart. Enjoy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Can Tom Crean's Hoosiers end the Badgers' winning streak? (AP).

Tom Crean and company would love to start winning the games its supposed to. (AP)

Illinois: “Not Last In My Heart” – Oh what once was for the Illini this season. The great non-conference play has fallen apart and Illinois is sitting in last place in the Big Ten. Getting out of the cellar would be great for the team.

Indiana: “Your Love Overcomes a Bad Team” – The Hoosiers are quite the fickle team this year. Beating Wisconsin and Michigan but losing at home to Northwestern and Penn State? This team would love to win the games it should the rest of the way and pull off a few more upsets to find itself back on the NCAA bubble.

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Big Ten Postseason Watch: 02.08.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 8th, 2014

Conference play has hit the midway point. The top of the Big Ten is already a two team contest contained to the state of Michigan, but the middle of the conference is as muddled as ever with 10th place a mere game and a half back of fourth. With that in mind we examine where the conference’s teams are at in terms of postseason play. All teams currently have a shot of playing somewhere after the conference tournament concludes and RTC’s Daniel Evans currently lists six Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament (as does ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who adds Indiana in his first four out). The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in terms of importance along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN. Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media or how your team’s fortunes will change in the final five weeks of the season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

Adreian Payne's return is huge for a Michigan State team wanting to claim a No. 1 seed in March (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne’s return is huge for a Michigan State team wanting to claim a No. 1 seed in March (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

  • Michigan State (KenPom #12, RPI #10): The injuries to Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson have put the Spartans in a bind inside, but it also has let other players develop their games. Payne’s return comes at the perfect time for the team as it makes the final push for a Big Ten championship and a top seed in March. This team can’t afford to lose many more if it hopes to take a top spot, but with everyone back, even a No. 2 or 3 seed would work just fine for a healthy squad that can contend for the national title.
  • Michigan (KenPom #14, RPI #15): This team is far from dead after the injury to Mitch McGary. The development of freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been instrumental to the Wolverines becoming stronger in conference play. The potential for John Beilein’s team to grab a No. 1 seed could be decided this week with two massive tests at Iowa and at Ohio State. Win both and it looks reasonable; lose either and it will be battling for a top four protected seed.

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Big Ten M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 6th, 2014

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  1. Michigan certainly responded well to its first Big Ten loss last night by simply crushing Nebraska. The Wolverines have come back well from adversity in general since conference play started, and a lot of that has to do with Derrick Walton Jr.‘s progression. The freshman point guard started the season slowly, but since Big Ten play began he has seen his scoring rise by nearly three points per game while reducing his turnovers. His jumper and decision-making have also improved dramatically as he has grown more accustomed to the college game. His play down the stretch needs to continue this way, and if it does, Michigan will remain in contention for the Big Ten title against bitter rival Michigan State.
  2. The dark horse status that many gave to Penn State coming into this season didn’t start out so well. The Nittany Lions are now on a three-game winning streak, however, thanks to plenty of impressive numbers. Some of the most notable statistics include that of Brandon Taylor, who in the winning streak has averaged 15 points per game and 46.7 percent from three-point range, and 20.0 PPG for DJ Newbill. With a tough test at Michigan State coming tonight, Penn State will need both players to continue their recent strong play. The Lions are unlikely to win in East Lansing, of course, but if Penn State stays close with Sparty it sends a message to the rest of a muddled Big Ten that this team will compete the rest of the way.
  3. There were multiple reasons for Wisconsin‘s recent skid. One prominent reason was Sam Dekker struggling offensively, but he seems to have came out of his slump after hitting 4-of-7 three-pointers against Illinois. While Wisconsin has plenty of players who can score and take over the game when needed, Dekker’s impact as a versatile forward is extremely important. The Badgers are much more effective when Dekker can exploit the match-up issues he causes by bombing away from the outside. For a team relying so much more on its offense this season, Bo Ryan’s team needs its star to make sure his struggles are completely done.
  4. If you wanted 55 minutes of, well, uninspiring basketball, then Purdue‘s triple-overtime win over Minnesota last night was a real treat. The Boilermakers got the victory despite nearly giving it away with multiple missed free throws in regulation and the first two overtimes. Part of this problem is the Boilermakers’ stark lack of leadership and that its best leader, Travis Carroll, rarely sees action. Carroll does his job well, working against AJ Hammons in practice and playing hard when called upon. But even if Purdue lacks a more productive on-court senior leader, there has been time for some of the underclassmen to mature and take over those duties. Plenty of teams rely on young talent to not only be competitive but win conference and national titles. Matt Painter needs to find his on-court leadership somewhere or there will be more games like last night where the Boilermakers nearly blow what appeared to be an assured win.
  5. Ohio State certainly needed things to start going well again. With a pair of wins against Wisconsin and Iowa this week, it appears the Buckeyes got the morale boost and confidence that they desired. It came at a critical time for Ohio State, too. With a few more losses, what seemed like a team competing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament could have quickly found itself on the bubble. The players’ comments after beating Iowa seems to bear out that they believe they will win the close games coming down the stretch. For a team that relies so heavily on its defense, the confidence to believe it will score late in close games is absolutely crucial.
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Big Ten M5: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 31st, 2014

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  1. Michigan State sophomore Matt Costello has seen his role become much more important with Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson sidelined. He posted a double-double in the Spartans’ win against Iowa on Tuesday night, which led to Tom Izzo calling it “ the best game of his life.” Costello has done a great job blocking shots all season long, but it seems as though he’s getting more comfortable playing extended minutes. His rebounding will be sorely needed until the Spartans are back at full strength. It will be interesting to see if the former top-100 recruit can develop a back-to-the-basket game in his next two years in East Lansing.
  2. The B1G season went from strange to borderline wacky Wednesday night when supposed cellar dwellers (at least according to preseason rankings) Penn State and Northwestern won on the road against Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively. Both of these teams were ranked in the top five nationally a mere three weeks ago. More on Ohio State in a moment, but Wisconsin’s issues can be traced to how well it’s letting other teams shoot the ball, and how poorly it’s shooting from behind the arc. Teams have been living in the paint in all four recent losses, and until the Badgers get that fixed, they’ll continue to hover around .500 in conference play.
  3. Ohio State also looked like a potential Final Four contender until recently, but they’ve arguably looked even worse than Wisconsin in the last couple of weeks. It’s disturbing that senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. was quoted as saying that the team “doesn’t care enough.” Maybe these quotes will spark something in the Buckeyes and they’ll play with more emotion going forward. But Smith and fellow senior Aaron Craft, who both started in the Final Four as sophomores, need to do more on the court in terms of providing senior leadership. Smith needs to shoot better and Craft — despite the free pass the national media seemingly gives him — needs to stop turning the ball over at what has been an alarming rate during their recent struggles.
  4. In happier news, Minnesota is one of the teams in the league that has outperformed against expectations so far. Everyone knows that the team has missed the inside presence and rebounding of the graduated Trevor Mbakwe, but that doesn’t mean that Oto Osenieks hasn’t played well as a stretch-four during his junior season. Osenieks isn’t ever going to average 10 rebounds a game, but he’s improved quite a bit since his last season under former coach Tubby Smith. This can mainly be viewed in his three-point shooting, as the lanky junior has gone from only hitting 2-of-26 as a sophomore, to 12-of-37 during the 2013-14 campaign.
  5. When Penn State jumped out to a 47-40 lead at halftime in its first league game against Michigan State, you could see that this team had the potential to jump up and bite some of the Big Ten heavyweights this season. And after an 0-6 start, the Nittany Lions have won their last two after Wednesday night’s victory in Columbus. They got this win despite many setbacks that should have doomed them to defeat, overcoming a huge free throw disparity and some questionable calls that went against them. After failing to close out the game in numerous close contests, it will be interesting to see whether getting this win can be a springboard for Penn State going forward.
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Big Ten Postseason Watch: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Jonahtan Batuello on January 10th, 2014

Selection Sunday is always on everyone’s minds as conference season gets underway. So, with 10 days of Big Ten play already done, now is a good time to start a weekly look at where conference teams’ postseason chances are currently sitting. Joe Lunardi has released a new Bracketology (as well as RTC’s Daniel Evans) so why shouldn’t we start putting out our own thoughts as well? The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in the next week that’s of importance (along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN (it should be noted these rankings do not include last night’s games even though the commentary does). Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media, but here is your first Big Ten Postseason Watch of the conference season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

  • Michigan State (KenPom #9; RPI #10): The thrilling home win over Ohio State puts the Spartans in line to earn a No. 1 seed. This next week is mainly about getting healthy as Tom Izzo’s team depth is severely lacking. If Sparty is healthy, games versus Minnesota and at Northwestern shouldn’t be too much trouble.
  • Ohio State (KenPom #1; RPI #7): Losing its first game of the conference season certainly hurts the Buckeyes when angling for a top seed. Its best chance for a statement win is now gone but Ohio State doesn’t have much time to relax. Iowa comes to Value City Arena this week and then a trip to The Barn isn’t a guaranteed win with the Golden Gophers needing a marquee win for its NCAA Tournament hopes.
  • Wisconsin (KenPom #3; RPI #1): The Badgers are well on their way to a top seed come March if it can continue to take care of business. Fran McCaffery helped them win at home, and then they easily took care of Illinois. Now, Wisconsin heads to Bloomington where Bo Ryan has owned Tom Crean. With its favorable schedule, Wisconsin looks like the best bet to become a top NCAA seed from the conference.

Playing to improve its seed

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New Year’s Resolution For Power Conference Teams? No More Cupcakes – Conference Play Is Here

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 4th, 2014

With conference play arriving almost everywhere this weekend (it’s about time!), let’s take a peek at some of the major Saturday (and a few Sunday) games and storylines in college basketball’s seven major conferences.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The New League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The Recently-Birthed League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

AAC. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first-ever weekend of American Athletic Conference basketball! OK, so maybe it isn’t that exciting, but an old Conference USA matchup does offer the league a headlining game on 2014’s first Saturday. Cincinnati visits Memphis (12:00 ET, ESPN2) in an early match-up of presumed upper-echelon AAC teams, but look elsewhere if you seek a battle of stylistic comrades; the deliberate, defensively stout Bearcats (286th nationally in tempo, eighth in defensive efficiency) will look to put the clamps on an explosive Memphis squad that rarely presses the pause button (39th nationally in tempo, 19th in offensive efficiency). UConn and SMU, both 0-1 in league play, offer an alternate viewing option (2:00 ET, ESPNU), and with a visit to Louisville coming next, Larry Brown’s SMU team would be well served to get a win Saturday to avoid staring down the barrel of an 0-3 league start.

ACC. Will there be life after Jerian Grant for Notre Dame? If yes, then a visit from Duke (4:00 ET, CBS) will offer the Irish the chance to provide a more convincing affirmation than they offered in their first game without Grant – a gut-check overtime victory over Canisius. Garrick Sherman should have a chance to exploit the smallish Duke interior, no matter what Doug Gottlieb thinks about his beard. Elsewhere, Pitt and Syracuse join Notre Dame in making their ACC debuts. The Panthers visit NC State (12:00 ET, ESPN3), while the Orange play host to Miami (2:00 ET, ESPN3). And if you like defense, two of the nation’s 10 most efficient defensive units are set to meet in Tallahassee; Virginia and Florida State (5:00 ET, ESPN2) will tussle in a race to 50 between ACC sleepers.

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Anatomy of a Collapse: How Penn State Blew a Golden Opportunity Against Michigan State

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 3rd, 2014

As many B1G fans were watching the ending of the Illinois-Indiana game on Tuesday night, they may have been missing a good chunk of the Michigan State-Penn State first half. The Nittany Lions put quite a scare in Sparty, as they jumped out to a 47-40 advantage at halftime. This was largely based upon a torrid start from the three-point line (7-of-12), with a 10-of-10 performance at the free throw line and nine Michigan State miscues contributing factors. As an example, the Spartans had a 1:05 stretch at the end of the half where they turned the ball over on five possessions in a row, leading to an 8-0 Penn State run that put the score at 45-33. Michigan State went closed out the half strong, but Penn State was still in the driver’s seat. So after Michigan State went on to win the game, 79-63, by holding Penn State to 16 points in the second half (0.43 points per possession), what exactly went wrong?

Tim Frazier had an off night against Michigan State. (theschoolphilly.com)

Tim Frazier had an off night against Michigan State (Photo credit: theschoolphilly.com).

Let’s break down the half into sections.

  • 20:00-17:23: Things began to unravel early, as Donovon Jack picked up his third foul in the first minute. This forced Penn State to go with three guards. Tim Frazier sandwiched a missed runner between two turnovers and Gary Harris scored eight of Michigan State’s 10 points to start the half. He hit two wide-open threes and one could sense a bit of a momentum shift. Penn State burned a quick timeout as they went from seven up to down three all within the first 2:37 of the half. Read the rest of this entry »
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Re-Ranking the Big Ten Heading into Conference Play

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 31st, 2013

With the conference season now upon us, the writers at the microsite decided it would be a good idea to re-rank how we believe the teams will finish in the race to a Big Ten championship. The conference has to this point laid a solid claim as the best league in the nation, so it will be another grueling 18-game process for some lucky team win the crown. We’ve learned a decent amount about every school’ strengths and weaknesses by now — including just how good Ohio State’s defense appears to be, and how Michigan may not be ready to repeat its postseason performance from last year — but teams don’t truly reveal themselves until they start seeing their old familiar foes in conference play. Here are how the microsite writers believe the teams will pan out with a few notes on what has changed since before the season began.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes are the pick to win the Big Ten (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes are the pick to win the Big Ten. (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

  1. Ohio State: Everyone knew the Buckeyes’ defense would be good, but it has been much better than expected. Ken Pomeroy ranks them as the most efficient defense in the country, so that keeps Ohio State in every game regardless of how the offense is playing. They’ve also gotten enough scoring from everyone (six players average more than 7.0 PPG), and LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith are starting to become reliable scorers every night out.
  2. Wisconsin: One of the biggest surprises of this college basketball season, the Badgers have become a force offensively as well as defensively. Bo Ryan’s squad has shown a propensity to win every style of game this season and unearthed a huge bright spot in Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin ranks in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency while playing one of the most challenging non-conference slates in the country, so don’t think for a minute that its early success will peter out. Read the rest of this entry »
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