Set Your DVR: Week of 02.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 5th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With only a month to go in the regular season, the conference pictures are still not 100% clear. Let’s take a look at six match-ups this week that will continue to clear things up as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#12 Ohio State at #3 Michigan – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • If you break games up into ten minute segments as KenPom does in his box scores, Michigan has only played two poor ten minute segments this season. The first ten minutes against Ohio State and the first ten minutes against Indiana. Both games were on the road in very hostile environments. In their last game in Columbus, Ohio State punched the Wolverines in the mouth in those first ten minutes with tenacious defense. Michigan recovered by limiting mistakes and forcing the Buckeyes to execute their half-court offense, which is virtually nonexistent  Don’t expect Michigan to be rattled like they were in Columbus but they still need to be careful with the basketball. If Ohio State wants to win in Ann Arbor, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are going to need to be even more disruptive on defense. Also, keep a close eye on Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III for the Wolverines. Stauskas had zero points against the Buckeyes and GRIII was virtually nonexistent in both of Michigan’s losses. If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten and make a deep run in the tournament, these two need to be at their best every night. The addition of those two as scoring threats is what makes Michigan so tough to beat. If the scoring sits squarely on the shoulders of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan becomes much easier to beat.
Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

#21 Minnesota at #6 Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on BTN (****)

  • After four straight losses, the Gophers have steadied a bit with wins against Nebraska and Iowa. They have avoided an Illinois-like tailspin, which is keeping them in the hunt in the Big Ten. Michigan State is sitting one game back of Indiana and is looking to avenge their New Year’s Eve loss to Minnesota. The difference in that game was offensive rebounding, free throws, and 60% two-point shooting from the Gophers. The Spartans are still having a tough time defending the two, so keep a close eye on the interior defense they get from Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Denzel Valentine. These three players need to lead the way for Michigan State, if they want to win this game. In the last meeting, Nix went 5-15, Payne had 4 points, and Valentine had 5 points. All three players need to be more productive for Michigan State to keep pace not only in this game but the rest of the Big Ten season. For Minnesota, they need to stop turning the ball over and play better defense without fouling. Keep a close eye on turnovers and free throws for the Gophers throughout the game. If they can limit both, they can beat Sparty again.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at #4 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

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A Clash at the Top: Previewing Saturday’s Indiana-Michigan Game

Posted by jnowak on February 1st, 2013

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Big Ten game as highly anticipated as this weekend’s showdown in Bloomington between Indiana and Michigan. We knew both teams were going to be top 10-caliber teams, but the opportunity to see No. 1 and No. 4 square off in front of a Saturday night audience is a real treat. There’s going to be no shortage of excitement and things to watch for, but here are a few key match-ups that will have an impact on the game and which team will take over sole possession of first place in a few days.

Watching Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo square off will be a treat for basketball fans. (AnnArbor.com)

Watching Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo square off on Saturday night will be a pleasure for Big Ten fans. (AnnArbor.com)

  • Victor Oladipo vs. Trey Burke — There may not be a more enticing individual matchup in the conference than Burke versus Oladipo. Burke is arguably the conference’s top overall player and certainly one of the best point guards in the country. Oladipo is dynamic on both ends of the floor, but has emerged as perhaps the Big Ten’s top defender. It’s not just Burke’s scoring that impacts a game; it’s his passing, his leadership on the floor, and his ability to control a game. But Oladipo has a way of throwing everything off for an opponent. He gets in the passing lanes, makes deflections and loose balls, and makes you work just as hard to defend when he’s got the ball in his hands. Whichever player wins this head-t0-head matchup and affects the tone of the game in doing so will likely lead his team to victory.
  • Cody Zeller vs. Michigan’s Frontcourt — Zeller, the consensus choice for preseason National Player of the Year, leads Indiana in scoring (16.1 PPG) but still has been unimpressive at times. He’s often failed to assert himself in big games and down the stretch, and went through a really tough period when he scored just 11 points combined in the Michigan State and Penn State games last week. He bounced back with a 19-point, 11-rebound performance against a talented Purdue frontcourt, though, and should have an easier time against Michigan. Jordan Morgan is not exactly a huge force in the paint but has experience and logs usually between 20-25 minutes per game; he sat out the Northwestern game Wednesday because of an ankle injury. That leaves freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III — who are both talented, but inexperienced — to handle Zeller. Here’s where the Indiana big man’s experience should pay off.

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Night Line: Michigan, Indiana Set Stage For Game of the Season

Posted by BHayes on January 30th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

For those of you who noticed the basketball game scheduled for 9:00 PM Saturday night in Bloomington, Indiana, Wednesday night followed script in a most beautiful way. All too often, we watch as titanic clashes are lessened by careless losses in the days leading up to the big one, but tonight, both Indiana and Michigan made sure they would not be caught looking ahead. Top-ranked Michigan went out and pounded Northwestern by 22 at home, while the third-ranked Hoosiers one-upped the Wolverine dominance by going into Mackey Arena and hanging 97 on a Purdue team that before tonight had a winning Big 10 record. Two impressive efforts that stood to only further whet the appetite of basketball fans across the country, because let’s be real: Saturday night’s match-up is shaping up to be the game of this college basketball season.

Good Luck Finding A Louder Gym Than Assembly Hall This Saturday

Good Luck Finding A Louder Gym Than Assembly Hall This Saturday

Purdue’s solid start to the conference season was in part due to a friendly early schedule, but the Hoosiers still went on the road and beat an average team by 37 tonight. The IU depth was there for all to see again this evening, as all five starters scored in double figures led by Cody Zeller’s 19. Much has been made of Zeller’s reticence to dominate games this year, but what many have considered a lack of production simply hasn’t been needed most of this campaign. Zeller is but one of a number of skilled offensive players Tom Crean has at his disposal – this luxury best evidenced by a stunning four Hoosiers ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s top 125 nationally for offensive rating. This may (and focus on the may here!) be the best offensive team in the land (#3 right now according to KenPom’s metrics), and their efficient outburst in West Lafayette tonight has to have them feeling ready for Michigan.

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Big Ten M5: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 24th, 2013

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  1. The basketball writers at ESPN took a comprehensive look at what they call “the nation’s top conference” on Wednesday, coming at the Big Ten from a variety of angles. They produced this video about the legacy that Michigan star Tim Hardaway and his father are trying to create together, as well as this roundtable of questions and answers from the site’s top college hoops writers. They discuss Illinois‘ recent struggles, what’s been most surprising about the conference this year, possible champions (and how many losses they can manage and still win the title), as well as which team is best suited to make a deep run. Michigan State and Ohio State have been the conference’s two best NCAA Tournament teams over the last few years, and those two squads are near the top of the standings, but is this a year in which they can do that again? Can Michigan get over it’s embarrassing upset loss to Ohio last season in the NCAA Tournament? These are all things we’ll be discussing as the Big Dance draws near, and ESPN tackles it today.
  2. Speaking of making deep March runs, Jason King takes an in-depth look at the pressure on the Big Ten to produce a national title team this season, given how talented the conference is. Indiana certainly entered this season as a contender, and Michigan has proven to be in that class. At times, Minnesota and Ohio State have looked like Final Four teams, and you can never write Tom Izzo off when it comes to the Big Dance. But as King writes, the Big Ten has only produced one national championship in the last 23 years (Michigan State in 2000). And eight have reached the Final Four since then (Michigan State four times, Ohio State twice, Indiana and Illinois each once) while coming up short. Would it be a disappointment this year if the Big Ten fell short again? And why has the conference failed so often? Read here to see what King’s thoughts on the matter.
  3. Indiana coach Tom Crean has seemingly found a recruiting pipeline to the Washington D.C. area, and it comes somewhat in the form of Victor Oladipo. Beyond the current Hoosier star, Crean has a commitment from Stanford Robinson, and high school sophomores Marcus Derrickson and Bryant Crawford also live in the area and have received Indiana offers. “There’s a year-round toughness there that doesn’t just come up in big games, but shows up in players whenever they step on the court” Crean told the Washington Post‘s Brandon Parker. “Not only are there ongoing camps and clinics, but those guys are well-coached. The type of talent that comes out of that area is just unbelievable.” Plenty of coaches find one player, or a group of players from one area — not necessarily close by, as evidenced by Crean’s travels to the East Coast — and build off it (think Tom Izzo, Flint and Michigan State). Could Indiana become a destination for D.C.’s best?
  4. This week’s meeting between Purdue and Michigan could be a glimpse at both the present and the future. With both these teams relying heavily on young players, there’s a chance that we could see as many as seven freshman having a hand in the game. Michigan’s incoming class has lived up to its billing with Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary all contributing. Meanwhile, Purdue hasn’t enjoyed the same success this season, but the Boilermakers have plenty to look forward to after seeing the way Ronnie Johnson, A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis can contribute. It’s not very often we see schools not named “Kentucky” having so many freshmen play such a key role, but John Beilein and Matt Painter have shown this season that their players don’t have to have much experience to make an impact in the Big Ten.
  5. There has never been any doubt, from the beginning of the season, that Ohio State can be a dangerous team. But the emphasis is on “can.” We’ve seen glimpses of greatness from the Buckeyes — beating Michigan — but we’ve also seen plenty of disappointment — an ugly loss to now-tumbling Illinois — in a season that has been hard to figure out. It’s that inconsistency, on the whole and among individual players, that the Columbus Dispatch‘s Rob Oller discusses in this column, saying “the Buckeyes have so much talent, but at times show so little skill.”
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Two Concerns From Michigan’s Weekend Loss to the Buckeyes

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 14th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

As soon as Duke went down at North Carolina State on Saturday, Michigan was next in line to claim the top national ranking so long as it took care of business on Sunday. The Wolverines had to win just one more game, but the timing could not have been worse because that one game was against one of their rivals, Ohio State, on the road. While the Wolverines had been on a major roll, the Buckeyes were suffering from a little bit of an identity crisis because they had not beaten a ranked team after more than two months of basketball. Even though the Wolverines cut into a 21-point deficit and came back to tie the game, they fell short 56-53 in Columbus. The following are a couple of concerns derived from the Wolverines’ loss:

John Beilein's freshmen will run into some trouble against formidable opponents on the road.

John Beilein’s freshmen will run into some trouble against formidable opponents on the road.

  1. Nik Stauskas should not be asked to defend bigger forwards like Deshaun Thomas – It is a well known fact by now that Stauskas has been extremely effective shooting from long range (50% 3FG) but he was 0-of-3 from deep against Ohio State and finished scoreless. Sunday’s loss also proved that without the freshman guard on the floor finding open spots, Beilein’s offense will not be very smooth. He has averaged 30.1 MPG so far this season, but only played 23 minutes in the loss after picking up early fouls because he was defending bigger forwards such as Thomas or Sam Thompson. Beilein plays just one true big man, Jordan Morgan, along with three guards – Stauskas, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Glenn Robinson III. None of these three are big enough to defend a bigger forward and as a result, Stauskas was stuck defending bigger players on several possessions. Robinson was too slow to keep up with Thomas, but Stauskas couldn’t hold his position as Thomas pounded the ball inside the paint to end up with 20 points. During several key possessions during the final minutes of the game, Stauskas was assigned to Shannon Scott or Aaron Craft but had to switch over to Thomas on occasion, and even during one possession to (gulp) Evan Ravenel, who took the ball to the basket immediately after recognizing the mismatch. If Morgan is assigned to the biggest opposing forward, then Beilein needs to figure out a way to “hide” Stauskas on defense because clearly a frazzled Stauskas won’t help the Wolverines on the offensive end. This will be a tough task for Beilein to solve because Robinson will have a difficult time staying out of foul trouble because his freshmen wings will be exploited by aggressive players like Indiana’s Victor Oladipo or Will Sheehey. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 3rd, 2013

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  1. Wisconsin guard Ben Brust injured his lower leg during practice on Wednesday but is supposedly “fine” after going through a few tests. Brust is averaging 11.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG as the starting guard while playing a very important role in the Badgers’ offense after the loss of Josh Gasser for the season. The junior guard will be ready to play against Penn State to open conference play on Thursday in Madison. Bo Ryan needs his experience and three-point shooting (42% 3FG) during Big Ten play in order to finish in the top half of the league and win 10 games.
  2. Wolverines’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable for Michigan’s conference opener against Northwestern on Thursday. He was on the sidelines with an ankle brace against Central Michigan over the weekend and the UM training staff will not be sure about his status until Thursday’s practice. Hardaway had started 81 games in a row in the maize and blue but his streak was snapped on Saturday. He is averaging 15.8 PPG but has not practiced since last week. The Wildcats will be seeking some revenge after their overtime loss to the Wolverines the last time they met in Evanston during the 2011-12 season.
  3. While John Beilein might miss his best wing on Thursday night, Northwestern’s Bill Carmody will not have his best forward on Thursday either as Reggie Hearn hasn’t practiced since twisting his ankle against Stanford on December 21. Hearn had been averaging 14.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG this season and had clearly stepped up since Drew Crawford was declared out for the season, scoring 18 points in a tough loss to the Cardinal in Evanston. The Wildcats have a very tough schedule ahead – five out of their first six games are against Big Ten teams currently ranked in the top 11 teams of the AP poll. When the head coach was asked about Hearn’s injury, Carmody replied, “Three weeks ago, we had Drew and Reggie and they gave me 30 a game. Who are you going to get it from?” Sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski (11.3 PPG) and Jared Swopshire (8.8 PPG) will need to carry the offensive load while Hearn is out.
  4. Tom Izzo‘s big frontcourt of Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Branden Dawson did not work too well against Minnesota earlier this week as the Spartans lost 76-63 in Minneapolis. Izzo said “Payne did not play very well” because he could not stay out of foul trouble. Nix shot just 5-of-15 from the field in scoring 10 points and appeared to be too “relaxed” in the second half as he missed a couple of easy shots around the basket. The Spartans play the Boilermakers on Saturday which won’t be an easy game especially after Painter’s team beat Illinois at home to open the conference season. A little bit of home-cooking should help Nix and Payne after a rough outing on the road against a Gophers team that at this point looks like a solid candidate to win the Big Ten title.
  5. Speaking of Minnesota, the Gophers made a bold statement in their win against the Spartans. The Star Tribune’s Amelia Rayno outlines the key factors from their big win on New Year’s Eve. Tubby Smith’s squad showed that they are tough by holding Michigan State to just 32 rebounds and dominating the glass, with Trevor Mbakwe leading the charge by pulling down 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Depth is a huge asset for Smith but he chose not to use it during the game as Julian Welch only played four minutes. The Barn will be a tough place to win for visiting teams this season but the Gophers need to prove that they can be as effective on the road if they want to compete for a conference title.
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Morning Five: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 3rd, 2013

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  1. After a disappointing two-plus seasons at UCLA ended in his decision to leave the team a little over a month ago Josh Smith has decided to transfer to Georgetown. As we mentioned yesterday Smith could be a huge asset for the Hoyas if he can get his act together and lose the weight he needs to in order to become the player that many expected him to become after an outstanding freshman season. We still are not sure how Smith will fit into Georgetown’s Princeton offense, but Smith is talented enough that if he gets in shape John Thompson III will have to adjust the offense to utilize his unique skills. We are not optimistic that Smith will be able to turn his career around, but a change of scenery is probably the best thing that Smith could have if he wants to succeed.
  2. Michigan and Wisconsin are starting Big Ten play tonight, but both teams may be without key pieces in their backcourt. Michigan may be without the services of Tim Hardaway Jr., who is recovering from an ankle injury that forced him to miss the Wolverines’ game last Saturday against Central Michigan and he remains a game-time decision for their game at Northwestern. The status of Wisconsin guard Ben Brust for the Badgers’ home Big Ten opener against Penn State is also unknown after he sustained a lower leg injury during Wednesday’s practice. Very few details have been released about the extent of Brust’s injury, but the general sense that we get from what has been reported is that is not particularly severe, but more information should become available later today.
  3. In this week’s installment of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings, he takes a look at a variety of interesting statistics for his top 16 teams including our personal favorites this week–free throws per turnover for team’s that force the greatest percentage of turnover and Michael Carter-Williams’ assist distribution. The Carter-Williams graphic is something that we have seen before in various forms including last season when Winn employed it to look at how North Carolina functioned with Kendall Marshall at the point. The free throws per turnover ratio, which Winn used to point out just how effective Louisville is on defense is something we have not seen before, but at first glance appears to be an interesting stat especially when you are looking at teams that apply similar levels of pressure. As we have said before this is not a widely used stat, but don’t be surprised to see it used in March when we are trying to pick an upset where a great defensive team is facing a young point guard.
  4. Hardcore Tennessee fans may remember Tyler Summitt as a seldom used guard on Volunteer teams the past two seasons, but they most likely remember him from being around his mother, the legendary Pat Summitt (the subject of an awesome last sentence in the “Personal” section of his Tennessee player profile). After graduating from Tennessee,  Summitt headed straight into coaching as many would expect a player of his caliber, but with his coaching genes to do. What is slightly more surprising is that he went straight into coaching women’s basketball, which he is coaching at Marquette as an assistant in his first year out of college. Mechelle Voepel of ESPN has a great piece on Summitt and his life’s path that has led him to become a women’s basketball coach. It is unlikely that Tyler will ever approach the success of his mother, but if the Tennessee women’s job becomes open in a couple of years the school’s athletic director could have a very interesting decision to make.
  5. And now for our daily legal update… As we mentioned on Monday, the state of Pennsylvania has decided to file a lawsuit against the NCAA challenging the organization’s legal right to impose such severe sanctions against Penn State. Plenty of solid pieces have been written about, but the best summary we have seen comes from Michael McCann, who provides a solid breakdown of the key issues. We have already stated our issues with the NCAA in this case on Twitter and in this space before (essentially that the NCAA is overstepping its authority in dealing with these issues). Meanwhile, the Big East is attempting to move the lawsuit by Rutgers, which is attempting to get out of paying the $10 million exit fee it owes the conference on the basis that the fee has been applied unevenly. The Big East is trying to move the case from a New Jersey state Superior Court, which would presumably be sympathetic to Rutgers, to a US District Court. Rutgers can challenge the move, but the Big East’s motion seems like a perfectly reasonable request to us although that has not stopped lawyers from contesting issues in the past.
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Big Ten M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 31st, 2012

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  1. Wolverines’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. did not play against Central Michigan on Saturday because of an ankle injury. Even though Trey Burke made sure that Michigan wrapped up its non-conference schedule with a win (88-73), Hardaway’s injury could be concerning for John Beilein if it remains an issue in the conference season. The coaching staff did not release any specifics around his exact date of return or even the nature of the injury but Burke added that “it could be a bone bruise.” Opening the Big Ten season against Northwestern on the road won’t be easy without Hardaway because the Wildcats have been looking for a signature win at home and played the Wolverines very well there last season but lost in overtime.
  2. After missing three games, freshman Jeremy Hollowell will be back for the Hoosiers for their conference season opener today against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hoosiers reported a “secondary violation” to the NCAA and per the proposal, he will be reinstated immediately and travel with the team to Iowa. Hollowell has averaged 5.7 PPG and 3.0 RPG during the non-conference slate, and more details about the violation will be disclosed later this week by the athletic department. Tom Crean will need Hollowell’s services against Iowa and the Gophers over the next two weeks to tip off Big Ten play.
  3. Illinois’ Tracy Abrams had a great homecoming on Saturday as the Illini edged Auburn 81-79 at the United Center in Chicago. Playing in front of his hometown family and friends, Abrams scored 27 points and dished out five assists against the Tigers. Brandon Paul only scored 13 points in this game but Abrams made sure the Illini did not hobble into conference play by dominating the game. The sophomore guard handles the primary point guard duties for John Groce and has averaged 12.1 PPG despite shooting just 30% from beyond the arc. Even though he isn’t consistent from long range, Abrams has shown glimpses of his ability to get to the basket by successfully taking his defender off the dribble.
  4. As the Spartans prepare for their Big Ten opener against the Gophers, Tom Izzo has indicated that he will continue to play Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne over the next few weeks as Branden Dawson continues to recover from last season’s ACL injury. Izzo was particularly impressed with Nix’s 25 points against Texas and wants to see Dawson play at the small forward position as his playing time increases during the season. A frontcourt of Nix, Payne and Dawson will be tough to defend and the Spartans should be able to control the boards with this group in most games. Dawson also provides Izzo with flexibility on defense because he usually locks down the best wing on the opposing team. He is expected to guard Gophers’ talented Rodney Williams (13.0 PPG) on Monday.
  5. After 12 non-conference games and a 10-2 record, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta has not been very impressed with his team thus far. Two losses to elite teams Kansas and Duke is reasonable, but the Buckeyes need better shooting (37% 3FG) from their stars during Big Ten play. The Buckeyes understand that there are few weak teams in the B1G and they can’t afford to have many bad shooting nights. Matta added, “This team is not good enough for us to not be playing at the level we’re capable of,” when asked about the season so far. Sophomore center Amir Williams (3.8 RPG) started for the first time this year and will need to provide a better defensive presence in the post if the Buckeyes hope to again compete for the conference title.
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All-Big Ten Team From the Non-Conference Season

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 27th, 2012

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

We haven’t had a great slate of games over the last couple of weeks because of final exams and the holidays but the break this week gives us a chance to evaluate the Big Ten teams as the non-conference season comes to an end. The Big Ten Microsite has already looked at the top coaches over the first month of hoops and graded each team’s performance when compared to their preseason expectations. Today, we take a look at the All-Big Ten team after the first 12 games of the season.

Trey Burke is one of the main reasons why the Wolverines are off to a 12-0 start. (AP Photo)

Trey Burke is one of the main reasons why the Wolverines are off to a 12-0 start. (AP Photo)

  • Trey Burke (17.4 PPG, 7.1 APG): Burke made several adjustments to his game during the offseason and it has paid off during the Wolverines’ 12-0 start. The sophomore point guard has better offensive talent around him compared with last season as freshmen Glenn Robinson III (11.4 PPG) and Nik Stauskas (13.4 PPG) are playing a hugely significant role in John Beilein’s offensive sets. Rather than carrying the bulk of the offensive load, he has become a true facilitator and is playing the role of a true point guard this season. He has averaged 7.1 APG so far this season, a big increase from his 4.6 APG average last year. If all the assists have not been impressive enough, he has also managed to limit his turnovers to only two per game, a decrease of about a miscue per game last year. Involving scorers like Robinson, Stauskas, and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the offense is not an easy task, but Burke has quickly developed a knack in understanding when to become a facilitator and when to take over the game.
  • Cody Zeller (16.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG): Zeller was a unanimous selection for the preseason All-America team and he hasn’t disappointed by leading the Hoosiers to an 11-1 record. His statistics are not necessarily outstanding on their face but he is the foundation of Tom Crean’s offense — just because he doesn’t score 20 PPG does not mean his impact on the game is minimal. Opposing coaches still design their defensive schemes around the sophomore forward and always have the weak side defender looking to help when Zeller makes a move in the paint. Because of Zeller’s presence in the paint, the Hoosiers’ three-point shooting has been very impressive, particularly from guards Will Sheehey (36% 3FG) and Jordan Hulls (53% 3FG). It is crucial for the Hoosiers to understand their specific roles in the offense because of their deep roster and Zeller sets a great example by being very selective with his shots (62.6% eFG). The Hoosiers usually play a lineup with Zeller along with four guards and wings and he has been very effective on the boards by improving his rebounding average from 6.6 RPG last season to 8.1 RPG this year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.27.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 27th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday/Wednesday nights will give us some of the best non-conference match-ups we’ll see this season. It should be a great battle between two of the top conferences in the nation. We sneak in Kentucky vs. Notre Dame also later this week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge gives us some of the best games of the season so far.

#23 Minnesota at #25 Florida State – 7:15 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Minnesota comes into this game battle tested from a tough, early non-conference schedule. With the exception of the Gophers’ loss to Duke, Tubby Smith’s squad is winning with defense. Typically, we would say the same thing about Florida State’s defense, but it’s their offense that is winning their games this season. The Seminoles are shooting 56% from two and 41% from three. While Minnesota has only allowed opponents to hit 29.6% of their three-point attempts this season, they have been susceptible to the long ball in their last three outings. Additionally, they have been poor on the defensive glass, allowing teams to grab 37% of their misses. FSU has four players that shoot over 40% from beyond the arc and they are actually taller than the Gophers, particularly in the backcourt. Pay close attention to FSU’s three-point shooting and offensive rebounding in this one. Because Minnesota is not a great shooting team, they are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the Seminoles’ size on the offensive glass. Thus far, the Gophers are grabbing 47.3% of their missed shots on the offensive end, which is good for fourth in the nation. The winner of this game will be the team that owns the offensive glass.

#21 North Carolina State at #5 Michigan  7:30 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

  • Both of these teams are in the top 20 in effective field goal percentage thus far in the season. Three-point shooting will be a key factor in this match-up with both teams hovering right around the 40% mark. The Wolfpack is led by Rodney Purvis and Scott Wood on the outside, shooting 58.8% and 44.8% respectively. Those are the only two players on NC State who have attempted more than 10 three-point shots on the season. The Wolverines, however, have four players – Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III – who have attempted 10+ threes and all are shooting at over 30%. Both teams are middle of the pack at defending the outside shot, so it will be interesting to see who is able to take this advantage. While offensive firepower seems to be the key in this game, defense will ultimately determine the winner. Michigan has held all of its opponents under a point per possession this season and has proven it can win ugly against Pittsburgh. NC State is the best offense UM has faced thus far, though, but the question remains if the Wolfpack can hold off the plethora of Wolverines who can score. NC State is coming off a shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma State and a very close win against UNC-Asheville, where they allowed an eFG of 56.3%. If they don’t improve that field goal defense against Michigan, they will get crushed again.
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Morning Five: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 27th, 2012

  1. The big news of the day was that Gorgui Dieng, Louisville’s anchor on the inside, would be out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured scaphoid. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t a huge setback for the Cardinals  as they will still probably be a top two seed when Selection Sunday rolls around barring some collapse. Rick Pitino is pointing towards the start of Big East play as the target date for Dieng’s return, but we are looking for a return a little bit before that–on December 29 at home against Kentucky. Louisville has a couple of interesting games between now and their match-up with the Wildcats, but they should be able to win all of those games relatively easily with the possible exception of a game against Missouri in a little under two weeks.
  2. We wondered how long Jamie Dixon would suspend Trey Zeigler after Zeigler’s DUI arrest over the weekend and we are still wondering as Dixon handed down the ubiquitous, but nebulous indefinite suspension. Zeigler was found asleep at the wheel of his Hummer (likely from his dad before any of you start talking about NCAA investigations although it is a different sort of hardship we guess) with a subsequent blood-alcohol content of 0.129 (above the legal limit of 0.08) and then reportedly vomited in his holding cell. Zeigler, who was expected to have an immediate impact for the Panthers, has been limited to a reserve role, but may have cost himself a shot at getting any meaningful minutes before the start of conference play. Zeigler’s preliminary hearing is set for February 5, but we expect that Dixon will come to a decision on the length of Zeigler’s punishment well before that.
  3. With the ACC-Big Ten Challenge nearly upon us there are several fairly big injuries to catch up on. The one that is the most certain involves North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston, who will miss today’s game against Indiana after spraining his left knee during a practice over the weekend. Hairston’s absence will hamper the Tar Heels’ hopes of pulling off an upset at Assembly Hall in what already was an extremely challenging environment for the young Tar Heels to come out of with a victory. The other two significant injuries come from the Big Ten and the state of Michigan specifically, but according to reports both Tim Hardaway Jr (recovering from a knee to his head–possibly a concussion, but the reports are vague) and Travis Trice (concussion) are expected to play in their games against North Carolina State and Miami, respectively.
  4. We have talked quite a bit about conference realignment in this space, but Denver appears to be taking it to an extreme as they are reportedly on the verge of moving to the Summit League from the WAC next year making it their third conference in three years. On some level we can understand Denver’s move as they went to the WAC that was hemorrhaging teams, but then realized they were in a failing conference so they had to move on for the sake of the athletic department, but on some level (ok, many levels) it just feels wrong.
  5. Over the past year we have seen quite a few players transfer from a program to be with an ailing family member. Unfortunately for North Carolina State’s Thomas de Thaey, a native of Belgium, that was not an option as he announced that he would be leaving the school to return to Belgium to be near his father, who is battling cancer. He will reportedly pursue a professional career in Belgium while being near his father. As for the Wolfpack, they will have to adjust their already short rotation to absorb the loss of de Thaey, who was averaging 9 minutes per game this year.
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