Levy’s Layup Line: Week 9

Posted by Adam Levy on January 29th, 2016

What a strange season it has been for the Big Ten this year. This is the most top-heavy Big Ten conference we’ve seen in quite some time, as evidenced by the insane blowout rate (victories by 20+ points). For as long as KenPom has been around, there has only been one season in which blowouts have occurred in more than 20 percent of games (2013). This season? 16 of 59 games have resulted in blowouts – good for 27.1 percent, the highest rate of any league in the country. So what the heck is going on? It’s Week 9 of the Layup Line.

REPORT CARD

A: Yogi Ferrell and Ethan Happ

Viewed as an afterthought in the wake of being destroyed by Duke back in December, the Indiana Hoosiers have engineered an incredible turnaround, in large part thanks to Yogi Ferrell. Since the start of Big Ten play, the senior point guard is averaging 20.3 points, 5.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 3.1 threes and shooting 55.6 percent from distance. He continues to put this team on his back when they need it most, hitting big shot after big shot and smoothly setting up teammates for easy looks. In fact, he’s done the latter so many times in his career that he became Indiana’s all-time assist leader last week. It’s clear that Ferrell is quite salty about being left off of the Midseason Top 25 Wooden Award List, and his performance in Madison was nothing short of incredible. If only his frontcourt could stop…

Yogi Ferrell Has Been Dynamic For The Hoosiers (USA Today Sports)

Yogi Ferrell Has Been Dynamic For The Hoosiers (USA Today Sports)

Ethan Happ, who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the second consecutive week. He completely had his way with Indiana’s bigs on Tuesday night, getting to the rim with ease and showing off great footwork and underrated quickness in the post. As of Monday, he ranked third in the conference with 8.1 rebounds per game and second with over two steals per game. From Brian Butch to Jon Leuer to Jared Berggren to Frank Kaminsky to Ethan Happ, the story of the unheralded Wisconsin big man never seems to end. Enjoy another three years of this kid, Badger fans.

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Big Ten M5: 01.27.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 27th, 2016

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  1. On Monday, Wisconsin delivered to Indiana its first conference loss of the season when it beat the Hoosiers 82-79 in overtime. The game was dominated by each team’s stars: Nigel Hayes scored 31 points for the Badgers and Yogi Ferrell came back with 30 points of his own for the Hoosiers. Going forward, Wisconsin still has an uphill battle to get back into the bubble picture with upcoming road games against Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa, and Purdue. For Indiana the schedule also gets tougher, but not enough to knock them out a likely top 4 finish thanks to its 7-1 start to the conference.
  2. Speaking of Yogi Ferrell, the senior point guard was awarded Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his career on Monday. It seems shocking this is the first time the former first team All-Big Ten player has received POTW honors, but that just goes to show the talent level of the league. Against Illinois last Tuesday, Ferrell scored 16 points and dished out 9 assists before following it up with a 17 points, 6 assist performance against Northwestern last Saturday. However, despite last night’s second half heroics, Ferrell was unable to lead Indiana to a win at the Kohl Center. But the Hoosiers still have a favorable path to a protected seed in the NCAA Tournament, thanks in large part to their senior point guard.
  3. Another player who had a great performance in Tuesday’s game was Ethan Happ (25 points), who was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Week for a second consecutive time on Monday. Against Penn State last Thursday, the 6’8″ big man scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a Badger victory. One of the biggest reasons for Wisconsin’s current three-game winning streak has been the emergence of Happ as a force on offense and on the boards. If the young forward can keep it going, the Badgers can still make a late run for an NCAA Tournament bid.
  4. Tonight, Purdue travels to Williams Arena to play Minnesota. The Boilermakers hope to get back to their winning ways after dropping another game to Iowa last Saturday – the second loss to the Hawkeyes this season. Also looking to get back on track are two Boilermakers who have struggled  of late: Rapheal Davis and Caleb Swanigan. Both have suffered through a recent offensive lull, with Davis and Swanigan going 7-of-32 combined from the field in the last two games. Davis is still recovering from an injury that caused him to miss four games in December, while Swanigan is managing an ankle issue that may sideline him for tonight’s game. If both players can find their mojo back on offense, the Boilers’ will find the climb back into Big Ten title contention far easier.
  5. Finally, Iowa has been the toast of the league thus far thanks to Jarrod Uthoff’s incredible play – which has firmly entered him into the National Player of the Year conversation. Roman Stubbs from the Washington Post has a good summary of the season for the Hawkeyes in the lead up to their big game at Maryland. According to KenPom, the game at College Park is the most difficult matchup remaining on Iowa’s schedule. If they are able to come out of Thursday’s game with a win, a Big Ten regular season title would become an amazingly realistic scenario for the surging Hawkeyes.
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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 01.22.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 22nd, 2016

After a three-week hiatus, the Weekend Look Ahead is back! The return is well timed: there are four top-notch games that may have lasting impact on both the Big Ten title race and NCAA Tournament seeding. Here are the games to watch in the B1G this weekend:

Denzel Valentine is will try to stop the Spartan's free fall when they host Maryland at home. (Getty)

Denzel Valentine will try to help stop the Spartans’ losing streak when they host Maryland at home Saturday. (Getty)

Northwestern at #25 Indiana (Saturday 12 pm ET, ESPNU). On Tuesday, the Wildcats almost got the marquee win their resume so desperately needs, ultimately losing in overtime at Maryland. Northwestern gets another shot to upset a ranked team on the road when they head to Bloomington on Saturday, while Indiana tries to keep up with Iowa as the only remaining teams undefeated in conference play. In addition to conference race ramifications, this game also treats us to a matchup between Bryant McIntosh and Yogi Ferrell – two of the best point guards in the Big Ten. The Wildcats competed with Maryland largely due to their defense stifling the Terps’ offense (only 0.91 points per possession for Maryland). They’ll have their hands full with an Indiana attack that has been on fire; most recently, it put on a clinic against Illinois in scoring an amazing 1.45 points per possession.

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Big Ten Player of the Year Ladder: Volume Two Part Two

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 21st, 2016

After finishing roughly two months of the college basketball season, it’s time to revisit the leaderboard for the Big Ten Player of the Year race. Injuries have played a role in shaking things up a bit since the last listing, but eight of the ten listed last time are still in the top ten. Isaac Haas has seen his productivity and minutes go down since conference play started and Robert Carter Jr also is off the list for now. Players 6-10 can be seen here, so now here’s the top five.
  • 5. AJ Hammons, Purdue: (13.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 60.8% FG)- In the beginning of the season, Hammons took a back seat to Haas as the sophomore was playing really well. The burly seven-footer has know since reclaimed his starting spot, averaging 14.3 PPG and 2.9 BPG in his last eight games. The blocks only tell half the story, as he alters many more as a presence in the lane. Purdue still has a top ten defense nationally, and Hammons remains one of main reasons why.
  • 4. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: (17.1 PPG, 6.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 44.3% 3’s, 126.1 Offensive Rating)- The Hoosiers were supposed to take a dip once James Blackmon Jr was lost for the season. Instead, they’ve started off league play 6-0 and Ferrell has been the main reason why. He’s averaging 19.2 PPG and 6.3 APG since his backcourt mate went down, and he has now had six games where he has made more than four three-pointers. In a league filled with quality point guards, Ferrell is one of the best.
Yogi Ferrell has Indiana off to an undefeated start in conference play. (Getty).

Yogi Ferrell has Indiana off to an undefeated start in conference play. (Getty).

  • 3. Melo Trimble, Maryland: (13.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 87.8% FT)- Trimble has continued to be at his best in big moments, as his game-winner against Wisconsin displayed. He is the best ball-handler in the conference, and he has continued to improve as a passer. Maryland has to be considered one of a handful of favorites to win the National Championship, and this is partially because they have so many weapons capable of beating people. Trimble has been a master at deferring to his gifted teammates, and he deserves a lot of the credit for the uptick in production from Diamond Stone of late.

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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 8

Posted by Adam Levy on January 15th, 2016

With the college basketball season more than halfway over, who knew that the Big Ten would, statistically, be just the fifth highest rated conference in the country (behind even the Pac-12!)? There’s no doubting that it has been a down year for a conference that has arguably been the nation’s best league over the past five years. Seeing the two best teams in the non-conference season (Michigan State and Purdue) already with two league losses isn’t helping. Surpisingly, Iowa and Indiana stand together atop the standings at 4-0 each, but they are coached by Fran McCaffrey and Tom Crean. How long can this really go on? It’s week eight of the Layup Line.

REPORT CARD

A: John Groce, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn

They only played one game since last Friday, but the Illini sure made the most of what was a huge game Sunday night against Purdue. They were in control from the start thanks to the Batman-and-Robin duo of Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Both juniors continue to have their way with nearly every opponent, but no performance has been as impressive as the one they delivered Sunday. The two combined for 52 points on 17-of-27 shooting and 13-of-17 from the line, while adding 13 rebounds and three blocks. Nunn now leads the Big Ten in scoring (18.8), while Hill ranks third (18.1).

Malcolm Hill Helped The Illini Cruise Past Purdue (USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Hill Helped The Illini Cruise Past Purdue (USA Today Sports)

Best of all, the Illini fulfilled John Groce’s game plan to a T, attacking the nation’s second-best two-point defense (38.2%) all night. The Illini had no problem with Purdue’s major size advantage, shooting 17 of 31 inside the arc, scoring 1.20 points per possession and forcing Purdue into its worst defensive effort of the season. If only Groce had a remotely healthy roster that wasn’t so reliant on Hill and Nunn…

B: Big Ten Point Guards

Overall, it was a great week for a number of Big Ten point guards, starting with Yogi Ferrell. He continued his brilliant play on Sunday against Ohio State, scoring 16 points and adding six assists, five rebounds and three steals. He’s averaging 19.8 points in Big Ten play and has been tasked, as usual, with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player each game. So far, he has lived up to the challenge, slowing down Andrew White, Bronson Koenig and Marc Loving the past three games.

Iowa point guard Mike Gesell earned Player of the Week honors after posting his first career double-double (22 points, 10 assists) in a win over Nebraska. He ranks ninth nationally in assists per game (6.9).

Bryant McIntosh continued to lead a shorthanded Northwestern group, as he dished out 11 assists at Minnesota and picked apart Wisconsin at home to the tune of 28 points, five assists and four rebounds. He ranks seventh nationally in assists per game (7.1).

Melo Trimble struggled in Tuesday’s loss in Ann Arbor, but he did put up 21 points and five assists and hit the game winning three-pointer in Madison on Saturday.

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Big Ten M5: 01.06.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 6th, 2016

morning5_bigten

  1. On Monday, the Big Ten awarded both its Player and Freshman of the Week to the same person for the first time this season: Maryland’s Diamond Stone. The Milwaukee native shot a scorching 73.7 percent from the floor in two games last week, with his coming-out party (39 points and 12 rebounds) occurring last Wednesday in the Terps’ comeback win against Penn State. As Stone continues to improve, so too do the Terps’ Final Four prospects.
  2. Indiana received some devastating news hours before its tipoff against Wisconsin last night when it learned that James Blackmon, Jr. — the team’s second-leading scorer — would miss the remainder of the season after surgery on his right knee. The sophomore guard has been out since the start of conference play, and although it has not yet affected the Hoosiers record, Tom Crean’s team will miss his prolific scoring and elite defense.
  3. Despite the bad news, Indiana protected its home court and earned a tough 59-58 win over the Badgers to move to 3-0 in conference play. Yogi Ferrell led all players with 19 points as Indiana has now won eight straight games with two of their next three against teams outside of the KenPom top 100 (Illinois and Minnesota). This scheduling gift should allow Indiana some time to recalibrate its rotation now that the Hoosiers know Blackmon won’t be returning.
  4. In the late game on Tuesday night, Iowa comfortably beat Nebraska behind Jarrod Uthoff’s 25 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks. The Hawkeyes have put together the most impressive start to conference play at 3-0 with wins over Michigan State and at Purdue. Those performances have garnered Iowa a place back in the Top 25 and strong consideration as a legitimate contender for the Big Ten championship. Iowa will take this coming weekend off before it faces a hungry Michigan State squad that is expecting Denzel Valentine back in the lineup next Thursday.
  5. Finally, Indiana and Iowa aren’t the only Big Ten teams riding winning streaks. Ohio State has now won six straight games, including a victory against #9 Kentucky, that puts the Buckeyes at 10-5 on the season. The Buckeyes have played a weaker schedule to date — including conference wins over Illinois and Minnesota — but will be tested in the next couple weeks as four of their next five games are on the road (including trips to Maryland and Purdue). Then we’ll know whether Thad Matta’s team has really turned a corner this season or simply took advantage of a soft schedule to put some wins together. Their first exam will come tonight at Northwestern.
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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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The Big Ten Player of the Year Ladder: Volume One, Part II

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 16th, 2015

Since we’re a month into the season, we’ve acquired a decent sample size to start ranking and rating how various players have performed. Unfortunately for the sake of this exercise, a certain player from a certain team that is currently ranked number one in the country has been playing out of his freaking mind. Now that the suspense as to who will end up number one and the end of this list has been sufficiently lifted, here’s a brief look at how things stand according to the humble opinion of yours truly. Players #10 through #6 were ranked yesterday, so here’s a look at the top five.

  • 5. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: (16.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 85.1% FT, 49.6 % FG, 135.4 O-Rating) — The Hoosier narrative is that the team has under-performed, and it would be an easy, albeit lazy assumption, to point the finger at the senior point guard. But Ferrell has not been the problem for Indiana. He’s shooting about the same from deep, but he’s finishing at the rim at a significantly higher level. Per hoopmath.com, he’s taking 37 percent of shots at the rim and converting 61.7 percent of the time, compared to 30.8:52.0 percent one year ago. His rebounding, assist, and steals numbers also have gone up to career-high levels as well. Turnovers have been a bugaboo, but the senior floor general has a lower turnover percentage than Mike Gesell, Melo Trimble, and Bryant McIntosh.
Melo Trimble has Maryland rolling so far in 2015-16. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

Melo Trimble has Maryland rolling so far in 2015-16. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

  • 4. Isaac Haas, Purdue: (13.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 63.3% FG, 129.8 O-Rating) — Purdue is number one nationally in overall defensive efficiency, defensive eFG percentage, and is holding opponents to the lowest two-point field goal percentage in all the land. Not to discredit the perimeter defenders that the team has, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Haas and AJ Hammons are a giant-sized reason why. Offensively, you have to figure in the fact the sophomore is putting up the numbers above while only playing 17.9 MPG. KenPom has the center as his number five player in the country in terms of efficiency, and Haas is arguably the most improved player in the conference.

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Big Ten M5: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 11th, 2015

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  1. Hilton Coliseum still isn’t so magical for Iowa. The Hawkeyes got a whopping 30 first-half points from Jarrod Uthoff, 17 points in the first five minutes of the second half from Peter Jok and led by 20 early in the second half. Sounds like enough to win, right? No. The Hawkeyes shot 36.4 percent from the field in the second half, got only two points from Uthoff and turned the ball over three times in the final 65 seconds as the Cyclones came back for an 83-82 win. Iowa State’s Monte Morris hit the game-winner with 8.9 seconds left. The bigger controversy was The Des Moines Register reporter Randy Peterson’s broken leg suffered during the court-rushing after the game. His injury prompted more talk about the dangers and necessity of rushing the court.
  2. Thursday’s only other Big Ten game was Penn State’s 81-67 win over Canisius. The Nittany Lions shot 56 percent from the floor, but their 21 turnovers allowed Canisius to hang around until the end. The biggest storyline was freshman Josh Reaves dropping a series of vicious dunks on the Golden Griffins and finishing two points shy of his first career double-double. Penn State also played the game in its former home arena, Rec Hall, as part of a two-game series called Return to Rec.
  3. After a 24-point loss to SMU Tuesday night, Michigan once again saw its frontcourt exposed on both ends of the floor. The Wolverines’ four post players – Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner – produced a total of four points and eight rebounds against a much more athletic SMU front line. A closer look at Michigan’s frontcourt woes shows that those four players have a combined eight defensive rebounds, nine offensive rebounds and eight made field goals in Michigan’s three losses. Weak production like that will lead to similar results against big teams like Maryland and Purdue.
  4. Ten years after becoming head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Rob Jeter finally beat his former mentor and boss, Bo Ryan. His Panthers erased an 11-point halftime deficit en route to a 68-67 win on Wednesday night. Not only was this just the second loss to Milwaukee in Wisconsin history, but it defied all statistical odds. Among the defied statistical trends: The Badgers have only lost 24 home games in Ryan’s 15 seasons, have lost just 33 games after leading at halftime and have won all but 13 games when they had a better field goal percentage than their opponent. Despite the statistical advantage over the Panthers, Wisconsin’s shooting and depth woes persisted.
  5. Purdue’s defensive numbers are impressively low through the season’s first 10 games. The Boilermakers have allowed just 89.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks second nationally, per KenPom.com. Opponents also shoot just 35.7 percent on twos (first) and have a 37.3 effective field goal percentage (second). While Purdue has knocked off three KenPom top 65 teams, Matt Painter and his players wanted a challenge before having to face elite point guards like Melo Trimble and Yogi Ferrell in conference play. They figured to have one Wednesday night in high-scoring Howard guard James Daniel, who is averaging 28.4 points per game. However, Daniel didn’t play due to injury and Purdue steamrolled the Bison, 93-55.
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 1

Posted by Adam Levy on November 19th, 2015

Welcome to Rush the Court’s first ever edition of Levy’s B1G Layup Line, a weekly column set to give you all the water cooler material you need for all things Big Ten basketball. If you’re reading this, congratulations – you’re losing your virginity to this column, and so am I. We’re now linked together forever as eskimo brothers; if we’re going to embark on this season-long journey together, we may as well check ourselves into the EBDBBnB and enjoy it.

Before we do that, though, let’s break in the 2016 season by recapping what was a very interesting first week in the Big Ten.

REPORT CARD

Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

A: Denzel Valentine

I could make this all about Michigan State’s incredible come-from-behind victory against a rock-solid Kansas team poised to win its 12th straight Big 12 title. But I won’t. Reason being: Denzel Valentine is a freak of nature. The captain of both a veteran Spartans’ team and the “How is He Still In College?” team made history on Tuesday night in front of 50+ NBA executives and scouts at the United Center, becoming the fourth player in Michigan State history to post a triple-double (Magic Johnson – 8; Draymond Green – 3; Charlie Bell – 1) with an absurd 29/12/12 stat line and earning himself a postgame phone call from Magic Johnson. Valentine scored or assisted on 22 straight points in the second half to dig his team out of an 11-point hole and give Sparty a permanent lead. Without him, Michigan State loses by over 20. You don’t usually see the best individual performance of the season happen in mid-November, but this very well may have been it.

B: Caleb Swanigan

Speaking of Michigan State, their favorite non-Spartan had himself a weeeek. He recorded a double-double in each of his first two collegiate games (12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game), earning his first Freshman of the Week honor in as many tries. With two massive seven-foot centers and no big to stretch the floor last season, Swanigan was the key missing variable to solving Purdue’s frontcourt equation. Now that AJ Hammons is back, it’s absolutely terrifying to think about what that frontcourt is capable of doing.

C: Maryland Terrapins

You’d be hard pressed to find a basketball fan out there who didn’t think Maryland was a top-five team nationally heading into the season. What those people need to be reminded of is that 60.0 percent of this team’s starting five is brand new (Rasheed Sulaimon; Robert Carter; Diamond Stone). It will take more than a week for Mark Turgeon to mold the clay and allow his team time to develop chemistry and learn to play together. It was no surprise to see Maryland struggle to put away a gritty Georgetown team in a game where Melo Trimble did not score until about five minutes left in the first half. And after all that talk about Maryland’s top notch frontcourt, it was the Terps’ small-ball lineup (Jake Layman at the four; Carter at the five) – the method that led to their 28 wins last season – that won out. Sure, a win’s a win. But this thing will take a little time. Patience, people.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 12th, 2015

With the season tipping off on Friday, there’s no better time to roll out our the RTC Preseason All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion over the next four months. Our crack panel of seven national columnists provided ballots over the last week and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

first_team_2015_16

  • Kris Dunn, Providence (UNANIMOUS) – Dunn enters his junior season after a finally healthy campaign where he averaged 15.6 points and 7.5 assists per game in leading Providence to its second straight NCAA Tournament. While his numbers show he is a triple-double threat every night, he needs to be watched in order to understand just how good he is. He ranked first in the country last season with a 50.0 percent assist rate; he was named co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year; and he recorded a steal once every 20 defensive possessions for the Friars. The quintessential floor leader does it all for his team and he does it at an awe-inspiring level. Factoid: The television show “Friends” may have aired its last episode in 2004, but that has not stopped Dunn from apparently becoming an avid fan of the series. Could we see the likes of Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer show up at Dunkin’ Donuts Center to root Dunn’s team on before season’s end?
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland – Maryland was quite successful in its inaugural Big Ten season as the team advanced to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010. Those Terrapins were unquestionably led by senior guard Dez Wells, but now that he has graduated, Trimble will take over as the team’s heart and soul. The sophomore guard turned in a highly impressive freshman season where he averaged 16.2 points per game and shot a respectable 41.2 percent from behind the three-point line. Expectations are high this season in College Park, and Trimble will be a big reason why if Maryland ultimately meets its goals. Factoid: Trimble spent a portion of last summer playing for Team USA at the Pan American Games. At 20 years old, he was the youngest player selected to the squad by Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year returns to Norman for his senior season. After terrorizing conference foes throughout both his sophomore (16.5 PPG) and junior (17.4 PPG) years, Hield will look to take his game to an even higher level during his final collegiate go-around. When he bypassed the NBA Draft last spring, the junior guard noted, “I just can’t wait to see what Coach Kruger has in mind for next year. I know we’re going to be a really good team.” It’s difficult to argue with Hield’s assertion there. Factoid: Hield, a native of the Bahamas, says that his self-proclaimed “Bahamian Swagger” is something he developed while growing up on the island chain with his single mother and six brothers and sisters.
  • Ben Simmons, LSU (UNANIMOUS) – The 2015 Gatorade National Player of the Year arrives in Baton Rouge accompanied by a great deal of hype. When looking at the freshman’s prep statistics, it’s easy to understand why expectations surrounding him are so high. In 29 regular season games as a senior, he averaged 28.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 70.7 percent from the field and collecting 24 double-doubles. Factoid: Former LSU great Shaquille O’Neal called Simmons “the best player in the world” when he introduced the prep star to his many Instagram followers last November.
  • Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga – Wiltjer returns to the fold at Gonzaga after a junior season where he averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on his way to becoming a consensus second-team All-American. At 6’10”, Wiltjer’s long-range shooting makes him a nightmarish match-up for Zags’ opponents — he shot a sizzling 54 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from behind the three-point line a season ago. Factoid: When Wiltjer arrived in Spokane following his transfer from Kentucky, Wildcats head coach John Calipari called Gonzaga coach Mark Few and told him how good of a post scorer Wiltjer can be, even though he never really had a chance to show that part of his game in Lexington.

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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.

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