Big Ten M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 6th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan certainly responded well to its first Big Ten loss last night by simply crushing Nebraska. The Wolverines have come back well from adversity in general since conference play started, and a lot of that has to do with Derrick Walton Jr.‘s progression. The freshman point guard started the season slowly, but since Big Ten play began he has seen his scoring rise by nearly three points per game while reducing his turnovers. His jumper and decision-making have also improved dramatically as he has grown more accustomed to the college game. His play down the stretch needs to continue this way, and if it does, Michigan will remain in contention for the Big Ten title against bitter rival Michigan State.
  2. The dark horse status that many gave to Penn State coming into this season didn’t start out so well. The Nittany Lions are now on a three-game winning streak, however, thanks to plenty of impressive numbers. Some of the most notable statistics include that of Brandon Taylor, who in the winning streak has averaged 15 points per game and 46.7 percent from three-point range, and 20.0 PPG for DJ Newbill. With a tough test at Michigan State coming tonight, Penn State will need both players to continue their recent strong play. The Lions are unlikely to win in East Lansing, of course, but if Penn State stays close with Sparty it sends a message to the rest of a muddled Big Ten that this team will compete the rest of the way.
  3. There were multiple reasons for Wisconsin‘s recent skid. One prominent reason was Sam Dekker struggling offensively, but he seems to have came out of his slump after hitting 4-of-7 three-pointers against Illinois. While Wisconsin has plenty of players who can score and take over the game when needed, Dekker’s impact as a versatile forward is extremely important. The Badgers are much more effective when Dekker can exploit the match-up issues he causes by bombing away from the outside. For a team relying so much more on its offense this season, Bo Ryan’s team needs its star to make sure his struggles are completely done.
  4. If you wanted 55 minutes of, well, uninspiring basketball, then Purdue‘s triple-overtime win over Minnesota last night was a real treat. The Boilermakers got the victory despite nearly giving it away with multiple missed free throws in regulation and the first two overtimes. Part of this problem is the Boilermakers’ stark lack of leadership and that its best leader, Travis Carroll, rarely sees action. Carroll does his job well, working against AJ Hammons in practice and playing hard when called upon. But even if Purdue lacks a more productive on-court senior leader, there has been time for some of the underclassmen to mature and take over those duties. Plenty of teams rely on young talent to not only be competitive but win conference and national titles. Matt Painter needs to find his on-court leadership somewhere or there will be more games like last night where the Boilermakers nearly blow what appeared to be an assured win.
  5. Ohio State certainly needed things to start going well again. With a pair of wins against Wisconsin and Iowa this week, it appears the Buckeyes got the morale boost and confidence that they desired. It came at a critical time for Ohio State, too. With a few more losses, what seemed like a team competing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament could have quickly found itself on the bubble. The players’ comments after beating Iowa seems to bear out that they believe they will win the close games coming down the stretch. For a team that relies so heavily on its defense, the confidence to believe it will score late in close games is absolutely crucial.
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Wisconsin Looks to Remain a Factor in the Big Ten Race

Posted by Walker Carey on January 26th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Wisconsin and Purdue in West Lafayette.

Just two weeks ago, Wisconsin sat at 16-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play – climbing all the way up to #3 in the AP Top 25. While several of those 16 victories had come against inferior non-conference competition, the Badgers more than proved their legitimacy with impressive victories over Florida, Saint Louis, Virginia and Marquette. Past Wisconsin teams under Bo Ryan were known for their slow and methodical style of play, but this season’s squad proved early on that it was quite different than its predecessors. Armed with an offensive-minded starting lineup of guards Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson along with forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin raised eyebrows nationally with a drastic contrast in style of play from the norm in Madison.

Bo Ryan Instructed His Team to a Nice Road Victory

Bo Ryan Instructed His Team to a Nice Road Victory

After an unbeaten run through non-conference play, Wisconsin continued its sizzling play through its first three Big Ten games. In the conference opener, the Badgers unloaded on an inferior Northwestern squad en route to a 76-49 victory. Facing a strong test at home against a very good Iowa team next, Wisconsin rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit  to earn a 75-71 victory. In the third Big Ten game, a red hot Illinois team invaded the Kohl Center and was thoroughly dismantled by the Badgers in a 15-point Wisconsin victory. At that point, Wisconsin’s ascendance earned the Badgers considerable national attention. For instance, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi placed Bo Ryan’s team as the #1 seed in the Midwest Regional. When the first RPI rankings for the were released on January 10, the Badgers sat atop the list. Everything seemed to be aligning for Wisconsin to be a bona fide contender in both the Big Ten and nationally.

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Can Michigan Upset Wisconsin in Madison Today?

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on January 18th, 2014

Michigan has slightly fallen under the radar after starting the season in the top 10 of the national polls, even though they’ve jumped out to a 4-0 start in conference play without All-America candidate Mitch McGary. This unblemished record will be challenged mightily when the Wolverines travel to Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon (5:00 CST, ESPN). Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso answered some questions in advance of this key contest that will help determine who will ultimately win the league.

Coming off of a season high 21 points against Indiana, Traveon Jackson should get open looks against Michigan as well (Darren Cummings, AP).

Coming off of a season high 21 points against Indiana, Traveon Jackson should get open looks against Michigan as well (Darren Cummings, AP).

Both teams are in the top seven nationally in both offensive efficiency and in turnover percentage, yet they both play at a relatively slow tempo. Who wins the battle of these potent offenses on Saturday?

AM: Wisconsin is coming off of an inexplicable loss to Indiana on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers shocked the college basketball world by upsetting the Badgers and exposing a weakness in their 25th-ranked defense by driving effectively to the rim. About 60 percent of Indiana’s shots were at the cup, where the Badgers are allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent. Michigan, however, is much more of a jump-shooting team as only 24 percent of their shots are under the rim. Wisconsin’s defense thrives at making their opponents take bad looks when they are shooting jumpers (less than 35 percent). For this reason, I’m betting the Badgers stifle Michigan’s offense on Saturday while their own offense takes care of business.

BB: Every team in the B1G other than Wisconsin and Michigan have seen their offensive efficiency numbers plummet once they’ve started playing conference games. This won’t be a shootout in the traditional sense because neither team plays fast, but they’ve both demonstrated that they can put points on the board. Indiana could have won by more than it did had they (mainly Yogi Ferrell) made more than 4-of-14 of their shots from behind the three-point line. If Wisconsin allows Michigan the same opportunities from outside the arc, they have much better shooters than the Hoosiers and will make the Badgers pay.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VIII

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 15th, 2014

RTC national columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) gives his weekly observations on the game in his column, Otskey’s Observations. 

A Cause for Concern or Just a Speed Bump for Wisconsin?

Sam Dekker struggled on Tuesday but don't expect that to continue. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker struggled on Tuesday but don’t expect that to continue. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Wisconsin’s 75-72 loss at Indiana on Tuesday night was surprising in many ways. For one, it marked the first time since the 1995-96 season that the Badgers have given up at least 70 points in three consecutive games (h/t @nickfasuloSBN). It was an uncharacteristically poor defensive effort from a historically good defensive team under the tutelage of Bo Ryan. Wisconsin could never seem to get a stop when it needed one and allowed Indiana to shoot 51.6 percent from the floor for the game. Coming into the contest, Bo Ryan was 14-3 all-time in head-to-head matchups against Indiana head coach Tom Crean. Crean had never beaten Ryan while at Indiana and the Hoosiers had dropped 12 consecutive games to the Badgers dating back to 2007. In a strange twist of fates, perhaps Ryan’s best team ever fell to Crean’s least talented team in the last three seasons. While Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson did yeoman’s work for Wisconsin, Sam Dekker and Ben Brust had off nights. Dekker, Wisconsin’s leading scorer and rebounder, totaled only 10 points and three rebounds in 35 minutes of action. Brust was cold all night from the three-point line, but tried to adjust, attempting a season-high seven shots from inside the arc, most of those curling to the basket off screens. It was a strange night in Bloomington and something just didn’t feel right. I am inclined to think this is just a bump in the road for Wisconsin and I would expect a much more focused defensive performance at home against Michigan this coming Saturday.

Creighton Ascending in the Polls Despite Grant Gibbs’ Injury

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Unbeaten Watch: Will Wisconsin’s Winning Streak End in Bloomington?

Posted by Jonathan Batuello & Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 14th, 2014

The unbeaten watch continues on Tuesday night as the Badgers visit Bloomington to handle Yogi Ferrell and company. No game is a gimme in the Big Ten and Bo Ryan’s teams have traditionally given fits to Tom Crean’s offense. Jonathan Batuello and Deepak Jayanti from the Big Ten microsite address two key questions about this week’s Tuesday night special.

Can Tom Crean's Hoosiers end the Badgers' winning streak? (AP).

Can Tom Crean’s Hoosiers end the Badgers’ winning streak? (AP).

When the Badgers visited Bloomington last year, they held a potent Hoosiers’ offense to just 59 points and dominated the game defensively. Can Indiana figure out a way to score against the Ben Brust/Josh Gasser/Traevon Jackson backcourt? If not, where will they find offense?

JB:  We’ve all heard about Tom Crean’s struggles against Wisconsin, but  it isn’t just his Indiana teams that Wisconsin has held down. The Badgers are going for their 13th straight win against the Hoosiers (the most for any program consecutively against them ever) and have held them to 60 or fewer points in eight of those 12 losses. It seems Bo Ryan’s defense causes fits for this squad and the trio of guards will certainly cause issues again (even with Yogi Ferrell having a great year). Wisconsin has held opponents to an effective field goal rate of 44.3 percent and Indiana isn’t superb shooting the ball anyway (50.5%). So, quite frankly, Indiana won’t be scoring a lot. To get some baskets against the Badgers’ defense, it will need to corral some offensive rebounds (it ranks in the top 10 with 12.8 offensive boards per game) and use its athleticism in transition. If it doesn’t do those two things, the Hoosiers will struggle to break 60 points once again this year.

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Trending Upward: Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes is Making an Impact

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 4th, 2014

Wisconsin has been the story of the B1G thus far, as the Badgers improved to 14-0 on the season with their 76-48 win at Northwestern on Thursday night. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky have garnered most of the attention from the rest of the college basketball world, but freshman Nigel Hayes is starting to come on strong as well. He’s emerging as a legitimate factor, giving the Badgers a tremendous athlete coming off the bench. Hayes scored a career-high 19 points in that game, and his play of late is something of which to take notice.

Nigel Hayes is starting to give the Badgers another weapon on offense (Jeff Potrykus, Journal Sentinel).

Nigel Hayes is starting to give the Badgers another weapon on offense. (Jeff Potrykus, Journal Sentinel).

“He listens, he works, he’s athletic and strong for a freshman so the combination is pretty tough to beat, and he feels that there really isn’t anything that he can’t do, but he knows he’s not a three-point shooter, so he doesn’t shoot three-point shots. He just does what he knows and he can do and what he does well. “

Bo Ryan’s quote here was in reference to his standout freshman while speaking with the ESPN crew after the win. The quote illuminates the fact that Hayes seems to know his place and is bent on fitting in and contributing wherever he can. He rarely forces anything on the offensive end, but you can see his confidence growing with each game. He’s now going aggressively to the basket, where in the beginning of the season he was more likely to have deferred to a teammate. In looking at Hayes’ numbers, you can see an upward progression as he’s gone for 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and a block per game in his last three outings. He has done this while shooting a stellar 63 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line 30 times. He was named B1G freshman of the week on December 30, and has a good chance to win it again after this weekend is over.

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Big Ten M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. Since news broke of Indiana‘s Luke Fischer transferring on Monday, the rumors of where he is headed quickly followed. A Wisconsin native, the former top-100 recruit had many thinking he may return home to the Badgers, but that isn’t the case. Fischer announced on Twitter last night that he would not transfer to any other Big Ten school out of respect for Tom Crean and the Indiana program. It’s not certain if Fischer made this decision on his own or whether the Indiana coaching staff hinted they would block a transfer to another Big Ten program, but it does certainly eliminate plenty of places that people thought Fischer could end up.
  2. College athletics certainly has its costs, and for big programs that means paying smaller schools to come to their arena and (hopefully) trade a loss for a substantial check. A recent MLive.com article reports that Michigan spent nearly $450,000 this season to host its five guarantee games. At this point it shouldn’t be news to read about the cost of these “guarantee” games, but it is interesting to see how much it typically costs a Big Ten program to bring in those small schools. For Michigan, as an example, it typically costs somewhere upward of $80,000 per game on hotel rooms, comped tickets and the team’s transportation. Not a cheap expenditure to add another W to the resume.
  3. It’s been a different kind of year for Wisconsin and Bo Ryan. Used to methodical games with little scoring, the Badgers have utilized a more high-powered offense to go along with its usual stingy defense this season. Their ability to avoid long scoring droughts like they experienced at times last year makes the Badgers confident that they can potentially win the Big Ten heading into their conference opener against Northwestern tonight. Wisconsin has raised its offensive statistics nearly across the board, with a higher shooting percentage, three-point percentage, free throw shooting and efficiency at this point in the season. Unlike some previous seasons, Bo Ryan’s team has shown it can win with multiple players having the ability to create their own shot and make it.
  4. The Big Ten is a conference loaded with plenty of stars and well-known names across the country like Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. One name not often mentioned when discussing the conference’s top players is Minnesota‘s Andre Hollins. Rant Sports’ Paul Kilgas said Hollins is actually the conference’s most underrated player. It’s an interesting argument to consider because the league is loaded with solid guards. Hollins is averaging 16.2 PPG along with 3.0 APG and 4.0 RPG, but unless the Gophers have an outstanding season, he is likely to be left off many all-Big Ten ballots at the end of the year. He has certainly been the biggest key driving Minnesota’s strong start to the season, and if the Golden Gophers make a push for the upper echelon of the league standings, Hollins will without question be the catalyst.
  5. With non-conference play now over, the Big Ten Powerhouse writers got together and voted for their non-conference all-Big Ten team. It’s a solid group of five with Adreian Payne, Sam Dekker, Keith Appling, Rayvonte Rice and Tim Frazier on the list. It’s tough to really argue against that five, although Nik Stauskas has been just as phenomenal for Michigan as some of his teammates have been disappointing. Stauskas was in the next grouping of those receiving votes, along with Yogi Ferrell, Glenn Robinson III and DJ Newbill. All of these players will be looking to make the official all-Big Ten teams in a couple of months and have made excellent cases to start the season with their stellar play.
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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presents Giant Opportunity For Michigan

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 2nd, 2013

What to Make of Michigan Heading to Duke in the Headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Nobody ever said life after Trey Burke was going to be easy. Despite entering the season with both a top 10 ranking and preseason All-American (again) to lead the way, John Beilein had to know that this group of Wolverines would be a work in progress. Gone was not only the transcendent Burke, but also backcourt mate Tim Hardaway, Jr., a highly accomplished player in his own right. Also of concern: The fact that this year’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, entered the season on the mend. The bruising sophomore is recovering from a back injury, and even with a (relatively) healthy back a season ago, he had averaged only 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as he got acclimated to college basketball. Was he really ready to deliver All-American type production? Every team entered this season with question marks, but Michigan faced as many as any of their preseason top-10 cohabitants.

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

The Wolverines are now seven games into the season, and the top-10 ranking is gone. The same cannot be said for those pesky preseason questions. Michigan is 5-2 on the year, with an overtime victory over Florida State ranking as its lone victory of consequence (seriously, the average Pomeroy rating for the other four Wolverine conquests is 297). The back injury ultimately caused McGary to miss just two games, but his production since returning has hardly been like that of an All-American: 8.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 25 minutes per game. I’m not in the habit of judging a guy off of five post-injury games, but the jury remains out on whether McGary can live up to those expansive preseason expectations.

Nor has a verdict been offered on the Michigan point guard situation. Nobody expected Derrick Walton to become Trey Burke, but the freshman has averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.4 per game) as assists (3.3 per game), while also ceding crunch time minutes to backup Spike Albrecht. In the two Michigan losses (to Iowa State and Charlotte), Walton has averaged just 19 minutes a game. Clearly John Beilein is not ready to fully hand over the reins to the talented youngster, but like McGary, there’s still plenty of time for Walton to grow into his expected role.

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Wisconsin Faces Another Test Against St. Louis

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 26th, 2013

With two quality victories in the bank already against St. John’s and Florida, Wisconsin will look to put another significant win on their resume Tuesday night in Cancun against a 5-0 St. Louis team. While the Billikens are not ranked in the Top 25 yet, they are the defending Atlantic 10 Tournament champions and a team with good experience at a number of key positions. This game could have been projected as a rock fight of the 45-43 variety in years past, but what makes this one particularly interesting is that Wisconsin is averaging 80.2 PPG despite not really playing terribly fast (67.3 possessions per game, 258th nationally). The Badgers are making things happen by simply shooting the lights out in the early going, notching a 45.2 percent output from three, and a 57.9% eFG. St. Louis is stingy in giving up the three-ball, however, and this highlights what will be one of the more intriguing Feast Week match-ups in the B1G.

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team.  (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team. (Getty)

Wisconsin has been lights-out shooting the ball this season, but St. Louis has just as impressive numbers defensively. The Billikens are holding opponents to a minuscule 20.3 percent from behind the arc, and they also check in with a 41.8% defensive eFG. Both statistics rank in the top 20 nationally. For the most part, they play a hard-nosed man-to-man with athletic guards that will challenge the shooters and not give allow many open looks. Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett fly around the perimeter making things difficult, and then collectively, the Billikens don’t give out too many second chances after a miss. SLU ranks 44th in the country (26.7%) in letting teams retrieve their misses. To summarize, St. Louis is good at forcing teams into tough threes, then grabbing the defensive rebounds off those misses that often lead to great looks from kickouts. Wisconsin only gets 28.6 percent of their offensive rebounds as it is, so chances are they won’t get many second chance opportunities Tuesday night.

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Previewing the Holiday Tournaments: A Big Ten Perspective

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 21st, 2013

The holiday tournaments tip off today and college coaches are huge fans of their teams participating in these events. With the quick turnarounds and neutral court sites, the events give players a glimpse of what their conference and postseason tournaments will feel like. From the prestigious eight-team Maui Invitational to the four-team Barclays Center Classic, each tournament provides valuable experience for teams and coaches alike to prepare for a postseason atmosphere. Along with gaining that precious experience, teams can also improve their non-conference resumes just by showing up. A couple of good performances or a holiday tournament championship looks pretty attractive to the selection committee in March. This year, the Big Ten has nearly the entire league competing in some sort of holiday tournament (Illinois and Ohio State are the two absentees). Let’s break down each of them, starting with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Charleston Classic and 2kSports Classic, beginning today.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Butler vs Illinois

Illinois Jump Started its NCAA Tournament Season A Year Ago in Maui

Puerto Rico Tip off: November 21-24

  • Teams: Michigan vs. Long Beach State, VCU vs. Florida State, Georgetown vs. Northeastern, Charlotte vs. Kansas State
  • Favorite: VCU
  • Projected Michigan Finish: 3rd
  • Michigan Player to WatchDerrick Walton Jr.
  • The Skinny: In the eight-team field, Georgetown, VCU, and the Wolverines are the clear front-runners. Georgetown lucked out as they are on the opposite side of the bracket of both Michigan and VCU. This means that a match-up of last year’s NCAA Tournament third round game between the two schools is likely in the semifinals. Last year, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. shredded Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense on its way to a huge victory. Now, Walton is set to run the offense for Michigan and go up against a veteran VCU backcourt. This game could spell major trouble for John Beilein and his staff, but could also be an important teaching moment.

Charleston Classic: November 21-24

  • TeamsNebraska vs. UMass, UAB vs. New Mexico, Georgia vs. Davidson, Clemson vs. Temple
  • Favorite: New Mexico
  • Projected Nebraska Finish: 5th
  • Nebraska Player to WatchTai Webster
  • The Skinny:  The Cornhuskers play UMass and then either New Mexico or UTEP in the next round. New Mexico is a top 20 team while UMass is expected to compete for a NCAA bid out of the Atlantic 10. Chaz Williams for UMass is an explosively fast guard who can distribute the ball well and shoot lights out from three. Tim Miles will have his work cut out to try and stop Williams, and the freshman Webster will get a nice welcoming from the “Chaz Master.”

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20 Questions: Which Returning Player Makes The Leap?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 8th, 2013

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There has never been a more opportune time for the player waiting in the wings. With transfers more prevalent than ever, the one-and-done era in full swing, and each new college basketball season bringing a brand new landscape with it, we have become accustomed to seeing fresh faces starring in old places. Needless to say, that leaves a pretty sizable group of candidates to choose from when answering the question of which returning player will make the leap this year. LaQuinton Ross looks ready to shoulder the scoring load at Ohio State. Talented sophomore T.J. Warren could develop into a leader in the absence of Leslie, Brown and co. at NC State. A star turn seems in order for Sam Dekker at Wisconsin. The list could go on and on. But if we are taking just one crack at this, Kansas’ Perry Ellis very well could be the player who makes the most significant leap.

Perry Ellis' Will Find Himself With A Vastly Expanded Role For The Jayhawks In 2013-14

Perry Ellis Will Find Himself With A Vastly Expanded Role For The Jayhawks In 2013-14

Rumor has it that Kansas has a freshman by the name of Andrew Wiggins who figures to be a pretty integral piece to the Jayhawk puzzle (and a preseason First Team All-American), but don’t be shocked if Ellis winds up being nearly as valuable to the KU cause as the prodigiously gifted freshman. Ellis, a consensus top-40 recruit coming out of high school, averaged just 13.6 minutes per contest as a freshman. He still managed to post averages of 5.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in limited minutes, and the only Jayhawks with a higher offensive rating (per KenPom) than Ellis’ 114.1 were Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. It’s no secret that the past six months have seen the Kansas roster undergo quite the transformation. Ellis will undoubtedly see a significant increase in minutes as a result. A simple extrapolation of last season’s numbers (to his expected minutes this year) would qualify as a solid leap for the sophomore, but we can expect even more. As Bill Self’s best post scoring option this season, Ellis will see much more of the offense run through him than a year ago, when Jeff Withey dominated those touches. Wiggins will clearly claim the featured role in the Jayhawk offense, but we have already seen an expanded role for Ellis in Kansas’ two preseason games, where he averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

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Wisconsin Looks Much More Perimeter Heavy This Season

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 8th, 2013

It’s not often that fast and Wisconsin basketball are used in the same sentence. Since Bo Ryan has been the head coach in Madison, the Badgers have been known for playing big men who execute a deliberate style on the offensive end coupled with strong, take-no-prisoners halfcourt defense. During the past five seasons, Wisconsin’s scoring average hasn’t landed in the top half of the Big Ten, and last season it sat at eighth after averaging 66.2 points a game. The Badgers have also ranked in the bottom 25 Division I teams for possessions per game during four of the past five seasons. Well, get ready for a new look Wisconsin squad. With the graduation of several interior players and the return of Josh Gasser from an ACL injury, the Badgers are likely to use three- and perhaps even four-guard lineups a lot more this season.

Ben Brust is one of many guards that Wisconsin will utilize this season.(Photo credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters).

Ben Brust is one of many guards that Wisconsin will utilize this season.(Photo credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters).

Exactly how often Wisconsin may use a perimeter-heavy lineup isn’t certain, but based on its current roster, the Badgers will be doing it early and often. With the graduations of Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz, the majority of the team’s inside presence is gone outside of Sam Dekker. Those three averaged a total of more than 26 points and 19 rebounds a game for the team, with the best returning inside player other than Dekker being Frank Kaminsky, who only averaged 10 minutes per game last season. This makes interior play a huge question mark for this team, but Ryan certainly has plenty of known commodities on the perimeter. As he said at Wisconsin’s media day, “You think 12 guards is a lot?. It just panned out this way. It keeps a very high competitive level in the backcourt and all our drills and all our possessions.”

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