Big Ten Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Conference Tournament Preview

After a thrilling regular season, it’s on to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Despite being a three-seed, Ohio State has to be considered the favorite given how well they ended the regular season. If either Michigan State or OSU wins the Big Ten Tournament, they will get strong consideration for a one-seed. Teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue can all improve their NCAA Tournament seeds with strong showings this weekend.

Northwestern is the only clear bubble team in the conference, and as such is under the most pressure to string some wins together. If the Wilcats can beat Minnesota in the first round, they’ll face a Michigan team that they only lost to twice this season, though both losses came in overtime. Two wins in the Big Ten tournament should make them a virtual lock for their first-ever tournament birth, but it’s much easier said than done with this level of competition.

A Look Back

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 17th, 2012

  1. Wednesday night’s 67-62 loss to Purdue may have been the nail in the coffin as far as Bruce Weber‘s job goes at Illinois, and it only seems more so when you hear the coach address the situation. Weber sounded defeated after the game, claiming responsibility for many of the team’s shortcomings and admitting he should have done some things differently to help the Fighting Illini better succeed. “The sad thing about the whole thing — and I guess it’s my fault — is instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year,” Weber said, according to the Decatur Herald-Review. “That’s really sad.”
  2. What a difference a year makes in Bloomington. As the Indianapolis Star‘s Bob Kravitz points out, it wasn’t long ago that 20-win seasons were the norm for the Indiana basketball program. Then Kelvin Sampson happened. Tom Crean was brought in to pick up the pieces and, all of a sudden, Hoosiers fans were stuck with 20-loss seasons instead. But after going 12-20 a season ago, the Hoosiers have reached that 20-win plateau and it seems finally safe to say that basketball is back in Bloomington.
  3. When you think of great freshmen in the Big Ten, the names that quickly come to mind are Cody Zeller, Trey Burke, and Branden Dawson. But Iowa‘s Aaron White has been as good as any newcomer this season, and seems to have quite the future ahead of him with the Hawkeyes. White is averaging 10.2 PPG and a team-best 5.2 RPG and, after he was only lightly recruited out of high school, is quickly making coach Fran McCaffery look very bright for bringing him on board.
  4. Earlier this week, we took a look at the Big Ten’s four legitimate title contenders and what their remaining schedules mean for their quest for the crown. On Thursday,‘s Nick Baumgardner examined the four most important players for those contenders. And if you think the list is a no-brainer, with guys like Big Ten Player of the Year candidates Jared Sullinger and Draymond Green, think again.
  5. Michigan State‘s do-everything senior Draymond Green likes to talk a big game, but he’s also shown that he can back it up. Green is one of just a handful of front-runners for Big Ten Player of the Year,  but says he sometimes wishes he was playing in the past. “They changed the rules,” Green told the Detroit Free Press, in reference to the difference between the game now and in the ’80s. Not just all the talking, but “you could chuck somebody and get away with it. You could slam somebody and get away with it.” Right now, Green will have to settle for letting his game do most of the talking.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 16th, 2012

  1. Not only was Indiana‘s 71-66 win over Northwestern a good one for the Hoosiers in terms of the Big Ten race and their NCAA profile, it was an important milestone for Tom Crean. After the first couple years of Crean’s tenure  at Indiana, he had a few 20-loss seasons on his resume, that that obviously was not good enough for the Indiana faithful. But Crean’s squad has turned the corner, and now boasts a 20-win season after their victory over the Wildcats. Not only should Hoosier fans be happy about the culture being changed back to a winning one, Indian also a much-needed win over Northwestern, who they were 1-6 against in their last seven against before last night.
  2. The game between Purdue and Illinois was a turning point of sorts for both schools, as each needed a win desperately, and it was the Boilermakers who not only got the victory, but grabbed it on the road. As the Illini continue to reel, Purdue has won two in a row after losing four out of their previous five. With a record of 17-9, 7-6 in the Big Ten, Purdue could very well be dancing in March if they keep up their winning ways. Also, grabbing a win in Champaign against a team that wanted it just as bad may show that Robbie Hummel and Co. may finally be coming together at the right time.
  3. It will be a battle tonight between Michigan State and Wisconsin, which has been one of the best basketball rivalries in the conference over the last few years. What has been a battle for the Badgers this season has been making shots. Wisconsin is the second-worst shooting team in the Big Ten this season at 42%, and if they want to try and win a conference championship, that number is going to have to go up. It will start with Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, and their teammates making a concerted effort to try and get to the basket and find better shots. If they are able to do that, and the #1 scoring defense in the conference can continue to hold opponents to 50 PPG, Wisconsin will be tough to beat.
  4. I know that if you are reading this site, you love college basketball. I’m going to assume if you are like me, you also like free food. Well, Pat Chambers cost his fans free food when he decided to have Penn State pull back on the reins in their most recent win against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a promotion going that states any time the team scores over 70 points at home, all the fans in attendance will win free Big Macs from McDonald’s. By Chambers direction, his squad only scored 67 points when they could have accounted for more had they tried. Not to let mouths in Happy Valley go hungry, Chambers stepped up and served 200 free Big Macs to fans who showed up at a local Mickey D’s.
  5. After a disappointing effort at home against Michigan State, Ohio State rebounded with a nice 78-68 win over Minnesota Tuesday night. Thad Motta clearly had his team playing much better basketball, and stars like William Buford (24 points) played much better than they did against Michigan State. Motta also used his bench much more liberally than he has all season, getting many players into the game early on against the Gophers. However, fans should not expect that trend to continue, as Ohio State is going to rely on their stars to try and capture a Big Ten crown.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.03 – 02.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are lots of good games on Saturday, highlighted by the big one in Columbia. Overall it’s a very nice day of hoops despite only a handful of truly terrific games.

#4 Kansas @ #6 Missouri – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

KU Needs Taylor To Be Good Tyshawn on Saturday (credit: Missourian)

  • It doesn’t get much better than this. Two teams that don’t particularly like each other and a Border War rivalry with roots in the Civil War era. Missouri enters this game after surviving Texas in Austin on Monday. The Tigers have perhaps the best offense in the nation with incredible balance at the guard and wing positions. The question for Frank Haith and his team will be how effective Ricardo Ratliffe can be against Thomas Robinson inside. Ratliffe shoots almost exclusively in the paint and converts an astounding 75.1% of the time. However, Ratliffe will be going up against a front line of Robinson and Jeff Withey (3.1 BPG) in this one and needs to utilize his patented pick-and-roll more in this game. Ratliffe won’t have great success going one-on-one against either Robinson or Withey inside. Kansas’ defense ranks #4 in two-point percentage against but the Jayhawks are vulnerable to the three-ball. That’s where Missouri and snipers Marcus DenmonKim English and Michael Dixon can really take advantage of Bill Self’s team.
  • The Jayhawk offense is essentially a two-man operation. While players like Withey and Travis Releford contribute offensively, Kansas’ fortunes depend on Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has taken his game to another level over the last month, highlighted by the back to back 28-point efforts against Iowa State and Baylor. The Kansas senior hasn’t shot under 40% from the floor since January 4 but will be the focus of Haith’s perimeter defense. Taylor is prone to turnovers and you can bet the Missouri guards will be ball hawking him all night long. If Taylor has a good ball handling night, Kansas will be in very good position to grab a road win. Robinson will get his points but it’s up to Taylor to put the Jayhawks in a position to win this game.
  • It’s hard to pick against Missouri at home but if any team is going to win in Columbia, Kansas is the one. With ESPN in the house for the top two teams in the Big 12, this will be as charged an environment as you will see all year in college basketball. Despite Ratliffe’s stellar shooting percentage, Kansas should win the battle inside. The duo of Robinson and Withey is incredibly difficult to score against and Robinson is obviously a load on the offensive end as well. However, the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena and the Tigers’ perimeter attack and balance should be enough to put Missouri over the top.

#3 Ohio State @ #23 Wisconsin – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  •  Ohio State can take command of the Big Ten with a win in this game. The Buckeyes hold a one game lead over Wisconsin in the loss column heading into Saturday’s matchup. If Ohio State has one weakness, it’s three-point shooting. Thad Matta is not going to beat Wisconsin, a team that shoots well over 20 threes a game, from outside. Matta has the best player on the floor in Jared Sullinger and he needs to use him early and often in order to set the tone. Ohio State is not going to turn Wisconsin over and fast break points will be at a minimum. The Buckeyes must execute their half court offense in order to win this game and the way to do that is through the big man in the middle.
  • The Badgers have righted the ship with six straight wins but will need a big game out of their supporting cast if they are going to make it a seventh. Jared Berggren in particular must contain Sullinger on the low block or else Aaron Craft can feed him all day long with no consequences. Offensively, Wisconsin will run everything through Jordan Taylor but guys like Josh Gasser and Ben Brust need to be hot from deep in order for the Badgers to pull off the win. Wisconsin will be limited to one shot per possession most of the time as it loves to run the shot clock down and shoot threes. Ohio State ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage, mostly thanks to Sullinger.
  • This game features the top two defensive teams in the nation in terms of efficiency. It’s likely to be a low scoring, low possession affair that comes down to the final minutes. Players like Ryan Evans for Wisconsin and Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith could be the determining factors. The battle at the point guard position between Taylor and Craft will be phenomenal but the complementary players usually put a team over the top in matchups like these. We think that’s what will happen at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
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Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 10th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was:

  • OT Madness in Madison: It was just one of the most unusual endings to a basketball game in recent memory. Ryan Evans banked home a turn-around desperation heave from the right wing as time expired, and many thought the Michigan StateWisconsin game in Madison was heading to a second overtime tied at 63. It was waved off, however, after officials discovered the there was a 0.2-second disparity between the game clock on the basket and the one on the scoreboard. By rule, the officials used the clock on the basket, which expired with the ball in Evans’ fingertips. (The must-see full video is after the jump). Ball game over as Wisconsin’s woes continued under truly bizarre circumstances.
  • Bertrand to the Rescue: A subtle, underrated move by Illini coach Bruce Weber has Illinois at 3-1 and currently tied for second in the conference. Looking to shake up his lackluster team, Weber gave little-used sophomore wing Joseph Bertrand more minutes against Missouri. Bertrand responded by going 9-9 from the field for 19 points. In the last five games, Bertrand has averaged 15 points and 3.2 rebounds in 29.2 minutes, and has even started the past two. He poured in a career-high 25 points on 11-12 shooting to help the Illini survive Nebraska at home.
  • Road Warriors: First, Iowa took down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. As a follow-up act, the Hawkeyes went up to The Barn this week and knocked off Minnesota. That’s no small feat for team who was blown out by Campbell earlier this season and whose leading scorer in conference play is 28th in scoring (Matt Gatens at 10.5 PPG). It’s doubtful Fran McCaffrey’s bunch will finish conference play with even a .500 record, but they have proven they can make shots and win on the road.

Who Will Stop Draymond Green And Michigan State? (Al Goldis/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (15-2, 3-1) – When you consider that Ohio State plays in the nation’s top-ranked conference (according to the RPI), it’s pretty insane that the Buckeyes have won three of their Big Ten games by an average of 31 points. They aren’t just beating lesser opponents; they are destroying them. It’s a clear indication of why the Buckeyes are considered by many the class of the conference and one of the favorites to win it all in New Orleans. Another reason is that OSU is ranked in the top 3 in 16 of the Big 10’s 21 statistical categories. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: How Far Can Wisconsin’s Unique System Carry Them?

Posted by EJacoby on December 1st, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him 
@evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Every year, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan finds a way to turn a collection of mostly unheralded individual players into an overachieving team, thanks to a well-designed playing style that values time of possession and situational playmaking. This season appears to be no different, and in fact might be the ultimate example of the perfect Wisconsin system. Bo’s Badgers suffered their first loss of the season on Wednesday night at No. 4 North Carolina, yet the team nearly pulled out a victory against a team it never stood a chance against, at least on paper. Once the ball tips off, Wisconsin dominates the pace of games, and this team does one thing better than any other – it limits their opponents’ possessions. This style almost took down UNC tonight, and it should lead to victories against nearly any other team.

They Lost to UNC, But Wisconsin's Defense Should Lead to Many Victories (AP/G. Broome)

This is Bo Ryan basketball; a slowed-down version of the game that may not be the most entertaining for casual fans to enjoy, but is fascinating for basketball purists to watch. A Wisconsin tilt this season averages out to a 60-possession game, which is the lowest pace in the country. They have the best defensive efficiency (83.5) and lowest turnover rate (8.1 per game) in the nation as well. They have a fearless leader in preseason All-America point guard Jordan Taylor, and he orchestrates the team on both ends of the floor. Even though the Badgers got outrebounded on Wednesday by 13 against North Carolina, and they hardly ever got to the free throw line (six attempts), limiting their opponent’s offensive opportunities gave them a reasonable chance to win in the final few minutes. Few teams that Wisconsin plays will be as gifted offensively as UNC, so they should be able to prevent more points against other teams by employing this style.

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Around The Blogosphere: February 3, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on February 3rd, 2011

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

Top 25 Games

  • #19 Syracuse 66, #5 UConn 58: “There will be no five-game losing streak. There will be no talk of scandals. Tomorrow, the only thing worth talking about will be the fact that Syracuse basketball won a game and they did so when they needed to most. For more than one reason, Wednesday’s 66-58 win over UConn helped change the conversation and get a program back on track.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Recap and Photos)
  • #6 Duke 80, Maryland 62: “Well, I was wrong: it wasn’t a close game after all. Duke got 22 and 21 points out of Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, respectively, to overcome a Jordan Williams double-double and defeat Maryland in the Comcast Center, 80-62. In truth, the game was much closer, as Maryland had the lead as small as five more than midway through the second half, but the result is the only thing that matters. Maryland is now dropped to 14-8 overall and 4-4 in the ACC. The Terrapins will likely need a deep run in the ACC tournament or 11 ACC wins (or both) to sneak into the NCAA tournament, the latter of which would require a 7-1 finish to conference play.” (Testudo Times)
  • Indiana 60, #20 Minnesota 57: “Indiana ran circles around the Gophers for three quarters of the game before Minnesota actually showed life. However, the deficit and ineptitude at the free throw line proved insurmountable and ultimately doomed Minnesota’s comeback chances. The Hoosiers walked away with a 70-67 victory and yet another win over a ranked team at home” (From the Barn: Recap or Inside the Hall: Recap and Interviews)

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Set Your Tivo: 01.20.10

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

We’re trying a new star system out here at the Set Your Tivo desk beginning today.  Let us know in the comments if you think we should change our ratings system.

SYT Star System

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Xavier @ Temple – 7 pm on FSOhio and CSN  (*****)

It is a shame more people won’t be able to watch this Atlantic Ten battle that will most likely decide the regular season conference champion.  Xavier is the only 4-0 team in the A10 right now, but Temple is the conference’s representative in the top 25 rankings.  Both teams are coming off four straight wins, including Xavier’s recent victory over a strong Dayton team.  Needless to say, these teams are talented and should provide an entertaining game.  Scouts will also be in attendance to see how potential first round pick Jordan Crawford can match up against Temple’s methodical style of play.  The Owls only score 64.6 points per game, but at 56.0 points given up on defense, most of their games are close.  Considering Xavier’s lack of success in big games this year (Butler, Wake Forest, Baylor, Kansas State) and Temple’s ability to perform well at home, look for the Owls to give Xavier a run for their money, but something tells me the Musketeers are ready to emerge as the best team in this talented conference.

Georgetown @Pittsburgh – 7 pm on ESPNU  (****)

Those without ESPNU will unfortunately miss out on the night’s only matchup between two top 25 teams.  Both Pittsburgh and Georgetown have been pleasant surprises this year, as Georgetown responded from last year’s NIT season and Pitt has been able to cope with the loss of several key players.  The Panthers have all the momentum heading into this game, as they have won eight straight while the Hoyas are coming off of a loss to Villanova.  Over 82 percent of ESPN voters claim Pitt will win this game at the Petersen Events Center, where they are 10-0 this year, but Georgetown will not be an easy team to take down.  The Hoyas are much more balanced with four players scoring in double figures, including center Greg Monroe, who is averaging a double-double so far this season.  If Georgetown’s road woes (just 3-2 on the year with losses in their last two road games) and Pitt’s ability to excel at home continue, look for Pitt to ride Ashton Gibbs and company to stay even with Villanova atop the Big East.  However, Georgetown’s defense has been strong all season, and if they can find a way to lock down Gibbs or Brad Wanamaker, this game will be a close call.

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From the Student Section: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by rtmsf on December 19th, 2009

Contributing writer Kevin Chupka will periodically interview a rabid student fan about all things basketball on the court and in the stands… a view from the student section.

College basketball has its casual fans just like any other sport.  There is one group however that elevates it above all else by taking “fandom” to new heights.  A group tasked with truly being that sixth man on the court.  Sure the alumni can open up wallets full of cash from the real world and they can drink their fancy imported beer but the lifeblood of any great team inside the many arenas of division one college basketball are the students.  There are always exceptions (yours truly and Dick Vitale to name but two) but by and large students are the ones who live and breathe based on their team’s fortunes.  And so I sought to find some of those rabid fans.  The ones that paint their bare chests bright red or blue or orange.  The ones that lead the student section in chants that lift up their team and dash the dreams of the other.  In the weeks that follow we’ll get the dirt from inside the foxhole as we pick the brains of those who know their team best.

People like Michael Bleach, the beat writer for The Badger Herald, the paper of record at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The senior journalism major has his finger on the pulse of the basketball Badgers; and while he and many in town were still streaming into Camp Randall Stadium to cheer on the gridiron Badgers, Michael was also looking closely at a basketball team that the mainstream media saw clawing for notoriety in a strong Big Ten conference.

In a column previewing the season Michael wrote: “the national media (AP Top 25) has determined the Badgers will finish behind Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Minnesota. Michigan State and Purdue I will give you. As for the rest of the teams on that list, however, they haven’t invented a word strong enough for me to express my disbelief. I am colossally baffled.”  Baffled he told me because “The team has no holes in the starting five — with everyone on the floor able to shoot from beyond the arc — and it is a Bo Ryan team, so you know they will play strong defense. They have two strong subs coming off the bench in Jordan Taylor (sixth man of the year candidate) and Ryan Evans (typical athletic, defense, hustling guy).”

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