Big Ten M5: 1.09.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 9th, 2014

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  1. A lot of people have questioned exactly how good Ohio State is this season. With a non-conference schedule that ended up being weaker than originally expected with Marquette, Notre Dame and Maryland all looking mediocre, the marquee win hasn’t come yet. After the Buckeyes overtime loss at Michigan State, Aaron Craft wasn’t shy about it either. The senior said “we haven’t really done much this year,” as their first loss came against their best opponent. It’s a good sign Craft and the other Ohio State players are questioning themselves after Tuesday night and not satisfied with an overtime defeat. This team may not have had a daunting non-conference schedule, but losing in that way with minimal contributions from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross shows this team has the talent and ability to be a contender.
  2. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to see games like Tuesday night from Adreian Payne. He has proven to be Michigan State‘s stud on the inside all year, but doing what he did through extreme foot pain? Well, that just adds another layer to the growing lore surrounding the Spartan big man. Payne apparently was in near tears before the Ohio State game while taking shots in the practice gym just an hour before the game. His ability to come out and obviously go through the pain and produce on a high level is something everyone would like to emulate. It also likely adds a nice marquee moment early in the Big Ten season as Payne is taking an early lead for the conference’s Player of the Year.
  3. The beginning of Mitch McGary‘s journey back to the basketball court is done. The Michigan sophomore had surgery Tuesday on his back that has caused him pain since before the season began and started the second semester of classes Wednesday. McGary now starts his rehab, which does not include traveling with the team for most road trips. The stress of sitting in a plane or bus for hours is something John Beilein puts secondary to making sure he recovers quickly.
  4. We’ve all complained (or at least heard someone do so) about the new rules this season. Fouls and free throws are up across the country and for a team like Nebraska this has been an especially big issue. The Cornhuskers committed 51 personal fouls in its first two conference games. For a team that is usually the less talented team on the court, fouling and giving its opponents free throws is something it simply cannot do. While no one expects Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten or to make the NCAA Tournament, a few wins here and there could get them into the CBI or maybe even the NIT, so it is still important they play smart and not help their opponents win the game.
  5. It’s become a familiar thing to hear in West Lafayette. Matt Painter said his team needs to “show maturity” as the Big Ten season progresses while it has the week off before playing Nebraska. For fans of Purdue, this line has become as common as hearing about the team’s youth. It certainly doesn’t lack that, playing three freshmen, one redshirt freshman and only having two seniors on the roster. Still, at this point, everyone on the roster has experienced at least half a college season and the lapses Purdue seems to show in games is perplexing (like the first 30 minutes at Minnesota). Painter never seemed to figure out the issue last year, so if the Boilermakers have any chance of turning the season around and going to the NCAA Tournament he needs to find a way this season. That or Purdue’s looking at the NIT, if not the CBI.
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Big Ten M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 8th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Bronson Koenig came to Wisconsin despite having offers from Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. Needless to say, he had a decent amount of hype attached to his game, but he hasn’t made a huge impact yet despite some good moments in his 14 games of action. One of the biggest things he’s dealing with in Bo Ryan’s offense is knowing when to score and when to pass. Koenig doesn’t really need to do much more than what he’s doing right now, however, on a team with veterans Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson ahead of him in the rotation. He provides the Badgers with a someone to play 10 to 15 minutes per game at either the point or on the wing, and the experience he gains this season will pay off much more next year after Brust graduates.
  2. Purdue is in trouble after an 0-2 start that saw the Boilermakers give up 78 points to an offensively challenged Ohio State team and 82 points to Minnesota on Sunday. One of the major catalysts to their struggles has been the defensive end of the floor. Minnesota hit 11-of-24 shots from behind the arc, and Purdue does not rank higher than eighth in the B1G in scoring defense, three-point defense, field goal defense and defensive rebounding. This goes against the blueprint that Matt Painter laid out in the early part of his tenure in West Lafayette, where his teams were mostly known for their defensive intensity. The Boilermakers almost came back and beat Minnesota largely because of the late success of their defensive pressure, but they need to start performing for 40 minutes to get some wins in this difficult conference.
  3. Northwestern lost a transfer on Tuesday afternoon, as 7’2″ Chier Ajou has decided to pursue other opportunities. To date, Ajou had only played in one game and two minutes this season. This frees up a roster spot for next season when head coach Chris Collins can pick up someone who will make for a better fit in his system. It’s a credit to Collins that the transition over from Bill Carmody has gone relatively smoothly, with only two players (Ajou and Mike Turner) transferring so far.
  4. The play of Derrick Walton Jr. has mostly been up and down, but both Michigan head coach John Beilein and Walton himself seem to think that things will become easier for the freshman point guard. He has already cut down on his turnovers — with only six in the last five games — and it’s taken a while for him to learn the complexities of Beilein’s offense, but he is starting to get more comfortable. If Walton Jr. can at a minimum limit his turnovers and knock down an open jumper here and there, the Wolverines will be in decent shape at the point with he and Spike Albrecht splitting time there.
  5. Ohio State almost pulled off another thrilling comeback on Tuesday night, but instead lost its first game of the season to Michigan State in overtime, 72-68. The game showed much of what is already known about the Buckeyes. They are an elite defensive team, especially at the guard spots, but they are still and probably will continue to be a mediocre offensive team. Just like in the Notre Dame game a few weeks ago, this comeback was essentially fueled with tremendous on-ball pressure that created turnovers. The Buckeyes got almost nothing in their half-court offense last night, and unless LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith can develop more consistency on this end of the floor (or Marc Loving morphs from potential superstar to superstar), this will be how it is all season for Thad Matta’s team.
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Youthful Purdue Still Seeking Some Level of Consistency

Posted by Walker Carey on December 5th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game in West Lafayette between Boston College and Purdue.

The 2012-13 season marked the first time in five years that Purdue did not suit up any of the fantastic Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson class – a group that brought great success to the program and concluded its time in West Lafayette with all three players’ jerseys in the rafters. Consequently, that campaign was widely expected to be a rebuilding year. Those expectations turned out to be accurate, as Matt Painter’s squad struggled to a 16-18 record that resulted in the school missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Not all was lost for Purdue during the losing season, though, as its lack of veteran depth allowed freshmen Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis, and A.J. Hammons to gain significant experience they likely would not have garnered on a veteran team.

Purdue coach Matt Painter has had to rely on a bevy of young talent. (AP)

Purdue coach Matt Painter has had to rely on a bevy of young talent. (AP)

Purdue’s youth movement from last season has carried over into this one. While the now-experienced Johnson, Davis, Hammons, and senior guard Terone Johnson are key pieces to the puzzle, Painter’s squad once again has several freshmen who are providing the team with a significant boost. Guard Kendall Stephens – known for his shooting prowess – stepped into the starting lineup in his first game on campus and has since started eight of nine. Fellow freshman guard Bryson Scott entered Wednesday’s game as the team’s third-leading scorer despite only playing 17.3 minutes a night. Freshmen forward Basil Smotherman has not played as many minutes as Stephens or Scott, but he entered Wednesday evening shooting a very impressive 64.3 percent (16-of-28) from the field and has also shown he is capable of some high-flying theatrics.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Washington State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So Far: Washington State has looked awful in the first three weeks of the season. After sneaking by Cal State Bakersfield on opening night, the Cougars handled Lamar with ease nine days later. They then made the short trip over to Spokane to face Gonzaga, where they were easily dispatched by the Bulldogs, 90-74. That wasn’t the low point, however. That came three days later in front of a sleepy home crowd at Beasley Coliseum, where lowly TCU came in and pulled off a stunning 64-62 upset.

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

First Round Preview: Washington State meets Butler in Lake Buena Vista on Thursday morning. The Bulldogs have started the season at 4-0 and their best win came in overtime against Vanderbilt last week. They feature as balanced an attack on the offensive end of the floor as you’ll see in this field, with both forward Khyle Marshall and guard Kellen Dunham averaging 15.8 PPG a piece. Where the Cougars have been struggling is on offense, and junior Alex Barlow will prove to be a pesky pain in the side for their guards. He’s averaging 2.0 SPG and recorded three of them in Butler’s game at Ball State last Saturday.

Potential Later Round Match-up: If the bracket holds, it looks like the Cougs will face Purdue on Friday and Siena on Sunday. These aren’t exactly opponents that will provide a huge boost to the RPI, making a possible upset of Butler even more important. The Boilermakers have opened the season at 5-1, but that record doesn’t look as good when you consider the fact that the best win came against Eastern Illinois. Everything goes through sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson for head coach Matt Painter, who is scoring at a 13.8 PPG clip and averaging 4.4 APG. Siena has opened the year at 2-4 with wins over St. Bonaventure and Cornell. It faces Memphis in its opener at the Old Spice Classic.

Outlook: While two wins may be possible, in all honesty the Cougars should be expecting one. Until Ken Bone’s guys show some resemblance of an offense, it’s going to be best to keep the expectations low in Pullman.

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Purdue Gets First Chance For Marquee Win Against Oklahoma State

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 28th, 2013

It hasn’t been an ideal start for Purdue, but none of that will matter against No. 5 Oklahoma State this Thanksgiving day. The Boilermakers haven’t been dominant yet this season, but they have overcome some early rebounding troubles to remain undefeated through five games. As turkeys are going into the ovens a bit later today, Matt Painter‘s team will take the floor in its first chance at a resume-building win in the first game of the Old Spice Classic. For a team hopeful to return the NCAA Tournament, a win over Oklahoma State would be a statement win by itself, and guarantee two other games against quality competition (Butler, Memphis, LSU and St. Joseph’s highlight the other top teams in the event). Travis Ford’s team has been very impressive early, averaging more than 100 PPG as the Cowboys have demolished every team it has faced, including Memphis by 21 in Stillwater. For the whole tournament, fellow RTC writer Max Jakubowski projects a seventh place finish for Purdue in the event. Second-to-last wouldn’t exactly be a strong performance for Purdue, but let’s look at some keys for Purdue to have any shot at pulling the stunning upset at Noon ET today.

Matt Painter's team has its first chance for a big win on Thanksgiving against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

Matt Painter’s team has its first chance for a big win on Thanksgiving against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

  • AJ Hammons and Jay Simpson Dominate Inside. It’d be easy to start with Marcus Smart, but realistically, Purdue isn’t going to stop him. So let’s focus first on Purdue’s biggest advantage with its height and big men inside. The Cowboys don’t have a particularly large front line and it’s top players are guards, which means that the Boilermakers need to go inside early and often in this game. If Hammons and Simpson don’t have big games, it could get out of hand very quickly. Read the rest of this entry »
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Purdue’s Rebounding Problems Have Led to a Shaky Start

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 20th, 2013

It hasn’t been the ideal start to the season for Purdue despite its 3-0 record. After a disappointing campaign last year, the Boilermakers were hopeful that they would make a big turnaround and push for an NCAA berth this season behind potential NBA Draft pick AJ Hammons and a talented group of sophomores and freshmen. So far, though, the team has struggled against two of its three opponents, sneaking by Northern Kentucky and Rider while blowing out Central Connecticut State. As my fellow Big Ten microsite writer Alex Moscoso pointed out earlier this week, Purdue has experienced the biggest drop in Pomeroy’s projection of expected wins this year, among the 12 Big Ten teams. The projection has fallen to 15-14 (6-12 Big Ten), yet the team has shown an increase in several notable metrics. The Boilermakers’ field goal percentage is nearly 1o points higher and its 3-point shooting is up over last year — as a result, the team’s effective field goal percentage has risen to 55.8 percent from 46.3 percent in 2012-13. It’s defense has also held steady, with opponents’ effective field goal percentage staying in the 45 to 46 percent range. So, what has caused Purdue to start the season so slowly and the metrics-based outlook to change? The biggest answer is that this team’s biggest strength last year — rebounding the basketball — has dropped dramatically.

AJ Hammons low minutes has hurt Purdue, but its drop in rebounding has been the biggest issue (AP).

AJ Hammons’ low minutes has hurt Purdue, but its drop in rebounding has been the biggest issue (AP).

Last year, Purdue ranked 10th nationally in rebounding; this season, Purdue has seen its rank drop to 90th, and the problem lies on the defensive backboard.  average rebounds per game is nearly the same (39.4 to 40.3 RPG), the increase in Boilermaker possessions this season has this total looking worse. More possessions and more shots should mean more rebounds for a Purdue team that once thrived on the glass, but while it is rebounding at an elite level on the offensive end (43.5 percent, 13th best), it has struggled mightily to grab boards on the defensive glass (giving up 40.3 percent of those caroms, 309th in the nation). Part of this can be attributed to Hammons’ early struggles. He missed the first game due to a suspension and in the third game he sat on the bench for a large chunk of time due to foul trouble. In his two games he has averaged only 4.5 boards per game, a subtle but meaningful drop from 6.0 RPG last year. But even if his 40-minute average is still quite strong, as Purdue’s Associate SID notes below, it doesn’t mean much if your future draft pick doesn’t play. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 11th, 2013

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  1. Ever watch a John Calipari interview during a game and think that he tries to be “too” humble? Well, Calipari may be at it again with his comments about the upcoming State Farm Champion’s Classic match-up against Michigan State. Calipari said that it was “unfair” for his team to play the Spartans this early in the season because Tom Izzo has a veteran team. Izzo responded, “I agree, I think he should forfeit. If Johnny doesn’t want to play it, I’ll take a win.” While the Spartans have two seniors, Kentucky will field five freshmen in the starting five. Regardless of the diversity of experience, the game will be very close and the Wildcats come in as the #1 team in the country.
  2. Wisconsin had to deal with terrible news a year ago when Josh Gasser was declared done for the season due to an injury. Traevon Jackson stepped in for Gasser and the Badgers still finished in the top four within the conference. This season, however, Gasser’s services are needed in Madison and the guard made a triumphant return against St. John’s on Friday night. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds to prove that the Badgers will be a handful in the Big Ten once again. It is likely that Bo Ryan will play a three-guard line up with Gasser, Jackson, and Ben Brust, which could be appear to be small on paper. However, Gasser is one of the best rebounding guards and he showed his strength during the season opener.
  3. As we approach the middle of November, we need to keep an eye out for any news about highly recruited forward Cliff Alexander. According to Fox Sports, Alexander’s final decision is down to two schools – Illinois and Kansas. He eliminated Michigan State from his list last week and is expected to make a decision over the next two weeks. Another top recruit, Jahil Okafor, is considering Kansas too. It would be interesting to see if Alexander will choose to play alongside another forward in Kansas, if Okafor chose the Jayhawks. If he chooses to head to Champaign, we may have a contender for the Big Ten title and at least a Sweet Sixteen appearance at Illinois.
  4. The new hand-checking rules in college hoops will be under scrutiny over the first couple of months of the season. The rules could potentially hurt aggressive defenders such as Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. His head coach, Thad Matta, does not think it will affect his senior guard’s intensity. “Aaron Craft plays defense with his mind,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta told Sporting News, fairly scoffing. Craft may get called for more fouls than the previous seasons, but it is tough to imagine a seasoned guard to struggle with the new rules. If he does take a step back on defense, that will certainly impact Ohio State’s chances to compete for a Big Ten title.
  5. Purdue is not expected to compete for a postseason bid because of the youth on their roster. Matt Painter, however, hopes that the “immaturity” issues are in the rear-view mirror after last season. “At Purdue, we have always been able to, when we have had a successful season, play hard,” Painter said. “And at times last season we didn’t do that. You can be young, but you can’t be immature.” Terone Johnson will play a pivotal role on the offense, but he will have to step up as a vocal leader to coach the young team on the floor, if the Boilermakers hope to compete in the Big Ten this year. Forward A.J. Hammons will also need to avoid picking up silly fouls on the defensive end and learn to stay composed against superior competition because his contributions will be needed against the likes of Indiana and Michigan.
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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part II

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013

Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape.  Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year.  Here’s our take:

Matt Painter's past success, and his very large contract, are among the reasons he'll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Matt Painter’s past successes, and his very large contract, are among the reasons why he’ll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas.  In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special.  Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.

Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits.  And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.

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Purdue Needs to Feature AJ Hammons to Realize Its Potential

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 28th, 2013

It would probably be a bit of a stretch to say that the days of needing a dominant, back-to-the-basket, seven-foot behemoth to win at the highest levels of basketball are over. That said, the game is seemingly getting smaller and quicker, and there are fewer teams who function with a traditional center. The teams last year in the Big Ten that went the furthest all had size, but you could hardly say that Cody Zeller, Adreian Payne, or Mitch McGary played like normal fives. Purdue is not one of those teams, however, as its second leading scorer and leading rebounder  in 2012-13 is a projected first round draft pick by the name of A.J. Hammons. Hammons is not a new age pick-and-pop big man, as evidenced by his grand total of zero three-pointers attempted so far in his lone year in West Lafayette. He is, however, a 7’0″, 251-pound load on the low blocks who will be the determining factor as to whether Purdue can rebound from a 16-18 season coming on the heels of six straight 20-win campaigns before that.

Hammons

Hammons Isn’t a New Age Big Man By Any Stretch

My colleague already covered how Purdue desperately needs to improve from behind the arc. Guards like Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson and transfer Sterling Carter need to improve from distance, but the Boilermakers need to take advantage of Hammons and keep getting him the ball if they really want to be successful this season. Hammons was 12th in the league in usage rate last season, tying teammate Ronnie Johnson at 24.9 percent. For Purdue to improve, he needs to be around the 27 to 28 percent range. For some perspective, Trey Burke was nearly at 30 percent last season. A team’s best player should be using the most offensive possessions, even if he is not a ball-handler. This may be a bit too simple, but big guys like to get the ball. If they’re to be expected to bang bodies all game long , they’d like to get rewarded for their troubles. If they are rewarded, they will be more inclined to be more active defensively and generally more engaged when it comes thankless tasks like setting screens and help defense.

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Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over Purdue

Posted by WCarey on March 6th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Michigan and Purdue. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Michigan and Purdue both entered Wednesday’s game fresh off huge victories from Sunday. Michigan notched an important 58-57 home victory over Michigan State. Purdue went into the Kohl Center in Madison and spoiled Wisconsin’s Senior Day with an impressive 69-56 win. While Purdue entered the game at just 14-15 overall, its recent play (winners of two of its last three) coupled with Michigan’s recent conference woes made for an intriguing matchup. Prior to Wednesday evening, Michigan carried a solid 24-5 record and a #7 national ranking. The Wolverines have a plethora of talent and their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses, but their play on the road this season has been below average. While losing on the road is essentially part of life in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, a team of the caliber of Michigan carrying a 3-5 road record certainly raises some questions — especially true because in the road game prior to this contest, Michigan lost to a Penn State team that had previously been 0-14 in Big Ten play. With Purdue playing hard and Michigan looking to remain in the race for the Big Ten title, Wednesday night’s action was definitely memorable with the Wolverines battling back from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat the Boilermakers, 80-75. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday evening’s action from West Lafayette.

Trey Burke Led His Team Back Against Purdue

Trey Burke Led His Team Back Against Purdue

  1. Trey Burke Should Be The Leading Candidate For National Player Of The Year. With his team trailing by 12 points almost midway through the second half, the sophomore point guard grabbed control of the game and led his team to the victory. After a rough first half with just four points and two assists, Burke exploded and finished the night with 26 points and seven assists. While Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter are both worthy candidates for National Player of the Year as well, you would be hard-pressed to make a case that either have outperformed Burke this season. In the best conference in the country, Burke has scored 15 or more points in every conference game. That statistic shows that win or lose, Burke is still giving the Wolverines a chance. Even after last week’s bad loss at Penn State, the Wolverines still have a chance to win a share of the regular season Big Ten title and that chance is thanks in very large part to the play and leadership of Trey Burke. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 4th, 2013

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  1. March is upon us and as teams wind down their regular season over the next week, they will also honor the senior classes during the last home game. Illinois seniors – D.J.Richardson, Brandon Paul, Sam McLaurin, Tyler Griffey – did not want to lose their last home to Nebraska, a team that they couldn’t afford to lose on Saturday. Fortunately for them, Tracy Abrams chipped in 16 points to lead the Illini to a 72-65 win over the Cornhuskers and the seniors were very emotional in Champaign. “I was under my shirt crying,’’ said guard Brandon Paul, who evidently shed a few tears after the grind-it-out victory. The Illini finish the regular season with two road games against Iowa and Ohio State; they could use one more win to lock in a good seed for the NCAA tournament.
  2. While the Illini seniors won their last home, the Badgers’ senior class were upset by the Boilermakers on Sunday. Matt Painter’s team stunned the Badgers by beating them 69-56 and dominated for most of the second half at the Kohl Center. Mike Breuesewitz, Ryan Evans, and Jared Bergren shot a combined 9-24 from the field in a loss that will be booked under the “bad” category by the selection committee on Selection Sunday. “They were just hitting tough shots. This game kind of reminded me of the Cornell game my freshman year,” Evans said, referring to the 2010 NCAA tournament game in which the Big Red shot 61.1 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from three in an 87-69 defeat of the Badgers.
  3. Senior guard Julian Welch (3.3 PPG and 1.6 APG) of the Gophers had a great performance on Saturday against Penn State by scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists. Welch hasn’t seen much playing time during the season so far because Tubby Smith has used a tight rotation, but this performance could catapult his minutes over the next few weeks as they get ready for the postseason. “It’s just been hard for him to get into the lineup,” Smith said. “It’s always tough when you’re a senior and a junior college transfer and the expectations were to play a lot more. But he showed a lot of character in stepping up today. I’ve got a lot more confidence in him now.”
  4. Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes have had some issues offensively over the past two weeks and the first half against Indiana over the weekend was no different because they only scored 14 points. The Hoosiers led 26-14 at the halftime and pulled away to win 73-60 at home as they inch towards a Big Ten title. “I wouldn’t call it a freeze-up,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It was a really good defensive effort by a good defensive team.” The Hawkeyes can’t afford to fall behind in the first half on Tuesday against the Illini because they could really use that game to make a case for the Selection Committe that they deserve a bid to the NCAA tournament.
  5. Speaking of the Hoosiers, freshman Yogi Ferrell scored a career-high 19 points and dished out five assists against the Hawkeyes. Senior guard Jordan Hulls has struggled against Iowa, shooting 0-17 during the two games this season, but Ferrell had a huge offensive game. After the game, head coach Tom Crean said,  “Tonight he went to the rim and didn’t try to get the contact. In the Minnesota game, he tried to get the contact, and he didn’t get either. Tonight he really focused on making the basket, and he did a much better job with that.” Ferrell hasn’t carried the offensive load this season but having a game like this one should help his confidence as the Hoosiers get ready to make a run at the Final Four and potential the national title.
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Big Ten M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 15th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. It’s been a rough few weeks for Glenn Robinson III, one of Michigan’s highly-touted freshmen who started the season strong, but then fell into a cold stretch. As Robinson III has struggled, so has his team, which has dropped consecutive games after finding itself at No. 1 in the nation just a few weeks ago. Robinson III’s five-game struggle has resulted in lower shooting and rebounding numbers, and it’s affected the Wolverines’ entire offense. When he scores at least 10 points, Michigan is 15-0; when he scores less than 10, the Wolverines are 5-4. Over the past five games, he has averaged just 6.2 points per game. Other players need to step up, as well, but for Michigan to turn things around, Robinson III needs to regain the form he showed earlier this season.
  2. Illinois has been wildly inconsistent on offense this year. The Illini are guard-oriented, so they’ve relied a lot on outside shots. When those shots are falling, they’ve been good, but there have also been some bad losses, most notably a double-digit home loss to Northwestern. However, Illinois has been on a recent surge, with wins over Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue. The key for the Illini has been offensive efficiency, and they graded out nicely in that area in the win against Purdue. The effective field goal percentage wasn’t great, but the Illini did well with their points per possession and turnover rate. John Groce’s team must continue to put up solid tempo-free stats in order to finish out the season strong.
  3. Indiana’s depth heading into the year was pretty incredible and one of the main reasons the Hoosiers were considered one of the best teams in the nation. While Victor Oladipo has stepped up more than most expected, the rest of IU’s squad wasn’t all that consistent. However, things are starting to get put together, with Cody Zeller and others playing better. Christian Watford is one of those players who has stepped up, and that was evident in the Hoosiers’ blowout of Nebraska. Watford has scored in double figures in 17 straight Big Ten games dating back to last season, and he’s done so in the last 15 games this year. He gives an IU team full of weapons yet another scoring option, and that wealth of options is what makes the Hoosiers so dangerous.
  4. Matt Painter wasn’t happy with much Wednesday night. Not with his team, and certainly not with the officials. Purdue fell to Illinois and the Boilermakers were forced to finish the game without their coach, who was ejected with around eight minutes left in the game. The issue wasn’t in doubt at that point, so Painter was really just trying to light a fire under his team, which has lost five of its last seven games. The Boilermakers have a very young team and were expected to struggle, and now their streak of six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances looks to be in serious jeopardy. Now, it’s about building momentum heading into next year, and Painter hopes Wednesday night’s loss ignites some sort of spark.
  5. Early this season, Minnesota looked like it could have been one of the top 10 teams in the country. However, a recent, long losing streak has started some talk of the Golden Gophers falling back onto the bubble. Tubby Smith still needs to get more consistency from his team, but Thursday night’s overtime win over Wisconsin has to be encouraging for a team that was desperate for a win. Minnesota’s star guard Andre Hollins got his mojo back and led to Gophers to the win in an overall gutsy team performance against the rival Badgers. Even after falling behind by 10 points — a tough deficit to come back from against Wisconsin — Minnesota stayed patient and used strong defense to crawl back into the game. It wasn’t pretty, but it ended up being a possible season-saving win for the Gophers.
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