A Quality Performance Today in Indianapolis is a Must For Iowa

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 13th, 2014

You could make a case for any number of Big Ten teams really needing to show out at the Big Ten Tournament if they hope to make a run in the bigger March tournament. Minnesota is situated squarely on the bubble after finishing with a conference record of 8-10. Nebraska was inhabiting the same patch of bubble real estate until their win over Wisconsin. They should be in the field of 68 now, but another win would be nice for their collective peace of mind. Michigan State wants to prove that they are worthy of the preseason hype they generated with their team all back from their different injuries. Indiana and Illinois need to win four games in four days to get there. But Iowa has the most to prove out of anybody in the field. They’ve plummeted from a potential #3 or #4 seed, to a team that with an early loss, could be looking at double-digit territory. So how do the Hawkeyes fix things to get back on track?

Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Ogelsby need big games for Iowa to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. (John Schultz/Quad City Times)

Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Ogelsby need big games for Iowa to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. (John Schultz/Quad City Times)

  • Fix the Defense Immediately: Here’s a quick breakdown of what the Hawkeyes have given up in their last six games in terms of points per possession: 1.22, 1.32.1.12, 1.06, 1.26, and 1.12. Even in their lone victory in the bunch over Purdue, they still allowed the Boilermakers to shoot 49.1% from the field. On their KenPom page under defensive footprint, it says inconclusive. Nothing sums up their lack of a defensive identity better than that. They do a decent job blocking shots and Roy Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell do a pretty good job getting into the passing lanes and getting steals. But in their recent rough patch they’ve given up far too many easy baskets in the paint. Whether it means extending their zone press and getting more aggressive with it (which they have the depth to do), or just hanging back and sticking to either a man-to-man or a zone, Iowa needs to pick a style and go with it. I don’t know if their is confusion about what their responsibilities are, or that they just don’t care because they think they can outscore people. Either way, what they’re doing right now isn’t working, and hasn’t for a number of games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Can Iowa Shore Up Its Shoddy Defense in Time?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 4th, 2014

After three seasons at the helm, Fran McCaffery will finally take Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament. That’s the good part about the Hawkeyes’ season. The next logical question is whether they can win more than one game there. With a 20-9 record and an RPI in the 30s, it is likely that the Hawkeyes will be on one of the top six seed lines, which could put them in a dreaded #5/#12 match-up against a decent team. Even if they get past that round, they’ll have to beat a Top 25 quality team that is likely to be offensively talented. At this late point in the season, it is still unclear if the Hawkeyes can defend well enough to beat a team that can run in a track meet with them. Over their last four games they have given up 1.21, 1.31, 1.12 and 1.06 points per possession, respectively, against Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue. Those numbers do not bode well for a team looking to make some noise as we head into March.

McCaffery's Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

Defense has been an issue for Iowa all season long, and a lack of it is the main reason they have been unable to close out many games.  Their record is a bit deceiving because they have won all of the games that they were supposed to, but they really only have two quality wins on the year: at Ohio State and vs. Michigan in Iowa City — even in both of those games, the Hawkeyes gave up more than a point per possession to the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. A win against Xavier, another NCAA Tournament team, is impressive, but an argument can be made that the absence of Musketeers’ star Semaj Christan during the second half helped the Hawkeyes. These observations are not intended to take anything away from Iowa’s resume this season, but merely to point out that its stay in March Madness could be a short one unless they find some answers on defense, and soon.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XIV

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on February 26th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

Wichita State Deserves a Number One Seed

There is a vocal group out there making it known that Wichita State should not receive a top seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament. They argue that the 30-0 Shockers “haven’t played anyone” and that alone should disqualify Gregg Marshall’s team from landing on the No. 1 seed line when the brackets are released two and a half weeks from now. We can debate the merits of the RPI all we want, but the fact is it remains one of many important selection criteria. Wichita State’s non-conference schedule ranks No. 34 in that metric, which is actually pretty good. By comparison, it is only four spots lower than Georgetown, a middling Big East team about whose schedule people have been raving. Perception is indeed a funny thing.

Ron Baker should be angry if his Shockers don't get a No. 1 seed. (photo courtesy rantsports.com).

Ron Baker should be angry if his Shockers don’t get a No. 1 seed. (photo courtesy rantsports.com).

Wichita State cannot control the strength of its own league, which also happened to lose Creighton to conference realignment this season. There is something to be said, however, for taking every team’s best shot each and every night and still winning with relative ease. The Shockers beat the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Indiana State, in convincing fashion in Wichita and won the return meeting in Terre Haute comfortably. Out of conference, the Shockers challenged themselves with games at Saint Louis, Tulsa and Alabama, along with a visit by Tennessee to Wichita (Note: Game was played off campus and not at the Roundhouse). Wichita State also played BYU in a two-day event at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The Shockers have certainly not faced a murderer’s row type of schedule, but at 30-0 with a top 35 non-conference slate, that is good enough to be rewarded with a No. 1 seed. In the next two weeks you will hear a lot of pundits talk about tournament resumes, good wins and bad losses. Just remember, Wichita State doesn’t have any bad losses. It has NO losses, period. Dear Selection Committee: Do the right thing and give this team a No. 1 seed!

Jim Boeheim’s Meltdown Masks Syracuse’s Real Issue

Say the word “Syracuse” this week and most people will immediately think of Jim Boeheim’s classic meltdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium where the iconic Orange coach was ejected from a regular season or postseason game for the first time in 38 years as a head coach. While that was certainly a memorable moment, it masks the nosedive that Syracuse’s offense has taken over its last four games. Over the Orange’s first 24 contests, they recorded an offensive efficiency below 102.1 points per 100 possessions just twice (in wins over Miami and North Carolina). Over the last four games, Syracuse’s offensive efficiency has been 92.5, 94.3, 99.6 and 88.6. Ironically the 99.6 number was in the loss to Duke, but the Blue Devils are the best offensive team Syracuse has faced all season.

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Big Ten M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 25th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Last week, I stated Terran Pettaway was probably not going to win Big Ten POTY because he plays for a team unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament and his efficiency numbers were considerably lower than other contenders like Nik Stauskas. Well that might be changing as Nebraska keeps winning and Pettaway keeps dropping 20+ points, like he has in his last three games. He’s impressed so much that BTN.com’s Player of the Year Tracker now has him ranked as the front-runner for the award. Pettaway will need to keep up the strong performances, since the award is mostly given to a player from a top-tier team. While Nebraska has been as impressive as any team in the last few weeks, they are at best a bubble team. So Pettaway will really need to separate himself if he is to make his case against other players.
  2. It seems like we may never see a fully healthy Michigan State. Tom Izzo stated on Monday he would continue to play Keith Appling throughout the regular season. Appling is recovering from a wrist injury and did not play particularly inspiring basketball at Michigan on Sunday — finishing with only six points and two assists in twenty-five minutes. The Spartans have been trading wins and losses for almost four weeks now and Izzo needs all the men who are able to play out on the court to challenge for top seeding in the NCAA Tournament. For Izzo’s sake, Appling will need to either mend while playing or learn to live with the pain in order to get to this team’s goal of a Final Four appearance.
  3. It’s always tough to see players go down with season-ending injuries, but it’s even tougher when it happens to a senior. This is exactly what happened to Purdue’s Sterling Carter when he tore his ACL in Sunday’s game at Nebraska. Carter transferred from Seattle University to finish his career playing in the bright lights of the Big Ten. And while his season was cut short, Carter did get to finish his career, and play over twenty games, at a level he was not recruited at coming out of high school. There have been debates about whether the graduate transfer rule is beneficial or harmful to the game on the whole. But one of the positives are players like Carter who get the experience of playing big time basketball after proving himself in the low major levels –even if it is short lived.
  4. After a dominating performance on Saturday, Nik Stauskas may be back to his dominating ways. That’s good news for Michigan, but bad news for the rest of the league. He put on a show against Michigan State, scoring 25 points, 21 of which came in the second half. If Stauskas has indeed awoken from his February slump, he may run away with both the Big Ten regular season championship and the Big Ten POTY. That’s an amazing jump in performance from last season when he was thought of simply as a shooter. In the beginning of the season, most pundits though it impossible that any Wolverine could replace Trey Burke. And while Stauskas can’t run a team like Burke, he has a chance to give Michigan a consecutive Final Four appearance and Big Ten POTY.
  5. If you wanted to tweet at your favorite Iowa player this week, well, you can forget it now. Fran McCaffery has instructed his players to shut down their twitter accounts for the remainder of the season after Zach McCabe reacted to some negative comments made to him on the social media platform. Coaches are free to manage their team as they see fit and if McCaffery believes shutting down Twitter will help his team’s performance, more power to him. But perhaps it’s not by coincidence that shutting down Twitter (or removing names on the back of jerseys, etc.) always occurs after a tough loss. No coach seems to ban Twitter after a win. This appears like a reactionary maneuver from a coach trying to find any edge he can as the season comes to a close.
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Morning Five: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2014

morning5

  1. Syracuse fans might not be happy about it, but yesterday ACC commissioner John Swofford said that the ruling on the C.J. Fair charge play was a “judgement call” and would not be reviewed formally by the conference. Seth Davis talked to Tony Greene, the official in the middle of the controversy, and while Greene would not directly discuss the call it appears that he feels that he made the right call. The more interesting part of Greene’s comments are that when Fair got the ball Greene was already anticipating the drive and possible contact. Some might consider that being well-prepared, but others might view it as making a judgment before the play actually happens.
  2. At this point we have heard enough about this call and Jim Boeheim‘s reaction to it discussed to the point where we probably won’t even read another column about it, but the one thing that we are interested and haven’t heard discussed much is how people would have reacted if it had been Fair reacting the way that Boeheim did. This is something that we mentioned earlier this year when Fran McCaffery threw his temper tantrum and it is something that was touched upon during yesterday’s CBS College Basketball podcast: we tend to let college basketball get away with worse public behavior than nearly any other  sporting figure. Next time you are at a college basketball game take a little time to watch how the coaches are reacting and if you are close enough listen to what they say (cover the ears of any young children nearby). Can you imagine any other situation in which that behavior is acceptable?
  3. Speaking of Fran McCaffery, he is the latest coach to tell his Iowa players to get off Twitter at least for the rest of the season. Some might paint this as McCaffery joining the ranks of Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo in their general distaste for the platform, but it is more likely a reaction to Zach McCabe‘s tweet in response to some critical fans. As we said before we don’t agree with the idea that players cannot handle the “pressure” of social media, but when your players cannot act appropriately on the platform you are forced to step in.
  4. We are getting to the point in the season where some fan bases are looking forward to offseason so the head coaches of their teams can be fired. Dan Hanner took a more nuanced look at how long coaches typically last utilizing a Kaplan-Meier survival curve. His analysis suggests that coaches are most likely to get fired after three seasons so if your least favorite head coach is not there yet you might want to temper your hopes. Hanner also takes a look at which coaches might be most likely and least likely to be fired this off-season so if you are hoping for your coach to be fired it is definitely worth checking out.
  5. Following the loss of Brandon Ashley some analysts essentially wrote Arizona off as a national title contender. We even remember hearing that one Pac-12 coach reportedly said that the Wildcats were a Sweet 16 team without him. Nobody would argue that Arizona is not worse without Ashley in the lineup, but the question is how much worse are the Wildcats. We cannot necessarily look at their offensive and defensive numbers in the two periods because the post-Ashley period has been so brief that we do not have reliable sample sizes to work with so Ken Pomeroy took a look at how they performed as a team overall after Ashley was injured compared to their expected and it turns out that they were not that far off. Now this should obviously be interpreted with a somewhat similar caveat about sample size, but it shows that the Wildcats overall performance during this brief stretch might be closer to being a national title favorite than some people are giving them credit for.
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Big Ten M5 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 13th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. It has been 26 years since there was a match-up of the two flagship programs in Iowa as members of the Top 25, but that’s exactly what we get tonight when #23 Iowa travels to take on rival and #17 Iowa State in Ames. These two programs were largely irrelevant five years ago, but the hiring of Fran McCaffery at Iowa and Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State has really changed everything in both programs. Each team has realistic expectations to make the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even go deep. Hopefully this intrastate rivalry continues to become must-see television each year (and kudos for the schedule makers for giving us this treat on an otherwise quiet Friday night).
  2. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, their bench play has been absolutely spectacular this year. Via @IowaHoops, the Hawkeyes’ bench is averaging 42.3 points, 24.9 rebounds and 4.2 blocks through 11 games. The two players fueling the bench are senior Zach McCabe and Gabriel Olaseni. McCabe is a tough-nosed forward who attacks rebounding fearlessly and can also knock down perimeter shots. Olaseni is seeing his first real playing time in his career and he is doing a great job protecting the rim for Iowa.
  3. Coming into the season, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross was expected to become the Buckeyes’ primary scoring threat this season. As the season got underway, though, Ross struggled by only averaging six points in his first five games. But it now looks like Ross could emerge into the type of scorer many had hoped he would become after Deshaun Thomas. Already Ross’ three-point and turnover percentage are better than that of Thomas, and Ohio State will need the gifted junior to take over offensively if the Buckeyes  and Thad Matta are to reach another Final Four.
  4. Michigan and Illinois are looking for their first big non-conference wins this year. Michigan gets #1 Arizona at the Crisler Center on Saturday, and the match-up to watch is in the backcourt. Arizona’s duo of TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson will go against a young tandem of Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. If Michigan’s guards allow Arizona’s guards to go wherever they want on the floor, it will be a long day for Michigan. Illinois heads to Portland to take on #15 Oregon as well on Saturday. The Illini lost to Georgia Tech in the last minute but then rebounded nicely by destroying Auburn. Oregon will represent a major test for the Illini, as the Ducks have excellent pieces at all positions that can really expose the Illinois’ lack of length.
  5. Bo Ryan and his fourth-ranked Wisconsin squad easily defeated in-state opponent Milwaukee earlier this week. The Badgers have been steamrolling everyone so far but their biggest upcoming challenge may be next month when they go to Bloomington to take on Indiana. There are four games between now and then and they should all be wins for the Badgers. The one game Bo Ryan’s team can’t overlook before the Indiana game is when Iowa visits on January 5. Iowa has the depth to stay with Wisconsin on the perimeter and multiple players who can guard Frank Kaminsky.
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Three Takeaways From Iowa’s Performance at the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 3rd, 2013

After three consecutive days of basketball at the Battle 4 Atlantis, we can now take a step back and summarize some takeaways from the tournament that was held in a hotel convention center. Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins was supposed to steal the show during the tournament, but Kansas’ loss to Villanova moved the spotlight on to some of the other teams. Villanova’s resurgence will be well-documented over the next few days, but Iowa‘s subtle improvements on exhibit there also deserve attention. The following are three takeaways from the Hawkeyes’ performance in the Bahamas over the weekend:

McCaffery's Hawkeyes had a great weekend in the Bahamas. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes had a great weekend in the Bahamas. (AP/C. Neibergall)

  • Devyn Marble appears to have improved his jumper. Sorta. As a junior, Marble’s jumper wasn’t horrible, but it also wasn’t very consistent from beyond the arc (33 percent from three). He relied heavily on cuts to the basket that were taken away by opposing defenses during the second half of the Big Ten season, but his offensive game appears to be more diverse this year. Still, he only shot 33 percent (6-of-18) from three-point land at this tournament. He was 4-of-10 against Xavier, but most of those misses came in the second half when he was dealing with leg cramps. The difference is that there were a few possessions in transition when he pulled up for a shot instead taking it all the way to the basket. This new angle to add the mid-range to his game will help keep defenses honest going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Iowa’s Depth Gives Hawkeyes an Element Most Teams Don’t Have

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 19th, 2013

There isn’t going be a fancy disclaimer or anything at the beginning of this post talking about small sample size, lack of quality opponents or anything of that ilk. While it is true that Iowa hasn’t played anybody of note yet, 4-0 is still 4-0. They are off to a tremendous start in handily beating the teams that they are supposed to handily beat. One very large takeaway from their Hawkeyes’ four games so far is that they are getting contributions from essentially the whole roster. Iowa has headliners in Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, but Fran McCaffery has also put together a very deep bench that fits quite snugly with his system. Iowa’s bench players check all the boxes in terms of what you’d want from a reserve unit, and most importantly, have shown no drop-off in production whatsoever when they replace the starters.

Roy Devyn Marble is the headliner, but Iowa has been getting contributions from everyone in the midst of their 4-0 start. (Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Roy Devyn Marble is the headliner, but Iowa has been getting contributions from everyone in the midst of their 4-0 start. (Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

The numbers tell some of the story here, with the bench players this season accounting for 49.9 percent of Iowa’s total points, 49.5 percent of its rebounds, and 45.0 percent of its assists. Granted, a lot of this derives from three of Iowa’s four games have been blowouts, so simply taking those statistics at face value doesn’t tell you what you need to know. The combination of evaluating the numbers and using the good old-fashioned eye test instead illustrates the impact that the bench has made. Gabriel Olaseni, a blur running the court end-to-end, is averaging 2.5 blocks per game. Wisconsin transfer Jared Uthoff can score in the paint or from the outside and is also providing rebounding (10.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Zach McCabe is a big body at 6’7″ and 235 lbs who can knock down an open shot and  match up wherever you need him to. Anthony Clemmons can come in and give you solid point guard minutes without any kind of dropoff if Marble or Mike Gesell have to sit. He has a 13:4 assist-to-turnover ratio and knows how to run the team. Lastly, freshman Peter Jok has the tools to eventually become a superstar. Unlike fellow first-year players like those populating the rosters of Indiana, Illinois and Purdue, Jok really doesn’t have to do anything except be a role player on a team loaded up with experience. So far, he’s shown that he can score and defend on the wing, again dovetailing with the common theme of little to no dropoff when these bench players enter the game.

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Big Ten M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on December 14th, 2012

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t scared to use his five highly-touted freshmen this year, and he solidified that this week when he said he would stick with a nine-man rotation, including all five of those rookies. Freshmen Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III will continue to start alongside Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan, but Caris LeVert, Mitch McGary, Spike Albrecht and Jon Horford will all see significant minutes, as well. The Wolverines have one of the deepest teams in the league, and with the freshmen living up to the hype so far, they have the potential to put a dangerous lineup on the court for the entire game.
  2. With so many new faces, Northwestern has been fairly inconsistent en route to a 7-3 start. The Wildcats won at Baylor, but have home losses to Maryland, Illinois-Chicago and Butler, with Texas State and Stanford coming to Evanston next week. Northwestern has spent the last four years on the NCAA Tournament bubble and fans are becoming restless about the team’s chances this year. CBS Chicago’s Dave Wischnowsky wonders how much more “close but no cigar” NU will accept, and whether coach Bill Carmody will be shown the door if things don’t turn around this season.
  3. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has been hitting the recruiting circuit hard recently, looking at top recruits Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Tyus Jones, among others, but the Spartans’ head coach isn’t a fan of such road trips. Izzo would like the NCAA to shorten the length of time in which coaches are able to evaluate recruits in order to allow coaches more time with their families. Coaches have very little time off from September to March, and a change in the rules would also allow them more time to spend with their teams during the season. Izzo admits that his words go “on deaf ears,” but he thinks teams could get the same players even if the rules were changed.
  4. Iowa has three freshmen in its starting lineup this year, which means that some veterans have had to embrace bench roles. Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, in particular, have given up playing time for the newcomers, but they’re OK with it if it helps the team. Coach Fran McCaffery is impressed with how his upperclassmen have bought into the program and accepted their new roles this season, even if it means they won’t be in the starting lineup. It’s not all bad for McCabe and Basabe, though, as both see minutes comparable to what the starters see. As long as they’re winning, the Hawkeye players don’t really care how it happens, even if that means sitting on the bench to start the game.
  5. It’s mid-December, which means it’s cupcake season in college basketball. Ohio State picked up a routine 85-45 cupcake victory over Savannah State this week, which will put another tally in the win column for the Buckeyes, but Rob Oller wonders if the game was really that beneficial. It’s a way for players — especially role players — to gain confidence, but there isn’t much good that it does for the starters. Since it’s difficult for players to get up for this kind of game, coach Thad Matta was forced to exaggerate what Savannah State brings to the table, all adding up to a yawner. But if this kind of game can inspire confidence in the players, that, says Oller, is really all that’s important.
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Big Ten Team Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

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

Where we left off: Last time we saw Iowa, the Hawkeyes were getting run over for 108 points by Oregon in the second round of the NIT. Of course, it was an accomplishment for the program to even get back to the NIT after a promising season, and now, with a number of stars back, Iowa is looking to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fran McCaffery has done a good job of turning the team around, and now, in year three, expectations are high. Clearly McCaffery has his team on the right track, but is this the year Iowa finally makes it back to the NCAA Tournament? There is a lot of inexperience on parts of the court, but enough talent is certainly there for the Hawkeyes to make a run.

Fran McCaffery Has His Team on the Right Track (credit: AP)

Positives: Iowa’s biggest strength this winter will be its depth, and in fact, that could represent the most difficult part of McCaffery’s job. The Hawkeyes may have a hard time finding playing time for everyone with so much returning experience and new talent. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White are locks to start, and they’ll likely be joined by junior forward Melsahn Basabe and freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but after that, the distribution of minutes gets foggy. Junior forward Zach McCabe will likely see considerable minutes, as will freshman center Adam Woodbury, but sophomore center Gabe Olaseni, who McCaffery calls the team’s most improved player, will also be slated for some time. In the backcourt, sophomore shooting specialist Josh Oglesby, freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May will all push for playing time. There are a lot of different looks that this team can show, and while it might be difficult to figure out playing time, that’s a very good problem to have.

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Big Ten Weekly Five: 07.18.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on July 18th, 2012

  1. Who doesn’t love a good list? We all do. The Big Lead takes a crack at the putting together a compilation of the 50 best players in college basketball heading into the 2012-13 campaign. It’s an early prognosis, sure, but which Big Ten players would you have on that list? Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Michigan’s Trey Burke are likely choices, right? Who, if anyone, from the other defending Big Ten co-champions Ohio State or Michigan State should be on the list? How about Christian Watford? Trevor Mbakwe? Deshaun Thomas? See for yourself and debate amongst yourselves.
  2. Michigan coach John Beilein says he’s not out to recruit one-and-done players and it seems one of his best players is backing him up. Tim Hardaway, Jr. told the Detroit Free Press he’d like to model his game after former Michigan State star and rival Draymond Green. The former Spartan was, of course, one of the most versatile players in recent Big Ten memory, but he was also a four-year player who had a steady progression over his time in East Lansing and put together a remarkable career that has also led to the NBA.
  3. Speaking of Green, replacing him will be one of the toughest tasks for the defending conference champion Spartans. They certainly won’t have one player who can step in and do it, so it will fall on the shoulders of an ensemble cast that includes centers Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. The two have tremendous skill sets, but on entirely different ends of the spectrum. Payne is a taller, leaner and much more athletic big man, while Nix is a more big-bodied traditional frontcourt player. Their different styles gave teams fit last season, and Payne especially says he’s looking to step up to fill Michigan State’s frontcourt void.
  4. After a 2011-12 season that saw him foul out of seven games and rack up four or more fouls in 19 contests, Iowa’s Zach McCabe is hoping to put those bruising days behind him this year. The rising junior played out of position last year, banging down low with players in the conference who were bigger than him and he paid the price. He started 30 contests for the Hawkeyes and is hoping to combine that experience with some offseason work that will allow him to succeed in that same position next year while incorporating some of his own game and making opponents come to him.
  5. This time comes but just once every four years — the Olympics. One of the biggest draws of the summer games is basketball, and of course Team USA. We’ve heard plenty over the last few years about the Dream Team, the Redeem Team and so on and so forth, but which Big Ten players would fill out an Olympic basketball roster from the Big Ten Network era (2007-12)? Brent Yarina at BTN.com takes a crack at it. You might be surprised.
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Fran-tic Resurgence of Iowa Basketball

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 3rd, 2012

For the past five seasons, Big Ten fans outside of Iowa looked through schedules in November and were upset if their team only played the Hawkeyes once. They wanted to pick up two easy wins.  That won’t happen anymore, not with Fran McCaffery around. McCaffery came to Iowa from the east coast to change the culture around the program and make an immediate impact.  Every coach says the right stuff during the introductory news conference but it doesn’t always translate to more wins. In Iowa’s case, however, those wins have come during his second season – already surpassing last year’s overall season total with more than a third of the conference schedule left on the plate. More importantly, the attitude and the brand of the Hawkeye basketball program has changed in 2012.  McCaffery is rubbing off on the program and the results show on the court.

McCaffery Has Brought A New Culture to Iowa (AP/C. Neibergall)

The 53-year-old coach keeps it simple but intense.  Intense may not begin to describe his behavior during the game or behind closed doors in practice. If you haven’t heard about the best chair-related tirade in the Big Ten since Bobby Knight chucked one across the floor in the ‘80s, you are missing out.  During a blowout (down 69-41) at East Lansing against Michigan State, McCaffrey blew a gasket halfway through the second half.  In addition to getting a technical, he yelled at his players during the timeout and slammed a chair on the court.  As an outsider, there are two aspects of the incident that stick out as positives. Most tirades by a head coach result in the assistants trying to gang-tackle him so he doesn’t get kicked out of the game, but not in this case.  Every one of his assistants was just as upset with the pace of the game and their players.  The head coach was frustrated with his players because they could not adjust and match the physicality of the Michigan State Bruisers.  Neither McCaffery nor his staff will settle for excuses.  His intensity is contagious because Iowa may not have the most talented or mature team, but they will play with a chip on their shoulder every single night. Rebuilding teams can’t afford to pity themselves and blame the referees for losses.

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