Big Ten M5: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 10th, 2013

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  1. The finalists for the Bob Cousy Award have been announced and there are four Big Ten point guards who made the cut – Trey Burke, Aaron Craft, Keith Appling and Dre Hollins. Michigan’s Burke is averaging 7.5 APG and is also a leading candidate for National Player of the Year this season. In addition to his fantastic assist numbers, he has averaged 18.2 PPG but his most impressive stat might be related to turnovers – he’s committed just 11 over the last 10 Michigan games. The sophomore point guard has been named the Big Ten Player of of the Week twice already and will likely make the cut for the Cousy Award for the final 10 and even the last five in March.
  2. Michigan State’s athletic director Mark Hollis wanted the the 2013-14 season opener to be held in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium where four games would be played at the same time. But after that idea fell through (thankfully), head coach Tom Izzo is wondering about a “normal” start to the Spartans’ next season. Over the past two years, MSU has opened its season on an aircraft carrier and at an overseas military base. Izzo is looking forward to some normalcy and added that he “leaves things to Hollis” when asked about scheduling the grand openers. The Spartans had to travel back home and play Kansas within a few days after the trip to Germany this season which had to be very tiring, so maybe Izzo’s squad will benefit from playing a run-of-the-mill regular season opener and start a November winning streak.
  3. After two months of basketball, one thing is very clear for the Buckeyes – Deshaun Thomas needs help. The junior forward is averaging 20.3 PPG and has asserted himself as the primary Buckeye scorer after the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but he needs help from another consistent scorer to spot for him. The second leading scorer for Thad Matta is Lenzelle Smith Jr., who has averaged just 10.7 PPG but has not been very consistent in big games. Smith needs to average at least 14 PPG in order to form a formidable combination with Thomas the rest of the way. The sophomores – Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Laquinton Ross – are still getting used to the Big Ten play so it might take them some more time to contribute consistently to the overall offense.
  4. Seniors are highly valued at Wisconsin in the Bo Ryan system because they understand his offensive philosophy and play solid defense. Senior forward Ryan Evans has been very effective on the boards,  averaging 8.0 RPG this season, but he has been absolutely dismal from the free throw line – shooting just 36.5% from the stripe. Evans scores 11.5 PPG but definitely needs to improve his free throw percentage to help the Badgers compete in the Big Ten. The poor shooting is very unusual for a forward who has played a key role during his time in Madison because Ryan ensures that his teams maximize every opportunity on offense and free throws are the easiest and best way to improve offensive efficiency. It is unlikely that this trend will get Evans benched because he is an experienced player who still adds value to the Badgers, especially on the defensive end.
  5. Illinois head John Groce has been heavily scrutinized during his first season in Champaign but there is another new coach who has done an excellent job at Nebraska – Tim Miles. At the outset, a pedestrian 9-6 record may indicate that Miles hasn’t done much yet but he is trying to get Nebraska out of the cellar and onto the B1G basketball scene. When asked about coaching in the Big Ten, Miles said “ I really do feel like I’m in the best conference in the country. I look at fan support, quality of the coaches, the way the teams play — how productive and efficient they are, and they are all well coached.” The new head coach has a daunting task but he has shown so far that he is energetic enough to instill some confidence into a moribund basketball program in Lincoln that will require a long journey to relevence in the historic conference.
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