Big Ten Award Spotlight: Does Denzel Valentine Deserve Recognition?

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 20th, 2014

The phrase “glue guy” is used almost to the point of it being a cliche. It’s thrown around by announcers almost every game to describe players, many of whom simply aren’t very good or have much of a lasting impact. Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine has been neither of those things this season: He’s been very good in his sophomore campaign, and he has made a significant and necessary impact for the 21-5 Spartans. He’s been the almost-literal definition of a glue guy, as he’s one of only two Michigan State players to have played in all 26 games during an injury-riddled season for a team that still has a chance to make the Final Four in Arlington and cut down the nets. But has he done enough to merit all-Big Ten consideration?

Denzel Valentine has been stuffing the stat sheet all season long for Michigan State. (Eric Gay, AP)

Denzel Valentine has been stuffing the stat sheet all season long for Michigan State. (Eric Gay, AP)

Before laying out the case statistically for Valentine and his impact, here’s a comparison to consider:

  • Player A: 25.5 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG
  • Player B: 29.0 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Player A is Draymond Green’s sophomore numbers, and player B is Denzel Valentine’s sophomore numbers. As you can see, they aren’t all that different. Green played more out of the post, but both players have filled similar roles early in their careers. Neither were asked to score, but they were both counted on by Tom Izzo to distribute the ball, hit the glass, and defend their butts off. Green was named to the all-Big Ten third team in his sophomore season, so it’s not all that far-fetched that Valentine would earn similar recognition this season. Consider his impact: He’s currently the only player to rank in the league’s top 10 in both rebounds and assists; he’s in the top 20 in steals (13th); and he’s fifth with a 2:1 assist to turnover rate. Whether his numbers are a bit inflated because of how many players Michigan State has had injured is irrelevant — his level of production is still quite solid.

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Big Ten M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 1st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Before the season, Keith Appling wasn’t even a Michigan State captain. Tom Izzo was looking at the veteran point guard to become a leader on an off the court for the Spartans, who had lost last year’s emotional leader Draymond Green. Appling has now earned captain status and Izzo has noticed a big change from his junior point guard. Izzo said Appling is doing a better job of communicating on the floor and showing his confidence after sitting down with former MSU point guard Mateen Cleaves. Appling learned to fight through adversity after a rough past, and now he’s doing it on the court, becoming the leader Izzo had hoped for at the beginning of the season.
  2. Ohio State has had trouble finding players outside of Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Aaron Craft to step up this season. The Buckeyes certainly have talent, but its supporting players — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross, to name a few — haven’t been consistent. That has resulted in inconsistent playing time among that bunch. OSU has been searching for an alternative offensive option to Thompson and it appears it may have found its answer in Ross. Ross has seen the court much more recently, and part of that is due to his improved listening to coach Thad Matta. He’s taking in more direction from the coaching staff, and subsequently seeing more of the floor.
  3. There aren’t many legitimate criticisms of No. 1 Michigan right now, considering how the Wolverines have been playing. However, people are always trying to find something wrong with top teams, so the common criticism of UM in recent weeks is that its roster isn’t deep enough. After all, the Wolverines rank 326th in the country in bench minutes, according to Ken Pomeroy. But part of the reason the Wolverines don’t go to their bench much is that the starters have played so well. Now though, in the wake of Jordan Morgan’s injury, Michigan is proving that it has enough depth. Jon Horford started the Wolverines’ game against Northwestern earlier this week and gave his team solid minutes, while freshman Mitch McGary also played well. Michigan may not have a star big man, but its frontcourt has proven it can play well this year, even without Morgan manning the paint.
  4. The press has been Minnesota’s best friend and its worst enemy this season. After struggling with its execution earlier in non-conference play, the Gophers’ press worked very well against Nebraska, returning to the form we saw during the non-conference season. Minnesota struggled to press against teams that like to slow things down like Northwestern and Wisconsin, but the Gophers were able to be successful against Nebraska, which employs the same tempo strategy. The bigger issue against the Wildcats and Badgers was their failure to execute in other areas of the game, such as free throw shooting. That prevented the Gophers from ever going all out with the press in those contests.
  5. It’s tough to find a bright spot out of a 97-60 loss, especially a home loss to your rival when coming off a solid win. However, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons was a bright spot for the Boilermakers in their drubbing at the hands of Indiana earlier this week. Hammons was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but like most freshman big men, he has been inconsistent in his first college season. However, he was exceptional against Indiana, scoring 30 points and blocking five shots in 28 minutes, showing the potential we’re likely to see from him down the road. While he didn’t get much help against the Hoosiers, his consistency will be key to how Purdue finishes its season.
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RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by KDoyle on November 9th, 2012

And so it begins. The time of year where we hear familiar voices on the television, faces on the floor, and our teams finally playing games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With the games commencing in mere hours, we officially unveil RTC’s Preseason Top 25. In the future, you can expect our poll to come out every Monday morning. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick ‘n dirty analysis that takes a deeper dive into how the teams shake out #1-#25. To see how we did last year, check out our 2011-12 preseason poll—some right on the money (North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State), and others not so much (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M). The QnD after the jump…

 

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #5 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. The entire series from #30 to this point can be viewed hereEnjoy!

#5 – Where Messed Around and Got a Triple Double Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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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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Big Ten Summer Check In: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by jnowak on July 12th, 2012

Tom Izzo knows what the summer means. The legendary Michigan State coach always talks about how valuable the hottest months of the year can be. For one, it gives him the chance to get out and evaluate recruits to lay the groundwork for the future of the program. But back on campus, it’s when players develop and grow — both physically and psychologically — in preparation for next year. Whatever he’s got them doing, it’s worked masterfully over the years. Here’s our Summer Check In with the defending Big Ten champion Spartans:

Is Keith Appling ready to step in and fill the void Draymond Green will leave behind? (AP Photo)

  • Evaluating Last Year: Michigan State is one of those programs that you can never count out, no matter what the pundits believe at the beginning of the season. MSU entered the year without Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, eacah of whom left a huge scoring void (Lucas, especially) but many were left wondering if the chemistry of the club changed with addition by subtraction. There were plenty of questions, particularly when Delvon Roe announced his early retirement, and the team lost its first two games of the season. Then All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green grabbed the reins and put the team on his back, leading the Spartans to another Big Ten Championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They fell short of reaching another Final Four, but when all was said and done, it could have very well been Izzo’s best work yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 07.05.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on July 5th, 2012

  1. There’s been plenty of chatter over the last few weeks about the former Big Ten players headed for the NBA, but what about those who chose to stay behind? The biggest of those names is probably Cody Zeller, who opted to remain at Indiana for his sophomore season. A good choice? Brent Yarina from BTN.com seems to think so. The best way to make this call is to consider his ceiling and also to consider how much worse things could get. He could get hurt, like any player, or his additional time in college could give scouts time to pick him apart. But more time in college also allows a young player to mature, for him to grow into a body more suited for the NBA and for him to raise his draft stock (yes, that’s right, stock can also go up). There’s no way he would have gone No. 1 this year. But right now, there’s a great chance he’ll go No. 1 next year. Seems like a good choice.
  2. Speaking of the NBA Draft, here’s a nice one-stop-shop from the fine folks at Big Ten Powerhouse with all the information you need about the Big Ten hoopsters — Draymond Green, Meyers Leonard, Robbie Hummel and Jared Sullinger — who are moving on to the professional ranks. All of these guys have something to prove. Green dropped further than many predicted but, as he said, it just wouldn’t be right if he didn’t have to work his tail off just a little while longer (and same goes for Hummel, who’s had to work as hard as anybody to get back to this level). Many questioned Sullinger’s health heading into the draft, and Leonard’s production at Illinois led many to doubt his potential. Only time will tell.
  3. Northwestern didn’t have anybody taken in the NBA Draft, but the Wildcats did make an important addition for their future. It landed a huge commitment from Jaren Sina, a four-star point guard from New Jersey. Sina could be the biggest recruiting coup for Bill Carmody in his time as a head coach there. A second-team All-State selection in New Jersey as a junior last season, Sina averaged 20 PPG and 8.4 APG while shooting 42.9% from three-point range. Is he the guy who can finally lead Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament? Stay tuned. But while the Wildcats have had excellent forwards over the last few years, it’s been a while since an elite point guard came their way.
  4. Michigan coach John Beilein knows a thing about recruiting coups, having brought in some top young talent (see: Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke) over the last four years with headliner Mitch McGary on the horizon for next season. Despite this recent success, Beilein says his recruiting philosophy has not changed, but he admits the scenarios are changing. “(In recruiting) you have to pick your battles,” Beilein told AnnArbor.com. “The battles we’re choosing, they may be a little larger.” Michigan has largely been most successful taking its recruiting out of state, since Michigan State and Tom Izzo has had a strong handle on the Mitten State for more than a decade (that was re-affirmed last week with the commitment of two-sport star Drake Harris). Every coach will tell you in-state recruiting is crucial, but who is to argue with the success Beilein has had at UM?
  5. Here’s a bit of unexpected news that really shouldn’t surprise anybody: Aaron Craft, already known as one of the conference’s premier tough guys, has been playing since high school with a floating bone chip in his left ankle. “If he turned the ankle wrong just a certain way, that small piece of bone would get jammed back on his tibia and it would cause excruciating pain,” Craft’s father, John, told the Columbus Dispatch. The Ohio State point guard had surgery June 18 to remove the chip, and has been in a cast and on crutches since then but is expected to soon begin rehabilitation and be “full go” in 3-4 weeks. I can’t imagine any doubt that he’ll fully heal and get back to the same level we’re used to. In fact, if he’s been reaching that level this entire time, I think it’s safe to say he’ll be even better.
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 06.21.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on June 20th, 2012

  1. Everyone in the Big Ten has seen what a force Jared Sullinger can be in the post, but some doctors are warning NBA executives about his potential in the professional ranks, according to a report from ESPN.com. Chad Ford writes that some are concerned that Sullinger’s back troubles could shorten his career. The former Ohio State All-American is expected to be taken early in the first round in the upcoming NBA Draft. Also, here’s our take.
  2. Could Michigan State basketball be looking at participating in a throwback game? Retro jerseys are one thing, but how about a retro facility? Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis — the brainchild behind basketball on an aircraft carrier and one of the first to consider playing hoops in a football stadium — is floating the idea of playing a game at Jenison Field House, where the Spartans played before they called Breslin Center home. It may be tough logistically, but it would be a great way to pay tribute to the historic 1963 Loyola of Chicago-Mississippi State NCAA Tournament Mideast Regional semifinal game that was notable for Mississippi State leaving the state against court order to play against a team with African-American players on it.
  3. If Nebraska is going to join the ranks of the elite basketball programs in the Big Ten, one key will be to have facilities on par with those other programs. The Chicago Bulls seem to think that is the case. Executives from the Chicago organization toured the Hendricks Training Complex in Lincoln, and were blown away. “That’s one of the highest compliments we’ve had,” Marc Boehm, Nebraska’s executive associate athletic director, told the Omaha World-Herald.
  4. Minnesota‘s new athletic director, Norwood Teague, officially began his tenure on Monday and said negotiations with basketball coach Tubby Smith were in the “eleventh hour.” “I think it’s going really well,” Teague told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “What happens with these negotiations is you get the bulk done and then these little things hold you up and then you worry that they’re larger things – and they’re not.”
  5. Draymond Green was the face of the Michigan State basketball team this season and went on to be named the conference’s Player of the Year while leading the Spartans to a Big Ten championship and No. 1 seed on the NCAA Tournament. As he prepares for the upcoming NBA Draft, the Big Ten accolades continue to pile up for the versatile big man.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Draymond Green

Posted by nvr1983 on June 1st, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Draymond Green

SchoolMichigan State

Height/Weight: 6’6” / 235 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late First/Early Second Round

Will Draymond Continue To Smile Against NBA Competition?

Overview: Perhaps the best and worst thing about Draymond Green is that he is a basketball player. It might seem like an odd statement to make, but part of the problem with projecting the Michigan State All-American is figuring out exactly what kind of position he will play in the NBA. In college, he did a little bit of everything and to be fair he did it all very well, but there was not one aspect of his game that jumps out at you. Unfortunately, the ability to do everything tends to be undervalued in many ways by the NBA when it comes to drafting players because teams are more focused on finding players with elite level talents to fit into the team game with the exception of a handful of well-rounded superstars. Still Draymond does a couple of things — rebounding and outside shooting, in particular — well enough that plenty of teams will be willing to take a chance on him even if gets passed over by several players who were not near the caliber of player that he was in East Lansing. Green’s all-around ability — averaging 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game as a senior — may not be fully utilized in the NBA, but a few of his skills should be showcased at the next level.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on April 2nd, 2012

  1. It came down to the wire for Ohio State in its national semifinal loss to Kansas on Saturday, and it did not end well. The Buckeyes let a game that they were seemingly in control of nearly throughout slip away as the Jayhawks climbed back from a 13-point margin. Thad Matta saw his team playing some of its best basketball at the end of the year, but did not see it execute well at the end of the game that mattered most.
  2. And with that, we likely bid farewell to Jared Sullinger, possibly Deshaun Thomas and definitely William Buford as the last Big Ten team puts the finishing touches on its season. Sullinger surprised a few by coming back for his sophomore season and Thomas has emerged as possibly the team’s best talent. So how much will be left in the cupboard next year? Possibly more than you think, says Bob Hunter of The Columbus Dispatch.
  3. The clock ran out on Michigan State‘s exceptional season, but the accolades continue to pile up for star senior Draymond Green and coach Tom Izzo. Green was named the National Player of the Year by the NABC on Sunday, the first Spartan to receive such an honor since Shawn Respert in 1995. In turn, Izzo was named Coach of the Year for the second time of his career. “For me to win an award of such great magnitude means a lot for me to be able to contribute to making this an even better program,” Green said.
  4. Michigan coach John Beilein had a few things to say on Yahoo! Sports Radio this weekend, but did not get into the situation regarding his star point guard’s possible return to Ann Arbor. Beilein reflected on the season, refusing to call it a disappointment. ”We had a great group of young guys that played their tails off, we won a Big Ten championship, which has only happened 13 times in Michigan history,” Beilein said. “(It) hasn’t happened in (26 years). We feel good.” The topic of Trey Burke, who is expected to make a decision about the NBA Draft early this week, did not come up.
  5. For Patrick Chambers, his first year at Penn State was all about attitude. He saw enough, and he’s looking for more. Chambers looked back on this past season, said he liked what he saw, but is hopeful for a brighter future for the Nittany Lions.
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2011-12 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.

Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.

Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:

Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.

Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year

First Team All-America

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.

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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Michigan State

Posted by jnowak on March 29th, 2012

Besides the fact that Michigan State bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet Sixteen as a #1 seed, it was an incredible year for Tom Izzo‘s group for no other reason than the fact that the Spartans were  a #1 seed at all. Michigan State began the year unranked and lost its first two games but worked its way to a share of the Big Ten regular season title, the Big Ten Tournament title, and the program’s fourth #1 seed in the Izzo era. And as far as that era is concerned, this year’s group may be one of its best in terms of chemistry, defensive tenacity, and the other qualities that have come to define Michigan State basketball. Here’s a look back at the year that was:

Draymond Green helped Michigan State to a fantastic season nobody saw coming. (AP)

  • In a nutshell: It sounds like a broken record by now, but this team really recaptured what has made Michigan State basketball so great over the years — defense, rebounding, toughness, and chemistry — after it had been lacking, particularly with last year’s group. Draymond Green emerged as one of the best players in college basketball, not to mention the most valuable, with his incredible arsenal of capabilities. Role players like Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood as well as freshmen Travis Trice and Branden Dawson produced. Izzo was not shy in saying how much he loved this team and he had good reason to.
  • Overachievement: Without Delvon Roe, who “retired” before the season after battling chronic knee injuries, it wasn’t clear how the Spartans’ frontcourt would fare. Green is a talented forward who can produce from the left block pretty much at will, but the inside presence of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together was really what took the Spartans to the next level. Nix has slowly been progressing over the last two years, but Payne really took a giant leap from his freshman season. Nix jumped from 8.2 minutes per game and 2.7 PPG last year to 18.9 and 8.1, respectively, this season. Payne jumped from nine minutes to 17.9 and 2.5 PPG to seven a night. What made them particularly dangerous, though, was their contrast in styles. Nix is a more traditionally-styled, big-bodied center while Payne is a long, athletic big man. Read the rest of this entry »
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