Big Ten Key Offseason Questions: Part IV

Posted by Patrick Engel on April 11th, 2016

In three parts over the last week, we’ve examined a key offseason question for 10 of the 14 Big Ten teams. Part I reviewed Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois; Part II featured Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern; Part III examined Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. The fourth and final part today examines the Big Ten’s top four teams from this season: Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana. (Note: Scout.com used for all player and class ranks).

Purdue (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Dakota Mathias (31) needs to be a productive three-point shooter again for Purdue. (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

Dakota Mathias (#31) needs to be a productive three-point shooter again for Purdue. (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

Can Purdue find consistent offensive production from its guards?

The Boilermakers this season possessed one of the most productive frontcourts but one of the least productive backcourts in college basketball. P.J. Thompson boasted a 4.8-to-1 assist-turnover ratio, but the group of Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline and Kendall Stephens (if he returns) and himself are mainly three-point shooters, none of whom attempted more than 16 percent of his shots at the rim. This group of guards shouldn’t experience much turnover outside of senior Raphael Davis and possibly Stephens, if he transfers, meaning that freshman point guard Carsen Edwards should have every chance to become the starter from day one next year. He’s not very big (5’11”, 175 pounds), but he’s aggressive, mature and a good passer. If he can play well enough to earn major minutes, he’ll mitigate one of Purdue’s clear weaknesses. Matt Painter’s frontcourt should again be a strength, assuming Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan return to complement Isaac Haas, whose touches should increase substantially. This team’s Big Ten ceiling, though, might depend on the readiness of its lone freshman.

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Three Scenarios That Could Hurt Big Ten Teams This Weekend

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 16th, 2016

The spectacular odds of correctly predicting a perfect bracket during the NCAA Tournament has been well-documented over the years. Put simply, it is next to impossible. It is incredibly tough to predict the idiosyncrasies of 18-22 year olds during a 40-minute game multiplied 63 times, and any number of scenarios can tilt the game toward the underdog. In order to evaluate each Big Ten team’s chances of making it to the Final Four, it is crucial to understand what kinds of matchups can hurt them. Below, we examine scenarios that could be an Achilles Heel for Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State will be in trouble if Bryn Forbes slumps from beyond the arc.

Michigan State will be in trouble if Bryn Forbes slumps from beyond the arc. (AP)

  • Cutting Bryn Forbes out of Michigan State’s offense. At this juncture of the season, it is safe to assume that Denzel Valentine cannot be stopped in the pick-and-roll. A defense has to cover him no matter where he roams, but it can choose where to focus its help defense. Either it lets Matt Costello cut through the paint for easy layups or it allows Bryn Forbes to nail daggers from beyond the arc. A hot Forbes — currently shooting a whopping 48 percent from three-point range — takes Michigan State’s offense to a different level and allows Valentine to save his offense for crunch time. Costello (10.4 PPG) isn’t used to high levels of production so it is better to force him to carry the burden.

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Big Ten M5: 02.24.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 24th, 2016

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  1. The Big Ten on Monday awarded Indiana forward Troy Williams its conference Player of the Week honors for averaging 18.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assist and 2.5 steals per game in wins over Nebraska and Purdue last week. It was the second award of the year for a junior who has been instrumental in helping the Hoosiers move into contention for their second Big Ten title in four years. Williams may not have made the giant leap he had hoped — he averages fewer points and rebounds than last season — but he remains the team’s third-leading scorer and has improved on the defensive end. With his contributions leading the way, Tom Crean’s team hopes to win that regular season title as well as make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors went to Minnesota‘s Jordan Murphy for his 17 points and 11 rebounds against Maryland last Thursday. Although it wasn’t considered in the award, he forward followed up that performance with another terrific effort with 19 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Rutgers last night. His emergence is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season at Minnesota. He, along with classmate Nate Mason, gives Richard Pitino a glimmer of hope for Minnesota basketball going into the next season.
  3. Michigan State earned its sixth win in its last seven contests last night when Sparty handled Ohio State, 81-62. The Buckeyes prevented Denzel Valentine from scoring 20 points or dishing out 10 assists (he finished with “only” 17 points and eight assists), but they were unable to stop Bryn Forbes 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting from behind the three-point line. While a regular season title is still a long shot for a team two games back in the standings, Tom Izzo’s team is playing as well as any team in the country and is certainly in the mix for a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As always, the Spartans appear to be peaking at just the right time.
  4. As Michigan makes a push to solidify its place in the NCAA Tournament with a game against Northwestern tonight, the Wolverines may again find themselves without the services of senior guard Caris Levert. In fact, the Wolverines’ two upperclassmen leaders, Levert and Spike Albrechthave been absent from John Beilein‘s lineup for a majority of the season. Despite those limitations, Michigan has managed to win enough games to remain competitive in the Big Ten race and appears poised to get back to the NCAA Tournament. It will come one step closer to that objective if it protects home court against the Wildcats this evening.
  5. The biggest conference game of the week will take place tonight when Wisconsin visits Iowa in a game that has major implications for both teams. The Hawkeyes need a victory to keep up with Indiana in the loss column in pursuit of a Big Ten title. The Badgers with a win could seal their place in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin has steadily climbed back from a 2-5 Big Ten record to likely being a big win away from its 18th consecutive trip to March Madness. That would make quite the case for the administration to permanently hire Greg Gard and continue the Bo Ryan legacy in Madison for years to come.
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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 23rd, 2016

There are now two weeks to go before the close of the 2015-16 Big Ten season. Senior night ceremonies and the conference tournament are on the horizon, and the NCAA Tournament not too far beyond them. It’s unfair to jump to the conclusion that the long season has taken its toll on Big Ten teams, but there was some flat out ugly offense in the league last weekend. Four teams were held under 1.00 point per possession, and three of the five teams that came away with victories failed to crack 50 percent eFG shooting. On the brighter side, Indiana was able to fight off a late Purdue rally, and Maryland held serve at home against Michigan. This means that the regular season tournament is still a three team race at the moment (with Ohio State and Michigan State lingering a couple games back). Here are some of the noteworthy and not-so-noteworthy performances from the weekend before the final sprint.

Ethan Happ controlled the paint as Wisconsin rallied to beat Illinois Sunday night. (Nick Lisi, AP)

Ethan Happ controlled the paint as Wisconsin rallied to beat Illinois Sunday night. (Nick Lisi, AP)

Player of the Weekend: Ethan Happ isn’t always the prettiest or most graceful post player in the Big Ten, but the Wisconsin freshman is having a sensational first go of it in the Big Ten. After going up against the likes of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in practices last season, Happ has played with a veteran edge that his former practice combatants would be proud of. He doesn’t shoot from the outside, nor does he dominate physically, but the “old guy at the YMCA” element to his game has proven valuable. He’s seemingly always in the right spot on the floor, and flashes a unique creativity in the shots he both attempts and makes in the post. Illinois had the Badgers in danger of enduring another bad resume loss at home, but Happ was there to notch his fourth double-double since conference play began. He also added a career-high six steals, bringing his average to 2.5 SPG in conference games. In a season where four other freshmen big men — all with much higher profiles than Happ — have also made large contributions to probable Big Ten NCAA Tournament teams, Happ could be the best freshman in the league.

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Indiana’s Relying On Yogi Ferrell Too Much

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 17th, 2016

While it has been a sensational season for Yogi Ferrell (16.8 PPG, 5.7 APG), Indiana may need to find ways to beat teams without its point guard playing so prominent a role in the offense. In recent weeks opposing teams have been forcing Ferrell’s supporting cast to beat them by taking the senior guard out of the equation. Look no further than the Hoosiers’ last two games against Iowa and Michigan State, where Ferrell struggled mightily, shooting 2-of-12 from the field against the Hawkeyes and 3-of-10 against the Spartans. This may not necessarily represent a slump, but it could be a nice recipe for success for future opponents: limit Ferrell’s perimeter shots and force him to use his teammates in the half-court. Barring a monumental collapse during the last few weeks, the Hoosiers will be in the #4-#6 seed range in the NCAA Tournament. But their success once they get there will depend on how they answer two critical questions:

Opposing defenses will take Yogi Ferrell's three-point shot out of his game over the next few weeks.

Opposing defenses may try to take Yogi Ferrell’s three-point shot out of his game over the next few weeks. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

  • Can Ferrell continue to get to the free throw line? Against Iowa, a younger Ferrell would have doubled down on perimeter shooting when his long-range game was rendered ineffective (he shot 2-of-9 from beyond the arc). A more experienced Ferrell, however, showed tremendous maturity in attacking the paint to earn and nail all eight of his free throws. Rarely does he pick up his dribble off ball screens when he doesn’t have sufficient space to fire away from the perimeter, but his defenders will continue to shadow him closely until one of his teammates can consistently make a mid-range jumper. Indiana’s big men don’t have the best mid-range game or great ability to make the extra pass; as a result, most pick-and-roll sets involving Ferrell include Troy Williams or Thomas Bryant. Bryant is a true big man and has excellent footwork in the paint, but he isn’t comfortable driving to the basket. Williams, on the other hand, is nifty with his moves around the basket, but help defense dares him to shoot a jumper. Given that the bulk of Williams’ points come from dunks, tip-ins or layups, this scenario isn’t especially advantageous for Indiana. As a result of this and the other weaknesses of teammates, Ferrell has limited options off of screens and will often have no choice but to dribble around aimlessly and search for his own open look. At some point, his teammates’ lack of shot-making ability stymies the Indiana offense.

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Big Ten M5: 02.15.16 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 15th, 2016

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  1. Indiana lost badly to Michigan State on Sunday afternoon, going to 6-6 on the season away from Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are only one game off of the Big Ten lead, but in allowing Michigan State to put up 48 points in the second half and 1.28 points per possession for the game resuscitated old questions about the Hoosiers’ competence on the defensive end of the floor. The game also was notable for the disappearing act pulled by a scoreless Troy Williams. The junior had been the best player on the floor in the team’s earlier win over Iowa, but he needs to play up to his talent level if the Hoosiers want to make a deep run in March.
  2. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for Michigan State in the win over Indiana, though, as redshirt freshman Kenny Goins left the game in the first half with a knee injury. Tom Izzo fears that his post player will be out of action for the season. Goins had been playing well as a reserve big by taking minutes from Marvin Clark, but now it will be up to the sophomore to come in and produce in the same spots. Look for Gavin Schilling to also get more time, as depth is not a problem this year for Michigan State.
  3. Minnesota lost a close game to Iowa on Sunday night to move to 0-13 in Big Ten play, but there were several bright spots that could be taken away from the game. More specifically, the Gophers held the highly-efficient Hawkeyes to 42.1 percent shooting from the field, and the play of sophomore Bakary Konate. Konate led the team with nine rebounds and has shown increasingly frequent flashes of development. This team is clearly building for the future right now, so being able to hang with one of the best teams in the country shows that, despite a lack of victories, things could get better as early as next season with a core that is gaining experience and returning in 2016-17.
  4. Purdue has had a frightening propensity for blowing early leads this season, but its loss in the closing minutes to Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday may have set a new standard for late-game shoddy play. The Wolverines scored the final 11 points of the game after the Boilermakers had led by six with just a few minutes remaining. Purdue got a huge resume win earlier in the week in beating Michigan State, but the Boilermakers need to close strong with some damage in the Big Ten Tournament to move above the projected #4/#5 seed range they’ve been trapped in all the bracket projections.
  5. Things weren’t pretty earlier this season at Wisconsin. Slowly but surely, however, Greg Gard has kept his team’s focus and the Badgers have played their way back into NCAA Tournament contention with an 8-4 conference record. This gives athletic director Barry Alvarez an interesting decision to make with respect to Bo Ryan’s permanent successor. The Badgers have gone 9-4 since Gard took over, and has led some to believe that he should be named the permanent head coach going forward. It’s hard to argue against this notion considering how the team has turned things around and could very well make the NCAA Tournament in what was once appeared to be a lost season.
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Big Ten M5: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 11th, 2016

morning5_bigten

  1. Purdue dropped to 14-3 (2-2) on the year after losing to Illinois, 84-70, on Sunday night, and a familiar formula has emerged in each its three losses this season. Turnovers and shoddy offensive play have doomed this team, as AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas combined for only 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting. The defense that has been a constant positive all season failed miserably, as Illinois became the first team to shoot over 50 percent from the field against the Boilermakers in 37 games. Is there trouble in West Lafayette?
  2. The return of Michigan State‘s Denzel Valentine from a four-game injury hiatus did not bring a triple-double or a spectacular stat line. Rather, the senior looked a bit rusty early before scoring 10 second-half points as the Spartans blasted Penn State, 92-65, Sunday afternoon. One key takeaway from this game was that Tom Izzo’s squad might have become even better in its All-American’s absence. Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes have emerged as serious offensive threats, while post play has also improved significantly. If Valentine gets back to the productivity he displayed in the first 12 games of the season, Sparty is definitely on the short list of national championship contenders.
  3. If Indiana didn’t completely offset the stench of its early season play in the Hoosiers’ blowout win over Ohio State on Sunday afternoon, they have certainly come close. Tom Crean’s squad stayed undefeated in league play behind big efforts from big men Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams. Williams was especially productive in scoring a team-high 23 points, but what was more important was that he didn’t commit any momentum-killing turnovers. Indiana held the Buckeyes to a paltry 0.86 points per possession, and if the Hoosiers’ defense continues to improve, Indiana will be a dangerous team going forward.
  4. Crean also added a fourth commitment to his 2016 class on Saturday when Devonte Green pledged to his program. The younger brother of former North Carolina standout Danny Green, the Long Island native is a 6’3″ combo guard whom 247sports rates as the sixth best player from New York. Green is the third guard slated to join the Hoosiers next season, joining other commitments Curtis Jones and Grant Gelon in the backcourt.
  5. Nebraska rolled to its biggest road win in 96 years on Saturday, beating Rutgers by 34 points while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and logging 52 points in the paint. Rutgers is missing some key interior pieces, of course, but the Cornhuskers played arguably one of their best games of the season in getting contributions from everyone. Andrew White III continues to prove that he is one of the best and most efficient scorers in the league, scoring over 20 points (28) for the fifth time this season.
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 7

Posted by Adam Levy on January 8th, 2016

After a two week holiday hiatus, the Layup Line is back and better than ever. Conference play has finally begun, and the Big Ten is already off to an interesting start. Four teams are undefeated (Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State), and four are still winless (Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Rutgers). There has been lots of good, lots of bad and lots of ugly, so let’s dive right into the nitty gritty of the last two weeks.

REPORT CARD

A: Iowa Hawkeyes

Fran McCaffery's Team is Firing On All Cylinders (USA Today Images)

Fran McCaffery’s Team is Firing On All Cylinders (USA Today Images)

Sure, Indiana and Ohio State are also 3-0 in Big Ten play but neither has wins as impressive as that of Iowa. How the Hawkeyes scored 50 points in the second half against the best defensive team in the nation is beyond explanation, but it happened. And if we forget about Denzel Valentine, Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons for a moment, Jarrod Uthoff has been the best player in the country. If March Madness started tomorrow, Uthoff would likely be a First Team All-American. Offensively, the Hawkeyes currently rank 11th in efficiency, eighth in turnover percentage, 39th in effective field goal percentage and 21st in three-point percentage. Defensively, they rank 36th in efficiency, 10th in opponents’ free throw rate, 32nd in opponents’ three-point percentage and fifth in block percentage. No disrespect to Mike Gesell and Peter Jok and their to-this-point stellar seasons, but this team would not be nearly as effective without Uthoff. It most certainly could not have beaten Purdue in the fashion it did without his 25-point, four-block effort.

Oh, and Iowa also beat Michigan State and Nebraska handily. It’s high time to buy stock in the most underrated team in the country.

B: Diamond Stone

Capture2

If there is such a thing as freshman jitters, Diamond Stone had ‘em. The Maryland center is now a completely different player than the one we witnessed in the first month of the season — a huge development for a team with serious Final Four aspirations. As of last week, Maryland is one of six major conference teams scoring more than a point per possession on post-ups (1.02 PPP); last season it managed just 0.75 PPP in those situations. Mark Turgeron can thank Stone for that, a player who is coming off a sweep of the Big Ten’s weekly awards (Player and Freshman of the Week) and an epic 39-point, 12-rebound performance in a comeback win against Penn State. It’s Diamond’s world right now.

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Indiana Uses Different Approach to Pick Up Quality Win

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 20th, 2015

Things were looking bleak for Indiana at the Crossroads Classic, similar to how they looked in the Hoosiers’ three previous losses this season. Sloppy and ill-timed turnovers coupled with uninterested, passive defense had put the Hoosiers in a 56-40 hole with 15:11 left on Saturday against Notre Dame. But then something strange happened. Tom Crean’s squad held the Fighting Irish to 8-of-26 shooting for the rest of the contest, using contributions from throughout its roster to pull off an impressive 80-73 comeback win. A loss in Indianapolis — its fourth against a top-100 opponent this season — would have been catastrophic, but instead the Hoosiers found a new and different approach to earn the victory. Balanced scoring, crashing the boards, and — believe it or not — solid defense carried the day, showing that it’s far to early to give up on the Hoosiers making a deep run in March.

Indiana's Comeback Win Was Cause for Celebration in Indy (USA Today Images)

Indiana’s Comeback Win Was Cause for Celebration in Indy (USA Today Images)

One of the most important things to come from yesterday’s win was that Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. only combined for 19 of Indiana’s 80 points. All nine members of the rotation played at least seven minutes, and four players scored in double-figures. Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, and Thomas Bryant all had their moments on the offensive end, scoring several key buckets in crunch time. Meanwhile, Troy Williams got to the rim at will. This type of offensive balance is important for the role players’ confidence as Big Ten play approaches. A nine-man rotation where each player is capable of making a difference is a great deal more formidable than an attack consisting primarily of Ferrell and Blackmon taking a high volume of shots.

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Big Ten M5: 12.16.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 16th, 2015

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  1. While most of the country was about to go to bed last night, Bo Ryan decided to shock the college basketball world and announce his retirement, effective immediately. If you remember, Ryan said in the offseason that this would be his last year at Wisconsin, but then backtracked on those comments before the season started. This is a transparent move on Ryan’s part to get his protege — Greg Gard, who will become interim coach the rest of the season — at least a shot to show he can coach this program well into the future. However well Gard does with the remainder of the season, however, look for athletic director Barry Alvarez to see if he can pry Tony Bennett from Virginia as soon as the season is over.
  2. After their disastrous showing at the Maui Invitational where they went 1-2 in the losers bracket, followed by an embarrassing shellacking at Duke on national TV, Indiana has been largely ignored by the media and written off as serious Final Four contenders. But don’t look now, the Hoosier have won three decisive victories in a row (all games won by 30+ points) and are ranked at #23 on KenPom. In the last couple contests, no one has stepped up more than Troy Williams who has averaged 14.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals–which was good enough to be named CBS Sports Player of the Week. The junior wing has seemed to resurrect his standing within the team after being benched in the St. John’s game. We’ll see if the team as a whole can resurrect itself this Saturday when they play Notre Dame in the Crosstown Classic.
  3. While Williams was named of POTW by CBS, Jarrod Uthoff was chosen for the same honor by the Big Ten thanks to his impressive 32-point performance in a disappointing loss to Iowa State. A few days before, the sharpshooting senior scored 27 points against Western Illinois. While Uthoff is virtually unstoppable when he has his shot going, he still hasn’t found the ability to force his will onto a game. Against the Cyclones, Uthoff scored 30 of his 32 points in the first half; in the second half, when Iowa State made their run to overcome a 21-point deficit, Uthoff was nowhere to be found (until the very end of the game). It’s clear this Iowa team can play with anyone when Uthoff is on fire, but it’s unclear if they’re able to compete when he is having an off-night.
  4. Uthoff wasn’t the only POTW selected by the Big Ten, he shared the award with Melo Trimble. The Maryland point guard has been absolutely stellar and has made a big jump in some important categories from his freshman season. The most important facet of his game that has seen improvement is his ability to distribute the rock. Trimble is averaging over two assists more a game than last season which is vital given that he now has more talented teammates looking to score. Now that Maryland’s point guard, and candidate for National Player of the Year, has developed a complete game–with the ability to score and distribute–the sky is the limit for the Terrapins.
  5. Another high-performing team in the Big Ten has been Purdue, which finds itself at 11-0 going into a much anticipated game against Butler in the Crosstown Classic. The anchors of both the defense and offense has been the Boilermakers three frontcourt players — A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan. How good are they? All three made BTN‘s Jess Settle’s Top 10 player list, by far the most for any one team. With talent like that up front, they are making good on their promise of a special season for Purdue fans.
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week Two

Posted by Adam Levy on November 27th, 2015

We’re back for Week 2 of Levy’s B1G Layup Line and boy, what a week it was. A lot of tournaments, a lot of turkey, too much family and somehow too little basketball. If you feel you were cheated by a new, terrible stuffing recipe like I was, cheer up. At least you have all of the Big Ten stuffing you need right in front of you. Let’s get right to it and carve up the week that was.

REPORT CARD

A: Purdue Boilermakers

Matt Painter's Team Hasn't Gotten a Lot of Attention Yet (USAT Images)

Matt Painter’s Team Hasn’t Gotten a Lot of Attention Yet (USAT Images)

Purdue is good. Like really, really good. Coming into the season, everyone knew about their scary frontcourt and, thus far, it has probably exceeded expectations. It’s the performance of the backcourt, however, that is taking the college landscape by storm and led to a beat down of Florida in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship. Sophomore point guard P.J. Thompson took home the fictional MVP award after his 15-5-4-2 line in that game, boosting his offensive rating to 155.5 – good for 17th best in the country. Thompson also has yet to turn the ball over in any game this season and owns a 12-to-0 assist to turnover ratio so far – a crazy feat in its own right. P.J. Thompson: #RememberTheName.

Outside of a rare bad game against Old Dominion, reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Raphael Davis has been his usual great self, leading the way with unfathomable shooting splits (53.8% FG, 46.2% 3PT, 90.9% FT). Those numbers are clearly unsustainable, but it’s obvious that the senior leader is on a mission to prove something in his final season in West Lafayette. That something sure as hell could be shocking the world by winning a Big Ten title and making serious moves in March. This team is as balanced as any in the country. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

B: Bryant McIntosh

In three games against Columbia, North Carolina and Missouri this past week, McIntosh averaged 35.7 minutes, 19.7 points, and 5.7 assists while shooting 8-for-14 from distance and 13-for-15 from the charity stripe. It’s no coincidence that the underrated ‘Cats went 2-1 in those games and hung with one of the nation’s best in the Tar Heels for all of the first half before their athleticism simply took over. It may be a small sample size, but the sophomore point guard is looking like a legitimate All-Big Ten player with an incredibly bright future in purple. This Northwestern team has been as competitive as can be in the early going, and they’ll go as McIntosh goes. If he can continue to lead the offense by setting up his teammates (38.3% assist rate – 44th nationally) and getting to the free throw line at a consistent rate (88.2% from the line thus far), Northwestern will surprise a lot of people.

C:  AP Voters

Things that really tick me off: losing a sock during every single laundry cycle, receiving a “Call me back” voicemail, people texting “K” in response to something I’ve said, and the AP Top 25. It truly is the dumbest ranking of all time. Maryland barely held off a struggling Georgetown team at home, then needed six free throws in the last minute to beat Rider three days later? What the hell, let’s move them up a couple spots to #2 in the polls just because some other, better teams (Duke, Kansas) lost to some other, better teams (Kentucky, Michigan State). The Terps then followed up that poop fest with a crappy showing against Illinois State in the first round of the Cancun Challenge that saw them down 5 at the seven minute mark before pulling away late. I don’t care how good people think this team could be. The polls should be about who the best basketball teams are right now and, right now, outside of Rhode Island (who already lost their best player for the season), Maryland is struggling to beat every decent team they play. Sorry voters, but as I sit here stuffing my face with turkey in November, I feel comfortable saying that this is just not a top two team.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 12th, 2015

It’s the eve of the start of the college basketball season and we’re well into our preseason awards lists. We’ve already released our third team all-conference selections and our projected league standings (#14-#8 and #7-#1), so now it’s time to unveil our All-Big Ten second team. Here are the next five best players in the league, as voted on by our three-man staff.

A healthy Caris LeVert is poised for a big senior season (Gregory Shamus, Getty).

A healthy Caris LeVert is poised for a big senior season (Gregory Shamus, Getty).

  • Bronson Koenig (JR, Guard, Wisconsin). Koenig stepped into the starting point guard spot for the Badgers last January after Traeveon Jackson suffered an untimely foot injury. The sophomore started the remaining 24 games, averaging 11.5 points per contest and producing an offensive rating (120.7), turnover percentage (11.3%) and three-point percentage (40.5%) that were all better than those of Jackson. As a junior, Koenig is primed for an even bigger year in his first full season as the starting point guard.
  • Caris LeVert (SR, Guard, Michigan). LeVert led the Wolverines in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks through 18 games last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Michigan struggled to keep its head above water when he was healthy (11-7), but the team plummeted after his injury (5-9). Much like last season, the Wolverines have a deep and talented backcourt but an unproven and young frontcourt. John Beilein’s club should be better with Derrick Walton Jr. healthy and an improved Zak Irvin in the lineup, but LeVert will once again be this team’s leader. He can score many different ways and his length makes him a sturdy perimeter defender.

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