Big Ten Postseason Watch: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Jonahtan Batuello on January 10th, 2014

Selection Sunday is always on everyone’s minds as conference season gets underway. So, with 10 days of Big Ten play already done, now is a good time to start a weekly look at where conference teams’ postseason chances are currently sitting. Joe Lunardi has released a new Bracketology (as well as RTC’s Daniel Evans) so why shouldn’t we start putting out our own thoughts as well? The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in the next week that’s of importance (along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN (it should be noted these rankings do not include last night’s games even though the commentary does). Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media, but here is your first Big Ten Postseason Watch of the conference season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

  • Michigan State (KenPom #9; RPI #10): The thrilling home win over Ohio State puts the Spartans in line to earn a No. 1 seed. This next week is mainly about getting healthy as Tom Izzo’s team depth is severely lacking. If Sparty is healthy, games versus Minnesota and at Northwestern shouldn’t be too much trouble.
  • Ohio State (KenPom #1; RPI #7): Losing its first game of the conference season certainly hurts the Buckeyes when angling for a top seed. Its best chance for a statement win is now gone but Ohio State doesn’t have much time to relax. Iowa comes to Value City Arena this week and then a trip to The Barn isn’t a guaranteed win with the Golden Gophers needing a marquee win for its NCAA Tournament hopes.
  • Wisconsin (KenPom #3; RPI #1): The Badgers are well on their way to a top seed come March if it can continue to take care of business. Fran McCaffery helped them win at home, and then they easily took care of Illinois. Now, Wisconsin heads to Bloomington where Bo Ryan has owned Tom Crean. With its favorable schedule, Wisconsin looks like the best bet to become a top NCAA seed from the conference.

Playing to improve its seed

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Anatomy of a Collapse: How Penn State Blew a Golden Opportunity Against Michigan State

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 3rd, 2014

As many B1G fans were watching the ending of the Illinois-Indiana game on Tuesday night, they may have been missing a good chunk of the Michigan State-Penn State first half. The Nittany Lions put quite a scare in Sparty, as they jumped out to a 47-40 advantage at halftime. This was largely based upon a torrid start from the three-point line (7-of-12), with a 10-of-10 performance at the free throw line and nine Michigan State miscues contributing factors. As an example, the Spartans had a 1:05 stretch at the end of the half where they turned the ball over on five possessions in a row, leading to an 8-0 Penn State run that put the score at 45-33. Michigan State went closed out the half strong, but Penn State was still in the driver’s seat. So after Michigan State went on to win the game, 79-63, by holding Penn State to 16 points in the second half (0.43 points per possession), what exactly went wrong?

Tim Frazier had an off night against Michigan State. (theschoolphilly.com)

Tim Frazier had an off night against Michigan State (Photo credit: theschoolphilly.com).

Let’s break down the half into sections.

  • 20:00-17:23: Things began to unravel early, as Donovon Jack picked up his third foul in the first minute. This forced Penn State to go with three guards. Tim Frazier sandwiched a missed runner between two turnovers and Gary Harris scored eight of Michigan State’s 10 points to start the half. He hit two wide-open threes and one could sense a bit of a momentum shift. Penn State burned a quick timeout as they went from seven up to down three all within the first 2:37 of the half. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 2nd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Since news broke of Indiana‘s Luke Fischer transferring on Monday, the rumors of where he is headed quickly followed. A Wisconsin native, the former top-100 recruit had many thinking he may return home to the Badgers, but that isn’t the case. Fischer announced on Twitter last night that he would not transfer to any other Big Ten school out of respect for Tom Crean and the Indiana program. It’s not certain if Fischer made this decision on his own or whether the Indiana coaching staff hinted they would block a transfer to another Big Ten program, but it does certainly eliminate plenty of places that people thought Fischer could end up.
  2. College athletics certainly has its costs, and for big programs that means paying smaller schools to come to their arena and (hopefully) trade a loss for a substantial check. A recent MLive.com article reports that Michigan spent nearly $450,000 this season to host its five guarantee games. At this point it shouldn’t be news to read about the cost of these “guarantee” games, but it is interesting to see how much it typically costs a Big Ten program to bring in those small schools. For Michigan, as an example, it typically costs somewhere upward of $80,000 per game on hotel rooms, comped tickets and the team’s transportation. Not a cheap expenditure to add another W to the resume.
  3. It’s been a different kind of year for Wisconsin and Bo Ryan. Used to methodical games with little scoring, the Badgers have utilized a more high-powered offense to go along with its usual stingy defense this season. Their ability to avoid long scoring droughts like they experienced at times last year makes the Badgers confident that they can potentially win the Big Ten heading into their conference opener against Northwestern tonight. Wisconsin has raised its offensive statistics nearly across the board, with a higher shooting percentage, three-point percentage, free throw shooting and efficiency at this point in the season. Unlike some previous seasons, Bo Ryan’s team has shown it can win with multiple players having the ability to create their own shot and make it.
  4. The Big Ten is a conference loaded with plenty of stars and well-known names across the country like Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. One name not often mentioned when discussing the conference’s top players is Minnesota‘s Andre Hollins. Rant Sports’ Paul Kilgas said Hollins is actually the conference’s most underrated player. It’s an interesting argument to consider because the league is loaded with solid guards. Hollins is averaging 16.2 PPG along with 3.0 APG and 4.0 RPG, but unless the Gophers have an outstanding season, he is likely to be left off many all-Big Ten ballots at the end of the year. He has certainly been the biggest key driving Minnesota’s strong start to the season, and if the Golden Gophers make a push for the upper echelon of the league standings, Hollins will without question be the catalyst.
  5. With non-conference play now over, the Big Ten Powerhouse writers got together and voted for their non-conference all-Big Ten team. It’s a solid group of five with Adreian Payne, Sam Dekker, Keith Appling, Rayvonte Rice and Tim Frazier on the list. It’s tough to really argue against that five, although Nik Stauskas has been just as phenomenal for Michigan as some of his teammates have been disappointing. Stauskas was in the next grouping of those receiving votes, along with Yogi Ferrell, Glenn Robinson III and DJ Newbill. All of these players will be looking to make the official all-Big Ten teams in a couple of months and have made excellent cases to start the season with their stellar play.
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Big Ten M5: 12.12.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 12th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. It’s been a question all year when discussing Ohio State. Everyone knows how strong the Buckeyes’ defense is, but are they be able to score enough points on the other end to become a Final Four team? Replacing DeShaun Thomas was a huge question mark coming into the year, but through the first quarter of the season, at least, LaQuinton Ross has matched his production. Last night Ross scored only nine points in the team’s 86-48 win over Bryant, but as Ross’ recent production has been on an uptick lately, so too has his team’s scoring capability and potential ceiling. If he has in fact turned a corner and is rapidly becoming the team’s offensive leader, then Thad Matta’s team is well on its way to becoming a legitimate Final Four contender.
  2. Indiana cruised in its most recent win against Oakland, but a potential key player off the bench is starting to emerge. Freshman Luke Fischer has finally healed from a torn labrum in his left shoulder and is no longer wearing a brace. Thanks to being healthy over the past two games, Fischer has notched season highs in minutes and scored 12 points, nearly half of his season total of 25. Granted, these games were blowout wins for the Hoosiers against inferior competition, but Fischer came into this season with a lot of unrealized potential. Some thought Fischer could start at the five for Indiana next to Noah Vonleh, and he is just now starting to show why in the past two games. If he emerges and gives Indiana another strong piece inside he could help alleviate some pressure on Vonleh and give the Hoosiers some quality post minutes off the bench.
  3. It’s impossible to really know at such an early point, but with the good start Minnesota has enjoyed and if Richard Pitino quickly builds the Golden Gophers program up in the next two or three years, would he be likely to stay in Minneapolis or leave for a more traditional, high-powered program? According to his father and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, “he could die at this program.” The elder Pitino was in town this week to watch his son’s team win on Tuesday night and gave some interesting insights into his son’s career choice. The father had urged him to stay on board as an assistant at Louisville and follow him there as the next head coach in several years, but the son wanted to blaze his own trail. That has to be a good sign for Minnesota fans because if young Pitino is successful he could potentially stay at the school and become a long-term fixture that leads the program routinely to the top of the Big Ten.
  4. Maybe it’s time to start thinking of Penn State as more than a cellar-dweller or a team that could pull off an upset or two in Big Ten play. After a loss to a mediocre Bucknell team in its second game of the season, the Nittany Lions have now won six of eight and pushed their record to 8-3 following last night’s 68-59 win over Duquesne in a neutral site game. This opponent was another middling team, but Penn State’s only other losses were to a very talented Pittsburgh team and a three-point loss to a solid Ole Miss squad. Last night’s win was just another that exhibits that this team could challenge for a top-half finish in the B1G. Most impressively may be Penn State giving up 24 free throws to the Dukes yet still winning the game. It’s also good that Tim Frazier only scored 11 points but had 13 assists, giving credence to the notion that role players are stepping up around the Nittany Lions’ talented backcourt duo. If Penn State wins its next game against 7-1 Princeton, everyone will have to start putting this team on its dark horse radar.
  5. Another game, another high-scorer for Wisconsin. The Badgers have proven to be a very well-balanced and talented squad this season, as Ben Brust led the team in its 78-52 win over UW-Milwaukee last night. Every time out it seems like someone different is taking control of the team, with Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson or Josh Gasser trading positions. Brust is just another dimension to the effectiveness of the Badgers as it has gotten off to its best start at 11-0 since 1993-94. This team has shown it can do just about anything in Bo Ryan’s motion offense, with every player versatile enough to hit shots outside or play inside. With five strong scorers in its starting lineup, this could be the year Wisconsin goes from a consistently good team to a Final Four contender. It also helps that it has shown it can play different styles this season, already notching wins in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and more than 100 points. That’s quite the spectrum of game styles to win them all.
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An Early Look at the Big Ten POY Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 6th, 2013

We are a little over one-fourth of the way through the season. Non-conference play lasts about another three weeks, and before you know it, New Year’s Eve will arrive and conference games will be here. The Big Ten Player of the Year award is of course won and lost during conference play, but let’s take a very early look at five players who have positioned themselves to possibly be among the favorites for the award (in alphabetical order).

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for POY. (Reuters)

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for Big Ten POY. (Reuters)

  • Keith Appling, Michigan State: Appling has two teammates in Gary Harris (now injured) and Adreian Payne who are also deserving of this award, but it has been the point guard who has done a little bit of everything for the Spartans this year. His impressive stat line of 16.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.0 RPG and 52 percent from deep are conference POY numbers. Perhaps his most impressive performance was against then #1 Kentucky, exploding for 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a consummate performance. If Appling continues to put up big games like that, he might be on track to become the second Spartans’ senior to win Big Ten POY in the last three years (Draymond Green was the other).
  • Tim Frazier, Penn State: It is extremely hard for a player on a team with a losing record to take home the conference POY award, but Frazier could possibly accomplish that this season. He is only averaging 19.4 PPG, but expect that number to rise into the 20s by the time conference play is in full swing. The fifth-year senior is also averaging a league high 7.0 APG and that stat may be underrated too because Frazier will need to get his teammates active on the offensive end of the floor to open up more space for him to work with.

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Big Ten M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 3rd, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten – ACC challenge is here. Given the match-ups, it seems like this year has the possibility of ending in a tie like last year. With the additions of programs such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the ACC was supposed to be the hands-down best league in the country and go back to dominating the challenge like they did for a decade. But while the top of the ACC will always have the blue bloods, the drop off from the rest of the league can be steep.  What has made the Big Ten one of, if not the, premier conferences in college basketball is its depth in the league from top to bottom. In the challenge format, depth seems to be a much more advantageous than being top heavy. So expect to see competitive Big Ten – ACC challenges for years to come.
  2. Illinois once again finds itself undefeated going into the Big Ten – ACC challenge. The emergence of two transfers, Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey, have helped the Illini remain competitive despite the loss of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. On Monday, Rice was named Big Ten Player of the Week because of his performances against UNLV and IPFW.  He is leading the team in scoring and has been the go-to-guy whenever Illinois has needed a bucket. Rice makes his living by driving to the basket where he is shooting 70.6 percent. Against UNLV, he struggled to get around the Running Rebels’ length and athleticism in the first twenty minutes, but by the second half, he adjusted his game and used his strength to create separation from his defender in order to get his shot off. Rice finished with 25 points including the game-winning field goal with 28 seconds remaining. He proved he can score off the dribble against anyone, which is a positive sign for the Illini going into games against Georgia Tech, Oregon, and Missouri.
  3. Also announced on Monday was Zak Irvin as Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Irvin, a four-star wing from Indiana, has started off his career as a reserve but has had a big role when on the court. Though he comes off the bench, Irvin uses 20 percent of the Wolverines possessions and averages 7.4 points in 18.1 minutes per game. In Friday’s game against Coppin St., Irvin erupted for 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting including 6 made three pointers. Before this game, Irvin’s previous high score was 8 points, so he’ll continue to be a role player.  However, the freshman is clearly talented and his career should be fun to follow in Ann Arbor.
  4. In one of our preseason columns, we stated that with the return of Tim Frazier, along with D.J. Newbill, Penn State may have the best backcourt in the Big Ten. Now others are starting to take notice and realizing that Penn State may have a surprising year. Over the weekend, the Nittany Lions split games beating a talented St. John’s team in double overtime but losing a close game to Ole Miss. In the game against the Red Storm, the dynamic duo combined for 54 points, while against the Rebels, Newbill put in another 20-point performance. These two have the offense humming at the rate of 114.4 points per 100 possessions, the 17th best in the country. This offense, along with their poor defense, will make for some entertaining games in conference play.  And this backcourt will be responsible for some crazy upsets before the season is done. So get the popcorn when Penn State is on TV and enjoy.
  5. On Wednesday, Wisconsin goes into Charlotte to play Virginia where Bo Ryan will be seeking to secure his 300th victory as the Badgers head coach. When asked what he thought that number meant about him as a coach, Ryan played it off and stated that he was a “pretty lucky guy”. Coach may not be giving himself enough credit.  Everyone knows he’s finished fourth or better in the Big Ten and made the NCAA Tournament every year since he’s been there (2001); and he’s done this almost completely without any heralded recruits. But what’s most impressive is he didn’t get a high-major coaching job until Wisconsin made them theirs at the age of 53.  Ryan had previously spent 15 years in Division III, where he won four national titles, and two years at UW-Milwaukee. His overall record as a head coach is 682-216 which translates to a winning percentage of 76 percent. That seems to be the product of much more than just luck.
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Big Ten Openers: Time to Judge the One-Game Judgements

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 11th, 2013

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

Iowa

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

Illinois

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

Indiana

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

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #12 to #9

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013

With just a couple days before the regular season tips off, it’s time to get down to how the five of us on the microsite feel that the 12 teams will shake out once the season gets rolling. What follows are the teams that we picked to finish in the bottom third of the league. Before the games tip off for real on Friday, we will show you teams #8-#5, and then close it out with teams #4-#1. Feel free to let the debates, arguments and discussions about how much or little we know what we’re talking about.

12. Nebraska

  • What they do Well: Nebraska does not turn the ball over, as it ranked 30th last season nationally in turnover rate. This is partially due to playing at a slow tempo, but their guards take care of the ball.
  • What they don’t do well: They do not get many second chance opportunities, as they ranked 319th last season in offensive rebounding rate.
  • Get to knowShavon Shields. Shields made a decent impact last year, as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. He and fellow wing David Rivers will need to step up to offset the losses of Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley.
Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren't buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren’t buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

  • Why they’ll finish 12th: Tim Miles looks like one of the better young coaches in the land, but with this being one of the best and deepest conferences in the country yet again, they simply don’t have enough quality depth to compete just yet. Teams will exploit their lack of quality size and kill them on the boards.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: Tai Webster turns out to be much better than advertised, and he and Ray Gallegos will be able to produce on the perimeter, shooting a high percentage and taking care of the ball. Florida castoff Walter Pitchford uses his 6’10” frame to remedy the Huskers problem with offensive rebounding.

10 (tie). Northwestern

  • What they do well: Like Nebraska, the Wildcats are used to playing at a slow tempo to their advantage, ranking 37th nationally in turnover rate. This may or may not be the same strength this year as they look to play faster.
  • What they don’t do well: Northwestern ranked 337th in offensive block rate, meaning that they really struggled in finishing at the rim.
  • Get to know: Alex Olah. If Northwestern can get anything from this 7-foot Romanian, they’ll be balanced enough with their guards to surpass expectations in Collins’ first season at the helm.
  • Why they’ll finish 10th: There will be too much uncertainty as the players adjust to playing at a quicker tempo, transitioning from Bill Carmody and his Princeton offense to a more up-tempo style of play that Collins is implementing.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: The return of Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb will lead to a better perimeter attack more athleticism. Olah becomes a physical presence inside that they will need to create extra possessions.

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Introducing the RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 5th, 2013

In honor of the college season finally tipping off Friday in various locales, we at the Big Ten microsite decided to get together and vote for our preseason all-league teams. We will cover potential Sixth Man of the Year candidates and reveal our preseason Freshman of the Year later this week. We’ll also be revealing how the teams will finish in the league standings four at a time starting Wednesday. Today we introduce our preseason All-Big Ten Second Team; the First Team will be unveiled tomorrow.

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part II

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013

Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape.  Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year.  Here’s our take:

Matt Painter's past success, and his very large contract, are among the reasons he'll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Matt Painter’s past successes, and his very large contract, are among the reasons why he’ll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas.  In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special.  Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.

Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits.  And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.

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Tim Frazier’s Return Makes Penn State Backcourt Best in the Big Ten

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 25th, 2013

Penn State isn’t known for being at the top of the B1G in anything basketball-related. But this season, even in a conference loaded with quality guards, the Nittany Lions will boast one of the top backcourt duos in the conference thanks to the return of Tim Frazier. Despite bringing in a decent recruiting class, head coach Pat Chambers has to be most excited to see the fifth-year senior returning from a ruptured Achilles injury that ended his season just four games into last season. At the time, Frazier was averaging 21.7 points and 5.0 assists per game as the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer and overall best player. Now, after being granted a final year of eligibility in Happy Valley, he is back and listed on the Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list despite not playing almost all of last season.

Tim Frazier's return from an achilles injury makes the Penn State backcourt one of the best in the B1G. (Photo credit: theschoolphilly.com)

Tim Frazier’s return from an Achilles injury makes the Penn State backcourt one of the best in the B1G. (theschoolphilly.com)

Losing Frazier was a big blow to Penn State’s hopes last season. He had earned first-team All-B1G honors as a junior after averaging 18.8 points per game, second best in the league, as well as the conference leader in assists (5.6 per game) and steals (2.4 per game). His season and play had been so strong that CBS named him No. 54 in their annual top 100 players list. His explosiveness and ability to pull up for a jumper and connect, made him a lethal offensive combination. Early reports from practice have Frazier looking back to form, and his abilities will help push Penn State out of the cellar.

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Morning Five: 04.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a big day on the NBA Draft early entry front, although perhaps in a few ways that we didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, two of the bigger stars of this season’s NCAA Tournament made their decisions, and — egads! — college basketball will definitely be the beneficiary in 2013-14 because of it. The Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, Russ Smith, has decided to return to Louisville for his senior season, stating in a press conference that it was time to get “back in the lab” over the summer to revamp his game yet again so that he’ll rise onto first round NBA Draft boards by this time next year (oh, and also graduate and potentially leave school as a Louisville legend). If this offseason’s improvement is anything like that of the last two for the mercurial Cardinal guard, then we’re excited to see what other wrinkles he’s added to his overall game. Put simply, his progression from an incredibly inefficient human cannon to that of a hybrid defensive dynamo/pure scorer has been nothing short of remarkable. It also makes the defending national champs extremely dangerous again next season, with enough talented holdovers to give Rick Pitino a legitimate shot at his third trophy.
  2. The other NCAA Tournament stud who made a decision on Wednesday to return to college is Syracuse’s leading scorer and rebounder, CJ Fair. According to the junior forward, he went back and forth on his decision “at least five teams” in the course of the last week before finally deciding that his draft standing (#22 to #40) was too uncertain to risk dropping to the second round. Fair was without question the Orange’s most consistent player this season, earning all-Big East second team honors in his first full year as a starter. Whether Fair can actually improve his draft stock on what appears to be a considerably weaker Syracuse team next season is open for debate, but he’ll need to continue to show that he has range in his outside shooting (30 threes at a 46.9% clip last year) and improve his finishing ability inside the paint in order to ensure himself a 2014 first round selection. As for Syracuse, his return prevents Jim Boeheim from facing a complete rebuild next season.
  3. A few other players were on the move around the nation Wednesday, with USC’s DeWayne Dedmon deciding to take his seven-foot frame and commensurate seven points and seven rebounds per game to the NBA, or whatever professional league in the world that will have him. Dedmon was already in trouble and had been suspended for his alleged role in a Spokane incident at the end of the season, so new head coach Andy Enfield may not have wanted him back anyway. Over at Indiana,  senior guard Maurice Creek will use the graduate transfer rule to attend another school next season. Creek started his Hoosier career like a house of fire, averaging 16.4 PPG over 12 games in 2009-10, but a series of injuries over the next few seasons steadily reduced his playing time to the point he was a complete afterthought on this year’s team. While on the subject of injuries, Penn State star Tim Frazier has been granted a fifth season of eligibility after rupturing his Achilles tendon four games into the season. Frazier is an all-Big Ten caliber guard who will join an already talented backcourt of DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, the top two scorers returning in the league next season. Could the Nittany Lions be dangerous in 2013-14?
  4. The ACC’s long-term grant of rights (GOR) deal appears to have shored up its member institutions for a while, at least until the Internet becomes the major revenue stream supporting college sports and all these deals are torn up at some point. Still, we’re a fan. For the immediate future, there should be some stability among the power conferences after several years of insanity. The University of Maryland may also be quite the fan of this deal. As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the improved strength of the league after adding Louisville and Notre Dame and approval of the GOR suggests that the ACC has become more stable in the months after Maryland’s departure. This line of thought could provide Terp attorneys a sliver of hope in arguing at court that the school should not be required to pay the entire $52 million exit fee that the league required upon its departure. Time will tell.
  5. We’ll finish up today with a neat story about a sixth grade teacher named Paul Nadeau from Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, Rhode Island. It turns out that his class had a unit on probability approaching earlier this year, so he took the opportunity to tie in the NCAA Tournament’s unpredictability by assigning his students bracket analyses based on mathematical probabilities and backed up by their persuasive writing. Not only did the students embrace the assignment and often forget that they were, you know, learning, but many of them also got excited for the idea of eventually attending college as well. Joey Brackets is probably safe for now, but he’d better watch himself in about 10 years!
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