Big Ten M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 15th, 2012

  1. Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe will be coming off the bench for the Minnesota Gophers when the season begins in a month. Head coach Tubby Smith has not been happy with Mbakwe’s off-court issues and has said several times that “he is lucky to be part of the team.” The forward was arrested while driving intoxicated during the summer and almost blew a chance to play his final season in Minneapolis after being granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA. Smith and the Gophers need the 13.9 PPG and 10.5 RPG that he averaged two seasons ago but he will have to earn his minutes and more importantly, his head coach’s trust, again.
  2. After top high school recruit Demetrius Jackson rejected Illinois’ offer and committed to Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago, another top recruit has chosen to play for another program. Guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a top 30 high school recruit, recently picked Florida State over Illinois and Connecticut. Illinois head coach John Groce has been consistently looking for more guards who can handle the ball because he plans to implement an uptempo, guard-oriented offense in Champaign. Returning guards Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand have been working on their handling skills but there is no true point guard on the roster for next season beyond Abrams. Illinois ranked at the bottom of the league last season in terms of turnovers, averaging a 20% turnover rate. Groce will need to look for some four-star recruits for the 2013-14 season after rejections from Jackson and Mayes.
  3. Marvel’s Avengers is the highest grossing movie of 2012 and Tom Izzo featured his costume for the Midnight Madness after the blockbuster. Izzo showed up at the event dressed as Iron Man but was shown as the “Iron Mountain Man” on the big screen at Breslin. Superheroes seemed to be the theme at the event as the women’s basketball coach, Suzy Merchant, also dressed up as Wonder Woman. To complement Izzo’s Iron Man costume, three different cartoon villains were shown on the screen, each with enlarged heads of the other Big Ten head coaches – Bo Ryan, Thad Matta and John Beilein. Izzo has always been creative with his costumes at the annual event and this year was no different. Returning guard Branden Dawson, who is recovering from an ACL injury, along with heralded freshman Gary Harris were highlights of the evening as well.
  4. Michigan guard Trey Burke is ready for the season with a new look. Mlive reports that the sophomore guard is sporting longer hair and a different look, but he is more focused on how he sounds, especially on the court. Burke averaged 14.8 PPG and 4.6 APG last season, but more importantly, he quickly assumed a leadership role on John Beilein’s squad — but he wants to prove his maturity on the court and assume more of a “point-guard role” this season. Burke can take over the game at will but will need to get his young teammates involved, especially his top freshmen – Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson, III. Burke understands that he will have to drive the half court offense and teach the younger players about the offensive schemes. Stu Douglass assumed the point guard duties during certain stretches of the game last season which allowed Burke to play off the ball, but Burke will primarily handle the ball throughout the games this season with the addition of shooting guard Robinson.
  5. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is not worried about specifically replacing Jared Sullinger and William Buford’s contributions on the court. Per the Boston Herald, Matta says, “This team is going to need everybody doing their job.” He also added that the team doesn’t “need a superstar.” Deshaun Thomas will be the primary scoring option for the Buckeyes to build upon his 15.9 PPG from last season. Matta understands that there is more depth on this team than previous OSU squads and expects contributions to come via committee rather than a single superstar like Sullinger. Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams will try to fill in for Sullinger’s contributions on the boards but will be able to push the tempo off the court because the offense may not necessarily run through the post unlike prior seasons.
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