Big Ten Season Grades: Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on April 16th, 2014

With the end of the season comes a chance to look back at what happened and look ahead to next year. Here we have broken the conference into three corresponding tiers based on this year’s finish and will give each a final grade and look at a key question for 2014-15. Today we’ll examine four teams that are hoping they don’t replicate this year’s bottom four finish: Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue.

Indiana

Yogi Ferrell had a great 2013-14 campaign and will need to replicate that for Indiana to be successful next year. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Yogi Ferrell had a great 2013-14 campaign and will need to replicate that for Indiana to be successful next year. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Grade: D. The Hoosiers lost so much with the departures of two lottery picks that maybe we all expected too much. Still, with Noah Vonleh (another likely lottery pick), Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey and “The Movement,” quite a bit more was expected from this group. Failure to make the NCAA Tournament (or even the bubble) and falling to the bottom tier of the Big Ten represents a very bad year for the Hoosiers. The program’s one bright spot was the emergence of Ferrell as not only the team’s best player but also one of the best in the conference.

Key 2014-15 Question: Who plays inside? Indiana will have plenty of guards on its roster next season. It brings back Ferrell and Stanford Robinson and its recruiting class includes McDonalds All-America shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. and shooting guard in Robert Johnson. With Vonleh and Jeremy Hollowell now gone, though, this team will lack an inside presence. Hanner Mosquera-Perea hasn’t really panned out and Troy Williams is a wing who doesn’t dominate inside the paint. Tom Crean is still recruiting in the hopes of filling this hole with a late commitment, but as of now, the Hoosiers could be looking at a four-guard lineup next year.

Northwestern

Grade: B. A “B” may seem high for a team at the bottom of league but this group of Wildcats was expected to do absolutely nothing in the Big Ten this season. Recall that at one point the question was if they could win a single Big Ten game. Chris Collins did plenty to change that notion quickly, as he made the team’s identity about defense and pushed it to win six games in conference play (and at one point had pundits wondering if it could make its way onto the NCAA bubble). It was a big and unexpected turnaround that has the Wildcats looking to break the NCAA drought sooner than later.

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Joking Aside, Indiana Makes the Wrong Move in Turning Down the CBI

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 17th, 2014

Indiana was at the top of the list of the most-discussed NIT snubs once the field of 32 was announced in the aftermath of the NCAA Tournament bracket reveal yesterday. The Hoosiers fell from a #1 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament to one that couldn’t even make the NIT this season. Word was also released that Indiana had been invited to compete in the even less prestigious CBI, but had declined the invitation. Athletic Director Fred Glass said, “Finances wouldn’t be an issue if we thought it made sense, but we’re Indiana, we don’t play in the CBI.” This is the certainly the wrong approach to take, and there are several reasons why turning down the chance to play more games is the wrong move here for Indiana.

The momentum that was built up over the last two seasons came crashing to a halt this season for Tom Crean's Indiana team. (Getty)

The momentum that was built up over the last two seasons came crashing to a halt this season for Tom Crean’s Indiana team. (Getty)

First, in the interest of complete fairness, several other schools such as Maryland, Marquette, Washington and UNLV reportedly turned down the CBI as well. But those schools didn’t spout off about how they were essentially too good to try to improve in a postseason tournament that very few people notice. Indiana has an outstanding basketball history, as everyone knows. The school is one of a handful of “blue-blood” programs with an extended legacy and multiple national championships. But the days of Bob Knight heading a national contender every season are long gone. The program under Tom Crean has gone 101-97 in his six years at the helm. It is true that he inherited an absolute mess upon arrival, but it’s not like the Hoosiers have been at the top of the sport for a significant amount of time only to have one bad season. The horrific teams of Verdell Jones and Tom Pritchard would have killed to have had an opportunity to play in whatever postseason tournament they could get into. You’re not all the way back to complete relevancy by simply having two good seasons out of six.

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Four Quick Thoughts on Indiana’s Win Over Iowa

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 28th, 2014

Iowa continued its late season freefall after dropping a shootout in Bloomington Thursday night, 93-86. The Hawkeyes have now tumbled to a 19-9 overall record and will lose what would have been a healthy seed in the NCAA Tournament if they don’t get things turned around rather quickly. Indiana once again proved that, despite their inconsistencies, they are dangerous at home. They’ve now knocked off Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa in their own gym this season.

Here are four observations from last night’s fast-paced affair.

Will Sheehey scored a career-high 30 points Thursday as Indiana knocked off Iowa. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Will Sheehey scored a career-high 30 points Thursday as Indiana knocked off Iowa. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

  1. Where has this Will Sheehey been all season? Sheehey was a legitimate force on offense for the Hoosiers all night long. He proved to be equally adept at knocking down shots from the perimeter and also getting by the Iowa defense to finisih on the fast break. He went 11-of 13 on twos, and put up 19 points in the first half alone. If Sheehey had played even half this well over the course of the entire season, the Hoosiers might have a considerably better record than 16-12. He’s been missing in action on numerous occasions and seemingly has been without the mojo that came from playing on a much more talented team last season. If he can ride the momentum from this outstanding performance into the last three games and the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana can clearly play the spoiler role in early March.
  2. Iowa needs Mike Gesell at his best: Gesell was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball all night, which led to a statistical line that produced only six points and five turnovers. He had a team-high seven assists, but much of that was due to the uptempo nature of the game. Fran McCaffery doesn’t need 20 points per game from his sophomore point guard, but he needs to consistently knock down open looks and he can’t give the ball away so much if the Hawkeyes are going to look to push it. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 28th, 2014

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  1. At this point it’s really not news when Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo says that injured senior Adreian Payne is unlikely to play before seemingly every contest. Izzo stated on Monday morning that “he [Payne] ran yesterday a little bit more, with more weight on it, but he’s very doubtful for tomorrow,” when asked about his big man’s injury. You have to give Izzo credit for not jeopardizing Payne’s future earnings by rushing him back into the lineup too quickly. You also have to wonder how many other coaches would have had the confidence to hold a star player out knowing that there’s a bigger prize to win starting in March. Sparty certainly has as good of a shot at winning the national championship as any team in America when playing at full strength.
  2. Despite the likelihood of not playing again this season due to back surgery, Mitch McGary is still helping Michigan in every way he can. McGary was seen on the sidelines providing motivation to his teammates any way he can. A recent example was picked up by the ESPN cameras on Saturday in East Lansing, where McGary was shown holding a whiteboard that said “win the game” during a timeout. He’s also been a great resource for Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, as he can talk the same language with his fellow post teammates and give them constructive feedback from the sidelines.
  3. Indiana showed some signs of turning the corner in its win against Illinois on Sunday. The Hoosiers are far from a polished offensive machine, but they’ve continued to pound teams on the boards regardless. Some of the younger players are also starting to play better, such as freshman Stanford Robinson, who played 29 productive minutes against the Illini. An NCAA berth might still be a stretch, but continued improvement over the season’s last month will go a long way toward getting the program back to elite status in the future.
  4. LaQuinton Ross has taken a good chunk of the blame for Ohio State’s up-and-down season, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. has also been terribly inconsistent with his shooting. After starting B1G play by shooting an abysmal 16 percent from behind the arc, he played much better in the Buckeyes’ recent win against Illinois, hitting 4-of-8 from downtown after going 7-of-31 in the nine games before that. If Ohio State could ever get Ross and Smith going at the same time, they could still become a factor in the Big Ten race.
  5. Iowa could move to a half-game back of Michigan State when the two teams clash tonight in Iowa City. This is one of the biggest Iowa home games in years, as the Hawkeyes have become a player on the national scene for the first time in a decade or longer. Fran McCaffery’s team has already beaten Xavier and Ohio State in a pair of resume-enhancing win, erasing the memory of an 0-7 mark against Top 25 squads last year. With a limping Spartans team coming to town tonight, Iowa needs to capitalize on the fact they are playing the game on their home court against a team at less than full strength.
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On The Mend: Big Ten Medical Roundup

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 1st, 2013

With the season rapidly approaching, the dreaded injury bug is something that coaches lose sleep over. Not only can an injury hurt a team’s chances of winning, but it also throws off rotations and can possibly lead to chemistry issues.

  • Big Ten teams have been fortunate enough to not have any serious injuries so far. Michigan State’s Gary Harris gave the country a scare when he hurt his ankle back in early September, and he was already recovering from a shoulder injury that nagged him for all of last season. He now looks to be fully recovered from the ankle injury as he poured in 15 points in an exhibition matchup on Tuesday. Harris is the only player on the Spartans’ roster who can create his own shot, so losing him for any time period would be a blow to Michigan State’s Big Ten conference title hopes.
  • The Spartans’ in-state rival Michigan also has one of its key players dealing with an injury. Back pains and big men never go well together, and in Mitch McGary’s situation, that is exactly the case. John Beilein recently gave an update on McGary’s health, and there is not definite timetable for McGary’s return to the court. The Wolverines have very little frontcourt depth behind him so this could spell trouble if he’s not 100 percent to start the year. Still, Beilein has to be careful to not rush his sophomore star back, as a nagging back problem all year would really hurt Michigan’s chances to get back to the Final Four. Michigan’s first real test is at Iowa State November 17 and then a major showdown with Duke a few weeks later. He should be ready to go for those contests, but Michigan has to be cautious with him (and his back).
Bringing back two key cogs like McGary and Robinson III gives Michigan enough firepower for a run at a Big Ten championship in 2013-14

Bringing back two key cogs like McGary and Robinson III gives Michigan enough firepower for a run at a Big Ten championship in 2013-14

  • Wisconsin starting forward Frank Kaminsky recently was cleared to return to practice after injuring his left foot earlier in the month. The Badgers can ill afford to lose him for an extended period of time, as they are one of the weakest teams in the league when it comes to frontcourt depth. Bo Ryan figures to trot out a three-guard lineup this season with Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and freshman Nigel Hayes seeing time. Kaminsky did a solid job backing up Jared Berggren last year, but this year he inherits the bulk of the minutes. Ryan will lean on “Frank the Tank” to try to slow down some of the Big Ten’s elite big men when the Badgers are on defense.

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Morning Five: 10.07.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 7th, 2013

morning5

  1. With Louisville set to begin their title defense in about a month, they got some more good news when it was announced that Kevin Ware, who suffered a horrific compound fracture in the team’s Elite 8 game versus Duke, had been cleared to practice with the team. Although we do not know what this means in terms of when Ware will actually start suiting up again for the Cardinals it does suggest that he is ahead of the timetable–a return to playing in games in 2014–that Rick Pitino had previously set for him. We have all seen the clips of Ware’s rehab including ones of him dunking, but it remains to be seen whether Ware will have his explosiveness back and if he will be able to play at full intensity or if the injury will continue to be in the back of his mind.
  2. Ware’s injury and his progress might make more headlines due to the high-profile way he sustained it, but the right ankle of Gary Harris is probably more significant to this season’s national title picture. According to Jeff Goodman, Harris is “about 75 percent” and expected to return to practice this week. The Spartans return four of their five starters from last season and should be aiming for nothing less than a national championship, but it is Harris who is their most dynamic player and if they are to win a title he will need to be healthy, which is not a given as he already spent much of last season nursing a right shoulder injury.
  3. If Larry Kryskowiak gets fired from his job at Utah and is unable to find a job in basketball again, it appears that he could have a career in law enforcement to fall back on. The third year Utah coach, who caught a bicycle thief about a week ago, helped catch a suspect who is believed to have stolen several thousand dollars worth of equipment from the Utah athletic department. According to reports, the basketball team’s video offices were among several offices in the athletic department that were targeted by the individual. When the campus police distributed a description of the suspect, Krystkowiak told his team to be on the lookout for the individual and when a former player took a photo of a suspicious individual other eyewitnesses confirmed it was the suspect. When a track coach notified Krystokowiak that he had seen the suspect on campus, Krystowiak and several of his assistants began to chase the suspect around campus before finally cornering him in a locker room and waiting for the cops to arrest him.
  4. It turns out that there are actually some people at North Carolina who are legitimately bothered by all of the ridiculous stuff going on at the school. Jack Halperin, a tutor at UNC for 23 years, resigned his post in an open letter to Roy Williams that was published in Friday’s Daily Tar Heel citing Williams’ decision to allow PJ Hairston to remain on the team. While we do feel that the way that Williams has handled the Hairston leaves something to be desired, the decision is far from the most embarassing thing that the school has been involved in (see the investigation into the school’s African and Afro-American Studies program). Still we guess that everybody reaches their breaking point and Hairston just happened to be Halperin’s.
  5. This year was already going to be a challenging one for Tom Crean, but now that the third of his three four-star freshmen–Stanford Robinson–is injured it might be time to adjust the expectations for Hoosier fans. Robinson, a guard out of Findlay College Prep, is out indefinitely after injuring his right knee during Hoosier Hysteria on Friday night. The type and extent of Robinson’s injury has not been disclosed at this point, but he is the third Hoosier freshman to sustain an injury with Troy Williams (right hand) and Luke Fischer (left shoulder) being the other two. Even Noah Vonleh, the Hoosiers’ top recruit, is getting over an ankle injury. While none of the injuries appear to be that significant on their own the string of injuries will only make it more difficult for the young team to get used to playing together and could lead to more early-season struggles for the Hoosiers.
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Who’s Got Next? Indiana Scores With Noah Vonleh; Nigel Hayes Becomes A Badger…

Posted by CLykins on November 13th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Indiana Adds Noah Vonleh To Loaded Class

As Saturday night concluded, the Indiana Hoosiers landed a significant piece to its 2013 recruiting class that quickly vaulted them up the class rankings to join the likes of Kentucky and Memphis. Five-star forward Noah Vonleh, who reclassified back into his original class of 2013 in September, ended his college recruitment quicker than expected by giving the Hoosiers a verbal pledge after his official visit during Indiana’s season opener. Vonleh, the No. 8 ranked prospect in the class of 2013, was also considering Connecticut, Georgetown, North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse.

While visiting, 2013 No. 8 prospect Noah Vonleh chose the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday night

“From Day One, Indiana has been recruiting me the hardest,” Vonleh told Adam Finkelstein of ESPN.com. “They were just letting me know how they could develop me into the player I want to be at the next level. Their academics are good, they’re the No. 1 team in the country and they’ve got another great class coming in next year.” With the addition of Vonleh, head coach Tom Crean has landed his highest-ranked prospect since taking the Indiana job in 2008. At 6’9″ and 220 lbs., the Massachusetts native is best described as a freak athlete. He uses his great length especially well rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor, as he is arguably one of the best rebounders in the class, and altering shots with his shot-blocking. For a combo forward, he also has excellent ball-handling ability with an ever-improving jump shot. As his body continues to mature, with added strength to his 6’9″ frame he will be more efficient from the low post with his endless potential.

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Who’s Got Next? Andrew Wiggins Reclassifies to 2013; Indiana Lands Troy Williams…

Posted by CLykins on October 30th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Andrew Wiggins Reclassifies into Class of 2013

It’s official. After many months of rampant speculation regarding the consensus No. 1 prospect in the nation, Andrew Wiggins is reclassifying into the class of 2013. A native of Canada and a student at Huntington Prep High School (West Virginia), he will assume his rightful spot at the top of the national rankings in the 2013 class. Confirmed by Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford, Wiggins and his family announced on Thursday after a decision had been reached. “It just happened,” Fulford said. “Andrew didn’t even know for sure until a little earlier today when his parents got him word. He was waiting on his parents. That was the real wait with it. It was just a family decision.”

Consensus No. 1 Prospect Andrew Wiggins Makes Move to 2013 Official

With the decision, which has been a work in progress for months, Wiggins’ move will make the class of 2013 one of the more impressive top-to-bottom classes in recent memory. The 6’7″ small forward is coming off an outstanding summer with his most notable performances coming while playing at the Nike EYBL with CIA Bounce AAU and at the LeBron James Skills Academy. After those two important events, he received high praise as the clear-cut No. 1 high school prospect in the land.

When scouting his overall game, he has the complete package on the basketball court. He is an explosive athlete with tremendous size on the wing. He can hurt you in a variety of ways with his shooting ability, whether it’s from the mid-range or from deep. One of the more impressive traits of Wiggins’ game is how he can effortlessly get to the rim and consistently finish under contact. While using that great size, he is also a ferocious rebounder. His ball-handling is one of his best traits and he excels in an up-tempo environment. Regarding any specific weakness to his game, his shooting touch could be a little more refined. Also, he has a work ethic that has been in question at times, as he sometimes seems “bored” during game. Developing a work ethic to match that of some of the best basketball players at the college and professional levels will separate him from his peers.

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Who’s Got Next? Wainright Opts For Baylor; Missouri Adds Two…

Posted by CLykins on October 25th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Scott Drew Hauls in Wainright

After making an official visit to the Baylor campus for their “Midnight Madness” festivities nearly two weeks ago, small forward prospect Ishmail Wainright made it official last Thursday evening by verbally committing to the Bears. Wainright, the No. 26 ranked prospect in the ESPN 100, picked Baylor over Ohio State, St. John’s and Texas.

Scott Drew Continues to Pile Up the Top Recruits at Baylor

A Missouri native, the 6’6″ Wainright was formerly a Missouri commitment back in May 2011. At the conclusion of that summer, he decided to reopen his recruitment after a successful AAU campaign. As Wainright began the recruiting process all over again, over 30 of the top schools in the country reached out to the Missouri small forward. With his recent commitment to Baylor, Wainright will join power forward Jonathan Motley as the only two commitments for the Bears from the class of 2013.

When describing Wainright’s overall game, he is a tremendous athlete and one of the most physically imposing small forwards at the high school level. On the offensive end, Wainright does most of his damage scoring around the rim, either in transition or driving to the basket when creating for himself off the bounce. He is also a great passer with even better court vision. He has a knack for making the right play at the right time when creating opportunities for his teammates to make plays. A glaring weakness of his offensive game, however, has been his shooting. Prior to the summer, Wainright was not a good shooter. Most defenses took note of that fact by playing him loosely, forcing him into taking shots from the outside. As exhibited during the early recruiting period in the summer, though, Wainright showed an ever improving jump shot. To round out his game, Wainright needs to make it a point to continue working on his shooting touch before ending up on the Baylor campus. On the defensive end, Wainright is as good as they come. With great length, strength and athleticism, Wainright is arguably one of the best defenders from the class of 2013. He can guard multiple positions on the floor in part due to his great frame. He is a nightmare for the opposition and will continue to be well into his college career.

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