Dec 30, 2012, 9:07 PM EST
Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Big Ten Conference Catchup:
Favorites: Michigan and Indiana
At this point, it’s almost impossible to delineate between the Hoosiers and the Wolverines. They are unquestionably two of the top five teams in the country — alongside Duke, Louisville and Kansas (sorry, Syracuse and Arizona) — but, for the same reason that it’s tough to pick a title favorite out of that group, it’s tough to make a choice between the Hoosiers and the Wolverines. Both teams do things well. Both teams do some things poorly. Both teams have an all-american anchoring a roster full of talented role players, but neither team has the kind of talent that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.
Gun to my head, I’m picking Michigan to win the conference. Trey Burke has been that good, they have the kind of athleticism and versatility that is perfect in John Beilein’s system, and I think Indiana’s been bolstered by a weak non-conference resume. Then again, the Hoosiers are actually defending this season and have the nation’s best low-post scorer. Bottom-line: the season finale will be played between these two teams — March 10th at Michigan — and could end up being the best game of the year.
Contenders: I have a tough time seeing anyone other than Michigan or Indiana winning the league, but that’s not because of a lack of quality teams. Ohio State and Michigan State are probably going to end up being the Big Ten’s two biggest challengers, but based on the way that Illinois and Minnesota have played this season, it is impossible to count either team out.
Biggest Surprise: Brandon Paul, Illinois
We expected that Minnesota would be competitive this season, and while I doubt that anyone actually thought they could be a top 15 team at the turn of the year, their success is much less of a surprise than that of Illinois. The Illini look like they have fully bought into what John Groce is selling. A number of their wins have been less-than-impressive, but at the end of the day, a win is a win. Paul, however, has been a revelation. After spending three years as a guy with worlds of potential that was unable to put all the pieces together, Paul is playing like an all-american. He’s become deadly in the pick-and-roll and a much more consistent shooter. The problem? He’s so important to this team than they can struggle when he’s not playing well.
Biggest Disappointment: Purdue
We knew there was going to be a gap between the tournament hopefuls and the rest of the Big Ten, but I don’t think that anyone predicted that the Boilermakers would essentially be written off as a tournament team before December came to a close. Matt Painter’s club has dealt with some injury issues this season and their back court hasn’t progressed like many had expected.
Player of the Year: Trey Burke, Michigan
I’m going with Burke in what is probably the tightest player of the year race in the country. There’s no shortage of talent in the Big Ten this season, but Burke has been the best because of his ability to score and create based on what his team needs at the time. He gets his talented teammates involved early and turns into an assassin down the stretch. His numbers — 17.8 points, 7.4 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 53.6/75.7/38.3 shooting splits — aren’t to shabby either.
Best Freshman: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
No one really talked about Stauskas coming into the season, but he’s absolutely been the best freshman in the Big Ten. The kid simply doesn’t miss when he gets his feet set (he’s shooting 39-69, or 56.5%, from three) but he’s also capable of putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim, defending and rebounding for a player his size. He’s Zak Novak, only more talented, bigger, and a much better athlete.
- The Big Ten gets eight bids to the big dance. I’m not one to bet against Wisconsin. No one should be. Iowa is a young team that is only going to get better. And given how many good teams there are in the league and how many chances both the Badgers and the Hawkeyes are going to have to notch quality (marquee?) wins, I think their resume ends up being strong enough.
- Shannon Scott becomes Ohio State’s best playmaker by the end of the year. I love Aaron Craft as much as anyone, but Scott is more dynamic and more talented. On a team that needs offensive support for Deshaun Thomas, Scott is a valuable option.
- Tom Izzo’s team struggles in March. Branden Dawson hasn’t made a jump this season. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix have been inconsistent. I’m not convinced Keith Appling and Gary Harris will be able to carry this team offensively. Will Izzo’s Magic March touch wear off again this season?
Power Rankings (* = tourney team):
3. Michigan State*
4. Ohio State*
12. Penn State
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Dec 5, 2013, 1:30 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Drexel 85, Cleveland State 82 (3OT) Frantz Massenat led the Dragons with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and as a team Drexel converted 14 offensive rebounds into 23 second-chance points. Cleveland State’s Jon Harris scored 27 points to lead the way for the Vikings, with 24 of those points…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:21 AM EST
No. 1 Michigan State’s inconsistency final came back to bite them. The Spartans shot 35.9% from the field and 7-for-24 from three as they got dropped by North Carolina, 79-65, at the Breslin Center on Wednesday night. Michigan State had erased an 18-4 deficit, tying things up at the half, but the Tar Heels used…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:19 AM EST
During the preseason there were more than a few people who believed that Steve Donahue’s Boston College Eagles had the pieces needed to be one of the more improved teams in college basketball. With al five starters back from last season’s 16-17 squad, led by guard Olivier Hanlan and forward Ryan Anderson, there was both…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:39 PM EST
At this point in the season it seems safe to say that North Carolina has just one consistent perimeter shooter in sophomore point guard Marcus Paige. Entering Wednesday’s game at No. 1 Michigan State, Paige was responsible for 18 of the Tar Heels’ 21 made three-pointers. And with Paige also being their best overall perimeter…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:39 PM EST
Ohio State entered Wednesday night’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup with Maryland ranked No. 5 in the country. The Buckeyes were No. 2 according to Kenpom, which is largely the result of the Buckeye’s stifling defense. Thad Matta’s team leads the country in defensive efficiency, holding their opponents to 39.0 eFG% (effective field goal percentage), forcing…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:24 PM EST
In a game in which both No. 8 Wisconsin and Virginia struggled to make shots, redshirt junior guard Josh Gasser who was the most accurate shooter and made the plays that helped the Badgers pick up the 48-38 win in Charlottesville. Gasser (team-high 11 points) attempted just two shots from the field but he made…
Dec 4, 2013, 7:47 PM EST
Among the many interested observers at No. 10 Duke’s 79-69 win over No. 22 Michigan was former Duke great Grant Hill, who during his time in Durham was an incredibly versatile player. In analyzing the play of current Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker, some have made the comparison between the Chicago native and Hill. On…
Dec 4, 2013, 6:02 PM EST
With the changes in the way that contact is being called, college basketball has seen an increase in the number of fouls called and the number of free throws attempted in 2013-14. This has been one reason why scoring’s increased after being historically low last season; added opportunities to score by way of an “unchallenged”…
Dec 4, 2013, 4:45 PM EST
A J.J. Avila layup with a second remaining on Saturday gave Colorado State a dramatic 85-83 victory over New Mexico State, and it turns out that the result may have come at an even greater cost for the Aggies. Junior reserve forward Remi Barry went down in the first half with a left knee injury,…
Dec 4, 2013, 4:01 PM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: North Carolina at No. 1 Michigan State, 9:00 p.m. ET So which North Carolina team shows up tonight? Will it be the one that beat Louisville handily at Mohegan Sun earlier this season, or is it the group that lost to Belmont at home and UAB on the road? The Tar…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:54 PM EST
DURHAM, N.C. — The story of No. 10 Duke’s 79-69 win over No. 22 Michigan on Tuesday night was some combination of the Blue Devils’ defensive prowess and the Wolverine’s offensive struggles. Whether you believe that Michigan’s horrendous night, which saw them score 50 points and shoot 39.1% from the floor in the first 38…
Dec 4, 2013, 12:53 PM EST
On Tuesday night, Duke knocked off Michigan at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which was big news for both the Blue Devils, who had been struggling defensively for much of the first month of the season, and the Wolverines, who have never looked this bad offensively in the John Beilein era. It was bigger news for Coach…
Dec 4, 2013, 12:34 PM EST
The Julius Nyang’oro case took another turn this week, as the former UNC African-American Studies professor was indicted by a grand jury in North Carolina. He’s facing a charge of obtaining property through false pretenses, a low-level felony with a maximum punishment of 30 months in prison, although according to the Raleigh News & Observer,…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:51 AM EST
Who is the best shooter in the country? It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? Does being a “shooter” simply mean merely being a high-level marksman from beyond the arc? Can a player who thrives in the mid-range but rarely ventures out into three-point land be eligible? How heavily should we be valuing stats like…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:46 AM EST
Tuesday was a big night for Stetson’s basketball program. Not only did the Hatters pick up their first win of 2013, but Kentwan Smith made became Stetson’s first player to make it to POSTERIZED. Alley-oops off of a set play are the best, aren’t they? (h/t Dan Forcella)
Dec 4, 2013, 1:50 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: Boise State 69, Utah 67 Lost in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge hype was the battle between Mountain West and Pac-12 programs. The Broncos and Utes entered as two of the time scoring teams in the nation, but both struggled from the field early. Derrick Marks had 17 points and Anthony Drmic added…
Dec 4, 2013, 1:01 AM EST
It took until the later stages of the second half, but No. 18 UCLA remained undefeated following a 89-76 win tover UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night at Pauley Pavilion. The game was much closer than the final score, as one of the contenders in the Big West gave the Bruins a fight throughout. The Gauchos…
Dec 3, 2013, 11:43 PM EST
The Big Ten got its first win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge from Iowa’s offensive firepower. The Hawkeyes, playing in front of a raucous crowd, held off a Notre Dame second half comeback, countering the rally and holding off the Fighting Irish in a 98-93 win on Tuesday night. The Irish posted 43 points in…
Dec 3, 2013, 11:26 PM EST
DURHAM, N.C. — Caris LeVert is a good basketball player. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that there aren’t five players in college basketball that are more improved than No. 22 Michigan’s 6-foot-6 sophomore, and nothing about the 24 points he had against No. 10 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday…
- No. 1 Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina: Injuries, or sign of a bigger issue? 0
- North Carolina shows up ready to compete, knocks off No. 1 Michigan State 0
- Duke doesn’t need Rasheed Sulaimon if they have three guys that fit into a role 1
- The Chase for 180: Doug McDermott’s tough night 0
- Michigan’s offensive struggles in 79-69 loss to Duke a major concern 1
- Marshall Henderson’s on-court antics aren’t changing. Deal with it (5)
- No. 5 Oklahoma State’s win over Purdue exemplifies issues with new foul rules (3)
- Tim Floyd tees off on Andy Enfield: ‘We’re not going to take it in the shorts’ (3)
- Report: Delta bumps entire flight to get Florida to UConn (3)
- No. 20 Creighton gets 27 from Doug McDermott, stifles Jahii Carson in blowout (2)