Three Ways For Ohio State to Beat Marquette

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 15th, 2013

After starting off the season 2-0, Ohio State will get its first big test on Saturday afternoon when it travels to Milwaukee to take on #17 Marquette. The Buckeyes struggled at home against Ohio University on Tuesday night, and will be in for a tough contest in taking on the preseason Big East favorites in their gym. The game is winnable, though, and here’s the three ways in which they can come away with a victory that should look really good in March:

Aaron Craft will need to have a big day defensively if Ohio State wants to steal a road win at Marquette.  (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Aaron Craft will need to have a big day defensively if Ohio State wants to steal a road win at Marquette. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  1. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott need to be absolute pests on the defensive end: With the Buckeyes employing a dual point guard starting lineup early with Scott stepping in for Sam Thompson, Thad Matta has chosen to go with a lineup he used quite a bit last year at the end of games. What this does is allow for two of the best perimeter defenders in all of a college basketball a chance to harass the opposing team’s point guard into turnovers. This is especially important Saturday because Derrick Wilson is stepping in for the graduated Junior Cadoughan. Wilson has been a 10-minute per game bench player, and this will be his first real test in dealing with elite ball pressure. I haven’t really acquainted myself with the guards of Southern or Grambling but I can safely assume they aren’t as good as what Wilson will see Saturday in Craft and Scott. If Ohio State can turn Wilson over, the Buckeyes will be able to get easy buckets in transition and eliminate a potential mismatch on the inside trying to handle Marquette’s post players. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 31st, 2013

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  1. With the loss of Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State has a big scoring void to fill. Thomas averaged 19.8 points, which was nearly double that of the Buckeyes next leading scorer in Aaron Craft. Ohio State is hoping without just one scorer, though, everyone will get involved forcing opposing teams to guard everyone on the floor. Everyone already knows Craft will have to add some offense to his well-known defense, but LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams are the keys to the Buckeyes. If the team gets consistent scoring from all of those players, it will certainly cause opponents bigger headaches than last season when taking away Thomas meant shutting down Ohio State.
  2. Michigan State has plenty of strength returning to its starting lineup in Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne. There’s still one open spot, though, and it appears freshman forward Gavin Schilling is making his case to seize it. In the Spartans first exhibition, a 101-52 win against Grand Valley State, Schilling played the most minutes and scored four points with five rebounds coming off the bench behind sophomore Matt Costello. This position will be an important one to keep an eye on for Michigan State as it tries to make a national title run. The four returning starters already make them a strong team, but if Schilling can continue to prosper and make every position on the Spartans starting five strong, it only makes their chances for a national title better. If he doesn’t get into the starting lineup, it at least makes it a small drop-off if Schilling has to play minutes for Costello or Payne at the forward positions.
  3. There’s plenty of hope surrounding the Purdue basketball program following a disappointing campaign last year. A big key to that will be what the newcomers provide to the Boilermakers, one of which is 5th year transfer Errick Peck. The 6-foot-6, 223 pound forward was in the starting lineup for Purdue in its 80-73 exhibition win over University of Indianapolis last night as he scored five points, had six rebounds and even attempted a 3-pointer. This versatility is something that Matt Painter has noticed and hopes to utilize in the Cornell transfer this season. Peck will likely find himself getting plenty of minutes with AJ Hammons still serving his three-game suspension and could very well find himself playing all over the court for Purdue. His ability to play with his back to the basket or from the outside allows Painter to use a big lineup with Peck at the three alongside Jay Simpson and Hammons or smaller with Peck at the four.
  4. With Mitch McGary and other post players returning to Michigan, John Beilein has a decision coming up soon. According to MLive’s Brendan Quinn, the Wolverines coach will have to decide whether he wants to redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. The 6′ 9″ forward played just more than five minutes and scored three points in Michigan’s 117-44 exhibition win over Concordia, which was more than only the walk-ons. With fellow freshmen Zak Irvin and Derrik Walton, Jr. filling the roles left by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Donnal is the only freshman with plenty of upperclass experience ahead of him. Whether Beilein does redshirt Donnal or not is interesting because, as Quinn points out, Michigan only has 11 scholarship players this season. If he uses a redshirt, that makes the Wolverines very thin with only 10 total scholarship players.
  5. It’s always great to see when a head coach uses his position to help the greater good. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery has certainly done his best to help fight cancer after losing both his parents to colon cancer. Tuesday, McCaffery hosted his second annual Coaches vs. Cancer event where he was hoping to raise more than the $52,000 that was raised a year ago. It’s also given the coach a chance to touch a few people who have dealt with the deadly disease, including the one this story highlights in Wil Roling who joined Iowa on the team’s trip to Indiana last year. Now, Roling has had a going-away party from his hospital and was back at the Coaches vs. Cancer event, but this time he was healthy and playing with McCaffery’s two oldest sons. That’s something we can all celebrate.
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The Unmentioned Buckeye: It’s Sam Thompson’s Year to Shine

Posted by Max Jakubowski on October 25th, 2013

The Buckeyes have had a rich recent history of scoring forwards over the past five years. Evan Turner, David Lighty and Jared Sullinger are quite a list to go along with DeShaun Thomas last season. This year, it is expected that LaQuinton Ross will become the next high scoring wing for Ohio State. Ross emerged as a scoring threat in last season’s NCAA Tournament, averaging 15 PPG and shooting 44 percent from 3-point range over four games. With the departure of Thomas to the NBA, the offensive load will now fall upon Ross. The always dependable Aaron Craft will give the Buckeyes 10 to 12 points per game and third-year starter Lenzelle Smith Jr. could finally average double figures along with shooting 40% from deep. But the one player getting no attention on the offensive end is junior forward Sam Thompson.

Sam Thompson will be a key player for OSU this season. (USA TODAY sports)

Sam Thompson will be a key player for OSU this season. (USA TODAY sports)

Thompson is your typical college slasher, a player who has great speed and athleticism for his size along with an ability to finish at the rim (in spectacular fashion I might add). He has adapted to new roles in each of his previous two seasons in Columbus. During his freshman year he took the “energy guy” role, which meant providing the team a lift with hustle plays and acrobatic dunks. Last year, Thad Matta inserted Thompson into the starting lineup and he became Ohio State’s top wing defender. His offensive stats were not eye-popping at 7.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG, but he did shoot 40% from three, although on only 57 attempts.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Ohio State 95, #15 Iona 70

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Ohio State and #15 Iona. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Ohio State Won at Iona’s Pace  — Ohio State ordinarily plays at a fairly slow pace, while the Gaels like to race up and down the court, using their quickness to hide their lack of size inside. Iona managed to get the kind of uptempo game with which they’re typically comfortable, as each team had a whopping 78 possessions and combined for 136 field goal attempts and 46 free throw attempts. But Ohio State seemed to benefit from the breakneck pace more. They consistently broke Iona’s pressure, and seemed inspired by the Gaels’ quick pace to rev up their own. Relying on steady ball control and their athleticism advantage, the Buckeyes outscored the Gaels 34-11 on fast break points and 29-9 on points off turnovers.

    Sam Thompson showed off his athletic gifts against Iona. (Getty)

    Sam Thompson showed off his athletic gifts against Iona. (Getty)

  2. Sam Thompson Can Put on a Show — One consequence of the Buckeyes’ getting to play an up-tempo game is that bouncy wing Sam Thompson had a chance to show off his incredible athletic gifts. Thompson delighted the pro-OSU crowd with a series of high-flying dunks, none more spectacular than an incredible one-handed, full extension, alley oop that he threw down with 1:23 to play in the first half. Not only was it a highlight reel feature, but it snapped a 7-0 Iona run that cut OSU’s lead to four, and sparked the Buckeyes’ own 15-0 run.
  3. Momo Jones Says a Quiet Goodbye – Iona’s talented point guard played his first two season at Arizona before transferring to Iona to be closer to his family, and his grandmother in particular. It seemed to take him some time to adjust, but he managed a stellar second act, playing an instrumental role in the Gaels’ Tournament trip last year and leading them back this year. But he went out with a bit of a whimper. The scoring just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting (1-of-8 from three-point range).

Star of the Game: While many feel that Deshaun Thomas’ season has been somewhat disappointing, he’s scored in double-figures in every game, and saw no need to interrupt that streak tonight. Thomas poured in 24 points on an efficient 8-of-12 from the field. He showed his complete offensive game, hitting jumpers (a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range) and taking advantage of Iona’s size disadvantage down low to score in the paint. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bracket Prep: Saint Louis, Miami, Mississippi & Ohio State

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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The last four auto-bids were handed out on this most special of college basketball Sundays, and as we have for each of the 31 automatic qualifiers to play their way into the Dance, we take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets.

Saint Louis

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

  • Atlantic-10 Champion (27-6, 16-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #22/#17/#15
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #3-#5

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In a crazy year of Atlantic-10 basketball, one complete with new faces, wild finishes and a constantly changing standings page, no team stayed the course better than the Saint Louis Billikens. They overcame the tragedy of losing Rick Majerus in November while fighting through their own early-season on-court struggles, eventually righting the ship in a major way. They enter the NCAA Tournament with a sweep of the A-10 titles, and winners of 24 of their last 27 games. A top four seed is not only possible but expected – relatively uncharted territory for the Atlantic-10.
  2. While the notion may be a bit clichéd at this point, it’s impossible to look at this Saint Louis team and not think of Majerus. His fingerprints are all over these Billikens. It’s evident in the stingy defense (8th in the country in defensive efficiency), apparent in the patient, mistake-free offense (36th nationally in turnover %), and undoubtedly a factor in the gritty, tough identity that his former team has taken on. Former Majerus assistant  Jim Crews deserves a lot of credit (and some serious COY consideration) for keeping the ship upright and moving in the right direction, but at their core, this is still a Rick Majerus team.
  3. The Majerus effect, slow tempo, and balanced offense have obscured the individual Billikens from the national spotlight, but there is some talent on this roster. Kwamain Mitchell (10.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG) is perhaps the most finest of that talent, and it was his return in late December that gave the Billikens a needed boost. Juniors Dwayne Evans (13.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Mike McCall (10.0 PPG, 42% 3PT) have stepped forward this season as well. On this balanced, unselfish team, there is no member of the eight-man rotation that does not know their role and play it effectively. A year ago they showed well at the Big Dance, beating Memphis before giving #1 seeded Michigan State all they could handle in the third round. That Tournament experience will surely serve them well this time around, as they continue to dedicate this season to Majerus. That alone won’t carry them through this loaded field, but when you give a talented and focused team a real purpose, the sky can often become the limit. The Billikens may not be legitimate national title contenders, but anything short of that? Well within reach.

Miami

There's Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season -- How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

There’s Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season — How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

  • ACC Champion (27-6, 18-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#14/#14
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1-#2

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 50

Posted by WCarey on March 15th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center following Friday’s matchup between Ohio State and Nebraska. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways.

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  1. Ohio State is definitely peaking at the right time. Thad Matta’s squad suffered an embarrassing 22-point setback at Wisconsin on February 17 and since then, it has been a different team. The Buckeyes entered the Big Ten Tournament on a hot steak, as they had won their final five games of the regular season. During this winning streak, the Buckeyes notched their signature win of the season by going on the road and defeating Big Ten champions Indiana in convincing fashion.  That hot streak continued Friday in their quarterfinal victory over Nebraska. It is always a good thing in college basketball when you play your best at the end of the season and it sure seems like that is the case for the Buckeyes right now. If Ohio State is able to continue its strong play, it has a legitimate chance at winning the Big Ten Tournament and there is no telling what its ceiling might be in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
  2. Ohio State’s experience is quite evident. The notion that only experienced seniors can hold leadership roles is a common misconception that exists throughout collegiate athletics. Take Ohio State for instance – Reserve big man Evan Ravenel is the only senior on the Buckeyes, but the team does has several experienced contributors. Juniors Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were all starters on the Buckeyes team that reached last season’s Final Four. Both Craft and Thomas have been playing major roles for the team since the day they stepped foot on campus. The experience and leadership of Ravenel, Craft, Thomas, and Smith Jr. has provided players like LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams with a calming presence as they continue to develop their games. Experience is definitely worth something in March and that is good news for Ohio State. Read the rest of this entry »
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XI

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 25th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Ohio State’s Sam Thompson getting so high on this alley-oop against Michigan State on Sunday that he was literally staring at the rim when he got the ball. That would have been enough, but then he chose to hammer home right on a poor Michigan State defender – just for kicks. Definitely one of the more impressive athletic plays I’ve seen this year.

Sam Thompson is not shy about attacking the rim

I LOVED…. the hilariousness that is Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery on set. In this week’s gift from above, Raftery comically asks Bilas if he’s “ever been ridden” before. Take a look – it’s just too much.

I LOVED…. everyone realizing that Miami can be very, very average – or in this case, downright bad in a loss to a Wake Forest team that was 4-9 in the ACC going into Saturday. If Miami and Gonzaga somehow play their way into #1-seeds, I don’t think it’s overkill to say that they could be two of the more susceptible #1-seeds ever for a first-round upset. And Miami could even be the likelier of the two because of how much they love the three-ball.

I LOVED…. glancing at the Georgetown schedule and having my jaw slowly drop lower and lower as I looked at their defensive efficiency during this very impressive nine-game winning streak. Check it out – since losing to South Florida on January 19, the Hoyas have allowed 47, 51, 52, 56, 63, 55, 55, 66 and 46 points. That’s pretty stingy, and it bodes well for a Tournament run if they can continue mustering enough offense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 1st, 2013

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  1. Before the season, Keith Appling wasn’t even a Michigan State captain. Tom Izzo was looking at the veteran point guard to become a leader on an off the court for the Spartans, who had lost last year’s emotional leader Draymond Green. Appling has now earned captain status and Izzo has noticed a big change from his junior point guard. Izzo said Appling is doing a better job of communicating on the floor and showing his confidence after sitting down with former MSU point guard Mateen Cleaves. Appling learned to fight through adversity after a rough past, and now he’s doing it on the court, becoming the leader Izzo had hoped for at the beginning of the season.
  2. Ohio State has had trouble finding players outside of Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Aaron Craft to step up this season. The Buckeyes certainly have talent, but its supporting players — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross, to name a few — haven’t been consistent. That has resulted in inconsistent playing time among that bunch. OSU has been searching for an alternative offensive option to Thompson and it appears it may have found its answer in Ross. Ross has seen the court much more recently, and part of that is due to his improved listening to coach Thad Matta. He’s taking in more direction from the coaching staff, and subsequently seeing more of the floor.
  3. There aren’t many legitimate criticisms of No. 1 Michigan right now, considering how the Wolverines have been playing. However, people are always trying to find something wrong with top teams, so the common criticism of UM in recent weeks is that its roster isn’t deep enough. After all, the Wolverines rank 326th in the country in bench minutes, according to Ken Pomeroy. But part of the reason the Wolverines don’t go to their bench much is that the starters have played so well. Now though, in the wake of Jordan Morgan’s injury, Michigan is proving that it has enough depth. Jon Horford started the Wolverines’ game against Northwestern earlier this week and gave his team solid minutes, while freshman Mitch McGary also played well. Michigan may not have a star big man, but its frontcourt has proven it can play well this year, even without Morgan manning the paint.
  4. The press has been Minnesota’s best friend and its worst enemy this season. After struggling with its execution earlier in non-conference play, the Gophers’ press worked very well against Nebraska, returning to the form we saw during the non-conference season. Minnesota struggled to press against teams that like to slow things down like Northwestern and Wisconsin, but the Gophers were able to be successful against Nebraska, which employs the same tempo strategy. The bigger issue against the Wildcats and Badgers was their failure to execute in other areas of the game, such as free throw shooting. That prevented the Gophers from ever going all out with the press in those contests.
  5. It’s tough to find a bright spot out of a 97-60 loss, especially a home loss to your rival when coming off a solid win. However, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons was a bright spot for the Boilermakers in their drubbing at the hands of Indiana earlier this week. Hammons was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but like most freshman big men, he has been inconsistent in his first college season. However, he was exceptional against Indiana, scoring 30 points and blocking five shots in 28 minutes, showing the potential we’re likely to see from him down the road. While he didn’t get much help against the Hoosiers, his consistency will be key to how Purdue finishes its season.
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Previewing Wisconsin-Ohio State: All Eyes on Deshaun Thomas

Posted by jnowak on January 29th, 2013

Here are a few coinciding items pertinent to Tuesday night’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game:

  1. Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten.
  2. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas is one of the best, if not the best, scorer in the Big Ten.
  3. Beyond Thomas, Ohio State doesn’t have much consistent scoring to rely upon.
This man is the focal point for Ohio State every game. Wisconsin should have that in its scouting report Tuesday.

This man is the focal point for Ohio State every game. Wisconsin should have that in its scouting report Tuesday.

That, in a nutshell, is what to keep an eye on Tuesday when the two teams meet in Columbus. Wisconsin has been an enigma this season, struggling through most of its non-conference schedule before apparently getting its act together at the beginning of Big Ten play. But they’ve suffered some puzzling losses while also managing to win back-to-back games without eclipsing 50 points for the first time in 16 years. Ohio State, meanwhile, has won most of the games it’s been expected to, but faltered in most of the marquee match-ups. In a talent-laden conference like this one, that’s not going to get them very far this year. But on a smaller scale, let’s take a slightly closer look at Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas conundrum and how it impacts both these teams.

There are essentially two ways you can play Ohio State. You can let Thomas get somewhere around his scoring average — he scores a Big Ten-best 20.0 PPG — while limiting the rest of the Buckeyes. Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson are all possible second scoring options (with all due respect to Aaron Craft, who is a terrific point guard, but that is not his role), though none have performed with any consistency. Only one of them averages in double-figures (Smith, just barely, with 10.2 PPG) and, consequently, the Buckeyes are one of just two conference teams without two players in the Big Ten’s top 30 in scoring (Purdue is the other). Yes, Penn State, winless in Big Ten play, has two players in the league’s top seven. And Nebraska, nearly as bad as the Nittany Lions, has three in the top 20. But I digress.

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Big Ten M5: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 28th, 2013

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  1. There may not be a player in the country as impactful as Indiana‘s Victor Oladipo, and that talent was on display Sunday in a huge win against Michigan State at Assembly Hall. Oladipo is essentially the college basketball equivalent of a five-tool player, with the ability to defend, get in the passing lane, pick up loose balls, rebound, score off the dribble and with the jump shot, and make other teammates better with his play-making (and, yes, that’s more than five tools). So why hasn’t his name come up quite as much in the National Player of the Year conversation? Cody Zeller is Indiana’s poster child for the award, but Oladipo has thrived in late-game clutch situations while Zeller has fallen into the shadows. The big man was a non-factor against the Spartans while the guard was the Hoosiers’ difference-maker.
  2. It’s hard to figure where we stand at this point with Minnesota, one of the most polarizing teams in college basketball. The Gophers started the season red hot and emerged as one of the country’s early bright spots. It looked like Tubby Smith would have his best Minnesota club by far — and perhaps the best collection of talent he, himself, had assembled in his career — before the overachieving Gophers hit this current rough patch. So do we chalk this up to us overestimating them early in the non-conference slate? Or is this just the gauntlet that is the Big Ten? Is Minnesota still Final Four-worthy? With all the ups and downs we’ve seen over the course of the first few months, we may not know until all is said and done in April.
  3. For a while now, we’ve known there are two ways to play Ohio State — you either let Deshaun Thomas get his average and try to limit the other players, or try to limit Thomas while letting the supporting cast get its due. Well, Penn State may have thought it would get away with the latter strategy before Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith Jr. emerged in the Buckeyes’ 65-51 win over the weekend. The question that remains know is whether Ohio State can maintain this level of scoring from the role players on the team while Thomas still manages his average on a regular basis. If that’s the case, Ohio State probably goes from a Sweet Sixteen-caliber team back to a repeat Final Four candidate.
  4. At long last, Tom Shatel writes, there is a pulse in Nebraska basketball. You could see it in the Huskers largely thanks to coach Tim Miles‘ energy in their win against Northwestern this weekend, and it could be the sign of better things to come for a program that has never been known for its hoops and has the tall order of trying to build itself in the super-tough Big Ten. “Maybe it shouldn’t be amazing,” Shatel wrote for the Omaha World-Herald. “Maybe it should be embarrassing, the idea of cheering effort, celebrating any win. But those who have been around this program for the past depressing decade know the real score: Any pulse is better than no pulse.”
  5. Through something that has been unspeakably ugly for a few games now, Bo Ryan is finding a way to — believe it or not — laugh. Ryan, not known in college basketball circles as a particularly jovial guy, has found reason to grin in the wake of Wisconsin‘s horrible shooting performances of late, including after a close win against Minnesota. In the last two home games, the Badgers shot 33 percent overall, 30.2 percent from the three-point line and 42.3 percent from the free throw line… and still managed a split against a pair of ranked foes.
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Night Line: Buckeyes Hold Serve at Purdue, But Plenty Left To Prove

Posted by BHayes on January 9th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Any Big Ten road win accrued this season holds value, as the conference is an especially treacherous version of its normally solid self here in 2012-13. So kudos Ohio State; you went into West Lafayette tonight and gave the home team only a few sniffs of the upset they sought, and in the process earned your first Big Ten road victory of the year. Purdue may be young and a year or two away from Big Ten relevancy, but good teams will exit Mackey Arena losers this winter; this game was far from an automatic W. Praise the workmanlike effort tonight from Thad Matta’s bunch, but do not mistake it for a cure-all to the recent ails of the Buckeyes. For Ohio State to live up to both preseason expectations and the standard set by Buckeye squads of years past, the performances in the statement games must improve – beginning on Saturday, when arch-rival and undefeated #2 Michigan arrives in Columbus. But does this Ohio State team have it in them?

Deshaun Thomas Is Averaging 20 A Game, But Are Other Buckeyes Ready To Help Shoulder The Load?

Deshaun Thomas Is Averaging 20 PPG, But Are Other Buckeyes Ready To Help Shoulder The Load?

Like it or not Buckeyes, the recent success of your program has created a standard of significant height, one that can really only be matched by a handful of programs across the country. That recent excellence, combined with the returns of starters Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith prompted pollsters to rank Ohio State fourth this preseason, and few blinked an eye. The Buckeyes have done nothing that ranks as truly cringe-worthy thus far, but they also can’t lay claim to a victory over a team likely to make the NCAA Tournament field (unless you are bullish on Washington winning some games in the Pac-12). Ohio State has also whiffed on their three big-time chances for statement Ws (at Duke, Kansas, at Illinois). The polarizing nature of the schedule is partially to blame here, as Craft and company have had no opportunities to prove their worth against solid Tournament teams (giving Illinois the benefit of the doubt here as “elite,” partially because that game was in Champaign). Still, we are comfortably into the New Year and Ohio State, a team some still consider to be among the nation’s best, has absolutely nothing of major substance on that resume.

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Big Ten M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 9th, 2012

  1. The preseason top 50 players for the Wooden Award has been announced and nine Big Ten players were included on the list. The full list can be found here but clearly the B1G dominates the list which should come as no surprise because there are five teams ranked in the Top 25 from the league. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State have two players each on the team, while Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Illinois’ Brandon Paul and Penn State’s Tim Frazier round the up the rest of the nine. Paul and Frazier might not lead their teams to the NCAA Tournament but both of them are expected to stuff the stat sheets and should average at least 15 PPG this season.
  2. Speaking of Indiana, Tom Crean is hoping that the suspensions of Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin will be reduced after the NCAA hears their appeals. Both freshmen were suspended for nine games for accepting benefits from a booster. After losing Derek Elston for a few weeks due to an injury, Crean needs their help in the frontcourt to protect and complement Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers won’t struggle too badly without them but a long suspension will derail their plans to improve by conference season with a full rotation of players. Indiana’s game against North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, for example, will be tough but they have enough talent to overcome the Tar Heels without these two freshmen.
  3. The college hoops season tips off today with Michigan State battling Connecticut at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This is a big game for Tom Izzo not just professionally but also at a personal level. One of Izzo’s relatives, Michael Izzo, works at the commissary office and will meet the head coach along with his family. Izzo is also happy that the troops overseas will get to see an exciting match-up between two historic programs in college hoops. As for the game itself, Michigan State’s Gary Harris will showcase his talents for the first time on the national stage and the Spartans will look to lock down the Connecticut backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright if they want to pull of an opening win today.
  4. Ohio State is considered a top 10 team in the country mainly due to the talents of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Not only do the Buckeyes have two potential All-Americans on their roster but they also have great depth at the wing position. Thad Matta will wait until tonight’s tipoff to decide who starts at the small forward position for the season opener against Marquette. Sam Thompson and Laquinton Ross are the finalists for that spot and both are great choices due to their gifted athleticism. Ross was highly ranked out of high school and is supposed to have great offensive skills while Thompson is a very tough defender. Lenzelle Smith Jr. will play at the scoring guard position alongside Aaron Craft in the backcourt.
  5. Minnesota’s Tubby Smith has to be glad that the season is finally here after all of the off-court troubles he’s had to deal with over the last couple of months. But on the flip side, he will also be under intense scrutiny to perfrom and the fans will expect him to show some results on the court. He is owed $2 million this season and needs to prove that he is worth such a big paycheck. Trevor Mbakwe is definitely confident that the Gophers will prove their worth on the court and he has a great supporting cast as well. Rodney Williams can get to the basket in several different ways and Andre Hollins will be great on the perimeter. Smith needs to win consistently over the next two months to divert all of the negative attention back to winning actual basketball games and prove that he has control of the program.
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