Want to Win in the Big Ten? You’d Better Get Your Offense Right

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 23rd, 2014

This isn’t your father’s offensively challenged but physical Big Ten. This year the league houses three of the top five efficient offenses in the nation (Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin). In fact, certain teams’ offenses, or obvious lack of offense, have challenged our preconceived notions of how the league might shake out over the next two months. Two weeks ago, I wrote that Ohio State, after its overtime to loss to Michigan State, still had a great shot to win the Big Ten title because of its soft conference schedule. On Monday night, the Buckeyes lost to perpetual bottom-dweller Nebraska, extending their losing streak to four games. Four weeks ago, Michigan looked dead in the water when news broke that center Mitch McGary would have season-ending back surgery. Last night, the Wolverines put on an offensive show in their defeat of Iowa by eight points in Ann Arbor. They now find themselves tied for first place with a 6-0 record in league play. Each team’s change of fortune can be explained through the evolution (or devolution) of their offense.

Shannon Scott hasn't been the offensive weapon the Buckeyes have hoped. And it may be costing them losses in the conference. (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

Shannon Scott hasn’t been an offensive option off the bench. And it may be costing them losses in the conference. (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

While physical play and strong defenses are still league constants, some teams are now surging due to their offensive prowess while others are sinking because of their offensive fecklessness. Take the case of Michigan, a team that has surprised the Big Ten with its undefeated record through the first third of conference play. The Wolverines racked up four losses in non-conference play, but their offense has hit another gear since. In the last five games, Michigan has not had an eFG rate below 58 percent and has averaged approximately 1.2 points per possession. Sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have led the way by averaging 34.8 PPG combined in those five games. Robinson has been especially surprising after his mediocre start to the season. On the flip side is the case of Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the best defense in the league by a significant margin, but at best a middle-of-the-road offense. The Buckeyes were hoping Shannon Scott would contribute in the scoring department off the bench, but that has not come to fruition. In their four consecutive losses, Scott is averaging a measly 4.0 PPG and Ohio State as a team has shot below 45 percent from the field in each of those games.

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Ohio State’s Slow Big Ten Start Nothing to Worry About

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 17th, 2014

As Ohio State has surely found out, when you are considered a top-10 team and proceed to go out and lose three straight games, eyebrows will be raised. Heck, if the two-time defending NBA champions are going to be questioned for losing three in a row within an 82-game regular season, it’s hardly a shock that pundits will sound the alarm over a three-game Big Ten losing streak. Nevermind that any one of those three losses, in isolation, would be nowhere near concern-prompting, or that the Buckeyes are still owners of the second most efficient defense in all the land. If you listen to anyone outside of Columbus, Thad Matta’s team suddenly has questions to answer. The bleeding does need to stop (and soon), and even the most ardent of Buckeyes’ supporters will admit this team is far from perfectly constructed, but resist overreaction on this one. Today’s Buckeyes are the same team that ran out to that 15-0 start — Big Ten title contenders, still.

Wins Haven't Come As Easily In The Early Part Of The Big Ten Season For Aaron Craft And Ohio State

Wins Haven’t Come As Easily In The Early Part Of The Big Ten Season For Aaron Craft And Ohio State

There is no sugarcoating this fact: Ohio State is not a good offensive basketball team. Besides an impressively low steal percentage-against (helpful mainly for setting up that lethally efficient halfcourt defense), there is no true strength within its offensive statistical profile. When DeShaun Thomas and his prodigious offensive production departed for the professional ranks last offseason, most suspected the Buckeyes would struggle to score points as a result. There was hope that junior LaQuinton Ross might be ready to assume a good chunk of Thomas’ production, but while Ross is the Bucks’ leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, he has proven not to be another Thomas. Ross has shot the ball well from three-point range (41%), but a higher-than-preferred turnover rate (12.5%), paired with middling percentages on two-point field goals (44%) and from the charity stripe (68%) has left, for Thad Matta and his offensively challenged team, a lot to be desired. While the optimist would suggest Ross has some room for growth here in the back end of the season (he does have the natural tools to make it happen), the realist here will remind you that we aren’t talking about a player five games into his freshman season. To a large extent, Ross likely is what he is; namely, not DeShaun Thomas. With a dearth of offensive options elsewhere on the roster, that reality also means that the Buckeyes won’t be redefining themselves anytime soon. This isn’t, and won’t become, an elite offensive unit.

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Three Keys to Ohio State at Purdue Today

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 31st, 2013

Big Ten play is here and it gets started today with No. 3 Ohio State‘s trip to West Lafayette to take on Purdue at 1:00 PM ET. The Buckeyes are still undefeated and Purdue has had its struggles in the non-conference season, but the Boilermakers are coming off their most impressive win at West Virginia nine days ago. The match-up will be Ohio State’s second road game of the season, but the first since its trip to Marquette before Thanksgiving (although it should be noted that Purdue students will still be off campus on break, so the crowd may not be as raucous as normal). The Buckeyes need the win to stay near the top of the national rankings and make an early statement that it is the favorite to win the conference. Purdue needs any and all marquee wins to help boost its NCAA Tournament resume, which boasts an 11-3 record but no truly quality victories yet. Here are three keys to this year’s Big Ten season opener. Happy new year, everyone!

Shannon Scott and Ronnie Johnson open up Big Ten play this year against one another and the guards are both key to their team's success (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

Shannon Scott and Ronnie Johnson open up Big Ten play this year against one another and the guards are both key to their team’s success (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

  1. Can Purdue’s guards penetrate and score on Ohio State’s spectacular defense? The Buckeyes’ defense is one of the very best — if not the best — in the country. It leads the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and is among the best in scoring defense and opponents’ field goal percentage. With Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. leading the charge, Purdue will have to manage to find some offense from its trio of slashing guards. The Johnsons and Bryson Scott need to get to the basket and take smart shots, not just go into the lane with reckless abandon to take a leaning, prayer of a floater that has no chance to drop in the basket. Such drives, if performed successfully, will open up lanes for dropoff passes to AJ Hammons, Jay Simpson and the other players cutting to the basket. Without good penetration opportunities today, Purdue’s offense will go stagnant and the Boilermakers will struggle to reach 50 points in the game (leaving almost no chance to win). Read the rest of this entry »
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Ohio State’s Keys to Beating Notre Dame Tonight

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 21st, 2013

One of four battles between Big Ten teams and probable NCAA Tournament teams from power conferences will take place in Brooklyn on Saturday when Ohio State (11-0) takes on Notre Dame (8-3). After a disappointing loss to North Dakota State, the Irish righted their ship by knocking off Indiana last Saturday at the Crossroads Classic. Meanwhile, Ohio State is ranked as the #3 team in the country, but hasn’t really played anyone of merit since they bested Maryland about three weeks ago. This one will be highlighted by guard play, but here are a few other things to look for if you’re tuning in this evening after a day of Christmas shopping (7:30 PM EST, ESPN2).

Shannon Scott will be tested by the Notre Dame guards on Saturday night.

Shannon Scott will be tested by the Notre Dame guards on Saturday night.

  • Guard Play will be a key: The best of the individual battles will be in the form of Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins taking on Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott. The Craft and Scott duo will look to do what they do against everyone — pressure and harass. Craft (2.5 SPG) and Scott (2.3 SPG) are first and second, respectively, among Big Ten players in steals per game, but Grant and Atkins are the keys to the Irish protecting the ball at the 18th best rate in the country (14.5 turnovers per 100 possessions). Experience playing under pressure like this might unhinge freshman and sophomore perimeter players, but the Notre Dame duo has been through it before. If Craft and Scott can force a steady diet of turnovers from these veterans — no easy task whatsoever — they can set the tone for an uglier game that eliminates some of the clean looks Notre Dame got against Indiana.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

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

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

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

Devyn Marble

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

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

Michigan Back On Track?

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Morning Five: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. It should not come as a surprise, but yesterday Greg Whittington announced that he intended to transfer to another school. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown team last month, might be the most sought-after transfer on the market as he averaged 12.1 points and seven rebounds in his first 13 games last season before  before being ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season due to academics. Over the summer, Whittington tore his ACL and was still recovering before being kicked off the team. Whittington has reportedly set a visit at Rutgers this weekend and has been in contact with  Memphis, Nebraska, and South Carolina. As Jeff Goodman notes, there is some question regarding how much eligibility Whittington has remaining since he missed half of last season due to injury and was sitting out this season recovering before being dismissed from the team.
  2. Perhaps he was waiting for an adequate sample size, but in this week’s edition of his Power Rankings Luke Winn brought back the famed Aaron Craft Turnometer and appears to have replaced Russ Smith with Craft’s Ohio State teammate Shannon Scott as the other Turnometer. Surprisingly, Scott is actually outperforming Craft in this metric. Of course, the more impressive thing regardless of whether Scott is actually outdoing Craft on the defensive end is that Ohio State now appears to have two guards playing that level of defense. The other stat that could our eye was the ridiculous three-point shooting from Connectictut. Based on their regular shooting we would expect them to come crashing back to earth pretty soon.
  3. We have heard of many coaches and sports figures donating money to various causes, but we have never heard of one donating money to their employer. Apparently that is what Josh Pastner as he donated $250,000 to the Memphis athletic department. Pastner’s donation will go towards the school’s $40 million fundraising goal, which is aimed at upgrading the school’s athletic facilities. As the school’s athletic director notes it is largest donation ever made by a Memphis coach and frankly we do not understand why he would do it. We could understand a former coach doing it, but for a fifth-year coach who at times has been mentioned as being on the hot seat it seems kind of ridiculous.
  4. With the much-discussed rule changes one of the biggest points of debate is how they are affecting games. The best way to do this is by looking at the numbers and the NCAA has done just that releasing its data as of December 8, 2013. According to the NCAA’s analysis the effects are encouraging with scoring up, shooting percentage up, and turnovers down. As the NCAA admits it might be too early in the season to read too much into these numbers. Perhaps the most surprising number is that team fouls are only up by less than two fouls per game. So while the popular narrative is that foul calls are out of control the data does not appear to back that up.
  5. The NCAA might take a cursory overview of the statistics, but if you want an in-depth analysis you have to go to Ken Pomeroy who broke down the turnover issue into steal turnovers and non-steal turnovers. For some reason, Pomeroy decided to use this post to try to figure out if charges are coming back into the game as the year goes on even though he does not even try to measure them directly. We won’t bother with that because it seems like a flawed assumption. What the post is good for is actually looking at the numbers that he measured. As you would expect steals have dropped with fouls being called more tightly (or at least that is the way it is perceived). On the other hand although non-steal turnovers have also decreased they are approaching prior years.
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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 Openers: Time to Judge the One-Game Judgements

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 11th, 2013

Opening weekend has come and gone, and every Big Ten team has played at least one game, with Illinois and Iowa suiting  up for two. After the weekend, the Big Ten sits at 14-0. Of course, such a short examination period isn’t the best time to make judgments, but they certainly were out in force for some teams and players. With this post, we will examine some of the potential overreactions involving Big Ten teams. We’ll also try to gauge if that overreaction could be warranted as something to worry about as the season progresses or if really it was a one-game situation that will be forgotten by next week.

Iowa

Iowa is 2-0 and That’s About All That Matters at This Point

Illinois

It was an impressive opening two games for Rayvonte Rice, shooting 55 percent from the floor while putting up 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Thinking the redshirt junior (he transfered from Drake and sat out last season) will sustain close to these numbers against better teams is foolhardy, though. A big question mark coming into the season was how accurate Rice would be (he shot 43.6 percent in his last season at Drake) and it’s unlikely his strong opening weekend shooting will continue. He’ll be good, but not this good all season.

Indiana

It was quite the debut for heralded freshman Noah Vonleh, finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Some people even started comparing him to Cody Zeller after one game. Well, Vonleh certainly was spectacular in his debut, but let’s not put him down as an All-American already. This rebounding pace won’t continue at such a high rate and his offense still needs a lot of work. It’s likely he makes an All-B1G of some sort and could be Indiana’s best player, but one game against inferior competition isn’t All-American status just yet.

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Evaluating Four of the Top Big Ten Sixth Man Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 6th, 2013

Ed. Note: this list isn’t meant to be inclusive. Every team will have at least one solid sixth man candidate. These are meant to highlight only four of them.

Last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Will Sheehey provided a huge spark to Indiana off the bench, averaging 9.5 points per game to go along with nearly 35 percent shooting from three. The Hoosiers lost four starters from last year, so that means not only will Sheehey need to start but also a new winner for for this award will be crowned. Here’s a look at some of the players who have a great shot to capture it this season.

Shannon Scott Leads a Strong Group of Big Ten Sixth Men This Season

Shannon Scott Leads a Strong Group of Big Ten Sixth Men This Season

  • Shannon Scott - Ohio State, junior point guard – Scott possess all the skills of a starting point guard in a big time conference, but due to Aaron Craft starting at the position, Scott begins the game on the bench. He still sees plenty of playing time, as his defensive guard skill set is a perfect complement to Craft’s. Both guards allow head coach Thad Matta to pressure the opponents’ guards up and down the floor, making even dribbling the ball past half-court a difficult test. Matta is also not afraid to use Scott on the offensive end with Craft playing off the ball. Last year the Buckeyes frequently enabled a lineup of Craft, Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Deshaun Thomas and Sam Thompson. That is a small lineup, but it creates match-up nightmares as all five players can score from the perimeter. Scott will need to pick up his scoring average (4.9 PPG) as well as his 33 percent three-point average to make him an even more valuable offensive player off the bench.
  • Denzel Valentine – Michigan State, sophomore small forward – Comparisons of Michigan State great Draymond Green have been made with Valentine’s all-purpose game. But Valentine has not shown he can be the type of inside-out post player Green was. Keith Appling will be backed up by Valentine, who is a very good ball-handler for his size. He has shown in flashes that he can contribute in a number of ways for Tom Izzo, like when he put up nine points, six rebounds and six assists against Memphis in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Valentine’s 4.1 RPG and 2.4 APG should increase this season, but the main area he needs to develop is his three-point shot.  He shot a dismal 28 percent from deep last season and the Spartans really need someone to become a three-point threat other than Gary Harris. If Valentine can push his percentage up to around 35 percent, it will be hard for Izzo to keep him off the court.

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Evaluating Big Ten’s Sophomore Class of 2013-14: LaQuinton Ross

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on August 27th, 2013

Deepak is a columnist for the RTC Big Ten microsite. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

With less than three months left until the college season tips off, we at the RTC Big Ten Microsite are here to get you excited about the stars who are returning next season and ready to take on the responsibility of leading their teams to conference glory. Over the next few weeks, we plan to evaluate a number of key Big Ten sophomores who will have an impact on their team’s performance throughout the season. Today, we focus on Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross.

(Note: We included Ross as part of the sophomore discussion even though he is officially listed as a junior because he barely played more than 30 minutes during his first season in Columbus due to academic issues.) 

Laquinton Ross (right) will fill up the stat sheet next season.

LaQuinton Ross (right) will fill up the stat sheet next season.

We live in a college hoops era where scouts determine if a player will have an immediate offensive impact on a team based purely on his physical attributes. LaQuinton Ross’ playing time last season was a conundrum to many pro scouts because a lean 6’8’’ forward who can shoot effectively from long range should average more than 17 MPG during Big Ten play. Yet, Thad Matta didn’t use Ross for much of the season because he preferred the experience and maturity of Shannon Scott and the defensive intensity of Sam Thompson over Ross’ obvious offensive firepower. Next season, however, should be an altogether different story because, without Deshaun Thomas in the Buckeyes’ lineup, Matta will need to depend on someone who can score with relative ease, and Ross should be able to fulfill that role. Let’s evaluate the parts of Ross’ game that will determine if he can become one of the primary weapons for the Buckeyes next season.

What did we learn from last year?

We learned that the incoming hype about Ross’ offensive game was legitimate. Despite his sporadic minutes, he averaged 8.3 PPG and shot 39% from beyond the arc last season. It was already a well-known fact that he could score, but we also witnessed during the NCAA Tournament that he can do so with ease against excellent competition. If he were allowed more minutes, he has the talent to approach an average of 18-20 PPG during the Big Ten season. So why didn’t he get more playing time? Because he also proved to be a defensive liability, and — this is the Big Ten, after all — Matta realized that he couldn’t afford to give up easy buckets on the defensive end just so he could use Ross to score. Last year’s Buckeyes relied on stalwart defense to succeed and with the NBA draftee Thomas picking up most of the scoring burden, Ross wasn’t going to get consistent playing time until he regularly covered his defensive assignments. Still, his talent was too much for Matta to ignore during the postseason and Ross took advantage of his meaningful minutes to average 18 PPG over the Buckeyes’ last three games against Iowa State, Arizona and Wichita State.

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Season In Review: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by jnowak on April 16th, 2013

For a while there, it was hard to know what to think about Ohio State. The Buckeyes had a pretty nice non-conference schedule that included a game against Marquette on a neutral floor (aircraft carrier), but it was canceled because of the condensation issue. They played at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and lost. They hosted Kansas, and lost. And then, suddenly, Big Ten play was here. The Buckeyes had no trouble beating up on the little guys, but then went to Illinois and lost. They went to Michigan State, and lost. Sensing a pattern? The Buckeyes looked good, but they never really looked great.

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were the straws that stirred the drink at Ohio State this year.

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were the straws that stirred the drink at Ohio State this year.

Until March. Then OSU looked like world-beaters. Ohio State went from a good team in a great conference to a great team in a great conference (one they were responsible for helping make great) when they rattled off 11 straight wins from February 20 to March 24. Along the way, they played their way back into the Big Ten title picture, a conference tournament championship, and an Elite Eight berth. For a while, they were the hottest team in the country. Let’s break it down:

  • The Good: Let’s start with the obvious. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas were as good a 1-2 punch and complementary duo in the conference, if not the country, as anybody. Thomas is a pure, versatile scorer whose game will translate well to the NBA when he makes the leap. And Craft, with all due respect, is the perfect kind of player you’d want to lead your college team but who won’t likely have much of a (if any) future in pro ball. He’s a terrific student-athlete, someone Ohio State fans and alumni can be proud of, and he’s a bulldog on the court. He ran the Buckeyes’ offense very well, provided leadership, brought some of the best on-ball defense in the country, and showed by the final months of the season that he can fill it up too. When Craft was at his best, the Buckeyes looked unbeatable. That included two huge games against Michigan State, both at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, as well as in the Big Dance. Ohio State was nearly dead in the water after losing three of four games early in February, but they turned it around to become the hottest team out of the best conference in the land. 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

bracketprep2(2)

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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