Rushed Reactions: #12 Ole Miss 57, #5 Wisconsin 46

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Kansas City pod of the West Region.

Three Key Takeaways:

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Wisconsin vs Mississippi

  1. Henderson Runs Ice Cold Before Contributing In Win: Ole Miss’ enigmatic star had the ultimate half to forget, with a bagel on 11 shot attempts before intermission. He came alive in the second half, hitting buckets, grabbing a few loose balls and icing the game with late free throws. He finished with 19 points on 21 shots, but the bigger takeaway is that it was easy to see the Rebels gain confidence once Henderson got going. While Ole Miss held it together with Henderson missing, the Rebels played a little looser once he got going in the second half.
  2. Uncharacteristic Afternoon For Wisconsin. The Badgers put on a very unusual performance, committing several mental miscues, hitting just 25.4% of their shots and letting up offensive boards by the bushel in the first half. Ole Miss’s zone especially frustrated Wisconsin, and the miscues allowed the Rebels to stay in the game despite Henderson’s arctic first half shooting.
  3. Badger Seniors Go Out With A Whimper: Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans had very good careers under Bo Ryan, but vanished Friday afternoon, shooting a combined 5-22 on Ole Miss’ defense. Bruesewitz also committed four costly turnovers and Berggren just never got going offensively. While experience is a vital part of March Madness,  the best player on the court for Wisconsin was freshman Sam Dekker.

Star Of The Game: Reginald Buckner: His polarizing teammate outscored him by ten points, but the burly Buckner was terrific inside for the Rebels, scoring nine points to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds. Wisconsin had no answer for him as he continually backed down Wisconsin’s interior defense and was perhaps the biggest reason why Ole Miss was able to stay close and ultimately pull ahead. Not to be forgotten is Buckner’s frontcourt complement, Murphy Holloway, who chipped in ten points and nine boards of his own.

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Rushed Reactions: #22 Wisconsin 68, #3 Indiana 56

Posted by WCarey on March 16th, 2013

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

Three Key Takeaways:

Wisconsin Stopped the Hoosiers Again

Wisconsin Stopped the Hoosiers Again

  1. Indiana is still deserving of a #1 seed. Even with the setback to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers still have one of the best resumes of the country. Indiana was the outright regular season champion of the toughest conference in college basketball. The Hoosiers won road games at Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan. It has as much, or more, talent as any team in the country. A record of 27-6 is not usually the record of a #1 seed, but college basketball this season has been anything but the usual. Indiana should still be a #1 seed and it should still absolutely be viewed as a strong contender to get to the Final Four.
  2. Wisconsin is the definition of a team. The Badgers certainly do not have any guys who can be considered “stars,” but what they do have are eight players who contribute to every game. Point guard Traevon Jackson is a true point guard who is always looking to make his teammates better. Shooting guard Ben Brust is always a threat to catch fire from deep at any time. Forwards Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz , and Ryan Evans are all seniors who bring the Badgers extremely tough and disciplined play in the post. Freshmen Sam Dekker and George Marshall along with sophomore Frank Kaminsky come off the bench and routinely make an impact for the Badgers. While there are certainly teams in the Big Ten who have a lot more individual talent than the Badgers, there might not be a team who plays together as well as the Badgers. Wisconsin’s ability to play together as a unit makes it a tough team to beat and a team that should never be taken lightly.
  3. Wisconsin certainly has Indiana’s number. With Saturday afternoon’s victory, Wisconsin has now won 12 consecutive games over Indiana. While a majority of those wins came when Indiana was down, it is still quite the amazing statistic. Indiana is viewed by many as the best team in the country, but Wisconsin has defeated the Hoosiers twice this season in fairly commanding fashion. The Badgers’ physical style of play coupled with their deliberate attack on offense frustrates almost every team they play and it could certainly be one of the reasons for their utter domination over Indiana. This is definitely a streak that should be followed as next season comes around because it will be fascinating to see if Wisconsin will be able to top Indiana yet again.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. The senior forward was all over the place for the Badgers. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. Evans also supplied Wisconsin with very capable defense against Indiana’s Christian Watford who is always capable of an offensive explosion. Jared Berggren (11 points and five rebounds) and Sam Dekker (11 points off the bench) were also considered, but Evans was clearly the best player on the court for the Badgers.

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Rushed Reactions: Wisconsin 68, Michigan 59

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 15th, 2013

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Chris Johnson is a Big Ten Correspondent and an RTC Columnist. He filed this report Friday from the United Center. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

For the first 20 minutes, the best prospective quarterfinal match-up of the Big Ten Tournament was a complete eyesore. Then the game opened up. Wisconsin’s efficient offense churned, Michigan never went away and the Badgers held on for a nine-point win.

Composed offense and disciplined defense from Wisconsin was too much for Michigan to handle (Getty).

Composed offense and disciplined defense from Wisconsin was too much for Michigan to handle (Getty).

  1. The First Half Was Bad. Really Bad. Call it good defense, bad shooting or an ugly mixture of the two. Whatever it was, Michigan and Wisconsin came out and laid a cringe-worthy offensive dud in the first half, 37 points of discordant offense, unsightly play actions and wasted possessions. Neither team broke the 0.60 points-per-possession barrier and the Badgers and Wolverines together made just seven three-point shots. This wasn’t totally unexpected; Wisconsin’s fourth-ranked efficiency defense has forced more than a few of the nation’s top offenses into utter dysfunction this season (see a mid-January road win at Indiana), but the miscues were not relegated to one end of the court. Michigan denied easy post feeds to Ryan Evans and Jared Bergrren and locked down the Badgers’ perimeter threats – Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust chief among them. The Wolverines went into the locker room with a three-point lead, and untold amounts of offensive frustration. By its own lights, Wisconsin couldn’t have felt much better. The second half presented the prospect of another soporific offensive slog.
  2. Wisconsin’s Shooting Really Picked up. Somewhere between that 5-of-29 first half and the opening possession of the second half, Wisconsin had a long-range epiphany. That’s the only way to explain how the Badgers knocked down six threes in a second half just minutes after one of the worst shooting halves of its season to date. Brust knocked down three bombs from distance, all of them coming at seemingly opportune moments – whenever Michigan clawed back, whenever Trey Burke or Mitch McGary would energize the pro-Wolverines crowd with a nifty layup or a strong post move, Brust closed the door. But Wisconsin’s second-half offensive uptick can’t be spun in such simple terms. The Badgers poked and prodded on the inside, with Bergrren, Evans and Mike Bruesewitz physically manhandling Michigan’s big men on the offensive end. Traevon Jackson directed a precise and efficient offensive attack, and Michigan’s defense, so strong for much of the first half, couldn’t hold firm for the second 20 minutes. Once Wisconsin found itself on the offensive end, and kept up its almost mechanically predictable stingy defense, Michigan couldn’t keep up. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

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

Where We Left Off: We last saw the Badgers finish off what seemed like just another typical season — steady as she goes. They started the season ranked in most polls around No. 15 in the country and stayed there for most of last year, climbing into the Top 10 at one point. They won a game in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State and won two more in the NCAA Tournament before dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the third round. Finishing fourth in the conference felt just about right for a Badgers squad that weathered some early-season struggles from All-American guard Jordan Taylor to end the year with a good showing in a tough conference.

With Mike Bruesewitz out for at least a month, the Badgers will have some holes to fill in the early going. (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

Positives: Even with the losses of two upperclassmen (Mike Bruesewitz – albeit temporary — and Josh Gasser, but we’ll get to that in a moment), this may be the most experienced team in the Big Ten. It will be anchored by senior center/forward Jared Berggren, and he’ll get a hand from senior Ryan Evans and junior Zach Bohannan (who transferred from Air Force) and Ben Brust. Experience comes into play most on the defensive end, and defense is arguably the important aspect of the game in the Big Ten (the Badgers led the conference in scoring defense last year). Also, the more time familiar with Bo Ryan‘s system, the more easily these guys can jump right in and hope to contend in a rough-and-tumble conference this year. And with the help of the upperclassmen, freshman point guard George Marshall should have plenty of assistance in the important area of floor leadership.

Negatives: Right now, Wisconsin is more of a “have-not” than a “have.” They’ll be without the senior forward Bruesewitz, who suffered a freak leg injury in practice in early October, until sometime around the Creighton game on November 23 (which means he’ll miss the Florida game on November 14). Then, when junior guard Gasser tore his ACL in practice later last month, that took away a second certain starter for the Badgers who were already going to be fighting to be in the top tier of a loaded conference. The pair of Bruesewitz and Gasser have combined to start 115 games for the Badgers. Those are two talented, veteran players the Badgers will be hard-pressed to replace, at least in the early going.

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Big Ten M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 24th, 2012

  1. Last year’s Northwestern team had so little depth that at times it was forced to use just six players all game and play John Shurna at the center spot. This year, the Wildcats will be fine depth-wise as they bring in nine new players. Yes, nine. Three of them are redshirts — freshmen Tre Demps and Mike Turner both sat out last year, as did junior Nikola Cerina, who transferred in from TCU. The Wildcats also added two seven-footers — freshmen Alex Olah and Chier Ajou — at center and graduate transfer forward Jared Swopshire, who came to Evanston from Louisville and is expected to make a major impact on the court. Chris Johnson, a Rush the Court contributor who also runs InsideNU.com with me, sat down with coach Bill Carmody to preview all nine freshmen. Carmody seems very excited about Swopshire and added some insight into the center situation, saying Olah has the upper hand on Ajou right now. He was also high on Sanjay Lumpkin, a freshman guard/forward combo who fits nicely in NU’s system and should see significant playing time.
  2. Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz was injured in a workout on October 9, running into the bottom of the hoop and gashing his leg. He could see his bone through the gash and needed over 40 stitches to close it up, but luckily, it was just a flesh wound. Bruesewitz is still recovering, but he finally opened up about the injury that he initially feared could be much worse. He said he first thoughts were if he could ever play — or even ever walk — again. Bruesewitz will play again this year, though the timeline for his return is unclear. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported that Bruesewitz likely won’t be available for the Badgers’ November 14 game at Florida, but could be back for a November 23 contest against Creighton in Las Vegas.
  3. The Big Ten basketball media poll was released yesterday, and not surprisingly, Indiana ended up in first place. The poll included 24 writers — two from each team — and the Hoosiers received 21 first place votes, with Michigan, the second-place team, taking the remaining first-place votes. Interestingly, Ohio State was picked behind the Wolverines in the Big Ten, despite being ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Top 25. You can see the whole poll at the link above. Look out for No. 6 Minnesota and No. 10 Northwestern as sleepers, while No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 9 Illinois might be susceptible to a fall. Obviously, preseason rankings aren’t that important, but it’s an interesting look at how deep the league is and how far down some good teams are buried.
  4. Michigan State is the first school to land a visit from top recruit Jabari Parker, who will make the trip to East Lansing this weekend. The Spartans are in the top five finalists for Parker, who also lists Duke, Florida, BYU and Stanford as possibilities. MSU has yet to secure a commitment in the Class of 2013, losing out on James Young to Kentucky and Jonathan Williams III to Missouri. However, ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep tells the Lansing State Journal that Parker is the Spartans’ top priority, and now they’re shifting their focus to underclassmen since most other top 2013 recruits have already committed.
  5. The common refrain for coaches whose teams receive high rankings typically goes something like this: “We aren’t worried about preseason rankings. We have to take care of business on the court or else that doesn’t matter.” But not Tom Crean. The Indiana coach had a very different response to his team being preseason No. 1, writes Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star. “How cool is that?” Crean said. Some people will see that comment as cocky or misguided, but it’s refreshing to see a coach who doesn’t pretend to ignore the media and preseason rankings. As Kravitz wrote, Crean knows the ranking is meaningless in terms of how IU will fare this season, but it’s an important stepping stone for a coach whose team went 6-25 in his first year in Bloomington.
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Big Ten M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 11th, 2012

  1. Michigan State players rarely receive unanimous votes to be team captain, but that’s what Derrick Nix received this fall from his teammates, this coming even after a marijuana arrest last spring. Nix, the Spartans’ lone senior, was named one of two team captains along with redshirt sophomore Russell Byrd. Nix was a solid contributor for MSU last season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the shadow of star forward Draymond Green. Now, Nix will be called upon to step up in a young frontcourt. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tom Izzo was debating whether to allow Nix’s name on the ballot due to the arrest, saying, “It’s either going to be a huge, huge success story or egg on my face. I think it’s going to be a huge success story.” Nix won’t serve a suspension this year stemming from that arrest.
  2. As team practices are about to get start, Wisconsin has already lost star Mike Bruesewitz for the first four to six weeks of the year. Bruesewitz was injured during a team workout when he ran into the sharp part of the basket and was cut between the knee and the ankle. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the cut was at least 12 inches long and that Bruesewitz’s bone was showing. This isn’t a common injury for athletes, so it’s tough to judge when Bruesewitz will be fully back, but he will be missing most of preseason practice and possibly the first couple weeks of the season. That’s not a huge blow for the Badgers, but it could take some time before Bruesewitz returns to form.
  3. Preseason rankings are meaningless, especially in a sport with such a big postseason, but they’re a fun way to pass the time in the offseason and they give a rough look of who could contend for a National Championship. Not only that, but they also show which leagues are the best. Fresh off a year in which the Big Ten was arguably the nation’s best conference, things look to be pointing in that direction again, as ESPN.com ranked four Big Ten teams in the top 10 of its preseason rankings — Indiana at No. 1 — and six teams in the top 25.  As the season goes along, the rankings will change. However, it’s clear heading into the season, that the Big Ten is once again the conference to beat.
  4. The Jabari Parker sweepstakes is heating up, as Parker narrowed his list to five schools — Michigan State, Duke, BYU, Florida and Stanford. Parker will reportedly take a visit to MSU next weekend — the weekend of October 20. Parker, of Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy — the same high school as Derrick Rose — is the No. 1 player in the country and has been dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the best high school player since Lebron James. While that might be a bit premature, Parker is undoubtedly a special talent and could singlehandedly vault the Spartans into the National Championship discussion once he arrives on campus. MSU has yet to secure a commitment for the class of 2013.
  5. Two decades after the “Fab Five,” Michigan has yet another vaunted recruiting class coming in for 2012. The Wolverines’ class ranks ninth in the Scout.com rankings and includes three four-star recruits, including center Mitch McGary, who is ranked No. 10 in the country at his position and held offers from Duke, Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina, among others. McGary is joined by four-star forwards Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson, three-star guard Caris LeVert and unranked point guard Spike Albrecht. However, according to M-Live, this group isn’t seeking the same attention the last “Fab Five” did. In fact, the article gave them a new nickname: The Modest Five. Regardless of what they’re called, this group has the potential to make Michigan a top 10 team this season, and it gives Michigan arguably its most talented team since the original “Fab Five.”
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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 60, #5 Vanderbilt 57

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Players making plays. Down the stretch, it seemed just about all of the star players in this game made significant plays. There was Festus Ezeli with a giant swat on one end followed up by a soft lay-in on the other. There was a great play by Jeff Taylor to bring Vanderbilt back within one possession. There was the John Jenkins dish to Ezeli to put the Commodores up a point just before Jordan Taylor answered with a dagger three-pointer. And then, down the stretch, Wisconsin ran down two straight long offensive rebounds, allowing them to take over a minute off the clock. Still, after Josh Gasser missed the front-end of a one-and-one, Jenkins had a pretty good look at a three with six seconds left, but it was not to be.
  2. Starting strong, finishing strong. Ryan Evans scored ten points right out of the gate, including eight in the first four minutes of the game, then disappeared for about 20 minutes after picking up his second foul with four minutes remaining in the first half. But, with the game in the balance, Evans soared above bigger Vanderbilt players to snatch a huge rebound following that missed Jenkins three in the closing seconds, then proceeded to hit a free throw to extend the Badger lead to three, which was the final margin.
  3. Balance. In a game like this, with solid fundamental defensive teams, no one player was able to stay hot for long, which led to balanced scoring all the way around. Five different Badgers scored in double figures, led by Jordan Taylor’s 14, but with players like Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and even freshman guard Ben Brust stepping up and making plays. Brust wound up with 11, all in the second half, including three big three-pointers.

Star of the GameFestus Ezeli, Vanderbilt. In a tight game that went down to the wire, Ezeli was the one unstoppable force in the game. Despite not starting, he wound up with 14 points and 11 rebounds and had a hand in three of the final four Commodore hoops (two baskets and one assist). While his career ends, Ezeli was the one athlete who stood out among a company of equals.

Sights & Sounds. While some portions of the Baylor and Colorado section did not fill up until halftime of this game, just about every other seat in this arena was filled early. And with two excellent bands, filling up the pregame, halftime and extended timeouts, the environment inside The Pit was every bit as electric as you would hope March basketball would be. As the game went down to a wire, all the neutral fans in the arena seemed to wind up just rooting for whoever was behind in the game, making for a loud and exciting conclusion.

Wildcard. For much of the final stretch in crunch time, Vanderbilt senior guard Brad Tinsley watched from the bench as freshman Kedren Johnson ran the point. While other lesser leaders might be hurt by such a perceived slight, Tinsley was there ready to give the youngster advice on leaving the timeouts. Call it a passing of the torch, as the quartet of Commodore seniors wraps up their careers with just one NCAA Tournament win to their names.

What’s Next? Wisconsin will face Syracuse in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. While the Orange looked excellent in advancing to the Sweet 16, the ineligibility of sophomore center Fab Melo may leave them susceptible on the inside where the Badgers interior tandem Bruesewitz and Berggren can make an impact.

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Night Line: How Far Can Wisconsin’s Unique System Carry Them?

Posted by EJacoby on December 1st, 2011


Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him 
@evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Every year, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan finds a way to turn a collection of mostly unheralded individual players into an overachieving team, thanks to a well-designed playing style that values time of possession and situational playmaking. This season appears to be no different, and in fact might be the ultimate example of the perfect Wisconsin system. Bo’s Badgers suffered their first loss of the season on Wednesday night at No. 4 North Carolina, yet the team nearly pulled out a victory against a team it never stood a chance against, at least on paper. Once the ball tips off, Wisconsin dominates the pace of games, and this team does one thing better than any other – it limits their opponents’ possessions. This style almost took down UNC tonight, and it should lead to victories against nearly any other team.

They Lost to UNC, But Wisconsin's Defense Should Lead to Many Victories (AP/G. Broome)

This is Bo Ryan basketball; a slowed-down version of the game that may not be the most entertaining for casual fans to enjoy, but is fascinating for basketball purists to watch. A Wisconsin tilt this season averages out to a 60-possession game, which is the lowest pace in the country. They have the best defensive efficiency (83.5) and lowest turnover rate (8.1 per game) in the nation as well. They have a fearless leader in preseason All-America point guard Jordan Taylor, and he orchestrates the team on both ends of the floor. Even though the Badgers got outrebounded on Wednesday by 13 against North Carolina, and they hardly ever got to the free throw line (six attempts), limiting their opponent’s offensive opportunities gave them a reasonable chance to win in the final few minutes. Few teams that Wisconsin plays will be as gifted offensively as UNC, so they should be able to prevent more points against other teams by employing this style.

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North Carolina Looks to Bounce Back Against Wisconsin

Posted by KCarpenter on November 30th, 2011

After a tough loss to UNLV, North Carolina faces a tough match-up if it wants to bounce back: a slow, methodical, and lethal Wisconsin Badgers. Though Bo Ryan‘s team has yet to be truly tested, with the best win on its résumé a neutral court win over the Jimmer-less Brigham Young University, Wisconsin’s style seems tailor-made to challenge the Tar Heels.

The two teams are diametrically opposed in terms of pace with the Badgers plying at the slowest pace in Division I and North Carolina playing at the fifth quickest. North Carolina’s primary struggle against the Rebels was difficulty defending the three-point line; Wisconsin has shot 47.2% from beyond the arc on the season. The Badgers aren’t shy about shooting the long ball either, shooting 42.6% of all field goals from long range. North Carolina was exposed on Saturday as a team that wasn’t prepared to adequately defend the perimeter and if Roy Williams hasn’t corrected this issue, the Tar Heels are in for a long night.

Jordan Taylor Leads A Wisconsin Team With Few Weaknesses

Defensively, Wisconsin has been stout. For the past few years, Wisconsin has had a reputation as an incredible defensive club, and while the Badgers have been good, the defensive prowess of the team has been overrated because of an over reliance on “points per game” and “scoring margin.” Since 2009, Wisconsin has combined a sloth-like pace with brutally efficient offense  and good, but not great defense. Folks see the low final score and the impressive scoring margin and figure that the team locked down their opponent. In recent history, that’s not really been the case. This year, however, the defensive reputation has been earned albeit against an extremely weak schedule.

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RTC Conference Primers: #2 – Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

John Templon of Big Apple Buckets is an RTC contributor. You can find him on Twitter at @nybuckets.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • Mid-Majors Newcomers Will Make Major Impact – Two graduate student transfers from mid-major schools are going to make an instant impact in the Big Ten. Brandon Wood could start in Michigan State’s backcourt after scoring 16.7 points per game last season for Valparaiso. Sam Maniscalco averaged 9.7 points per game for Bradley last season and might end up scoring even more for Illinois. Both players give their teams veteran pieces at positions that would’ve otherwise been dominated by youth.
  • Healthy Living – Robbie Hummel returns for Purdue and has the opportunity to make a big impact for the Boilermakers now that his former classmates have graduated. While Matt Painter couldn’t get Hummel on the court with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, he does get the added bonus of having an All-America caliber forward to help shepherd this team into the postseason. Injuries also delivered a blow to Indiana, as Maurice Creek is going to miss the entire 2011-12 season. That’s after missing all but 18 games last season, and it’s a big blow to the Hoosiers’ NCAA hopes.
  • A New Head Coach In University Park – After leading Penn State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, and falling to in-state rival Temple, Ed DeChellis saw the writing on the wall and left PSU for a more stable job at Navy. His replacement is former Boston University head coach Pat Chambers, who has a big rebuilding job on his hands after graduation of star guard Talor Battle.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Ohio State (16-2) 
  2. Wisconsin (12-6)
  3. Michigan (12-6)
  4. Michigan State (10-8)
  5. Purdue (10-8)
  6. Illinois (9-9)
  7. Minnesota (9-9)
  8. Northwestern (8-10)
  9. Indiana (8-10)
  10. Iowa (6-12)
  11. Nebraska (4-14)
  12. Penn State (3-15)

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The RTC 2011 College Football All-Americans (with a Hoops Twist)

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent and a frequent columnist. 

It’s that time of year again. Off in the distance, it could be a mirage, or it could be the start of college basketball season. It’s probably a mirage, but the Great Sports Desert (you know, that time of year between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of college football when normal American males actually have time to get stuff done) ends Thursday, as college football kicks off its 142nd season. And given the offseason that college football has had, it couldn’t come any sooner. Unfortunately, given all the scandals and arrests and the like, according to my source at the NCAA, it appears that literally every college football player will be ineligible for the coming year (at least I assume that is true – it’s not a very good source). As a result, football programs across this great nation have been scrambling for some last minute replacements. And, since we here at RTC are nothing if not diligent, we’ve spent the last few weeks scouring college football camps across the country while other lesser outlets have been reporting on things like a little scuffle in Baton Rouge and something-or-other about Miami (I’ll admit, I never got through that whole article, but I think I got the gist of it – Miami is a nice place to go to school, right?). Anyway, since we’re the only ones who seem to be on top of this sea change in college football, we’ll let you all in on some of our wisdom as we preview college basketball’s richer, more-spoiled sibling, with RTC’s official 2011 College Football All-American team.

Offense

High School Star Aaron Craft Will Fill In Nicely for Terrelle Pryor at OSU

  • QB: Aaron Craft (6’2″, 190 lbs), Ohio State: In light of the Buckeye football program’s recent troubles, new head coach Luke Stickell turns the reins over to the sophomore Craft. He’s not the quickest or fleetest of foot, but he is accurate, he’s tough and he’s a leader. There has been plenty of talk about the Heisman Trophy campaign of North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, but until he takes better care of the ball (last year, he turned the ball over on almost 30% of all possessions), we’ll give the nod to Craft, who at least has the advantage of having played QB for three years in high school.
  • RB: Jordan Taylor (6’1″, 195 lbs), Wisconsin: The newest Badger tailback may not have the size of former greats like Ron Dayne and John Clay, but Taylor is a tough and smart runner who excels at finding a crease and finishing through contact.
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Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades

A’s:

  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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