Big Ten M5: 02.05.16 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on February 5th, 2016

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  1. With Minnesota’s Thursday night loss at Northwestern and Rutgers’ Wednesday night triple-overtime loss vs. Illinois, the Big Ten has two teams that are each 0-10 in conference play, making up two of eight Division I teams that have yet to win a conference game this season. The other six are Boston College, St. John’s, Delaware, Western Illinois, Chicago State and Penn. Minnesota and Rutgers play each other twice this season, with the first matchup in Minneapolis on February 23.
  2. Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes has been invaluable during his team’s five-game winning streak and he was rewarded with a little personal glory on Wednesday. The junior forward earned a spot among the 10 finalists for the Julius Erving Award, which is given to the best small forward in college basketball. Hayes is averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this season. Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine is the other Big Ten small forward among the finalists — the senior is averaging 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. The winner of this award will be announced on April 8.
  3. Illinois’ terrible luck with injuries continues. Center Michael Finke sat out Wednesday’s win against Rutgers with a hip contusion, joining Mike Thorne, Jr. and his persistent knee problems on the bench. Finke did not practice on Monday or Tuesday and is considered day-to-day for now. With Finke’s recent absence, that means that only four Illinois players have played in every game this season. His status for Sunday’s game at Iowa is uncertain.
  4. Both Michigan State and Michigan are dealing with some injury issues before their intrastate rivalry resumes in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon. For the Spartans, point guard Tum Tum Nairn is likely to miss his sixth straight game, while at Michigan, head coach John Beilein finally gave a clear update on guard Caris LeVert, saying there is a chance he could play this weekend. Both teams would certainly like to be at full strength heading into the home stretch.
  5. Jarrod Uthoffs impressive senior year at Iowa has put him in the conversation for Big Ten and National Player of the Year and, as a result, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. Brian Hamilton’s cover story on Uthoff details the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native’s simple, metronomic personality and consistency on a surprising and surging team.
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Big Ten M5: 01.29.16 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on January 29th, 2016

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  1. Iowa lost its first conference game of the year on Thursday at Maryland, 74-68, and perhaps the most surprising part of the loss was Jarrod Uthoff’s poor play. Uthoff had scored double-digit points in every game this year entering Thursday and was shooting 48 percent on both two-pointers and three-pointers. The Terps held him to nine points on 2-13 shooting; Uthoff did not make a field goal in the first half. Eleven of his 13 field goal attempts were jumpers, and he missed them all. Iowa’s loss means no more Big Ten teams are unbeaten in conference play, although the Hawkeyes retain pole position in the conference standings.
  2. Michigan and Penn State will play each other in basketball and hockey on Saturday in the inaugural “Super Saturday – College Hoops and Hockey” doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. The Big Ten announced the teams for the doubleheaders in 2017, 2018 and 2019 on Wednesday. Rutgers and Wisconsin will play in basketball in 2017, while Ohio State and Wisconsin will play hockey. In 2018, Minnesota and Ohio State will take the court and Minnesota and Michigan State will take the ice. Maryland and Illinois square off in basketball in 2019.
  3. Purdue beat Minnesota on Wednesday night, but by a much smaller margin that expected, 68-64. Boilermakers wing Vince Edwards played the game with a bruised patellar tendon suffered in a Jan. 24 loss at Iowa, but logged 39 minutes and scored 24 points to go with eight rebounds. He did not sustain any ligament damage, but admitted his knee was not close to fully healthy. It hasn’t impacted Edwards’ play of late: He is averaging 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his last five games.
  4. Wednesday’s games produced two of the stranger plays of the season. Rutgers, trailing Michigan by eight with 45 seconds to go, tossed a free throw rebound out of bounds because its players thought Michigan’s Zak Irvin was shooting two free throws. Irvin was actually shooting a 1-and-1 and had missed the front end, but no Rutgers player realized that. In Purdue’s win over Minnesota, A.J. Hammons grabbed a rebound with one hand over two Minnesota players. He used one hand because his other hand held his shoe, which fell off earlier in the play. He put his hand inside it and kept playing. That board has to be the most impressive rebound of his college career.
  5. Illinois center Mike Thorne Jr.’s season was considered over when he had meniscus surgery in late November. But he returned to the court for the Illini’s Jan. 19 loss at Indiana. However, he hasn’t played since. He did not play in Thursday’s overtime loss vs. Ohio State, but did pregame work and was a game-day decision. As Scout.com’s Jeremy Werner said Monday, Thorne is no longer eligible for a medical redshirt after playing against Indiana.
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Big Ten M5: 01.22.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on January 22nd, 2016

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  1. Former Boilermaker Robbie Hummel is out for the rest of the season after a mid-December labrum tear while playing overseas in Italy. Upon hearing of his injury, Purdue head coach Matt Painter quickly offered his former star player the chance to rehab at his alma mater and help the current Boilermakers squad as an adviser and mentor. He accepted the offer and will travel with the team and hang around the players as much as possible, while also living with Painter and rehabbing. Hummel considers it an internship of sorts to give him a taste of coaching as a post-playing career possibility.
  2. Michigan is holding its own without injured guard Caris LeVert, but John Beilein said Wednesday the senior is making “encouraging” progress with his lower left leg injury and is “doing more and more” on and off the court. The on-court work is still only light ball-handling and shooting, but he just recently has been able to walk without pain. Beilein said he still is not sure of a return date. In LeVert’s absence, Zak Irvin has found his shooting touch after a bad start: he has made 15 of his last 32 three-point attempts (47 percent).
  3. Rutgers hit a new low Monday, losing to Purdue at home by 50 and furthering the team’s perception as a colossal mess with no improvement in sight. But the school is launching a $100 million athletic facilities project called “R B1G Build,” a move designed to help improve the messy state of Rutgers athletics. The school released a video Wednesday that said athletic director Patrick Hobbs, head basketball coach Eddie Jordan and head football coach Chris Ash will each pledge $50,000 toward the effort. The video came a day after New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed a bill that will allow Rutgers to use $25 million in tax credits toward the project.
  4. Nebraska’s surprising 72-71 road win over Michigan State on Wednesday may say more about the reeling Spartans than the Cornhuskers, but it also revealed a Nebraska offense that has improved significantly from last season. Through seven conference games, Nebraska leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage, shooting 49 percent in conference play. Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star writes that the new freedom of movement rules have contributed to the more efficient offense. Shavon Shields scored 28 points in Wednesday’s win, but foul-prone Michigan State gave him plenty of space to score, perhaps in fear of fouling too much.
  5. Indiana is back in the top 25 and riding an 11-game winning streak, including five in a row to open Big Ten play. The team’s second-leading scorer, James Blackmon Jr., hasn’t played since Dec. 22 and will not play for the rest of the season due to injury. The Hoosiers’ hot streak has caused some fans and media to wonder if Indiana is better without Blackmon. The Indianapolis Star’s Zach Osterman considers the idea ridiculous. Instead, he asks the question, is Indiana better because it had to confront and deal with losing Blackmon? He points to its defensive improvement and determination to play better defense as a big reason why the answer is yes.
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Grading Rutgers’ Corey Sanders: An Incomplete Thus Far

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 13th, 2016

Corey Sanders came to Rutgers with a relatively solid pedigree. As a prep star at the point guard position, he was ranked #62 in ESPN.com‘s top 100 and checked in at #93 on 247sports. Not that anyone thought he was going to completely turn around Rutgers basketball in his freshman season, but the guard has had a bit of an uneven start to careeer. Some of this can be attributed to struggles in adapting to coach Eddie Jordan’s system of Princeton-like movements and cuts. An even bigger reason is that Rutgers has been decimated by injuries, as Deshawn Freeman, Shaquille Doorson and Ibrahima Diallo are all out for the season with various maladies. What that mean is that Rutgers, with only two players 6’8″ or taller, are playing small ball out of necessity. Correspondingly, that means it’s difficult to get a true read on how well Sanders is doing this season.

Corey Sanders is leading Rutgers in scoring despite an uneven first season for Eddie Jordan's team. (Getty)

Corey Sanders is leading Rutgers in scoring despite an uneven first season for Eddie Jordan’s team. (Getty)

The freshman guard is averaging 13.3 PPG, 3.4 APG and 1.6 SPG while shooting 35.2 percent from behind the arc. His assist-to-turnover ratio is a solid if not spectacular 1.12. And when compared with some of the other notable Big Ten point guards’ freshman seasons, his efficiency numbers are generally comparable.

  • Yogi Ferrell (105.3 O-Rating, 18.0 Usage, 45.4% eFG, 25.7% Asst Rate, 24.5 TO%, 1.6% Stls Rate, 30.3% 3pt)
  • Mike Gesell (99.4 O-Rating, 20.2 Usage, 46.6% eFG, 22.5% Asst Rate, 20.5 TO%, 2.8% Stls Rate, 31.7% 3pt)
  • Melo Trimble (116.5 O-Rating, 24.8 Usage, 53.4% eFG, 21.2% Asst Rate, 18.3 TO%, 2.3% Stls Rate, 41.2% 3pt)
  • Derrick Walton (112.2 O-Rating, 18.2 Usage, 53.1% eFG, 19.8% Asst Rate, 19.9 TO%, 1.4% Stls Rate, 41.0% 3pt)
  • Bryant McIntosh (101.4 O-Rating, 23.9 Usage, 48.4% eFG, 32.6% Asst Rate, 20.5 TO%, 0.5% Stls Rate, 36.4% 3pt)
  • Corey Sanders (94.8 O-Rating, 25.0 Usage, 47.1% eFG, 23.6% Asst Rate, 21.9 TO%, 2.8% Stls Rate, 35.2% 3pt)

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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 12th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Ten M5: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 11th, 2016

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  1. Purdue dropped to 14-3 (2-2) on the year after losing to Illinois, 84-70, on Sunday night, and a familiar formula has emerged in each its three losses this season. Turnovers and shoddy offensive play have doomed this team, as AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas combined for only 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting. The defense that has been a constant positive all season failed miserably, as Illinois became the first team to shoot over 50 percent from the field against the Boilermakers in 37 games. Is there trouble in West Lafayette?
  2. The return of Michigan State‘s Denzel Valentine from a four-game injury hiatus did not bring a triple-double or a spectacular stat line. Rather, the senior looked a bit rusty early before scoring 10 second-half points as the Spartans blasted Penn State, 92-65, Sunday afternoon. One key takeaway from this game was that Tom Izzo’s squad might have become even better in its All-American’s absence. Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes have emerged as serious offensive threats, while post play has also improved significantly. If Valentine gets back to the productivity he displayed in the first 12 games of the season, Sparty is definitely on the short list of national championship contenders.
  3. If Indiana didn’t completely offset the stench of its early season play in the Hoosiers’ blowout win over Ohio State on Sunday afternoon, they have certainly come close. Tom Crean’s squad stayed undefeated in league play behind big efforts from big men Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams. Williams was especially productive in scoring a team-high 23 points, but what was more important was that he didn’t commit any momentum-killing turnovers. Indiana held the Buckeyes to a paltry 0.86 points per possession, and if the Hoosiers’ defense continues to improve, Indiana will be a dangerous team going forward.
  4. Crean also added a fourth commitment to his 2016 class on Saturday when Devonte Green pledged to his program. The younger brother of former North Carolina standout Danny Green, the Long Island native is a 6’3″ combo guard whom 247sports rates as the sixth best player from New York. Green is the third guard slated to join the Hoosiers next season, joining other commitments Curtis Jones and Grant Gelon in the backcourt.
  5. Nebraska rolled to its biggest road win in 96 years on Saturday, beating Rutgers by 34 points while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and logging 52 points in the paint. Rutgers is missing some key interior pieces, of course, but the Cornhuskers played arguably one of their best games of the season in getting contributions from everyone. Andrew White III continues to prove that he is one of the best and most efficient scorers in the league, scoring over 20 points (28) for the fifth time this season.
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Big Ten M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on January 1st, 2016

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  1. With Alex Olah out indefinitely, Joey van Zegren started at center for Northwestern in its Wednesday Big Ten opener at Nebraska. But freshman Dererk Pardon stole the show in his college debut, with 28 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Originally slated to redshirt this year, Chris Collins burned Pardon’s redshirt as a result of Olah’s injury. The Cleveland, Ohio, native made a case that he, not van Zegren, should carry the load at center while Olah is out.
  2. Illinois signed wing Kipper Nichols in November as part of its 2016 recruiting class, and the former Tulane signee officially joined and started practicing with the Fighting Illini earlier this week. Nichols, an Ohio native, enrolled and briefly attended class at Tulane this fall. He did not play a game, but he will still likely have to wait until December 2016 to play and will have three and a half years of eligibility left. In addition to Tulane, Nichols held offers from Northwestern, Maryland, Nebraska, Xavier and Butler out of high school. Scout.com originally rated him a three-star prospect in the 2015 class.
  3. Rutgers forward Deshawn Freeman hasn’t played since Nov. 30 because of a knee injury, and was scheduled to be re-evaluated around the start of Big Ten play. Now, he won’t be re-evaluated until the second week of January, keeping him out for at least the first three of Rutgers’ conference games. The junior was averaging 13.1 points per game before his injury.
  4. Indiana guard James Blackmon Jr. missed Wednesday’s 79-72 win over Rutgers with a right knee injury suffered in Monday’s practice. Head coach Tom Crean said it was a non-contact injury suffered during a drill, and is still in the “evaluation stage.” Right now, it’s unclear how serious the injury is or how much time he will miss. The sophomore was averaging 15.8 points per game prior to sustaining the injury.
  5. Illinois is down yet another player after point guard Khalid Lewis missed Wednesday’s loss to Michigan with the mumps, leaving Jaylon Tate as the Illini’s only healthy true point guard. Lewis was kept away from the team with the contagious disease and won’t practice again until healthy. Tate played a career-high 34 minutes in the 78-68 loss, scoring six points and handing out four assists. Illinois’ next game is Sunday at Ohio State.
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Big Ten M5: 12.30.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 30th, 2015

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  1. Conference play tipped off Tuesday night when Purdue earned a 61-55 road victory at Wisconsin. It was your stereotypical Big Ten affair — a defensively dominated grinder — where the game was sealed after two consecutive Dakota Mathias three-pointers in the final 90 seconds. But the star of the night was A.J. Hammons, who contributed 24 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks on the evening. The senior center was able to carry his team to a win despite his teammates shooting only 36 percent from the field and committing 11 turnovers. Next for the Boilermakers will be two home games against projected NCAA Tournament teams Iowa and Michigan.
  2. Speaking of A.J. Hammons, he was selected as the Big Ten POTW for the second time this season on Monday. Hammons has been completely locked in since returning from his early-season suspension where he missed the first two games, but is now averaging 14.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 2.8 BPG on the season. What may be most impressive is the fact that he’s been this effective coming off the bench and barely averaging over 20 MPG. The big man from Gary, Indiana has been one of those rare cases in modern college basketball where a 7-footer stays the full four years and actually improves enough through his tenure to be considered a first round pick. All Big Ten fans should be enjoying his final year in the league while he challenges for Big Ten POTY honors.
  3. Also on Tuesday night, Iowa got its biggest win of the season when the Hawkeyes beat No. 1 Michigan State, 83-70, at home — the Hawkeyes’ first win over a #1 ranked team since 1999 (against UConn). While it was an off-night for Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gessell stepped up and scored 23 points which included going 10 for 12 at the free throw line. Even though the win came against the Spartans without Denzel Valentine, their leader and All American, the win no doubt solidifies Iowa as one of the top four teams in the conference and a contender for the Big Ten title.
  4. It’s been a hard week for Tom Izzo, the loss to Iowa aside. On Monday, the Michigan State coach’s 90-year old father, Carl Izzo, passed away. The elder Izzo had worked Tony Izzo & Sons in Iron Mountain, Michigan, where he had spent most of his adult life. The job of a college coach is inherently difficult and stressful, but coaching days after the loss of a parent must make the task that more cumbersome. The RTC Big Ten microsite sends it thoughts and prayers to the Izzo family.
  5. The opportunities to write about Rutgers in a positive light are few and far between, but in case you haven’t been watching the Scarlet Knights (and why would you), you’ll miss the fact that they have been lead by talented freshman Corey Sanders. The Lakeland, Florida, native is first in the team in scoring (14.0 PPG) and assists (3.5 APG) while also providing respectable defense (98.0 rating). On Monday, he was awarded Big Ten FOTW behind his 21-point, five rebound performance against Farleigh Dickinson. Sander’s potential gives this Rutgers at least a glimmer of hope down the road to build this program upon.
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Evaluating Big Ten Resumes Through the Non-Conference Season

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 29th, 2015

The Big Ten non-conference schedule ended on Sunday and conference play begins this evening when Purdue ventures into the Kohl Center and battles a Bo Ryan-less Wisconsin team at 6:00 PM CT. Now that we’re at this natural evaluation point, the Big Ten microsite has rank-ordered the 14 Big Ten resumes using KenPom rankings instead of RPI — which the selection committee uses — because the RPI does not become a reliable metric until later. The table below displays each resume from best to worst and illustrates each team’s KenPom current ranking, strength of schedule, record against different groups of rankings, best win (and whether it was home, away, or neutral game), and worst loss. Below that we provide a few notes of interest on each resume.

b1g resume 2015

Resume Notes

  • Michigan State: The obvious top pick. Not only are the Spartans undefeated but they have three wins against the KenPom top 25: Kansas (KP#2), Louisville (KP#6), and Florida (KP#22). Tom Izzo usually challenges his teams with difficult non-conference schedules, a tactic which usually leads to a handful of early losses. This year, however, Sparty escaped unscathed. If Michigan State can simply manage to tread water while Denzel Valentine is out of the lineup for two weeks, it will be in the running for the overall #1 NCAA Tournament seed in two months.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers were surprisingly routed by Butler (KP#20) in last week’s Crossroads Classic, but they still have three top 30 wins against Vanderbilt (KP#18), Florida (KP#22), and at Pittsburgh (KP#27). The rest of Purdue’s schedule is generally unremarkable except in that it has dominated its opponents, winning by an average margin of over 20 points per game. Right now, Purdue is headed toward a top-four protected seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Maryland: While the Terrapins didn’t play the most challenging non-conference schedule, they did enough with wins against Connecticut (KP#31), Rhode Island (KP#63), and Georgetown (KP#75) to carry a top-three resume. Their only game against an elite team was at North Carolina, where they put up a valiant fight but eventually succumbed to their only loss. Despite the missed opportunity, Maryland is also in line for a top-four protected seed.

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Evaluating the Big Ten’s Performance in Non-Conference Play

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 29th, 2015

The book has officially been closed on the non-conference portion of the Big Ten schedule. As a collective, the league finished with a 130-49 record. This is a tad worse from last season’s 136-44 mark, and even further down from the conference’s 122-32 mark of two seasons ago. And as much as league official would like to do so, this can’t all be blamed on Rutgers’ 6-7 record to start the season. Despite the fact that the conference appears to have fallen off a bit, there are a number of positives and negatives to glean from this season’s opening chapter.

Northwestern finished up non-conference play with a 12-1 record, putting themselves in position to make their first every trip to the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Northwestern finished up non-conference play with a 12-1 record, putting themselves in position to make their first every trip to the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

A three-team pack has emerged as the clear front-runners heading into conference play. Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue have all impressed and can be viewed as potential Final Four teams. The trio has combined to lose only two games on the year, with both of those defeats coming to teams that are currently ranked in the top 10. Sparty has beaten a whopping seven teams among the KenPom top 100, while the Boilermakers have beaten four and the Terps three. All three of these teams are in line for protected seeds come March if they perform well during conference play.

Among other Big Ten teams, Northwestern has done exactly what it needed to do in getting to 12-1 with its sole loss to preseason No. 1 North Carolina. The Wildcats’ schedule wasn’t arduous but they avoided any resume-disrupting losses. They still may not end up in the NCAA Tournament, depending on how conference play goes, but Chris Collins’ team has done a nice job positioning itself for it. Iowa also really can’t complain after getting to conference play at 9-3. The Hawkeyes put together a 3-3 record against teams in the KenPom top 100, and also avoided the bad loss bugaboo.

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Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on December 25th, 2015

Your class, company, or family probably plays Secret Santa during the holidays. To get in the giving spirit this Christmas, we’ll play Secret Santa with the Big Ten’s 14 teams and coaches. As much fun as it would be to give Richard Pitino more hair gel or Tom Izzo some stilts, we’ll stick to practical basketball-related gifts that each Big Ten coach would be thrilled to unwrap.

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Here are the gifts we gave each coach and team (in alphabetical order):

  • Illinois (John Groce): This is one of the easier teams to shop for: The injury bug has cursed Illinois, so it gets healthy players from Santa. The Fighting Illini are playing this season without their starting point guard (Tracy Abrams), power forward (Leron Black) and center (Mike Thorne, Jr.).
  • Indiana (Tom Crean): Another easy team to shop for. If you haven’t heard of Indiana’s horrific defensive efforts, you’ve been living under a rock. The Hoosiers gave up 70 points to Kennesaw State and 72 to Alcorn State, respectively. Those teams rank 322 and 349 in the KenPom ranks, and average 64.1 and 60.3 PPG, respectively. Crean needs to start thinking of new ways to get his players to play better defense. Santa gives him a “D-Fense” sign that he can throw at players after bad defensive efforts. Better loosen up your arm, Tom.
  • Iowa (Fran McCaffery): The Hawkeyes aren’t elite in any one area, but don’t have a lot of gaping holes. They do struggle to get to the foul line, with a 25.8 free throw rate, which ranks 337th in the nation, per KenPom. Santa gives Iowa more free throw chances, especially to Peter Jok. The junior wing is Iowa’s second-leading scorer, but has attempted just 23 free throws.
  • Maryland (Mark Turgeon): The one knock on the Terps has been turnovers. They turn it over on 20 percent of their possessions and have six players who turn the ball over at least 19 percent of their used possessions. Maryland finds sturdy handles under its tree this year.

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Big Men Standing Out Among Big Ten Freshmen

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 24th, 2015

Fall semesters have wrapped up across Big Ten campuses, and that means that league freshmen have now played 11 to 13 games and put a full semester of the collegiate experience behind them. As usual, their contributions run the gamut. Some have become invaluable parts of their teams; others are playing well but still going under-appreciated in fan circles; while a number of others haven’t yet cracked their teams’ rotations. As we enter the holiday break and look forward to league play starting on Tuesday next week, here is a look at how some of the Big Ten’s freshmen have performed so far this season.

Caleb Swanigan's addition to Purdue has taken this team to new heights in the early season. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Caleb Swanigan has been one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen and has helped make Purdue’s interior defense among the nation’s best. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Five Freshman Stars

(Note: Scout.com used for player ratings)

  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: This former five-star recruit has made Purdue’s front line even tougher than it already was. Purdue likes to play the 6’9″, 260-pounder alongside A.J. Hammons or Isaac Haas, which creates a special circle of hell for opposing teams and allows for more big-to-big passing on offense. Swanigan is averaging 11.2 PPG, 2.5 APG and a league-best 9.3 RPG, but he has exhibited a bit of a turnover problem (3.4 miscues per game).
  • Diamond Stone, Maryland: The No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2015, Stone hasn’t been quite as good as fast as many thought he would be. Nevertheless, he has still put together a fine young season, averaging 10.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG as top-10 Maryland’s starting center. His 18.0 percent offensive rebounding percentage ranks ninth in the country, per KenPom.

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