Big Ten M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 25th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Last week, I stated Terran Pettaway was probably not going to win Big Ten POTY because he plays for a team unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament and his efficiency numbers were considerably lower than other contenders like Nik Stauskas. Well that might be changing as Nebraska keeps winning and Pettaway keeps dropping 20+ points, like he has in his last three games. He’s impressed so much that BTN.com’s Player of the Year Tracker now has him ranked as the front-runner for the award. Pettaway will need to keep up the strong performances, since the award is mostly given to a player from a top-tier team. While Nebraska has been as impressive as any team in the last few weeks, they are at best a bubble team. So Pettaway will really need to separate himself if he is to make his case against other players.
  2. It seems like we may never see a fully healthy Michigan State. Tom Izzo stated on Monday he would continue to play Keith Appling throughout the regular season. Appling is recovering from a wrist injury and did not play particularly inspiring basketball at Michigan on Sunday — finishing with only six points and two assists in twenty-five minutes. The Spartans have been trading wins and losses for almost four weeks now and Izzo needs all the men who are able to play out on the court to challenge for top seeding in the NCAA Tournament. For Izzo’s sake, Appling will need to either mend while playing or learn to live with the pain in order to get to this team’s goal of a Final Four appearance.
  3. It’s always tough to see players go down with season-ending injuries, but it’s even tougher when it happens to a senior. This is exactly what happened to Purdue’s Sterling Carter when he tore his ACL in Sunday’s game at Nebraska. Carter transferred from Seattle University to finish his career playing in the bright lights of the Big Ten. And while his season was cut short, Carter did get to finish his career, and play over twenty games, at a level he was not recruited at coming out of high school. There have been debates about whether the graduate transfer rule is beneficial or harmful to the game on the whole. But one of the positives are players like Carter who get the experience of playing big time basketball after proving himself in the low major levels –even if it is short lived.
  4. After a dominating performance on Saturday, Nik Stauskas may be back to his dominating ways. That’s good news for Michigan, but bad news for the rest of the league. He put on a show against Michigan State, scoring 25 points, 21 of which came in the second half. If Stauskas has indeed awoken from his February slump, he may run away with both the Big Ten regular season championship and the Big Ten POTY. That’s an amazing jump in performance from last season when he was thought of simply as a shooter. In the beginning of the season, most pundits though it impossible that any Wolverine could replace Trey Burke. And while Stauskas can’t run a team like Burke, he has a chance to give Michigan a consecutive Final Four appearance and Big Ten POTY.
  5. If you wanted to tweet at your favorite Iowa player this week, well, you can forget it now. Fran McCaffery has instructed his players to shut down their twitter accounts for the remainder of the season after Zach McCabe reacted to some negative comments made to him on the social media platform. Coaches are free to manage their team as they see fit and if McCaffery believes shutting down Twitter will help his team’s performance, more power to him. But perhaps it’s not by coincidence that shutting down Twitter (or removing names on the back of jerseys, etc.) always occurs after a tough loss. No coach seems to ban Twitter after a win. This appears like a reactionary maneuver from a coach trying to find any edge he can as the season comes to a close.
Share this story

Purdue Needs to Feature AJ Hammons to Realize Its Potential

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 28th, 2013

It would probably be a bit of a stretch to say that the days of needing a dominant, back-to-the-basket, seven-foot behemoth to win at the highest levels of basketball are over. That said, the game is seemingly getting smaller and quicker, and there are fewer teams who function with a traditional center. The teams last year in the Big Ten that went the furthest all had size, but you could hardly say that Cody Zeller, Adreian Payne, or Mitch McGary played like normal fives. Purdue is not one of those teams, however, as its second leading scorer and leading rebounder  in 2012-13 is a projected first round draft pick by the name of A.J. Hammons. Hammons is not a new age pick-and-pop big man, as evidenced by his grand total of zero three-pointers attempted so far in his lone year in West Lafayette. He is, however, a 7’0″, 251-pound load on the low blocks who will be the determining factor as to whether Purdue can rebound from a 16-18 season coming on the heels of six straight 20-win campaigns before that.

Hammons

Hammons Isn’t a New Age Big Man By Any Stretch

My colleague already covered how Purdue desperately needs to improve from behind the arc. Guards like Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson and transfer Sterling Carter need to improve from distance, but the Boilermakers need to take advantage of Hammons and keep getting him the ball if they really want to be successful this season. Hammons was 12th in the league in usage rate last season, tying teammate Ronnie Johnson at 24.9 percent. For Purdue to improve, he needs to be around the 27 to 28 percent range. For some perspective, Trey Burke was nearly at 30 percent last season. A team’s best player should be using the most offensive possessions, even if he is not a ball-handler. This may be a bit too simple, but big guys like to get the ball. If they’re to be expected to bang bodies all game long , they’d like to get rewarded for their troubles. If they are rewarded, they will be more inclined to be more active defensively and generally more engaged when it comes thankless tasks like setting screens and help defense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 25th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Senior guards can be a great asset to a coach who is under the pressure of leading his team to a Final Four. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is hoping that senior guard Russell Byrd can provide maturity for the Spartans, both on and off the floor. Byrd averaged just over one point per game last season, but is eager to contribute to the #2 Spartans. He was plagued with injuries during his first two seasons in East Lansing, but is finally healthy enough to help Izzo reach a Final Four. ”Russell Byrd [is] much healthier, much more confident,” Izzo said Tuesday during the Spartans’ media day. Even though Byrd may not see more than 10 minutes per game this season, his positive attitude and senior leadership should help the Spartans push toward March.
  2. No other player will be under more scrutiny in the Big Ten this season than Michigan’s Mitch McGary. After a slow start to his freshman campaign, he stepped up during the last six weeks of the 2012-13 season to help the Wolverines get to the Final Four. To make things more interesting, he chose to come back for his sophomore season with the intention to dominate the conference and lead his team to Arlington. He can definitely meet those high expectations, provided he is healthy, but he has had a few issues with his back during the offseason. Heading into November, McGary says that his back is no longer an issue. He said, “There’s no timetable for me being back. We’re just being cautious right now and we’ll see what happens in the future.” The 6’10″ forward will be expected to carry a heavier offensive burden on a more consistent basis this year as the Wolverines adapt to life after NPOY Trey Burke.
  3. While McGary will be the best forward in the Big Ten, Minnesota’s Oto Osenieks will have to earn his playing time on the Gophers this season. The 6’8″ forward averaged 9.1 minutes per game and shot 29.7% from the field – a virtual non-factor for the Gophers last season. But new head coach Richard Pitino remains optimistic about his improvement and believes that the forward can contribute offensively this year. Pitino said, “he was fighting for every single rebound. He’s another guy that has really responded to kind of the challenge. And I thought he did a really nice job defensively.” Andre Hollins (14.6 PPG) will be one of the best scoring guards in the Big Ten, but Pitino will need any help he can get from other players, and Osenieks could chip in at some point this year.
  4. Remember when Matt Painter’s Boilermakers were a dominant Big Ten team? That was only a couple of seasons ago, but Purdue really struggled to score last season. Painter is hoping for a return to relevance with a strong and diverse backcourt. Ronnie Johnson, Sterling Carter, and Bryson Scott will see significant minutes to complement Terone Johnson’s (13.5 PPG) scoring and leadership this season. Carter, a transfer, shot 39% from beyond the arc at Seattle and Painter believes his shooting touch will help the Boilermakers: “He can come off screens and shoot shots with people on him and make them.” Johnson is also quite sneaky off of pick-and-roll action, averaging 10.1 points per game last year using a nice-looking floater in the painted area. This team could surprise.
  5. While Purdue has two new guards in the backcourt, Illinois returns two of their own — Joseph Bertrand and Tracy Abrams – who played significant minutes during John Groce’s first season in Champaign. Both are expected to start, but Groce said that there are a couple of starting spots up in the air as the Illini gear up for their exhibition games. Rayvonte Rice, a transfer guard from Drake, is likely to take one spot as a third guard because of his offensive capabilities. The fifth position is also up in the air and it is possible that Groce will choose to go with a fourth guard instead of another forward. Nnanna Egwu, another returnee, will be the primary big man for the Illini this season.
Share this story

On the Importance of Purdue’s Three-Point Shooting This Season

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 24th, 2013

AJ Hammons has received plenty of talk regarding Purdue basketball coming into this season. It’s easy to understand why, because with a consistent effort and big year, the center could be headed for the NBA Draft next summer. His offensive production, though, isn’t as important for Matt Painter’s team as its ability to find some 3-point shooting. The Boilermakers will need to keep defenses from sagging down to protect the rim against Hammons, and right now, their outside shooting is a huge question mark.

AJ Hammons is getting plenty of press, but Purdue's 3-point shooting will be key this season (AP)

AJ Hammons is getting plenty of press, but Purdue’s 3-point shooting will be key this season. (AP)

Last season, Purdue was ninth in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 32 percent, and the team’s 3-point shooting leader, DJ Byrd, is gone due to graduation. Byrd made more than half of the Boilermakers’ treys last season, leaving the team with a bunch of mediocre-to-bad shooters beyond the arc. The heavy duty for returnees will fall to Terone Johnson, Ronnie Johnson and Raphael Davis, but all three of these players are better known for their ability to break defenses down off the dribble. Johnson was the best shooter among the group last season, but he still only made 37 threes on the year. Between the rest of the returnees outside of him, the group knocked down a combined 26 3-pointers. This means these players will not only need to improve their long-range shooting this year, but also be willing to look for it more often. This is not a good position for a team that will want to work the inside-outside game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story