Big Ten Weekend in Review: Iowa Sparkles While Illinois Falters

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 14th, 2014

The second weekend of the B1G conference season was considerably more exciting than the first, featuring two of the biggest upsets of the early season schedule. Northwestern won a game well before anyone would have predicted, and Iowa got the quality road win that it needed down the line. Meanwhile, Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue all survived nail-biters. Here’s some other highlights from the second weekend in Big Ten play.

Roy Devyn Marble led his team in scoring with 22 points in their upset of Ohio State (Joe Camporeale-USA Today Sports).

Roy Devyn Marble led his team in scoring with 22 points in their upset of Ohio State (Joe Camporeale-USA Today Sports).

Player of the Weekend: Roy Devyn Marble: Noah Vonleh and Denzel Valentine were both worthy candidates here as well, but Marble had a tremendous game against the Buckeyes. The main takeaway from his effort on Sunday afternoon was that he didn’t force anything. In the other losses this season for Iowa, Marble tried a little too hard to take over the game. He scored 27 points in the loss against Wisconsin a week earlier, but needed 24 shots to do it. In this game, he only needed 13 attempts to get to 22 points. He also added four rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks to his all-around floor game. His size was a problem for Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott all day, as he did most of his damage on cuts and drives into the lane. He also was disruptive defensively, using his long arms to get into the passing lanes for steals. When Marble plays within himself and lets the game come to him, Iowa is just that much more dangerous.

Super Sub of the Weekend: Tre Demps: No Dave Sobolewski meant more minutes for Northwestern’s Demps, and he more than took advantage of the opportunity. He was simply an assassin in the second half, hitting three huge three-pointers in the last 6:32 of the game that proved to be the difference in the Wildcats’ 49-43 upset win over Illinois. Demps also chipped in eight rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes of action. The Big Ten’s third leading scorer off the bench might have triggered a permanent move of JerShon Cobb to the point, freeing up more minutes for the sophomore to make more of an impact in future games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Weekend Game To Watch: Iowa Looking For Its Signature Win At Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 5th, 2014

The game to watch this weekend is, without a doubt, today’s match-up of Iowa visiting Wisconsin. It’s the only Big Ten contest this weekend where both teams are ranked, and the Badgers are a robust eight-point favorite according to KenPom.com. This isn’t surprising given that the Badgers have been the most impressive team in the conference and Madison is a tough place for any team to visit. It would therefore seem as if this game is all upside for Fran McCaffery’s group as it has nothing to lose. Thus far, Iowa has been good enough to break into the AP Top 25 and steadily move up the rankings, but not great enough to convince skeptics that the Hawkeyes are poised to battle the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State for the conference title. Iowa needs an impressive road win to convert those doubters and start to make a case for a coveted high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their best hope for doing just that today is to capitalize on the few defensive vulnerabilities of the Badgers.

Aaron White may need a big game on Sunday to get a win in Madison (Brian Ray, The Gazette via AP)

Aaron White may need a big game to get a win in Madison (Credit: Brian Ray/The Gazette via AP)

It will be no small task to get a win at Madison — both teams are highly efficient at scoring (Wisconsin scores 1.17 points per possession vs. Iowa’s 1.16) and the Badgers have the edge on defensive efficiency (0.92 PPP vs. 0.94). Bo Ryan relies on excellent man-to-man defense to deny the other team good looks at the basket; still, Iowa can look to exploit several facets of the Badgers’ defense. More specifically, the Badgers’ lack of a true shot blocker has resulted in a low block percentage of 8.6 percent (206th nationally). If McCaffery can set up Roy Devyn Marble and Jarrod Uthoff on cuts to the basket to draw weak side defenders, even slightly, they can dish it off to Aaron White, who is shooting a blistering 75 percent under the basket. Another flaw in Wisconsin’s defense is that it does not cause many turnovers. This is good for Iowa since it is not turnover-prone itself but does cause opponents to give up the ball at an above-average rate (19.5 percent of possessions).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

An Early Look at the Big Ten POY Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 6th, 2013

We are a little over one-fourth of the way through the season. Non-conference play lasts about another three weeks, and before you know it, New Year’s Eve will arrive and conference games will be here. The Big Ten Player of the Year award is of course won and lost during conference play, but let’s take a very early look at five players who have positioned themselves to possibly be among the favorites for the award (in alphabetical order).

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for POY. (Reuters)

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for Big Ten POY. (Reuters)

  • Keith Appling, Michigan State: Appling has two teammates in Gary Harris (now injured) and Adreian Payne who are also deserving of this award, but it has been the point guard who has done a little bit of everything for the Spartans this year. His impressive stat line of 16.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.0 RPG and 52 percent from deep are conference POY numbers. Perhaps his most impressive performance was against then #1 Kentucky, exploding for 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a consummate performance. If Appling continues to put up big games like that, he might be on track to become the second Spartans’ senior to win Big Ten POY in the last three years (Draymond Green was the other).
  • Tim Frazier, Penn State: It is extremely hard for a player on a team with a losing record to take home the conference POY award, but Frazier could possibly accomplish that this season. He is only averaging 19.4 PPG, but expect that number to rise into the 20s by the time conference play is in full swing. The fifth-year senior is also averaging a league high 7.0 APG and that stat may be underrated too because Frazier will need to get his teammates active on the offensive end of the floor to open up more space for him to work with.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Will the Iowa Hawkeyes Complete Their Comeback Story?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 8th, 2013

It’s been almost a decade since the Hawkeyes have had any preseason expectations. In those 10 years, Iowa chased away Steve Alford, a coach who enjoyed moderate success while at Iowa City, only to see him move on and have a successful run at New Mexico and subsequently take the head job at UCLA. Afterwards, they had to endure Todd Lickliter, who ushered in an era of hopelessness. Lickliter compiled the worst three-year record in Iowa history at 38-58. Aside from the losses, Iowa’s brand took a hit from dwindling attendance and rumors of player dissatisfaction with the coach. In 2010, they fired Lickliter and hired Fran McCaffery from Siena. Since then, McCaffery has steadily returned the program back to relevance. In his first season he won 11 games and has improved his record by seven wins the past two seasons. Now, coming off a year where the Hawkeyes went 25-13 and were NIT runners-up, the media and fans expect this squad in the NCAA Tournament come March. Anything less will be considered a disappointment and will ruin this comeback story.

Roy Devyn Marble leads an Iowa team that has expectations for the first time in almost a decade.

Roy Devyn Marble leads an Iowa team that has expectations for the first time in almost a decade.

The Hawkeyes were extremely effective on defense, especially away from the basket. Last season, they held opponents to 91.2 points per 100 possessions (22nd in the country) and only allowed opponents to shoot 29.5 percent from both the three-point line and jumpers inside the arc. If there is an area in which they can improve, it would be their interior defense where opponents shot 62.2 percent at the rim. While the Hawkeyes gave up a high percentage of buckets from down low, they managed to prevent opponents from getting in the paint. Less than three out of every 10 of their opponents’ shots came at the rim. McCaffery has always been more of an offensive-minded coach, but with virtually every player coming back, there is no reason to think the defense will slip.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s the Best 3-Point Shooter in the Big Ten? An Analytical Look…

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

The title of this post asks a pretty straightforward question: Who is the best shooter from deep in the Big Ten? Seems simple enough. But how do you define the “best” three-point shooter? Is it the player who makes the most threes? Is it the player who makes the highest percentage of his threes? Is it the shooting specialist who contributes the most to his team’s wins?  The best approach, of course, is to appreciate all three characteristics. So let’s do exactly that and look into the numbers.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year. (AP)

First, we need to create a list of players in the Big Ten who meet certain criteria. For the purpose of this analysis, we will only include returning Big Ten players and use last season’s statistics for measurement. While we recognize that freshmen can be highly effective from long range right out of the gate — look no further than Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas last year — we have no set methodology for projecting freshman output from their high school performance. Therefore, in the interest of convenience, no freshmen are included in this list. The next criterion is that players must have attempted at least 100 3-pointers last season and shot at least 30 percent from deep. This filters out players with a high percentage from a small sample size of 3-point attempts and gunners who put up too many bricks to be considered top-tier shooters.

The table below displays our initial list of candidates given those criteria, and their pertinent statistics from the 2012-13 season (from basketball-reference.com).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part I

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 29th, 2013

It’s that time of the year when fans get their usual dose of preseason predictions. One of the usual mechanisms in this onslaught is the “Coaches on the Hot Seat” list where writers identify those coaches whose job status relies on the success of their upcoming season. Each preseason in the Big Ten, previously successful coaches routinely find themselves on this list and almost never escape it. The conference is widely considered to have the best head coaches of any league which makes wins tough to come by. This competition leads to very good coaches experiencing disappointing seasons, finding themselves on the hot seat, and then eventually being fired. Last year, it was Tubby Smith at Minnesota who found himself without a job in April.  A national championship-winning coach at Kentucky, Smith led the Golden Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament win in 16 years (and, actually, longer since the NCAA vacated the 1996-97 season after charging Minnesota with academic fraud). The year before that, it was Bruce Weber at Illinois standing in the unemployment line. A former National Coach of the Year and NCAA Tournament runner-up, Weber won 100 more games than he lost over a nine-year stint. And there are others. All this goes to show that in this league, being a talented head coach might get you in the door, but it won’t save you from the hot seat.

Relax, Coach Crean.  You many have lost two NBA lottery picks.  But you're not going anywhere.

Relax, Coach Crean. You may have lost two NBA lottery picks. But you’re not going anywhere.

This year is a little different.  Barring any unforeseen scandals, there seems to be no Big Ten coaches who are in immediate danger of losing their jobs. So here at the RTC Big Ten microsite, we have instead decided to look at the coaches around the league and examine their current situations: Why are they not in danger of having to endure a sad and uncomfortable final press conference at the end of the year? In the interest of brevity, we will not review the likes of Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Thad Matta or Bo Ryan. Their current situations can be summed up in these words: They are awesome at coaching college basketball and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  For the rest of the Big Ten’s eight coaches, things are a little more nuanced. Here’s why:

John Groce (Illinois): I listed in a previous post Groce’s accomplishments from last year. Those include a trip to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament from a roster that had all but given up the year before. But more importantly, Groce has secured quite a bit of outstanding talent for the future of his program. A bevy of promising transfers and recruits are set to join the Illini this year and next. His program is in a position to start challenging for Big Ten titles as early as 2014-15, and if Groce can land a commitment from Top 10 recruit Cliff Alexander next month, Illini fans can start dreaming even bigger. He’s in good shape.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Rise of Aaron White and the Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 28th, 2013

College basketball junkies like myself stretch for almost anything hoops-related to keep us going in the offseason. The summer months can be especially cruel. So when we find out about things like the World University Games, we pay attention. We check the rosters when the tryouts are over and usually there are some surprises. Iowa’s Aaron White was one of these surprises. Outside of those that follow the B1G on a regular basis, not many casual fans know about White. But with Iowa getting its share of (justifiable) hype given how the Hawkeyes finished last season, and what they have coming back, White has a chance to become a household name with the program rejoining national relevance. He doesn’t have to be a superstar, but if he can make incremental improvements along with a couple of the other returnees, Iowa will no doubt challenge for a top quarter finish in the league, and with it, a high seed in the NCAAs.

Aaron White looks to lead Iowa back a regular spot in the top 25 (Brian Ray, AP)

Aaron White looks to lead Iowa back a regular spot in the Top 25 (Brian Ray, AP)

White had a nice sophomore year, but nothing to make someone think he was necessarily ready to stand alongside other World University Games players like Doug McDermott, Luke Hancock, and conference names like Yogi Ferrell and Adreian Payne. He led Iowa in rebounding at 6.2 boards per game, and was the second leading scorer with an average of 12.8 PPG. These are nice numbers, but not anything to get too excited about. Where he really shined last year, though, was in getting to the free throw line. He shot an astronomical 258 free throws last season, good for 6.8 attempts per game, and over 40 minutes per contest, he drew an average of 6.5 fouls per game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The ACC in the NIT: Previewing Maryland vs. Iowa

Posted by KCarpenter on April 2nd, 2013

Raise your hand if you had Maryland as the last ACC team still playing basketball in April. Sure, the Terrapins are only playing in the NIT, but for Mark Turgeon’s crew that means something. In Maryland’s most recent win against Alabama, the team showed flashes of the talent that many had predicted for it headed into the season. Specifically, Alex Len, who has disappeared for long stretches during the season, dominated the Crimson Tide on his way to a 15-point, 13-rebound and five-block performance to lead his team to a one-point win. The inconsistent Maryland that muddled its way through the conference schedule seems to have mostly disappeared. It’s a good thing too, because Iowa, the Terps’ next foe tonight in Madison Square Garden, is a bit of a ringer.

Alex Len, Maryland

Alex Len is Playing Good Basketball Again (AP Photo)

According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Hawkeyes currently rate as the 21st best team in the country, largely on the basis of its 19th-ranked defense (Maryland ranks 48th and 33rd, respectively). By these measures, Iowa is head and shoulders above its NIT fellows, and easily the best team to not make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Like Maryland, Iowa sometimes struggles to shoot the ball consistently, but it plays such tough defense and rebounds so tenaciously that poor shooting is unlikely to sink the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately for the Terps, one of their greatest strengths is vulnerable to Iowa.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The ACC in the NIT: Virginia and Maryland Poised to Square Off

Posted by KCarpenter on March 27th, 2013

Sure it’s not as prestigious as the Big Dance, but one ACC team has already punched it’s ticket to a “final four” even if it isn’t the Final Four. Maryland narrowly defeated Alabama to claim the first berth in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden last night. Tonight Virginia will square off against Iowa for the privilege of challenging the Terps for a spot in the NIT Final. Of course,  for Virginia to get there, the Cavaliers must defeat Iowa, a potentially very challenging task.

It's Bedlam in College Park as the Terps Make the NIT Final Four (Yahoo Sports)

It’s Bedlam in College Park as the Terps Make the NIT Final Four — Or Not (Yahoo Sports). 

By Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, Iowa is the best team in the country that wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, with Virginia a close second. The two teams are quite similar: both feature stout defenses and unbalanced offenses that primarily feature two stars.  While the Wahoos thrive on the sweet shooting of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, the Hawkeyes get most of their offensive mileage out of the uncanny abilities of Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White to get to the free throw line. Together, the pair has combined for 320 made free throws this season. White, in particular, has a free throw rate of 86.6%, averaging nearly seven free throw attempts per game in less than 30 MPG. In 40 minutes, that projects to drawing 6.6 fouls per game. This doesn’t seem like a big deal for a team like Virginia, which is generally very good at avoiding fouls, but it could be a problem in terms of its front line depth. Freshmen Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte have been excellent complementary pieces for the Cavaliers, but both still foul too much.  Averaging 4.1 and 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively, the two seem likely candidates for disqualification against the savvy play of White and Marble.

Still, the Cavaliers have two things that the Hawkeyes don’t: notably, home court advantage and Harris. Harris has had only a mild showing in the NIT so far, which, unfortunately for Iowa, may portend a big game due for the versatile guard. Iowa is likely the better team and the Hawkeyes probably expect to dominate the boards against Virginia, but between the offensive wizardry of Harris and the significant edge of playing in Charlottesville, Virginia has a very good chance to get to the NIT semifinals.

Then, if the Cavaliers can get to Madison Square Garden, they can look forward to a tilt with the same Terrapins whom they swept in conference play. A strong showing in the NIT doesn’t do much for conference pride, but it sure does a lot more than losing early in the NIT.

Share this story

Some Predictions for Individual Big Ten Awards This Season

Posted by jnowak on November 12th, 2012

With the season getting under way, the Big Ten Microsite writers put their heads together and predicted who will come away with some conference hardware this season. Take a look:

  • Big Ten Player of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana — A pretty easy choice, all things considered. Zeller is the best player returning to the consensus No.1 team in the country, and a near unanimous selection to be an Associated Press preseason All-American. The sophomore center has it all — good hands, smarts, a nose for the ball around the basket, and runs the floor well. This is his award to lose.
  • All-Big Ten First Team: Cody Zeller, Indiana – see above; Trey Burke, Michigan – the conference’s best point guard who had a breakout season as a freshman and flirted with the NBA; Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State — another AP preseason All-American poised to be a star with the departure of Jared Sullinger; Tim Frazier, Penn State – the conference’s most dangerous scorer, but with plenty of pressure on his shoulders; Drew Crawford, Northwestern — Crawford should be the go-to guy in Evanston this season, with the perimeter all to himself to do what he does best.

No surprise here: Indiana’s Cody Zeller is our preseason Big Ten Player of the Year (Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

  • All-Big Ten Second Team: Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota – a constant double-double threat on the mend from ACL surgery; Aaron Craft, Ohio State — perhaps the best floor general and defensive player in the league; Keith Appling, Michigan State – a true scorer who can find his groove in Michigan State’s fast-paced offense; Brandon Paul, Illinois – the best player on an Illinois team trying to find itself; Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa – a big part of the resurgence in Iowa City. (Others considered: Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin; Derrick Nix, Michigan State; Terone Johnson, Purdue)
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Craft, Ohio State – A predictable choice for a guy who has already won the award once and has been on the All-Big Ten Defensive Team each of his first two seasons in Columbus. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

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.
Share this story