Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.02.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 2nd, 2016

On Wednesday night, the Big Ten lost five of six games to drop the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time since 2008. This result represented an already disappointing start to the season for the league, but several teams have an opportunity to right the ship this weekend with solid resume-enhancing wins. In this season’s first weekend look-ahead, we’ll discuss how those teams can get big victories Saturday that may prove consequential on Selection Sunday.

For a second straight season, Nigel Hayes is shooting below 30 percent from the three point line. (Getty).

For a second straight season, Nigel Hayes is shooting below 30 percent from the three-point line. (Getty).

  • Oklahoma at Wisconsin (Saturday 1:00 PM ET, BTN). This is the Madison installment of a home-and-home series where the Badgers were run off the court in Norman last year. Of course, the Sooners no longer boast three of the seniors – including Naismith POY winner Buddy Hield – who led last year’s squad to the Final Four. Even with all that attrition, it is foolish to bet on a Lon Kruger team to miss the postseason, which means this game is a golden opportunity for Wisconsin to add another victory over a likely NCAA Tournament team (Syracuse) to its non-conference resume. To accomplish this, Wisconsin needs to establish greater offensive balance against a strong Sooners’ defense (24th nationally). Nigel Hayes would be wise to abandon his burgeoning propensity to shoot threes — where he is only hitting 29 percent on the season — and instead establish himself by geting into the paint and earning trips to the free throw line.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Preseason Superlatives: POY, COY, FrOY

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 11th, 2016

The season-opening tip-offs are set for tonight and the RTC Big Ten microsite has arrived at our predictions for the coming year. We’ve huddled our clairvoyant minds together and selected our conference preseason Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, and Coach of the Year. Some of these predictions are likely to miss, but the three individual profiled below are definitely worth keeping a close eye on during the regular season.

Thomas Bryant is the RTC Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year (USA Today Images).

Thomas Bryant is the RTC Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year (USA Today Images).

Player of the Year: Thomas Bryant, Indiana. This was by no means a unanimous choice among our group. While we believe our other two Badger candidates — Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ — will each also have a terrific season, we settled on Bryant for a couple of reasons. First, he is one of the nation’s most talented big men in an offense full of second options — expect him to significantly improve on his 11.9 PPG and 5.8 RPG freshman tallies with an added a year of experience. Second, he is the anchor of a reigning Big Ten champion that is expected to contend for a second consecutive title and a deep NCAA Tournament run. Given the talent and opportunity here, we believe that Bryant is ready for a monster year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.16.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 16th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  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.
Share this story

Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 11th, 2015

The college football championships are now in the books, which means basketball has center stage for a while. There are just under three weeks left in the non-conference portion of the schedule, so teams are still looking to notch a few resume-enhancing wins before conference play begins at the end of the month. Luckily for Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska this weekend, they will have those opportunities against top 100 teams this weekend. Here is your weekend preview of those four games.

Mark Loving (left) leads a very mediocre Buckeyes unit into Stoors on Saturday.

Mark Loving (left) leads a mediocre Buckeyes unit into Storrs on Saturday.

  • Ohio State at Connecticut (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, CBS). The Huskies are coming off a tough loss at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, possibly because their coach, Kevin Ollie, received an ill-timed technical in the latter stages of the game. They’ll get another shot against a Big Ten team when the Buckeyes visit Gampel Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Thad Matta’s young squad has looked its age as the Buckeyes commit a turnover in one out of every five possessions so far this season. If Ohio State can’t protect the ball against a very good Connecticut defense, they’ll slip below .500 with a record of 4-5, something that hasn’t happened this late in the season during the Matta era.
  • Marquette at Wisconsin (Saturday, 1:30 PM ET, ESPN2). If you haven’t yet heard, this version of Wisconsin isn’t your typical Bo Ryan team. Rather, this team, to the consternation of its head coach, shies away from three-pointers in favor of mid-range jumpers. Therefore, this rivalry game may rely on which player wins the battle in the paint between the Badgers’ Nigel Hayes and the Golden Eagles’ Henry Ellenson. While the freshman is bigger and more naturally gifted, the upperclassman knows how to take over a game — Hayes scored 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a recent loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Look for whoever wins this individual battle to set the tone for the rest of his team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.04.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 4th, 2015

The weekend after the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is probably one of the weakest slates of the year. After coming out of all the Feast Week tournaments followed by playing formidable competition in the challenge, most teams are looking to take it easy with opponents from low-major conferences this weekend. And with the Big Ten season arriving soon enough, it’s hard to blame them. At this point in the season, coaches just want to give their guys a break and pick up a few easy wins. It makes for a fairly boring first weekend of December in the Big Ten, but here is a preview of the best games of this quiet weekend.

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

  • Temple at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12:30 ET PM, CBS). This matchup with 3-3 Temple (which was picked to finish sixth in the American) doesn’t excite at first blush, but it represents the Big Ten game this weekend with the highest thrill score (according to KenPom), so perhaps the Owls have an extra gear in store for their trip to Madison. The Badgers surprised everyone on Wednesday when they went into the Carrier Dome and upset Syracuse, so maintaining momentum through this weekend will be crucial for Bo Ryan’s crew. If Bronson Koenig can prove to be more consistent in his production, the Badgers still have a great shot at making a 15th straight NCAA Tournament. Temple, a team that has already taken down a B1G squad earlier this season (Minnesota), has a formidable defense that is capable of slowing down good offenses. That defense could be even tougher on an offense that’s been as ineffective as Wisconsin’s (46.3% eFG) this season. If the Badgers have an off shooting afternoon, then a second home loss is definitely in play here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 20th, 2015

By the second weekend of the season, most power conference teams have moved past playing cupcakes from one-bid leagues — although some of those cupcakes ultimately got the last laugh — and are now moving up in competition. Stiffer tests begin in earnest for two Big Ten squads tonight, as Wisconsin and Michigan take part in marquee match-ups against Big East opponents and wo more B1G teams face challenging mid-majors on Saturday. Here are the four games to watch involving Big Ten teams this weekend.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year's thriller against Georgetown (Daivd Banks-USA Today Sports).

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year’s thriller against Georgetown (Photo: David Banks, USA Today Sports).

  1. Georgetown vs. Wisconsin (Friday, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN). Oddly enough, this game isn’t part of the slate of Gavitt Tipoff Games but instead a part of the 2K Classic event taking place in Madison Square Garden over the weekend. It’s also a rematch of a classic from last season, when the Hoyas — behind a 29-point effort from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — nearly upset the second-ranked Badgers in the Battle 4 Atlantis. These teams look to be more evenly matched this year, with Smith-Rivera perhaps looking to finish what he started a year ago in the Bahamas. Both squads have already suffered unexpected home losses to teams they have no business losing to (Wisconsin to Western Illinois; Georgetown to Radford), so the loser here will find itself in an early hole in its pursuit of a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Xavier at Michigan (Friday, 9:00 PM ET, BTN).  The Wolverines will host the Musketeers tonight in the final game of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Caris Levert‘s team has looked resurgent in its first two outings, beating its two opponents by a combined 54 points in an effort to erase memories of an injury-plagued and disappointing 2014-15 season. Michigan will face its first real test when Trevon Bluiett’s Musketeers invade the Crisler Center. It’ll be a mismatch of styles — the Wolverines are a quintessential jump-shooting team while Xavier thrives off attacks of the rim and getting to the free throw line —  so whichever team sets the tone early will earn a distinct advantage. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 11.18.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 18th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Last night we were treated to an excellent slate of non-conference matchups involving three Big Ten teams. First, Nebraska traveled to Philadelphia and played Villanova tough for the first 10 minutes of the game before ultimately getting blown out. Next, Maryland rekindled an old city rivalry when it hosted Georgetown. The Terps edged the Hoyas behind Melo Trimble’s 24-point effort and transfer Rasheed Sulaimon’s late three to seal the game. Finally, Michigan State came back to win against Kansas after being behind the Jayhawks for almost the entirety. Denzel Valentine was phenomenal, becoming one of just a handful of players to record a triple-double in a Spartans uniform. It was an excellent all-around night of basketball for Big Ten fans.
  2. For Bo Ryan, the challenge of rebuilding at Wisconsin since the departure of five instrumental players from his back-to-back Final Four teams is becoming real. First, there was a humbling loss to Western Illinois — a team that is projected to finish dead last in the Summit League — at the Kohl Center. Then, on Tuesday night, the Badgers learned that Andy Van Vliet — a 6’10” forward from Belgium — has been ruled ineligible for the entire season. This leaves Ryan short another player at a time when he’s still trying to figure out his rotation and the ultimate identity of his team.
  3. On Monday, Indiana finished its two-game set of Maui Invitational opening round games when it walloped Austin Peay, 102-76. As expected, the Hoosiers’ offense has been humming along early, as evidenced by their 69.8 percent effective field goal percentage on the season. More promising, however, is that Indiana’s defense looks markedly improved as Tom Crean’s group has kept its opponents at under one point per possession so far this season. The true test for his team will be next week’s venture to the Maui Invitational where, along with Kansas, Indiana is the favorite to leave the island with some hardware.
  4. In their first two games of the season, Purdue has showcased why it was selected as a preseason Top 25 team and considered a legitimate contender for a Big Ten title. Winning those contests by a combined 69 points, what’s even more impressive is that they’ve done so without the services of their best player, A.J. Hammons, who has been watching from the bench. Matt Painter has been ambiguous about the specific reason for his senior center’s absence, instead stating that “he’s got to take care of some business internally” before he can again see the court. Whenever he does return to the lineup, though, his presence will certainly add to a squad already performing at a high level — no doubt sending chills throughout the rest of the Big Ten.
  5. One of the reasons the Boilermakers have been able to make do without Hammons in the lineup is because of the exceptional play of star freshman Caleb Swanigan. In his first two games as a collegian, the big-bodied forward averaged 12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game while also shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line. For those efforts, Swanigan was awarded the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award on Monday. Look for the precocious Boilermaker to keep up this pace even when Hammons returns as he has already shown a developed ability to play away from the basket.
Share this story

RTC Big Ten Preview: The Top Tier (#7 – #1)

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 11th, 2015

We continue our Big Ten microsite predictions and superlatives with the second half of our preseason standings. We presented our preseason standings with teams #14 – #8 on the microsite yesterday; today, we unveil the top half. These are the teams that we as a group believe will finish near or atop the league when all the dust settles and will result in the likely conference representatives in the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy!

It's Jarrod Uthoff's turn to lead the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament.

It’s Jarrod Uthoff’s turn to lead the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament.

  • 7. Iowa: With Aaron White now graduated, all eyes turn to senior Jarrod Uthoff to take the baton and lead the Hawkeyes to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament— something this program hasn’t accomplished since the early 1990s. With players like Adam Woodbury, Peter Jok and an experienced backcourt to work with, Uthoff will have a supporting cast with enough talent to get it done.
  • 6. Michigan: The Wolverines are a talent-laden team with a number of players similar to Caris LeVert who fit perfectly into John Beilein’s prolific three-point offense. Both he and Derrick Walton were sidelined with injuries for the majority of last season, which gave the rest of the young roster experience to draw from this year. Now fully healthy, Michigan is set up for a comeback campaign pushing toward the top of the Big Ten.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Final Look at Wisconsin’s Two-Year Run

Posted by Alex Moscoso on April 16th, 2015

It’s been more than a week since the final buzzer went off at Lucas Oil Stadium, signaling the end of the National Championship game, another Duke national title, and the last moments of an incredible two-year run from the unlikeliest of powerhouses, Wisconsin. This year’s squad of goofy and affable but supremely talented Badgers had come up just a little short in the biggest game of their lives. With a nine-point lead, 13:23 left on the clock, and two of Duke’s best players, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, on the bench due to foul trouble, Wisconsin was certainly as close as any Big Ten team has been in 15 years to winning the crown. But there would be no story book ending. Instead, things played out as they usually do in college basketball, as the team with more talent eventually took control and won the game. Even if not on this night, Bo Ryan’s program throughout his 14 seasons in Madison has consistently bucked that trend, winning a bunch more games than what his roster suggested was possible.

Wisconsin is the most efficient offensive team in a long time. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Wisconsin has accomplished much in the last two years, including a change in the perception of its program and coach. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

This group of Badgers was no different. Sure, they boasted the National Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky, but the senior was a shining example of expectations exceeded — going from an unheralded high school recruit to the shiniest of college basketball stars. But in the end, the Blue Devils surged on the back of a little-used but nevertheless talented freshman, Grayson Allen. The bouncy guard effectively ended the narrative many casual fans hoped would win the day — that of a pristine basketball environment of yesteryear with in-state kids playing all four years for their home university, versus the more itinerant one-and-done culture of today. This thinking vastly oversimplifies the makeup of both these teams and programs, of course, but it is a common sentiment in college basketball and it is one of the reasons the Badgers attracted so many new fans in their run to the Final Four.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.29.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 29th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. On Saturday, Indiana lost its final non-conference match-up to Georgetown in Madison Square Garden. In the second half, the game became a duel between two former teammates and Indianapolis natives, the Hoosiers’ Yogi Ferrell and the Hoyas’ D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Ferrell scored a team-high 27 points, including two three-pointers that helped the Hoosiers tie the game and send it to overtime. As Zach Osterman explains, there is no shame in losing to Georgetown on a neutral site — the disappointment stems from what would have been gained with a win. A win over a good Big East team would not only have given Indiana a big boost going into its conference schedule, but also earned them their first resume win and mitigated some of the stain from their bad loss to Eastern Washington. Now, the Hoosiers will have to overperform in Big Ten play in order to earn an NCAA bid.
  2. This weekend we also saw the return of Dez Wells when Maryland defeated Oakland. After missing five games with a wrist injury, Wells did not get the start but played 22 minutes, chipping in 10 points and four assists. The senior’s return adds to the momentum the Terrapins have built after going 12-1 in non-conference play. In Wells’ absence, Jake Layman has stepped up his production, emerging as a legitimate scoring option for Maryland; combine that with the standout play of freshman stud Melo Trimble and a healthy Wells and Evan Smotrycz, and Mark Turgeon now has a wealth of talent with which to develop his new rotation, shaping up Maryland to be a force in its first season in the Big Ten.
  3. The slate of Saturday games also included Minnesota’s convincing win against UNC-Wilmington. This was the Golden Gophers’ eighth victory in a row, and it caps off a nice finish to their non-conference schedule after starting 3-2 — they’re now 11-2 with losses only to Louisville and St. John’s (both in KenPom’s top 20). Richard Pitino’s pressure defense has once again been a big part of their success (defensive turnover rate of 28.0 percent, third in the country), but it’s their ability to share the ball that has really boosted the offense and overall play, as evidenced by the 66.2 percent of field goals made that come off of assists (fifth nationally). Minnesota will see if its collegial philosophy on offense will translate to a step up in competition when it starts Big Ten play Wednesday at Purdue.
  4. Now that the non-conference schedule season has wrapped up, it’s worth reviewing what has happened in the season thus far. We will have some look-back posts coming up here on the microsite, but the MaizeNBrew blog from SB Nation has compiled a pretty comprehensive version of its non-conference awards. Wisconsin was honored as the Best Team, while Northwestern shamefully beat out Rutgers to be named the Worst Team. Additionally, the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky was awarded midseason MVP, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell was Best Freshman, Maryland’s Jake Layman was Most Improved, Wisconsin/Duke was the best game of the non-conference season, Iowa over North Carolina was deemed the Best Win, and Michigan’s infamous defeat to NJIT was identified as the Worst Loss. There are many, many more awards in the article, and it serves as a good recap of the early part of the season for the Big Ten.
  5. Finally, fans have been grasping at straws to make sense of the “mushy middle”of this year’s Big Ten. It seems as if there is not much daylight between teams unless your name is Wisconsin (for good reason) or Northwestern and Rutgers (for not-so-good reasons). If you’re looking for some clarity, Jeff from the BasketballPredictions blog has updated his bracketology predictions to include Saturday’s results. His predictions and seedings reflect what he expects to occur by the end of the season. In it, he has eight Big Ten teams making the Dance: Wisconsin (#1 seed), Ohio State (#4), Maryland (#7), Illinois (#7), Iowa (#8), Michigan State (#9), Michigan (#11), and Minnesota (#12). This leaves out bubble-hopefuls Penn State (and their 12-1 record), Indiana, Nebraska and Purdue. These predictions seem to highlight how much uncertainty there is with any team’s record and/or performance in the non-conference, and that we’ll likely have a slugfest in the conference all season long for those precious NCAA Tournament bids. There are two exciting months of Big Ten play coming our way that will sort all of this out. Get excited!
Share this story