Big Ten Team Previews: Purdue Boilermakers

Posted by jnowak on November 2nd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Purdue Boilermakers.

Where We Left Off: The last time we saw Purdue, one of the program’s most accomplished players — Robbie Hummel — was riding off into the sunset, marking the end of the “Baby Boiler” era that began when that class began its West Lafayette career in 2007. Purdue also loses fellow co-captains Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson, leaving Matt Painter without three of the Boilers’ best scoring options from the last few seasons. So the cupboard is relatively bare, with a lot resting on the shoulders of senior D.J. Byrd and the Johnson Trio — Terone, Ronnie and Anthony. None of those four have much experience in leading the team, so scoring could be at a premium. It’s safe to call it a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers, but if they can build on the foundation the Baby Boilers set forth, Painter could have this team back contending soon enough.

With Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson gone, much of the scoring and leadership responsibility will rest on D.J. Byrd’s shoulders at Purdue.

Positives: After a pretty significant drop-off in recruiting since the stellar class of Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Scott Martin (who eventually transferred) and E’Twaun Moore, Painter seems to finally have gotten it back with this incoming freshman class. Rivals has this group ranked No. 20 in the country, which also places the Boilermakers fourth in the Big Ten (Indiana clocks in at No. 5, Michigan at No. 7, Michigan State at No. 13). None of the newcomers — A.J. Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Raphael Davis and Jay Simpson — were ranked higher than No. 77 (Hammons), but it’s a solid core and a diverse group, with each player listed by Rivals at a different position. All four should get significant playing time this season, giving Purdue fans a glimpse at what could be a very promising future.

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Big Ten Weekly Five: 09.06.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on September 6th, 2012

  1. Coming into this summer, it was widely known that there was going to be some decisions to be made in terms of Indiana’s roster and the number of scholarship spots that would be allotted. It was also pretty widely known that Matt Roth was a likely candidate to be the odd man out. That came to fruition this week when it was learned that Roth’s time with the Hoosiers is over. The writing had been on the wall, though, with Roth already completing his undergraduate work and participating in the Senior Night festivities last season at Assembly Hall. But, as ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan points out, it’s a shame to see a player who started his career at IU when the Hoosiers really needed him have it end when the rebuilding process has finally been completed.
  2. If Nebraska wants to establish its authority in the Big Ten — and in its own state — it will have plenty of opportunities in its sophomore Big Ten season. The Cornhuskers’ schedule poses plenty of challenges this year, including the first five conference games in January — at Ohio State, against Wisconsin, at Michigan, at Michigan State and against Purdue. Not the easiest way to break into Big Ten play. This also comes weeks after the Huskers will host Creighton (and Nebraska-Omaha), in a fight for in-state bragging rights. Creighton has been the superior Nebraska program for years. Will the tide turn under new Huskers coach Tim Miles?
  3. CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman reports that Purdue is alive and well after the departure of poster child Robbie Hummel, thanks in part to a trip overseas for an exhibition set in Italy. Head coach Matt Painter recognizes that nothing is going to come easy for this group — which is suddenly without Hummel, Lewis Jackson, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, who carried the program back to relevance in recent years — that is certain to have growing pains in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten. “Inexperience and our ability to be good defensively,” Painter said were his biggest concerns after the trip. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’re going to have to be good together.” Purdue lost three of its top four scorers from last season, and lone senior D.J. Byrd is going to have to shoulder a heavy load to keep the Boilermakers near the top of the conference.
  4. Entering his senior season, it was expected that Ohio State’s William Buford would be competing for a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team and perhaps some good standing in the 2012 NBA Draft. Instead, he was inconsistent for the Buckeyes and went undrafted. He will get a chance to play professional ball, though — alongside former Purdue standout Robbie Hummel — in Santiago, Spain. “I thought trying to make it to the NBA this year was kind of a risk,” Buford said during his introductory news conference, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “So I figured why not come to the best league besides the NBA.” It’s probably not the plan Buford envisioned a year or two ago, but with his tools, he can spend a couple years overseas and have a great shot at cracking an NBA roster.
  5. In any successful athletic program, the basketball and football programs have to be able to feed off each other while both maintaining a certain level of consistent excellence. That’s what they’re shooting for at Penn State, where both teams — albeit for different reasons — are undergoing some serious rebuilding. While that’s been going on, basketball coach Patrick Chambers and football coach Bill O’Brien have forged a friendship. Together, as they told David Jones of the Patriot-News, they hope to restore Penn State athletics to a place of high standing. “We’ve become fast friends,” Chambers said. “We’ve got a good relationship and a very trusting relationship.”
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Big Ten Summer Check In: Purdue Boilermakers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on August 6th, 2012

For the first time since the summer of 2007, Purdue fans will not be talking about a player named Robbie Hummel as they approach the basketball season. Even though two of the Baby Boilers — E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson — graduated in 2011, Hummel was still around for his final season at Purdue after recovering from multiple knee surgeries. After an excellent comeback season last year during which Hummel nearly led the Boilers to an upset of #2 seed Kansas in the third round of the NCAA tournament, Matt Painter now prepares his program for a new era in West Lafayette.

How will Matt Painter deal with Robbie Hummel’s departure and a younger core of players?

Evaluating Last Year: Expectations for the 2011-12 season were fairly realistic in West Lafayette last season because of Moore and Johnson’s departure. Fans weren’t sure what to expect from the returning Hummel but overall, Purdue’s season should be considered a success as they finished 10-8 in conference play and gave Kansas everything it could handle in the NCAA Tournament. Even though Hummel had lost much of his explosiveness due to all the injuries, he still led the team in scoring with 16.4 PPG and his presence created more open shots for his younger teammates — especially Terone Johnson, who averaged 9.2 PPG. Painter’s team did not necessarily pull off many big wins during the season but certainly won most of the games that it was supposed to. The Boilermakers hit a mid-season slump by going 1-4 during late January/early February, but recovered fairly well to secure an NCAA bid for the sixth straight year. A huge win in Ann Arbor against Michigan (75-61) on February 25 was key to locking up an NCAA bid.

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Big Ten Weekly Five: 08.03.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on August 3rd, 2012

  1. Minnesota will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch in the Big Ten next season after the momentum the team built in the NIT thanks to some young players who will now be mixed back in with returning star Trevor Mbakwe. The Golden Gophers are spending their summer months playing together, and Amelia Rayno has some updates from the Howard Pulley Pro City league end-of-summer tournament. She reports that Rodney Williams says Mbakwe has practiced with the group a few times and “he wasn’t moving too fast yet, but he didn’t look like he was too nervous out there.” If Mbakwe can get back to his old double-double self and complement Williams and youngster Andre Hollins, Minnesota could do some serious damage.
  2. How would you like to be the guy asked to step in and take over Robbie Hummel‘s spot at Purdue? That unenviable position will likely be filled by committee, in the form of sophomore Jacob Lawson and redshirt freshman Donnie Hale. The two will have big shoes to fill after Hummel’s five seasons with the Boilermakers, helping bring Purdue back to the upper echelon of college basketball. “We’re both trying to get out there and play just as hard, just so coach knows we really want that spot,” Lawson told the Indianapolis Star. “With me and him battling, it’s going to be a battle every day.” Lawson has appeared in 30 games, including four starts, but replacing Hummel’s versatility and leadership will be anything but easy.
  3. In the wake of the punishments the NCAA handed down to Central Florida, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo spoke to USA Today about the landscape of the game today and how his job is impacted by AAU basketball and agents. Izzo said in the story that he has “absolutely” lost out on bringing recruits to Michigan State because he’s refused to “cheat” and said there are plenty of other coaches around the country who have gone down the same road. “A lot of people have lost players,” Izzo said. “And I am not saying that cheating is 80 percent of the game. It’s probably 20 percent. But it’s probably 70 percent of the top 20 percent [of player recruitments]. College basketball is a business. This [recruiting] is a business now because it leads to ours.” Third parties are a part of the game now more than ever before — with everything from shoe companies to summer showcase tournaments wanting a piece of the action — and that just means more pressure for everybody.
  4. All the basketball fans watching Team USA at the Olympics in London right now are going to be left with a four-year void once the games are finished in a few weeks. CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman got a head start on the anticipation for the 2016 games and his potential roster has some Big Ten names heavily in the mix. Goodman prognosticates that Michigan point guard Trey Burke and Indiana center Cody Zeller could be among the starting five on that team, which is likely to go to 23-and-under starting at those games. If that’s the case, players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant would not be eligible. And if Coach K is ready to call it quits? How about Tom Izzo taking over? Basketball in Rio de Janeiro could have a very Midwestern feel come 2016.
  5. New Nebraska coach Tim Miles says recruiting is going well, although he’s still waiting on his first commitment. There are bound to be some growing pains for a program that just joined the Big Ten and didn’t have a real smooth go of it in its first year in the conference. The school fired Doc Sadler, but has the benefits of a brand new basketball facility to help draw players to Lincoln. Miles told the Omaha World-Herald that Nebraska, which has five scholarships available for 2013-14 and then just one for 2014-15, is looking to build a contender. “We’re recruiting in the right places,” he said. “We want to bring in guys who will help build a winner.”
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 07.05.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on July 5th, 2012

  1. There’s been plenty of chatter over the last few weeks about the former Big Ten players headed for the NBA, but what about those who chose to stay behind? The biggest of those names is probably Cody Zeller, who opted to remain at Indiana for his sophomore season. A good choice? Brent Yarina from BTN.com seems to think so. The best way to make this call is to consider his ceiling and also to consider how much worse things could get. He could get hurt, like any player, or his additional time in college could give scouts time to pick him apart. But more time in college also allows a young player to mature, for him to grow into a body more suited for the NBA and for him to raise his draft stock (yes, that’s right, stock can also go up). There’s no way he would have gone No. 1 this year. But right now, there’s a great chance he’ll go No. 1 next year. Seems like a good choice.
  2. Speaking of the NBA Draft, here’s a nice one-stop-shop from the fine folks at Big Ten Powerhouse with all the information you need about the Big Ten hoopsters — Draymond Green, Meyers Leonard, Robbie Hummel and Jared Sullinger — who are moving on to the professional ranks. All of these guys have something to prove. Green dropped further than many predicted but, as he said, it just wouldn’t be right if he didn’t have to work his tail off just a little while longer (and same goes for Hummel, who’s had to work as hard as anybody to get back to this level). Many questioned Sullinger’s health heading into the draft, and Leonard’s production at Illinois led many to doubt his potential. Only time will tell.
  3. Northwestern didn’t have anybody taken in the NBA Draft, but the Wildcats did make an important addition for their future. It landed a huge commitment from Jaren Sina, a four-star point guard from New Jersey. Sina could be the biggest recruiting coup for Bill Carmody in his time as a head coach there. A second-team All-State selection in New Jersey as a junior last season, Sina averaged 20 PPG and 8.4 APG while shooting 42.9% from three-point range. Is he the guy who can finally lead Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament? Stay tuned. But while the Wildcats have had excellent forwards over the last few years, it’s been a while since an elite point guard came their way.
  4. Michigan coach John Beilein knows a thing about recruiting coups, having brought in some top young talent (see: Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke) over the last four years with headliner Mitch McGary on the horizon for next season. Despite this recent success, Beilein says his recruiting philosophy has not changed, but he admits the scenarios are changing. “(In recruiting) you have to pick your battles,” Beilein told AnnArbor.com. “The battles we’re choosing, they may be a little larger.” Michigan has largely been most successful taking its recruiting out of state, since Michigan State and Tom Izzo has had a strong handle on the Mitten State for more than a decade (that was re-affirmed last week with the commitment of two-sport star Drake Harris). Every coach will tell you in-state recruiting is crucial, but who is to argue with the success Beilein has had at UM?
  5. Here’s a bit of unexpected news that really shouldn’t surprise anybody: Aaron Craft, already known as one of the conference’s premier tough guys, has been playing since high school with a floating bone chip in his left ankle. “If he turned the ankle wrong just a certain way, that small piece of bone would get jammed back on his tibia and it would cause excruciating pain,” Craft’s father, John, told the Columbus Dispatch. The Ohio State point guard had surgery June 18 to remove the chip, and has been in a cast and on crutches since then but is expected to soon begin rehabilitation and be “full go” in 3-4 weeks. I can’t imagine any doubt that he’ll fully heal and get back to the same level we’re used to. In fact, if he’s been reaching that level this entire time, I think it’s safe to say he’ll be even better.
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Winners & Losers On Draft Night: The College Perspective

Posted by EJacoby on June 29th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft has come and gone in what was a fairly quiet night in terms of trades around the league, but Thursday could also become an historic draft given how deep the pool of talent was. We may look back on this draft as one of the great ones in recent history, but that remains to be seen. For now we can take a look at the immediate winners and losers, and we’d like to run down which schools made the biggest hits and suffered big misses on draft night. For instance, which teams sent multiple lottery picks or were responsible for the biggest risers in the draft? Which teams saw their prospects slip out of the first round or not get drafted at all? Here’s our list of the top five winners and losers last night from the college game.

Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross (right) from Washington were both selected in the NBA Draft’s first round (AP Photo)

WINNERS

  • Kentucky – No, John Calipari didn’t get to see six first-round picks this year, as only four of his players cracked the top 30. Marquis Teague slipped considerably and Terrence Jones didn’t make the lottery. Yet all in all, what an historic night it was for the Wildcats. With UK’s Anthony Davis going #1 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist selected #2 overall, it’s the first time ever that college teammates became the top two picks. And when Darius Miller was scooped up at #46 overall, that also became a record with a sixth Wildcat drafted – the most in NBA draft history since the format shrunk from seven rounds to two back in 1989.
  • Washington – The Huskies failed to qualify for last year’s NCAA Tournament, which looks even more shocking now than it did in March. Two Washington players were selected in the first round, including one in the top 10 when the Raptors picked Terrence Ross #8 overall, the third shooting guard to come off the board. Tony Wroten, Jr., landed at #25 as the third point guard selected. A great night for Lorenzo Romar and the program, but remind us again how this team was playing in the NIT last year?
  • The One-And-Dones – Nine college freshmen declared for the NBA draft, and eight of them cracked the first round. Only Quincy Miller slipped, shockingly dropping all the way down to #38, but he still was a high second-round selection. Usually we see at least one or two mistakes from the ‘one-and-done’ crowd (see: Jereme Richmond last year), but all the frosh were good choices. Five of the top 10 picks were from this group.
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 06.28.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on June 28th, 2012

  1. Tom Izzo seems to be on a mission to have the Spartans play in a unique non-conference game ever year. Michigan State and North Carolina faced off on a live aircraft carrier last November but the matchup this year will is heading overseas. MSU and Connecticut will kick off the college basketball season on November 9 at the Ramstein air base in Germany. According to reports, the game will be in played in front of approximately 3,000 enlisted men and women at the base. Over the years, college hoops hasn’t necessarily had one single tip-off event that is a highlight on TV similar to Opening Day of Major League Baseball or even the first weekend of college football action. But unique match-ups such as this one and the Carrier Classic game from last year are slowly beginning to build the hype for the first week of hoops to satisfy the college basketball faithful.
  2. Matt Painter recruited Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson together and the core group has helped to instill Painter’s legacy at Purdue so far. Moore and Johnson were drafted last year by the Boston Celtics and the third of the once known as “baby Boilers” might join them in the NBA very soon. Hummel performed very well at the NBA Draft combine and may be drafted in the second round tonight. Overall, Hummel has been extremely positive about the upcoming draft because of his comeback from an ACL injury last year. Just the mere fact that he is considered as a potential selection after multiple knee injuries in college is a tremendous accomplishment for one of the best Big Ten players over the last decade. Hummel averaged 16.4 PPG in his redshirt senior season after missing over a year due to the injuries. His intangibles and shooting touch on the court should earn him a chance to play in the NBA even if he isn’t drafted this evening.
  3. One of the major prerequisites for the open Illinois head coaching job this offseason was the ability to recruit in the Chicago area. The Windy City, which is considered one of the top recruiting pipelines in the country, has not always sent notable alumni to Champaign. But new head coach John Groce is attempting to change that trend, and the last piece of his new staff may help him in that effort. Former Illinois State assistant Paris Parham was hired by Groce to help him recruit the Chicago area. Parham has coached in the Chicago Public League and Illini fans hope that his past connections can help jump start the recruiting process.
  4. Speaking of Chicago, Bulls’ forward Luol Deng will have a member of his family joining him in the area. Bill Carmody and the Northwestern coaching staff are adding Deng’s cousin, Chier Ajou, to the roster next season. Ajou is a 7’2″, 235-lb center who chose the Wildcats over Butler. The Wildcats lost their starting center Luka Mirkovic from last season, so Ajou will join a team with a chance to earn time immediately. Northwestern will be led by Drew Crawford who hopes to build on a great junior season where he averaged 16.1 PPG.
  5. What’s the best way to reward your coaching staff after a Big Ten regular season championship? Give them extensions. Michigan‘s assistant coaches recently received multiyear extensions after a great 2011-12 season. John Beilein is signed through 2015-16 and the extensions include several incentives for Big Ten championships and NCAA Tournament wins. One of the assistants, Jeff Meyer, has been in Ann Arbor for five years, three of those as an assistant. Keeping the assistant coaches happy is extremely essential to solidify a consistent recruiting pipeline and Michigan AD Dave Brandon definitely wants to keep this staff intact for the long term.
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Big Ten NCAA Tourney Thoughts From Sunday

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 20th, 2012

The Big Ten has lived up to the hype.  There are four teams in the Sweet Sixteen from the conference and a fifth one almost snuck in there too on Sunday night.  The experts have been raving about the depth of the conference over the past couple months and it translated into postseason success over the weekend.  Michigan State took down St. Louis in a bruiser on Sunday afternoon and Purdue almost pulled off a stunning upset against the Kansas Jayhawks.  Both games featured excellent performances by two seniors who will go down as one of the all-time greats for their respective programs – Draymond Green of Michigan State and Purdue’s Robbie Hummel.  The following are a few thoughts from the Sunday games.

Robbie Hummel did everything he could to will Purdue to a victory against Kansas

Michigan State over St. Louis (65-61)

Tom Izzo is familiar with Rick Majerus’ coaching philosophy and style of play. St. Louis plays a methodical style of basketball with a strong emphasis on defense. Sound familiar?  That might be the motto of practically all of the coaches in the B1G.  MSU did an excellent job of containing St.Louis’ Brian Conklin by holding him to 3-9 shooting  from the field. Overall, the Billikens shot only 35.3% as a team and 28% from beyond the arc, but by no means did Michigan State roll through the game. Majerus had players such as Jordair Jett who could have easily played for Tom Izzo’s team because of his intensity. Jett resembled the defensive stopper that Izzo would have embraced on his own team. As a result, the game was a defensive battle but the team with the best player on either side emerged as the winner. That best player on the court was clearly Draymond Green and it showed during the final minutes of the game.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 20th, 2012

  1. Normally, when players work hard and earn individual accolades, it’s an enjoyable accomplishment and a vindication for the sacrifices that they’ve made to reach that point.  But for Draymond Green, all the talk surrounding his outstanding season actually had the opposite effect.  Green admitted to reading media articles, listening to what folks had to say on Twitter, and it affected his game.  Instead of making things happen, he was worrying about what could happen, and that’s no way to lead a team through the NCAA Tournament.  Fortunately, the Michigan State senior has been able to lean on his coach, Tom Izzo, as he’s learning how to handle all his personal success.
  2. Plenty of attention is being paid to the Illinois coaching search, but there is another seat open in the Big Ten, and that belongs to Nebraska.  After parting ways with Doc Sadler, the Huskers are taking their time trying to find a new man to lead the program.  While it’s not the most high-profile job in college basketball, there still are expectations, and any viable candidate is going to be expected to compete and win in the Big Ten.  The latest coach to interview for the job is Oral Roberts head man Scott Sutton.
  3. While fading down the stretch and ultimately losing to Kansas was certainly disappointing enough for Purdue fans, watching Robbie Hummel play his last game as a Boilermaker was equally tough. Hummel’s career may be most remembered by outside fans because of the injuries he suffered while at Purdue, but the legacy he leaves is one of hard work and passion for the game. Hummel’s commitment to the program and to his teammates is unmatched, and that will be what he’ll be remembered for by Purdue fans, in addition to being a pretty good player when healthy.
  4. With all the talk of brackets, matchups, and dreams of Sweet Sixteen success, it can be pretty tough to remain a student-athlete.  Travel during the NCAA Tournament is hard enough from a physical standpoint, but add in school work, and you’ve got a lot of things weighing on young men’s minds. For Wisconsin, keeping up with their studies is obviously a priority for the players, and the coaching staff has been crafting practice schedules in order to accommodate the extra workload.
  5. Minnesota remains alive in the NIT, and the Gophers came out REALLY ready to play against Miami last night. Minny came out on a 12-0 run, and never trailed throughout the contest. Star forward Rodney Williams led the attack with 21 points.  Up next for the Gophers, they’ll head to Middle Tennessee on Wednesday night to try and continue its run toward an NIT championship.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 19th, 2012

  1. Purdue forward Robbie Hummel went out with a bang last night against Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  He was red-hot from the from the floor to begin the game and ended up with 26 points for the night as Purdue lost a close one to Kansas.  The Boilermakers led for most of the game but let the game slip away during the final minute.  The win could have capped off a perfect weekend for the Big Ten teams in the Tournament.
  2. Sunday’s game between St. Louis and Michigan State featured two coaches who believe in the grinding it out on the court.  St. Louis coach Rick Majerus has a mutual respect for Tom Izzo and considers him to be a “throwback” coach.  Majerus could easily coach in the Big Ten based on his basketball philosophy which emphasizes tough, physical play on the court.  Sunday’s game had a B1G “feel” to it as Michigan State out-muscled St. Louis to a 65-61 victory.
  3. The Shaka Smart watch officially started on Sunday after VCU‘s loss to Indiana over the weekend.  The rumor mill accelerated after Steve Lavin mentioned during the post-game analysis that he is “quite confident” that Smart will end up as the next Illinois coach over the next few days.  The Illinois head coaching position has been open for over a week now and Smart is rumored to be the top candidate to follow Bruce Weber‘s footsteps in Champaign.
  4. Tom Crean has more to prove as the turnaround season continues for the Hoosiers.  First it was, winning during the non-conference season.  Then it was making it to the Tournament.  During the Tournament, he had to lead his team to win without senior Verdell Jones III.  The coach’s relentless positive attitude encourages his players to have a consistent work ethic to get through every obstacle.  Indiana continues to reach new milestones after the Kelvin Sampson era ended, as Crean guides them to the first Sweet 16 appearance since 2002.
  5. Michigan‘s loss to Ohio on Friday night was painful.  But despite the loss, the Wolverine faithful are still satisfied with the season that resulted in a Big Ten regular season championship.  The biggest question on their minds now, is the future of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke.  Neither of them are projected lottery picks but they have to enter the NBA draft by April 10th, if they choose to test the waters as underclassmen. Their comments after the Tournament loss has not indicated any interest in entering the draft, but the Wolverine fans will be relieved once they make their return to Ann Arbor official.
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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #2 Kansas 63, #10 Purdue 60

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Sticking Around. It felt like Purdue was going to win this game throughout the evening, but the Jayhawks stuck around. Kansas shot 29.4% in the first half and they were lucky to be only down by six points at halftime. In the second half the shooting woes hit Purdue down the stretch where the Boilermakers only shot 28.6% in the second half to allow KU back into it. Through the final three minutes, Purdue had some real struggles to run its offense. It was the Kansas defense that forced turnovers in the final possessions.  Defense, so they say, wins championships (or at least third round defensive battles).
  2. Robinson shut down. The Boilermakers did everything they could to keep Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson out of the game. He was absent for most the game only having a single point at halftime and shooting 1-of-5 from the field. Robinson ended up with a double-double –11 points and 13 rebounds — but he had to earn every single one of them. Most of it came from the free throw line where he went 7-of-11 from the charity stripe. On the opposite end he finished 2-of-12 from the field. Still, Robinson recorded his 25th double-double this season, tying the school record held by Drew Gooden.
  3. Hummel-ized. Purdue needed a big game from Robbie Hummel if it wanted a chance to win the game tonight and he provided one, though a big share of it came in the first half. Hummel had 22 points before halftime on 7-of-8 shooting, including 5-of-6 from three including a shot clock buzzer-beater from downtown Omaha. Kansas did a good job containing him in the second half, but down the stretch, the Boilermakers went back to Hummel and he hit a couple more key baskets He ran out of gas in the final minute when Purdue needed a score, though, thanks to Kansas’ suffocating defense. He finished with a game-high 26 points. The loss was a sad way to end his career after making his way back from two devastating knee injuries.

Star of the Game. Elijah Johnson, Kansas. With Thomas Robinson basically ineffective in the scoring column, Johnson helped drive the Kansas comeback scoring 13 of his 18 points in the second half, including the basket to lead the Jayhawks to the win.  He also was 3-of-8 from behind the arc. 

Quotable. “I don’t think he has a McDonald’s All-American on his team so give Bill Self some credit.” Purdue head coach Matt Painter on recruiting a player to Purdue.

Sights & Sounds. When you get to the NCAA Tournament, the game tonight between the Jayhawks and Boilermakers is exactly what you are looking for in March Madness.  It was a full arena with teams battling each other from the beginning to the end, and fans and bands creating a great atmosphere.  With the announced crowd of almost 17,000 in the arena, the game was made even more special.  It was a great way to end Omaha’s weekend of hosting.  The event should eventually make its way back to Omaha, where it’ll find a hyped up crowd ready to support the Tourney.

What’s Next?. Kansas now heads to St. Louis to the Sweet Sixteen for a date with North Carolina State next week.  Although the Jayhawks are the #2 seed in the region, many see the Jayhawks as a favorite over the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels due to Kendall Marshall’s injury and the proximity of St. Louis to the KU campus.

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