Big Ten M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 1st, 2012

  1. This is almost certainly not the way John Beilein and Michigan wanted to start a 2012-13 campaign that’s so filled with promise. Because of an unspecified “violation of team standards,” sophomore point guard and preseason All-American Trey Burke will sit out the team’s season debut when it takes on Northern Michigan in an exhibition game Thursday in Ann Arbor. Burke broke the university record for assists in a season last year, but it’ll be freshman Spike Albrecht starting in his place during the one-game suspension and handling the assist duties for the Wolverines. “Trey will sit out the first game as a result of some ‘out of character’ decisions he now regrets,” Beilein said in a statement, according to AnnArbor.com. “We believe he has learned a valuable lesson and we are confident he will grow from this experience.” This does not seem like a situation that will adversely affect the Wolverines’ regular season, but nobody likes to start the season with a distraction like this.
  2. If there’s one way to describe Ohio State over the last few years, it may be that less is more. The Buckeyes have been regular Big Ten and national title contenders over the last decade or so, but they’ve never done it with much depth. This year could bring something Buckeye fans aren’t used to. Coach Thad Matta indicated this week that Ohio State will be rotating more players than usual this season, with a possibility for six or seven different lineups. Things did not go off without a hitch in the Buckeyes’ exhibition opener on Tuesday — a 83-71 win over Walsh College — but Matta did tinker with the lineup, sending out a different starting five at the beginning of the game then again after halftime. Ten players saw the floor for Ohio State, and eight played at least 14 minutes. If this stays true to form, that many Matta-recruited top-notch athletes over the course of 40 minutes could give teams fits this year.
  3. As for the depth at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers took a hit in advance of their first exhibition game with an injury to freshman Wally Ellenson. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune,  the 6-foot-4 guard broke a bone in the middle finger of his left hand during a rebounding drill this week when it got caught on a teammate’s jersey. Coach Tubby Smith said it was a clean break and it is expected to keep Ellenson out of game action for 6-8 weeks. Now, Smith says, a redshirt could be in order. “He was playing well and he probably wasn’t going to be [redshirted], but it’s going to be something that we’re going to probably consider at this juncture,” Smith said.
  4. If you have any doubt that the state of Indiana is basketball mecca, just tune into Big Ten basketball this season to see some of the conference’s brightest young stars who hail from the Hoosier State. It’ll be players like Gary Harris at Michigan State, Glenn Robinson at Michigan and Yogi Ferrell at Indiana who are expected to make an instant impact when they suit up as first-year players. Purdue will also rely on the young talent of in-state talent with Ronnie Johnson on the rise. And that’s just the short list. For some more Indiana-bred talent, check out Michael Pointer’s story from the Indianapolis Star. Or just stay tuned for what ought to be an awesome season of hoops in the Midwest.
  5. Evidently, Purdue basketball will be a name game this season. As Jeff Washburn writes, if the Boilermakers’ exhibition opener is any indication, Big Ten fans can get used to hearing about the Johnsons in West Lafayette this winter. Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson and Ronnie Johnson led the way for Purdue in its 70-61 win against Montevallo on Tuesday night, and those three are expected to be at the forefront all year long. As mentioned earlier, Ronnie is a highly-touted freshman with a big future while Terone and Anthony will also help provide formidable backcourt depth. They combined for 47 of Purdue’s 70 points in the exhibition game.
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Big Ten M5: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 30th, 2012

  1. College basketball has a lot of diverse talent across the nation among its various conferences, regardless of their size and popularity. Especially with so many good mid-major programs receiving positive coverage over the years, there are few consensus agreements among the media. In this partisan environment, Indiana’s Cody Zeller has been selected for the preseason All-America team by all of the AP voters except for one. The near-unanimous pick is a rarity in today’s competitive hoops’ landscape. The sophomore forward received 64 votes and two other Big Ten players were selected as well – Michigan’s Trey Burke and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Burke tied for the fifth slot with Lehigh’s C.J.McCollum. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan make up the rest of this year’s preseason All-America team.
  2. After injuries to Mike Breusewitz and Josh Gasser, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan understands that he has some holes in his lineup. But Ryan seems optimistic and realizes that the next player in line will step up and fill the void. Sports Illustrated explains that Ryan,  after 41 years in the coaching business, doesn’t get “alarmed” or “nervous” when thinking about replacing experienced players on his squad. Brueusewitz will be back in a few weeks but Gasser will miss the entire season due to an ACL injury. The Wisconsin assistant coaches speak highly of redshirt freshman guard George Marshall, who took advantage of last season by practicing and learning from All-American guard Jordan Taylor. Ryan mentions that he prefers “well-blended” teams that don’t specifically focus on a single player to carry the load on either end of the court. Tough to disagree with a philosophy that has resulted in consistent success in Madison, but Marshall and Traevon Jackson will need to get up to speed quickly during the non-conference season after Gasser’s loss.
  3. Another coach who is very optimistic about his young team’s chances to make the NCAA tournament is Iowa’s Fran McCaffery. He is challenging his younger players to bring Iowa basketball back to relevance at the national stage after several years of mediocrity. He strongly believes that the loss of Matt Gatens’ production will be filled by junior wing Roy Devin Marble (11.5 PPG). Marble is described as “incredibly cerebral” and is expected to take the leap to the next level this season. Iowa hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and with a young core of Aaron White, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell, the fans are hopeful with their expectations. Sophomore Aaron White averaged 11 PPG in just 24 MPG and his production should increase as he appears to be one of the primary scoring options now in the wake of Gatens’ departure.
  4. There have been several changes in the Illinois athletic department over the last two years. Long time athletic director Ron Guenther left the program so Mike Thomas was hired to revive Illinois athletics. Thomas then replaced both the football and the basketball coaches within a span of 12 months (which doesn’t happen very often in major programs). Football head coach Tim Beckman is off to a rough start in Champaign as his team is off to a 2-6 start, but John Groce’s performance will be under review as the basketball season tips off in two weeks. The Daily Illini discusses the pressure on Groce as he takes over a program that arguably is in the “rebuilding phase.” The overall energy level within the program is very high with Groce’s arrival but his coaching abilities will be immediately scrutinized during the non-conference season. Without a true big man in the post like Meyers Leonard, expectations are not very high but that doesn’t necessarily give Groce too much of a cushion if the losses begin to pile up during the first two months.
  5. Speaking of rebuilding, Purdue’s Matt Painter has several new faces in West Lafayette. None of the “Baby Boilers” are around anymore, but Painter has been in this situation after the departures of Carl Landry and David Teague at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. Even though Purdue has a young freshman core of center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson, D.J.Byrd doesn’t want this year’s team to be considered “Baby Boilers II.” Robbie Hummel’s class was a special one and this squad will need to form its own identity. Byrd (8.9 PPG) and Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) will provide  great leadership but the jury is still out on such a young squad with nine freshmen and sophomores. Ronnie Johnson is expected to take over the point guard position after Lewis Jackson’s departure.
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Big Ten M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 18th, 2012

  1. The first official preseason polls are out and there are three total B1G teams in the top five positions of the USA Today Coaches Poll – Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan. It should come as no surprise that Indiana has been voted #1 after all of the hype surrounding the Hoosiers during the offseason. It might be a little surprising, however, to see the Buckeyes ranked one spot higher than Michigan at #4. Both OSU and the Wolverines return three key starters, so the overall ranking is well deserved to begin the season.
  2. Another update on the Jabari Parker sweepstakes – he will not be committing during the early signing period and probably will wait until December to announce his decision. Parker is scheduled to visit Michigan State this weekend and will visit his other top choices – Duke, Florida, Stanford and BYU – over the next few weeks through mid-November. Tom Izzo has been recruiting Parker for a couple of years now and will get a chance to convince him further in East Lansing in a few days. It will be very surprising if Parker stays more than one season in the college game but that might just be enough for him to make a difference at one of the five programs.
  3. College hoops icon Dick Vitale is just getting warmed up around this time of the year. He announced his preseason “All-Solid Gold Team,” which is essentially his list of best players for the season and it includes several players from the Big Ten. Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Michigan’s Trey Burke are on the first team followed by Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas on the second team. Seniors Trevor Mbakwe and Brandon Paul made it onto the fourth team which may be considered a bit of a surprise but is not a complete shocker considering their scoring averages from their last season – 14.0 PPG and 14.7 PPG, respectively. Mbakwe didn’t play a full season last year due to an injury, though. Junior guard Aaron Craft was also on his list despite averaging only 8.6 PPG last season but he is arguably the best on-ball defender in the country.
  4. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has played a prominent role in Madison, both on and off the court. His record as a coach speaks for itself as he led the Badgers to several consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances over the years. Off the court, he is actively involved in the community and his most recent event is a “charity stripe” challenge to encourage the students to participate in raising money for cancer research as part of the “Coaches vs. Cancer” challenge. The event will be held at the Kohl Center on October 25 and $1 will be donated for every student in attendance. Ryan’s Badgers are ranked #21 in the USA Today preseason poll that was released yesterday. Despite losing Jordan Taylor who was an All-American guard last season, other Badgers are expected to step up, specifically freshman phenom Sam Dekker and point guard George Marshall.
  5. After three official practices, Purdue head coach Matt Painter is very impressed with his newcomers on the squad. Returning wing DJ Byrd has been very satisfied with freshman A.J. Hammons during practice and praised his work ethic to improve his conditioning during the offseason. Painter thinks that the team is meshing well together and credited the four exhibition games on the European tour in August as one of the main reasons. The non-conference schedule is extremely important for the Boilers because they need several new faces to understand their roles on the team. Hammons is expected to be one of the primary options in the frontcourt along with sophomore forward Jacob Lawson who averaged 11 MPG last season. Redshirt wing Donnie Hale is also expected to contribute on the offensive end in addition to returning guard Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) who will certainly be the primary scorer for Painter.
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Big Ten M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 16th, 2012

  1. Indiana legend and college hoops icon, Bobby Knight, is getting rid of some of his jewelery. Knight is auctioning off his three national championship rings and the Olympic gold medal he received from the LA Olympic Committee for coaching the 1984 men’s national team. Knight won titles at Indiana in 1976, 1981 and 1987. One of the best coaches in the history of the game will have his memorabilia auctioned off by Steiner Sports Memorabilia, with the proceeds of the auction going to support his grandchildren’s education and charities.
  2. How will the Illinois’ senior class be remembered by Illini fans? Per Paul Klee, that question will be answered in March. Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey came to Champaign in 2009 as one of the top 30 recruiting classes in the nation. They were supposed to help Bruce Weber take the Fighting Illini back to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond. But the Illini missed the NCAA Tournament twice since then and got only one win in the other year. Paul averaged 14.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG last season but has the potential to become one of the best players in the conference this season. Even though the trio have the talent, they’ve never been able to put a consistent season together. Most Illini fans would agree with Klee that an NCAA Tournament appearance this season would help cement the senior class’ legacy as a solid foundation for the future.
  3. Mackey Arena hosted a Midnight Madness event for the first time since 2008 this past weekend. Head coach Matt Painter talked about his team’s summer trip to Italy and its benefits before the scrimmage began. Forward Jacob Lawson wowed the crowd by winning the dunk competition, and even though Lawson only averaged 2.9 PPG last season, he will play a pivotal role in Purdue’s frontcourt this year. The Boilers sported a 27.3% offensive rebounding rate and will need Lawson to hold his own in the paint in an offense that will feature guards Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) and D.J. Byrd (8.9 PPG).
  4. How will Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan fill Mike Bruesewitz’s slot in the rotation during the first few games? According to ESPN‘s Eamonn Brennan, Ryan may try to use a combination of sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky, sophomore guard Traevon Jackson, and freshman wing Sam Dekker. Bruesewitz hurt his leg while diving for a loose ball during a scrimmage last week. Kaminsky is a 6’11” forward who came off the bench last season and could use some game action before the Big Ten season begins. The son of former Big Ten great Jim Jackson, Traevon Jackson is a 6’2″ combo guard who should earn some playing time after the departure of Jordan Taylor. Ryan has also praised guard Josh Gasser (7.6 PPG) for his improvement during the offseason and will most likely start at the point to begin the non-conference slate.
  5. During this time of the year, the “other” basketball league in the country (i.e. the NBA) is going through preseason practices as well. Former Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger was drafted in the first round by the Boston Celtics and has been prominent so far in preseason action. Even though he dropped to the 21st pick of the draft due to his history of back problems, he is happy to be learning from one of the all-time greats, Kevin Garnett. Garnett will not log heavy minutes until the end of the season due to his knee injuries and so younger players such as Sullinger will be expected to keep the momentum going during the gruelling 82-game season. The 6’8″ power forward averaged 16 points and eight rebounds during the preseason opener in Turkey and will certainly be a focal point of the Celtics’ bench during the upcoming NBA season.
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Big Ten Summer Check In: Purdue Boilermakers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on August 6th, 2012

For the first time since the summer of 2007, Purdue fans will not be talking about a player named Robbie Hummel as they approach the basketball season. Even though two of the Baby Boilers — E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson — graduated in 2011, Hummel was still around for his final season at Purdue after recovering from multiple knee surgeries. After an excellent comeback season last year during which Hummel nearly led the Boilers to an upset of #2 seed Kansas in the third round of the NCAA tournament, Matt Painter now prepares his program for a new era in West Lafayette.

How will Matt Painter deal with Robbie Hummel’s departure and a younger core of players?

Evaluating Last Year: Expectations for the 2011-12 season were fairly realistic in West Lafayette last season because of Moore and Johnson’s departure. Fans weren’t sure what to expect from the returning Hummel but overall, Purdue’s season should be considered a success as they finished 10-8 in conference play and gave Kansas everything it could handle in the NCAA Tournament. Even though Hummel had lost much of his explosiveness due to all the injuries, he still led the team in scoring with 16.4 PPG and his presence created more open shots for his younger teammates — especially Terone Johnson, who averaged 9.2 PPG. Painter’s team did not necessarily pull off many big wins during the season but certainly won most of the games that it was supposed to. The Boilermakers hit a mid-season slump by going 1-4 during late January/early February, but recovered fairly well to secure an NCAA bid for the sixth straight year. A huge win in Ann Arbor against Michigan (75-61) on February 25 was key to locking up an NCAA bid.

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Big Ten NCAA Tourney Thoughts From Sunday

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 20th, 2012

The Big Ten has lived up to the hype.  There are four teams in the Sweet Sixteen from the conference and a fifth one almost snuck in there too on Sunday night.  The experts have been raving about the depth of the conference over the past couple months and it translated into postseason success over the weekend.  Michigan State took down St. Louis in a bruiser on Sunday afternoon and Purdue almost pulled off a stunning upset against the Kansas Jayhawks.  Both games featured excellent performances by two seniors who will go down as one of the all-time greats for their respective programs – Draymond Green of Michigan State and Purdue’s Robbie Hummel.  The following are a few thoughts from the Sunday games.

Robbie Hummel did everything he could to will Purdue to a victory against Kansas

Michigan State over St. Louis (65-61)

Tom Izzo is familiar with Rick Majerus’ coaching philosophy and style of play. St. Louis plays a methodical style of basketball with a strong emphasis on defense. Sound familiar?  That might be the motto of practically all of the coaches in the B1G.  MSU did an excellent job of containing St.Louis’ Brian Conklin by holding him to 3-9 shooting  from the field. Overall, the Billikens shot only 35.3% as a team and 28% from beyond the arc, but by no means did Michigan State roll through the game. Majerus had players such as Jordair Jett who could have easily played for Tom Izzo’s team because of his intensity. Jett resembled the defensive stopper that Izzo would have embraced on his own team. As a result, the game was a defensive battle but the team with the best player on either side emerged as the winner. That best player on the court was clearly Draymond Green and it showed during the final minutes of the game.

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Rushed Reaction: #10 Purdue 72, #10 St. Mary’s 69

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Exploiting interior defense. Purdue took advantage of one glaring weakness for St. Mary’s — its lack of interior defense. The Boilermakers continually exploited the middle with guard Terone Johnson leading the way with 21 points. He took advantage of the openings in the first half and the rest of his teammates got involved after that as Purdue scored 36 points in the paint. They can be successful further into the NCAA Tournament by attacking the basket.
  2. Key Outside Shooting. Although Purdue didn’t shoot very well from three, the ones that did go down were at critical points in the game. Both of DJ Bird‘s three pointers and the lone Robbie Hummel three made in the second half came when St. Mary’s was trying to make a run. The ability of Purdue to get to the paint so easily made the few outside shots Purdue attempted in the second half count.
  3. Gaels will miss Jones. Rob Jones is a 6’6″ forward that is basically playing the job of center while also being a threat outside. He works hard underneath and plays bigger than he really is. St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett must have told his team at halftime to get the ball to Jones because he was a lot more involved after halftime. He scored the first five points of the half and seemed to be involved in every play throughout the rest of the game including the shot at the end of the game that could have sent it into overtime. He finished with a game high 23 points. The senior will be missed after this season.

Star of the Game–Lewis Jackson, Purdue. Although Terone Johnson set the example for Purdue to attack the basket in the first half, it was Jackson who took advantage of the St. Mary’s interior defense that led the Boilermakers to the win. The point guard got the final field goal of the game that was huge for Purdue.

Quotable. “The thing is about this team is that they will let you take three point shots. You have to make shots. We finally hit some at the end, but we didn’t do good enough.” — Randy Bennett, St. Mary’s Head Coach.

Sights & Sounds. The atmosphere at the CenturyLink was still buzzing over the Norfolk State upset of Missouri in the previous game. Since they also had to clear out the arena for the evening session, it took a while for it to get full again, but by the end of the game the stands were packed to enjoy the finish of this one. When St. Mary’s took the lead 69-68 with 44 seconds to go, the crowd was clearly behind the Gaels.

Wildcard. With the win, Purdue has now won their fourteenth straight opening round game in the NCAA Tournament. They are also now 3-1 as a #10 seed.

What’s Next?–The Boilermakers now head to Sunday with a trip to St. Louis on the line against either Kansas or Detroit in the next game tonight. With two #2 seeds already going down today, you are never quite sure what is going to happen.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Evening

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Nice to See Rick Majerus Back in the Dance (AP)

It may be an 8/9 game, but according to advanced metrics, this is anything but your typical 8/9 game. Both teams are among the top 15 teams in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, outscoring opponents by about 0.2 points per possession over the course of the season. Still, looking back over the schedules, the Billikens’ only have four wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Vermont, St. Bonaventure and two over Xavier), while the Tigers have just three (Belmont, Southern Miss and Xavier) – not exactly stunning resumes. However, SLU head coach Rick Majerus is no stranger to NCAA Tournament success, and his ability to scout and gameplan for an opponent is legendary. And while Memphis is used to playing at a fast tempo, you can bet Majerus will effectively slow this game down, using 25 seconds or more on every offensive possession, mostly forgoing any attempts at offensive rebounds in an effort to get back on defense, and making Memphis score over a stingy SLU defense. While Memphis has been killing teams over the past month or so, the two games they’ve lost have been down-tempo affairs (UTEP and Southern Miss), and if they get frustrated against the deliberate Billiken pace, it could spell an early end to the Memphis season. Still, the Tigers will have a significant athletic advantage and while Majerus has a decent matchup for lightning quick guard Joe Jackson in the form of Kwamain Mitchell (and Jordair Jett), it remains to be seen how effective they will be against sophomore win Will Barton. If Barton can find space inside the SLU perimeter defense, he could create serious problems. Of course, that’s a big if.

The RTC Certified Pick: Saint Louis

#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh – South Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Located less than an hour’s drive from Cameron Indoor, Duke will do battle with Patriot League champion Lehigh in what is practically a home game for the Blue Devils. Duke is limping into the NCAA Tournament have lost two of their last three games, one of these losses coming in blowout fashion against arch rival North Carolina. Despite having many holes on the defensive end and Ryan Kelly uncertain for the game against Lehigh, Duke does have one of the more potent offensives in the tournament. Austin Rivers and Seth Curry can score from virtually anywhere on the floor, and the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. It is not often that a Patriot League team can put a player on the floor that has the ability to go shot-for- with one of the best teams in the nation, but C.J. McCollum will prove he belongs running side by side with Austin Rivers. The junior guard from Canton, OH ranks top ten nationally in scoring and has the ability to take over a game for long stretches. Although Duke will no doubt focus much of their effort on the defensive end on McCollum, it is no secret that the Blue Devils struggle guarding around the perimeter. McCollum will get his points, but it is just a question if his teammates will be able to follow suit. If Lehigh gets production from Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, don’t be surprised if the Mountain Hawks hang with Duke for much of the game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

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Four Game Recaps: Big Ten Tournament First Round

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 9th, 2012

Here’s a breakdown on how things went down in the Big Ten tournament’s first day of action:

Matt Gatens led Iowa to a big win over Illinois (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Iowa 64 – Illinois 61

The skinny: It’s been a tough season for Illini fans, and now (some would say thankfully) it is over. Myers Leonard was a force down low for Illinois, scoring 18 points and grabbing six boards, but Brandon Paul struggled his way to four points on 2-11 shooting. Meanwhile, Matt Gatens continued his solid senior season with 20 points to lead the Hawkeyes, but it was his defense on Paul that really was the difference in this contest for Iowa. Head coach Fran McCaffery complained earlier this week about Gatens not being included on the all-Big Ten defensive team, and the senior looked every bit an elite-level stopper in this match-up. All-Big Ten freshman Aaron White had 13 points and 9 rebounds including a key offensive board with about 40 seconds left after a missed free throw by Roy Devyn Marble that helped seal the game for Iowa.

Up next: The #8-seed Hawkeyes will face #1-seed Michigan State at noon today. Iowa only played the Spartans once this season, falling 95-61 in a game at East Lansing on January 10.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 27th, 2012

  1. To win on the road in the Big Ten, someone is going to have to give a special performance. That’s exactly what Purdue got from sophomore Terone Johnson as the Boilermakers handed Michigan their first home loss of the season.  Johnson dropped a career-high 22 points on the Wolverines, and was supported by Robbie Hummel and his 17 points.  The Boilermakers have now won four out of their last five, and at 19-10, have probably wrapped up their case for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Michigan State hit plenty of milestones in its win Saturday over Nebraska.  The Spartans are now guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten crown after Michigan and Ohio State’s losses.  Draymond Green also became only the third player in MSU history to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds, joining Jumping Johnny Green and Greg Kelser.  Besides those accomplishments, the Spartan defense was the star of the game as it held the Cornhuskers to only 34 total points.  It was the fewest amount a Tom Izzo team had allowed since a win over Brown in 2006-07.
  3. Once again it is Bubble Watch time in Evanston, and Northwestern had its fans biting their nails in a 67-66 win over Penn State.  John Shurna was sent to the line, and calmly knocked down two free throws to give the Wildcats an enormous win in that a loss could have been a death blow to their tournament chances.  Now Northwestern embarks on a tough two-game stretch (vs. Ohio State, @ Iowa) to finish out the year and will hopefully do enough to make its first NCAA Tournament in program history. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has Northwestern “in” the tournament, but the hopes of the Wildcats and their fans rest on their performance in those final two games.
  4. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Ohio State was the toast of the Big Ten and many pundits were asking “who can beat the Buckeyes?”  Michigan State answered that question in Columbus, then Michigan did it in Ann Arbor, and now Wisconsin has stolen a 63-60 victory in Value City Arena.  Instead of worrying about a conference championship, now OSU has to be concerned about their seeding in the Big Ten Tournament and where they may end up in the NCAA Tournament as well.  All is not well for the scarlet and gray as they try to right their ship before postseason play begins.
  5. And Bruce Weber thought HE had it bad.  Frustrated Nebraska basketball booster Neal Hawks decided to vent his grievances regarding the program in a full-page advertisement in The World Herald sports section.  He also took some time to support beleaguered head coach Doc Sadler.  It hasn’t been a very fun season for Husker fans, but plenty of things need to be addressed before the program can move forward.  Remedies such as spending more money and finding more support for the program from the fan base have been suggested.  There is simply no easy transition when you enter one of (if not the) toughest conferences in college basketball.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.22.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 22nd, 2012

  1. Whatever they did, it worked. The Detroit News’ Rod Beard takes you inside Michigan‘s intense preparation for Northwestern‘s unique style of play ahead of the Wolverines’ overtime win in Evanston on Tuesday night, helping to keep Michigan on pace in the conference standings. It details coaches’ late hours, the film review, and how the Wolverines planned to attack Northwestern leading scorer John Shurna. The senior finished with just 14 points, well below his average, and Michigan held him in check during the late stages Tuesday night. Looks like all that prep paid off.
  2. Speaking of Shurna, he may not have been on his game on Tuesday night, but the Chicago Tribune‘s David Haugh points out that there’s a lot more to Shurna than just putting the ball in the hoop. The Wildcats senior and Northwestern all-time career scoring leader re-reads the Harry Potter books and is a big believer in humanitarian efforts, for starters. It’s safe to say he’s got a pretty full resume.
  3. It seems Tubby Smith is going to keep tinkering with his Minnesota lineup until he sees something he really likes. With the Golden Gophers on the bubble and hosting Michigan State on Wednesday night, it’s a prime opportunity for Minnesota to make a statement. It looks like that means another lineup change. Amelia Rayno from the Star Tribune writes that fans are likely to see the ninth different starting lineup on Wednesday. Smith didn’t say who the new five would be, but Rayno has good insight into who may be coming and who may be going.
  4. The list of things that may have Bruce Weber in scalding-hot water after Illinois wraps up this disappointing season is a long one. But Ken Thompson of the Lafayette Journal-Courier says straying from the principles of his mentor was part of Weber’s downfall. Thompson writes that Weber — who spent 18 years under Gene Keady at Purdue — never instilled the mixture of toughness and affection that Keady had with his Boilermakers team, and it cost him at Illinois.
  5. As for Purdue nowadays, it’s going to have to change with the departure of Kelsey Barlow. The Boilermakers are trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season, but their task is tougher since coach Matt Painter kicked Barlow off the team last week. Painter said it depends on the match-ups, but you can expect to see Lewis Jackson, Terone Johnson, Ryne Smith, and D.J. Byrd all step up and expand their roles. With four games remaining on the Big Ten regular season schedule and the Big Ten Tournament ahead, those players have the opportunity to make the most of their enhanced roles.
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Checking in On… The Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

RTC is interested in learning how to improve our Checking In On… series in each conference.  Let us know in the below poll where we can improve this weekly piece (feel free to add specific comments).  Thanks.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten powers continued to dominate this week, as Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State are a combined 10-0 in conference. The other teams though are starting to look very vulnerable. Michigan State’s loss at Penn State revealed some problems with the Spartans’ attack, while Minnesota doesn’t seem to have the firepower to hang with the top teams in the conference. And where is Wisconsin going to be when this all shakes out? The Badgers are the conference’s biggest enigma.
  • Oh and Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament hopes? They were probably dealt their deathblow on national television at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois. Matt Norlander wrote a lovely obituary over on CBS’ new college basketball blog. That said, maybe life support is the better analogy as the Wildcats did beat a reeling Indiana team on Sunday night.
  • Team of the Week: Purdue – Two blowouts over inferior opponents get the Boilermakers the team of the week award this week. If Saturday showed us anything it’s that winning on the road in conference isn’t easy and Purdue won at Penn State, where Michigan State went on to lose, and also blew out Iowa at home. This team is really coming together and looks to be a dangerous NCAA Tournament style squad.
  • Player of the Week: Rhyne Smith, G, Purdue: Smith scored a team-high 18 points on 6’9 three-point shooting in Purdue’s victory over Iowa. He also was leading scorer in the Boilermakers’ victory over Penn State with 20 points on 5-5 three-point shooting and 5-7 free throw shooting. He’s a catch-and-shoot scorer who thrives off the open looks that come from playing with two All-Americans.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Melsahn Basabe, F, Iowa – Basabe went for 22 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks on Tuesday against Ohio State. He was held to eight points, with four turnovers, against Purdue.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (16-0, 3-0) – The Buckeyes are showing a disturbing trend of letting teams back into games. Iowa and Minnesota both played them close before falling late. This could come back to haunt Thad Matta’s team at some point. Jared Sullinger had a double-double in both games this week with 24 and 12 against Iowa and 15 and 12 against Minnesota. The first team to stop him is going to have a legitimate chance to knock off the Buckeyes.
  2. Purdue (15-1, 4-0) – Check out the player of the week section about Ryne Smith. Players like Smith, Lewis Jackson and Terone Johnson are starting to step up for Purdue and are making this team even harder to beat.
  3. Illinois (13-3, 3-0) – If the Illini continue to shoot as well as they have in Big Ten play, they’re going to be unbeatable. Northwestern got shellacked at Assembly Hall as Illinois shot 70.5 percent from the field. The one weakness for Bruce Weber’s squad is that they turn the ball over too much. Even in the 25-point victory, it was evident, as the Illini turned it over 22 times. Of course, Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey both had seven assists on the way to a team total of 25.
  4. Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1) – Jon Leuer gets a lot of the press, but Jordan Taylor is the guy that drives the Badgers’ offense. He’s in the mold of other Wisconsin point guards like Devin Harris and Trevon Hughes where he just gets his points. Taylor scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Wisconsin’s 66-50 victory over Michigan. That’s 66 points in 54 possessions, by the way. This offense is absolutely deadly.
  5. Michigan State (10-5, 2-1) – It’s time to accept that this Michigan State team isn’t that good right now. The Spartans barely escaped at Northwestern and then lost to Penn State. Kalin Lucas had an okay week scoring the basketball, but the assists aren’t there right now. If he doesn’t have more games like the one against Minnesota where he had seven assists and two turnovers, the Spartans are going to struggle in league play.
  6. Minnesota (12-4, 1-3) – While a three-point loss to Ohio State isn’t a big deal, the Golden Golphers suffered a bigger loss off the court when Devoe Joseph, who started 25 of 76 games in his Minnesota career, was granted his release by the team on Wednesday. Joseph clashed with head coach Tubby Smith. The versatile guard had averaged 11.2 points per game this season and his departure will prove to be a big loss moving forward. The team needs a lot of depth to play Smith’s system and doesn’t really have it right now. One player benefitting is freshman Maverick Ahanminsi, who had a total of 25 minutes of time in the games versus Indiana and Ohio State after just three total minutes in the games against Wisconsin and Michigan State.
  7. Michigan (11-5, 1-2) – Man are the Wolverines going to be wishing they beat Kansas come Selection Sunday, but still, a 67-60 overtime loss to the No. 3 team in the country isn’t bad. Zack Novak played a strong game with 12 points and 11 boards to follow up on a 15-point performance in the loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week.
  8. Penn State (9-6, 2-2) – Penn State seems to be a dangerous team in league play. The Nittany Lions really struggled in the non-conference, but they’re slowly getting better. Even though Talor Battle didn’t have his best game against Michigan State, Penn State still won because Jeff Brooks stepped up with 17 points and 12 boards. Of course, Battle eventually hit the clutch shots down the stretch that allowed Ed DeChellis to get a big league win. Big Ten teams are locking in on Battle, who shot 6-22 against Purdue and 3-14 against Michigan State, so someone else will have to continue to step up for the Nittany Lions.
  9. Northwestern (10-4, 1-3) – John Shurna’s ankle is still bothering him, but he did manage to drop 24 on Indiana. I’m sure all the Wildcats want to forget the game against Illinois, but freshman JerShon Cobb did score 18 points in that game and followed it up with 11, on 3-4 three-point shooting, against the Hoosiers.
  10. Iowa (7-8, 0-3) – While the Hawkeyes can be dangerous at home, they’re going to struggle on the road, especially when teams like Purdue can shut down Matt Gatens and force other players to score points. Before Penn State’s victory over Michigan State, Iowa near miss, 73-68, against Ohio State was the most shocking score of the week.
  11. Indiana (9-8, 0-4) – Not much is going right for Indiana right now. The Hoosiers were down big to Northwestern before making the margin more respectable. Freshman Will Sheehey played well against the Wildcats with nine points and another freshman Victor Oladipo started and scored 13, but it’s hard to win Big Ten conference games relying on freshmen. The game against Northwestern was Oladipo’s fifth in a row in double-figures.

A Look Ahead

While every game is big in conference play, here are the key match-ups to keep an eye on in the upcoming week (all times EST). It also includes one special non-conference CBS Sunday afternoon treat.

  • 1/11 – Wisconsin at Michigan State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/12 – Ohio State at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/12 – Northwestern at Iowa, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/13 – Purdue at Minnesota, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/15 – Illinois at Wisconsin, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/15 – Michigan at Indiana, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/16 – Purdue at West Virginia, 1:30 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Three teams, Purdue (0.27), Illinois (0.18) and Ohio State (0.13) have efficiency margins greater than 0.10 during conference play. That’s very impressive.  Of course, those numbers will come down once they start playing each other, but each has been dominant thus far. The Boilermakers are just tearing things up on a per possession level.  On the other end of the spectrum are three teams: Indiana (-0.17), Michigan (-0.18) and Iowa (-0.19), all below -0.10 per possession. Michigan is at the level even with a win because of two blowout losses. The Wolverines’ game against Wisconsin is especially troublesome because the 16-point loss came in just 54 possessions as the offense disappeared in the second half. Michigan has shown in non-conference play that it can be very competitive against elite teams, so maybe this is a hiccup that will be corrected as the conference plays some more games and things even out.

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