On Wisconsin, Bo Ryan and the Future…

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on April 16th, 2014

At the start of the season, we, along with most everyone else, slated Wisconsin to finish in its usual place among the top four of the Big Ten standings, but also noted that the team would once again be limited in what it could accomplish in the NCAA Tournament. Examining the preseason roster, we thought the Badgers would be be better on the perimeter with the return of the Josh Gasser; we knew Sam Dekker was a pro talent, the likes of which doesn’t usually wear a Wisconsin uniform; but we also wondered whether Frank Kaminsky was capable of stepping up and playing at the level that Jarred Berggren had provided. Without mincing words, we were wrong. Six months and a Final Four appearance later, we now know that these Badgers were the most talented squad Bo Ryan has coached in Madison, and although they came up just short of a shot at the title, next season looks even brighter. Almost the entire roster is coming back and Wisconsin will be projected as an elite team by almost every prognosticator based on this year’s run. A run to the Final Four wasn’t supposed to happen with this group, so how’d they do it?

Bo Ryan has finally reached college basketball's mountain top.

Bo Ryan has finally reached college basketball’s mountain top. (AP)

Wisconsin’s 30-8 season was built on the talents of individual players who outperformed expectations and this particular squad’s great offensive chemistry in Ryan’s system. The junior Kaminsky emerged as a terrific college player and a legitimate future contender for National Player of the Year. After averaging only 4.2 PPG and 1.8 RPG in 2012-13 behind Berggren, Kaminsky led the Badgers in scoring (13.9 PPG) and rebounding (6.3 RPG) and was the second-most efficient player in the conference (127.5 Offensive Rating). Additionally, Nigel Hayes went from an unheralded high school recruit to a spot on the All-Big Ten freshmen team behind his 7.7 PPG and 2.8 RPG. The emergence of a viable scoring frontcourt — combined with a versatile wing like Dekker and a deep shooting back court in Traevon Jackson, Brust, and Gasser — created the most potent offense Ryan has ever put on the floor. By the end of the season, the Badgers carried an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.21 points per possession (fourth in the country).

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Big Ten M5: 04.08.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on April 8th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Another season over, another non-B1G champion crowned. In all honesty, congrats to Connecticut for winning the title. And while it’s a bit disappointing that our conference came up short again (especially with three teams in the Elite Eight), next season looks to be another strong season for the Big Ten. Wisconsin came the closest winning a title as they lost to Kentucky by a point on Saturday night in a game that went to the last second. Traevon Jackson and the rest of the Badgers were disappointed as they fully expected to compete for the national title. We’ll have to see if Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky follow through on their plans to return next year, but if they do, Wisconsin will once again be national title contenders and look to end the Big Ten’s championship drought.
  2. One of Kentucky’s other B1G victims was Michigan, who got bounced out of the Elite Eight by one of many miracle shots by Aaron Harrison this NCAA Tournament. Looking ahead to next year, the Wolverines are eligible for an overseas trip this off-season and are planning to go to Europe for some exhibition games. This means as much as ten days of additional practice to the summer. Michigan may need these additional workouts to build new chemistry if Nik Stauskas declares for the NBA draft and leaves along with senior Jordan Morgan. Bottom line: Beilien will have more time than usual to fine tune his team which should compete for another Big Ten title.
  3. Along with Michigan, Michigan State will need to regroup and get used to an even more revamped roster. The first order of business is to make sure they don’t lose their Hall of Fame coach to the NBA. After that, they’ll have to figure out life without Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, and (most likely) Gary Harris. The Spartans do not have any heralded recruits coming in next year and suffered another recruiting loss yesterday. Michigan native Yante Maten had wanted to join the Spartans from the get-go but decided to join Mark Fox in Georgia as Izzo come too late with a scholarship. With uncertainty surrounding their coach and roster going into the off-season, these are strange and unusual times in East Lansing for a typically steady program.
  4. Continuing with our theme of teams in major transition, Indiana has had as difficult of an off-season as anyone. First, they lose Noah Vonleh to the NBA Draft. Then, a slew of players, including the talented Jeremy Hollowell, decide to transfer leaving the Hoosiers thin and bringing up questions of whether Tom Crean has built a program that players want to be a part of. But seemingly, Crean has blocked out the negativity and concentrated on getting back to the recruiting trail. The Hoosier head coach has had a knack for getting elite talent to Bloomington; this year he brings in talented freshmen like James Blackmon Jr. Crean will need to keep bringing in the talent to Indiana if he is to get the naysayers off his back next season.
  5. Another player whose team awaits their decision about the NBA Draft is A.J. Hammons. Without Hammons, Purdue loses the league’s premier rim protecter and all of the other potential tied to the young big man. As of now, Hammons is projected to be drafted in the second round, so a return to West Lafayette is not out of the question. But Hammons’ decision doesn’t just affect his future, it possibly determines his coach’s fate too. Matt Painter will likely start the season on the hot seat after finishing the last two seasons below 0.500. Without Hammons, Painter’s roster loses a pro-level talent, making it harder to get the program back on track.
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Previewing Michigan State vs. Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 28th, 2014

It’s been an enigmatic season for Michigan State due to a host of injuries and resulting inconsistent play. For seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, it’s been four years without a Final Four, a relative disappointment. Stress the word “relative” here, because compiling a record of 103-40 over four years would be roundly successful in 99 percent of other programs. But in East Lansing, a team that starts the season ranked #2 and ends up as a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament is viewed as disappointing. As for those seniors — despite two Elite Eight and one Sweet Sixteen appearance — failure to make the Final Four this year would earn this group the distinction of being the only class in the Tom Izzo era without a trip to the NCAA Tournament’s final weekend. Tonight Sparty looks to remove that monkey off its back as it meets Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen.

Adreian Payne has made his presence known in the NCAA Tournament thus far. Virginia stands in his way as he vies for a trip to the Final Four. (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Virginia stands in Adreian Payne’s way as he vies for a trip to the Final Four. (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

The Cavaliers are not regulars in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend; it’s the school’s first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen since 1995. This run marks the culmination of all that was expected of head coach Tony Bennett when he was hired from Washington State five years ago. While he had only made one NCAA Tournament appearance in the previous four seasons, a trip back to the Big Dance and a top four finish in the ACC was expected from this squad due to its top five scorers returning. Bennett’s team far surpassed expectations by sweeping the ACC regular season and tournament, which garnered the Cavaliers a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. What may be most shocking is that Bennett accomplished all of this with a system traditionally more tailored for the Big Ten than the up-and-down ACC (although in some ways that is changing there too). Their slow-paced – averaging 61 possessions per game, near the very bottom nationally – and defensive-focused system has stifled some high-powered offenses in that league.

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Evaluating Ohio State’s Draw in the South Region

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 20th, 2014

With six teams from the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State finds themselves as the lone league representative in the South Region. Recently, the Buckeyes have flourished in the single-elimination tournament platform. In the previous five seasons, they have either won, or been the runner-up in, the Big Ten Tournament and have made it to either the Elite Eight, Final Four, or Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. However, these are not the dominant Buckeyes we have become accustomed to. For starters, this year Ohio State lost eight games in the conference and did not make the Big Ten Tournament title game – both of which have not happened since the 2008-2009 season. Additionally, in the last four seasons Thad Matta’s squads have either been a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament; this year they find themselves as a #6 seed, which is their lowest seeding since 2009. In short, if Aaron Craft wants to end his Buckeye career with same the level of postseason success he has always had, he’ll have a much more difficult road to get there than he has had in any season before.

Aaron Craft looks to make one more deep run in the tournament starting with Dayton on Thursday.

Aaron Craft looks to make one more deep run in the NCAA Tournament starting with Dayton on Thursday.

In the Round of 64, Ohio State faces an intrastate match-up with Dayton. The Flyers (23-10, 10-6) squeaked into the NCAA Tournament by taking up one of the final at-large bids. They finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 conference and have wins against other tournament teams in Gonzaga, George Washington, UMass, and Saint Louis. While no flagship university enjoys facing their “little brothers” within the state in games of consequence (due to the innate no-win scenario “big brothers” find themselves in), when we compare the season performances of these two teams, the Buckeyes are clearly the more superior team. This may seem like an obvious statement when talking about a #6/#11 match-up, but according to kenpom.com and USA Today’s Sagarin ratings, the seedings underestimate the gap in performance between Ohio State and Dayton. If we take the Selection Committee seeding at face value (I know, I know. Just play along.), then a #6 seed and #11 seed will have a minimum rankings gap of 17 (#24 overall vs #41) or a maximum of 23 (#21 overall vs #44). But according to the two KenPom and Sagarin, the actual rankings gap between the two teams are 34 (#19 overall vs #53) and 44 (#14 overall vs #58), respectively.

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Reviewing the Big Ten’s Bubble Teams Before Indy

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 12th, 2014

The Big Ten Tournament commences on Thursday and teams are either hoping to improve their seeding, resume, or win it outright. But these conference tournaments are always of most consequence to the bubble teams. It’s their final chance to rack up a quality win or two in order to impress the selection committee and see their name announced on Selection Sunday. Four Big Ten teams are on the bubble to varying degrees: Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois. The Cornhuskers and Gophers are squarely on it, while the Hoosiers and Illini are longshots at this point. According to bracketmatrix.com, the consensus view has Nebraska in the tourney as an #11 seed while most have Minnesota in their “first four out.” The table below displays the current profile for all four teams.

b1g bubble resumes 2014

Here’s what lies ahead for each of these teams heading into Indianapolis:

Indiana and Illinois. As it turns out, the two longshots face each other in the first round in the #8/#9 match-up on Thursday afternoon. So while one team will be automatically eliminated from bubble talk in its first game, the other will move on to face Michigan on Friday. Beating Michigan will be a tall task, as the outright Big Ten champs have won five straight — the last two of which were against Indiana and Illinois — and at 15-3 have been the hands-down best team in the league. That said, Michigan won a close game against the Hoosiers last Saturday and went to overtime against last-place Purdue a few weeks back, so they are not infallible. The Wolverines are #10 in the RPI and have an SOS of #9, so a win over Michigan here would be a significant boost to either team’s RPI and could advance that team on to the bubble.

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Big Ten M5: 03.11.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 11th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. It’s been an outstanding, yet unusual, season for Michigan. Unlike last season where things fell into place for the Wolverines under the leadership of Trey Burke, this season’s squad dealt with early adversity with the loss of Mitch McGary. On Saturday, the usually mild-mannered John Beilien let his emotions fly against Indiana. He has had to use an unusual set of motivational tactics to reach this “uncommon” team. But as unusual as this team may be, they also managed to do something last year’s national championship runner-up never did, win an outright Big Ten title. They’re also projected to be a #2 seed (according to bracketmatrix.com), which is two full seeds higher than last season — a feat that might earn Beilien Coach of the Year.
  2. Michigan may have exceeded expectations this season, but Michigan State’s season has hit a bumpy road the last several weeks. Tom Izzo has made public his frustrations with his team to the press. In Nicole Auberach’s profile of the Spartans coach in USA TODAY, his frustration extends not only his to current squad, but with the demands of his job in general and how they affect his family specifically. Possibly adding fuel to the fire is the rumor that the owner of the Detroit Pistons would like Izzo to coach his professional team next year. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out in East Lansing during the off-season.
  3. As inconsistent as the Michigan State has played, Iowa has all but fallen apart. The Hawkeyes have lost five of their last six games and although they are easily projected to be included in the NCAA Tournament, they’re bound for a low seed. This from a team who was thought to have a legitimate chance to make the Final Four earlier in the season. It’s no mystery what has gone wrong for Iowa: their defense has been abysmal the last few games. Specifically, they have been unable to stop penetration and their zone has allowed teams to shoot effectively from deep. The Hawkeyes have a chance to turn their fortunes around in the Big Ten tournament; first against Northwestern and then against Michigan State. If they can register another Top 50 win, they’ll be able to better position themselves for the Big Dance.
  4. Moving on from the disappointing teams, Nebraska culminated their special year by beating Wisconsin in front of a rowdy home crowd during their senior night. While the celebration after the game may have been for the magical season that Tim Miles, Terran Pettaway, and the rest of the Cornhuskers were able to put together, the foundation for this success was put in well before November. Dirk Chatelain from the World-Herald writes a great article about the scene on the court after the win with Miles and athletic administrator Marc Boehm. He also describes where they had to come from to get here. If anything, Nebraska showed that you can turn around a program if you’re willing to make the investment.
  5. Minnesota has had an up-and-down season, but on the whole it has been mostly positive with the Gophers knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament. On Sunday, Minnesota had their senior night and said goodbye to their steady hand, Austin Hollins. He has received praise from both his current and former coach as one of the hardest working players on the team. Minnesota had to transition into a new coaching system in the beginning of the season; Hollins’ even-tempered personality and maturity may have helped the adjusting period. That, among other factors, may have helped the Gophers find some success early in Richard Pitino’s tenure.
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Key Questions For Michigan State at Ohio State Today

Posted by Alex Moscoso & Brendan Brody on March 9th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of the regular season and teams are either jockeying for seeding or trying to get on the right side of the bubble. Later this afternoon, Michigan State will travel to Ohio State and, with both teams clearly in the NCAA Tournament field already, this game will be about building momentum for the Big Ten Tournament and beyond. Once again, RTC Big Ten writers Alex Moscoso and Brendan Brody preview the game as they each ask one another a question about the today’s match-up.

Keith Appling and the Spartans' offense try to keep the momentum going against Ohio State on Sunday. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

Keith Appling and the Spartans’ offense try to keep the momentum going against Ohio State on Sunday. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

AM: In its last two games, Ohio State’s defense (#2 in KenPom) has underperformed against two inferior teams (Indiana and Penn State). Meanwhile, Michigan State’s offense (#18 in KenPom) has been inconsistent since the beginning of February. In the match-up between the Buckeyes’ defense vs the Spartans’ offense today, which comes out on top, and why?

BB: It’s hard to say whether Michigan State’s performance Thursday night against Iowa was simply the result of Iowa’s porous defense or a sign that the Spartans are once again fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders. Numbers like 1.26 points per possession, 58.3 percent shooting from the field, and 20 assists on 28 made fields goals, aren’t anything to take lightly, whether they were accomplished against the league’s third-worst defense in conference play or otherwise. Part of the problem for Ohio State in its two losses is that the Buckeyes let their opponents shoot 38.7 percent from three even though they forced an average of 17 turnovers. The Spartans hit 11 threes the first time these two teams played, and after witnessing Thursday’s offensive clinic, I think they’re going to get the best of the Ohio State defense. Thad Matta’s team wins on defense by eliminating the three, but Michigan State is a bad match-up because of the way they share the ball (11th in the country in assist rate), and how they can spread things out in transition with multiple shooters that can burn you. Kenny Kaminski, Travis Trice, Adreian Payne and Appling all shoot over 40 percent from distance for the season, and Gary Harris is 16-of-33 in his last four games from that distance. I think the Iowa game showed what everyone thought at the beginning of the season. Michigan State is about to go on a run, and Ohio State won’t stop them this afternoon.

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The RTC All-Big Ten Team: Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 6th, 2014

Continuing today with our countdown of the RTC all-Big Ten team, the sixth best player in the league as voted upon by our writers, is Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell. Ferrell came in with high expectations from the media and fans this year, and he hasn’t disappointed from an individual perspective. He was Indiana’s top recruiting prize in 2012 – ranked #25 overall, according to RSCIhoops.com – and, after the NBA exodus by Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo last spring, it was Yogi’s turn to step up and become the focal point of Tom Crean’s offense. And step up he did.

Yogi Ferrell has been the brightest star for the disappointing Hoosiers.

Yogi Ferrell has been the brightest star for the disappointing Hoosiers.

Why Yogi Ferrell is the sixth-best player in the league: Ferrell has been the only elite and consistent scoring threat for Indiana this season. The team has had a relatively disappointing year and it’s scary to think how much further the Hoosiers would have fallen without him in the lineup. In the preseason, there was some uncertainty about whether Ferrell could transform into an full-time scorer (he averaged 7.6 PPG his freshman season), especially given his woeful shooting from deep (30.3 percent). But he’s answered questions about his game affirmatively by coming into the last game of the Big Ten regular season fourth in scoring (17.7 PPG) and leading the league in three-pointers made (81) and three-point shooting (42 percent). This has resulted in a top six Big Ten standing in effective field goal percentage (53.1 percent), true shooting percentage (58.2 percent), and offensive efficiency (1.19 points per possession). And even though he’s stepped his game on the scoring side of thing, he’s been able to maintain his solid assist rate from last season — at around four per game. He’s been clearly the best player on a team that would be in dire straits without him this season.

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Markel Starks Leaves Senior Night Fighting, As Always

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 5th, 2014

On Tuesday night in Washington DC, Markel Starks sat in the press conference room inside the Verizon Center for the final time. In one of the final questions from reporters, Starks was asked if he had mixed feelings about his final home game, specifically coping with the fact that Georgetown has had a disappointing season under his stewardship as the senior leader. His (and John Thompson III’s) response: “there’s still time”. After Georgetown’s surprising 75-63 upset of Creighton, where Starks himself had 17 points and 11 assists, they indeed bought themselves more time. More time to reconcile this season as they now have a puncher’s chance at an NCAA Tournament bid; which would be the appropriate send off for the fiesty senior point guard.

Markel Starks is a major reason the Hoyas have not fallen apart.

Markel Starks is a major reason the Hoyas have not fallen apart.

While Starks, and JTIII, tried to put a positive spin things, the essence of the reporter’s question was true; this is probably not how Starks played out his senior season in his mind. Outside events occurred, that were well out of his control, and took a toll on the Hoyas’ season. First, Greg Whittington, probably the most talented player on the roster, tore his ACL last summer and was dismissed from the team at the end of November. In January, the Hoyas lost their lone scoring option down low, Joshua Smith, for the remainder of the season due to academic issues. Finally, as if they weren’t thin enough already, they also lost the services of Jabril Trawick for a couple of weeks from a broken jaw. So their season suffered, and it was up to the backcourt, Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, to make lemonade and carry the team on their backs.

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Illinois Freshmen Lead Their Turnaround and Earns Them Another Look at the Bubble

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 4th, 2014

It was February 4, and Illinois had just been dominated by Wisconsin for the second time this season in front of a fairly empty home crowd; severe weather had been an issue. The loss made it eight straight for John Groce’s team — which for a consecutive season was in the midst of a major losing streak in conference play – and found themselves at the bottom of league standings with a 2-8 record. But unlike last season, there were no talented seniors like Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson in place to lead a turnaround. This team seemed doomed for a miserable last place finish. That’s when Groce put up the white flag and inserted his top two freshmen — Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill — into the starting lineup, a signal that he was moving on from the current season and looking toward the next one. What has happened since has surprised even the most optimistic of Illini fans. Since the shakeup in the rotation, Illinois has won four of its last six games — including three in a row — which includes road wins at Minnesota and Michigan State. Odds are that they’re still likely to miss out on the NCAA Tournament, but their current body of work isn’t that far off from other bubble teams within the conference.

Kendrick Nunn entering the starting lineup has given the Illini hope. (Ruszkowski/USA TODAY)

Kendrick Nunn entering the starting lineup has given the Illini hope. (Ruszkowski/USA TODAY)

Defense has been Illinois’ strength all season as the Illini have held opponents to an adjusted 93.1 points per 100 possessions (14th in the nation), but their anemic offense, especially their complete inability to shoot the ball, wiped away the advantage their defense gave them. In the non-conference portion of their schedule, Rayvonte Rice was able to get to the rim effectively against less athletic teams or catch high-major teams off guard with his deceptive ability to use his strength while driving to the basket. But by the time Big Ten play started, there was enough tape on Illinois for opponents to adjust. Teams started packing the paint as a result, and Rice, who had averaged 18.7 PPG before the team’s slump, scored five points per game fewer during the eight-game skid. Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey, and Nnanna Egwu all failed to prove that they could be relied upon for consistent scoring too, so Groce decided to give his freshmen a shot. It seemed the best Illini fans could hope for was that Nunn and Hill would show signs of improvement by season’s end. Instead, the game came to them immediately, as the two young wings have combined for 19.8 PPG since becoming starters. Almost as importantly, Illinois’ defensive performance did not drop with the change in rotation. In the team’s last four games, Illinois has held its opponents to fewer than 0.83 points per possession (h/t John Gassaway). The results have been an improvement on offense to a point where they can once again rely on their defensive prowess to dictate the tempo of the games and turn their season around.

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Big Ten M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 4th, 2014

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  1. Indiana has not gotten the type of offensive breakout season, or consistency, they would have liked from Will Sheehey in his senior outing. But he’s been coming around as of late and was especially effective in their big win against Iowa on Sunday when he dropped a career-high 30 points. In a week where the Hoosiers played three games, the senior wing averaged 18.7 PPG and 4.3 RPG which was good enough to earn him Player of the Week honors. The Hoosiers are making a late push to get on the right side of the bubble, and they’ll need Sheehey to continue to play well, along with Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh, if they are to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Another team making a late season push is Illinois. Unlike the Hoosiers, the Illini are not looking to a senior as a catalyst, but instead are relying on a pair of freshmen. Kendrick Nunn, one of the two rising stars for Illinois, has added the ability to shoot the deep ball to the Illinois rotation — an area where they were sorely lacking. In the six games since he’s become a starter, Nunn has hit on 16 of his 30 attempted three-point shots (53.3 percent). And for a consecutive week, Nunn has won Rookie of the Week honors in the league for his performances that helped the Illini beat both Nebraska and Michigan State. Nunn’s ascendancy bodes well for John Groce, as the visible success of a Chicago Public School product could open up more recruiting pipelines between Illinois and the Windy City hoops scene.
  3. Speaking of John Groce and recruiting, an interesting story came out yesterday telling the story of how one of Michigan’s most improved player, Caris Levert, was originally hoping to join Groce at Illinois. Levert, an unheralded recruit in high school, was originally committed to Groce when he was the coach at Ohio University. After making it to the Sweet Sixteen, Groce then accepted the head coaching position at Illinois. Levert was told he would receive a phone call from the head coach personally about what the move meant about his commitment — that call never came. Levert ended up committing to Michigan and the rest is history. It’s an interesting recruiting story among Big Ten programs and Groce probably wishes he made that phone call now, especially since he’ll have to take on Levert and the Big Ten champion Wolverines tonight.
  4. Lately, Iowa hasn’t seem like the same team it was earlier in the year — a team thought to have an outside chance to make a Final Four. On Sunday, the Hawkeyes snapped a three-game losing streak when they pulled out a win against Purdue. While a win is a win, the game did not really boost confidence in the team as they blew a big halftime lead in the second half. Iowa is safely in the NCAA Tournament as of right now, but they’ll need to find some sort of defense, which has been nonexistent recently, if they are to get back to playing at the high level that made us all believers in this team earlier in the season.
  5. Finally, Michigan State lost consecutive games for the first time this season when they were beaten at home to Illinois on Saturday. Tom Izzo was visibly frustrated after the loss and expanded on it yesterday, “I’ll have a bit of chip on my shoulder from here on out”. There’s been some talk that we will never see a fully healthy Spartan squad with Keith Appling and Adreian Payne continuing to play with nagging injuries. But Tom Izzo has gotten to Final Fours with lesser teams, and if he is able to transfer the chip on his shoulder to his squad, it may put in them the urgency needed to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Otherwise, this team might be labeled as one of the bigger disappointments in Spartan history relative to their national championship expectations in the preseason.
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Why Not Frank Kaminsky as Big Ten Player of the Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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