Minnesota Proved Its Worth at Atlantis, But Must Make Improvements to Reach Elite Status

Posted by KTrahan on November 27th, 2012

Minnesota has yet to prove that it can be an elite team, but after a strong three-game stretch in the Battle 4 Atlantis over the weekend, the Gophers proved they can be an awfully good one that can contend for the Big Ten title. After losing to Duke in the opening game, Minnesota came back to defeat Memphis and Stanford to close out the tournament. Of course, preseason tournament wins aren’t all that meaningful, but if anything, the Battle of Atlantis showed us one very good thing for the Gophers: They can score from anywhere.

Tubby May Have His Best Team at Minnesota (AP)

This isn’t a guard-dominated team or a forward-dominated team; players at both positions stepped up in each of the games. The guards — particularly point guard Andre Hollins — are good. Hollins scored a career-high 41 points against Memphis and was a pivotal player in the Stanford game. He had been considered a possible breakout player in the preseason, and so far, he has shown that he is certainly worth the hype. The Gophers’ two other stars — forwards Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe — have also been impressive, as has the frontcourt that out-rebounded every opponent at Atlantis. Minnesota’s ability to be successful at all five positions makes the Gophers very difficult to defend, given how many scoring options are on the floor.

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ACC M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 27th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: With the ACC/Big Ten Challenge about to tip off tonight and North Carolina preparing to take on top-ranked Indiana, the Tar Heels got some bad news before flying to Bloomington — P.J. Hairston is suffering from a knee sprain and will not travel with the team. Hairston has emerged as the most dangerous man off the bench, playing an athletic inside-out game. Additionally, according to Roy Williams, Hairston has been the only effective small power forward in the experimental small line-up that North Carolina used to surprising effect in Maui. With a road victory against Indiana already a long shot, the absence of Hairston from the lineup will only grow the odds even longer.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of missing players, North Carolina State will no longer have the services of Belgian big man Thomas de Thaey when the Wolfpack faces Michigan tonight. The sophomore is returning home to be closer to his father, who has been battling cancer. Considering Mark Gottfried’s apparent fondness for short rotations, it was likely that de Thaey wouldn’t have seen too much playing time on the court at any rate. Given his father’s illness, returning home seems like an easy decision and one that I’m sure the Wolfpack program, fans, and, well, everyone, will readily and gladly support.
  3. Washington Post: Of course, the subplot of Maryland effectively getting a practice conference game against Big Ten foe Northwestern is a juicy story in the context of the big story of realignment, but this game offers up another intriguing storyline: Maryland’s performance on the road. Under Mark Turgeon, the Terps have won only a single true road game, eking out a two-point win at Clemson last February. This match-up against Northwestern is the team’s only true road game before the beginning of conference play, and if Maryland can get the win, it will be a nice symbolic victory that should help give the team confidence before the beginning of ACC play.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: While Florida State versus Minnesota doesn’t exactly have the glitzy names of some of the other match-ups going on tonight, this game is a big opportunity for two very good teams. The Golden Gophers and Trevor Mbakwe will look to punish the Seminoles on the glass, but Leonard Hamilton has his team ready and excited to take down another higher-ranked foe. Though Minnesota expects to have a marked advantage in rebounding, the turnover trouble that has plagued the Gophers is likely an enticing opening for a Florida State team that thrives on applying defensive pressure.
  5. Real GM: Dan Hanner does it again, this time putting together some interesting historical data to see which coaches thrive during different parts of the season. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is the headliner with a penchant for early season dominance that impresses year after year, but a number of other ACC coaches show up in his numbers. Virginia’s Tony Bennett also has his team ready to play in the early part of the season, but Hanner’s research also points to a few ACC coaches whose teams are consistently better at the end of the season rather than the beginning. This list includes Roy Williams (UNC), Mark Gottfried (NCSU), and Leonard Hamilton (FSU).
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ACC M5: 11.23.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 23rd, 2012

  1. Duke Basketball Report: If you’ve got some free time, Al Featherston has an exhaustive but interesting op-ed on Maryland‘s coming departure from the league. Featherston has a great perspective, and the piece comes at the move from a lot of different sides. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth the time.
  2. NBC Sports: Ken Pomeroy tweeted during Duke‘s emphatic win against Minnesota that “Duke could be the best team in the country,” but Rob Dauster isn’t drinking the Blue Devil kool-aid just yet. Pomeroy’s reasoning makes sense: Duke held Minnesota to its least efficient outing of the year, while blistering the Golden Gophers for 1.23 points per possession. Dauster’s skepticism also makes sense, both because Duke shot 80% from beyond the arc and Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe didn’t look his dominant self. Still, if Duke makes it out of Atlantis unscathed, this team certainly deserves to be in that conversation.
  3. Carolina Columns: North Carolina senator Thom Goolsby thinks there needs to be a criminal probe into the academic scandal at North Carolina. Goolsby sits on the state’s senate higher education committee. I’d be extremely surprised if there was a criminal probe before the results from the school’s internal audit are released. Regardless, it’s not a good look for North Carolina to be taking shots from a state senator and speaks to the severity of the case.
  4. Run The Floor: Landry Nnoko had a huge block in Clemson‘s tough loss to Gonzaga. More important than that singular play was how close the Tigers managed to stay with a strong Gonzaga team deep into the second half. The game wasn’t pretty, but credit Brad Brownell and his team for coming out and hanging with a team many experts have as a Final Four sleeper for 30 minutes. That’s really promising for Clemson come conference play.
  5. Providence Journal: If one more Big East school departs it’s possible that the remaining schools could vote to dissolve the conference. Specifically, Kevin McNamara theorizes, one more school’s departure would give basketball-only schools the super-majority needed to get rid of the conference completely. We’re still a long ways from such a drastic measure, but it’s definitely something to be aware of going forward.
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Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 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.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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Big Ten M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 14th, 2012

  1. Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe has gone through a lot over the last 14 months or so. He tore his ACL forcing the talented big man to miss part of last season and was arrested for a DWI during the offseason. As he prepares to lead the Gophers on the court this season, he is motivated by another superstar in Minnesota, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson has also recovered from an ACL injury and is one of the leading rushers in the NFL this season. Mbakwe hopes to mimic Peterson’s performance on the basketball court after going through a long rehabilitation process. Against Toledo Monday night, Mbakwe played 14 minutes off the bench and scored six points. Mbakwe has been wearing a knee brace as he plays but he claims that his knee is “fine” and will continue to see extended minutes as the season progresses.
  2. The finalists for the Naismith Award have been announced and there are seven Big Ten players on the listCody Zeller, Christian Watford, Trey Burke, Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, Trevor Mbakwe, and Tim Frazier. Zeller might be the preseason favorite for this award and the last Hoosier to win this award was Calbert Cheaney in 1993. Scott May also won the award in 1976 when he led the Hoosiers to an undefeated season and a national championship. Penn State’s Frazier might finally be getting the credit he deserves on the national stage, but may not continue in the spotlight very long if Penn State is not contending for an NCAA bid.
  3. You won’t notice any Badgers on the Naismith list and that should not come as a surprise after Jordan Taylor’s departure. But Bo Ryan already has an experienced guard who has stepped up into a leadership role after a couple of games – junior guard Ben Brust. Brust scored 14 points against Southeastern Louisiana over the weekend and will be the most experienced returning guard for Ryan. He came off the bench last season but will see plenty of time on the court after the loss of Josh Gasser to an injury. Brust will have to guide younger guards such as George Marshall and Traevon Jackson through the non-conference season in addition to being the primary defensive guard for the Badgers.
  4. The first week of the basketball season has been very good for Illinois head coach John Groce. Groce received a commitment from a top 100 forward, Austin Colbert, and the Illini are now 2-0. Overall, the new head coach appears to be pleased with the Illini after two games. Groce may have revived Tyler Griffey’s confidence as the senior forward scored 17 points against St. Francis. A trip to Hawaii will be a test for the Illini as they travel four time zones west and will play USC in the Maui Invitational next Monday. The game against the Trojans will be their first true exam under the new offensive system and if they win, Texas may be their next opponent.
  5. Another new head coach in the league, Nebraska’s Tim Miles, is willing to consider some scheduling changes over the next few seasons in Lincoln. One of the main revisions could include playing Creighton twice, which hasn’t happened since the 1986-87 regular season. Miles said he hasn’t discussed the possibility with Creighton head coach Doug McDermott, but he for one is willing to consider the change. Creighton clearly has been a dominant program in the Missouri Valley Conference over the last decade or so and beating them would be a great first step for the new head coach. Miles is also focused on trying to convince some of the high school talent in Nebraska to stay in-state rather than go to other nearby schools such as Creighton or Iowa.
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Some Predictions for Individual Big Ten Awards This Season

Posted by jnowak on November 12th, 2012

With the season getting under way, the Big Ten Microsite writers put their heads together and predicted who will come away with some conference hardware this season. Take a look:

  • Big Ten Player of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana — A pretty easy choice, all things considered. Zeller is the best player returning to the consensus No.1 team in the country, and a near unanimous selection to be an Associated Press preseason All-American. The sophomore center has it all — good hands, smarts, a nose for the ball around the basket, and runs the floor well. This is his award to lose.
  • All-Big Ten First Team: Cody Zeller, Indiana – see above; Trey Burke, Michigan – the conference’s best point guard who had a breakout season as a freshman and flirted with the NBA; Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State – another AP preseason All-American poised to be a star with the departure of Jared Sullinger; Tim Frazier, Penn State – the conference’s most dangerous scorer, but with plenty of pressure on his shoulders; Drew Crawford, Northwestern – Crawford should be the go-to guy in Evanston this season, with the perimeter all to himself to do what he does best.

No surprise here: Indiana’s Cody Zeller is our preseason Big Ten Player of the Year (Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

  • All-Big Ten Second Team: Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota – a constant double-double threat on the mend from ACL surgery; Aaron Craft, Ohio State – perhaps the best floor general and defensive player in the league; Keith Appling, Michigan State – a true scorer who can find his groove in Michigan State’s fast-paced offense; Brandon Paul, Illinois – the best player on an Illinois team trying to find itself; Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa – a big part of the resurgence in Iowa City. (Others considered: Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin; Derrick Nix, Michigan State; Terone Johnson, Purdue)
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Craft, Ohio State – A predictable choice for a guy who has already won the award once and has been on the All-Big Ten Defensive Team each of his first two seasons in Columbus. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Preseason All-American Teams

Posted by KDoyle on November 8th, 2012

With the season tipping off tomorrow, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason superlatives and All-America teams: National Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, and First, Second, and Third All-America teams. More than anything, our preseason All-America teams are here to foster discussion. Our crack panel of 10 national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.

  • Preseason National Player of the Year—Cody Zeller, Indiana
  • Preseason National Freshman of the Year—Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

First Team All-America

Cody Zeller, Indiana (unanimous)—The day Cody Zeller committed to play basketball for Tom Crean at Indiana was the day Hoosier basketball would officially begin its climb back to national relevancy and prominence. The first three years weren’t easy for Crean, who compiled a dismal 28-66 combined record during those seasons, but Zeller was his key recruit that led Indiana to a 27-9 record last year and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Named Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana as a senior at Washington High School, Zeller was destined for big things right from the get-go. His ability to run the floor like a 6’5″ athletic forward—despite standing at 7’0″ — and sound post-game with a smooth jumper — is a joy for purists of the game to watch. Now, in his sophomore year, he has the Hoosiers eyeing a National Championship.

Zeller is Everyone’s Cover Boy, and With Good Reason… IU is Back

Factoid: Sophomore Cody Zeller may be bigger than life on the basketball court, but his talents are multi-faceted. Off the court, he goes by the moniker The Big Handsome around the Indiana campus.

Twitter: @czeller40

Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous)—The ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court—whether it is from in the post of either shoulder, or beyond the three-point line—McDermott is perhaps the most talented and feared offensive player in the country. Shooting better than 60% from the field and a ridiculous 48.6% from three, McDermott is poised to put up video game offensive numbers in the Missouri Valley. There may not be a more efficient offensive player in the game—averaging nearly 23 PPG on fewer than 15 shots is impressive.

If Zeller Falters, McDermott Could Take the NPOY Crown

Factoid: Similar to fellow preseason First Team All-American C.J. McCollum who is notorious for being lightly recruited out of high school, McDermott didn’t exactly have a laundry list of schools knocking on the basketball office door at Ames High School. In fact, his own father wouldn’t even offer him a scholarship to play at Iowa State. And now, well, he just may be the best player in college basketball.

Twitter: @dougmcd3

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Trevor Mbakwe Offers to Repay His Scholarship: Confident or Crazy?

Posted by jnowak on November 5th, 2012

The season hasn’t even started yet and Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe is finding himself all over the news. First, he was arrested in July for drunk driving and was in danger of being removed from the team (after he was granted another year of eligibility after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year). And now Mbakwe is in the headlines again, this time for making a wager that sounds more like it’d come from an arrogant trust fund baby at the end of a long night of partying on campus. Perhaps Mbakwe thinks the Gophers have attracted doubters in the early going — though they handled Minnesota State – Mankato, 81-56, in their first exhibition game on Thursday – so he proclaimed on Twitter on Sunday that he’d pay back his scholarship for this season if Minnesota doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament.

This guy has plenty of confidence in himself, and his teammates.

“I love my teammates,” Mbakwe wrote from his Twitter handle, @TMbakwe32. “They have always been there for me. If we don’t make the tourney ill pay back this years scholarship.” He then reitereated: “That’s how much I believe in this years team” and “Some ppl say I’m cocky but that’s not the case I just know how hard my teammate have worked and I believe in them and our coach #easychoice.” In his first game since his injury last November, Mbakwe scored  four points, pulled down three rebounds and added two steals in 11 minutes of limited play in the win over Minnesota State – Mankato.

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Morning Five: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2012

  1. Ignorance is no longer a defense. That’s the message that the NCAA is sending to its head basketball and football coaches around the country with its latest proposed legislation that requires much more accountability with respect to rules violations. The new regulations will go in place immediately, contingent upon its expected passage by the NCAA Board of Directors next Tuesday. In a nutshell, the key clause reads as such: “A head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations (e.g., academic fraud, recruiting inducements) occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.” Suspensions up to and including a full season are punitive options under these new guidelines. By this standard, Jim Calhoun could have (theoretically) been suspended for the improprieties that occurred on his watch in the Nate Miles fiasco a few years ago; or, John Calipari could have (theoretically) been suspended for Marcus Camby’s association with agents. It’s a rather powerful tool that places much more of the burden on the program CEOs to keep their houses in order, and although we haven’t seen the detail yet, it sounds like a step in the right direction.
  2. Recruiting is a bit of a blood sport, but if there’s one hard and fast truth that stands the test of time, it is this. Hot schools and coaches come and go like the tides, but no matter who is blowing up the recruiting trail at a given time, there are about 300 other coaches complaining about that coach’s tactics and/or unfair advantages. At yesterday’s SEC Media Day, Florida head coach Billy Donovan openly questioned whether ESPN’s All-Access show featuring rival Kentucky was acting as a “recruiting tool” and added that he didn’t think such an arrangement is “right.” By way of superb irony, it wasn’t all that long ago that coaches used to getting all the recruits were themselves wondering whether Billy the Kid’s recruiting tactics pushed beyond the norm. And you don’t have to scan the Internet very long to determine that other coaching perks that come with success — such as the ubiquitous Coach K/Amex commercials in March or his relationships with LeBron, Kobe and Durant on Team USA — are an unfair advantage. Sometimes we just wish the coaches would focus on improving their own teams and avoid the sewing circle nonsense, fun as it can be.
  3. Tubby Smith has made his decision on Trevor Mbakwe and it will certainly be met with considerable skepticism regardless of how it plays out this season. At Big Ten Media Day on Thursday in Chicago, the Minnesota head coach told reporters that he felt that the legal system, by placing two additional years of probation on Mbakwe, was a sufficient punishment given that the sixth-year senior had met all of his other responsibilities up to that point (community service and AA meetings). We’ll spare you our personal outrage here other than to suggest that schools always fall over themselves to preach to us that they endeavor to hold their student-athletes to higher standards than the rest of the world at-large; yet, even a one-game slap on the wrist to show Mbakwe that there are consequences beyond what the law requires would have been better than this.
  4. We’re all for creative tie-ins on preseason pieces, and yesterday’s article from SI.com‘s Andy Staples is a great one for anyone who likes to eat. Probably written as much for the media as for the fans (there’t not a lot of road-tripping in college hoops), Staples uses his vast base of travel knowledge to offer up some of the best diners, dives and greasy spoons to grab great food while you’re in town to watch some of the nation’s top college basketball teams. In just reading through some of these places, we’re about to finally put together that long-time-coming November-to-March road trip that we’ve always talked about doing… sigh.
  5. The early practice injuries are unfortunately coming fast and furious now, and several top teams are being affected. UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad suffered a strained shoulder injury in practice Wednesday and will be forced to sit out the next 2-4 weeks as a result. This could be something of a blessing in disguise if the NCAA ultimately decides to suspend Muhammad for the first several games of his Bruin career anyway. Over at Tennessee, preseason all-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon has reportedly suffered a “setback” in his recovery from separate offseason knee scopes and will not be expected to be ready for the Vols’ season opener on November 9. At Indiana, reserve forward Derek Elston has torn his meniscus and is likely to miss the next 6-8 weeks of action, meaning that the Hoosiers’ frontcourt depth will need to rely on freshmen for a while to support Cody Zeller on the inside. Next, Connecticut forward Enosch Wolf has experienced a third concussion in the last year and will be held out of practice for an indefinite period of time as a result. This is particulary disappointing news for the German native as the Huskies are heading overseas in two weeks to play the first college basketball game in Deutschland and he may have to miss it. Ugh. Let’s cross our fingers that there are fewer of these updates as we get closer to the start of the season.
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Big Ten Team Previews: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Posted by KTrahan on October 24th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

Where We Left Off: Minnesota’s 2011-12 season can best be described as streaky. The Gophers started the year 12-1, but lost their first four conference games before a three-game winning streak that included a good win at Indiana. Minnesota then traded wins and losses before ending the regular season on a 1-6 slide. However, the Gophers got hot in the Big Ten Tournament, knocking off Northwestern and nearly doing the same to Michigan. They then made a great run in the NIT, including a win against Washington before losing in the championship game to Stanford. It certainly was an up-and-down year, but it ended with plenty of promise.

Tubby’s Minnesota Teams Can Never Seem to Get Healthy and Eligible at the Same Time (AP)

Positives: This could be one of the most talented teams that Tubby Smith has had in Minnesota, and some — including yours truly — see the Gophers as a sleeper in the Big Ten title race. Sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe will be the face of the team, and the Gophers got a huge break when he avoided jail time after a parole violation for a summer DUI. This is a versatile team, which will allow the Gophers to play several big or small lineups. Talented young players such as Andre Hollins, Joe Coleman and Elliott Eliason will be complemented by more experienced players, such as Julian Welch, Rodney Williams, and Mbakwe.

Negatives: Can this team be consistent? Of course, a lot of last year’s on-court issues can be blamed on Mbakwe’s injury before conference play. The Gophers were forced to throw a number of talented freshmen into action, and while there were bright spots early — particularly the win against Indiana — it took awhile for things to come together. Can Minnesota take advantage of the experience gained by its younger players last year, or will inconsistency continue to be the story of a team that can’t get over the hump?

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Big Ten M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Gophers can’t avoid trouble nowadays. After Trevor Mbakwe avoided jail time over assault charges on Friday, assistant coach Saul Smith was the next in line to make headlines. Tubby Smith’s son was pulled over on Saturday for driving under the influence in Minneapolis. His court hearing is scheduled for December 3 and he will be on unpaid leave until further notification by the university. Minnesota received a few votes in the USA Today Coaches poll last week but did not make the Top 25. Nevertheless, there are high expectations for the Gophers to contend in the Big Ten but all of this extra noise off the court could cause some distractions.
  2. Indiana hosted Hoosier Hysteria over the weekend and the event was a huge success in Assembly Hall. Fans lined up as early as Friday morning and head coach Tom Crean said that the event “exceeded expectations.” ESPN anchor Sage Steel emceed the event which featured a scrimmage between the red and white teams where Cody Zeller scored 11 points. Two players, Will Sheehey and Hanner Mosquera-Perea, did not participate due to injuries. Zeller surprised the fans with his three-point stroke as he won the long-range shooting competition. Zeller’s shooting form is smooth and even though he may not be taking many shots this season from beyond the arc, his improved shooting form could help him in pick-and-pop situations.
  3. After several decades in the business, Tom Izzo still works on implementing new techniques into his practice regiment. After a recent trip to the football facility at Oregon, Izzo has been trying to hold his practices similar to the no-huddle, high tempo practice that Chip Kelly runs at Eugene. The Spartans have been practicing at a “frantic pace” as Izzo is hoping to implement a faster offense this season. The Spartans averaged 62.5 possessions per game in 2011-12, which ranked in the middle of the Big Ten, but they might be a somewhat quicker team this season as a result of improved conditioning. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have been working on improving their wind and they will be key if the Spartans look to push the ball more often rather than settling for halfcourt sets.
  4. Speaking of up-tempo offensive schemes, Illinois head coach John Groce is also trying to push the tempo in Champaign. The Illini averaged 63.6 possessions per game last season and plan to increase the tempo, especially because they lack depth in the frontcourt after the NBA departure of Meyers Leonard. Other than senior Sam McLaurin (7.5 RPG last season), who transferred from Coastal Carolina, the Illini don’t have an experienced forward on the roster. Thus, Groce may have to be creative with the “power forward” position and potentially use Joseph Bertrand or even Myke Henry to fill in at that slot during certain portions of the game. Illini columnist Loren Tate writes about the Illini’s potential lineups this season that may involve multiple guards.
  5. Ohio State‘s ranking at #4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll last week raised some eyebrows among many college basketball fans. How could a team that lost Jared Sullinger and William Buford be ranked as a top five team in the nation? Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis is buying Ohio State and explains his reasons for being so high on them. Even though the offense might not rely on a bona fide superstar like Sullinger, Thad Matta has great depth at the wing position with Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6.8 PPG) in addition to rising sophomores Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson. Scott and LaQuinton Ross were highly recruited high school players but were not a key part of the Buckeyes’ Final Four run last season. Nonetheless, they have enough talent to contribute immediately off the bench as Matta’s team will be more diverse offensively when compared to last season.
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Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe Avoids Additional Jail Time

Posted by KTrahan on October 19th, 2012

Good news for Minnesota fans, as Gopher forward Trevor Mbakwe avoided jail time today at a hearing in Florida for violating his parole with a DUI arrest in July. This news was reported Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, as Mbakwe was sentenced to two additional years of probation and 20 hours of community service per month during that time. His original probation stems from a felony battery charge in 2009.

Mbakwe’s Return Gives Tubby Smith a Beast Inside (credit: AP Photo)

This is good new for Mbakwe, but also good news for the Golden Gophers basketball team, who, assuming he stays out of trouble, will now have its star player available for the upcoming season. Mbakwe is in his sixth and final year of eligibility, so he likely would not have been able to play a full season had he been sentenced to jail time. Head coach Tubby Smith said Mbakwe was initially suspended after the DUI, but since Mbakwe likely has an NBA future, he allowed his star player to stay on the team. Mbakwe isn’t likely to see any additional suspension this season — his NBA status is part of the reasoning — and that will surely earn Smith his share of critics. It’s an interesting precedent to set, especially considering players have been suspended or kicked off other teams for much less.

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