Big Ten Resume Review: Part I

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 9th, 2013

After everything has calmed down in the aftermath of the B1G/ACC challenge, it’s time to take a first look at the resumes that each team in the league has put together. Granted, this is going to be a fluid situation all season, but right now this is how it shakes out. I won’t reveal my exact methodology, but suffice it to say that I used a combination of KenPom efficiency ratings and the RPI to assign a specific value to each team’s wins and losses. Starting from the bottom and working up, this is how B1G teams stand right now as we head into the exams period. I’ve listed teams #12-#7 here, with teams #6-#1 to come tomorrow.

12. Northwestern (5-5)

Chris Collins' First Season in Evanston Has Been Challenging So Far

Chris Collins’ First Season in Evanston Has Been Challenging So Far

  • Best Win: Western Michigan  (51-35)
  • Worst Loss: Illinois State (68-64)
  • Breakdown: Northwestern has played four power conference teams but did not win any of those games. The Wildcats played Missouri reasonably close, but they lost by 21 to an NC State team that is predicted to finish in the middle to the bottom of the ACC. They have a chance to finish the season with more than 20 losses given the formidable conference slate Chris Collins’ team has ahead of it. They got back on track slightly with a win against a top-150 Western Michigan team on Saturday, but don’t expect the wins to pile up here.
  • Status Right Now: No postseason.
  • Projected Status: No postseason. Not trying to pick on the Wildcats, but they’ve done nothing to show that they are better than all the other bottom-level teams in the conference right now, and might only win three or four games in league play.

11. Nebraska (6-3)

  • Best Win: Miami (60-49)
  • Worst Loss: @ Creighton (82-67)
  • Breakdown: When listing Creighton as their worst loss here, this is more because of the fact that the Cornhuskers blew a golden opportunity to get a signature win, and because they looked so bad in doing it. That said,  Tim Miles’ squad has probably slightly exceeded expectations. They’ve started 6-3, but have no wins versus anyone that would be in the field of 68. Their first two losses to UMass and UAB weren’t horrible ones, and neither is the Creighton loss, but the Huskers need a win at Cincinnati on December 28 or they would need to do some significant conference damage.
  • Status Right Now: No postseason.
  • Projected Status: No postseason. This team could pull off some upsets and get to five or six B1G wins, and if so, they could find themselves headed to the NIT.

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An Early Look at the Big Ten POY Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 6th, 2013

We are a little over one-fourth of the way through the season. Non-conference play lasts about another three weeks, and before you know it, New Year’s Eve will arrive and conference games will be here. The Big Ten Player of the Year award is of course won and lost during conference play, but let’s take a very early look at five players who have positioned themselves to possibly be among the favorites for the award (in alphabetical order).

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for POY. (Reuters)

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for Big Ten POY. (Reuters)

  • Keith Appling, Michigan State: Appling has two teammates in Gary Harris (now injured) and Adreian Payne who are also deserving of this award, but it has been the point guard who has done a little bit of everything for the Spartans this year. His impressive stat line of 16.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.0 RPG and 52 percent from deep are conference POY numbers. Perhaps his most impressive performance was against then #1 Kentucky, exploding for 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a consummate performance. If Appling continues to put up big games like that, he might be on track to become the second Spartans’ senior to win Big Ten POY in the last three years (Draymond Green was the other).
  • Tim Frazier, Penn State: It is extremely hard for a player on a team with a losing record to take home the conference POY award, but Frazier could possibly accomplish that this season. He is only averaging 19.4 PPG, but expect that number to rise into the 20s by the time conference play is in full swing. The fifth-year senior is also averaging a league high 7.0 APG and that stat may be underrated too because Frazier will need to get his teammates active on the offensive end of the floor to open up more space for him to work with.

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Key Questions in the Tuesday Big Ten/ACC Challenge Early Games

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 3rd, 2013

It’s back. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge starts tonight. The ACC is currently ahead 10-3-1 in the event, but the Big Ten hasn’t lost a challenge in four years with last season giving us the lone tie. This year’s match-ups provide plenty of compelling games to consider and includes the first time that Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse will compete as well as Maryland’s last run with the ACC. With that in mind, Matt Patton and Lathan Wells from the ACC microsite and Jonathan Batuello and Brendan Brody from the B1G microsite got together on Monday to answer some key questions concerning this year’s Challenge. This post will preview the three early Tuesday night games, with a second post previewing the late games coming this afternoon. Wednesday will have a similar construct. Also be sure to check-out both microsites over the next few days for further reaction and analysis as the Challenge gets underway.

Indiana @ Syracuse, 7:15 PM, ESPN

Indiana and Syracuse Match Up Again, This Time at the Dome

Indiana and Syracuse Match Up Again, This Time at the Dome

B1G: The Challenge’s first game is a rematch of the Sweet Sixteen game last year. It ended the Hoosiers’ hopes for a national title, but this year’s game has plenty of new faces. This year’s Indiana team is extremely athletic, so how does Syracuse match up against them?

ACC: Very well. One of the things that makes Syracuse’s zone so dangerous is its length. The zone hides a lot of athletic mismatches on defense, but expect the Orange to be able to hang with most of Indiana’s roster. Offensively the most important thing is for Tyler Ennis to feel comfortable. On the other hand, Tom Crean’s history against the zone is well known. How do you think he changes his game plan to handle a talented Syracuse team and its zone?

B1G: Crean would love nothing more than to get his “zone struggles” monkey off his back heading back to Syracuse. Honestly, though, IU will have a different game plan than last year because it has a different team. Last season, IU didn’t hit from deep in the NCAA Tournament against the zone, but this season it doesn’t have the players to simply shoot Syracuse out of it. Indiana will likely struggle shooting the ball so it needs to do what a fellow B1G microsite writer talked about a few weeks ago – rebound. The Hoosiers will have to get some free points off putbacks to have a chance to win this game. On that note, Indiana is an absolute monster on the boards this season, outrebounding its opponents 50-32. Syracuse is only averaging 36 boards a game itself, so is there anyway the Orange can hang with the Hoosiers on the glass?

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Penn State Proving It’s More Than a Two-Man Show

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

With its win Tuesday night, Penn State upped its record on the young season to 5-1. As they head into their weekend mini-tournament in Brooklyn tonight, they will be tested by the likes of St. John’s and either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. These are all “power conference” teams, but they are all beatable. If the Nittany Lions want to continue the roll that they’ve gotten on this season, they will need to continue to get contributions from their starting frontcourt. Players like Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack are not household names outside of State College, but they have all been huge factors in the team’s play as of late.

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

In its victory over La Salle, Penn State had all five starters in double figures. With a pass-first type of point guard getting them great looks with his dishing prowess, Taylor, Jack, and Travis have shown they can take advantage and hit shots. While none of these three is very physically imposing, they all have certain useful skill sets that they’ve displayed in the early going. Travis is a banger and a slasher, leading the team in rebounds at a 7.3 RPG clip. He has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket, but his main role is that of someone to do a lot of the heavy lifting on the boards. Taylor went for 25 points in the team’s lopsided win against Longwood, mostly on the strength of his 5-of-9 shooting from deep. He too showed in that game and in others that he can knock down an open shot from mid-range, and displays athleticism and length defensively. Taylor is 11th in the B1G in block rate (5.78%) going into Brooklyn, and has a high of four in one game. Jack has a season high of 18 points, and while he tends to get pushed around a some in the low block, he works well in a high pick-and-roll situation with Frazier. Jack has also become a big fan of taking three-pointers from the top of the key, which will at times bring a center or power forward away from the basket and allow the others to crash the offensive boards.

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The Whistle Blows: Big Ten Teams See Notable Increase in FTAs and Percentage

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 19th, 2013

It’s been impossible to avoid noticing the difference in foul calls so far this season. The new hand-check rules and officials intent on enforcing every foul has caused free throw attempts to shoot up and games to slow down. Across all of Division I basketball, free throw attempts are up a whopping 22.8 percent (about 4.5  more attempts per game). This amounts to about 24.3 attempts per game, the highest mark since 1971-72 when it was at 25.6 FTA per contest. This has caused some complaints among B1G coaches, most notably Purdue‘s Matt Painter, who called them “excessive” following his Boilermakers’ recent win. While the foul calls and free throws may slightly drop as officials adapt and study film, almost any contact for now causes a whistle to blow. With this in mind, it seemed like a good time to look at the Big Ten team’s free throw shooting so far this season compared to last season’s totals through roughly the same amount of games. You can look at the table below to get a good gauge of exactly what has and is happening with your favorite B1G team and the conference overall.

big ten ft diff

Some notable trends:

  • Overall, the B1G is shooting free throws at an even higher rate than the country with a 28.2 percent increase as it has attempted 232 more total free throws than at this point last season. This equates to more than 19 additional free throw attempts per team so far. Only Michigan State has shot fewer free throws at this same point, and Michigan and Minnesota are near where they were last year at this time. Every other team is up.
  • Could more trips to the line mean more comfort while there? Most teams at this point have experienced a positive change in free throw percentage, with Penn State, Indiana, Ohio State and Nebraska the four teams showing a decrease.

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Big Ten’s One Loss Record Supports Early Claim for Best Conference

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 14th, 2013

The start to the Big Ten season has certainly gone well. Granted, there have been a few closer games than expected (we’re looking at you, Indiana and Purdue) and one loss, but nonetheless, the conference now sits at 23-1 going into Thursday morning. (It should be noted this topic was originally written with the assumption Penn State would not lose and the Big Ten would still be undefeated, but alas, we’ll settle for 23-1). It also has two of the biggest signature wins of the young season with Michigan State over Kentucky and Wisconsin downing Florida on Tuesday night. That said, the Big Ten is the only power conference to have only one loss and sits tied with the WCC for best record overall as the only conference with just one loss. The next closest leagues are the Big East and AAC with three losses each. Granted, overall record isn’t the only way to measure conference strength, especially this early in the season with high-major schools playing teams they should beat. Still, it’s an impressive start and worth taking a look at the next few days to see exactly how long the Big Ten can keep it up. This post projects the next four days to determine how likely it is that the Big Ten stays at the one-loss plateau heading into next week.

Gary Harris led Michigan State to No. 1 in the country and the Big Ten sits as the top conference early on, too. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Harris led Michigan State to No. 1 in the country and the Big Ten sits as the top conference early on, too. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Today: Maryland Eastern Shore at Iowa; Northwestern at Stanford

This is a legitimate underdog situation for the Big Ten. Iowa should cruise in its home game against UMES, but the Wildcats are traveling west to play against a good team in its building. Stanford may have given up 112 points against BYU, but the Cougars are no slouch in the WCC.

Loss probability: 80 percent. It’s Northwestern on the road.

Friday: Samford at Indiana; Columbia at Michigan State

If Northwestern pulls off the upset, the Big Ten is looking at 25-1 heading into the weekend. In these two Friday games, Indiana and Michigan State will be heavy favorites. The Hoosiers got their wake-up call against an inferior team on Tuesday night and won’t let that happen again. Michigan State just beat Kentucky, and they aren’t losing to Columbia with a veteran squad coached by Tom Izzo.

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Big Ten Openers: Time to Judge the One-Game Judgements

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 11th, 2013

Opening weekend has come and gone, and every Big Ten team has played at least one game, with Illinois and Iowa suiting  up for two. After the weekend, the Big Ten sits at 14-0. Of course, such a short examination period isn’t the best time to make judgments, but they certainly were out in force for some teams and players. With this post, we will examine some of the potential overreactions involving Big Ten teams. We’ll also try to gauge if that overreaction could be warranted as something to worry about as the season progresses or if really it was a one-game situation that will be forgotten by next week.

Iowa

Iowa is 2-0 and That’s About All That Matters at This Point

Illinois

It was an impressive opening two games for Rayvonte Rice, shooting 55 percent from the floor while putting up 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Thinking the redshirt junior (he transfered from Drake and sat out last season) will sustain close to these numbers against better teams is foolhardy, though. A big question mark coming into the season was how accurate Rice would be (he shot 43.6 percent in his last season at Drake) and it’s unlikely his strong opening weekend shooting will continue. He’ll be good, but not this good all season.

Indiana

It was quite the debut for heralded freshman Noah Vonleh, finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Some people even started comparing him to Cody Zeller after one game. Well, Vonleh certainly was spectacular in his debut, but let’s not put him down as an All-American already. This rebounding pace won’t continue at such a high rate and his offense still needs a lot of work. It’s likely he makes an All-B1G of some sort and could be Indiana’s best player, but one game against inferior competition isn’t All-American status just yet.

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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 Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Part II

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013

Highlighted by the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the B1G non-conference slate is filled with intriguing match-ups that will the test each team in unique ways. Starting with Nebraska taking on “Dunk City” on opening night, and stretching deep into December, the teams from the conference will all face games ranging from a glorified scrimmage to an absolute test that will determine RPI and seeding in March, and influence the general perception of each team and the league as a whole. What follows is the second of a two part breakdown showing what each team is up against before the league schedule tips off on New Year’s Eve (the first installment can be found here). I’m not going to hypothesize when it comes to tournaments that involve different teams and who they might play; rather, I’m going to just look at games that are definitely going to be played.

Nebraska

Nebraska Will Open Its New Barn Friday Night Against

Nebraska Will Open Its New Barn Friday Night Against Dunk City

  • Biggest Test: @Creighton (12/8): Creighton is where Nebraska wants to be in terms of the scope of basketball in the state of Nebraska. What better way to sway recruits around that region than beating them in their own gym.
  • Other Challenges: UMass (11/21), Miami (FL) (12/4), @Cincinnati (12/28): I’d highlight Cincinnati out of all of these, because Nebraska will have to prove its toughness in this one. The Bearcats always play a rugged brand of basketball where they get after teams defensively, and they hit the boards hard. Nebraska couldn’t shoot straight from outside last year (30.7 percent), and they were only 319th in the country in offensive rebound percentage. The Minutemen are looked as potential challengers in the Atlantic 10, while even though Miami is predicted to have a down year, they still have some experience left over from last year’s ACC championship team.
  • Mid-Major Scare: Florida Gulf Coast (11/8): Without looking at the Vegas line, this might be the only time in history that an Atlantic Sun team would be favored over a B1g team at home. It actually ends up as a pretty good home opener for Nebraska, because after last year’s surprise Sweet Sixteen run, I’m sure there’s a lot more interest in this game then there would have otherwise been. We’ll see whether a new coach with all but two players who played big minutes on that Cinderella squad can knock off its first power conference team on opening night.

Northwestern

  • Biggest Test: UCLA (11/29): Former Iowa coach Steve Alford gets to match wits with Chris Collins in this neutral match-up in Las Vegas. Can Alex Olah be a factor against the Wear twins and a slimmed down Tony Parker inside? If so, they have a shot.
  • Other Challenges: @Stanford (11/14), Missouri (11/28), @N.C. State (12/4): The Missouri game stands out here because of the potential match-up between the combo of Drew Crawford-JerShon Cobb taking on Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkston. Both teams have really good wings, and the key might be whether Dave Sobolewski can win the point guard battle. Stanford and N.C. State would be great wins as the team heads into league play.
  • Mid-Major Scare: @UIC (11/20): This battle for bragging rights in the city of Chicago comes after UIC won 50-44 last season in Evanston. If UIC gets the Wildcats two years in a row, Collins will have to some major problems on the horizon (pun intended). The Flames lost four of their top six scorers from last season, but they get ex-Purdue starter Kelsey Barlow in the mix after a transfer year.

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Introducing the RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 5th, 2013

In honor of the college season finally tipping off Friday in various locales, we at the Big Ten microsite decided to get together and vote for our preseason all-league teams. We will cover potential Sixth Man of the Year candidates and reveal our preseason Freshman of the Year later this week. We’ll also be revealing how the teams will finish in the league standings four at a time starting Wednesday. Today we introduce our preseason All-Big Ten Second Team; the First Team will be unveiled tomorrow.

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

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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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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by BHayes on September 6th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Watch out for Sparty in 2013-14. Tom Izzo returns nearly every key contributor from his Sweet 16 squad of a year ago, with only bruising big man Derrick Nix since departed. More good news for East Lansing’s finest: the Big Ten shouldn’t prove quite as challenging as it did last season as fellow top-four finishers Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all suffered major personnel losses in the offseason. That may mean some turnover at the top, especially with a number of teams in the bottom half of the conference looking improved from a season ago. So, sure – you can expect a little reshuffling at the top of the Big Ten. But with the returns of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne (among others) to East Lansing, you should also feel pretty safe in believing that Sparty will be right where they always are come March – in the hunt for a Big Ten title, preparing themselves for a sustained Tournament push.

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team (Getty Images)

  • Team Outlook: Despite the arrival of a relatively underwhelming freshmen class – neither center Gavin Schilling nor shooting guard Alvin Ellis has the look of a minute-eating freshman, Tom Izzo’s cupboard is fully stocked. The backcourt features the Spartan’s two top scorers from a year ago in Keith Appling (13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Gary Harris (12.9 PPG, 41% 3PT). Both battled nagging injuries throughout last winter, so an offseason of rest and rehabilitation may have been just what the Spartans needed although Harris appears to have suffered a temporary setback with a sprained ankle that will keep him out until at least the start of practice. With another year under their belt and improved health (knock on wood), there should be an expectation of increased, or at least more efficient, contributions from the duo. The third centerpiece of this Spartan club is center Adreian Payne, who broke out in his sophomore season posting season averages of 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG as the big man even showed an unexpectedly refined touch from deep. After only attempting two three-pointers in his first season in East Lansing, Payne went 16-42 from beyond the stripe last season, giving Izzo (and NBA scouts) hope that he might progress even further here in year three. Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG and 5.9 RPG) is the fourth Spartan returning starter, while versatile sophomore Denzel Valentine (5.0 PPG and 4.1 RPG) would seem like the top candidate to occupy the starting slot left open by the departure of Nix, an insertion that would necessitate a slide to the power forward position for Dawson. Sophomore Travis Trice (4.8 PPG, 1.9 APG) should operate as a capable backup for Appling at the point, but Tom Izzo will have decisions to make in rounding out the bench rotation beyond Trice. Matt Costello and Alex Gauna only averaged about six minutes per game each a season ago, but both could be thrust into larger roles this time around. Junior Russell Byrd and the freshman Schilling may also be options for Izzo in his quest to sort out the frontcourt rotation, as he seeks to at least partially replace the physicality and production that Nix brought to the table last season. Payne and Dawson should take care of plenty of that by themselves, and let’s also remember that this is Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans – if you can’t rebound you don’t see the floor, so expect the old coach to find some tough role players somewhere on the roster. Read the rest of this entry »
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