Sorting Through the Big Ten’s Murky Middle

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 17th, 2014

There have been 142 non-conference games involving Big Ten teams thus far, and yet it can be reasonably argued that we really don’t know much more than we did before the games tipped off on November 14. What we do know is that Wisconsin is still the clear-cut favorite and Rutgers will probably struggle to stay out of the league basement. That means that the other 12 teams are still clustered together into a large pack. Some have bigger wins than others; some have better offenses than others; while some have a marquee player who can get hot and carry them for a while. This exercise is meant to rank those other teams based on a number of different categories to see which is performing as the best and worst of the bunch right now . I’m no math major, so I simply took a look at twelve key categories and ranked each team accordingly. Some are subjective, some are objective, and it’s by no means perfect. But the categories on which I ranked each team are as follows:

Denzel Valentine is leading an efficient Michigan State offense in scoring so far. (Getty)

Denzel Valentine is leading an efficient Michigan State offense in scoring so far. (Getty)

  • Best Win
  • Worst Loss
  • Point Differential in home games against teams ranked #150 or above
  • Eye Test
  • Schedule Strength
  • Best Player
  • Offensive Efficiency
  • Defensive Efficiency
  • Assist Rate
  • Turnovers
  • Rebounding
  • Three Point Shooting

After crunching the numbers, here are the results.

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Big Ten M5: 12.12.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 12th, 2014

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  1. Michigan has had as bad a week as you could have after consecutive losses to inferior opponents, first to NJIT on Sunday followed by Eastern Michigan on Wednesday. Yesterday, it came out that Spike Albrecht has been dealing with an unspecified lower body injury since the offseason. This on top of the toe injury to point guard Derrick Walton. As John Beilein said, “when your two point guards are banged up, it could impact you.” Albrecht says he’s been playing through the pain all season and it has not affected his play, but Wolverines fans must hope that’s the case because things won’t get easier for them as they face Arizona in Tucson Saturday.
  2. If Michigan had the worst week, Nebraska may be a close runner-up after they dropped a home game to Incarnate Word on Wednesday, losing 73-74. The Cornhuskers were shorthanded against the Cardinals as senior Moses Abraham did not play due to a broken hand suffered in practice the day before. Nebraska now has three losses on the season, including two at home which is more than they had all last season. With Terrran Pettaway and Shavon Shields already carrying a disproportionate amount of the scoring, losing an experienced big man like Abraham is only going to put more stress on them. They’ll need to figure out how to remedy their offense quick, as Cincinnati and their Top 40 defense come into town this weekend.
  3. Over on the east coast, Maryland is also going through its own health issues with two of their starters, Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz, out for an extended period of time. Unlike the Cornhuskers, the Terrapins have been able to navigate through their injuries due to the excellent play of their freshman point guard, Melo Trimble. One of the best traits of the first-year player is his ability to get to the free throw line. On Wednesday’s 67-56 win over North Carolina Central, Trimble was perfect from the free throw line and scored eight of his total twelve points from the charity stripe. It’s his ability to generate points even during an off-shooting night that makes him so valuable and keeps this Maryland team afloat despite injuries to key personnel.
  4. On Tuesday, Indiana lost 74-94 to Louisville in large part due to their poor rebounding – the Cardinals out rebounded the Hoosiers 52 to 34, which includes grabbing 26 offensive rebounds. Indiana has been dealing with their deficiencies in rebounding since the loss of Noah Vonleh to the NBA Draft during the offseason. As Tom Crean and company contemplate how to fix their rebounding woes, an obvious starting point would be for the lone true big man in the starting lineup, Hanner Mosquera-Perrea, to be more consistent in his effort to grab boards. Indiana still has challenging opponents in its non-conference schedule, such as Georgetown, and they’ll need to improve their rebounding performance, otherwise they’ll be relying on getting hot from the three point line to win games.
  5. Finally, Ohio State may have found another offensive weapon on their roster with the impressive performance of Kam Williams in their 97-43 win over High Point. The freshman guard scored a career-high 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting including 4 three pointers. The Buckeyes already have an arsenal of weapons with D’Angelo Russell, Marc Loving, and Sam Thompson. So, Thad Matta won’t need a scoring output like this from Williams every night, but it must be nice to know that he has another potential high-scoring wing waiting on his bench.
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Big Ten M5: 12.09.14 Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on December 8th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Indiana began the season with little knowledge of how its big men would fare this season. After losing Noah Vonleh to the NBA and Luke Fischer to Marquette, all the pressure was on junior Hanner-Mosquera Perea to step up as the Hoosiers’ lone presence in the paint. But according to Zach Osterman of the Indy Star, freshmen Emmitt Holt and sophomore Collin Hartman are slowly solidifying Tom Crean’s frontcourt.
  2. The Big Ten Tournament will be held at Madison Square Garden in 2018 as the conference pushes its postseason event east in order to gobble up more television money. The 2015 and 2016 tournament will be held at locations within the league’s footprint, in Chicago and Indianapolis, respectively. The 2017 tournament, however, will be played in Washington D.C. An interesting facet of the 2018 plan is that the event won’t be played on its usual schedule. Because the Big East Tournament is scheduled for the traditional weekend of Selection Sunday, the Big Ten’s marquee event will be played during the weekend prior, which means teams will have nearly two full weeks off between the end of their season and the start of the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Minnesota is getting great defensive play out of junior college transfer Carlos Morris so far this season, writes Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He came up one steal short of the Minnesota single-game record with eight pilfers against Wake Forest and is averaging 11.6 points per game – but according to head coach Richard Pitino, he’s still got a lot to work on.
  4. Nebraska fell to Creighton by 10 points on Sunday as Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields each turned in lackluster performances. Petteway had 21 points but was 8-of-20 from the field, while Shields only contributed seven points. The Bluejays’ game plan was to key on the two stars, forcing the likes of David Rivers and Benny Parker to beat them – and they didn’t.
  5. Maryland has turned its free throw shooting into a strength after ranking 241st in the nation with 21.2 attempts per game last year. Melo Trimble has been the guiding force behind that change, as the freshman has drawn an average of 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes played. Trimble already leads the team in offensive efficiency (125.0), free throw percentage (88.6%) and three-point percentage (43.2%). With Dez Wells out of the lineup for a couple more weeks with a wrist injury, the Terrapins need Trimble to keep it up.
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Nebraska’s Loss to Rhode Island Exhibits Some Danger Signs

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2014

It’s not as though Nebraska was going to waltz through the season undefeated or anything. The Cornhuskers cracked the preseason Top 25 because of the finishing run they went on last season and because they brought back pretty much every significant player in the rotation other than Ray Gallegos. That said, Saturday’s overtime loss to an unranked Rhode Island team exhibited several potential trouble spots for the Cornhuskers if they don’t immediately fix some things. We outline three of those problem areas below.

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

  • Walter Pitchford is Struggling: The former Florida forward emerged as a quality deep shooting big man last season, hitting 41.0 percent on nearly 50 makes from three. He’s off to a 1-of-11 start from behind the arc this season. One of the most difficult things to do if you’re a good shooter whose shots are not falling is to find other ways to contribute. It’s clear that he’s struggling in other facets of his game, but Pitchford could work through his slump by becoming a better presence on the boards and staying out of foul trouble. Right now the offense is pretty much limited to the Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields show, but last year’s team really took off when the secondary options improved. Rhode Island outrebounded Nebraska by 16, and Pitchford’s lack of activity inside is a big part of the reason why. Read the rest of this entry »
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Introducing the RTC All-Big Ten Third Team

Posted by Eric Clark on November 12th, 2014

College basketball makes its return on Friday, and the Big Ten microsite’s writing crew has come together and formally voted on their preseason All-Big Ten teams. Having already released our pick for Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, we’ll release the rest of our preseason projections later this week.

RTC All-Big Ten Third Team

Shavon Shields, junior, Nebraska 6’7”, 221 lbs. (12.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 44.3% FG). Terran Petteway is the obvious catalyst for the Huskers, but Shields, a Big Ten honorable mention selection last year, will be his primary sidekick. Standing at 6’7”, Shields can pose significant match-up problems at the two-guard spot. The Olathe, Kansas, native ranked 11th in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding last season, pulling down over four caroms per game while leading Nebraska with 5.8 boards per game. His ability to get to the basket is what makes him truly indispensible, while all his work on the boards from the wing positions are gravy.

Shavon Shields Leads the RTC Big Ten Preseason Third Team  (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Shavon Shields Leads the RTC Big Ten Preseason Third Team (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Rayvonte Rice, senior, Illinois 6’4”, 230 lbs. (15.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.66 SPG). Rice made waves in his first season of play at Illinois (he redshirted the 2012-13 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules), leading the team in points and pulling down 210 rebounds, just one shy of the team high. Rice will be counted on even more this season after Tracy Abrams was lost for the season with a knee injury. If Rice can improve upon his three-point percentage (29.5%), he’ll be a far more dangerous player this season. Pairing a solid long-range game with his size, strength and overall toughness would serve the Illini well come postseason crunch time.

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Can Nebraska Handle the Hype?

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 27th, 2014

Nebraska essentially came out of nowhere last season, going from a 9-9 start to closing out the season on a 10-4 finish and making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Terran Petteway became a household name in the Big Ten and head coach Tim Miles put himself on the map as one of the brightest young coaches in the land. The team brings back most of its roster from last season and has started this year ranked #21 in the USA Today/Coaches Preseason Poll. Will the Cornhuskers drop back to mediocrity with these expectations or will they continue to take leap forward? Here are some arguments for and against each scenario.

Terran Petteway will once again lead a Nebraska team that won't sneak up on anybody this season. (AP)

Terran Petteway will once again lead a Nebraska team that won’t sneak up on anybody this season. (AP)

Why They Will Be Even Better

Nebraska’s non-conference schedule is more forgiving in some ways than it was last year, but it will give the Cornhuskers several chances to pick up quality wins against teams that could very well be in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers have rematches against Cincinnati and Creighton at home, and both of those teams look to be down a bit meaning that the home team should have the advantage. Nebraska also plays two true road games against Rhode Island and Florida State. Rhode Island has a really good guard in EC Matthews and Florida State will test them inside with a trio of 7-footers. If they make it through their first nine games with a record of 8-1 or 9-0, they will get tested again in Honolulu’s Diamond Head Classic, where they could play Wichita State in the second round and potentially Colorado in the championship game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #24 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 67

Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament action between Nebraska and Ohio State in Indianapolis.

LaQuinton Ross Keyed Ohio State's Comeback Friday Afternoon

LaQuinton Ross Keyed Ohio State’s Comeback Friday Afternoon

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Nebraska’s collapse was monumental. How did Nebraska lose a game it was leading by 18 with fewer than 14 minutes to play? First answer: Ohio State outscored the Cornhuskers 41-19 from the 13:45 mark to the end of the game. Nebraska had built its 18-point lead through playing high IQ basketball and making great decisions when it came to shot selection. All of that changed from that point on, as the offense continuously sputtered due to poor decisions and poor execution. Second answer: Nebraska had no idea how to handle Ohio State’s pressure. During the period where it was outscored 41-19, Tim Miles’ squad turned the ball over seven times and five of those giveaways were charged to the team’s two top playmakers, guards Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. It has been a long time since Nebraska played in a string of important games in March and that inexperience was on prime display during Friday afternoon’s collapse.
  2. Ohio State deserves a ton of credit. Nebraska certainly deserves a hefty load of blame for its sputtering down the stretch, but Ohio State stepped up and made plays when it could have wilted away and accepted defeat. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross was extremely productive in the second half, as he tallied 18 points and collected eight rebounds. Senior guard Aaron Craft fulfilled his leadership role admirably, as he keyed the Buckeyes’ attack on both ends of the court. This season’s Ohio State squad has not been the most talented offensively, but it showed again Friday that it can defend anyone in the country.
  3. Nebraska should still earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Yes, a win over Ohio State would have likely locked the Cornuskers in the field of 68, but Nebraska’s résumé entering the Big Ten Tournament should have already had Tim Miles’ squad locked into the Big Dance. The Cornhuskers finished the regular season with an impressive 11-7 record in Big Ten play. They won home games over NCAA Tournament locks Ohio State and Wisconsin, and in addition, they went on the road and beat Michigan State in East Lansing. Even with Friday’s loss, Nebraska has still won eight of its last 10 games in the treacherous and that is an accomplishment that should be appropriately rewarded.

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The RTC All-Big Ten Team: Nebraska’s Terran Petteway

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 11th, 2014

We are coming down to the final few and the RTC choice for Big Ten Player of the Year. Today continues the series with one of the biggest surprises in the conference in Nebraskas Terran Petteway. Petteway sat out all of last season after transferring from Texas Tech, but has made his presence known quickly this year. His surge has coincided with Nebraska’s as the Cornhuskers clinched fourth in the conference and are on the verge of a NCAA Tournament berth. Without Petteway’s play this year Nebraska is likely where most people had them before the season began – toward the cellar.

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska's best player and is RTC's third best Big Ten player (HallUniversity.com)

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska’s best player and is RTC’s third best Big Ten player. (HallUniversity.com)

Why Terran Petteway is the third best player in the league: Petteway has really played strong all season with just two games where he scored in single digits. He has averaged 18 PPG and 4.9 RPG. His scoring has him leading the conference with the ability to score from deep and attack the basket. When he goes inside he often draws contact and capitalizes with the most free throws made (152), second most attempts (186) and third best percent (81.7) in the conference. His ability to do it all offensively has been a key component to the Nebraska offense as he forces defenders to play him both inside and out and has started to draw heavy focus to open the field up for guys like Shavon Shields.

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Three Thoughts as Nebraska Notched a Big Road Win at Indiana Last Night

Posted by Walker Carey on March 6th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Nebraska and Indiana in Bloomington.

Prior to Wednesday night’s game at Indiana, Nebraska was widely seen as a bubble NCAA Tournament team. The Cornhuskers were among the “First Four Out” in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest update, so Tim Miles’ squad knew it had basically zero margin for error in either of its two games this week (at Indiana on Wednesday and home versus Wisconsin on Sunday). Earning a win at Assembly Hall figured to be a tall task for the Cornhuskers, as Indiana had already scored home victories over Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State this season. Luckily for Nebraska, its chances at an earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament are still alive and well after the Cornhuskers led all the way en route to a very important 10-point road victory. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday night’s action.

Nebraska Got a Huge Win at Indiana Wednesday Night

Nebraska Got a Huge Win at Indiana Wednesday Night

  1. Nebraska Received Valuable Contributions From a Variety of Players. On an evening where Nebraska standout guard Terran Petteway battled foul trouble and only finished 3-of-10 from the field, the Cornhuskers received impact performances from several other players. Forward Walter Pitchford scored the team’s first nine points of the night and finished the game with 17 total points to go with the nine rebounds he collected. Swingman Shavon Shields experienced plenty of success attacking the rim against the Indiana defense and also finished the game with 17 points. Shields was also part of the defensive effort that held Indiana’s marquee players — Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey – to combined 9-of-28 shooting from the field. The Cornhuskers also received key performances from reserve guards Benny Parker and Ray Gallegos, who sparked the Cornhuskers on both ends of the court with intense and spirited play. Good teams are able to adjust on the fly and still earn victories when their top player is not at his best, and that is exactly what Nebraska did on Wednesday night. Read the rest of this entry »
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B1G Award Spotlight: Terran Petteway

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 30th, 2014

With the season now turning toward the home stretch, it’s time to start contemplating and discussing which players are most worthy and likely to see their names on the Big Ten all-league teams. As an example, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway has seemingly come out of nowhere to lead the Cornhuskers in scoring in his first season on the active roster, one of a number of first-year players who have helped Tim Miles’ rebuilding efforts. While Tai Webster, Walter Pitchford, Leslee Smith and the now-exiled Deverell Biggs have all contributed in various ways, none have had the impact of Petteway. He’s already become one of the best go-to scorers in the league, checking in at third on the league leaders list at 18.2 PPG. The question to be answered here is where does he deserve to be placed in terms of all-league consideration?

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska's best player, but is that enough to make him first-team all B1G? (AP)

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska’s best player, but is that enough to make him first-team all B1G? (AP)

The usual theory that coincides with how these all-league teams are picked is “to the victor goes the spoils.” Fair or not, given the concentration of talent among 12 teams, a player normally needs to be on team that finishes in the top third of the standings to make the first team. In the last three seasons, only two first-team selections have come from teams that didn’t finish in the top four of that season’s standings (Robbie Hummel and John Shurna in 2011-12). Sitting at 10th right now at 2-5 in Big Ten play, this likely takes Petteway out of first-team consideration unless Nebraska goes on an epic hot streak over its last 11 games. That does not mean, however, that he’s precluded from placement on either the second- or third-team all-conference squads.

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Quick Keys for Nebraska In the Charleston Classic

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 21st, 2013

Nebraska has gotten off to a 3-0 start and has shown a versatile new-look roster that has looked impressive so far. Tim Miles has brought in eight newcomers who have jelled rather nicely in the early stages of the season. The Cornhuskers will be tested this weekend, however, as they will travel to the Palmetto State to play in the Charleston Classic (full bracket here). Nebraska kicks off the tournament on Thursday afternoon against UMass, and with a win could take on nationally-ranked New Mexico on Friday. Regardless of the opponents that Nebraska ends up facing, here are some things to look for during their three games in the tournament this weekend.

Tim Miles

Tim Miles Takes His Undefeated Team to Charleston Today

Offensively, the two things that stood out from the Huskers’ first three games was their ability to get to the free throw line and their low turnover rate. They went for over 80 points in two of the three contests, and they also shot over 30 free throws in each. They need to continue to use their abundance of athletic, rangy wings like Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway to get to the rim. If they fall into the trap of overdependence on the three-point touch of Ray Gallegos, they might be heading to the losers bracket rather quickly. Tai Webster has been the most aggressive Husker in terms of getting to the line, but he’s only 15-of-27 (55%) there thus far this season. Petteway and Shields are each shooting over 80 percent from the stripe, but Petteway needs to get there more instead of settling for shooting long mid-range shots.He’s gone 6-of-7 from the line, but obviously the problem is that he’s only been there seven times.

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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.

osu nebraskas big ten tourney 13

  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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