Three Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Beat Arizona

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 29th, 2014

Nine years ago, as a clear underdog, Bo Ryan’s Badgers, led by Mike Wilkinson, almost took down Sean May’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. Few expected the Badgers to hang in there against an athletic UNC team, but the Badgers proved to be a matchup nightmare for most of the game. At the end, pure talent won out against a disciplined team. As Ryan heads into the second Elite Eight game during his tenure, he faces a similar challenge – Arizona is arguably the most athletic team in the country, led by freshman Aarno Gordon. Overlooking the Badgers in this matchup is not a good idea especially after their offensive performances against Baylor and Oregon. Currently, the oddsmakers have the Wildcats as a three-point favorite, but let’s dig deeper to understand why the Badgers can win the game on Saturday:

Will Bo Ryan finally take the Wisconsin program to the Final Four?

Will Bo Ryan finally take the Wisconsin program to the Final Four?

  1. Frank Kaminsky’s spin moves in the paint will get Kaleb Tarzcewski into foul trouble. Lack of height or length is not an issue for the Wildcats, but their lateral movement on defense will be challenged by Kaminsky. While it is clear that Kaminsky can shoot the three effectively, his ability to drive into the paint off the pump-fake has been overlooked over the past few weeks. Against Baylor, he repeatedly faked the ball at the top of the key and was able to drive very easily against Isaiah Austin and if he continues to do that against Arizona, Brandon Ashley’s presence will be sorely missed because Sean Miller will have to dig deeper into the bench. Arizona is extremely stingy on defense, giving up just 0.9 points per possession in the PAC-12, but it hasn’t defended a talent like Kaminsky. As we look back to the Badgers’ game Elite Eight game in 2005, Wilkinson’s ability to hit the deep shot against UNC was extremely important. Along those lines, Kaminsky can definitely put up 20 points against the depleted Arizona frontline. Miller will have to consider assigning Aaron Gordon to guard the Wisconsin big man, but that’ll create a hole on the other side of the wing because Sam Dekker will have an easier matchup. Read the rest of this entry »
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Why Not Frank Kaminsky as Big Ten Player of the Year?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 25th, 2014

As the saying goes, “basketball is a game of runs.” This season’s Wisconsin team is a prime example of that notion. The Badgers started the season with 16 straight wins, including impressive victories over Florida and Virginia. Then they hit a midseason lull to lose five of six games, dropping their conference record to a middling 4-5 by the start of February. After winning its last five games, Wisconsin appears to have righted the ship. Through it all, it has been seven-foot junior Frank Kaminsky who has remained consistently effective during the ups and downs. Lately, he’s also added “clutch performer” to his resume. On Saturday, the junior big man scored 20 points at Iowa, including two key baskets to build a lead and some clutch free throws to seal the game away. Kaminsky has not only led his team back to a placement in the top three of the standings, he’s also leading the league in terms of overall efficiency.

Frank Kaminsky is the most efficient player in the league. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky is the most efficient player in the league. (Getty)

Back in November, fellow Big Ten microsite writer Brendan Brody wrote that Kaminsky could follow in the footsteps of former Badger Jared Berggren and other bigs in Bo Ryan’s system by taking a significant leap in production with his expanded role. Hopes were already high because of returning starters Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, and Sam Dekker; but Kaminsky, a three-star prospect who had provided spot duty for two seasons in Madison, was regarded as the unknown commodity in the starting lineup. He had shown some indications that he was capable of taking on a bigger role, but his capabilities were regarded as suitable for a “pick-and-pop” forward most typical of Wisconsin’s big men. With the departures of Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz from last year’s team, there was also significant concern that Kaminsky would not be a reliable rebounding presence on the blocks. He’s done nothing but blown all of these misconceptions out of the water, exhibiting a developed footwork skill set that has allowed him to score either directly under the basket or create a layup from 10 feet away. When Bo Ryan needs a bucket now, he instructs his players to get the ball to Kaminsky on the blocks.

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Big Ten Analysis: Wisconsin Leads the Way, Ohio State Right Behind…

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 31st, 2013

The non-conference part of the season is finally over and so is our ongoing series of measuring Big Ten teams’ non-conference performance with their preseason expectations. We have continuously recorded the score for each team’s game and compared that performance to their preseason expected performance from KenPom.com. The table below displays our final performance statistics for each team during the non-conference season. It shows whether a team underperformed (marked in red) or overperformed (marked in green) in each of their games (G1 through G13), if they’ve underperformed or overperformed throughout the season (Average), their consistency (StDev), and the change in their long-term outlook (Record Diff). For additional context, feel free to check out the December 17, December 3, and November 18 versions of this analysis.

big ten analysis table dec 30 2013

Here are our final takeaways from this analysis:

  • Iowa has been the most overperforming team this season. The Hawkeyes are no strangers to this spot of our analysis, as they’ve been the most overperforming team in each post of this series. Fran McCaffery has used his high-powered offense (ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency) and deep bench to blow out teams like UNC-Wilmington and Abilene Christian early in the season. In the Battle 4 Atlantis, they also had a successful run, falling just short of winning the championship against Villanova, but putting in an impressive showing nevertheless. As a result, they’ve overperformed by an average of 6.8 points per game. They’ve fallen back to earth a bit recently — not overperforming by more than five points in the last four games — but have still more than lived up to the hype placed upon them before the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Analysis: Badgers Soaring, Spartans Sinking

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 17th, 2013

Author’s note: This analysis was performed on Sunday night, December 15, and does not include Monday’s Northwestern game against Mississippi Valley State.

Welcome to the third edition of our Big Ten non-conference analysis.  By now, you should be familiar with how we’re measuring teams’ performances; but if not, please re-read our first post describing the methodology. In short, we’re comparing how Big Ten teams have performed against their preseason expectations according to KenPom. Since our last analysis two weeks ago, the Big Ten/ACC challenge has come and gone, and we’ve had some major interconference match-ups. Unfortunately, Big Ten teams have mostly ended up on the losing side of these games, especially last weekend as Iowa State outlasted Iowa, Arizona beat Michigan, Notre Dame shocked Indiana, and Butler held off Purdue. To see how these losses have shaken things up from the expectations viewpoint, see the updated performance table below.

big ten analysis table dec 16 2013

Here are our two main takeaways:

  • Wisconsin has improved its long-term season outlook the most and has also been the most consistent team in the Big Ten.Things are murky at the top of the league. Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan all have questions surrounding them or outright blemishes on their early season resumes. But the Badgers have been the league’s lone shining star by going undefeated, a record that includes seven wins against the RPI Top 100 (2-0 against the Top 50), more than any other team in the country. Furthermore, according to our analysis, Wisconsin has only underperformed in one game the entire season. Not only have they played well throughout, but they’ve been consistent in their efforts which is shown by their league-low 5.1 standard deviation (basically measuring variability in performances). Finally, Bo Ryan’s team’s long-term outlook has improved as they’re now expected to win seven games more than originally thought, which includes projected wins against Florida, at Indiana, at Minnesota, at Purdue, Ohio State, at Illinois and at Michigan State. As of right now, the Badgers are the class of the league. Read the rest of this entry »
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Meet Duje Dukan, Wisconsin’s Newest Weapon

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 11th, 2013

Last week, we predicted that Wisconsin would finish fourth in the Big Ten. Our ranking was rooted in Bo Ryan’s long history of consistency. Since he’s been the head coach in Madison, Wisconsin has finished fourth or higher in the Big Ten every single year. Given the talent on his roster, had we replaced the name Wisconsin with that of any other team, we would have had the Badgers ranked much lower. The most obvious concern for this year’s team is the loss of several major contributors; Ryan will need to replace the 28.0 points and 19.5 rebounds a game of graduated players Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz.

Duje Dukan came out of nowhere to help Wisconsin beat St. John's on Friday night.

Duje Dukan came out of nowhere to help Wisconsin beat St. John’s on Friday night.

But this is something Ryan does every couple of years. Like the programs of yesteryear, Wisconsin has made an art out of bringing in unheralded recruits and developing them into effective college players. By the time they are upperclassmen, they can seamlessly step into contributing roles and keep the Wisconsin basketball machine operating at a high level. In our preseason post, we mentioned Nigel Hayes as one those players who could make a significant jump. But as Wisconsin’s impressive 86-75 win over a talented St. John’s team on Friday night showed, Duje Dukan has emerged as a player who can be a significant scoring option off the bench.

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Big Ten M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on March 12th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. As if the end of Sunday’s Indiana-Michigan game wasn’t crazy enough, Tom Crean made it even more interesting when he approached Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer to confront him about his time as an assistant at IU. Crean told Meyer that he “helped wreck the program.” Meyer was a Hoosiers assistant under Kelvin Sampson and was partially responsible for some of the NCAA sanctions leveled against the program in the late 2000s. Crean said he later called to apologize and that his actions were inappropriate, but Michigan coach John Beilein wasn’t happy. “We’re never going to use victory or defeat as a platform for any frustrations we’re going to have,” he told MLive. I’m really proud of the way Jeff showed great poise and handled himself in the aftermath of the disappointment in that loss.
  2. It’s hard to dispute that the Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball right now, but what does that mean for the conference when it comes to the NCAA Tournament? Some would argue that it helps the Big Ten teams, because they’ve been tested so much during the season, but others would argue that it may have worn some teams down. Tom Izzo claims it’s the former. He says it gives him and his players confidence heading into the Big Dance knowing that there’s nothing they haven’t seen. He also said the upcoming Big Ten Tournament has the potential to be “maybe one of the great conference tournaments of all-time.”
  3. Wisconsin has lived and died by the three at times this season, and it barely stayed afloat thanks to a buzzer-beating three by Traevon Jackson to guide the Badgers past Penn State. Threes have led to late-game heroics for the Badgers a few times this season, but Wisconsin must do a better job of finding scoring options inside if it is going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, or even the Big Ten Tournament. UW can’t afford to keep banking on the long ball, because for every game that the shots are falling, there is going to be a game when they aren’t. It’s going to be hard to win four games in four days if the three is Wisconsin’s only offensive weapon.
  4. As the season comes to a close, Bill Carmody’s seat has gotten even hotter, despite the injuries Northwestern has had to deal with this season. NU will miss the NCAA Tournament once again, and that’s enough for many fans to call for Carmody’s job, even considering all the team’s injuries. However, with or without Carmody, the NU program has some problems. There’s no reason to believe things will get easier for a new coach if the basketball facilities don’t receive an upgrade and the stringent academic requirements aren’t loosened.
  5. Iowa has a very young frontcourt this season, with freshman Adam Woodbury and center Gabe Olaseni splitting time at center; and while they’ve had their ups and downs, they’re playing their best basketball of the year right now. Woodbury scored 20 points combined in Iowa’s final two games, while Olaseni has shown improvement on both ends of the floor. He had seven blocks against Illinois and was also a force on the offensive end against the Illini and Nebraska, thanks to his athleticism in the post. Woodbury and Olaseni both should be much improved next season, but they still have a chance to make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
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Big Ten M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on March 7th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The postgame scene at Assembly Hall after Indiana’s loss to Ohio State on Tuesday night was… well, it’s tough to really describe it. “Odd” doesn’t really do it justice. Following the loss, The Hoosiers held a ceremony for their departing seniors and cut down the nets to celebrate clinching a share of the Big Ten title, thanks to a Michigan win over Michigan State two days earlier. IU won, but it lost. It was celebrating, but the scene was depressing. It’s strange that IU was so set on having a net-cutting ceremony that it didn’t wait until the Big Ten Tournament, when it would have made a lot more sense.
  2. Michigan State still has a lot to play for this season, including a Big Ten title and a subsequent run in March Madness. However, the Spartans got some good news for next season when they found out forward Branden Dawson plans on returning for his junior year. Dawson is likely a future NBA player and he has improved and lived up to his potential considerably since stepping on campus two falls ago. Staying an extra year gives him the chance to make the jump to elite and becoming a certain first round pick. This news potentially extends a long streak of MSU players not leaving early, dating back to Shannon Brown’s departure in 2006.
  3. Despite its early-season hype, Ohio State quickly dropped into the second tier of the Top 25 due to quite a bit of inconsistency from its young players. Outside of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes have struggled to find contributors on both ends of the floor. Now, however, OSU is rolling on a four-game winning streak after taking down Indiana in Bloomington. The most encouraging sign is that the Buckeyes are doing it without dominance from Thomas, who has recently been in a scoring slump. If OSU can win without Thomas carrying them, who’s to say they can’t go on a run in March if he finds his groove?
  4. The Big Ten race is confusing. Five teams can potentially still win a share of the conference title, and depending on a number of different scenarios, we will likely see multiple-way ties for first place in the conference. This chart from The Only Colors is by far the best way to tell how any potential ties will be broken up. Since the Indiana-OSU and Michigan-Purdue games have already been played, the number of possibilities has since narrowed, but Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin still all have a chance to get the No. 1 overall seed, even though Indiana is far and away the favorite.
  5. Sunday’s loss to Purdue was a tale of two halves for Wisconsin, just as it was for Badgers’ guard Traevon Jackson. Jackson had been playing well recently, and he continued that trend in the first half against the Boilermakers. But he struggled in the second half, particularly with his passing the ball. While he had problems earlier in the year with his passing, he looked like he had gotten the issue fixed in recent games. Before the Purdue game, Jackson had three of his most efficient offensive games of the season, which also turned out to be some of Wisconsin’s most efficient games this year. In order for the Badgers to be effective down the stretch, Jackson can’t play like he did in the second half on Sunday.
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Late Game Struggles Continue to Haunt Iowa

Posted by KTrahan on February 8th, 2013

With 20 seconds left in regulation of Wednesday night’s Iowa-Wisconsin game, Traevon Jackson’s three-pointer bounced off the rim, then the backboard, then fell into the hoop to tie the game up. Josh Ogelsby’s three-pointer just before the buzzer looked good, but then rimmed out. Thus has been the story of Iowa’s season so far, as the Hawkeyes went on to lose 74-70 in double overtime. Iowa certainly has a squad that looked capable of making the NCAA Tournament this year, but the script in every chance to get a marquee win has been the same — a blown late lead and a heartbreaking loss. The Hawkeyes have blown late leads to Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota and now Wisconsin. The only late leads that they’ve held onto against marquee opponents have come against Wisconsin (in the previous meeting this season) and Iowa State. Jon Rothstein and Ken Pomeroy both sympathized with Iowa fans after the loss:

Fake Fran McCaffery was clearly frustrated, as well (great Twitter follow, by the way):

Apparently it was possible to get closer to the hump without going over it. Dammit.

— Fran’s Red Face (@FransRedFace) February 7, 2013

It’s tough to know what to make of all of Iowa’s late-game collapses. The Hawkeyes have clearly had trouble figuring out how to play with a lead at the end of games — they nearly even blew the home lead to Wisconsin. It’s almost as if Iowa goes into prevent defense, to use a football term. And, as the saying goes, the only thing prevent defense does is prevent you from winning the game. The Hawkeyes try to avoid fouling and get very conservative, which allows the other team to get back into the game. Since Iowa isn’t a great shooting team, it’s tough for the Hawkeyes to make the last shot at the end of games.

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Big Ten M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 1st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Before the season, Keith Appling wasn’t even a Michigan State captain. Tom Izzo was looking at the veteran point guard to become a leader on an off the court for the Spartans, who had lost last year’s emotional leader Draymond Green. Appling has now earned captain status and Izzo has noticed a big change from his junior point guard. Izzo said Appling is doing a better job of communicating on the floor and showing his confidence after sitting down with former MSU point guard Mateen Cleaves. Appling learned to fight through adversity after a rough past, and now he’s doing it on the court, becoming the leader Izzo had hoped for at the beginning of the season.
  2. Ohio State has had trouble finding players outside of Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Aaron Craft to step up this season. The Buckeyes certainly have talent, but its supporting players — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross, to name a few — haven’t been consistent. That has resulted in inconsistent playing time among that bunch. OSU has been searching for an alternative offensive option to Thompson and it appears it may have found its answer in Ross. Ross has seen the court much more recently, and part of that is due to his improved listening to coach Thad Matta. He’s taking in more direction from the coaching staff, and subsequently seeing more of the floor.
  3. There aren’t many legitimate criticisms of No. 1 Michigan right now, considering how the Wolverines have been playing. However, people are always trying to find something wrong with top teams, so the common criticism of UM in recent weeks is that its roster isn’t deep enough. After all, the Wolverines rank 326th in the country in bench minutes, according to Ken Pomeroy. But part of the reason the Wolverines don’t go to their bench much is that the starters have played so well. Now though, in the wake of Jordan Morgan’s injury, Michigan is proving that it has enough depth. Jon Horford started the Wolverines’ game against Northwestern earlier this week and gave his team solid minutes, while freshman Mitch McGary also played well. Michigan may not have a star big man, but its frontcourt has proven it can play well this year, even without Morgan manning the paint.
  4. The press has been Minnesota’s best friend and its worst enemy this season. After struggling with its execution earlier in non-conference play, the Gophers’ press worked very well against Nebraska, returning to the form we saw during the non-conference season. Minnesota struggled to press against teams that like to slow things down like Northwestern and Wisconsin, but the Gophers were able to be successful against Nebraska, which employs the same tempo strategy. The bigger issue against the Wildcats and Badgers was their failure to execute in other areas of the game, such as free throw shooting. That prevented the Gophers from ever going all out with the press in those contests.
  5. It’s tough to find a bright spot out of a 97-60 loss, especially a home loss to your rival when coming off a solid win. However, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons was a bright spot for the Boilermakers in their drubbing at the hands of Indiana earlier this week. Hammons was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but like most freshman big men, he has been inconsistent in his first college season. However, he was exceptional against Indiana, scoring 30 points and blocking five shots in 28 minutes, showing the potential we’re likely to see from him down the road. While he didn’t get much help against the Hoosiers, his consistency will be key to how Purdue finishes its season.
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Examining Some Warning Signs for Wisconsin’s Defense

Posted by KTrahan on November 28th, 2012

Defense has always been a hallmark of Wisconsin’s formula for success. By keeping scores low and turnovers to a minimum, the Badgers are able to win games year after year. But this season, Bo Ryan’s team has struggled to defend other top teams. The problem isn’t turnovers or a lack of offense; rather, as BTN.com’s Big Ten Geeks writes, the Badgers have struggled with defensive rebounding and fouling too much. Wisconsin has done well against opponents it physically out-matches — the Badgers defeated Southeastern Louisiana, Cornell and Presbyterian by an average of 39 points each — but the team has struggled against opponents that can earn easy second-chance points. Wisconsin was out-rebounded by 18 against Florida and two against Creighton, while Florida got to the free throw line six more times than the Badgers, and Creighton got there 10 more times. Florida and Creighton are both very good teams, so losses in those games aren’t terrible for the Badgers’ postseason resume, but their defensive rebounding and fouling issues could lead to more trouble down the road.

It’s Hard to Believe That Bo Ryan’s Team is Struggling Defensively

No matter how Wisconsin defends, though, the Badgers will continue to struggle if they give teams extra possessions and frequently puts them on the line. Losing to Top 25 teams this early in the season may not matter all that much, but if this becomes a pattern, it could spell trouble for the Badgers down the road. We all know how tough  the Big Ten is this year, so Wisconsin won’t have as many chances to beat up on weaker teams once it gets into league play in January. The Badgers must use the rest of the non-conference slate to prepare for the coming uptick in competition, starting with consecutive games against Virginia and California, then later, a game against Marquette. That should give us a better understanding of where this Wisconsin team is headed.

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Big Ten M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 7th, 2012

  1. Michigan State freshman guard Denzel Valentine got a rough awakening in his first college game, putting together a sloppy performance against St. Cloud State. He’ll have to be much better in the Spartans’ regular season opener against UConn in the Armed Forces Classic on Friday. While Valentine had five points, five assists and 10 rebounds in the exhibition, he also had eight turnovers, and coach Tom Izzo called for a better performance this weekend. Izzo went as far as to call Valentine the Spartans’ best passer, but he warned that the freshman needs to “learn to play at the speed of college instead of the speed of high school.” However, Izzo pointed out that Magic Johnson had “eight or nine” turnovers against Central Michigan in his MSU debut, and “he turned out OK.”
  2. The loss of Jordan Taylor looks, at least on paper, to be the biggest obstacle the Wisconsin lineup faces this season. However, the Badger Herald argues that not having Taylor on the team might be a good thing for the Badgers. There is no doubt that Taylor was a very talented guard, but because he was the Badgers’ go-to scorer, the author argues that he actually detracted from Bo Ryan’s system. In that system, everyone must be able to shoot, but since Taylor was the one very reliable option, others didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage. With Taylor now gone, other players who can collectively take on his role will be forced to step up.
  3. One thing is clear about Ohio State this year: The Buckeyes have a lot of pure talent. Experience, though? Not so much. This lack of experience means OSU has a bit of an identity crisis heading into the season. Last year, the Buckeyes could rely on Aaron Craft, William Buford or Jared Sullinger to make plays when needed, but with Buford and Sullinger now gone, Craft and DeShaun Thomas will be called upon to lead the way. Leadership is often something that a player either embraces or he doesn’t, and we have every reason to believe that both returnee upperclassmen will take on the challenge put forth on them by head coach Thad Matta. But one minor critique of Craft after Tuesday night’s exhibition game: It’s not “October” anymore.
  4. The biggest criticism of last year’s Purdue team was its size, as the Boilermakers were often forced to play forward Robbie Hummel at center. This year, there is a lot of inexperience in West Lafayette, but Matt Painter’s team certainly will have more than enough size to compete in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers add three freshmen who are 6’8″ or taller, including 7-footer AJ Hammons. Painter notes that Purdue must become a better rebounding team, and that the Boilermakers “are in trouble” if that is not the case, especially considering the scoring punch that they lose from Hummel. However, with so much size at his disposal, rebounding should improve if the freshmen pan out as expected. As long as Purdue can get “possessions back on the glass,” they should be able to make up for some of the loss of last year’s offensive output.
  5. Speaking of size, Northwestern should also have a much bigger, albeit much more inexperienced, frontcourt this season. The Wildcats add two 7-foot freshmen, two more freshman forwards, a junior forward transfer and a graduate forward transfer. Lost in the shuffle is Mike Turner, a redshirt freshman center, who, at 6’8″, is undersized for his position, but he should also be slated for some minutes for the Wildcats this year. Turner admitted that it’s a mismatch trying to size up to some of the larger centers in the league, but he is also a mismatch for many of those who will struggle to defend his quickness. Turner isn’t likely to start for the Wildcats, but after a year in anonymity, he should see the court enough to make some noise even if he’s much smaller than the opponents he matches up against.
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Big Ten M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Exhibition season has officially begun in college basketball and Minnesota kicked off the year with an 81-56 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato Thursday night. The Gophers started the exhibition with the same starting five as the end of last year — Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman, Rodney Williams and Elliot Eliason — because that group has performed well in practice together, but coach Tubby Smith also mixed in star forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was injured last season, and Mo Walker, who redshirted last season. Walker had eight points in 11 minutes, while Mbakwe had four points and three rebounds. Minnesota has another scrimmage against Southwest Baptist on Monday before opening the regular season on November 9 against American.
  2. If Michigan is going to have the season many media members predict — challenging for the conference crown — then the Wolverines’ freshmen are going to have to step up. They did just that in Thursday’s 83-47 exhibition win against Northern Michigan, as Nik Stauskus, Spike Albrecht and Glenn Robinson III led Michigan with 17, 16 and 13 points, respectively, along with junior Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 13 points. At one point, coach John Beilein had five freshmen in the game at the same time and he said he didn’t even realize it. Of course, there’s a long way to go before we crown his team as the next Fab Five, but these freshmen certainly didn’t disappoint in their first time on a college court. The Wolverines have another exhibition, this time against Saginaw Valley State, on Monday before opening the regular season on November 9 against Slippery Rock.
  3. Like Minnesota’s Mo Walker, Indiana’s Maurice Creek shined in his exhibition game following a redshirt year. Creek, who had to sit all of last year with a ruptured Achilles’, had 12 points to lead the Hoosiers in their 86-57 win over Indiana Wesleyan. Indiana also received contributions from preseason national player of the year Cody Zeller and Will Sheehey, who both had 11 points and five rebounds. Christian Watford had 11 points and six rebounds, while Victor Oladipo had 10 points and seven rebounds. This is a deep team, and while a win against Indiana Wesleyan proves nothing, IU certainly showed it has plenty of options and can spread the ball around.
  4. Wisconsin has yet to play a game this year, but it has already dealt with injuries to two key players — Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser. Bruesewitz will be back in the non-conference season, but Gasser is out for the season with a torn ACL. CBS Sports has a first-hand account of Gasser’s injury from guest blogger Zach Bohannon, a Badgers forward. Bohannon gives an emotional account of Gasser’s injury and the effect of an ACL injury on teams in general. It was a shocking injury for the Wisconsin players, as Bohannon said they saw Gasser as “indestructible.” It’s a humanizing account of “the face of the program” and puts the careers of college basketball players into perspective.
  5. The Big Ten is known for its low-scoring games and its defense, so it’s not surprising that two of the top 10 scariest defenders in the game, according to ESPN.com, play in the conference. ESPN ranks Ohio State’s Aaron Craft as the scariest defender in the country, citing his one-on-one defensive skills on the perimeter and his ability to steal the ball. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo checks in at No. 5, due to his versatility and ability to defend on the perimeter and in the post. Craft has a reputation throughout the nation as a top defender and he has an effect beyond standard statistics, as laid out by the Aaron Craft Turnometer created by Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn. Only a junior, Big Ten teams likely have two more years of dealing with Craft’s spectacular defensive skills.
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