College Basketball by the Tweets: #WraggeBombs, South Florida Jersey Fail & More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 28th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Welcome back to College Basketball by the Tweets. We promise that we’re in tune with the latest social media trends and best practices, and are happy to share such sage advice to the Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball announcers, who are still in the beginning stages of understanding hashtags.

White Kid With A Flat Top Alert

This is Utah State’s Sean Harris. He’s living proof that the flat top, which has made a profound comeback since it was popular back in the 1980s, can transcend both hair and skin color.

Our only wish right now is that we could go back and time and tell former Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz to pioneer this movement.

Ethan Wragge Shoots, Does Not Dribble

It was a night were you could say with complete certainty that Creighton would have defeated any college basketball team in America, and perhaps even the Milwaukee Bucks. Against the unbeaten and then No. 4 ranked Villanova Wildcats, the Bluejays nailed 21 three pointers, nine coming from forward Ethan Wragge, who needed only six minutes to knock down his first seven.

Even more eye-popping was Wragge’s made-three-pointers-to-dribbles ratio, which isn’t even remotely close to a real statistic but something that was easy to track for the reasons noted below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 24th, 2014

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  1. The trials and tribulations that have come to mark the 2013-14 Michigan State campaign took another turn on Thursday. Junior forward Branden Dawson broke a bone in his hand and will be out for a month. Dawson hurt his hand when reacting in frustration to a replay of the broadcast of Tuesday’s win against Indiana, and the details of the situation are a little bit hazy. Coach Tom Izzo was quoted as saying about the incident, ” This kid did not rob any stores, he didn’t do any drugs, there’s no alcohol involved.” Obviously Izzo has Dawson’s back despite the questionable timing and intelligence of breaking one’s hand in the middle of the season off the court. It will be interesting to see how long Sparty can survive the latest round of bad luck it’s been hit with this year.
  2. The Spartans will find out pretty quickly how they play without Dawson, as they will face rival Michigan for first place in the conference in East Lansing Saturday night. Last year, the Wolverines got thoroughly whipped in their visit to the Breslin Center, and they realize how intense they need to be right from the jump. Since that game, the core of Michigan’s roster has played in a National Championship game and three high-level road games this year. Look for this year’s group to be a bit better prepared for the scene this time around.
  3. Another significant injury occurred on Wednesday night, when Minnesota’s Andre Hollins sprained his left ankle on the first possession of the game against Wisconsin. He was diagnosed with a severe ankle sprain, and although Richard Pitino hasn’t yet ruled him out, it’s reasonable to presume he’ll probably miss Sunday’s tilt at Nebraska. The Gophers have to feel much better about this development than they would have a month ago, however. This is a considerably deeper team now, with bench players like Malik Smith, Maurice Walker and Joey King all looking much-improved over the last five games. Look for senior Maverick Amanmisi to also get plenty of minutes in Hollins’ absence.
  4. Aside from his seven turnovers against Northwestern, Purdue’s AJ Hammons led the team in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks in the Boilermakers’ loss at Northwestern on Tuesday. That’s why it’s mildly surprising that he took full blame for the setback in Evanston. While his shooting from the field (3-of-10) and turnovers played a role in the defeat, he also played a season-high 44 minutes (double his average of 22 MPG on the season). Hammons is not Purdue’s problem right now, and after a rocky start to the season that resulted in his suspension for the opening game, taking the blame for a tough loss like this is a good sign that great things are still to come from the burly pivot man.
  5. The ghost of Hall of Famer Bob Knight will be around the Indiana program for quite some time, and that is partially why head coach Tom Crean has yet to be fully embraced by all the people who love the program. This is despite the fact that Crean was able to completely clean up the mess of the Kelvin Sampson era after his arrival in Bloomington. He has rebuilt the program from the ashes, but the naysayers aren’t happy with their 12-7 start. While some of his in-game strategy screams that this isn’t the most disciplined team in the country, Crean deserves a pass in large part due to how young his team is. They had to pretty much start over from scratch this year, and time is needed to let the young talent mature before calling for his head.
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Big Ten M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 17th, 2014

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  1. Wisconsin’s Ben Brust hit one of the most memorable shots in Big Ten history last season against Wisconsin. This memory has come into the light once again as the Wolverines head to Madison this Saturday. When asked about his shot, the senior sharp-shooter talked about how he really is only focused on the present. Brust stated that, “I just want to stay focused on the task at hand. Because I know that after these three months, I’ll have the rest of my life to think about how special of a play it was.” With the way the Badgers are playing, there could be many more memorable games for Brust to look back upon if things break right for the team in the next three months.
  2. CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish makes an interesting argument in talking about how the B1G is really more of a basketball league than a football league. This flies in the face of the perceptions of many at the schools in the conference, which despite a recent lack of success on the gridiron, still cling to the notion that the league is a dominant football conference. It can’t be denied that the conference has arguably been the best basketball league for quite some time now. In the era of one-and-dones dotting the landscape, teams in the Big Ten seem to have found a happy medium where they still bring in talent that sticks around for several years. While some may scoff because of the lack of national championships, the B1G once again has the most depth top-to-bottom in the country on almost a yearly basis.
  3. After an 0-4 start in league play, Nebraska coach Tim Miles has decided to shake things up a little bit. This means more playing time for the forgotten David Rivers. Rivers started a little more than half of his team’s games last season, but has hardly played at all over the last 10 contests due to an injury and ineffectiveness. Miles hopes that Rivers, who leads the team in steals at 1.4 per game, will bring more defensive intensity for the Huskers.
  4. With their win over Ohio State, Iowa has climbed in both the national rankings and in the amount of people taking them seriously. Interest in the program is the highest it has been in a while, and the Hawkeyes will have sell-out crowds for the remainder of their home games. This could prove to be crucial, as Iowa will play games against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the next couple of weeks. Protecting your home court is a must every season in a league as deep as the Big Ten, so the support of the crowd will be more than welcomed by Iowa players as they battle the heavyweights in games that could determine who wins the conference.
  5. AJ Hammons gets most of the hype and publicity whenever anyone discusses Purdue, but whether the guards are hitting outside shots can be just as important for the team if it wants to play in the postseason. Ronnie Johnson and Kendall Stephens knocked down some huge triples in their win against Illinois, which ultimately led to the Boilermakers coming away with the win. Terone and Ronnie Johnson also hit 6-of-6 free throws in the final minute, despite both of them shooting poorly from the line for most of their careers. Hammons has been coming along in his own right, but steady guard play might decide how good of a season Purdue has.
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Big Ten M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 16th, 2014

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  1. Rushing the court debates are always fun in college basketball. It’s what the name of this website comes from, after all, so after Indiana rushed the court after knocking off Wisconsin Tuesday night, it sparked some outrage and debate among, well, basically everyone who follows college basketball. The reaction piece linked by ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan may be the best way to look at it, too. Sure, maybe Indiana has too much tradition and the win last night didn’t “deserve” a court rush. But really, of all things to get riled up and worried about, the “rules” of when and when not to do so may be the most silly. Frankly, it’s college students enjoying a big win and carrying their emotions out onto the court. Who cares if it doesn’t fit your “rules,” because as Brennan says it, “They aren’t lisning (sic) to your rules. They’re too busy having fun.”
  2. Here we go again with Illinois. Last season the Illini came out of the gate strong and had everybody wondering if they could squeeze their way into discussion for the Big Ten title race before collapsing. This season, they once again started the year surprsingly well, but after a loss to Purdue last night, it’s a three-game losing streak that has everyone wondering if they will be making a slide just like last season. The key to the loss last night was specifically in the starters not producing enough outside of a slightly hobbled Rayvonte Rice. Nnanna Egwu, Jon Ekey and Joseph Betrand combined for 17 points against the Boilermakers and this is following a total team disaster offensively against Northwestern. For Illinois to get back on track and keep its potential for the NCAA Tournament alive this will have to change quickly.
  3. Northwestern was hopeful it could pull off “deja vu” against Michigan State. Not only did it want to replicate an upset from two years ago, but also the upset it pulled over Illinois this past week. With Michigan State hobbled, the Wildcats hung around before ultimately falling by 14, but it did get some high praise from Tom Izzo after the game. The Spartans head coach said it was the best defense he had seen from a Northwestern team in years, marking that’s the sign of a good coach. That’s pretty high praise for Chris Collins.
  4. On the other side of the Illinois loss was what we have all come to expect from Purdue‘s AJ Hammons. The center has constantly been called a potential lottery pick and dominant player in the conference. Yet, despite all the physical tools he hasn’t put it together and been consistent enough. Last night, though, he reminded everyone why the high praise is there as he helped Purdue to its best win of the season. Hammons final stat line of 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks shows the key to Purdue’s win and potentially it’s NCAA Tournament hopes. If he can play like that every game, the Boilermakers may not be dead and NIT bound just yet.
  5. It wasn’t a good week for Ohio State. Two losses to two of the top teams in the Big Ten certainly isn’t what the Buckeyes had in mind. Still, despite the bad week, Thad Matta realizes there is still plenty of season left to play. This reaction is certainly the best possible one (at least publicly) the head coach can have with his team. It’s a veteran group that will need to respond quickly with its trip to Minnesota tonight, and it should understand two back-to-back losses don’t derail its hopes for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament or even the hopes for competing in the Big Ten. It is unlikely the conference winner will finish with just two losses, so the Buckeyes have plenty of season left to turn it around.
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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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Big Ten M5: 1.09.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 9th, 2014

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  1. A lot of people have questioned exactly how good Ohio State is this season. With a non-conference schedule that ended up being weaker than originally expected with Marquette, Notre Dame and Maryland all looking mediocre, the marquee win hasn’t come yet. After the Buckeyes overtime loss at Michigan State, Aaron Craft wasn’t shy about it either. The senior said “we haven’t really done much this year,” as their first loss came against their best opponent. It’s a good sign Craft and the other Ohio State players are questioning themselves after Tuesday night and not satisfied with an overtime defeat. This team may not have had a daunting non-conference schedule, but losing in that way with minimal contributions from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross shows this team has the talent and ability to be a contender.
  2. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to see games like Tuesday night from Adreian Payne. He has proven to be Michigan State‘s stud on the inside all year, but doing what he did through extreme foot pain? Well, that just adds another layer to the growing lore surrounding the Spartan big man. Payne apparently was in near tears before the Ohio State game while taking shots in the practice gym just an hour before the game. His ability to come out and obviously go through the pain and produce on a high level is something everyone would like to emulate. It also likely adds a nice marquee moment early in the Big Ten season as Payne is taking an early lead for the conference’s Player of the Year.
  3. The beginning of Mitch McGary‘s journey back to the basketball court is done. The Michigan sophomore had surgery Tuesday on his back that has caused him pain since before the season began and started the second semester of classes Wednesday. McGary now starts his rehab, which does not include traveling with the team for most road trips. The stress of sitting in a plane or bus for hours is something John Beilein puts secondary to making sure he recovers quickly.
  4. We’ve all complained (or at least heard someone do so) about the new rules this season. Fouls and free throws are up across the country and for a team like Nebraska this has been an especially big issue. The Cornhuskers committed 51 personal fouls in its first two conference games. For a team that is usually the less talented team on the court, fouling and giving its opponents free throws is something it simply cannot do. While no one expects Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten or to make the NCAA Tournament, a few wins here and there could get them into the CBI or maybe even the NIT, so it is still important they play smart and not help their opponents win the game.
  5. It’s become a familiar thing to hear in West Lafayette. Matt Painter said his team needs to “show maturity” as the Big Ten season progresses while it has the week off before playing Nebraska. For fans of Purdue, this line has become as common as hearing about the team’s youth. It certainly doesn’t lack that, playing three freshmen, one redshirt freshman and only having two seniors on the roster. Still, at this point, everyone on the roster has experienced at least half a college season and the lapses Purdue seems to show in games is perplexing (like the first 30 minutes at Minnesota). Painter never seemed to figure out the issue last year, so if the Boilermakers have any chance of turning the season around and going to the NCAA Tournament he needs to find a way this season. That or Purdue’s looking at the NIT, if not the CBI.
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Buy, Sell, or Hold: Big Ten Stock Analysis

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 8th, 2014

CBS studio analyst and SI.com columnist Seth Davis wrote his annual article on Monday treating 63 teams as though they were stock market commodities. He gave each squad a designation where he chose to either buy, sell, or hold the stock of each team. When buying, it means that the team may be struggling right now, or struggled at some point recently, but he thinks it has a chance to play much better going forward. When holding, it means he thinks the team is likely to stay where they are, or that he’s unsure about what they will do going forward. When selling, it means that the team appears to have hit its ceiling and can only get worse, or that it doesn’t have much of a chance in his eyes. For example, Wisconsin and Indiana are both in his sell category, but for different reasons. Most of Davis’ takes involving Big Ten teams are spot on, but here’s how each of the eight B1G teams were listed, followed by a few takes about teams that could be classified differently.

Nik Stauskas will play a major role as Michigan attempts to prove to people that they can thrive without Mitch McGary (USA TODAY Sports)

Nik Stauskas will play a major role as Michigan attempts to prove to people that they can thrive without Mitch McGary (USA TODAY Sports)

Seth Davis’ Selections

Buy: Michigan State
Hold: Illinois, Minnesota
Sell: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin 

RTC Big Ten Microsite Changes

Michigan: (from Sell to Buy). Everyone has written off Michigan with Mitch McGary’s back injury, but Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have stepped in and done a nice job in his absence. Davis mainly talks about how brutal the Michigan schedule looks, but 10 or more conference wins is still a real possibility. The win at Minnesota last week already helps quite a bit, and they could very well start 4-0 in the league before they go to Wisconsin on January 18. The stock on Michigan has been low since the team’s early struggles, and it plummeted to great depths when the McGary news broke. But there is still too much talent on this roster to believe that John Beilein’s team can’t finish in the top four of the conference. This could definitely be a value buy if you get the Wolverines now.

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Big Ten M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 8th, 2014

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  1. Bronson Koenig came to Wisconsin despite having offers from Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. Needless to say, he had a decent amount of hype attached to his game, but he hasn’t made a huge impact yet despite some good moments in his 14 games of action. One of the biggest things he’s dealing with in Bo Ryan’s offense is knowing when to score and when to pass. Koenig doesn’t really need to do much more than what he’s doing right now, however, on a team with veterans Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson ahead of him in the rotation. He provides the Badgers with a someone to play 10 to 15 minutes per game at either the point or on the wing, and the experience he gains this season will pay off much more next year after Brust graduates.
  2. Purdue is in trouble after an 0-2 start that saw the Boilermakers give up 78 points to an offensively challenged Ohio State team and 82 points to Minnesota on Sunday. One of the major catalysts to their struggles has been the defensive end of the floor. Minnesota hit 11-of-24 shots from behind the arc, and Purdue does not rank higher than eighth in the B1G in scoring defense, three-point defense, field goal defense and defensive rebounding. This goes against the blueprint that Matt Painter laid out in the early part of his tenure in West Lafayette, where his teams were mostly known for their defensive intensity. The Boilermakers almost came back and beat Minnesota largely because of the late success of their defensive pressure, but they need to start performing for 40 minutes to get some wins in this difficult conference.
  3. Northwestern lost a transfer on Tuesday afternoon, as 7’2″ Chier Ajou has decided to pursue other opportunities. To date, Ajou had only played in one game and two minutes this season. This frees up a roster spot for next season when head coach Chris Collins can pick up someone who will make for a better fit in his system. It’s a credit to Collins that the transition over from Bill Carmody has gone relatively smoothly, with only two players (Ajou and Mike Turner) transferring so far.
  4. The play of Derrick Walton Jr. has mostly been up and down, but both Michigan head coach John Beilein and Walton himself seem to think that things will become easier for the freshman point guard. He has already cut down on his turnovers — with only six in the last five games — and it’s taken a while for him to learn the complexities of Beilein’s offense, but he is starting to get more comfortable. If Walton Jr. can at a minimum limit his turnovers and knock down an open jumper here and there, the Wolverines will be in decent shape at the point with he and Spike Albrecht splitting time there.
  5. Ohio State almost pulled off another thrilling comeback on Tuesday night, but instead lost its first game of the season to Michigan State in overtime, 72-68. The game showed much of what is already known about the Buckeyes. They are an elite defensive team, especially at the guard spots, but they are still and probably will continue to be a mediocre offensive team. Just like in the Notre Dame game a few weeks ago, this comeback was essentially fueled with tremendous on-ball pressure that created turnovers. The Buckeyes got almost nothing in their half-court offense last night, and unless LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith can develop more consistency on this end of the floor (or Marc Loving morphs from potential superstar to superstar), this will be how it is all season for Thad Matta’s team.
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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 6th, 2014

The opening weekend of B1G conference play consisted of six games that were played to varying degrees of competitiveness. There were no upsets, but there were certainly some fireworks. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery might have drawn a future suspension for his outburst in the second half of his team’s loss at Wisconsin. Penn State’s DJ Newbill also was shown the exit after he got into an altercation with Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn. Here are some of the other happenings from the weekend.

Gary Harris seemed to find his shooting stroke again in Michigan State's victory at Indiana.

Gary Harris seemed to find his shooting stroke again in Michigan State’s victory at Indiana.

Player of the Weekend: Gary Harris: Harris showed signs of shaking off his post-injury rust against Penn State last Tuesday, but he really broke out on Saturday in Bloomington, going for 26 points and five steals in Michigan State’s 73-56 win. Harris went 5-of-10 from deep, scoring eight points in a row during a 10-0 first half stretch that helped bury the Hoosiers early. More than just his scoring output, what showed that Harris is nearing 100 percent was how active he was defensively. Indiana tends to turn the ball over a good deal, but Harris was doing his best by flying around the perimeter to make sure the trend continued. The preseason Big Ten Player of the Year is slowly starting to show why he was picked for that honor, and also why he’s considered to be a potential lottery pick next June.

Super Sub of the Weekend: Matt Costello: Granted Costello only scored two points against Indiana, but the sophomore was another defensive standout for Sparty. He blocked three shots in 15 minutes of action, and forced a couple of other misses simply by staying big in the post. Michigan State blocked nine total shots as a team, and held the Hoosiers to an awful 36.8 percent shooting on two-pointers. Costello was a huge part of why Indiana’s shooting numbers were so poor, despite his limited minutes.

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Big Ten M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 1st, 2014

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  1. Over the course of 153 non-conference games some things have changed since the preseason, and some have stayed the same. In Gary Parrish’s comprehensive look at how things may or may not have been altered through the course of the season so far, the main point seems to be that the league is just as strong top-to-bottom as it has been in prior years. While there may not be a supposed juggernaut like Indiana last season, the league could get the 7-8 NCAA bids that they have become accustomed to, depending on how conference play shakes out.
  2. Speaking of Indiana, the Hoosiers fell to Illinois in overtime yesterday afternoon 83-80. This loss begins the start of what very well could be a season where Indiana lives on the bubble for the majority of the season. They blew their only chances in the beginning of the season to get a quality resume win, and with the loss to the Illini today, Indiana fans might need to start to worry a little bit about the fate of this extremely young and talented team.
  3. Thad Matta is known for using a smaller bench once conference play rolls around, and this came into play in the Buckeyes’ 78-69 conference-opening victory at Purdue. Matta primarily played seven players, and he really didn’t go with either Amir Williams or Trey McDonald very often. This is despite the fact that Williams has the second best plus/minus per minute of any player on the roster. Matta said that he is comfortable giving nine players quality minutes, but if either the big men, or Amadeo Della Valle are ineffective, he has no problem shrinking his bench and using different lineup combinations.
  4. Purdue was essentially done in by their lack of being able to finish around the basket in their loss on Tuesday to Ohio State. Matt Painter stressed that this Purdue team “is better than it was two weeks ago,” and they really did look like a potential factor in the league during a solid chunk of this contest. They got 18 points and 16 rebounds from A.J. Hammons, but he also turned the ball over 4 times in the second half. For Purdue to really improve, they’re going to need to get more perimeter shooting, as making 21.4% percent of their threes will only draw more attention to Hammons on the inside.
  5. It was a sad day for followers of the Michigan Wolverines, as their former coach, Johnny Orr, passed away at the age of 86. Orr is more known for his exploits as the head coach at Iowa State, but he still leads Michigan in wins at 209. Orr took Michigan to the National Championship game in 1976, and his death brought about many glowing quotes from his contemporaries in the game. The man who brought “Hilton Magic” to Ames obviously made an impact at Michigan as well.
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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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Three Keys to Ohio State at Purdue Today

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 31st, 2013

Big Ten play is here and it gets started today with No. 3 Ohio State‘s trip to West Lafayette to take on Purdue at 1:00 PM ET. The Buckeyes are still undefeated and Purdue has had its struggles in the non-conference season, but the Boilermakers are coming off their most impressive win at West Virginia nine days ago. The match-up will be Ohio State’s second road game of the season, but the first since its trip to Marquette before Thanksgiving (although it should be noted that Purdue students will still be off campus on break, so the crowd may not be as raucous as normal). The Buckeyes need the win to stay near the top of the national rankings and make an early statement that it is the favorite to win the conference. Purdue needs any and all marquee wins to help boost its NCAA Tournament resume, which boasts an 11-3 record but no truly quality victories yet. Here are three keys to this year’s Big Ten season opener. Happy new year, everyone!

Shannon Scott and Ronnie Johnson open up Big Ten play this year against one another and the guards are both key to their team's success (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

Shannon Scott and Ronnie Johnson open up Big Ten play this year against one another and the guards are both key to their team’s success (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

  1. Can Purdue’s guards penetrate and score on Ohio State’s spectacular defense? The Buckeyes’ defense is one of the very best — if not the best — in the country. It leads the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and is among the best in scoring defense and opponents’ field goal percentage. With Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. leading the charge, Purdue will have to manage to find some offense from its trio of slashing guards. The Johnsons and Bryson Scott need to get to the basket and take smart shots, not just go into the lane with reckless abandon to take a leaning, prayer of a floater that has no chance to drop in the basket. Such drives, if performed successfully, will open up lanes for dropoff passes to AJ Hammons, Jay Simpson and the other players cutting to the basket. Without good penetration opportunities today, Purdue’s offense will go stagnant and the Boilermakers will struggle to reach 50 points in the game (leaving almost no chance to win). Read the rest of this entry »
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