Evaluating Big Ten’s Sophomore Class of 2013-14: Yogi Ferrell

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on August 16th, 2013

Deepak is a columnist for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

With less than three months left until the college season tips off, we at the RTC Big Ten Microsite are here to get you excited about the stars who are returning next season and ready to take on the responsibility of leading their teams to conference glory. Over the next few weeks, we plan to evaluate a number of key Big Ten sophomores who will have an impact on their team’s performance throughout the entire season. Today, we focus on Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell.

A point guard who is rated among the top 30 players in his class by various recruiting services should expect to play a significant role in his team’s offense as a freshman. But Yogi Ferrell had a different set of rules for his first season in Bloomington because Tom Crean’s team already had All-Americans such as Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo as well as other talented upperclassmen like Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls on board to carry the load. Nonetheless, Ferrell made the most of his rookie campaign by cracking the starting rotation and averaging 7.6 PPG while playing a strong 28.1 MPG. Deferring to his teammates to score in a high-powered offense may not have been easy for the freshman point guard, but his patience will pay off next season when he will be responsible for running Crean’s offense and will by necessity become one of the primary scoring options for the Hoosiers. He will have the opportunity to shine as a sophomore but let’s evaluate the parts of his game that will need to improve in order for him to make the leap next season.

Yogi Ferrell will drive the Hoosiers' offense next season.

Yogi Ferrell will drive the Hoosiers’ offense next season.

What did we learn from him last year?

Last season proved that Ferrell is a great fit for an offensive scheme designed to push the ball up the court and create opportunities for the wings to either drive to the basket or pull up for shots from beyond the arc. He displayed tremendous speed in transition, leading to plentiful open looks for sharpshooters such as Hulls and Watford. Without such a speedy point guard pushing the ball upcourt, Crean’s offense wouldn’t have led the Big Ten in tempo at 65.7 possessions per game. The freshman averaged 4.6 APG with an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1, not at all shabby for a player navigating a conference that boasts numerous elite defenses. After 30+ games in his career, we now know that he is great in transition, but we haven’t seen as much from him in the half-court. Considering the talent on last year’s roster, there were no plays called for him but in key spots his jumper looked decent even though it wasn’t very consistent (30% from beyond the arc). Despite his middling shooting percentage, he showed a quick release and was not hesitant to pull the trigger if there was an open look from outside. In summary, Ferrell has proven that he has the fundamental skills to succeed in Crean’s offense, but he will need to be more judicious with his shot selection going forward.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 83, #16 James Madison 62

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Indiana and #16 James Madison. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. In Case You Were Wondering, Indiana Can Score — The best offense in the country unleashed its full arsenal this afternoon, bombarding James Madison with drives, post feeds, threes, and pull-up jumpers. Getting to play their first non-Big Ten defense in 20 games seemed to release a pressure valve for the Hoosiers, and the scoring came pouring forth. The rub is that their defense remains a step behind their offense, and teams that are physical, slow the game down, and pound the glass pose a threat. Temple may not be able to pull off the upset, but looking down the line, a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse is a real concern for the Hoosiers.

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three-point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

  2. IU’s Size Advantage Paid Off — The Dukes have big strong guards, but in part due to injuries, they are sorely lacking in size inside. They paid for it against IU, getting outscored 36-20 in the paint and 16-2 at the free throw line. The Hoosiers had lots of offensive tools that they deployed in this game, but a feed to Zeller in the post almost always resulted in a bucket or free throws. And at the other end, the Dukes, who normally make 65 percent of their shots at the rim, managed to shoot just 33 percent in the first half on layups. Struggling to gain traction inside, they turned into a pure jump-shooting team, taking only three shots at the rim in the second half. The Dukes’ leading scorer, 6’6″ power forward Rayshawn Goins, was particularly ineffective, scoring only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
  3. Will Sheehey Was On His Game – Will Sheehey, the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year, is a key X-factor for Indiana. The Hoosiers’ offense is that much more complete when Sheehey is on his game. He’s been prone to disappearing lately, scoring just two points in three of IU’s last seven games, and seeing his scoring average dip into single digits. But today, he came off the bench to score 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting. If he can repeat this kind of performance against tougher opponents, IU could be Dancing all the way to Atlanta.

Star of the Game: Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is the oft-forgotten man in IU’s formidable starting five, but he made a grand debut on the NCAA Tournament stage, scoring 14 of IU’s first 18 points and assisting on the other four by feeding Zeller for dunks. Ferrell’s one-man onslaught gave the Hoosiers an early, impregnable lead. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. With all four of his starting mates likely to leave IU, the former McDonald’s All-American and top 25 recruit will be Indiana’s focal point and leader in the coming years.

Quotable: Indiana coach Tom Crean on the worry that bruising Big Ten season would wear Indiana down too much:  “That goes through your head. I’d be lying to say it didn’t.”

Sights & Sounds: The NCAA allows teams a very specific number of bench seats, so Indiana was forced to put a half dozen of its players — including two scholarship athletes — in the stands behind the scorers’ table. The biggest victim of this unusual situation was the petite IU fan, decked out in a Hoosiers jersey, who got stuck sitting behind seven-foot freshman center Peter Jurkin and spent the game trying to crane her neck around him.

Wildcard: Although the Hoosiers have been the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation over the course of the season, they’ve hit just 33 percent of their attempts over the last six games, during which they’ve gone 3-3. This afternoon, they shot 9-of-22 from behind the arc.

What’s Next? Indiana will return to Dayton Arena on Sunday to face Temple, looking for the 22nd Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history.

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #3 Indiana 80, Illinois 64

Posted by WCarey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center following Friday’s matchup between Indiana and Illinois. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Cody Zeller was dominant. The All-American big man picked up where he left off after a sensational performance in Sunday’s victory over Michigan. Once again, Zeller was the go-to guy for the Indiana offense against Illinois, as he finished the afternoon with 24 points and nine rebounds. With the ball in his hands on the low block, the talented sophomore was able to do pretty much whatever he wanted against the Illini interior for the duration of the game. Zeller’s presence on the defensive end of the court was also quite notable as he anchored a Hoosiers’defense that did not let anything come easy for the Illinois offensive attack. There have been instances this season where Zeller’s production has not matched his level of talent, but if he can continue to put forth performances like he has in his last two games, there will be no ceiling on Indiana’s postseason hopes.
  2. Indiana’s defensive effort in the first half was phenomenal. ESPN analyst Dan Dakich tweeted at halftime that he and legendary Indiana radio announcer Don Fischer believed that the first half against Illinois was the best defensive half that the Hoosiers had played all year. The two men had a point as the Hoosiers were just suffocating on that end of the court for the first 20 minutes. The Illini were held to just 25.9% shooting in the first half and had to settle for many difficult looks due to the intense defensive pressure. The Hoosiers also forced Illinois into eight first half turnovers – many of which resulted in great transition opportunities. Illinois guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson were a combined 3-of-13 from the field and by containing the Illini’s two best scorers, Indiana was able to open up a 14-point halftime lead. Victor Oladipo rightfully gets most of the credit for Indiana’s strong defensive performances, but the Hoosiers have really made strides as a team in-terms of their defensive effort.
    Cody Zeller was all over the court Friday afternoon. (AP)

    Cody Zeller was all over the court Friday afternoon. (AP)

    Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 4th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. March is upon us and as teams wind down their regular season over the next week, they will also honor the senior classes during the last home game. Illinois seniors – D.J.Richardson, Brandon Paul, Sam McLaurin, Tyler Griffey – did not want to lose their last home to Nebraska, a team that they couldn’t afford to lose on Saturday. Fortunately for them, Tracy Abrams chipped in 16 points to lead the Illini to a 72-65 win over the Cornhuskers and the seniors were very emotional in Champaign. “I was under my shirt crying,’’ said guard Brandon Paul, who evidently shed a few tears after the grind-it-out victory. The Illini finish the regular season with two road games against Iowa and Ohio State; they could use one more win to lock in a good seed for the NCAA tournament.
  2. While the Illini seniors won their last home, the Badgers’ senior class were upset by the Boilermakers on Sunday. Matt Painter’s team stunned the Badgers by beating them 69-56 and dominated for most of the second half at the Kohl Center. Mike Breuesewitz, Ryan Evans, and Jared Bergren shot a combined 9-24 from the field in a loss that will be booked under the “bad” category by the selection committee on Selection Sunday. “They were just hitting tough shots. This game kind of reminded me of the Cornell game my freshman year,” Evans said, referring to the 2010 NCAA tournament game in which the Big Red shot 61.1 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from three in an 87-69 defeat of the Badgers.
  3. Senior guard Julian Welch (3.3 PPG and 1.6 APG) of the Gophers had a great performance on Saturday against Penn State by scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists. Welch hasn’t seen much playing time during the season so far because Tubby Smith has used a tight rotation, but this performance could catapult his minutes over the next few weeks as they get ready for the postseason. “It’s just been hard for him to get into the lineup,” Smith said. “It’s always tough when you’re a senior and a junior college transfer and the expectations were to play a lot more. But he showed a lot of character in stepping up today. I’ve got a lot more confidence in him now.”
  4. Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes have had some issues offensively over the past two weeks and the first half against Indiana over the weekend was no different because they only scored 14 points. The Hoosiers led 26-14 at the halftime and pulled away to win 73-60 at home as they inch towards a Big Ten title. “I wouldn’t call it a freeze-up,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It was a really good defensive effort by a good defensive team.” The Hawkeyes can’t afford to fall behind in the first half on Tuesday against the Illini because they could really use that game to make a case for the Selection Committe that they deserve a bid to the NCAA tournament.
  5. Speaking of the Hoosiers, freshman Yogi Ferrell scored a career-high 19 points and dished out five assists against the Hawkeyes. Senior guard Jordan Hulls has struggled against Iowa, shooting 0-17 during the two games this season, but Ferrell had a huge offensive game. After the game, head coach Tom Crean said,  “Tonight he went to the rim and didn’t try to get the contact. In the Minnesota game, he tried to get the contact, and he didn’t get either. Tonight he really focused on making the basket, and he did a much better job with that.” Ferrell hasn’t carried the offensive load this season but having a game like this one should help his confidence as the Hoosiers get ready to make a run at the Final Four and potential the national title.
Share this story

Evaluating Big Ten Freshmen After the Non-Conference Season: Part One

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 31st, 2012

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Historically, Big Ten coaches have not relied on their freshmen to contribute significantly because most of their players tend to stick around for at least two seasons in the conference. But this season is different because there are three schools that expect their freshmen to be a big part of their offense – Indiana, Michigan and Iowa. All three of these programs signed a top 30 recruiting class and in addition, Michigan State and Wisconsin also signed top 50 freshmen for this season. Let’s evaluate the top freshmen in the B1G as the schools have now wrapped up the non-conference part of their schedule.

Nik Stauskas(left) may be the most important freshman for the Wolverines.

Nik Stauskas(left) may be the most important freshman for the Wolverines.

Michigan: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas 

McGary and Robinson were expected to contribute immediately which justified Michigan’s top five ranking in the preseason. McGary was supposed to add depth to the frontcourt and help Jordan Morgan but he hasn’t been able to find his rhythm in Ann Arbor after 13 games. The forward has had a tough time staying out of foul trouble and will need to improve his footwork in order to become more effective for John Beilein. He is extremely efficient on the boards – 5.6 RPG in just 14.6 MPG – but does not look for his shot much (5.7 PPG) because the offense primarily runs through the wings and guards. Speaking of the wings, Robinson has not disappointed at all by averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG so far this season. He has great range on his jumper and has shown that he is willing to crash the boards as well. More important than his statistics is his ability to play alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. Both have similar skill sets but Robinson already has a great understanding of the John Beilein’s offense and is very efficient with this shot selection (62.1% eFG). While Robinson has met preseason expectations, his teammate Stauskas has exceeded them and has been the most important freshman of all for the Wolverines. Coming out of high school, the scouts knew that he had a good jumper but his long-range shooting this year has been off the charts – 57% from distance. Trey Burke and Hardaway carry the bulk on the offense but neither of them shoot exceptionally well from beyond the arc – at 38% and 35%, respectively. Stauskas allows John Beilein to spread the floor and gets open looks from the perimeter due to the dribble-drive kick out passes by Burke. It will be tough for him to continue shooting at such a blistering rate but as long as he moves around to open spots in the offense, Stauskas will play an important role in what could be a special season for the Wolverines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Night Line: Indiana Displays Just Some Of Its Potential In 24-Point Blowout of UNC

Posted by EJacoby on November 28th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that evening’s games.

So this is why Indiana garnered the #1 preseason ranking for the 2012-13 season. Despite coming into Tuesday night’s game with a 6-0 record and 32-point average margin of victory, the AP poll’s top-ranked Hoosiers had yet to produce a statement performance to legitimize their candidacy as the best squad in all of college hoops. It took overtime to dispose of previously unranked Georgetown last week, and Tom Crean’s team faced another tough test with the Tar Heels coming to town for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Indiana did not fool around this time, easily disposing of North Carolina, 83-59, in a game that showcased a tantalizing display of offensive basketball by the Hoosiers from start to finish. All doubts about IU’s true “top-seed upside” are quelled for the time being after it ran a young-but-explosive UNC team off the floor in Bloomington by out-executing and out-smarting the Tar Heels; even in an imperfect shooting night.

Cody Zeller and Indiana soared past North Carolina on Tuesday night (AP Photo)

For long stretches of Tuesday night’s game, the Hoosiers – ranked #2 in this week’s RTC Top 25 – played a completely flawless brand of unselfish basketball. Crisp passes flew around the Assembly Hall floor at seemingly light speed, leaving the Carolina defense with no chance to rotate quick enough to challenge IU’s knockdown outside shooters or strong post finishers. Strong outlet passes from forwards reached lead guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls before UNC could catch up, and the Hoosiers converted time and time again in transition. Indiana totaled 21 assists on 33 made field goals through its balanced attack. The game film of this 24-point blowout ought to become its own best-selling clinic video in ball movement, as IU converted at 1.12 points per possession against the #14-ranked team in the country. Tonight’s IU assist total (21) outpaced that of the leading team in that category nationally (Maryland, 19.3 per game), and the performance boosted IU up to the top offensive efficiency rating (125.5) in the nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Team Previews: Indiana Hoosiers

Posted by jnowak on November 5th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Indiana Hoosiers.

Where We Left Off: The Hoosiers had what many figured would be this year, last year. (That confusing enough for ya?) Meaning, Indiana overreached moderate expectations for a young squad that was expected to round into a Top-10 squad this season with a more mature Cody Zeller and a highly-touted recruiting class to be mixed in with a couple veterans. But when Zeller and Tom Crean revived Assembly Hall with thrilling home victories against then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State (not to mention a victory against Crean’s mentor, Tom Izzo, and No. 5 Michigan State), the basketball world realized that Indiana is finally back. And they are here to stay. The Hoosiers are the consensus No. 1 team in the country, with Zeller a near unanimous preseason All-America selection and a favorite for college basketball’s player of the year. Then, couple seniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford with Rivals.com’s fifth-ranked incoming freshman class, and this team is loaded from top to bottom. The Hoosiers ended last season with a Sweet Sixteen loss to eventual champion Kentucky, but Indiana has its sights set on much more this year.

Cody Zeller is the face of the Hoosiers this season. And for good reason.

Positives: When talking about the positives, you have to start with Zeller. He’s the best big man in the country heading into his sophomore campaign, after averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG as a freshman. He has good footwork, runs the floor exceptionally well, and has a great nose for the ball. There’s no reason the Indiana offense shouldn’t move through him on every possession. And that brings us to the roles of Hulls and Watford. As seniors on team that will get a lot of its scoring from underclassmen — namely Zeller and freshman Yogi Ferrell, and though Victor Oladipo is a junior, he doesn’t exactly have three years of solid game experience — Watford and Hulls should have the know-how and the presence of mind to get the ball in and out of the post and through Zeller every trip downcourt. This depth and balance of scoring talent and Big Ten experience will do wonders for the Hoosiers this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 1st, 2012

  1. This is almost certainly not the way John Beilein and Michigan wanted to start a 2012-13 campaign that’s so filled with promise. Because of an unspecified “violation of team standards,” sophomore point guard and preseason All-American Trey Burke will sit out the team’s season debut when it takes on Northern Michigan in an exhibition game Thursday in Ann Arbor. Burke broke the university record for assists in a season last year, but it’ll be freshman Spike Albrecht starting in his place during the one-game suspension and handling the assist duties for the Wolverines. “Trey will sit out the first game as a result of some ‘out of character’ decisions he now regrets,” Beilein said in a statement, according to AnnArbor.com. “We believe he has learned a valuable lesson and we are confident he will grow from this experience.” This does not seem like a situation that will adversely affect the Wolverines’ regular season, but nobody likes to start the season with a distraction like this.
  2. If there’s one way to describe Ohio State over the last few years, it may be that less is more. The Buckeyes have been regular Big Ten and national title contenders over the last decade or so, but they’ve never done it with much depth. This year could bring something Buckeye fans aren’t used to. Coach Thad Matta indicated this week that Ohio State will be rotating more players than usual this season, with a possibility for six or seven different lineups. Things did not go off without a hitch in the Buckeyes’ exhibition opener on Tuesday — a 83-71 win over Walsh College — but Matta did tinker with the lineup, sending out a different starting five at the beginning of the game then again after halftime. Ten players saw the floor for Ohio State, and eight played at least 14 minutes. If this stays true to form, that many Matta-recruited top-notch athletes over the course of 40 minutes could give teams fits this year.
  3. As for the depth at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers took a hit in advance of their first exhibition game with an injury to freshman Wally Ellenson. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune,  the 6-foot-4 guard broke a bone in the middle finger of his left hand during a rebounding drill this week when it got caught on a teammate’s jersey. Coach Tubby Smith said it was a clean break and it is expected to keep Ellenson out of game action for 6-8 weeks. Now, Smith says, a redshirt could be in order. “He was playing well and he probably wasn’t going to be [redshirted], but it’s going to be something that we’re going to probably consider at this juncture,” Smith said.
  4. If you have any doubt that the state of Indiana is basketball mecca, just tune into Big Ten basketball this season to see some of the conference’s brightest young stars who hail from the Hoosier State. It’ll be players like Gary Harris at Michigan State, Glenn Robinson at Michigan and Yogi Ferrell at Indiana who are expected to make an instant impact when they suit up as first-year players. Purdue will also rely on the young talent of in-state talent with Ronnie Johnson on the rise. And that’s just the short list. For some more Indiana-bred talent, check out Michael Pointer’s story from the Indianapolis Star. Or just stay tuned for what ought to be an awesome season of hoops in the Midwest.
  5. Evidently, Purdue basketball will be a name game this season. As Jeff Washburn writes, if the Boilermakers’ exhibition opener is any indication, Big Ten fans can get used to hearing about the Johnsons in West Lafayette this winter. Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson and Ronnie Johnson led the way for Purdue in its 70-61 win against Montevallo on Tuesday night, and those three are expected to be at the forefront all year long. As mentioned earlier, Ronnie is a highly-touted freshman with a big future while Terone and Anthony will also help provide formidable backcourt depth. They combined for 47 of Purdue’s 70 points in the exhibition game.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The news coming out of Minnesota hasn’t been great recently, first with Trevor Mbakwe’s DUI and then assistant coach Saul Smith’s arrest on suspicion of DUI. Needless to say, the Golden Gophers are ready for the season to begin to put their offseason troubles behind them. However, to lighten the mood, here’s something everyone in America undoubtedly wants to see: Tubby Smith doing “Gangnam Style”. Tubby actually isn’t too bad, though he messes up the parts of the dance a couple of times. Women’s coach Pam Borton clearly had practiced for her routine. The dance was part of the Gophers’ “All Star Friday Night,” which included a dunk contest and a scrimmage to go along with the awful dancing.
  2. Iowa also held its kickoff event — the Black and Gold Blowout — this week, including a dunk contest and a scrimmage. Senior Eric May won the dunk contest with an alley-oop off a header. However, the highlight of the night might have been coach Fran McCaffery entering in a yellow Corvette. Scott Dochterman of The Cedar Rapids Gazette has some good stuff on the Blowout, including this nugget: The Hawkeyes had roughly 5,000 fans show up for the event, but the school averaged only 5,500 fans per game in May’s freshman season. This telling statistic shows that the Hawkeyes have certainly come a long way in two short years under McCaffery, both on and off the court.
  3. Last year, Purdue was one of the smaller teams in the Big Ten, sometimes relying on forward Robbie Hummel to take on a “center” role. That team was successful because of its experience and deadly perimeter shooting, but while this year’s team will be inexperienced, it will allow the Boilermakers to sport a more traditional-looking lineup. In fact, Matt Painter hasn’t had this much depth in the frontcourt in his eight years as coach at Purdue, writes Jeff Washburn of the Journal and Courier. The Boilermakers have added four-star, seven-foot center AJ Hammons, as well as four-star forward Jay Simpson to their frontcourt. Overall, Purdue will have six players who are at least 6’8″ or taller this season. It may be a young team in West Lafayette, but it will certainly be a talented one, as well.
  4. This doesn’t have much of a bearing on current news, but a friend pointed it out the other day and it’s an interesting point. This year, Northwestern will open its season against Texas Southern, and while that’s a game that typically wouldn’t have many storylines, it’s actually quite intriguing for several off-court reasons. Northwestern is one of only 17 schools to have never had a major NCAA violation. Texas Southern, however, is a walking NCAA violation. As pointed out by ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan, “Texas Southern is awful at following rules.” The Tigers were cited for “lack of institutional control” and the report on their transgressions is mind-boggling, as “the university allowed 129 student-athletes in 13 sports during seven academic years to compete and receive financial aid and travel expenses when they were ineligible.” There’s plenty more in the report, but the most hilarious thing is that Texas Southern is considered a “double repeat violator.” So this November, the goody-two-shoes of the NCAA will take on the double repeat violator. It should make for an interesting storyline, regardless of the yawner that is likely to occur on the court.
  5. CBS Sports put out its list of the 50 best point guards in college basketball, and the Big Ten was well-represented with two players in the top four and five overall. Michigan’s Trey Burke was the top-ranked point guard in the conference at No. 3, while Ohio State’s Aaron Craft came in right behind him at No. 4. Penn State’s Tim Frazier was No. 15, Michigan State’s Keith Appling was No. 28, and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell round’s out the Big Ten’s representation at No. 33. Ferrell made the list on speculation alone, but the first four are proven and all obvious choices for the list. The only two point guards better than Burke, according to CBS?  Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan and Missouri’s Phil Pressey, who check in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 17th, 2012

  1. Good freshman classes are usually not dominated by only one player. Indiana freshman Yogi Ferrell may just end up starting at the point guard position for most of the upcoming season but his classmate Hanner Mosquera-Perea has also been very impressive in practice so far. Tom Crean spoke recently about his early impressions of Mosquera-Perea and views his game as bringing a different angle to the Hoosiers. The freshman forward is recovering well from a foot injury he suffered over the summer and hopes to play an integral role on the front line off the bench. Derek Elston (2.4 RPG) will be the complementary big man to Cody Zeller (6.6 RPG) but Perea can earn some minutes if he commits to crashing the boards and playing solid defense in the paint.
  2. Michigan State needs a primary scoring option this season after the graduation of All-American Draymond Green. Tom Izzo will look to returning guard Keith Appling and the junior guard does not want to disappoint his team. Appling has been working on his jumper after shooting only 25% from beyond the arc as a sophomore. Making 500 shots a day will certainly help his shooting form and he hopes to become more efficient with it as the Spartans look to give Indiana a run at the Big Ten title. Appling averaged 11.4 PPG last year and will undoubtedly be the primary scoring threat especially during the non-conference season until freshman Gary Harris gets used to the speed of the college game.
  3. Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith can only hope that his star forward Trevor Mbakwe will stay out of trouble during the season. A healthy Mbakwe is key, but Smith more importantly needs him to stay disciplined and focused on the court. Mbakwe has consistently been in some sort of trouble the past several years and has one final chance to help the Gophers make the NCAA Tournament again. He averaged 10.5 RPG before injuring himself last season and he can be a formidable presence in the paint if he can play consistently. After the departure of Ralph Sampson III (4.6 RPG), the Gophers need his rebounding if they hope to compete for the top half of the conference standings.
  4. Speaking of big guys and the need for rebounding, Michigan’s Mitch McGary will flex his muscle this season in Ann Arbor. McGary is 6’10″ and weighs 250 lbs., which should help John Beilein with regards to rebounding as Jordan Morgan desperately needs help in the paint. Morgan averaged 5.6 RPG last season but the Wolverines struggled when he got into foul trouble and couldn’t stay on the floor during key stretches of the game. McGary has impressed the coaches and his teammates with his energy and personality during preseason practice. Having a good personality is a huge positive for McGary, especially if he hopes to mesh efficiently with a star-studded Wolverines squad that features explosive fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III and returning wing Tim Hardaway, Jr.
  5. Former Indiana head coach Bobby Knight continues to remain in the headlines. Knight, who has acted as a regular commentator on Big 12 games for ESPN, has been assigned to the SEC for the 2012-13 season and is scheduled to call two Kentucky games. Why is this a big deal? It is because Knight has been vocal about Kentucky’s approach to recruiting, specifically voicing his issues with John Calipari’s strategies. Knight called the “one-and-done” player a “disgrace” to college hoops and is clearly not a fan of the current state of Kentucky basketball. Regardless of Knight’s views about Kentucky, he makes for an interesting watch anytime he calls a game for ESPN.
Share this story

Three Thoughts From Indiana’s Televised Practice on ESPNU

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 15th, 2012

Indiana head coach Tom Crean did not enter the Assembly Hall on a motorcycle. He neither dressed up as a superhero nor did he set up the first official practice with thousands of fans in the arena. He did, however, have the TV cameras rolling as he held the first practice with arguably the best college basketball team in the nation last Friday. ESPN’s Brian Weinstein, Jay Williams and Dan Dakich were present in Bloomington for Indiana’s practice and it was aired on ESPNU. You can catch the replay of the practice on ESPN3 right now if you’re so inclined.

Tom Crean opened up Indiana’s first practice to ESPN on the eve of Midnight Madness.

Crean was his usual self marching up and down the court, brimming with energy, a sight that Hoosier fans have been accustomed to for four years. He had a microphone attached and went through several drills while the ESPN crew discussed Indiana basketball for the upcoming season. The following are a few observations/thoughts from the practice:

  1. Maurice Creek: Every Hoosier fan and even Big Ten fans are eager to see guard Maurice Creek back in action this season. Creek couldn’t play much over the past two seasons due to knee injuries and he practiced with pads on both of his knees. Creek was supposed to help Verdell Jones III during Crean’s earlier seasons to revive IU basketball but he has been consistently sidelined with injuries. Creek was shown on the telecast running some pick-and-pop situations to display the quick release on his jumper. Along with returning guard Will Sheehey (8.6 PPG), Creek will be one of the primary scoring options off the bench. His conditioning may take some time to get up to par but there is enough depth on this squad for him to catch up by the middle of the conference season. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 9th, 2012

  1. The preseason accolades continue to flow in for the Indiana Hoosiers. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller was selected to the pre-season All-American team by CBSSports.com and was also selected as their player of the year. Zeller’s selection should come as no surprise but he is accompanied by a few other talented teammates who are just as important if Indiana hopes to make a run at the title – freshman Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell, senior guard Christian Watford and junior wing Victor Oladipo. Ferrell will need to share point guard duties with senior guard Jordan Hulls and Oladipo needs to assert himself as the defensive stopper for the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers gave up 1.06 points per possession last season and need to be more consistent on defense against teams that have similar offensive talent.
  2. Wisconsin’s big men have always been unique in their style but also very efficient. Bo Ryan’s former players such as Jon Leuer and Mike Wilkinson had amazing shooting range but also improved their inside game as they progressed through their college careers. Senior forward Jared Berggren hopes to have a similar impact during his final upcoming season for the Badgers. ESPN interviewed the big man about the upcoming season and his experience in playing for Bo Ryan. Berggren improved his game tremendously during last offseason by increasing his average from 2.5 PPG during his sophomore campaign to 10.5 PPG during his junior season. By Ryan will need Berggren to contribute heavily on the offensive end to pick up the slack after Jordan Taylor’s departure, especially during the non-conference season until stud freshman Sam Dekker gets acquainted with the offensive schemes.
  3. The Jared Uthoff saga at Wisconsin has been well documented over the last few months. He wanted to transfer out of Wisconsin but there were certain restrictions in place with respect to his final destination. But after an intense offseason, Uthoff will finally begin practicing with Iowa this week. Uthoff is very excited to be at Iowa and believes that he can add depth to Fran McCaffery’s frontcourt. The 6’8″ wing should fit in well with an up-tempo Hawkeyes offense that averaged 65.8 possessions per game last season and ranked first in the Big Ten. He was also named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 2011 but will be not be able to play this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Uthoff will learn a fair amount during practice from such key returning players as Roy Devyn Marble who averaged 11.5 PPG and 3.6 APG and is hoped to lead Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament over the next two seasons.
  4. Speaking of new faces on campus in the Big Ten, the Michigan freshmen class is considered as one of the best in the country. Featuring two top 75 players - forward Mitch McGary and wing Glenn Robinson III – the class is supposed to aid an already star-studded roster for the Wolverines. MGoBlue.com has compiled a video that introduces the five freshman to Big Ten fans. McGary will add some size to the frontcourt in addition to junior forward Jordan Morgan who averaged 5.6 RPG game last season. The Wolverines ranked tenth in offensive rebounding (25.8%) in conference play last season and will need a more consistent presence in the paint if they hope to make a run at the Final Four. Robinson will add depth to the scoring attack in addition to Tim Hardaway, Jr., who averaged 14.6 PPG last year.
  5. In addition to compiling videos to introduce the freshmen to the fan base, schools also host events as part of  Midnight Madness celebrations to let the fans get their first peek of the team in live action. And when it comes to this annual event, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo never ceases to surprise Spartan fans with his antics. What will Izzo’s grand entrance be this year? Nobody knows. In the past, Izzo has shown up to the event on a motorcycle, on a horse and in the old-school Volkswagen van. Izzo’s demeanor on the sidelines can be very intimidating during the games but he has always shown his lighter side during these opening practice events. MSU will host their latest event this upcoming weekend which is also Homecoming weekend in East Lansing.
Share this story