Big Ten Competition Will Exceed Expectations

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 10th, 2014

Trey Burke is now running the pick-and-roll for the Utah Jazz. Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are currently trying to improve the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats, a year removed from dominating college basketball. About a week ago, one of the biggest questions about the Big Ten was about the lack of star power in the league this season. The aforementioned trio of players dominated headlines last year and this season’s biggest returning star, Mitch McGary, will not be around for most of the season due to an injury. Still, after the first week of the conference schedule, it is safe to say that despite the lack of star power, the level of competition between teams in the league will not be any different than it has been. There might not be several NBA lottery picks on these 12 squads, but teams shouldn’t take any conference match-up for granted. A handful of key games over the last week-plus have shown everyone just how competitive this league will be over the next 10 weeks.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes almost pulled off an upset win in East Lansing.  (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes almost pulled off an upset win in East Lansing. (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

If you turned off the Michigan State – Ohio State game Tuesday night because the Buckeyes were down by 17 late in the second half, you made a big mistake. Sure, the Buckeyes’ offense isn’t pretty in the least, but there is something to be said about the way they muscled their way back into the game. And yes, part of the comeback was allowed by the Spartans’ lackadaisical attitude during the final six minutes, but it was still impressive to see Thad Matta’s team storm back without their main offensive weapons on the court. Both LaQuinton Ross (13.7 PPG) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (12.7 PPG) were on the bench with just 12 points combined while Aaron Craft and Sam Thompson tied the game by scoring in transition and playing tough defense. During last season’s game in East Lansing, Shannon Scott put up a horrible shot during the final possession of an incredible game. Ironically, he almost won the game this time with a steal and transition layup during the final five seconds of regulation. The star power for Ohio State may not be there right now, but players such as Mark Loving are growing up right in front of our eyes during these games and could end up as household names by the end of March.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who Won The Week? Kentucky, Rayvonte Rice, and a Newbie Squad Led by a Former NBA Sharpshooter

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 3rd, 2014

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

After an unforeseen circumstance, some traveling and Christmas, welcome back to Who Won The Week? Let’s get down to business.

WINNER: Kentucky

Kentucky was an easy choice this week. (Getty)

The Wildcats were an easy choice this week. (Getty)

The nation’s top team on the offensive glass and at getting to the free throw line managed to net a home win over its in-state rival and defending national champion in their only game in two weeks. Not bad, right? Doing it without the services of super-freshman Julius Randle in the second half as he was sidelined by cramps makes it even more impressive. In his stead, fellow freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison and James Young combined for 46 points – after Randle had scored 17 points in the first half – as the Wildcats pulled off a 73-66 win in Lexington and picked up its first marquee non-conference win in the process. After missing out on neutral-court shots versus Michigan State and Baylor, notching a win against the top team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings is a nice way to salvage a good non-conference schedule.

LOSER: Louisville

OK, so Russ Smith did this, to Julius Randle, no less.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 2nd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Since news broke of Indiana‘s Luke Fischer transferring on Monday, the rumors of where he is headed quickly followed. A Wisconsin native, the former top-100 recruit had many thinking he may return home to the Badgers, but that isn’t the case. Fischer announced on Twitter last night that he would not transfer to any other Big Ten school out of respect for Tom Crean and the Indiana program. It’s not certain if Fischer made this decision on his own or whether the Indiana coaching staff hinted they would block a transfer to another Big Ten program, but it does certainly eliminate plenty of places that people thought Fischer could end up.
  2. College athletics certainly has its costs, and for big programs that means paying smaller schools to come to their arena and (hopefully) trade a loss for a substantial check. A recent MLive.com article reports that Michigan spent nearly $450,000 this season to host its five guarantee games. At this point it shouldn’t be news to read about the cost of these “guarantee” games, but it is interesting to see how much it typically costs a Big Ten program to bring in those small schools. For Michigan, as an example, it typically costs somewhere upward of $80,000 per game on hotel rooms, comped tickets and the team’s transportation. Not a cheap expenditure to add another W to the resume.
  3. It’s been a different kind of year for Wisconsin and Bo Ryan. Used to methodical games with little scoring, the Badgers have utilized a more high-powered offense to go along with its usual stingy defense this season. Their ability to avoid long scoring droughts like they experienced at times last year makes the Badgers confident that they can potentially win the Big Ten heading into their conference opener against Northwestern tonight. Wisconsin has raised its offensive statistics nearly across the board, with a higher shooting percentage, three-point percentage, free throw shooting and efficiency at this point in the season. Unlike some previous seasons, Bo Ryan’s team has shown it can win with multiple players having the ability to create their own shot and make it.
  4. The Big Ten is a conference loaded with plenty of stars and well-known names across the country like Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. One name not often mentioned when discussing the conference’s top players is Minnesota‘s Andre Hollins. Rant Sports’ Paul Kilgas said Hollins is actually the conference’s most underrated player. It’s an interesting argument to consider because the league is loaded with solid guards. Hollins is averaging 16.2 PPG along with 3.0 APG and 4.0 RPG, but unless the Gophers have an outstanding season, he is likely to be left off many all-Big Ten ballots at the end of the year. He has certainly been the biggest key driving Minnesota’s strong start to the season, and if the Golden Gophers make a push for the upper echelon of the league standings, Hollins will without question be the catalyst.
  5. With non-conference play now over, the Big Ten Powerhouse writers got together and voted for their non-conference all-Big Ten team. It’s a solid group of five with Adreian Payne, Sam Dekker, Keith Appling, Rayvonte Rice and Tim Frazier on the list. It’s tough to really argue against that five, although Nik Stauskas has been just as phenomenal for Michigan as some of his teammates have been disappointing. Stauskas was in the next grouping of those receiving votes, along with Yogi Ferrell, Glenn Robinson III and DJ Newbill. All of these players will be looking to make the official all-Big Ten teams in a couple of months and have made excellent cases to start the season with their stellar play.
Share this story

Three Questions on Illinois vs. Indiana

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) & Brendan Brody on December 31st, 2013

If you haven’t seen this clip by now, you should: Illinois’ Tyler Griffey beating the buzzer by laying it in to upset top-ranked Indiana in Champaign last year. This season, both are considered middle of the pack teams in the conference, but the rematch later today (3:00 PM ET) of these rivals will certainly be juicy in Champaign. To get things started, Big Ten microsite writers Brendan Brody and Deepak Jayanti address three key questions surrounding the Big Ten opener for each team.

John Groce's Illinois faces a pivotal game against Indiana to kick off the conference season.

John Groce’s Illinois faces a pivotal game against Indiana to kick off the conference season.

Can the Illini contain Noah Vonleh on the boards or will get they destroyed on the glass?

  • Brendan Brody: In kind of a roundabout way, the best way for Illinois to keep Vonleh off the glass might be to attack him on the offensive end. If they can get him into foul trouble like Connecticut did, they can neutralize the advantage Vonleh gives to Hoosiers. Destroyed is a strong word here because Illinois does a decent job rebounding the ball as a team, but Indiana has other players like Jeremy Hollowell and Troy Williams who also do a nice job gathering misses that will lead to second shots on the offensive end and will fuel their transition game.
  • Deepak Jayanti: If Rayvonte Rice can get to the hoop off of screens and force Vonleh to challenge him at the basket, it is likely that the big and talented freshman will get into foul trouble. But that’s easier said than done because Vonleh is learning how not to pick up easy fouls. Having said that, the Illini will struggle to keep Vonleh off the glass regardless. Junior forward Nnanna Egwu appears to keep moving away from the paint because he prefers to shoot the jumper off the pick-and-roll. Joseph Bertrand and Rice average over five rebounds per game each, and one of them will be busy trying to box out Williams while Vonleh will be left one-on-one against Egwu or Jon Ekey — a rebounding match-up that favors his abilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.31.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 31st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Happy New Year’s Eve! A new year means new beginnings and a chance to possibly start over. So maybe not coincidentally, this is also transfer season in college basketball. A time of year where players all around the country have decided that their current program is no longer the place for them and need a fresh start. It only took one semester at Indiana for Luke Fischer to decide he needed to seek another opportunity and subsequently announced that he was transferring. Unlike his fellow freshmen teammates, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams, Fischer was not able to contribute significantly mostly due to a shoulder injury. He just started to work his way into the rotation but apparently it was not enough for him to stay. Fischer was a Top 100 recruit and while his departure shouldn’t affect the Hoosiers drastically this year, Tom Crean loses a potentially effective player in the future.
  2. After their impressive win against Missouri, Illinois is in position to challenge, once again, for an NCAA Tournament bid. If they do so, it would be an impressive feat since this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for John Groce after losing his two top scorers from last season. A major reason the Illini have been able to stay competitive is due to the emergence of transfer Rayvonte Rice, who won his second Big Ten Player of the Week honor on Monday. Rice is no Brandon Paul when it comes to upside potential, but his stats certainly look similar after half a season — last season, Paul  averaged 16.6 PPG,4.4 RPG, & 2.7 APG, while Rice has averaged 18.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, & 1.9 APG thus far this season.
  3. Along with Rice, Michigan State’s Keith Appling also won Big Ten Player of the Week. This is his first such honor of the season and the fourth in his career. Though he won the award for last week’s performance, where he scored 27 points, dished out 8 assists, and grabbed 5 rebounds against New Orleans, his production has been outstanding throughout the entire season. Thus far, Appling is averaging a career high in points and assists. As Michigan State prepares to enter conference play and battle for sole ownership of a league title, they’ll need not only Appling, but Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, to keep performing at their current All American levels.
  4. Wisconsin has been the most impressive Big Ten team in the early part of the season. Not only are four of their five starters effective scorers, but their bench can score as well. We have seen the likes of Duje Dukan and Bronson Koenig already contribute, and you can add freshman Nigel Hayes into the mix as well. The 6’7″ big man from Toledo won Freshman of the Week honors off his 10 points, 4 rebounds, and three blocks performance against Prairie View A&M. Hayes has jumped ahead of Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon as the first big off the bench when Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker need to be spelled. Hayes is an important part of the Badger’s tremendous success early this season and he will continue the winning tradition in Madison for years to come.
  5. Conference play starts today! And it starts early in the day (1 pm ET) when the undefeated Buckeyes come to West Lafayette and face struggling Purdue. While the Boilermakers have had disheartening defeats (and some disheartening wins against inferior teams), they have recently racked up some face-saving wins against Boston College and West Virginia. Both of those teams have had disappointing seasons as well, and they won’t impress anyone come Selection Sunday. But losing to them would have caused the bottom to fall out on Purdue’s season. In the first game of Big Ten play, Purdue needs to show that they can at least put up a fight against the Buckeyes — a team vying for a league title — to show their fans they will be able to compete during all of conference play.
Share this story

Previewing Braggin’ Rights: Illinois vs. Missouri

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 21st, 2013

If one were to grade Illinois’ season performance before heading into Saturday’s Braggin’ Rights game against Missouri, they would probably have to give the Illini an “I” for incomplete. John Groce’s team is 9-2 with no especially bad losses, but no significantly good wins either. Their two losses against Georgia Tech and Oregon were on the road and down to the wire; a free throw made or different bounce of the ball and the Illini might currently sit undefeated with a different season trajectory. But Illinois is where it is and today’s game against Missouri provides the last chance for the Illini to notch a non-conference resume win.

missouri illinois

Nnanna Egwu and the Illini are hoping to get their first win against Missouri since 2008 on Saturday.

The Tigers have won braggin’ rights for four seasons in a row, but before that run the Illini had won nine years straight. If John Groce is going to start a new streak in the rivalry today, here are three things he’ll need his team to do:

  1. Keep charging the glass and getting offensive rebounds. Unlike last season, this year’s team is not effective at scoring beyond the arc (33.8 percent from deep). The way they’ve countered their lack of long-range shooting is by creating additional scoring opportunities from the offensive glass. The Illini have an offensive rebounding percentage of 37.1 percent (which ranks in the top 50 nationally) and three of their starters are averaging two or more offensive boards per game. They’ll need to keep this up against a Missouri team that so far has been excellent at minimizing its opponents’ offensive rebounds. Since the Illini do not rely on a perimeter attack from behind the arc, there should be fewer long rebounds for guards like Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross to grab. Illinois should stick to what it does best — drive to the rim and have others follow behind for putbacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

The Seven Most Surprising Big Ten Players So Far This Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 13th, 2013

With the season now a little over a month old, it’s time to take a look at how different players are performing in accordance with their preseason expectations. I’m always more of a good news first kind of guy, so I’ll start with the guys who are making a better-than-expected impact first, with the disappointments coming next week. Many of these players are transfers, although some are simply just producing more in additional minutes. The common thread with all seven of these Big Ten breakout players is that they are heavily contributing to wins in more than one way, and doing so at a high level.

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 42.9% 3FG, 55.4% FG). “Frank the Tank” is leading the Badgers in scoring, steals and blocks. People thought that he’d be able to have an impact with more minutes due to the graduation of Jared Berggren, but no one thought he’d be capable of dropping 43 points in a single game. Kaminsky leads a balanced attack on the offensive end that has five different players capable of scoring 20 on a given night, and he’s a defensive presence to the tune of blocking 7.06 percent of all opponents’ field goal attempts. Wisconsin in general has been a surprise, but Kaminsky has been an even bigger one.
  • Eliott Eliason, Minnesota (5.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG). Eliason got lost in the shuffle last season with Trevor Mkakwe and Rodney Williams getting most of the frontcourt minutes in 2012-13. This year he has emerged as a major rebounding and shot-blocking threat for the Gophers. Eliason is currently third in the league in defensive rebounding rate (26.5%), sixth in offensive rebounding rate (12.6%), and third in block rate (11.74%). On a team that frequently features a three-guard attack, it is vital that someone can clear the glass and protect the rim, which Eliason is doing at an elite level in the early going.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 13th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. It has been 26 years since there was a match-up of the two flagship programs in Iowa as members of the Top 25, but that’s exactly what we get tonight when #23 Iowa travels to take on rival and #17 Iowa State in Ames. These two programs were largely irrelevant five years ago, but the hiring of Fran McCaffery at Iowa and Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State has really changed everything in both programs. Each team has realistic expectations to make the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even go deep. Hopefully this intrastate rivalry continues to become must-see television each year (and kudos for the schedule makers for giving us this treat on an otherwise quiet Friday night).
  2. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, their bench play has been absolutely spectacular this year. Via @IowaHoops, the Hawkeyes’ bench is averaging 42.3 points, 24.9 rebounds and 4.2 blocks through 11 games. The two players fueling the bench are senior Zach McCabe and Gabriel Olaseni. McCabe is a tough-nosed forward who attacks rebounding fearlessly and can also knock down perimeter shots. Olaseni is seeing his first real playing time in his career and he is doing a great job protecting the rim for Iowa.
  3. Coming into the season, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross was expected to become the Buckeyes’ primary scoring threat this season. As the season got underway, though, Ross struggled by only averaging six points in his first five games. But it now looks like Ross could emerge into the type of scorer many had hoped he would become after Deshaun Thomas. Already Ross’ three-point and turnover percentage are better than that of Thomas, and Ohio State will need the gifted junior to take over offensively if the Buckeyes  and Thad Matta are to reach another Final Four.
  4. Michigan and Illinois are looking for their first big non-conference wins this year. Michigan gets #1 Arizona at the Crisler Center on Saturday, and the match-up to watch is in the backcourt. Arizona’s duo of TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson will go against a young tandem of Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. If Michigan’s guards allow Arizona’s guards to go wherever they want on the floor, it will be a long day for Michigan. Illinois heads to Portland to take on #15 Oregon as well on Saturday. The Illini lost to Georgia Tech in the last minute but then rebounded nicely by destroying Auburn. Oregon will represent a major test for the Illini, as the Ducks have excellent pieces at all positions that can really expose the Illinois’ lack of length.
  5. Bo Ryan and his fourth-ranked Wisconsin squad easily defeated in-state opponent Milwaukee earlier this week. The Badgers have been steamrolling everyone so far but their biggest upcoming challenge may be next month when they go to Bloomington to take on Indiana. There are four games between now and then and they should all be wins for the Badgers. The one game Bo Ryan’s team can’t overlook before the Indiana game is when Iowa visits on January 5. Iowa has the depth to stay with Wisconsin on the perimeter and multiple players who can guard Frank Kaminsky.
Share this story

To Reach Its Goals, Illinois Needs More Than Rayvonte Rice

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 5th, 2013

The game was over. The picture was clear — with a 12-point lead at Georgia Tech and less than seven minutes left, the Illini were going to move to 8-0 on the season and make it five straight wins against the ACC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. And it was all going to be because of Rayvonte Rice. He had built the big lead for Illinois from a three-point halftime deficit by scoring 15 points in the second half, including a 10-0 run of his own making. He was his usual aggressive self: driving to the basket, getting to the line, and creating fast breaks from steals. But once the Yellow Jackets adjusted their defense to take away those scoring opportunities for the redshirt junior, Rice’s teammates put on a show themselves — one of passivity and fecklessness that would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. From that point, Georgia Tech went on a 19-4 run to close out the game and notch its first Challenge win since 2006. In order for the Illini to put this collapse behind them and eventually get back to the NCAA Tournament in March, someone other than Rice will have to evolve into a consistent second option.

Rayvonte Rice went off for 24 points, but was unable to get help from his teammates to secure a win.

Rayvonte Rice went off for 24 points, but was unable to get help from his teammates to secure a win.

In the final six minutes of the game, the Illlini (at least those without Rice on the back of their jersey) went 1-of-9 from the field, including an oh-fer from deep, and committed two poorly-timed turnovers. With Rice unable to affect the game, this left the door open for players like Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey to carry the load and seal the win. None of this group were aggressive in trying to find their own shot and it seemed as if the team’s game plan was to simply run out the clock. Particularly disappointing was Abrams who was instrumental in willing Illinois to a win over IPFW last Friday, scoring eight of his 15 points in crucial moments of the second half. As the player with the most big game experience (he leads the Illini in career minutes), and as someone known for his toughness and moxie, he managed only to take one shot (not including the final prayer at the buzzer) while Georgia Tech was storming back.

In previous outings, it has been either Abrams, Bertrand or Ekey who has stepped up to complement the steady hand, Rice. But none of these three players have proven they can be consistent scoring threats on any given night — all three players have had multiple single-figure scoring outings this season. Therefore, the scouting report is out on the Illini — focus on stopping #24 and let someone else beat you. In order to get to the other side of the bubble by March, John Groce is going to need to motivate one of his other talented but inconsistent players to become this year’s D.J. Richardson to Rice’s Brandon Paul.

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 3rd, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten – ACC challenge is here. Given the match-ups, it seems like this year has the possibility of ending in a tie like last year. With the additions of programs such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the ACC was supposed to be the hands-down best league in the country and go back to dominating the challenge like they did for a decade. But while the top of the ACC will always have the blue bloods, the drop off from the rest of the league can be steep.  What has made the Big Ten one of, if not the, premier conferences in college basketball is its depth in the league from top to bottom. In the challenge format, depth seems to be a much more advantageous than being top heavy. So expect to see competitive Big Ten – ACC challenges for years to come.
  2. Illinois once again finds itself undefeated going into the Big Ten – ACC challenge. The emergence of two transfers, Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey, have helped the Illini remain competitive despite the loss of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. On Monday, Rice was named Big Ten Player of the Week because of his performances against UNLV and IPFW.  He is leading the team in scoring and has been the go-to-guy whenever Illinois has needed a bucket. Rice makes his living by driving to the basket where he is shooting 70.6 percent. Against UNLV, he struggled to get around the Running Rebels’ length and athleticism in the first twenty minutes, but by the second half, he adjusted his game and used his strength to create separation from his defender in order to get his shot off. Rice finished with 25 points including the game-winning field goal with 28 seconds remaining. He proved he can score off the dribble against anyone, which is a positive sign for the Illini going into games against Georgia Tech, Oregon, and Missouri.
  3. Also announced on Monday was Zak Irvin as Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Irvin, a four-star wing from Indiana, has started off his career as a reserve but has had a big role when on the court. Though he comes off the bench, Irvin uses 20 percent of the Wolverines possessions and averages 7.4 points in 18.1 minutes per game. In Friday’s game against Coppin St., Irvin erupted for 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting including 6 made three pointers. Before this game, Irvin’s previous high score was 8 points, so he’ll continue to be a role player.  However, the freshman is clearly talented and his career should be fun to follow in Ann Arbor.
  4. In one of our preseason columns, we stated that with the return of Tim Frazier, along with D.J. Newbill, Penn State may have the best backcourt in the Big Ten. Now others are starting to take notice and realizing that Penn State may have a surprising year. Over the weekend, the Nittany Lions split games beating a talented St. John’s team in double overtime but losing a close game to Ole Miss. In the game against the Red Storm, the dynamic duo combined for 54 points, while against the Rebels, Newbill put in another 20-point performance. These two have the offense humming at the rate of 114.4 points per 100 possessions, the 17th best in the country. This offense, along with their poor defense, will make for some entertaining games in conference play.  And this backcourt will be responsible for some crazy upsets before the season is done. So get the popcorn when Penn State is on TV and enjoy.
  5. On Wednesday, Wisconsin goes into Charlotte to play Virginia where Bo Ryan will be seeking to secure his 300th victory as the Badgers head coach. When asked what he thought that number meant about him as a coach, Ryan played it off and stated that he was a “pretty lucky guy”. Coach may not be giving himself enough credit.  Everyone knows he’s finished fourth or better in the Big Ten and made the NCAA Tournament every year since he’s been there (2001); and he’s done this almost completely without any heralded recruits. But what’s most impressive is he didn’t get a high-major coaching job until Wisconsin made them theirs at the age of 53.  Ryan had previously spent 15 years in Division III, where he won four national titles, and two years at UW-Milwaukee. His overall record as a head coach is 682-216 which translates to a winning percentage of 76 percent. That seems to be the product of much more than just luck.
Share this story

Big Ten Analysis: Iowa Overperforming, Northwestern Underperforming

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2013

It’s been over a week since the season started and all 12 teams have at least three games under their belts. Michigan State is as good as advertised after beating #1 Kentucky (even if they followed it up with a lackluster performance against Columbia). But what can we conclude from the other teams’ performances, where most games have been lopsided victories against inferior opponents? This makes it difficult to gauge which team has under- or overperformed so early in the year, but we here at the RTC Big Ten microsite are always up for a challenge. Prior to the first tip, we recorded each team’s predicted outcome using KenPom.com. To measure how teams have performed thus far, we will now compare their season performances against their preseason expected outcomes.

The table below illustrates each team’s performance in games already played against what they were expected to do, helping us evaluate their consistency and long-term projections.

big ten analysis 11.18.13

The table above displays each team’s performance for each game relative to their expected preseason expected outcome.  For example, if a team was expected to win by 10 points, but ended up winning by only five points, then that team underperformed by five points (shown as -5 in the table). If that same team had won by 20 points, then that team would have overperformed by 10 points. Underperformances are marked in red and overtperformances are marked in green.  The average and standard deviation of each teams’ differential performances are calculated to measure their overall consistency so far.  Finally, the far-right column in the table shows the change in total wins for the season that KenPom is projecting. For example, if a team was initially expected to win 18 games, but is now expected to win 21 games, their record difference is shown as +3.  This metric not only takes into account each individual team’s season performance thus far, but also the performance of all its opponents.

Here are our five takeaways from this analysis:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Three Thoughts About Illinois After Three Games

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 14th, 2013

John Groce’s Illini have several new faces this season after the departures of Brandon Paul, D.J.Richardson and Tyler Griffey from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad. Over the past three seasons, Paul and Richardson were fixtures in the Illinois offense. Richardson was also pivotal on the defensive end as he picked up the toughest assignment on the wing. After three games this season, we can start discussing how the newcomers fit into the rotation and complement the existing core of returnees Joseph Bertrand, Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu. All three played significant minutes last season and are expected to be the primary scoring options for Groce this year. Let’s examine the three new players – Rayvonte Rice, Jaylon Tate and John Ekey – that could really help Illinois reach its goals this season.

Rayvonte Rice will be one of Illinois' best scoring options this year.

Rayvonte Rice will be one of Illinois’ best scoring options this year.

  • Rayvonte Rice: The Drake transfer is already known for his scoring prowess based on his career in the Missouri Valley Conference, where he averaged 16.8 PPG as a sophomore. But it will be interesting to see how Rice will fit into the Illini offense because his game is very similar to Bertrand’s. They are both athletic and prefer to cut to the basket rather than pull up for jumpers, but Rice seems to have a tendency to shoot from beyond the arc more than Bertrand – he has already averaged 3.5 three-point attempts per game. He is clearly not afraid to pull the trigger, fitting well with Groce’s philosophy of a free-flowing offense, but he will need to be a bit more selective with this shot selection going forward. That said, there is no designated long-range specialist on this squad, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rice attempt an unhealthy amount of three-pointers. Shooting 28 percent from the perimeter is far from effective shooting, but Rice’s athletic ability to attack the basket will definitely add another dimension to help the Illini this season.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story