Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Minnesota

Posted by jnowak on April 3rd, 2012

They didn’t make the tournament that all teams strive for, but Minnesota did make the most of its postseason this year. The Golden Gophers were left out of the NCAA Tournament after missing an opportunity to upset Michigan in overtime in the Big Ten Tournament, but then went on to play five more games in the NIT before losing to Stanford in the tournament’s championship. It proved to be a great learning opportunity for some of the club’s younger players and could turn into a great jump-off for next year’s team. But first, a look back:

Maverick Ahanmisi and the Golden Gophers fell to Stanford in the NIT championship. (Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire)

  • In a nutshell: There were a few phases to the Gophers’ season, beginning with the 12-1 start to the non-conference schedule. Then there was the sans-Trevor Mbakwe portion of the season, and things were just never the same from that point forward. They started the Big Ten schedule 0-4 and had another six-game losing streak mixed in there before making a run at the NIT title. Nothing stands out more than the loss of Mbakwe, though, and there’s no question that this would have been a very different team had he been healthy all year. If he returns next season, Minnesota can give a lot of teams trouble.
  • Overachievement: By season’s end, freshman guard Andre Hollins was putting together games worthy of All-Big Ten consideration and looking like a future star. Stanford shut him down in the NIT title game (just four points) but he had dropped double-digit scoring outputs in each of the other tournament games, including 44 in the quarterfinal and semifinal games combined. His minutes were only in the teens early in the year but, by season’s end, he was logging 30-40 minutes a night. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Game Recaps: Big Ten Tournament First Round

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 9th, 2012

Here’s a breakdown on how things went down in the Big Ten tournament’s first day of action:

Matt Gatens led Iowa to a big win over Illinois (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Iowa 64 – Illinois 61

The skinny: It’s been a tough season for Illini fans, and now (some would say thankfully) it is over. Myers Leonard was a force down low for Illinois, scoring 18 points and grabbing six boards, but Brandon Paul struggled his way to four points on 2-11 shooting. Meanwhile, Matt Gatens continued his solid senior season with 20 points to lead the Hawkeyes, but it was his defense on Paul that really was the difference in this contest for Iowa. Head coach Fran McCaffery complained earlier this week about Gatens not being included on the all-Big Ten defensive team, and the senior looked every bit an elite-level stopper in this match-up. All-Big Ten freshman Aaron White had 13 points and 9 rebounds including a key offensive board with about 40 seconds left after a missed free throw by Roy Devyn Marble that helped seal the game for Iowa.

Up next: The #8-seed Hawkeyes will face #1-seed Michigan State at noon today. Iowa only played the Spartans once this season, falling 95-61 in a game at East Lansing on January 10.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.09.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 9th, 2012

  1. This is the end of the road for Bruce Weber at Illinois. Well, not quite yet, but it sure feels that way. All that’s left is the formality, writes Yahoo!‘s Pat Forde from Indianapolis. It seemed the only way for the amiable coach to keep his post with the Fighting Illini was for the team to rattle off a miracle run to win the Big Ten Tournament. But it won’t be so, after the Illini dropped their first-round game to Iowa on Thursday. “It’s very hard,” Weber said. “I’d be lying to you. I’m not sure why or what, but I’ll talk when it’s all … when it all settles down.” There are only two questions remaining and they are related: first, whether Illinois plays in the NIT; and second, how much longer Weber roams the sidelines in Champaign.
  2. If there’s anybody feeling as down in the dumps as Weber today, it’s certainly Northwestern fans. They have endured what seems like a lifetime’s worth of hardships this season alone with all of the season’s close losses. And Thursday, with an overtime loss to Minnesota, it looks like another season of NCAA Tournament hopes are down the drain for the Wildcats. Northwestern was forced to lean too heavily on JerShon Cobb and John Shurna, and it will likely relegate them to their fourth straight NIT.
  3. Indiana is a trendy pick in Indianapolis to at least reach the championship game on Sunday, largely thanks to the huge contingent of Hoosiers fans that made the trek north, but how are their title hopes affected by the loss of Verdell Jones III? The senior guard suffered a sprained knee in the first half of Indiana’s win against Penn State and the Hoosiers will have to figure out how to move on without his more than 25 minutes and nearly 8 PPG.
  4. Minnesota pulled out a nice win against Northwestern, but how much farther can the Golden Gophers go without much size down low? Without the presence of Ralph Sampson III on the block, Minnesota relies much more on its backcourt. It’ll be an interesting match-up against Michigan on Friday, because the Wolverines are not a great interior team in their own right. If anything, it might leave Minnesota fans wondering what might be if they had the big man down low.
  5. Wisconsin has been one of the most steady Big Ten teams over the last decade or so, but Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal points out that much of that success hasn’t transferred to the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers will try to avoid their fourth straight one-and-done appearance in the tourney on Friday against Indiana. Wisconsin hasn’t even held a lead in a Big Ten Tourney game the last two years. “We’ve talked about it, that nobody on this roster has won a Big Ten tournament game,” Josh Gasser said. “So it’s definitely in the back of our minds that we want to go down there and have a little chip on our shoulder and hopefully come out with a few wins.”
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 2nd, 2012

  1. Because of a couple of injury setbacks, Robbie Hummel isn’t the physical player he once was, or he would likely be challenging Draymond Green and Jared Sullinger for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. But the senior has kept his head up through it all and deserves recognition for the way he has finished his career at Purdue. Hummel has really turned it on the last few games, determined to end his time in West Lafayette with a bang.
  2. For weeks, we have been marveling at all the things that Tom Izzo has his Michigan State squad doing right. Now, we are looking at all the things that must change in order for the Spartans to finish the season undefeated at home with a win against Ohio State this weekend and secure the Big Ten title outright. What a difference a loss makes. True enough, Izzo has been saying all season that this team has a high ceiling, but its margin for error can be quite small. Those errors were at work this week in a 70-55 loss to Indiana. Matt Charboneau asks whether Keith Appling can regain his confidence, Brandon Wood can play consistently, and Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne can defend regularly? And can they do it in time to make it count?
  3. Heading down to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament? Tickets? Check. Hotel? Check. Places nearby to eat and enjoy the game? Check. The Indianapolis Star has the all-important guide to where Big Ten fans can enjoy the tournament (outside of Conseco Fieldhouse, of course) during the Tournament. Make sure you check it out so you don’t accidentally stumble into your rival’s bar.
  4. If only Indiana could play all of its NCAA Tournament games at Assembly Hall, then it would certainly be a favorite to reach the Final Four. Still, Grantland’s Shane Ryan says, the Hoosiers could be difficult to deal with come the Big Dance. Indiana has beaten three Top 5 teams this year (Ohio State, Kentucky, and Michigan State) and Ryan says this group is similar to a past Indiana team that garnered some March success. Can Tom Crean replicate that magic?
  5. If you could become just the fifth player in your program’s history to score 1,000 points, pull down 500 rebounds and register 150 blocks and still have your career be considered “underwhelming,” would you take that? That’s how Chip Scoggins sees Ralph Sampson III‘s career at Minnesota as it comes to a close. Scoggins says that, despite having started 113 games for the Golden Gophers, Sampson’s impact on the program has been minimal. What do you think? Would you have expected or hoped for more?
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.29.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 29th, 2012

  1. Regardless of how Indiana performs in the postseason, Tom Crean can assure the Hoosier faithful that their season tickets are worth something.  Indiana continues to be a monster in Assembly Hall as they took down the third team ranked in the top five this season as they rocked Michigan State 70-55 last night.  Crean finally got his former mentor, winning his first game against Tom Izzo’s Spartans after nearly four seasons in Bloomington. The win is a huge boost to his team’s confidence as they prepare for their season-ending matchup against in-state rival Purdue over the weekend.
  2. William Buford, Thad Matta is looking for you to lead over the next two games. There are several theories about Ohio State’s recent slump (the Buckeyes have lost three out of their last five games) but these are the times when a veteran guard steps up for his team.  Buford struggled in two of the losses as he scored in single digits — six points against Michigan and four points against Michigan State.  Look for Buford to be aggressive when Matta’s team travels to Evanston to face a hungry Northwestern team who could lock up an NCAA bid with a win on Wednesday night.
  3. Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith is showing signs of tiredness. He admits that team morale is down as a result of the Gophers’ recent losing skid and their loss to Wisconsin last night did not help make anything better. The Gophers had a strong first half as they led 23-16 but could not contain a hot shooting Badger squad in the second half.  Senior center Ralph Sampson, III, crossed 1,000 points for his career and should receive a good sendoff against Nebraska in Minneapolis over the weekend.
  4. Even though Iowa’s senior guard Matt Gatens has never made the NCAA Tournament, he is getting well-deserved recognition during his final few weeks of college.  Gatens was named the player of the week in the Big Ten because he averaged 27.5 points over two games last week.  Regardless of what happens over the next 10 days, Gatens ought to be happy for leaving Iowa on a high note as Fran McCaffery’s squad has shown great resilience throughout the season.
  5. Bo Ryan knows when to loosen up around his players.  He has a grin on his face during most of his press conferences after Big Ten games.  But after Wisconsin’s upset victory over Ohio State on Sunday, Ryan decided to do his version of the electric slide in the locker room.  The Badgers played an excellent game against the Buckeyes and the win should give them the credibility to make a case for a great seed in March.
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Night Line: Indiana’s Weak Defense Can’t Make Up for Poor Shooting Performances

Posted by EJacoby on January 13th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

With a huge game upcoming this weekend at Ohio State, it appears as if No. 6 Indiana overlooked its opponent on Thursday night. The Hoosiers were defeated at home, 77-74, by Minnesota, a team that was previously winless in the Big Ten (0-4) and in true road games (0-2). Indiana had its worst offensive performance of the season, and the Hoosiers do not have an efficient enough defense that can make up for a poor offensive outing. They allow nearly 77 points per game against conference opponents, which is far too much to be a serious contender. IU has been able to cover up its mediocre defense this season with tremendous shooting, but their defensive woes finally caught up to them and led to Thursday night’s upset.

Indiana Allowed Too Many Easy Buckets vs. Minnesota (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Indiana (15-2, 3-2 Big Ten) has been the nation’s darling this year and has put together some incredible offensive performances, especially at home. Tom Crean’s team, ranked third in the nation with a 1.18 points per possession average, has already beaten a #1 and #2 team (Kentucky and Ohio State) on its home floor this season. That’s why it was so surprising that Indiana, in front of another raucous Bloomington crowd, went ice cold on Thursday night and fell to a seemingly inferior opponent. Christian Watford came in averaging 13.5 points per game but scored only six in the game. Jordan Hulls came in shooting 58% from three on the year and went 1-5 tonight. Verdell Jones III averages about nine points and four assists, but went scoreless tonight with just one dime. While every team is capable of a stinker or two during the season, it’s still alarming that the Hoosiers could not win at home against a team at the bottom of the conference. They gave up way too many open looks to their opponent and allowed Minnesota to run its offense comfortably on the road, which is not a formula for success in the tough Big Ten Conference.

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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • B1G is the Country’s Deepest Conference: With nine teams ranked 52nd or higher in the RPI, the Big Ten is the deepest and best conference – top-to-bottom – in the nation this season. The depth of the conference was never more evident than on Saturday, when Iowa hung 75 in a win at Wisconsin and Nebraska hung close with Michigan State deep into the second half. If you don’t come to play on nightly basis in this conference, even the league’s bottom-feeders can pop you with a loss. Expect the conference’s lofty records (and rankings) to diminish some over the next couple of months as the league beats each other up in Big Ten play.
  • Michigan State – So Hot Right Now: Few teams in the country are rolling like Michigan State. The Big Ten leaders sit atop the standings and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak after opening up conference play with an emphatic win over Indiana and a resilient effort at Nebraska. They have their normal interior size and strength with Draymond Green, Derrick Nix, and Adreian Payne, but Keith Appling – a player that Tom Izzo has called “the fastest point guard he’s ever coached” – is really starting to assert himself. The 6’1’’ sophomore had 25 points and seven assists against Indiana then contributed 14 point and six dimes against the Huskers.
  • Giant Killers: For the first time in its illustrious program’s history, Indiana has defeated the No. 1- and 2-ranked teams in the country in the same season. Assembly Hall has always been an intimidating place to play for opponents, with its combination of raucous fans and rich tradition. The key for the Hoosiers to make this a special season will be to duplicate that success on the road.

Tom Crean Tells Us How Many Wins His Hoosiers Have Over Top Five Teams This Season.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (13-2, 1-1) – It might not have seemed like much at the time, but the dubious call that wiped out Jared Sullinger’s lay-up and sent him to the bench in the first half with his second foul against Indiana proved to be enormous. That early foul trouble limited the OSU center’s playing time (nine minutes) and production (five points, two rebounds) in the first half. William Buford was as absent against the Hoosiers (eight points and four rebounds) as he was dominant against Northwestern (28/9) in the conference opener.
  2. Michigan State (13-2, 2-0) – How do you respond when you’ve built a 19-point lead at home, only to watch it disappear after a 25-2 run by your opponent? You go on a 20-0 spurt of your own to regain control of the game. Coming off an emotional victory against Indiana in East Lansing on Wednesday, it’s no surprise that Michigan State came out flat against Nebraska and trailed at halftime. They righted the ship in the second half though, and ended up beating the Cornhuskers by 13. When Michigan State is on their game and playing the kind of hard-nosed, physical brand of basketball that Tom Izzo loves, they are as good as anyone in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #2 – Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

John Templon of Big Apple Buckets is an RTC contributor. You can find him on Twitter at @nybuckets.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • Mid-Majors Newcomers Will Make Major Impact – Two graduate student transfers from mid-major schools are going to make an instant impact in the Big Ten. Brandon Wood could start in Michigan State’s backcourt after scoring 16.7 points per game last season for Valparaiso. Sam Maniscalco averaged 9.7 points per game for Bradley last season and might end up scoring even more for Illinois. Both players give their teams veteran pieces at positions that would’ve otherwise been dominated by youth.
  • Healthy Living – Robbie Hummel returns for Purdue and has the opportunity to make a big impact for the Boilermakers now that his former classmates have graduated. While Matt Painter couldn’t get Hummel on the court with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, he does get the added bonus of having an All-America caliber forward to help shepherd this team into the postseason. Injuries also delivered a blow to Indiana, as Maurice Creek is going to miss the entire 2011-12 season. That’s after missing all but 18 games last season, and it’s a big blow to the Hoosiers’ NCAA hopes.
  • A New Head Coach In University Park – After leading Penn State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, and falling to in-state rival Temple, Ed DeChellis saw the writing on the wall and left PSU for a more stable job at Navy. His replacement is former Boston University head coach Pat Chambers, who has a big rebuilding job on his hands after graduation of star guard Talor Battle.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Ohio State (16-2) 
  2. Wisconsin (12-6)
  3. Michigan (12-6)
  4. Michigan State (10-8)
  5. Purdue (10-8)
  6. Illinois (9-9)
  7. Minnesota (9-9)
  8. Northwestern (8-10)
  9. Indiana (8-10)
  10. Iowa (6-12)
  11. Nebraska (4-14)
  12. Penn State (3-15)

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Around The Blogosphere: May 11, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on May 11th, 2011

If you are interested in participating, send your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com as we will be updating these posts throughout the day.

News

  • Erik Murphy, Cody Larson Have Charges Reduced From Felonies To Misdemeanors: “That’s likely very good news for both young men’s futures, especially Murphy’s. Though there’s still some expense and punishment involved in dealing with misdemeanor charges — and, though this isn’t a court of law, I think most of us suspect there is a good chance Murphy and Larson are guilty — it is a far better scenario than a felony charge.” (Alligator Army)
  • Ralph Sampson III Stays: “After much debate and drama it is official that Ralph Sampson III will return for his senior season as a Minnesota Golden Gopher.” (The Daily Gopher)
  • Guerrero Officially Surrenders to Bruin Nation, Restores UCLA Students’ Sideline Seats at Pauley: After a lot of fighting the students were able to get their spot on the sidelines back. (Bruins Nation)

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Dissecting the Law of Unintended Consequences, Early Entry Style

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011

Welcome to the law of unintended consequences, folks.

Starting with Jared Sullinger’s surprising decision to return to school in the aftermath of #1 Ohio State’s upset loss at the hands of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last month, a number of projected top draft picks have similarly shocked the world by deciding to stick around their college campuses for another season.  Subsequent to Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones — another top five pick — followed that up with his own shocker.  Next, UNC’s Harrison Barnes and John Henson — both projected lottery picks this June — each decided that another year in Chapel Hill was to their liking.  On Saturday, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones was the latest projected lottery pick to spurn guaranteed millions in favor of playing as an amateur for another season (ok, stop your snickering about the word “amateur”).

Counting up the number of lottery pick slots that opened up in the June draft, we come up with a total of five (of 14) and certainly the following early entrants will be this summer’s beneficiaries: Arizona’s Derrick Williams, Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, UConn’s Kemba Walker, and Kansas’ Marcus Morris.  Five additional slots in the first round, though, isn’t the same as a floodgate opening, and we fear that the oft-repeated mantra of “weak draft” combined with a lack of an opportunity for players to get good evaluation feedback (thanks, ACC coaches!) has led to a bunch of poor decisions at the back end this year.  Like we said, the law of unintended consequences.

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Morning Five: 04.29.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 29th, 2011

  1. Dear unnamed ACC coaches who are more interested in their own selfish interests than the well-being of their players: go eff yourselves.  You got what you wanted in that the NCAA approved yet another change to its NBA Draft withdrawal deadline, making it virtually impossible for players to work out and solicit good advice on their draft status in 2012 and beyond before making a final decision.  The May 8 withdrawal deadline this year is already too short, allowing players merely two weeks to get full information that will help them make a life-changing decision; next year’s deadline will be a ridiculously-early April 12, only ten days after some lucky team will cut the nets down in New Orleans.  The ostensible reason behind this change is that coaches want to know what their rosters will look like going into the spring signing period (which begins at approximately the same time as the new deadline), but it rings extremely hollow when they’re claiming to care about their players first while banking millions of dollars themselves.  The coaches driving this legislation, every one of whom is a millionaire, has the luxury of wealth and privilege to fall back on if they make a hasty mistake, while their players get… what, exactly?  A couple of phone calls, a rumor or two, and a pat on the back?  It’s embarrassing and it’s shameful, and if anyone believes that this change will frighten players who are not draftable to stay in school, they’re dreaming.  Successful people generally believe things will work out for them, no matter the decision — it’s just that now they’ll be making their decisions without proper information on which to rely.  Congratulations, fellas.
  2. Ok, on to the players in this year’s draft who still have another ten days to make a final decision.  The NBA released its official list on Thursday and the biggest surprise name on it was Minnesota’s Ralph Sampson, III.  DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony makes the call on every one of this year’s early entries, including analysis that shows several players — Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, Michigan’s Darius Morris, and Xavier’s Tu Holloway, to name a few — have difficult decisions ahead of them next week.
  3. Georgia’s Mark Fox received a nice raise as a result of his guiding the Bulldogs to its first legitimate NCAA Tournament appearance in nine seasons last year (the Dawgs’ 2008 appearance with a 17-17 team was a fluke in part caused by the Atlanta tornado).  His contract was extended by one year to 2016 and his salary was increased by $400,000 annually for a total package worth $1.7M per year.  Not bad for a football school, eh?  Fox will lose stars Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA Draft this offseason, so his ultimate worth will be determined by how he does the next four years with his own players.  Still, he’ll have plenty of dollars put away to carry him for a while if things don’t go as well as last season did for his program.
  4. Hey, we can’t say that we did or did not write a couple of letters in a similar vein to this back in the day, but what we can say is that Ethan Peikes’ letter to Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich applying for the open head coaching position this spring was probably more logical, likely more witty, and definitely better written.  This is a great story from Mike DeCourcy about how a 15-year old kid from Stamford, Connecticut, made a name for himself by simply, well, making a name for himself.  Nice resume booster.
  5. Jerry Seinfeld on Thursday made headlines when he said that the bombastic businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump was “God’s gift to comedy.”  Little did he know that another God’s Gift would be making his way to the Big Apple, and this one doesn’t involve a weird comb-over and a penchant for egomania.  As far as we know, at least.  God’s Gift Achiuwa, a 6’9 sophomore forward from Erie Community College picked St. John’s over Washington and Cincinnati for his services in the post next year.  Steve Lavin calls him “Gift,” and he represents exactly that to his packed recruiting class that comes in long on talent but not particularly sizable.  The Johnnies will be extremely young next season but should remain fun to watch for a number of reasons, not least of which will be enjoying various announcers handle Achiuwa’s God-Given name.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.10.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s another big night with post-season implications, as Connecticut and Vanderbilt look to improve their seeding while the other six teams need wins to make their cases or avoid falling farther towards the bubble. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#10 Connecticut @ St. John’s – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

St. John’s is an interesting case when it comes to the possibility of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve beaten a bunch of quality teams, but the record isn’t anything special, just 13-9 (5-5) coming into tonight’s game. A loss would give the Johnnies double-digit losses, not something you want to brag about before the Selection Committee. More importantly, they’d dip under .500 in conference play and would obviously need to win plenty of games down the stretch — and they’ve got a few tough ones left.

Lavin's First Year Has Been Better Than Expected, Though We're Sure He's Nowhere Near Content

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