Evaluating Big Ten Freshmen After the Non-Conference Season: Part Two

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 4th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

In case you missed it earlier this week, we evaluated the freshmen from Indiana, Michigan and Iowa after the non-conference season. Today, we look into the true freshmen from Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue.

Gary Harris has shown flashes of brilliance so far but is capable of more for Michigan State (Detroit News)

Gary Harris has shown flashes of brilliance so far but is capable of more for Michigan State (Detroit News)

Michigan State: Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine

Harris has been a tease with the Spartans so far this season. He has shown flashes of brilliance such as against Kansas when he scored 18 points by consistently cutting to the hoop to make easy layups. Since that game, however, he has not been overly impressive with his scoring because he has settled for the three-point shot too much. Harris can improve his long-range shooting from 31% but his main strength lies in the ability to score around the basket. Against the Gophers he was 1-of-5 from beyond the arc but needs to better play to his strengths during the conference season. Overall, he hasn’t disappointed with his 12.3 PPG in 26.5 MPG but he will continue to be called upon to pick up some scoring slack especially if Keith Appling draws the best defending guard from the opposition. While Harris’ role is clearly defined, his fellow freshmen guard Valentine has been a jack of all trades for Tom Izzo. Valentine can best be described as a “grinder” with his style of play. His statistics aren’t impressive – just 6.0 PPG in 22.3 MPG, but Valentine is an excellent rebounder for a guard (4.3 RPG) and has shown a knack for playing excellent defense. Rarely do you find a player who will impress Izzo as a freshman because Michigan State always has great upperclassmen, but you can tell that Valentine will be a special player in East Lansing by the time he leaves campus. Expect him to average about 23 MPG and help the Spartans on the defensive end during the rigorous Big Ten season.

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Controversial Foul Call Not Purdue’s Only Problem in Rough Start

Posted by KTrahan on November 16th, 2012

The first thing that Purdue fans will likely blame for the Boilermakers’ 89-81 loss Thursday night is a controversial flagrant foul call on D.J. Byrd. The call gave Villanova four straight points, which the Wildcats wouldn’t have been able to get without the call. Whatever you think of the officiating — the call in question was an elbow by Byrd — that wasn’t the only thing that factored into the loss, writes Jeff Washburn of the. Lafayette Journal and Courier.

Matt Painter Would Surely Like to Have the Bucknell and Villanova Games Back

One call doesn’t win or lose a game, and had the Boilermakers been crisper at the finish or been less sluggish at the start, they likely would have won the game. Purdue used a 21-4 second half run to get back into the game, but, as Washburn points out, “rushed some shots, and at times, played like its hair was on fire, as Painter likes to say, meaning that the Boilermakers played at a helter-skelter pace when it was not necessary.” Purdue also shot just 57.1 percent from the free throw line — whereas Villanova shot 80.5 percent — allowing the Wildcats to stay in the game. The loss drops the Boilermakers to 1-2 with the consolation game of the 2K Sports Classic against Oregon State coming up Friday night.

This is a very young Purdue team, so nights like Thursday night figured to happen early in the year. When three freshmen see significant minutes, and one starts and plays 32 minutes, you can expect some inconsistency. This team has a lot of talent, and it will be very good a few years down the road. However, the Boilers have a lot of growing up to do in order to be competitive in the Big Ten this season.

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Big Ten M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 5th, 2012

  1. Exhibition games don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the season, but you get a good first look at the freshmen. Michigan State’s Gary Harris is arguably the most interesting freshman in the conference and will be scrutinized especially as Branden Dawson tries to get back to 100% after an ACL injury. After two exhibition games, Harris has impressed Tom Izzo on the offensive end of the court. He looked really good off the dribble in the game against Northwood and scored 14 points. However, he admits that he needs to be more effective on defense specifically against the pick-and-roll. Izzo will demand Harris’ improvement on defense but his offensive production will help the Spartans during the non-conference season.
  2. Speaking of freshmen in the league, Purdue has a couple of good guards who are expected to contribute immediately. Even though Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis were not ranked in the top 30 by Rivals coming out of high school, both of them have the talent to be very good players in the league. Each of the freshman guards scored 16 points in Purdue’s exhibition win over Newberry with Davis scoring all of his points in the second half. Ronnie Johnson may be the primary point guard in the rotation after the departure of Lewis Jackson but Davis will play a significant role off the bench. Guard Terone Johnson (9.1 PPG last season) will carry the offensive load for the Boilermakers; he scored 18 points in the exhibition.
  3. As Matt Painter tries to incorporate new talent into the rotation, Bo Ryan has to figure out how to replace Josh Gasser at the point guard position. Every guard on the roster will need to help out with Gasser’s loss and the latest scrimmage in Madison has obviously led to more scrutiny of the guards. Redshirt freshman George Marshall has been impressive and appears to be the frontrunner to replace Gasser. Traevon Jackson‘s jumpers were a good sign and Ben Brust showed why his minutes will increase this season — Brust averaged 7.3 PPG in 21 MPG last season and is expected to play a key role in the backcourt. Ryan once again praised Frank Kaminsky, a forward who has a good jumper for a big guy which fits perfectly in the Ryan’s offensive system.
  4. The Iowa Hawkeyes are considered a sleeper in the Big Ten mainly due to their underclassmen such as Aaron White (11.1 PPG) and Adam Woodbury. Junior wing Roy Devyn Marble (11.5 PPG) will be their primary scorer offensively, but Fran McCaffery believes that Eric May, the only senior with a scholarship on the roster, needs to be effective for Iowa to meet their lofty expectations this season. May averaged 4.3 PPG in 14.7 PPG last year but wants to be a lock-down defender for the Hawkeyes during his final season. May is supposed to be in “great shape” according to the coaches and Iowa will definitely need somebody to set the tempo on the defensive end after losing Matt Gatens to graduation. They will push the tempo and play a fast brand of basketball but if they are not able to defend, McCaffery’s team will fall short of making the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Speaking of former Big Ten seniors, Illinois’ Mike Davis was drafted as the fifth overall player in the NBA Development League over the weekend. Davis had a solid career at Illinois as he averaged at least 11 PPG from his sophomore season on. He was not highly recruited out of high school but former Illini coach Bruce Weber appreciated his work ethic and intensity. Davis also averaged eight rebounds per game during the final three seasons, and he has the size (6’9″) to continue to play professional basketball at some level for a few years. He might not make the NBA but he can certainly work his way out of the Development League and possibly play in Europe for a few seasons.
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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 M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 1st, 2012

  1. This is almost certainly not the way John Beilein and Michigan wanted to start a 2012-13 campaign that’s so filled with promise. Because of an unspecified “violation of team standards,” sophomore point guard and preseason All-American Trey Burke will sit out the team’s season debut when it takes on Northern Michigan in an exhibition game Thursday in Ann Arbor. Burke broke the university record for assists in a season last year, but it’ll be freshman Spike Albrecht starting in his place during the one-game suspension and handling the assist duties for the Wolverines. “Trey will sit out the first game as a result of some ‘out of character’ decisions he now regrets,” Beilein said in a statement, according to AnnArbor.com. “We believe he has learned a valuable lesson and we are confident he will grow from this experience.” This does not seem like a situation that will adversely affect the Wolverines’ regular season, but nobody likes to start the season with a distraction like this.
  2. If there’s one way to describe Ohio State over the last few years, it may be that less is more. The Buckeyes have been regular Big Ten and national title contenders over the last decade or so, but they’ve never done it with much depth. This year could bring something Buckeye fans aren’t used to. Coach Thad Matta indicated this week that Ohio State will be rotating more players than usual this season, with a possibility for six or seven different lineups. Things did not go off without a hitch in the Buckeyes’ exhibition opener on Tuesday — a 83-71 win over Walsh College — but Matta did tinker with the lineup, sending out a different starting five at the beginning of the game then again after halftime. Ten players saw the floor for Ohio State, and eight played at least 14 minutes. If this stays true to form, that many Matta-recruited top-notch athletes over the course of 40 minutes could give teams fits this year.
  3. As for the depth at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers took a hit in advance of their first exhibition game with an injury to freshman Wally Ellenson. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune,  the 6-foot-4 guard broke a bone in the middle finger of his left hand during a rebounding drill this week when it got caught on a teammate’s jersey. Coach Tubby Smith said it was a clean break and it is expected to keep Ellenson out of game action for 6-8 weeks. Now, Smith says, a redshirt could be in order. “He was playing well and he probably wasn’t going to be [redshirted], but it’s going to be something that we’re going to probably consider at this juncture,” Smith said.
  4. If you have any doubt that the state of Indiana is basketball mecca, just tune into Big Ten basketball this season to see some of the conference’s brightest young stars who hail from the Hoosier State. It’ll be players like Gary Harris at Michigan State, Glenn Robinson at Michigan and Yogi Ferrell at Indiana who are expected to make an instant impact when they suit up as first-year players. Purdue will also rely on the young talent of in-state talent with Ronnie Johnson on the rise. And that’s just the short list. For some more Indiana-bred talent, check out Michael Pointer’s story from the Indianapolis Star. Or just stay tuned for what ought to be an awesome season of hoops in the Midwest.
  5. Evidently, Purdue basketball will be a name game this season. As Jeff Washburn writes, if the Boilermakers’ exhibition opener is any indication, Big Ten fans can get used to hearing about the Johnsons in West Lafayette this winter. Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson and Ronnie Johnson led the way for Purdue in its 70-61 win against Montevallo on Tuesday night, and those three are expected to be at the forefront all year long. As mentioned earlier, Ronnie is a highly-touted freshman with a big future while Terone and Anthony will also help provide formidable backcourt depth. They combined for 47 of Purdue’s 70 points in the exhibition game.
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Big Ten M5: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 30th, 2012

  1. College basketball has a lot of diverse talent across the nation among its various conferences, regardless of their size and popularity. Especially with so many good mid-major programs receiving positive coverage over the years, there are few consensus agreements among the media. In this partisan environment, Indiana’s Cody Zeller has been selected for the preseason All-America team by all of the AP voters except for one. The near-unanimous pick is a rarity in today’s competitive hoops’ landscape. The sophomore forward received 64 votes and two other Big Ten players were selected as well – Michigan’s Trey Burke and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Burke tied for the fifth slot with Lehigh’s C.J.McCollum. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan make up the rest of this year’s preseason All-America team.
  2. After injuries to Mike Breusewitz and Josh Gasser, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan understands that he has some holes in his lineup. But Ryan seems optimistic and realizes that the next player in line will step up and fill the void. Sports Illustrated explains that Ryan,  after 41 years in the coaching business, doesn’t get “alarmed” or “nervous” when thinking about replacing experienced players on his squad. Brueusewitz will be back in a few weeks but Gasser will miss the entire season due to an ACL injury. The Wisconsin assistant coaches speak highly of redshirt freshman guard George Marshall, who took advantage of last season by practicing and learning from All-American guard Jordan Taylor. Ryan mentions that he prefers “well-blended” teams that don’t specifically focus on a single player to carry the load on either end of the court. Tough to disagree with a philosophy that has resulted in consistent success in Madison, but Marshall and Traevon Jackson will need to get up to speed quickly during the non-conference season after Gasser’s loss.
  3. Another coach who is very optimistic about his young team’s chances to make the NCAA tournament is Iowa’s Fran McCaffery. He is challenging his younger players to bring Iowa basketball back to relevance at the national stage after several years of mediocrity. He strongly believes that the loss of Matt Gatens’ production will be filled by junior wing Roy Devin Marble (11.5 PPG). Marble is described as “incredibly cerebral” and is expected to take the leap to the next level this season. Iowa hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and with a young core of Aaron White, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell, the fans are hopeful with their expectations. Sophomore Aaron White averaged 11 PPG in just 24 MPG and his production should increase as he appears to be one of the primary scoring options now in the wake of Gatens’ departure.
  4. There have been several changes in the Illinois athletic department over the last two years. Long time athletic director Ron Guenther left the program so Mike Thomas was hired to revive Illinois athletics. Thomas then replaced both the football and the basketball coaches within a span of 12 months (which doesn’t happen very often in major programs). Football head coach Tim Beckman is off to a rough start in Champaign as his team is off to a 2-6 start, but John Groce’s performance will be under review as the basketball season tips off in two weeks. The Daily Illini discusses the pressure on Groce as he takes over a program that arguably is in the “rebuilding phase.” The overall energy level within the program is very high with Groce’s arrival but his coaching abilities will be immediately scrutinized during the non-conference season. Without a true big man in the post like Meyers Leonard, expectations are not very high but that doesn’t necessarily give Groce too much of a cushion if the losses begin to pile up during the first two months.
  5. Speaking of rebuilding, Purdue’s Matt Painter has several new faces in West Lafayette. None of the “Baby Boilers” are around anymore, but Painter has been in this situation after the departures of Carl Landry and David Teague at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. Even though Purdue has a young freshman core of center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson, D.J.Byrd doesn’t want this year’s team to be considered “Baby Boilers II.” Robbie Hummel’s class was a special one and this squad will need to form its own identity. Byrd (8.9 PPG) and Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) will provide  great leadership but the jury is still out on such a young squad with nine freshmen and sophomores. Ronnie Johnson is expected to take over the point guard position after Lewis Jackson’s departure.
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Highlighting 11 Freshmen Ready to Play Big Roles on Their New Teams

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

It is not hard to predict the nation’s top freshmen in a given season. Typically, general recruiting rankings do a pretty decent job aiming at a consensus. They pinpoint the players offering the greatest upside and promise at the college level, with an eye toward NBA potential. And most of the time, they are right. We watched this phenomenon unfold last season in the grandest fashion, when the Kentucky Wildcats took in another batch of top recruits, coalesced into a cohesive unit, captivated the college hoops landscape with an unprecedented brand of togetherness and selflessness, and shattered old axioms about the importance of  experience and veteran leadership in the NCAA Tournament, all en route to a national championship. To be clear: 2011-12 Kentucky’s freshmen were not what we call elite; they were special, precocious in so many ways, far ahead of expected developmental paths. Not every top 10 recruit is an Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd Gilchrist or Marquis Teague. Most of the time, the blue chippers – the recruiting crème de la crème, the five-stars, or whatever moniker works for you – are extremely capable players with high developmental curves, packaged with a specific trait (athleticism, floor vision, shot-blocking, you name it) that separates them from the rest of the pack. If you can land one of these players, your team, needless to say, is extremely fortunate. Sealing one of these guys means instant credibility and, if all goes according to plan, success.

So much of the Sun Devils’ season depends on Jahii Carson’s ability to produce right away (Photo credit: US Presswire).

There are times when these recruiting gems don’t pan out at the next level, when lower-ranked players outplay their more-touted classmates. This can happen for a number of reasons. Often times, it has to do with opportunity, the sheer need-based requirements certain programs afford to incoming freshmen. When teams lose a significant number of minutes of starters from the previous season, freshmen – whatever their star ranking – are often asked to step in and fill the void. These players are in better position to have big debut seasons than higher-ranked freshmen who get buried on the depth charts (or redshirt) of deep and experienced rosters. It’s why some prospects spurn established programs with winning track records to chase more playing time at a less-prominent hoops locale. They step on campus expecting to play right away. Coaches have long since used this carrot as a recruiting trick. My job is to pin down these players. By surveying each team’s positional needs, and the recruiting work they did to fill those needs, I’ve come up with a group of newcomers who figure to play important roles on their respective teams. Selections may coincide with the top-end of 2012’s recruiting rankings, but inclusion is based more on circumstance than bare talent and scouting merits.

Jahii Carson – Arizona State. Unless Arizona State shows significant improvement in 2012-13, just one year after posting a 10-21 record and 10th place finish in an abysmal Pac-12, coach Herb Sendek’s seventh season at the school could be his last. Preventing that fateful outcome will hinge largely on Carson’s ability to navigate the backcourt and facilitate the Sun Devils’ offense, whose 98.4 adjusted offensive efficiency rating ranked near the bottom of Pac-12 teams, according to kenpom.com. Carson, who was ruled an academic non-qualifier last season, will be handed the reins on offense. He spurned offers from the likes of UCLA, Arizona, Washington and Memphis to stay in his home state. Now Carson has the chance to prove he made the right decision.

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Who’s Got Next? More Eligibility Issues, Prospects Discuss Midnight Madness, Big Men Make Big Commitments

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 19th, 2011

 

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Trio of Class of 2011 Prospects Experiencing Eligibility Issues

This Is Probably How Bill Self Reacted When His Two Top Freshmen Were Ruled Ineligible.

Kansas Duo Out For 2011-12 Season, Louisville’s Blackshear In Danger. Kansas freshmen small forward Ben McLemore  and power forward Jamari Traylor were ruled ineligible by the NCAA, head coach Bill Self announced Friday. The pair of forwards were declared partial qualifiers meaning they can’t take part in any team activities until the beginning of the second semester and can’t participate in any games in the upcoming basketball season. This comes as a shocker since the Jayhawks’ coaching staff thought the duo would indubitably qualify although this isn’t the first time Kansas has had trouble with freshman qualifying. Just last month, the NCAA deemed freshman power forward Braeden Anderson a partial qualifier who can’t accept a scholarship for the 2011-12 school year. Louisville freshman shooting guard Wayne Blackshear is also undergoing eligibility issues. Although Cardinal head coach Rick Pitino remains optimistic regarding Blackshear’s chances of being cleared, this isn’t the first time a Louisville freshman faced eligibility issues either. Last month, shooting guard Kevin Ware (yes, that Kevin Ware) was ruled ineligible for the year although he could play games in the spring semester if his SAT scores increase (which he’ll be re-taking next week).

What They’re Saying [About Midnight Madness]

We’ve had a lot of coverage here at RTC on Midnight Madness from the best events to the best dunks and the best stories via Twitter, but now we get to take a look at what the best prospects in the country had to say about the celebrations to kick off the college basketball year.

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Around The Blogosphere: July 29, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • 2011 Cougar Hardwood Classic: Washington State, Pepperdine To Play At Key Arena: “Another year, another mid-major conference opponent.” (Coug Center)
  • Michigan Expected to Face Arkansas During 2011-12 Season: “ESPN’s Andy Katz is reporting that Michigan is likely to add Arkansas to its 2011-12 schedule. Katz notes that the Arkansas game is expected to be lined up sometime during the Big Ten season.” (UM Hoops)
  • The latest on LSU transfer Garrett Green: An update on Indiana’s attempt to land the 6’11” center. (Inside the Hall)
  • Turgeon Will Play Four Guards “on a Consistent Basis”: “A four-guard look, ala old-school Villanova, is pretty much the only way Maryland can get five ACC-starter-level players on the floor at the same time. They’ll obviously be left with a pretty massive size deficiency, but it’s nothing Maryland fans aren’t familiar with: remember, this is the team that made the NCAA tournament with a 6-6 center. I’m assuming they’ll try to run-and-gun to make up for the overall lack of size, pushing the tempo in an attempt to tire out the bigger players.” (Testudo Times)
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