Big Ten M5: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 27th, 2014

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  1. Wisconsin is certainly used to the Sweet Sixteen and plenty of success under Bo Ryan. Part of the reason for that is how Ryan instills the “method of deception” into his players from the moment they arrive on campus. For a team that is often talked about as athletically outmatched, the idea of Ryan preaching the use of ball fakes and shot fakes during every practice makes sense. This could be important in creating opportunities against Baylor’s zone tonight. The Badgers may also use these fakes to get Isaiah Austin into the air and create foul trouble for the athletic big man. If Wisconsin can remove Austin from the center of that zone, their chances of finding open shots everywhere on the floor improves substantially.
  2. Nik Stauskas certainly was one of the biggest surprises this season in the Big Ten. After he was named first team All-America by the National Association of Basketball Coaches this week, you can add that he is one of the nation’s biggest surprises as well. Stauskas was certainly a good player as a freshman last season but expecting him to be one of the five best players in America this year was on nobody’s radar. With this award, he has put himself in elite company at Michigan, becoming just the 13th Wolverine to be named to at least one All-America team in program history. Now the question is whether he, like last year’s Michigan All-American Trey Burke, can lead his team to a Final Four?
  3. Michigan State has played plenty of big games in almost all the major venues across the country. Tom Izzo has taken the Spartans around the world and even played a game on an aircraft carrier. For all of this talent and history of success, the one place that Izzo’s Spartans have struggled is exactly where they are headed this weekend: Madison Square Garden. When Michigan State takes on Virginia in New York City Friday night, it does so with a 2-10 all-time record there (2-6 under Izzo). Sparty hasn’t won at MSG since 2006 and already lost there once this year to Georgetown. While it is obviously foolish to think the arena itself is causing losses, it is an interesting trend to think about. Izzo says he isn’t superstitious but if the losses keep piling up at MSG maybe he will avoid the arena the best he can in the future.
  4. With three Big Ten teams left in the NCAA Tournament it is easy to forget that Minnesota is still playing basketball as well. The Golden Gophers are headed to New York next Tuesday night where they will take on Florida State in the NIT semifinals, thanks in large part to a massive game from Austin Hollins. For a team playing in the NIT rather than the NCAAs, they are still plenty focused on the games ahead and getting to 25 wins this season. While there is no guaranteed correlation between NIT success and the next season, Richard Pitino’s Gophers are playing well and could easily take home some postseason hardware by the end of the season.
  5. It is easy to forget that Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan has never reached the final weekend in college basketball despite everything he has accomplished while at Wisconsin. Having never reached the Final Four gives him the dubious honor of being named the Athlon Sports Top Coach Without a Final Four Appearance. He wasn’t the lone representative from the conference, either. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery came in 11th, Purdue’s Matt Painter at 14th and even Nebraska’s Tim Miles cracked the top 20 at #17. This is certainly not a list any coach wants to reside on and Ryan has a great opportunity to leave it in his wake this weekend.
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Rushed Reactions: #24 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 67

Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014

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Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament action between Nebraska and Ohio State in Indianapolis.

LaQuinton Ross Keyed Ohio State's Comeback Friday Afternoon

LaQuinton Ross Keyed Ohio State’s Comeback Friday Afternoon

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Nebraska’s collapse was monumental. How did Nebraska lose a game it was leading by 18 with fewer than 14 minutes to play? First answer: Ohio State outscored the Cornhuskers 41-19 from the 13:45 mark to the end of the game. Nebraska had built its 18-point lead through playing high IQ basketball and making great decisions when it came to shot selection. All of that changed from that point on, as the offense continuously sputtered due to poor decisions and poor execution. Second answer: Nebraska had no idea how to handle Ohio State’s pressure. During the period where it was outscored 41-19, Tim Miles’ squad turned the ball over seven times and five of those giveaways were charged to the team’s two top playmakers, guards Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. It has been a long time since Nebraska played in a string of important games in March and that inexperience was on prime display during Friday afternoon’s collapse.
  2. Ohio State deserves a ton of credit. Nebraska certainly deserves a hefty load of blame for its sputtering down the stretch, but Ohio State stepped up and made plays when it could have wilted away and accepted defeat. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross was extremely productive in the second half, as he tallied 18 points and collected eight rebounds. Senior guard Aaron Craft fulfilled his leadership role admirably, as he keyed the Buckeyes’ attack on both ends of the court. This season’s Ohio State squad has not been the most talented offensively, but it showed again Friday that it can defend anyone in the country.
  3. Nebraska should still earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Yes, a win over Ohio State would have likely locked the Cornuskers in the field of 68, but Nebraska’s résumé entering the Big Ten Tournament should have already had Tim Miles’ squad locked into the Big Dance. The Cornhuskers finished the regular season with an impressive 11-7 record in Big Ten play. They won home games over NCAA Tournament locks Ohio State and Wisconsin, and in addition, they went on the road and beat Michigan State in East Lansing. Even with Friday’s loss, Nebraska has still won eight of its last 10 games in the treacherous and that is an accomplishment that should be appropriately rewarded.

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Big Ten M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 12th, 2014

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  1. Nik Stauskas of Michigan was named Big Ten Player of the Year on Monday by both the coaches and the media. He went from primarily a spot-up shooter to someone who put in a tremendous amount of work to become the best player in the league. It’s been documented often about the strength training that he and fellow sophomore Caris LeVert went through in the off-season, and it quite obviously paid off for both. Stauskas managed to still be able to knock down plenty of three-pointers, yet added the ability to drive and distribute on a much higher level than many expected. He is a worthy Big Ten POY.
  2. Playing in the shadow of a famous father is never easy. Playing in the shadow of a father that not only played in the NBA for 14 years, but also serves as an analyst for the network that covers your conference is borderline impossible. But Wisconsin point guard Traveon Jackson has made things work both on and off the court due to a renewed sense of spirituality. Jackson struggled with the responsibilities after unexpectedly having to take the reigns from Josh Gasser once the guards tore his ACL. He turned to drinking and partying as a way to escape from the stress on the court, but has found that things like scripture reading and attending church services have helped him on and off the court.
  3. It’s the eve of the Big Ten Tournament, and not many people within the college basketball community can figure out Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo feels the importance of the tournament this year more so than in past seasons because, as he says, “we’re just trying to bring back some of the magic we had early in the year when we had everybody playing together.” It will be extremely interesting over the course of the weekend to see if the team can start clicking like they did early on before injuries ruined any sense of flow and cohesion the team had.
  4. The main architect for the Nebraska basketball facelift was named Coach of the Year by his coaching peers on Monday. Coach Tim Miles worked his way up from coaching Division II in obscurity, to potentially coaching in the Big Dance next week. He credits his players for keeping a positive attitude, not letting the porous basketball history of the program prohibit them from changing things.  If they can win three games this weekend, the change will be even further magnified.
  5. After seeing him play in the non-conference part of the season, no one would have guessed that Kendrick Nunn would earn a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team. Nunn did just that however, and Illinois has gone 5-3 since he and fellow freshman Malcolm Hill were inserted into the starting five. Indiana Coach Tom Crean has taken notice, as he likened Nunn to Victor Oladipo when asked about preparing for the Illini on Thursday when the two teams square off in first-round play of the Big Ten Tournament.  Nunn has averaged double-figures in those 8 games, and can enhance his ever-growing reputation even more if he continues his solid play, and Illinois wins a game or two in Indianapolis.
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Three Initial Thoughts on the Big Ten Tournament

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 10th, 2014

There aren’t many things clear as we head into this week’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. We know that the Wolverines are the best team in the league, but several question marks remain about the other 11 teams. The following are three initial thoughts about the tournament’s draw.

Tom Izzo needs to make sure his team gains confidence before the NCAA tournament.

Tom Izzo needs to make sure his team gains confidence before the NCAA tournament.

  1. Two teams that have a lot to prove in Indianapolis: Iowa and Michigan State. Both of these squads are limping into the tournament and they need to gain some confidence before they head to the Big Dance. The Hawkeyes were stunned at the buzzer by Jon Ekey’s Illini on Saturday and appear to have no clue on the defensive end anymore. Devyn Marble continues to impress, but the rest of his teammates need a jump start soon or this group will be an early upset in both tournaments. Under the assumption that the Hawkeyes beat Northwestern on Thursday, they will then face the Spartans on Friday, a team that has its own set of issues. Against Ohio State, Michigan State played fairly well, but Tom Izzo’s team didn’t seem to have a clear leader on the floor at the end of the game. This shouldn’t be very surprising because it has been a while since all of their starters have played together, but they need to use their time this weekend in Indy to figure out any lingering issues with team chemistry. From a seeding perspective, both teams could stand to win a couple of games here to shore up their positions — for Iowa, to get away from the #8/#9 game; for Michigan State, to remain a protected top-four seed and possibly move up to a more favorable #3 draw. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts as Nebraska Notched a Big Road Win at Indiana Last Night

Posted by Walker Carey on March 6th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Nebraska and Indiana in Bloomington.

Prior to Wednesday night’s game at Indiana, Nebraska was widely seen as a bubble NCAA Tournament team. The Cornhuskers were among the “First Four Out” in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest update, so Tim Miles’ squad knew it had basically zero margin for error in either of its two games this week (at Indiana on Wednesday and home versus Wisconsin on Sunday). Earning a win at Assembly Hall figured to be a tall task for the Cornhuskers, as Indiana had already scored home victories over Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State this season. Luckily for Nebraska, its chances at an earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament are still alive and well after the Cornhuskers led all the way en route to a very important 10-point road victory. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday night’s action.

Nebraska Got a Huge Win at Indiana Wednesday Night

Nebraska Got a Huge Win at Indiana Wednesday Night

  1. Nebraska Received Valuable Contributions From a Variety of Players. On an evening where Nebraska standout guard Terran Petteway battled foul trouble and only finished 3-of-10 from the field, the Cornhuskers received impact performances from several other players. Forward Walter Pitchford scored the team’s first nine points of the night and finished the game with 17 total points to go with the nine rebounds he collected. Swingman Shavon Shields experienced plenty of success attacking the rim against the Indiana defense and also finished the game with 17 points. Shields was also part of the defensive effort that held Indiana’s marquee players — Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey – to combined 9-of-28 shooting from the field. The Cornhuskers also received key performances from reserve guards Benny Parker and Ray Gallegos, who sparked the Cornhuskers on both ends of the court with intense and spirited play. Good teams are able to adjust on the fly and still earn victories when their top player is not at his best, and that is exactly what Nebraska did on Wednesday night. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 6th, 2014

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  1. The recent skid for Michigan State has plenty of people questioning if this team is still a top contender. First it was the defense, as the Spartans need to switch on screens without Branden Dawson was causing issues. With his return, though, a loss at Illinois still happened. That prompted the players to air their frustrations with each other in a “players-only” meeting this week. The interesting aspects are that the Spartans were blaming each other, showing a team divided instead of coming together. This late in the season that is never how a team wants to be interacting and playing. Tonight at home against Iowa provides a good chance to see if the issues really were put to bed or if what Tom Izzo calls “the biggest joke in athletics” is just that and the Spartans continue to struggle.
  2. It shouldn’t be news to anyone how big of a week is coming up for Nebraska. It certainly is known to head coach Tim Miles as he admitted he has been checking projections and RPI rankings the past three weeks as his team has began flirting with the bubble. Every game is important for the Cornhuskers right now as they need every possible win to get into the tournament. It certainly would help if they could push themselves up to fourth in the Big Ten as well. Miles may believe they are a tournament team, and now is the chance for them to prove it. Do that and they will have surprised everyone in the country by not just playing in March, but playing in the main event.
  3. Indiana‘s Will Sheehey won’t be a player that sits at the top of the Hoosier record books. Still, he did plenty for the program as he played his final home game last night against Nebraska. Sheehey hit the 1,000-point mark, but the biggest thing he will be remembered for is coming into the program along with Victor Oladipo and helping change the culture. He is a 4-year player that helped lead the transformation from desolation to its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade (he hit the winning shot against VCU in 2012 to reach it). He helped set a work ethic for the change, and while his last campaign has had road bumps, Sheehey’s legacy will be part of leading the revival.
  4. Penn State has strong guard play this season, that’s no question, but its future may be in the frontcourt. Lately, Pat Chambers has been playing his big men together on the court in Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack. Chambers says he plans to use the line-up for the remainder of the season but it struggles with staying on the court due to endurance and match-up issues. It is still one we will likely see in the future and it will be quite the change from a guard-oriented team to one that pounds the ball down low.
  5. We always like to discuss players and All-American status. For coaches it is typically limited to individual conference coaches of the year and the overall national one. Well, Bleacher Report’s Jason King decided to expand his list and he has two Big Ten coaches on his “King’s Court Coaches All-American Team.” Michigan’s John Beilein made the second team and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan made the third team. He also gave Tim Miles of Nebraska the “most-underrated” award. It’s tough to argue about the Big Ten coach positions, though Beilein could likely make a case for being on the First-Team after losing Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and then Mitch McGary midseason yet still winning an outright Big Ten title. Miles being omitted but listed as the “most underrated” also seems deserving and the right spot. Tom Izzo could make a case for an addition dealing with all the injuries, but for the most part, the Big Ten was represented accurately. This could also be seen as another nod for Beilein as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, which most have him or Miles winning it.
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Big Ten M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 5th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Credit Indiana senior forward Will Sheehey for having some self-awareness when he was asked about his team’s NCAA Tournament chances. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week said it feels like the team is in the midst of making a run, but that they still have plenty of work left to do. With how bad Indiana’s non-conference schedule was and the fact that the Hoosiers had a 4-8 conference record as recently as February 15, it’s a small miracle that they’ve even put themselves in the position to talk about landing a spot in the field of 68.
  2. In what has become sort of a running M5 tradition, here’s more talk of Michigan State and its latest injury news. While head coach Tom Izzo isn’t going to have Keith Appling miss anymore games, it is possible that he may cut the senior point guard’s minutes if he continues to be ineffective. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation for Izzo. On one hand, he has to let Appling continue to get reps so he’s not rusty for the postseason; on the other hand, if he’s not the same player he was prior to getting hurt (which he clearly is not), then do you take the chance of having a senior leader only playing limited minutes? The Spartans have until the middle of March to figure it out, but time is running out on this team.
  3. Ben Brust has been recognized as one of the best shooters in the Big Ten and for his ability as an undersized rebounder. But when Bo Ryan likens the Wisconsin senior to a mosquito, it’s hard not to scoff. The comparison makes sense, however, as Ryan explained how Brust can frustrate bigger opponents on the defensive end. The Badgers possess a certain grittiness on that side of the ball, and it all starts with Brust and fellow guard Josh Gasser both being able to take on players who are bigger and more athletic than they are.
  4. Many think that Michigan wrapping up the regular season Big Ten crown last night is enough to give John Beilein the Coach of the Year award. That’s not to say that Nebraska head coach Tim Miles doesn’t also offer a compelling argument. It is Miles who deserves the award if the Huskers make the NCAA Tournament, according to the Omaha World-Herald‘s Lee Barfknecht. It will be interesting to see how this and many of the other postseason honors play out. Miles has sped up the Nebraska rebuilding plan and then some, but Beilein dealt with the loss of a potential lottery pick in addition to losing two others starters now playing in the NBA.
  5. Things just keep getting worse for Purdue. First Sterling Carter tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season, and now promising redshirt freshman Jay Simpson has also seen his Purdue career come to an end. Simpson was recently diagnosed with the heart ailment hypertrophic cardiomyotrophy (HCM). This is the same disease that ended the lives of players such as Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. Simpson had to be taken out of the game on February 23 against Nebraska despite not appearing to have suffered an injury, but very luckily the disease was discovered before tragedy struck.
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Three Thoughts on Nebraska’s Loss to Illinois Last Night

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 27th, 2014

Road games should never be taken lightly in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers basketball train came to a halt as Tim Miles’ squad lost for the first time in six games last night. The following are three thoughts from Illinois’ 60-49 victory in Champaign.

Tim Miles' Huskers lost a costly game last night in Champaign. (Getty)

Tim Miles’ Huskers lost a costly game last night in Champaign. (Getty)

  1. Did Nebraska blow its chance at the NCAA Tournament? That may appear to be a harsh statement but the the loss certainly doesn’t help the Cornhuskers’ already-marginal case for an NCAA Tournament bid. For most of the game, Nebraska appeared to be tired, and it manifested itself by rushing way too many shots. An emotionally-draining five-game winning streak can wear down a young team, and even though they should bounce back against Northwestern this weekend, next week’s road trip to Bloomington should be a big concern for Miles. Similar to Illinois, Indiana’s NCAA hopes are practically nonexistent, but Tom Crean’s team will certainly relish the opportunity to play the spoiler’s role. If Nebraska can indeed manage to pull off those next two wins, it would have a very good chance of securing an at-large bid with a quality home win against Wisconsin to finish off the regular season. A March game in Lincoln with the postseason on the line would be a unique situation for the basketball Cornhuskers, a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998.
  2. Kendrick Nunn may be Illinois’ best player. The Illini stunned Minnesota on the road about a week ago, as Nunn scored a smooth 19 points in the victory. A top-75 recruit from Chicago, it is no secret that he was a talented guard, but it took a while for him to get up to speed with the collegiate game. Once John Groce put him into the starting lineup against Penn State on February 9, he has shown that he has the game to become one of the better players in the entire conference. It wasn’t just his 13 points last night that was impressive, but it was the way in which he went about it —  shooting an efficient 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and with a total of just six shots from the field. He doesn’t force it and lets the offense come to him, which shows a tremendous amount of maturity for such a young player. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 02.26.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 26th, 2014

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  1. Ohio State has gone 6-1 since it put Sam Thompson into the starting lineup. Thompson’s production didn’t change too much at the beginning of the switch, but he’s been significantly better over his last couple of games including a team-high 19 points in Ohio State’s 64-46 win over Minnesota on Saturday. This effort drew the praise of Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, saying Thompson “is what college basketball is all about.” Pitino, interestingly enough, had recruited Thompson when he was an assistant coach at Florida under Billy Donovan. Thompson has always been an elite athlete, and if his improved offense isn’t just an aberration, he’ll be on the NBA’s radar very soon if he’s not already.
  2. Another wing who has been raising eyebrows with his play of late has been Michigan’s Caris LeVert. Unlike Thompson, however, LeVert has been playing well all season long. Dylan Burkhardt does a tremendous job breaking down the specifics of how well LeVert has played on the offensive end this season. You can see with some of the raw data that he is a multi-dimensional scorer who can beat defenses in a number of ways. He’s underrated as a spot-up shooter, but he is equally adept at breaking his man down off of the dribble. Tim Hardaway, Jr., is having a really good season in the NBA with the Knicks, yet LeVert has numbers as a sophomore that are comparable to Hardaway’s junior year statistics.
  3. Kendrick Nunn was the most highly-rated member of John Groce’s first Illinois recruiting class, but the freshman had his fair share of struggles in non-conference play, causing many Illinois fans to question what all the hype was all about. Nunn has quieted his critics with his play of late, showing why he was so well-regarded in the first place. He’s shown a keen ability to drive and finish, and has also shot the ball from the outside much better than scouting reports would lead you to believe. He’s hit 37.3 percent of his three-pointers on the year, going 11-of-22 in the four games when he’s been a starter.
  4. There have not been too many (if any) Big Ten players to come out of the basketball hotbed known as Chadron, Nebraska, but this is where Minnesota pivot man Elliott Eliason hails from, forging an unlikely path for someone on a Big Ten roster. Eliason has dealt with quite a bit of skepticism about his talent after not playing against quality competition in high school, and he seems to be his own worst critic, which is why some of his on-court reactions can be a bit too much to handle sometimes. Despite a lack of productivity lately, he was still third in the conference in rebounding coming into Tuesday night’s games. He’s also averaging 2.2 BPG, and will be a main cog if Minnesota gets things back on track closing out the season.
  5. Nebraska has one objective closing out the year if it wants to defy expectations and get to the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 1998. They simply need to win one game at a time and then let everything play out accordingly. Coach Tim Miles has the team believing in the mantra, “avoid the noise,” tuning out all of the talk about bubbles and RPI and instead focusing on the things it can control. This all starts with their game tonight against an Illinois team that is playing somewhat better lately. Sitting at 8-6 right now, it would be interesting to see what the selection committee would do with a Big Ten team that has an 11-7 or even a 10-8 record in conference play.
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Nebraska on the Bubble: Big Ten Schedule Both Helps and Hurts Huskers

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 20th, 2014

In Tuesday’s Morning Five, I stated matter-of-factly that it was unlikely Nebraska would make the NCAA Tournament. I based this off the fact that, despite their current three-game winning streak and impressive 6-6 record in the Big Ten, they already have 10 losses (including some bad ones) and six more games to go in one of the toughest leagues in America. But after reading CBSSports’ Gary Parrish article that further examined the Cornhuskers’ record, I think I may have been too quick to dismiss their hopes. The crux of Parrish’s article is that, despite the Cornhuskers’ high number of losses, Nebraska has as many quality wins as most bubble teams, and a majority of their losses are against elite competition. He points out that Tim Miles’ team has as many top-50 RPI wins (three) as some other surefire NCAA Tournament teams: Ohio State, Virginia, Louisville, Memphis, and Connecticut. In this post, I will illustrate Nebraska’s resume, analyze Parrish’s findings, and identify what may be the main point of contention working against the Cornhuskers on Selection Sunday.

The infographic below illustrates the makeup of Nebraska’s resume against teams grouped by RPI bins. Teams with an “(N)” next to their name represent a game played on a neutral court. Not shown are Nebraska’s four wins against teams with an RPI of #200 or more.

nebraska bid

From the illustration above, we see that Nebraska’s conference affiliation has been both advantageous and hurtful this season. Because the Cornhuskers are part of the Big Ten, they’ve had multiple chances to face elite competition. By the same token, Miles’ team has been able to upset a number of top-50 teams, but they’ve also stacked up a heavy number of losses against very good teams (the Huskers carry a 3-7 record against top-50 competition). By way of a comparison, all but one of the teams mentioned in Parrish’s article that also has three top-50 wins have four or less losses against the same group — Memphis has six losses against the top-50 but no losses outside that group.

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Big Ten M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 14th, 2014

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  1. On a day where love is celebrated, Indiana fans are not feeling much of that emotion toward Tom Crean and his squad after they squandered a double-figure lead at home against Penn State Wednesday night. The Hoosiers were booed off their homecourt after playing as though they had never encountered a full-court press before. They turned the ball over 3 times in the last 2:06 against said press, and coughed it up 20 times total during the contest. Indiana fans have already been on edge due to some uneven performances this season, and now after this latest loss, things aren’t going to calm down anytime soon.
  2. People tend to forget that Michigan has a really young roster. That’s why head coach John Beilein admitted that they’ve had more success than he necessarily envisioned this season. The Wolverines are tied for first in the conference with 6 games left to play, despite losing Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Mitch McGary. Nik Stauskas is a Player of the Year candidate, but it’s been a different player stepping forward every night that has lead to their 10-2 league record. The jury is still out as to how far they’ll go come March, but if they get their defense in order, they could be right back in the Final Four.
  3. Lost in the shuffle of Shavon Shields’ 33-point effort for Nebraska on Wednesday night was the play of backup point guard Benny Parker. Parker was an absolute nuisance of that side of the floor, as he had 4 steals and caused countless other disruptions for the Illinois offense in their 67-58 win. While not much of an offensive threat, Parker has seen his minutes increase in the wake of Deverell Biggs being dismissed from the team. Coach Tim Miles essentially counted him out in the preseason, but he’s definitely earned an increase in minutes going forward, especially with the ineffectiveness of Tai Webster in recent games.
  4. In the preseason many people thought that Ohio State would still be really good even with the loss of 2012-13 leading scorer Deshaun Thomas. It hasn’t necessarily worked out that way however, as the Buckeyes currently have a 6-6 conference record with 6 games left. The loss to Michigan Tuesday night highlighted an ongoing theme for this year’s team, the inability to make open shots. The Buckeyes slogged through a 3-for 20 effort against the Wolverines, and they proved that despite having a tenacious defensive unit, their lack of NBA-ready talent and their lack of offensive punch will probably be their undoing during the 2013-14 campaign.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce are still left searching for answers in the wake of their most recent stumble at Nebraska Wednesday night. Tracy Abrams is one of the major culprits when looking at potential scapegoats for the team’s poor performance ever since Big Ten play started. The junior guard quietly went 0-for-4 from the field against the Cornhuskers, and committed 3 turnovers. Groce isn’t worried about the shooting, but he’s more worried about Abrams playing better defense and taking care of the ball. Veteran players like Nnanna Egwu are still bringing the effort and intensity, as are the five freshman that are on the roster. In watching the Illini however, you have to wonder whether some of the other upperclassmen like Abrams and Joseph Bertrand have already checked out once they realized that their season will not likely include an NCAA berth.
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Big Ten M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 12th, 2014

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  1. Michigan State point guard Keith Appling will miss another round of games this week due to his wrist injury. The Spartans play Northwestern and Nebraska at home, which are games that they should be able to win without him, even given the parity that the league has been defined by this season. Appling injured the wrist in December against North Carolina, and continued to play through the pain. Whether he should have kept playing, Appling showed a tremendous amount of leadership gutting it out while the Spartans were short-handed. If he and Branden Dawson can come back and regain healthy form when they return, the Spartans are a definite National Championship contender.
  2. Wisconsin needs a lot of things to break their way for them to win the Big Ten regular season crown. They sit at 6-5 right now, but they get a chance to avenge two earlier losses this week with games against Minnesota and at Michigan. The Badgers are back to shooting the ball better, and they withstood a horrible stretch of games defensively to make their way back into the AP top 25 after a one-week hiatus. These games could go a long way to cementing a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, along with helping their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Many Illinois fans have been clamoring for a starting lineup change to get their improving freshmen more minutes. So when Coach John Groce finally pulled the trigger and put Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill into the starting unit, and this resulted in a win, it wasn’t a surprise that the coach decided to continue with this lineup at Nebraska tonight. Nunn especially has really come into to his own after struggling in the non-conference portion of the schedule. He’s gone from 2.9 PPG to 6.9 PPG, and it will be interesting to see if he continues to improve with the added minutes he’s playing.
  4. There’s a reason that Nebraska Coach Tim Miles is in the running for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Despite not having a bunch of top-100 recruits or a program with a great basketball history, he’s gotten his players to buy in and believe in his system. This can be seen in the fact that the Cornhuskers have come back from some rough defeats to win games that they weren’t supposed to win. One such game was at Northwestern on Saturday. The Wildcats do a tremendous job frustrating offenses, but Nebraska came back from 16-point first half to get their first road win of the season. Miles players haven’t quit, and could be in line for a postseason bid because of it.
  5. Amir Williams doesn’t look like or carry himself like Ohio State’s most important player, but the Buckeyes usually win when he plays well. What has to be maddening for Ohio State fans is the fact that they really don’t ever know which Williams will show up. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan Tuesday night and Williams did not have much of an impact. He got 7 rebounds in 29 minutes, but the Wolverines had 14 offensive rebounds. If Ohio State wants to do anything in March this season, Williams absolutely has have more of an impact and show more consistency.
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