Big Ten Key Offseason Questions: Part IV

Posted by Patrick Engel on April 11th, 2016

In three parts over the last week, we’ve examined a key offseason question for 10 of the 14 Big Ten teams. Part I reviewed Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois; Part II featured Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern; Part III examined Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. The fourth and final part today examines the Big Ten’s top four teams from this season: Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana. (Note: Scout.com used for all player and class ranks).

Purdue (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Dakota Mathias (31) needs to be a productive three-point shooter again for Purdue. (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

Dakota Mathias (#31) needs to be a productive three-point shooter again for Purdue. (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

Can Purdue find consistent offensive production from its guards?

The Boilermakers this season possessed one of the most productive frontcourts but one of the least productive backcourts in college basketball. P.J. Thompson boasted a 4.8-to-1 assist-turnover ratio, but the group of Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline and Kendall Stephens (if he returns) and himself are mainly three-point shooters, none of whom attempted more than 16 percent of his shots at the rim. This group of guards shouldn’t experience much turnover outside of senior Raphael Davis and possibly Stephens, if he transfers, meaning that freshman point guard Carsen Edwards should have every chance to become the starter from day one next year. He’s not very big (5’11”, 175 pounds), but he’s aggressive, mature and a good passer. If he can play well enough to earn major minutes, he’ll mitigate one of Purdue’s clear weaknesses. Matt Painter’s frontcourt should again be a strength, assuming Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan return to complement Isaac Haas, whose touches should increase substantially. This team’s Big Ten ceiling, though, might depend on the readiness of its lone freshman.

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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: Super Bowl Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 6th, 2016

It’s Super Bowl weekend and that means college basketball is pushed aside for nonstop professional football talk, party planning, and most importantly, the Puppy Bowl. Given the busy weekend, there’s a dearth of quality matchups around the conference this weekend. However, there are a couple of games worth carving out time for while you’re planning the big party. One is an intrastate rivalry that has grown in relevance now that both teams are consistent contenders for the Big Ten title. The other contest is the only Big Ten game this weekend that pits two ranked teams against each other. Here are your Big Ten games to watch.

The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has been must watch TV since John Beilein has arrived in Ann Arbor . (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has been must watch TV since John Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

  • #10 Michigan State at Michigan (Saturday 2:00 PM ET, CBS). After getting run off the court at home by Indiana on Tuesday, this game is close to a must-win for the Wolverines in terms of Big Ten title contention. Michigan is not the most talented team in the conference – this was evident last Tuesday when the Hoosiers did whatever they wanted against the Wolverines’ defense – but their soft schedule in the final half of the conference play gave them a relatively easy trail to the title. This path is narrowing thanks to the debacle on Tuesday. On the other side of things, Michigan State is on a three-game winning streak that started with a momentum-launching victory over Maryland two weeks ago. Michigan presents the Spartans with their first test against formidable competition since that win over the Terrapins, and will serve as a barometer as to whether Michigan State has returned to its elite non-conference form, or if they are just riding an emotional win to two wins over bottom-tier opponents.

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Big Ten M5: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 18th, 2016

morning5_bigten

  1. Nebraska was operating at peak efficiency in its 78-67 win over Illinois in Champaign Saturday. The keys to victory – the Cornhuskers’ third in a row after they dropped its first three Big Ten games – were a productive offense combined with an outstanding effort on the glass. Leading the way in both these categories was Andrew White III. The junior went for 21 points (on just 12 shots) and 13 rebounds in boosting Nebraska to a 42-24 advantage on the backboards. He did so in his usual quiet and understated way, but White is certainly heading towards earning postseason Big Ten honors.
  2. Michigan State went with a different starting lineup on Sunday, giving freshmen Matt McQuaid and Deyonta Davis their first starts of their young careers. Davis had a large impact when he was in the game Sunday, as the Spartans were a plus 21 when he was on the floor. The freshman is only averaging 17.6 MPG, and one writer thinks it’s time for the gifted post player to see more court time. It’s hard to complain about what Davis brings to the table, as he’s been the team’s best low post scorer and rim protector. It will be interesting to see whether Davis sees more time as Tom Izzo tinkers with his rotation.
  3. The seniors for Iowa get most of the headlines, but lost in the hype surrounding its 5-0 start in Big Ten play have been the contributions the Hawkeyes are getting from their younger players coming off the bench. Dom Uhl, Nicholas Baer, and Ahmad Wagner have all been supplying very positive minutes in their time on the court. Wagner was especially valuable in Sunday’s win against Michigan. He has the flexibility to guard on both the perimeter and interior, which he did well in playing different spots defensively in his 11 minutes of action against the Wolverines. If Iowa continues to play well, its bench will be a big part of the reason why.
  4. Caris LeVert missed another game for Michigan on Sunday, but the senior guard is now walking pain-free, according to coach John Beilein. The next step for LeVert is to receive a few more medical tests to make sure he is ready to go. Michigan is being extra careful with the situation because of Levert’s injury history and his likely future in the NBA. If he can get back and play at the level he was at pre-injury, Michigan has a chance to make a run toward a top-four finish in the league.
  5. Purdue senior Raphael Davis is known for what he brings on the defensive end of the floor, but the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten has struggled quite a bit on offense in Purdue’s three losses. An earlier injury is partly to blame, but Purdue is noticeably better when he is scoring the ball. In those three losses this year, Davis has only scored a total ofsix total points. He’ll never need to be the focal point or go-to-scorer, but Davis and the rest of the Purdue perimeter attack needs to be more consistent to balance the effective Boilermaker interior offense.
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 8

Posted by Adam Levy on January 15th, 2016

With the college basketball season more than halfway over, who knew that the Big Ten would, statistically, be just the fifth highest rated conference in the country (behind even the Pac-12!)? There’s no doubting that it has been a down year for a conference that has arguably been the nation’s best league over the past five years. Seeing the two best teams in the non-conference season (Michigan State and Purdue) already with two league losses isn’t helping. Surpisingly, Iowa and Indiana stand together atop the standings at 4-0 each, but they are coached by Fran McCaffrey and Tom Crean. How long can this really go on? It’s week eight of the Layup Line.

REPORT CARD

A: John Groce, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn

They only played one game since last Friday, but the Illini sure made the most of what was a huge game Sunday night against Purdue. They were in control from the start thanks to the Batman-and-Robin duo of Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Both juniors continue to have their way with nearly every opponent, but no performance has been as impressive as the one they delivered Sunday. The two combined for 52 points on 17-of-27 shooting and 13-of-17 from the line, while adding 13 rebounds and three blocks. Nunn now leads the Big Ten in scoring (18.8), while Hill ranks third (18.1).

Malcolm Hill Helped The Illini Cruise Past Purdue (USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Hill Helped The Illini Cruise Past Purdue (USA Today Sports)

Best of all, the Illini fulfilled John Groce’s game plan to a T, attacking the nation’s second-best two-point defense (38.2%) all night. The Illini had no problem with Purdue’s major size advantage, shooting 17 of 31 inside the arc, scoring 1.20 points per possession and forcing Purdue into its worst defensive effort of the season. If only Groce had a remotely healthy roster that wasn’t so reliant on Hill and Nunn…

B: Big Ten Point Guards

Overall, it was a great week for a number of Big Ten point guards, starting with Yogi Ferrell. He continued his brilliant play on Sunday against Ohio State, scoring 16 points and adding six assists, five rebounds and three steals. He’s averaging 19.8 points in Big Ten play and has been tasked, as usual, with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player each game. So far, he has lived up to the challenge, slowing down Andrew White, Bronson Koenig and Marc Loving the past three games.

Iowa point guard Mike Gesell earned Player of the Week honors after posting his first career double-double (22 points, 10 assists) in a win over Nebraska. He ranks ninth nationally in assists per game (6.9).

Bryant McIntosh continued to lead a shorthanded Northwestern group, as he dished out 11 assists at Minnesota and picked apart Wisconsin at home to the tune of 28 points, five assists and four rebounds. He ranks seventh nationally in assists per game (7.1).

Melo Trimble struggled in Tuesday’s loss in Ann Arbor, but he did put up 21 points and five assists and hit the game winning three-pointer in Madison on Saturday.

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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 12th, 2016

Much like the NFL Wildcard games, the road was friendly to visiting Big Ten teams over the weekend. Impressive home wins from Indiana and Illinois on Sunday halted a four-game visitor’s winning streak, but blowouts were also a common theme, as only one of the weekend’s six contests featured a single-figure final scoring margin. As always, there were several impressive performances individually and from certain teams. Here are the weekend’s superlatives.

Malcolm Hill proved he's one of the best scorers in the Big Ten Sunday by scoring 30 points against Purdue. (Stephen Haas, Herald and Review)

Malcolm Hill proved he’s one of the best scorers in the Big Ten Sunday by scoring 30 points against Purdue. (Stephen Haas, Herald and Review)

Player of the Weekend: Illinois’ Malcolm Hill figured he would need to be a scorer when Purdue’s Raphael Davis started the game guarding his high-scoring teammate Kendrick Nunn. Hill did so to the tune of 13 points from a variety of different spots on the floor. When Davis moved over to Hill in the second half, Nunn went off for 18 points of his own. Hill, who had already by then found his groove, contributed 17 more as the juniors combined for 35 of the Illini’s 47 points coming after the break. Hill also led the team in rebounds (nine), tied for the team lead in assists (three), and added a pair of blocks. In a lost season in Champaign, Hill has been a bright spot in hitting for double figures in all 17 games. The total package that he brings beyond just scoring was on full display in Illinois’ impressive win, its first of the Big Ten season.

Super Sub of the Weekend: Maryland barely squeaked by Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday, and although it wasn’t to the level of his 39-point, 12-rebound performance against Penn State last week, Diamond Stone was quietly efficient in the victory. On a day when the Terps didn’t get much from Jake Layman or Rasheed Sulaimon, Stone went 4-of-5 from the field en route to an 11-point outing. In what was no doubt an emotional homecoming for the freshman from Milwaukee who spurned his home state school, Stone didn’t overdo it and was a key reason that the Terrapins remained perfect in league play at 4-0.

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Three Keys For Michigan Against Purdue Tonight

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 7th, 2016

Michigan is one of five undefeated teams left in the early stages of Big Ten play, but the Wolverines will face their biggest test of the young conference season when they head to West Lafayette tonight to take on Purdue. The Boilermakers will be looking to bounce back from an upset home loss against Iowa where they had no answer for the Hawkeyes’ talented twosome of Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell. Here are three keys for John Beilein‘s club to pull off what would be its best win of the season.

Michigan will need Marc Donnal to continue his stellar play against Purdue Thursday night. (Getty)

Michigan will need Marc Donnal to continue his stellar play against Purdue tonight. (Getty)

  1. Keep Feeding Marc Donnal: Things against Purdue’s elite front line almost assuredly won’t be as easy as they were for Marc Donnal in wins over Illinois and Penn State where the redshirt sophomore went for 21.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG on 72 percent shooting from the floor. That doesn’t mean that Michigan should abandon a working strategy to get the ball to Donnal for points in the paint. Michigan will have to make shots from the outside (10+ threes would be ideal) to win, but finding some balance against the best team in the country at defending two-point shots will be necessary. Donnal is the key to finding that offensive balance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week Two

Posted by Adam Levy on November 27th, 2015

We’re back for Week 2 of Levy’s B1G Layup Line and boy, what a week it was. A lot of tournaments, a lot of turkey, too much family and somehow too little basketball. If you feel you were cheated by a new, terrible stuffing recipe like I was, cheer up. At least you have all of the Big Ten stuffing you need right in front of you. Let’s get right to it and carve up the week that was.

REPORT CARD

A: Purdue Boilermakers

Matt Painter's Team Hasn't Gotten a Lot of Attention Yet (USAT Images)

Matt Painter’s Team Hasn’t Gotten a Lot of Attention Yet (USAT Images)

Purdue is good. Like really, really good. Coming into the season, everyone knew about their scary frontcourt and, thus far, it has probably exceeded expectations. It’s the performance of the backcourt, however, that is taking the college landscape by storm and led to a beat down of Florida in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship. Sophomore point guard P.J. Thompson took home the fictional MVP award after his 15-5-4-2 line in that game, boosting his offensive rating to 155.5 – good for 17th best in the country. Thompson also has yet to turn the ball over in any game this season and owns a 12-to-0 assist to turnover ratio so far – a crazy feat in its own right. P.J. Thompson: #RememberTheName.

Outside of a rare bad game against Old Dominion, reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Raphael Davis has been his usual great self, leading the way with unfathomable shooting splits (53.8% FG, 46.2% 3PT, 90.9% FT). Those numbers are clearly unsustainable, but it’s obvious that the senior leader is on a mission to prove something in his final season in West Lafayette. That something sure as hell could be shocking the world by winning a Big Ten title and making serious moves in March. This team is as balanced as any in the country. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

B: Bryant McIntosh

In three games against Columbia, North Carolina and Missouri this past week, McIntosh averaged 35.7 minutes, 19.7 points, and 5.7 assists while shooting 8-for-14 from distance and 13-for-15 from the charity stripe. It’s no coincidence that the underrated ‘Cats went 2-1 in those games and hung with one of the nation’s best in the Tar Heels for all of the first half before their athleticism simply took over. It may be a small sample size, but the sophomore point guard is looking like a legitimate All-Big Ten player with an incredibly bright future in purple. This Northwestern team has been as competitive as can be in the early going, and they’ll go as McIntosh goes. If he can continue to lead the offense by setting up his teammates (38.3% assist rate – 44th nationally) and getting to the free throw line at a consistent rate (88.2% from the line thus far), Northwestern will surprise a lot of people.

C:  AP Voters

Things that really tick me off: losing a sock during every single laundry cycle, receiving a “Call me back” voicemail, people texting “K” in response to something I’ve said, and the AP Top 25. It truly is the dumbest ranking of all time. Maryland barely held off a struggling Georgetown team at home, then needed six free throws in the last minute to beat Rider three days later? What the hell, let’s move them up a couple spots to #2 in the polls just because some other, better teams (Duke, Kansas) lost to some other, better teams (Kentucky, Michigan State). The Terps then followed up that poop fest with a crappy showing against Illinois State in the first round of the Cancun Challenge that saw them down 5 at the seven minute mark before pulling away late. I don’t care how good people think this team could be. The polls should be about who the best basketball teams are right now and, right now, outside of Rhode Island (who already lost their best player for the season), Maryland is struggling to beat every decent team they play. Sorry voters, but as I sit here stuffing my face with turkey in November, I feel comfortable saying that this is just not a top two team.

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Big Ten Halloween Scary Superlatives

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 30th, 2015

In honor of one of the very best holidays around, we here at the Big Ten Microsite have come up with some of the scariest things different players, coaches, and even referees might have to face in the coming season. Welcome to our 2015-16 Scary Superlatives.

Troy Williams is the stuff nightmares are made of for a lone defender back on defense (USA Today Sports).

Troy Williams is the stuff nightmares are made of for a lone defender back on defense (USA Today Sports).

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Purdue’s Frontcourt Needs a Competent Backcourt

Posted by Alex Moscoso on October 27th, 2015

There is hope in West Lafayette — Purdue fans haven’t been this optimistic during a preseason since Robbie Hummel roamed campus back in 2011. The reason for all those good feelings is because the Boilermakers return the bulk of an NCAA Tournament roster that lost an excruciatingly close opening round overtime game to Cincinnati. Matt Painter’s squad really put it together at the end of last season, winning nine of its last 12 regular season games, including an impressive victory against Illinois that effectively cemented its place in the field of 68. With virtually all their important pieces returning and joined by the services of a top 20 freshman, why did the coaches slot Purdue as a borderline Top 25 team? It’s because despite an impressive group of big men populating the frontcourt, the Boilermakers must address serious concerns about the legitimacy of their backcourt.

Raphael Davis is the lead scoring guard (10.7 PPG) in a backcourt looking for firepower. (Mike Fenner, Indianapolis Star)

Raphael Davis is the lead scoring guard (10.7 PPG) in a backcourt looking for firepower. (Mike Fenner/Indianapolis Star)

There’s no doubt that the strength of this team lies with its big men, starting foremost with senior center A.J. Hammons — the Big Ten’s leading shot-blocker for two consecutive seasons, member of the All-Big Ten Second Team and All-Defense Team — and fellow seven-footer Isaac Haas, who showed well in his freshman season, averaging 7.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in fewer than 15.0 MPG. Add into the mix five-star freshman Caleb Swanigan (assuming he is ruled eligible), and Purdue likely boasts the second-best front line in the Big Ten behind only Maryland. However, with the notable exception of Swanigan, these players aren’t agile enough to create scoring opportunities for themselves on the blocks. Rather, they need to be fed from the perimeter to score on a consistent basis — around 70 percent of Hammons and Haas’ shots at the rim come from assists. Therefore competent guard play will be integral for Purdue to reach the full potential of its frontcourt. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten Player of the Year & Defensive Player of the Year

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 10th, 2015

After making appearances on the RTC First Team All-Big Ten squads, it should come as no surprise that two members of that team will receive additional individual honors here. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky is our choice for Big Ten Player of the Year and Purdue’s AJ Hammons is our Defensive Player of the Year.

AJ Hammons and his ability to alter and block shots makes him the RTC Defensive Player of the Year. (Darrell Hoemann, AP)

AJ Hammons’ ability to alter and block shots makes him the RTC Defensive Player of the Year. (Darrell Hoemann, AP)

Anyone who’s followed college basketball at all this season knows that Kaminsky has had an outstanding year. His breakout campaign last season resulted in the Badgers running all the way to the Final Four, but he’s elevated his game this season with even greater versatility. Mostly just a spot-up shooter during his first two seasons in Madison, the Illinois native has expanded his last season’s more developed post game to finish better at the rim and do so in a number of ways — he closed out the regular season shooting 60.0 percent on two-point shots. He’s also continued to shoot well from the outside, closing the year with marks of 41.0 percent from three and an effective field goal rate of 60.3 percent, best in the Big Ten. Two major gains in production this season that haven’t gotten as much attention are his improvements on the defensive boards and as a passer. He sports a 25.5 percent defensive rebounding rate, up from 18.4 percent a season ago, helping his team prevent extra possessions by holding its opponents to just one shot. His passing has also picked up by necessity in light of Traveon Jackson’s midseason injury, turning Kaminsky into a more willing passer adept at finding the open man out of a double-team. There aren’t too many other centers who can lead an offense at the top of the key, but Kaminsky has no problem doing just that. The NPOY candidate can beat teams in so many different ways that it makes him a logical selection for our top player honor in this season’s Big Ten.

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Big Ten Coach of the Year: Mark Turgeon

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 10th, 2015

Whenever it’s time to decide a Coach of the Year award, there’s always a debate on the approach. Should we give it to the coach with the most successful team or should we give it to the coach who outperformed expectations? More often than not, we associate excellent coaching with those who overachieve. That’s because we also associate the concept of “coaching” with those who excel in game strategy and player development — if your team is perceived as better than the sum of its talented parts, you’re labeled a “good coach.” This notion, however, discounts some of the other important aspects of modern college coaching like recruiting, scheduling and fundraising — which lays the foundation for dominant programs to have such high expectations. Our Big Ten Coach of the Year, Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, has had a successful year because of the excellent recruiting and in-game coaching that he’s done, but also because of his ability to successfully lead Maryland through a number of obstacles all season long.

Mark Turgeon's Terps could get off to a rocky start in the Big Ten.

Mark Turgeon led his Terps to a big splash in their first Big Ten year.

First, some praise to our two runner-ups: Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and Purdue’s Matt Painter. Despite the highest of national and regional expectations on his team, Ryan delivered. The Badgers’ season wasn’t flawless in that they were easily handled in Madison by a younger Duke team and suffered an inexplicable January loss to Rutgers on the road (even without Frank Kaminsky). But make no mistake, Ryan has readied his team to make another legitimate run at the Final Four. Painter, our second runner-up, started the season on the hot seat after two consecutive campaigns below .500. Some smart offseason additions in the forms of Vince Edwards and Jon Octeus, coupled with the development of A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, catapulted the Boilermakers to a surprising 12-6 Big Ten record. But as impressive as Ryan and Painter were this season, Turgeon is the coach whose team best exhibited on-court success and overcame significant hurdles to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC All-Big Ten Teams

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 9th, 2015

With the end of the regular season now here, it’s time to reveal our award winners for the 2014-15 campaign. Over the next couple of days we’ll be unveiling our all-conference teams and superlatives for a number of individual awards. We’ll start today with our three all-Big Ten teams and Honorable Mentions. With 14 teams to choose from, these 15 players separated themselves in numerous different ways. Let us know where you disagree in the comments.

First Team

Frank Kaminsky is on our First Team All B1G team, and may well pick up a National Player of the Year award as well. (Espn.com)

Frank Kaminsky is on our First Team, and may well pick up a National Player of the Year award as well. (Espn.com)

  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (18.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 55.9% FG)
  • D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State (19.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • Aaron White, Iowa (15.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 81.4% FT)
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland (16.1 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 87.6% FT)
  • AJ Hammons, Purdue ( 11.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 53.5% FG)

Hammons anchored a defensive resurgence for Purdue, blocking 88 shots in the middle while developing from a leadership standpoint. Trimble was outstanding from day one for Maryland, becoming the best Maryland point guard since Greivis Vasquez in the process. His abilities to shoot from deep and get to the free throw line were primary reasons why Maryland finished the regular season ranked among the top 10. White went nuts at the end of the season, adding a three-pointer to his offensive arsenal to supplement everything else he does for the Hawkeyes. As Iowa finished the season on a 6-0 tear, the senior forward averaged 21.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG while knocking down 8-of-13 three-pointers. Russell was quite simply one of the best players in the country all season long, becoming the first Ohio State player to record a triple-double since Evan Turner. If the Buckeyes make an NCAA Tournament run later this month, it will be because Russell explodes for a stretch. Kaminsky took the improvements he made during his junior year and built on them this year. He finished the season with the best offensive rating in the country for any player who used more than 28 percent of his teams possessions, and did so by a wide margin. Once Traveon Jackson was injured, he refined his game to average 3.1 APG from the center position. He blocks shots, scores from all over the court, and helped the Badgers rack up the third-best defensive rebounding rate in the nation (25.5%). He’s on the short list of many National Player of the Year awards, and deservedly so.

Second Team

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