Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 3rd, 2015

On the penultimate weekend of Big Ten conference play, the heavy hitters came up with some large performances.Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, Iowa’s Aaron White, and Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice all stated their cases for all-Big Ten inclusion in leading their teams to key wins. The quartet combined for 99 points over the weekend, showing that they are ready to go as the calendar has flipped to March. Nothing too earth-shattering happened in terms of results from the weekend games, but as always, here are some of the highlights.

Frank Kaminsky managed to put up 31 points in his final home game in Madison Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Frank Kaminsky managed to put up 31 points in his final home game in Madison Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Player of the Weekend: As he’s done for the majority of the season, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky lit up the stat sheet against Michigan State in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. If you thought that the Spartans’ front line may have given the Badgers a tough time down low, think again. Rather, Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes had their way inside with Tom Izzo’s team, combining for 28 points in the first half. Kaminsky, quiet from the outside lately, nailed 3-of-4 attempts from deep en route to 31 points for the game. He led the Badgers in scoring, steals and blocks, and tied for the team lead in assists — just a typical game from a senior who’s having an absolutely tremendous season.
  • Super Sub of the Weekend: Iowa’s Josh Oglesby hasn’t had a very good senior season. Considered one of the better outside shooters in the Big Ten, he is only shooting 31.4 percent from behind the arc, even after his 4-of-8 effort in Iowa’s 81-77 overtime win over Penn State on Saturday. That number won’t matter if Oglesby can find his stroke to give the Hawkeyes a consistent perimeter threat from here on out. He managed 12 points off the bench, combining with fellow senior Gabriel Olaseni to produce 24 of Iowa’s 27 bench points for the game. The Hawkeyes are still one of the most difficult teams in the country to figure out, but the riddle will be easier to answer if Oglesby can give his team some consistent outside scoring.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Indiana Grinds Things Out in Battle of Leading Freshmen

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 10th, 2015

Coming into Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Indiana, both teams were the top two in terms of points per game in the B1G. So in a season that arguably makes less sense as time goes forward, of course these two perimeter juggernauts combined to shoot 7-for-39 from deep. Matchups between two top point guards, and between two of the best freshmen perimeter players in the land did not really materialize. Instead Indiana was able to forget the fact that their shots weren’t falling, by simply being the tougher team. Despite their small size, they enjoyed a 48-39 advantage on the boards. Unheralded bench contributors  like Emmitt Holt and Collin Hartman seemingly made all of the hustle plays that in the end added up to a great win for the Hoosiers. While some of the head-to-head battles never really came into play, here’s a couple of areas that Indiana was able to win on their way to a 69-66 victory.

Troy Williams notched a double-double as Indiana held off Ohio State Saturday in Bloomington.  (Chris Howell/Herald Times)

Troy Williams notched a double-double as Indiana held off Ohio State Saturday in Bloomington. (Chris Howell/Herald Times)

  • Troy Williams-Sam Thompson/Mark Loving: Williams was the best player on the floor, and it wasn’t just because he had 2-3 plays that could end up on Sportscenter’s top 10. The Hoosiers could have very well been lack-luster in the energy department with so many of their outside shots not falling. Instead, they kept up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor, and especially on the boards. Williams was the ringleader on both accounts, grabbing 12 rebounds on the day and not allowing Loving to really get going. Indiana switched in and out of zone all day, so he didn’t necessarily lock one specific person down. But the energy,hustle, rebounding, and timely passing (team-high three assists) swung the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 5th, 2015

The opening weekend of Big Ten play resulted in three teams remaining undefeated in conference action, with the trio of Maryland, Purdue and Wisconsin sitting atop the standings. Indiana and Iowa are both 1-0, with games to come tonight to see if they can also keep their unblemished records. Conversely, Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State are all off to shaky 0-2 starts. Even Rutgers notched its first-ever Big Ten win when it held on to beat a cold-shooting Penn State unit on Saturday night. Here’s the rest of the weekend lowdown from an interesting opening slate of games in the wildly unpredictable Big Ten.

AJ Hammons notched a double-double in Purdue's home court win over Michigan on Saturday. (Purdue Exponent)

AJ Hammons notched a double-double in Purdue’s home win over Michigan on Saturday. (Purdue Exponent)

  • Player of the Weekend: Purdue’s AJ Hammons would have definitely been in the mix for Sixth Man of the Year when I listed my non-conference Big Ten superlatives a week ago, but he’s started more games than he’s come off the bench so he didn’t make the cut. On Saturday afternoon against Michigan, however, the junior center was a substitute for the seventh game in a row and it seems as if he’s getting the hang of it. With Isaac Haas in foul trouble, he played a season-high 31 minutes en route to his second double-double of the year. Aside from the fact that he led or tied for the team-high in rebounds, steals and blocks, one noticeable takeaway from the game was the fact that he seems to have really embraced his new role. He appeared more engaged in terms of talking to his teammates, showing emotion when making a play, and genuinely caring about his team and winning, than probably at any time during his first two seasons at Purdue. He won this weekend’s award because of his statistics, but if he can team with Raphael Davis to give this extremely young team some necessary veteran leadership, Purdue could easily turn things around and make a run at a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Three Takeaways as North Carolina Bests Ohio State

Posted by Walker Carey on December 20th, 2014

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between North Carolina and Ohio State at the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago.

North Carolina entered Saturday’s game against Ohio State looking to salvage what had so far been an uneven December. The Tar Heels kicked off the month by suffering a pretty surprising home defeat at the hands of Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That defeat was especially alarming because it illustrated North Carolina’s offensive struggles, as the Tar Heels were an ice cold 27.9% from the field and an abysmal 17.4% from behind the three-point line. After a strong 44-point victory over East Carolina on December 7, North Carolina ran into the Kentucky buzzsaw in Lexington last Saturday. The Tar Heels struggled with Kentucky’s defensive pressure all afternoon, and turned the ball over 18 times in a 14-point loss. Against Ohio State on Saturday, Roy Williams‘s squad was finally able to put together a consistent 40 minutes of basketball against top competition, as North Carolina emerged with a 82-74 win. The following are three takeaways from Saturday’s action.

UNC (USA Today Images)

UNC Played a Strong Game in Chicago Today (USA Today Images)

  1. North Carolina came out strong. The Tar Heels were able to race out to a 12-point halftime lead due to a strong first half performance on both ends of the court. Led by Brice Johnson‘s eight points on 4-of-4 shooting, North Carolina scored 43 points in the opening stanza on 17-of-33 (51.5%) shooting from the field. The first half scoring was a very balanced effort as Johnson, Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson, J.P. Tokoto, Kennedy Meeks, and Joel Berry II all scored at least five points in the opening 20 minutes. On the defensive end of the court, North Carolina’s hard-nosed defense forced Ohio State into a very pedestrian 12-of-32 (37.5%) shooting in the first half. The backcourt of Shannon Scott and D’Angelo Russell was held to just seven first half points on 3-of-11 shooting. The Tar Heels also dominated the rebounding glass in the opening half, as they held a 23-15 advantage on the boards at the half. Ohio State was able to make this game a little closer than it probably should have been late in the second half, but the strong first half turned in by North Carolina created enough distance that the outcome was really never in question. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ohio State Seniors Must Take on New Roles This Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 23rd, 2014

This will be the first Ohio State basketball team without Aaron Craft on the roster since 2010, despite the fact that it seems like he was the Buckeyes’ point guard since the turn of the century. He and Lenzelle Smith Jr. started on teams that reached the Final Four and Elite Eight in consecutive seasons and manned the backcourt in Columbus for the last three years. Combine this with the loss of leading scorer LaQuinton Ross and the Buckeyes have numerous question marks heading into this year’s campaign. Freshmen like D’angelo Russell and JaSean Tate will certainly help offensively and returnee Marc Loving showed signs last year that he could become a double-figure scorer at some point in his Buckeyes’ career. But this team will only go as far as its senior class — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee — will take them. After a disappointing 25-10 mark as a result of a questionable offense (10th in the B1Gin offensive efficiency), the seniors need to prove that they can continue to defend at an elite level without the services of the best on-ball defender in the country, and that they can actually find better ways to put some points on the board.

Shannon Scott will take over the primary ball-handling duties for Ohio State this season.  (Andy Manis, AP)

Shannon Scott will take over the primary ball-handling duties for Ohio State this season.
(Andy Manis, AP)

At this point it’s probably safe to say that Williams will never be a dominant force on the offensive end. He is, however, useful as a rim-protector, finishing fourth  in the league last season in blocks. McDonald made strides last season as a backup big man, showing that even though he too lacks offensive polish, he can contribute on the defensive end and on the glass. Both players foul far too often (a combined 11.1 fouls per 40 minutes),  but if the pair can stay on the court long enough to combine for about 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game, then they’ll have done their job as a tandem. Thompson saw his numbers drop across the board last season, and much like with Williams, it’s tempting to just assume that he is who he is at this point in his career. Even if he does nothing to improve his offensive numbers, Thompson can improve his team if he becomes a lockdown perimeter defender (which he has the athleticism to do) and if he increases his rebounding output. At 6’7″, only two conference players at the same size or taller (Will Sheehey and Joey King) had a lower defensive rebounding rate than Thompson last season. He did shoot 40.4 percent from deep as a sophomore, but he slipped back down to 35.5 percent last year. If he can knock down about 38 percent of his attempts from three and add to his rebounding totals, he should be on the floor for Thad Matta at crunch time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.20.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 20th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Maryland received some bad news over the weekend when it found out that starting forward Evan Smotrycz will be out of action from four to six weeks with a broken foot. Smotrycz averaged 11.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season after transferring from Michigan. He was expected to be a starter for Mark Turgeon’s team again this season, but now he will probably miss key non-conference games against Arizona State and Virginia if he misses the full six weeks. This puts Jon Graham and possibly freshman Michal Cekovsky in line to pick up some of his minutes, at least in the short term.
  2. Not many Big Ten teams had flashy Midnight Madness spectacles like the Kentuckys and UConns of the world, but a couple of schools held public intra-squad scrimmages over the weekend. Purdue was one such team that did so, and the Boilermakers put forth an intriguing lineup with giants AJ Hammons and freshman Isaac Haas on the floor together at the same time. While this unit would definitely lack in quickness if used during the regular season, it could potentially work in small stretches of game action. The major takeaway from this occurrence, however, is that should Hammons get into foul trouble during the season — a fair assumption, given that he had 12 games of four fouls or more last year — it looks as though Matt Painter won’t hesitate to spell him with the 7’2″ Haas.
  3. Nebraska is in the midst of a highly successful football season right now, as the Huskers currently sit at 6-1 with running back Ameer Abdullah sneaking up the list of Heisman favorites. Despite all of that, Cornhuskers basketball is generating a good deal of its own hype heading into the season. Preseason first team All-Big Ten forward Terran Petteway was quoted at media day as saying “now everybody is going to be coming for us.” The Huskers surpassed expectations and then some last year, so it will be interesting to see what happens when they go from being the hunter to the hunted in 2014-15.
  4. Branden Dawson has to have a great senior season if Michigan State hopes to exceed expectations after losing three talented starters, and playing summer ball against former All-American Draymond Green has helped prepare him to take on a greater burden during this year’s campaign. Head coach Tom Izzo stated that if Dawson can bring consistent energy to the lineup, then he’ll have a big year as a leader. One would think that an all-conference season from Dawson will answer many of the questions people have about Michigan State in a transition year.
  5. Another B1G senior who is under the microscope this season is Ohio State swingman Sam Thompson. Thompson has primarily been known for his highlight reel dunks and incredible athleticism during his previous three seasons in Columbus, but the Buckeyes need offense with their top three scorers no longer on the roster. Thompson’s shooting percentages dropped across the board from his sophomore to his junior season, and as a senior he needs to provide more than just athleticism on a team that ranked 128th in offensive efficiency last year. Fellow seniors Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald all will have different roles on the team from last season, and whether Thompson in particular can blossom into a more complete player may determine if the Buckeyes are capable of making another deep NCAA Tournament run for Thad Matta.
Share this story

Ohio State’s Experience and Defensive Urgency Make Buckeyes a Tough NCAA Tournament Out

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 16th, 2014

Ohio State is a flawed basketball team. The Buckeyes don’t have anyone that shoots over 40 percent from three. They don’t have a consistent back-to-the-basket big man. Their point guard sometimes looks like he’s throwing a shot put when he takes an outside shot. They played an adequate non-conference schedule, and then had their share of struggles within the Big Ten. And yet, they are also going to be a very dangerous team in the next couple of weeks, no matter what seed they receive. Although they ended up losing in the Big Ten semifinals to Michigan on Saturday, their performance during their three-day stay in this tournament proved as much.

If Shannon Scott builds upon his play in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State is infinitely more dangerous. (Andy Manis, AP)

If Shannon Scott builds upon his play in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State is infinitely more dangerous. (Andy Manis, AP)

The Buckeyes did not put forth a steady 40-minute performance in any of their three games this week. They had to hang on to beat first round opponent Purdue; needed to come back from an 18-point deficit against Nebraska; and started their game against Michigan down 15-2. What they did show, however, was the fortitude that a veteran team should play with. They competed with a sense of urgency in mounting comebacks that left them with a win over the Cornhuskers and a close loss to potential #1 seed Michigan. When things got bad and they got into a hole, the combination of their outstanding pressure defense coupled with an increasingly active LaQuinton Ross got them back on track.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 02.26.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 26th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Ohio State has gone 6-1 since it put Sam Thompson into the starting lineup. Thompson’s production didn’t change too much at the beginning of the switch, but he’s been significantly better over his last couple of games including a team-high 19 points in Ohio State’s 64-46 win over Minnesota on Saturday. This effort drew the praise of Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, saying Thompson “is what college basketball is all about.” Pitino, interestingly enough, had recruited Thompson when he was an assistant coach at Florida under Billy Donovan. Thompson has always been an elite athlete, and if his improved offense isn’t just an aberration, he’ll be on the NBA’s radar very soon if he’s not already.
  2. Another wing who has been raising eyebrows with his play of late has been Michigan’s Caris LeVert. Unlike Thompson, however, LeVert has been playing well all season long. Dylan Burkhardt does a tremendous job breaking down the specifics of how well LeVert has played on the offensive end this season. You can see with some of the raw data that he is a multi-dimensional scorer who can beat defenses in a number of ways. He’s underrated as a spot-up shooter, but he is equally adept at breaking his man down off of the dribble. Tim Hardaway, Jr., is having a really good season in the NBA with the Knicks, yet LeVert has numbers as a sophomore that are comparable to Hardaway’s junior year statistics.
  3. Kendrick Nunn was the most highly-rated member of John Groce’s first Illinois recruiting class, but the freshman had his fair share of struggles in non-conference play, causing many Illinois fans to question what all the hype was all about. Nunn has quieted his critics with his play of late, showing why he was so well-regarded in the first place. He’s shown a keen ability to drive and finish, and has also shot the ball from the outside much better than scouting reports would lead you to believe. He’s hit 37.3 percent of his three-pointers on the year, going 11-of-22 in the four games when he’s been a starter.
  4. There have not been too many (if any) Big Ten players to come out of the basketball hotbed known as Chadron, Nebraska, but this is where Minnesota pivot man Elliott Eliason hails from, forging an unlikely path for someone on a Big Ten roster. Eliason has dealt with quite a bit of skepticism about his talent after not playing against quality competition in high school, and he seems to be his own worst critic, which is why some of his on-court reactions can be a bit too much to handle sometimes. Despite a lack of productivity lately, he was still third in the conference in rebounding coming into Tuesday night’s games. He’s also averaging 2.2 BPG, and will be a main cog if Minnesota gets things back on track closing out the season.
  5. Nebraska has one objective closing out the year if it wants to defy expectations and get to the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 1998. They simply need to win one game at a time and then let everything play out accordingly. Coach Tim Miles has the team believing in the mantra, “avoid the noise,” tuning out all of the talk about bubbles and RPI and instead focusing on the things it can control. This all starts with their game tonight against an Illinois team that is playing somewhat better lately. Sitting at 8-6 right now, it would be interesting to see what the selection committee would do with a Big Ten team that has an 11-7 or even a 10-8 record in conference play.
Share this story

Big Ten Weekend in Review: The Plot Thickens

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 17th, 2014

After Michigan got beaten pretty badly at home against Wisconsin early Sunday afternoon, Michigan State knew that all they had to do was beat Nebraska at home to take over sole possession of first place in the league. The broadcasters even said that the Spartans were watching the Michigan game in the locker room before their game. So of course Sparty got upset by the Cornhuskers because nothing is normal in the 2013-14 Big Ten season. With Wisconsin and Iowa winning over the weekend, there are now four teams within two games of the top spot. With all of these teams playing against each other next weekend (Michigan State at Michigan, Wisconsin at Iowa), absolutely nothing has been settled with three weekends left in the conference schedule. Minnesota got an important win at Northwestern to keep their tourney hopes alive, Purdue annihilated Indiana, and Ohio State and Illinois combined for a whopping 87 points. Here’s the rest of the weekend rundown.

Frank Kaminsky posted his third double-double of the season by scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Wisconsin's weekend win at Michigan. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky posted his third double-double of the season by scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Wisconsin’s weekend win at Michigan. (Getty)

Player of the Weekend: Frank Kaminsky: This was probably the closest contest so far in the seven weeks of doling out this prestigious award. Sterling Carter and Melsaan Basabe were also worthy candidates, but Kaminsky gets the nod. He destroyed the Wolverines all day, and surprisingly did the majority of his damage inside the paint. In his other games this season where he’s gone for over 20 points, he did so by taking a good number of threes. Specifically, in his 43-point monsoon against North Dakota, Kaminsky went 6-for-6 from three and 4-for-7 on two’s. Sunday afternoon, he only took 2 shots from behind the arc. He was 10-for 14 on two’s and did a good deal of damage on the boards (4 offensive rebounds, 11 total). Kaminsky was as aggressive as he’s been all season trying to corral rebounds, and he attacked the basket the whole game. If he and Nigel Hayes can provide consistent paint points for the Badgers to go along with the ever-present outside attack, then Wisconsin just got a lot more dangerous.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The “Save Your Season” Bowl: Key Questions for Ohio State-Wisconsin

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on February 1st, 2014

The nosedive that Ohio State and Wisconsin have undergone in the last two weeks has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball. Both teams have gone from the top five nationally to a combined 7-9 conference record. That’s part of what makes Saturday’s contest in Madison such a must-win for both squads. Forget the fact that this would have been a marquee NCAA seeding win two weeks ago. Now, both teams just need a win, period. Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso have decided to break down what these desperate teams need to do in order to start the process of getting things back on track Saturday.

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin's shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin’s shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

BB: Amir Williams has shot over 60 percent from the field for the majority of the season. Does Ohio State need to make a more concerted effort to get him the ball in the post and use his muscle against Frank Kaminsky?

AM: Absolutely. Wisconsin only has a block rate of 8.7 percent (268th in the nation) and they give up more shots at the rim than any other area of the court. The Badgers’ defense is more effective at denying looks on the perimeter where only 24.8 percent of their opponents’ shots are taken. Given this fact, going inside is the obvious and preferred choice for the Buckeyes. Williams is shooting 73.2 percent under the rim but is only sixth on the team in field goal attempts. He also has the highest eFG percentage on the team (61.9%) while Shannon Scott, Aaron Craft, and Sam Thompson — three players who all take more shots per game than the big man — have an eFG percentage below 50 percent. Thad Matta would be wise to figure out a way to get Williams involved even if it means diverting shots from players who are used to getting the ball. Lastly, getting Kaminsky to play more defense on the low block may rough him up a little and tire him out, which will take away from his offensive abilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Three Questions on Ohio State at Michigan State

Posted by Jonathan Batuello & Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 7th, 2014

The Big Ten already gave us a Top 25 match-up over the weekend, but tonight it rewards us with a top five game, as No. 3 Ohio State travels to No. 5 Michigan State for a 9:00 PM tip at the Breslin Center. Both teams started the conference slate at 2-0 and this game could be instrumental in how the race eventually shakes out. This is especially important when you consider that both of these teams will play Wisconsin only once at the Kohl Center (Bo Ryan thanks the schedule-makers), so any loss is huge. To get ready for the Big Ten’s biggest game of the year so far, Big Ten microsite writers Deepak Jayanti and Jonathan Batuello got together to answer three key questions going into the game.

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they host Ohio State in the biggest game of the young Big Ten season tonight (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they host Ohio State in the biggest game of the young Big Ten season tonight (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

1. Michigan State likes to get into transition while Ohio State would prefer to win with its defense. So, who sets and controls the pace in this game?

  • Deepak Jayanti: Last season, the average number of possessions over the three games between these two teams was 60. The average number of possessions per game in Division I basketball was 65.1, so clearly things tend to slow down when these two defensive-minded teams face off. The Buckeyes’ depth at the guard position will create issues for Michigan State’s Keith Appling because there will be fresh legs guarding him throughout and preventing him from picking up the tempo in transition. Between Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, Thad Matta will rotate his guards against the Michigan State backcourt to help dictate the overall tempo. Without those easy transition baskets, Appling will have to beat Craft off the dribble in the half-court which could be challenging and give an advantage to Ohio State in this game.
  • Jonathan Batuello: Michigan State would love to have its guards get out on the break to limit Ohio State’s defense getting set, but it’s likely that this game will slow down. The biggest reason for this is that both teams play smart offensive basketball that leads to highly efficient scoring. It is much more challenging for teams to get out in transition when your opponent converts, and Ohio State boasts an effective field goal percent of 53.7 percent (45th nationally) and Michigan State is even better at 55.2 percent (18th). For Sparty to push tempo it needs turnovers and missed shots, and Ohio State doesn’t commit many miscues (approximately 10 per game) nor have many ice cold shooting nights. Therefore, expect Michigan State to focus on winning the game using smart possessions instead of trying to create extra ones.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 19th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. For the past thirteen years, Michigan State has had great players lead them to success – players like Shannon Brown, Kalin Lucas, and Draymond Green. Now, this Spartans team, led by Gary Harris, has done something those other teams haven’t- be the #1 ranked team in the AP poll. This is their first top ranking since January 8, 2001. The Spartans fully expect to make the Final Four – just like each of those other teams did – but what the Spartans really seek is a National Championship, something that’s eluded them since 2000. Despite their impressive showing at the Champions Classic last week, some believe the Spartans won’t be able to match the talent on teams like Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas come March. But this Spartans team, like all successful Spartans teams of the past, will rely on execution and rebounding to bridge any talent gaps. And it would seem silly to bet against Tom Izzo, especially when he has the #1 team in the country.
  2. With the departure of Deshaun Thomas, we wondered who would pick up the scoring in his stead for the Ohio State Buckeyes. While no one is coming close to replicating Thomas’ 19.8 PPG, Sam Thompson has upped his contribution significantly this year, improving his 7.8 PPG from last season to 13.0 PPG. The increase in points scored is not simply due to an increase in shots taken; Thompson has an eFG% of 55.4 percent and a player efficiency rating of 20.8. Despite coming off the bench, Thompson may be Thad Matta’s most important player. He has the highest ceiling, as far as potential, because of his elite athleticism and his ability to hit the long ball. If Thompson is able to improve throughout the season, the Buckeyes’ concerns on offense may be answered.
  3. Rayvonte Rice has been the most important addition to the Illini this season. But the other starting transfer, Jon Ekey, made his presence known on Sunday night against an old Missouri Valley foe, the Bradley Braves. Ekey was brought in to be a stretch 4 but had started the season ice-cold, going 3 for 12 from the three-point line in his first three games. He got out of his slump against the Braves scoring 19 points including going 5 for 7 from deep. The Illini are hoping he can keep this up since no one in their starting backcourt is a consistent threat from deep. An effective Ekey from three will open up the lane for Rice and Joseph Bertrand to be more effective off the dribble where the Illini have been very effective thus far.
  4. Michigan took their first loss of the season when they got hit by Hilton Magic, losing to Iowa State 77-70. But while everyone was caught up with Iowa State’s impressive victory, they may have missed something that became clear on Sunday: Nik Stauskas has developed into a complete player. His stat line for the game – 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists – speaks for itself. But more impressive than that was John Beilein calling plays for the Canadian sophomore at the end of the game. This is a clear sign that Beilein trusts him, above other players, to lead the team at the end of games. The Wolverines have the impossible task of replacing Trey Burke this season. They will need players like Stauskas, and others like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, to take on bigger roles than last season for continued success in Ann Arbor.
  5. Bo Ryan doesn’t like to rely on freshmen. The Wisconsin “way” has players learn the system as underclassmen and then seamlessly transition into the starting lineup and contribute significantly as upperclassmen. Yet, when George Marshall suffered a concussion before the UW-Green Bay game, Ryan was forced to let freshman Bronson Koenig played his first extended minutes. Koenig played 23 minutes and scored 7 points on 3-of-3 shooting. But Ryan was happier with the poise Koenig showed throughout the game than with his scoring. In all likelihood, we won’t see much of Koenig once Marshall returns. Still, it must be reassuring to Badgers fans, and Ryan, that they have another talented underclassman waiting in the wing and for his turn to continue the tradition of great Badger basketball.
Share this story