Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘Michigan State Spartans’

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Recap

Posted by Zach on December 4, 2008

Duke Purdue Basketball

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has always been dominated by the ACC, winning all nine of the hyped events heading into this year’s clash. I went through the games with popular commenter Brian Sunday night and we determined the Big Ten had a chance to finally come out on top if they held at home and sprung a mildly surprising upset on the road. At the very least, the Big Ten could keep us entertained until the final night.

Turns out they received the stunning upset when Miami was unable to exact revenge from the 2003 Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday night, but were ultimately hurt by Purdue not showing up against Duke and Illinois failing to take care of business on their own floor against Clemson. In the end, the ACC once again touted their superiority over the Big Ten. But hey, don’t get too down, you midwestern diehards. Next year should be your best chance ever with Purdue returning all five starters, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State drastically improving, and the Spartans full of talent as always.

Here’s a recap of each game in the event and some extra thoughts, as well:

#22 Wisconsin 74, Virginia Tech 72: The Badgers have two chances to pick up quality road wins this week, the first being in Blacksburg on Monday night and then on Saturday against in-state rival Marquette in Milwaukee. They nearly blew a comfortable lead with under five minutes to play in this game, mostly due to the coming out party of Tech’s A.D. Vassallo, whose 30 points and 6 threes made up for the non-existent Jeff Allen, banished by foul trouble. Vassallo’s triple with 8 seconds to play tied the game at 72 before Hughes calmly dribbled slowly up the floor and threw up a leaner in the face of about three Hokies to give Wisconsin the advantage with 0.8 seconds remaining. Jason Bohannon hit a few huge treys in the second half and sophomore Jon Leuer helped out with 17/6 off the pine. Virginia Tech is hurting their bubble chances with losses to Xavier, Seton Hall and Wisconsin, but I still feel like they’ll be involved in March, meaning it’s a nice road victory for Bo Ryan. They’ll try to reel in an even bigger fish on Saturday.

Boston College 57, Iowa 55: Poor Andrew Brommer. With a chance to send the Hawkeyes into overtime on the road against Boston College following a bonehead Corey Raji foul, Brommer barely scrapped the front rim on the first of a 1-and-1, sending Iowa home in defeat. BC is now 3-0 all-time in the Challenge, the only undefeated team other than 10-0 Duke. They nearly blew an 11-point lead (56-45) in the contest with Tyrese Rice making just three field goals amidst another game mired in foul trouble. The Eagles weren’t supposed to be an outstanding outside shooting team anyway, but only two in this contest has to be troublesome for Al Skinner. BC looks like they’re headed to the NIT while Iowa and coach Todd Lickliter continue their massive rebuilding project, likely not resulting in a postseason spot this season.

Iowa Boston College Basketball

#4 Duke 76, #10 Purdue 60: The biggest game in Mackey Arena history. Purdue diehards sleeping outside in tents on Monday night in anticipation of the hugest Purdue home basketball game since the 90’s. Then Duke showed up, the students shut up, and the Blue Devils marched out of West Lafayette with a convincing and super-impressive 16 point victory in their first true road contest of the season against a top-15 team. Kyle Singler was once again phenomenal, leading the way with 20/12 while Jon Scheyer chipped in with his usually smooth stroke from outside and the charity stripe, totaling 20 points, as well. From the tip, Duke charged out to a 7-0 lead and quieted the packed crowd, pretty much controlling the game the entire way. Purdue missed numerous easy layups and the Blue Devils looked like the stronger defensive team Tuesday night. Matt Painter needed big performances from E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel and he got neither. Duke looks like they could be on their way to a #1 seed and a Final Four, but we’ve said this before recently.

Ohio State 73, #23 Miami (FL) 68– Probably the most surprising result of the entire Challenge. The Buckeyes can thank Jack McClinton for losing his cool in picking up a very important road win for a young Ohio State team. McClinton became frustrated with Ohio State point guard Anthony Crater’s close-knit defense, resulting in a face brushing from the All-ACC guard that prompted an immediate ejection. McClinton was 4-4 from three and Miami was cruising to an easy home victory when this occured, and the Canes still led by 14 early in the second half. Miami guards Lance Hurdle, James Dews and Brian Asbury (they were also without guard Eddie Rios, who was suspended indefinitely pregame) went 2-17 from deep and turned the ball over 10 times against a suffocating pressure defense from the Buckeyes, ultimately losing their comfortable led when Jon Diebler put up a career high 20 points on six triples and Evan Turner chipped in with 19 of his own. Credit Thad Matta for keeping his team motivated. They put up a remarkable 51 second half points and could be flying under the radar here in early December.

Clemson 76, Illinois 74: Champaign, Illinois is not an easy place to win, especially facing an unblemished Illini team brimming with confidence. Coach Oliver Purnell and the Tigers won with a balanced scoring attack: Rivers (14), Sykes (14), Stitt (18), Booker (16) and forced 17 turnovers with a full-court press that baffled the Illinois guards. They shot an impresive 58% on the road and quietly improve to 8-0 on the season. Illinois played extremely well in the first half, but cooled down in the second shooting-wise. Bruce Weber received solid games from forward Mike Davis (28/8) and sweet shooter Demetri McCamey (20 on 4 triples). Outstanding road win for Clemson, especially if Illinois can sneak into the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota 66, Virginia 56: Tubby Smith and the Gophers stayed undefeated, lucking out and drawing the weakest ACC team in the conference in Virginia. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 19 times resulting in 20 Minnesota points and their top scorer at 20.8 PPG, freshman Sylven Landesberg, shot just 1/11 from the field for 10 points. Another freshman starred for Minnesota- 6’10 center Colton Iverson’s 14 points and 7 rebounds coupled with 12 from Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen’s five steals were enough to pace an expected victory. Minnesota is now 7-0 and looks like a potential bubble team.

#1 North Carolina 98, Michigan State 63: Okay, the question is no longer: Is North Carolina the clear cut #1 team in the nation? It’s no longer: Can North Carolina stay at #1 the entire season? It’s no longer: Can North Carolina go undefeated? The question is: Is this North Carolina team one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time? I know, I know…it’s totally premature to be throwing out questions like that in early December after only eight games. But how can you not be impressed completely blown away, jaw-on-the-floor, utterly amazed? This team is so loaded that the word loaded fails to do any justice. The Tar Heels have now dismantled two top-15 opponents in Notre Dame and Michigan State, their average margin of victory this year is somewhere around 35 PPG, they put up nearly 100 points or more in every contest…thus far for Roy Williams, it’s been a cakewalk. This was the game everyone pointed to before the season and said the Heels could slip up. They won by 35. Tyler Hansbrough looks healthy (25/11, 13/13 FT), Ty Lawson had another incredibly efficient game (17 points, 6/11 FG, 2/3 3pt, 8 asst, 7 stl, 0 TO) and the Tar Heels ran away with the game near the midway point of the first half, never looking back and establishing themselves as, potentially, historically dominant.

Michigan Maryland Basketball

Maryland 75, Michigan 70: Solid win for the Terps on their home floor against an upstart Michigan team that only received 15 points from their sophomore star Manny Harris. These are two teams who will likely have their fair share of great wins and stunning losses (Michigan has another chance with Duke at home Saturday), and this type of victory could be the difference for a Maryland team likely sitting on the bubble come March. Greivis Vasquez was sensational- 23 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists- while Maryland somehow out-rebounded Michigan 43-26 in the contest. Anthony Wright, DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson only contributed 10 total rebounds. They’ll need to hit the glass more to win these types of road games. Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and Dave Neal also reached double digits in scoring for the Terrapins.

Penn State 85, Georgia Tech 83: Could be a rough season for both of these teams, although Penn State has the potential to turn some heads in the Big Ten. Scoring tandem Stanley Pringle and Talor Battle combined for 40 points and the Nittany Lions simply outplayed Georgia Tech in Atlanta for a notch on the Big Ten belt, surviving despicable free throw shooting in the final minute. It’s official: Paul Hewitt is on the hot seat. Luckily for him, he has two outstanding playmakers in Iman Shumpert (14/12 asst) and lottery pick Gani Lawal, who exploded for 34 points on 15/20 FG and 10 rebounds, likely receiving the Horse Trailer if Tyler Smith didn’t notch the first triple-double in Tennessee history.

#17 Wake Forest 83, Indiana 58: This one actually could have been a lot uglier than the final result. The talent disparity on the floor in this game was simply unfair, clearly noticeable every instance James Johnson or L.D. Williams decided to jump over a Hoosier player for an easy dunk. Wake didn’t totally demolish Indiana due to a lack of three-point shooting (5/11) and sloppy play (22 TO), two negatives in the Deacons game that may ultimately lead to their demise. The athleticism and inside play is absurdly good, though. They shot 62% overall with James Johnson totalling 21, Al-Farouq Aminu 13 and L.D. Williams 16 in the contest. Tom Crean had his team playing very hard, only losing 33-30 in terms of rebounds. Wake Forest improves to 7-0 on the campaign while Indiana falls to 4-3.

Northwestern 73, Florida State 59: Just when you think Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles are finally hitting their stride and setting up for a tremendous season, they play a stinker like this one Wednesday night in Evanston. Florida State had 22 turnovers and went scoreless for nearly four minutes during a 20-2 Northwestern run that paced the victory. The Wildcats 1-3-1 zone baffled the Florida State offense in the second half of this one, namely freshman Chris Singleton (5 points). Toney Douglas was great once again (7/16 FG, 3/8 3pt, 21 pts) as Florida State drops to 7-1 on the season and look like an NIT team at best despite the impressive record.

Great doubleheader on ESPN tonight with USC-Oklahoma and UCLA-Texas. Enjoy everyone.

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/1-12/7)

Posted by Zach on November 30, 2008

While the non-conference tournaments are complete, take a long look at this week’s slate of games and you won’t be disappointed. I doubt I’ll have a harder time picking out the best ten out of these the entire month of December.

1. #4 Duke at #9 Purdue– Tuesday (ESPNHD)- The premiere game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge was supposed to be the battle at Ford Field between North Carolina and Michigan State. I give a slight edge to undefeated and #7 Duke heading to West Lafayette to face Purdue in front of a surely raucous crowd pumped for the biggest basketball game for the Boilermakers in years. No longer the Baby Boilers (still young though), Purdue fell to Oklahoma in OT in the Preseason NIT final for their only loss, led by the sharpshooting E’Twaun Moore, do-everything sophomore Robbie Hummel and defensive stalwart Chris Kramer. This will be the first true road test for Duke, who will certainly need a big performance from junior Gerald Henderson and point guard Nolan Smith. These two teams could be #1 and #2 for the 2009-10 season. Not a bad game for this season, either. Prediction: Purdue 70, Duke 69

2. #1 North Carolina at #13 Michigan State
– Wednesday (ESPNHD)- Rumblings suggest this game could hold the largest regular season crowd in college basketball history. And why not? Most pundits pointed to this game as the one stumbling block for the seemingly unstoppable Tar Heels. Those notions have been put to bed by three things: 1) Goran Suton may be out with a knee injury, 2) North Carolina straight up dominating Maui in epic fashion, 3) Michigan State slipping in the first round of the Old Spice to bubble-bound Maryland. But this is college basketball, and in front of tens of thousands at Ford Field, Tom Izzo and the Spartans could come out firing behind Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas. Prediction: North Carolina 88, Michigan State 75

3. #12 UCLA at #8 Texas
– Thursday (ESPNHD)- These two teams are likely barely separated in the rankings now that Texas lost, but if UCLA should march into Austin and take down the Longhorns, that would be considered a pretty big upset following the Bruins stinker against Michigan just two weeks ago. Texas impressed me at Maui- they lost to a very strong Notre Dame team by 1- with their size, athleticism and clear improvement on defense. A.J. Abrams and/or Damion James can have monstrous games at any time and Justin Mason has turned into the best passer on the Texas team. Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and the veterans of the UCLA squad will have to be the ones to lead the Bruins in a difficult environment. Prediction: Texas 73, UCLA 66

4. Wisconsin at #25 Marquette- Saturday (ESPNU)- How this always entertaining rivalry game isn’t on ESPN confuses the hell out of me. Both of these teams and their fans have a general disdain for each other. Don’t count out the Badgers just because the game is in Milwaukee, either. Road teams have won the last two games of this contest, with the Golden Eagles scratching out a rare victory in Kohl Center last season. It’s also a battle of contrasting styles: Dom James, Jerel McNeal and fast-paced Marquette will try to keep the tempo high against sluggish-but-always-efficient Wisconsin and Marcus Landry. I know I’m going to regret picking against Wisconsin, but Marquette should be fired up this week after losing to Dayton. Prediction: Marquette 70, Wisconsin 67

5. USC @ #6 Oklahoma
– Thursday (ESPNHD)- These were my two sleeper Final Four contenders before the season. Fair to say, at least thus far, I whiffed on USC and hit a grand slam on Oklahoma. If anyone can contain Blake Griffin individually (usually takes a team effort- ask Purdue), it could be Taj Gibson in the paint. Which means Oklahoma’s secondary pieces must contribute to the winning cause once again, players like Taylor Griffin, Cade Davis and Austin Johnson. This would be an excellent bounce back win for the Trojans following the disaster in Puerto Rico. Will this finally be DeMar DeRozan’s breakout party? Plenty of storylines in this one that I’m excited to see how it plays out. Prediction: Oklahoma 77, Southern Cal 72

6. #21 Miami (FL) @ Kentucky
– Saturday (ESPNHD)- Is Kentucky getting back on track like they did after the Gardner Webb loss last season? Remember, the SEC isn’t exactly loaded with NCAA-caliber teams at this point (Tennessee must be licking their chops). They’ll look to defend their home turf against a very underrated Miami team led by Jack McClinton, who is due for a huge performance, and solid secondary pieces like Dwayne Collins and Brian Asbury. Kentucky is receiving improved point guard outings from Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins (when he decides to play…I would suspend him for that). Winning the Las Vegas Invitational was huge for Billy Gillispie. This win would be even bigger. Prediction: Miami 69, Kentucky 68

7. #4 Duke @ Michigan
– Saturday (ESPNHD)- This is Duke’s second game in five days going on the road to face a Big Ten opponent in their building. If they should escape Purdue with a victory, Coach K would be wise to not overlook a Michigan team that is beginning to click (look at me giving Coach K advice). They dodged the always-horrid Savannah State on Saturday in a shocker, so maybe Michigan is falling back to earth sooner than expected? Regardless, Duke pretty much dismantled the Wolverines in the final of Coaches vs. Cancer, and even though this game is in Ann Arbor, I expect more of the same. Although there’s epic upset potential here. Prediction: Duke 75, Michigan 65

8. Clemson @ Illinois
– Tuesday (ESPN2HD)- Quietly this game has become one of the top pairings in the ACC-Big Ten challenge this season. Clemson is 7-0 and have beaten teams like Charlotte, TCU and Temple behind double-double machine Trevor Booker and three-point threat Terrence Oglesby, while Illinois is 6-0 with wins at Vanderbilt, Kent State and Tulsa behind Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey. So it’s not like these teams have been beating up on total cupcakes, although they both lack a real quality win. Here marks the first opportunity. The game being played in Champagne is a big advantage for the Illini in my mind. Prediction: Illinois 68, Clemson 66

9. #23 Florida @ Florida State
– Sunday (FSN)- The debut of Sunday night FSN games (the return of Tim Brando!) is an interstate rivalry game that was settled on the football field just yesterday. These two talented teams will do battle on the hardwood in a difficult one for Billy Donovan and his Gators. We can look at the Seminoles in two ways: 1) they struggled badly with Jacksonville, La Salle and Stetson at home and their 7-0 record is deceiving or 2) they toppled two quality opponents- Cincinnati and California- in Las Vegas over the weekend and could be a sleeper in the ACC. We’ll find out a lot more about Florida State after this game, surely. Prediction: Florida 77, Florida State 70

10. #24 Baylor @ Washington State– Saturday (FSN)- I think this game is hugely underrated. In fact, I can’t wait to see how the run-and-gun Baylor Bears, who have certainly impressed followers with their performance in Anaheim over the weekend, match up with Tony Bennett and, well, let’s just say Washington State doesn’t run the same offense. This could prove a VERY difficult road game for Baylor, not only because it’s in Pullman, but the Wazzu defense is always a difficult one to figure out and could confuse the Bears. I expect the talent of Baylor to prove victorious in a nail biter. Prediction: Baylor 65, Washington State 62

Other Games To Watch

  • Wisconsin @ Virginia Tech (Monday)
  • Ohio State @ Miami (FL) (Tuesday)
  • Michigan @ Maryland (Wednesday)
  • Oklahoma State @ Washington (Thursday)
  • Arizona @ Texas A&M (Friday)
  • NC State vs. Davidson (Saturday)
  • UAB @ Cincinnati (Saturday)
  • Rhode Island @ Providence (Saturday)
  • Ohio State vs. #7 Notre Dame (Saturday)
  • San Diego @ San Diego State (Saturday)
  • California @ Missouri (Sunday)
  • #6 Oklahoma @ Tulsa (Sunday)

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The Day After: Old Spice Classic Recap (Day 1)

Posted by Zach on November 28, 2008

Maryland Michigan St Basketball

LIVE from Orlando! (actually my living room, but we can pretend)

What did we learn from Day One of the Old Spice Classic? Tennessee is for real, Georgetown can’t shoot, Maryland and Oklahoma State could be in the hunt for a bid after all, Purdue may be the class of the Big Ten rather than Michigan State, Wichita State is no walkover and Gonzaga may be slightly overrated.

Here are my recaps/analysis:

#12 Tennessee 78, Siena 64
: I expected the first game of the Old Spice Classic between Tennessee and Siena to be competitive with the veteran and tournament tested Saints giving the younger Vols all they could handle. I definitely underestimated the size, strength and athleticism of a Tennessee team that used returnees like Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism and Brian Williams and additions like impressive point guard Bobby Maze, Renaldo Woolridge (who is a great addition because his shooting can extend the floor and create more room for Smith and Chism to operate) and Scotty Hopson to dominate the mid-major Siena. This was a great test for the Saints, whom I still feel will come away with two wins in this tournament and contend for an undefeated season in the MAAC. They won’t play a team as athletic and talented as Tennessee the rest of the way. The Vols forced Siena into taking mid-range jumpers instead of the dribble-drive penetration to the hoop that made Siena so successful at the end of the last season. Taking Kenny Hansbrouck out of his game (1-10 FG, 6 points) and containing both Franklin and Ubiles from starting a run was huge for Tennessee. Worth noting that Ryan Rossiter held his own with 12 and 12 down low for the Saints.

#16 Georgetown 58, Wichita State 50
: Georgetown was very unimpressive in their squeaker over Wichita State in the second game of the Old Spice Classic. They allowed Wichita State to hang around most of the first half, the Shockers actually cut the lead to one in the second, then Georgetown secured a close win by hunkering down defensively and DaJuan Summers finally coming out of his shell to hit some clutch threes. Wichita State is a very young team predicted to finish near the bottom of the MVC, but we may have to re-evaluate that standing. Gregg Marshall is a very good coach and he successfully confused Georgetown offensively mixing up the zone and man-to-man, often causing the Hoyas empty possessions by swinging the ball around the perimeter and eventually either turning it over or throwing up a poor shot. In the end though, the Shockers just didn’t have talent to match Georgetown, who may be worse in the Big East than projected. They play stout defense like you’d expect a JTIII team to do, but their offense is stagnant, they’re a poor outside shooting team, and don’t really have any dominant force to rely on. Monroe is efficient in the post, runs the floor like a gazelle and has a smooth stroke at the foul line, but he’s more of a secondary player on a second weekend tournament team. I know it’s one game, but with a loaded Big East, the Hoyas could find themselves near the bubble. They could change that tomorrow by upsetting Tennessee.

Maryland 80, #6 Michigan State 62
: Wow. What a tremendous win for the Terps and Gary Williams, the kind of win that gets you into the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday as opposed to barely missing the cut. Maryland completely outplayed Michigan State in the fashion you’d expect an underdog Gary Williams team to do. Thanks to Goran Suton and his injured knee, Maryland’s weak frontline actually out-rebounded Michigan State during this game, shot 47% from three and received a great performance from throwback Dave Neal, the lone senior on the squad. The real difference came at the foul line, where the Spartans shot just 44% at 12/27 while Maryland shot at 81%. Another key was Raymar Morgan entrenched in foul trouble the entire game, only managing four shots and scoring four points, with coach Tom Izzo visibly frustrated with his inconsistent play. Vasquez, Hayes, Mosley and Bowie were all great for a Maryland team that really put it together last night. Could they make a run through this tournament like they did in the ACC Tournament a few years ago?

#10 Gonzaga 83, Oklahoma State 71:
The Zags avoided the upset bug and pulled out a hard-fought victory from an Oklahoma State team that could be dangerous in the Big 12 this season. They’ve got incredible athletes in Eaton, Harris, Anderson and Muonelo, can shoot the ball very well from deep, and constantly push the tempo in Travis Ford’s offense, looking to wear the opposition down late in the second half. And that may work on a few occasions in the Big 12, but having absolutely zero post presence may mean NIT rather than NCAA. Overall, I was impressed by the Cowboys effort last night, especially super sophomore James Anderson, and they should give Michigan State a run for their money. As for Gonzaga, I thought the key play in the game was Ira Brown snagging an offensive rebound and drawing Anderson’s fourth foul about midway through the second half. Brown gave them great energy off the pine and may take all of Sacre’s minutes sooner than later. Daye showed a nice stroke from the outside, Downs contributed with 12 rebounds and Pargo provided senior leadership and clutch shots in crunch time. The only Achilles heel I can see for Gonzaga is their ability to stop people on defense and it may ultimately lead to their downfall. Matt Bouldin I also thought was very shaky; they need him as their fourth weapon behind Pargo, Heytvelt and Daye.

Anaheim Classic First Round

  • UTEP dominated St. Mary’s 75-62 behind 20 points from Randy Culpepper who completely outplayed Patty Mills
  • #24 Wake Forest edged a competitive Cal State Fullerton squad 75-69 with Jeff Teague notching 24 points
  • #14 Arizona State dominated Charlotte in the second half to win 84-56 with Jeff Pendergraph scoring 23 and grabbing 10 boards
  • Baylor took care of Providence with ease- 72-56- leading from the very tip and will play Arizona State in a great 2nd round game

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day: Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State

Day Two analysis from two games- Georgetown vs. Tennessee and Gonzaga vs. Maryland (possibly Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State depending on if I’m still home)- coming tomorrow.

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November 20: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 20, 2008

Quick recap of last night’s events in the world of college basketball….

Upset Avoided: After thoroughly dominating their opposition in exhibitions and first game against Idaho, the Spartans probably didn’t expect to be trailing IPFW midway through the second half. It seems like the Spartans are prone to struggling with teams that slow the pace (Iowa last year and even Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournaments) and with 10:47 to go in the second half, IPFW led 45-44. Tom Izzo’s crew then went on a 13-0 run and pulled away behind Raymar Morgan (22/6).

SEC Killer: I know the rivalry is more intense on the gridiron, but surely there were a fair number of Auburn fans mocking Alabama fans for losing to Mercer at home in their first game. Oops. The SEC killers and new coach Bob Hoffman has led a team that won 11 games last year to consecutive wins over SEC opponents on the road. Quite impressive. Anyone else want to jump on the bandwagon with me?

Mid-Major Superstar: Al Fisher was single-handedly responsible for Kent State picking up a nice road win over Saint Louis last night. He scored 26 of his team’s final 27 points, 16 of 17 in overtime, and sunk the game winning layup with under three seconds to play. All with a high ankle sprain. Fisher is someone who could emerge with Curry, Mills, Maynor, Martin, Young and others as a top mid-major player in the country.

Young Wake: Wake Forest scored 120 points against UNC-Wilmington. You can look at that (and Jeff Teague’s 31 points) and be encouraged about the young Deacs. Or look at the fact they gave up 88 points. Their defense will have to improve if Wake wants to reach greater heights. Al-Farouq Aminu also piled up a double-double in the contest.

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day– Al Fisher, Kent State

On The Tube Tonight

  • Fairfield vs. Virginia Tech, 11am (ESPNU)
  • Missouri vs. Xavier, 1pm (ESPNU)
  • Chattanooga vs. Memphis, 430pm (ESPN2)
  • Duke vs. Southern Illinois, 7pm (ESPN2HD)
  • USC vs. Seton Hall, 7pm (ESPNU)
  • Illinois @ Vanderbilt, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Southern Utah @ Florida, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Stetson @ Florida State, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Tulsa @ Oklahoma State, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • UCLA vs. Michigan, 9pm (ESPN2HD)

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Big Ten Week in Review (Nov. 10-17)

Posted by Patrick on November 18, 2008

https://i0.wp.com/groups.northwestern.edu/evanscholars/images/Big-10-Conference.jpg

Here is how the Big Ten teams fared in their first week of action:

Indiana (2-0): The Hoosiers should be excited that they won their first two games of the season, but not too excited. Their first game was against Northwestern State, and the Hoosiers took care of business winning 83-65. The next contest was not so one-sided as Indiana had major trouble with the Summit League’s IUPUI. In the end, Indiana would win by the score of 60-57 with a great performance from Tom Pritchard.

Hoosiers Player of the Week: Devan Dumes- 31 points (2 games)

This Week’s Slate:

Monday 11/24 vs. Notre Dame (1-0) in Maui

Penn State (2-0): The Nittany Lions also start the year with two wins against very mediocre opponents in William & Mary and NJIT, who was winless last season. On the brighter side, both games were blowouts and Penn State should continue to rack up wins with a very easy non-conference schedule.

Nittany Lions Player of the Week: Taylor Battle- 37 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists (2 games)

This Week’s Slate:

Thursday 11/20 vs. Hartford (0-2)

Sunday 11/23 vs. New Hampshire (1-0)

Iowa (2-0): How many sub-par Big Ten teams won two games this week? The Hawkeyes joined the club with wins over Charleston Southern and Texas-San Antonio. Again, good news for this team because the schedule doesn’t get much harder before conference play begins.

Hawkeyes Player of the Week: Cyrus Tate- 27 points 17 rebounds (2 games)

This Week’s Slate:

Thursday 11/20 vs. The Citadel (1-1)

Sunday 11/23 vs. Oakland (1-1)

Northwestern (1-0)- The Wildcats dominated their first opponent Central Arkansas 81-39. Northwestern looks like they should be much better this year than in the past few seasons and maybe even have a long shot at making the NIT.

Wildcats Player of the Week: Kevin Coble- 15 points, 8 rebounds

This Week’s Slate:

Wednesday 11/19 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-1)

Saturday 11/22 at Brown (0-2)

Illinois (2-0): Illinois got two wins in their first week, but they still have a very long way to go if they want to contend for the Big Ten title anytime this season.  The good news is that the Fighting Illini are getting contributions up and down the roster, with six players averaging at least five points in those two games. The bad news is that the schedule gets much tougher with a game at Vanderbilt on Thursday.

Fighting Illini Player of the Week: Trent Meachem- 32 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

This Week’s Slate:

Thursday 11/20 at Vanderbilt (1-0)

Sunday 11/23 vs. Jackson State (0-1)

Michigan (2-0): Michigan will play Thursday night against UCLA at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic. To get there the Wolverines needed to beat D2 opponent Michigan Tech and one of the top picks to contend for the CAA in Northeastern. Michigan won both games handily, and Manny Harris had huge nights, but in order to play with teams like UCLA, the Wolverines need to box out. Northeastern snagged 20 offensive rebounds in their contest.

Wolverines Player of the Week: Manny Harris- 56 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists

This Week’s Slate:

Thursday 11/20 vs. UCLA (2-0) in New York

Friday 11/21 vs. Duke (3-0)/Southern Illinois (2-0) in New York

Minnesota (3-0): The Golden Gophers had two very close games against the only Division-1 opponents they played this week. They won by just seven points against Bowling Green, and then sneaked by Georgia Southern 60-52. Minnesota really doesn’t have a test until they play Louisville at home on December 20th.

Golden Gophers Player of the Week: Lawrence Westbrook 48 points (3 games)

This Week’s Slate:

Saturday 11/22 at Colorado State (2-0)

Ohio State (0-0): DNP this week

This Week’s Slate:

Thursday 11/20 vs. Delaware State (1-2)

Monday 11/24 vs. Bowling Green (2-1)

Wisconsin (2-0): The Badgers had plenty of trouble taking care of business against Long Beach State, and then easily won their game against SIU-Edwardsville tonight. The Badgers looked slow against LBSU, and we should get a better look at them in the Paradise Jam this week.

Badgers Player of the Week: Marcus Landry- 46 points, 8 rebounds (2 games)

This Week’s Slate:

Friday 11/19 vs. Iona (1-0) at the Virgin Islands

Saturday 11/20-Sunday 11/21 Paradise Jam Semis/Finals

Purdue (3-0): Today the Boilermakers wrote their own ticket to Madison Square Garden where they will take on Boston College in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. Purdue won all of their games by 30 or more points.

Boilermakers Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore- 49 points (3 games)

This Week’s Slate:

Saturday 11/22 vs. Coppin State (1-0)

Michigan State (1-0): The Spartans started with a very convincing win over Idaho, scoring 100 points in their first game. All of this is just preparation for the Old Spice Classic which takes place over Thanksgiving Weekend.

Spartans Player of the Week: Raymar Morgan 21 points

This Week’s Slate:

Wednesday 11/19 vs. IPFW (0-1)

Big Ten Team of the Week: Purdue Boilermakers

Big Ten Player of the Week: Manny Harris, Michigan

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Thirty Must-See Games This Season

Posted by Zach on November 14, 2008

If you call yourself a college basketball fan, here’s thirty games you absolutely cannot miss this season. Not for a wedding, not for a funeral, not for your son’s Bar Mitzvah. There is no excuse. Get the calendar out, folks.

1. North Carolina at Duke (2/11)– A given for anyone that loves the best rivalry in sports
2. North Carolina vs. Michigan State (12/3)– This battle at Ford Field tops any other non-conference duel
3. Connecticut at Louisville (2/2)– This one could very well decide the strongest league in NCAA history
4. Notre Dame at UCLA (2/7)– A historic battle of top ten teams in the heat of conference season? Sign me up.
5. Gonzaga vs. Connecticut (12/20)– The rematch in Seattle could very well be a Final Four preview
6. Texas at Oklahoma (1/12)– The battle of Big 12 contenders begins in Norman with the first meeting
7. Michigan State vs. Texas (12/20)– This game directly follows Connecticut-Gonzaga. Not a bad December doubleheader
8. Duke at Purdue (12/2)– The Blue Devils travel to a raucous atmosphere to face the Baby Boilers in the ACC/Big Ten challenge
9. Memphis at Tennessee (1/24)– It won’t be 1 vs. 2 like last season, but surely this intense rivalry will provide another thriller
10. UCLA at Texas (12/4)– The Bruins are looking for revenge after Texas knocked them off in Pauley early last season
11. Connecticut at Notre Dame (1/24)– If the Irish are ever going to lose at home, this should be the date
12. USC at Oklahoma (12/4)– Two of my underrated teams and two of my favorite players- Griffin vs. DeRozan
13. Michigan State at Purdue (2/17)– This could determine the winner of the Big Ten and possibly a 2-seed in late February
14. North Carolina at Wake Forest (1/11)– Early enough in the conference season where Wake can shock the college hoops world
15. Gonzaga at Tennessee (1/7)– This could be very tough for the Zags. This one isn’t neutral, either…it’s in Tennessee’s backyard
16. Davidson at Duke (1/7)– Cannot wait to see what Stephen Curry has in store for the Cameron Crazies. Good luck Nolan
17. UCLA at Arizona State (2/12)– Some feel Arizona State has a chance to dethrone UCLA this season. Here’s your chance
18. Duke at North Carolina (3/8)– The only contest that repeats on this list. And, really, what else but Duke-UNC deserves it?
19. Texas at Wisconsin (12/23)– The Longhorns would love to win this huge road game after Flowers three last season
20. Wisconsin at Marquette (12/6)– One of the more underrated rivalries in college hoops. These players and fans hate each other
21. Kentucky at Louisville (1/4)– Speaking of bitter rivalries…Kentucky would love to play underdog and knock off Pitino here
22. Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s (2/12)– Don’t think for a second that the Gaels will be pushed over here, especially in their house
23. Louisville at Notre Dame (2/12)– This could be the date, also.
24. Connecticut at Pittsburgh (3/7)– Not an easy place to play for the Huskies in March. This may have BET seed implications
25. UCLA at USC (1/11)– This budding duel should reach a climax in the battle of two outstanding freshmen- Holiday vs. DeRozan
26. Purdue at Wisconsin (1/27)– The Baby Boilers marched into Madison and won last year. How about a repeat performance?
27. UNLV at Louisville (12/31)– This New Year’s Eve clash could end up being a stunner in Louisville
28. Tennessee at Florida (3/1)– Could this game decide the SEC? I wouldn’t be surprised.
29. Duke at Wake Forest (1/28)– Wake stunned the Dukies last season in Winston-Salem. They’re well-equipped to do it again
30. Kansas at Michigan State (1/10)– If KU can win this game, it could be a huge step for this young team

If I missed any, please leave them in the comments. Because I’m sure I did.

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Big Ten Preview

Posted by Tommy on October 16, 2008

The Big Ten, which has been in somewhat of a down period the past couple of seasons, looks to be on the rise and boasts some of the best coaches the country has to offer. Names like Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Beilein, Tubby Smith, Thad Matta, Bruce Weber, Todd Lickliter and Matt Painter are at the helm of their respective teams once again and Indiana brings in former Marquette coach Tom Crean to lead them out of the dark times in the wake of the Sampson scandals in Bloomington. The Big Ten is known for its hard-nosed defensive basketball as well as its slower paced style of play. I’ll run down the conference from top to bottom with predicted conference records and give projected starters for each team and I’ll highlight the marquee games. I’ll also give the First and Second Team All-Big Ten as well as Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

1. Purdue Boilermakers (15-3): Matt Painter has done a tremendous job coaching his Baby Boilermakers over the past two seasons. They’ve exceeded expectations with their young squad, but now that they’re weathered veterans, expectations are high in West Lafayette. Last year’s Defensive POY, Chris Kramer, returns along with Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and Keaton Grant in hopes of bringing home their first regular season Big-10 Title since 1996. The only apparent weakness in this team is their lack of size, which they have made up for in the past couple of years with team speed.

Projected Starters

G- Chris Kramer
G- E’Twaun Moore
G – Keaton Grant
F – Robbie Hummel
F/C – JaJuan Johnson

Marquee Games: Duke (12/2), Wisconsin (1/11), @ Wisco (1/27), @ Ohio State (2/3), Michigan State (2/17), Ohio State (2/28), @ Michigan State (3/7)

2. Michigan State Spartans (14-4): Sparty is going to have the most explosive team in the Big Ten this season. Sophomore Kalin Lucas burst onto the scene last season at the point, establishing himself as a premier guard in the conference. He’ll play alongside senior Travis Walton who is also capable of running the point, giving Tom Izzo a very versatile and talented backcourt. The frontcourt, made up of Goran Suton and Marquise Gray, is very tough in the paint but won’t dominate anybody with their offensive skills. The key to this year’s team in East Lansing is versatile forward Raymar Morgan. In the past he took a back seat in the offense to Drew Neitzel, but now that Neitzel is gone, Morgan is going to be the primary scoring threat. Stud freshman forward Delvon Roe is going to be an X-factor for Izzo this year. He possesses a better skill set on offense than either Suton or Gray, but will the microfracture surgery on his knee affect his play?

Projected Starters

G – Kalin Lucas
G – Travis Walton
F – Raymar Morgan
F – Delvon Roe
C – Goran Suton

Marquee Games: Old Spice Classic: (probable opponents: Gonzaga (11/28), Georgetown (11/30)), North Carolina (12/3), Texas (12/20), Ohio State (1/6), Kansas (1/10), @ Ohio State (1/25), @ Purdue (2/17), Wisconsin (2/22), Purdue (3/7)

3. Wisconsin Badgers(12-6): The Badgers suffered a couple of key losses in lockdown defender Michael Flowers and big man Brian Butch, but return enough key components from last year’s Big Ten Regular Season Champs to stay near the top of the Big Ten. Point guard Trevon Hughes returns with a full year of experience under his belt starting at point guard along with Mr. Do-it-All Joe Krabbenhoft and scrappy post player Marcus Landry. The Big Ten’s 2007-08 Sixth Man of the Year Jason Bohannon is going to see a lot more shooting opportunities this season. Incoming freshman center Jared Berggren could find his 6’10” 235 lb frame starting come conference play. The Badgers will have a couple of good guards along with a tough and undersized frontcourt, but no matter how low the expectations have been for Bo Ryan, he always seems to have the Badgers in the hunt for a Big Ten title. A pretty favorable Big Ten schedule will certainly help them as well since they only play Ohio State and Michigan State once.

Projected Starters

G – Trevon Hughes
G – Jason Bohannon
F – Jon Leuer
F – Joe Krabbenhoft
F – Marcus Landry

Marquee Games: @ Marquette (12/6), Texas (12/23), @ Purdue (1/11), Purdue (1/27), Ohio State (2/14), @ Michigan State (2/22)

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-6): Thad Matta brings in a couple of superstar freshmen in B.J. Mullens and William Buford. The Buckeyes are going to be pretty young this year with six incoming freshman, three of whom could very well start. Mullens is going to have to get at least a touch on every possession for the Buckeyes; he’s so talented he deserves to get the ball every time down the court. The big question for Ohio State is their backcourt. Will Jon Diebler become the three-point threat everybody thought he was going to be? Also, Matta will probably have a freshman at the point, which is never a good sign. I believe that this team will have a few rough spots in the first couple of months, but once these freshmen establish a chemistry, Ohio State is talented enough to take down anybody in the Big Ten.

Projected Starters

G – Anthony Crater
G – William Buford
F – David Lighty
F – Evan Turner
C – BJ Mullens

Marquee Games: @ Miami (12/2), @ Notre Dame (12/6), West Virginia (12/27), @ Michigan State (1/6), Michigan State (1/25), Purdue (2/3), @ Wisconsin (2/14), @ Purdue (2/28)

5. Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-8) The Gophers shocked Indiana in the Big Ten tourney last year with a last second, weak-handed shot from Blake Hoffarber. This year the Gophers will feature a strong backcourt made up by Al Nolen, Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook as well as incoming freshman Devoe Joseph. It’s evident that Tubby is starting to bring a basketball culture to the Barn with some pretty big recruits in Joseph, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. Sampson and Iverson are going to have to step in and contribute right away after the losses of Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman. This team has a lot of young talent, but can Tubby harness it and become successful in the Big Ten? I don’t think they’ll be overly successful quite yet but look for this team to make some noise in the coming seasons if everybody sticks around.

Projected Starters

G – Al Nolen
G – Blake Hoffarber
G – Lawrence Westbrook
F – Jamal Abu-Shamala
C – Ralph Sampson III

Marquee Games: Louisville (in Glendale, AZ on 12/20), Michigan State (12/21), Ohio State (1/3), @ Wisconsin (1/15), Purdue (1/22), @ Michigan State (2/4), Ohio State (2/7), @ Michigan (2/19)

6. Michigan Wolverines (9-9) Much like Tubby Smith, Jon Beilein is trying to start up a basketball culture in Ann Arbor, and has brought in some pretty nice recruits to do so. This team will be driven by guard Manny Harris, who I think will become a household name, forwards Anthony Wright and DeShawn Sims. This team will go through its share of growing pains, but the natural talent is there for the Wolverines.

Projected Starters

G – Manny Harris
G – Kelvin Grady
F – Anthony Wright
F – DeShawn Sims
F/C – Zack Gibson

7. Illinois Fighting Illini (8-10) The 2007-08 campaign was a struggle for Bruce Weber and the Illini going 5-13 in conference play. This year’s team will rely on its backcourt for its production. Guards Trent Meachem and sophomore Demetri McCamey are going to be the primary threats for Weber. Kentucky transfer Alex Legion is a huge boost to a team that needs all the help they can get when he becomes eligible in December. The Illini’s strong backcourt will keep them in games but their frontcourt could be their Achilles’ heel the entire season.

Projected Starters

G – Trent Meachem
G – Demetri McCamey
G – Calvin Brock
F – Mike Davis
C – Mike Tisdale

8. Northwestern Wildcats (6-12) Kevin Coble and Michael Thompson are two of the better players in the Big Ten at their respective positions. Thompson averaged 4.3 APG last season at the point and Coble contributed 13.4 PPG as a forward. Much of their supporting cast is returning next year, including Craig Moore and Sterling Williams. Their incoming freshman class is extraordinarily big with two players over 6’11” and two more over 6’8″. A couple of these freshmen like Luka Mirkovic and Kyle Rowley are going to have to step in right away and contribute.

Projected Starters

G – Michael Thompson
G – Craig Moore
F – Sterling Williams
F – Kevin Coble
C – Kyle Rowley

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-13) When I look at this Penn State team, there are two questions I ask myself. Will they decide to play defense this season? And who will support Jamelle Cornley and Talor Battle? If they do decide to play defense, this team could leap in front of Northwestern. As for the support of Cornley and Battle, most of it will be coming from 3-point specialist Danny Morrissey and forward Stanley Pringle. After these four players there won’t be much production, so depth is going to be a big detriment for the Lions.

Projected Starters

G – Talor Battle
G – Danny Morrissey
F – Jamelle Cornley
F – Stabley Pringle
F – Andrew Jones III

10. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-15) The Hawkeyes lost several key components from last year’s team who went 6-12 in the Big Ten. Community College transfer Devan Bawinkle is going to have to shoulder some of the load right away along with forward Cyrus Tate, especially with Jarryd Cole’s reeling ACL injury. Iowa’s frontcourt is a huge question mark for Todd Lickliter after the losses of Kurt Looby and Seth Gorney. Overall, the Hawkeyes are going to struggle filling the holes of the departures from both their backcourt and frontcourt but their great defense may keep them in some games they’re not supposed to be in.

Prjected Starters

G – Jeff Peterson
G – Jake Kelly
G – Devan Bawinkle
F – Cyrus Tate
F – Jarryd Cole

11. Indiana Hoosiers (0-18) The struggles of the usually great Indiana basketball program are well known. Tom Crean inherits a team with one scholarship player returning, but does bring in a nice amount of notable recruits. Freshmen Matt Roth, Verdell Jones III, Nick Williams and Malik Storey could all very well all start for Crean. Transfers Tijan Jobe and Devon Dumes are the only players on the roster with significant game experience in college. Needless to say, Crean needs a couple of seasons to get Indiana back on its feet. Jeremiah Rivers, who will be eligible to play in Bloomington next season, will help.

Projected Starters

G – Verdell Jones III
G – Matt Roth
G – Nick Williams
F – Kyle Taber
C – Tijan Jobe

First Team All-Big Ten                                    Second Team All-Big 10

G – Kalin Lucas                                                            G – Trevon Hughes
G – Manny Harris                                                         G – Chris Kramer
F – Joe Krabbenhoft                                                      G – Al Nolen
F – Raymar Morgan                                                       F – Kevin Coble
C – BJ Mullens                                                              F – Robbie Hummel

Coach of the Year: Bo Ryan
Player of the Year: Raymar Morgan
Newcomer of the Year: BJ Mullens
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Kramer

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Number Two Debate

Posted by Zach on September 16, 2008

The debate will rage on from today till the season opening tip-off: who is the second best team in the nation behind North Carolina? Four Big East teams can boast their credentials, along with a Tobacco Road ACC power who looks to challenge their biggest rival, a perennial Final Four participant, and a sleeper team that could emerge in the Big 10 under the tutelage of Tom Izzo. You can make a compelling case for any one of these teams- most have the talent, depth, toughness and balance to contend for the #2 ranking throughout the year. Here are the cases for each team to be ranked second in the nation:

Connecticut–  The Huskies hit their peak late in the season last year before the crushing injury of A.J. Price marked the beginning of the end of their season against 13-seed San Diego. Price, after persevering through a college career that involved laptop theft, brain injuries and a torn ACL, is finally 100% ready for contact practices and ready to lead Connecticut back to the promised land. Joining Price in the backcourt are two special talents- his sidekick Jerome Dyson and freshman sensation Kemba Walker, who looked outstanding in the U-18 championships this summer. The frontcourt doesn’t lack for size or stability. Hasheem Thabeet continues to develop as a dominant big man in the conference, will he make the leap? Jeff Adrien is an all-around do-everything type of force rebounding and scoring. Don’t forget about Nate Miles as a potential difference maker for the Huskies.

Louisville– The Cardinals are as deep and talented as the Huskies this season. By the end of the season, their best player might be freshman Samardo Samuels, a 7-foot behemoth in the low post that will create some intriguing matchups with Thabeet and Harangody. The Cardinals pose two athletic and versatile forwards with triple-double threat Terrence Williams and possible lottery pick Earl Clark. The wild card for Louisville, possibly determining whether they’re a top-2 or top-15 team, is the development of Edgar Sosa at point guard. Is he mature enough to lead a Final Four caliber team to the title? Louisville lost Derrick Caracter earlier than expected, but the frontcourt should be fine. The question mark lies with Sosa and the production from the backcourt.

Notre Dame– The Irish struck gold with the transfers of Scott Martin from Purdue and Ben Hansbrough from Mississippi State this off-season, but both are ineligible this season. Don’t feel too bad for Mike Brey, he’ll be just fine. The stars are Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. Harangody is a 20-10 threat who is looking to win another Big East Player of the Year award dominating opponents in the post with his wide frame and unique scoring ability. Ben’s older brother, Tyler (you might have heard of him) could match up with Harangody in Maui this November. Kyle McAlarney is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation and has point guard Tory Jackson, the ultimate drive-and-dish playmaker, to get him the rock in open spots with good looks. The question: Can Notre Dame match the depth/athleticism of Louisville and Connecticut?

Pittsburgh– The NCAA put the hammer down on the eligibility of Mike Cook at the wing spot for Pittsburgh, meaning Gilbert Brown will have to take over some of the scoring load. Most of that load will be handed off to three worthy players- forward Sam Young, guard Levance Fields and center DeJuan Blair. Young emerged in the Big East Tournament last March as an all-around force with an efficient scoring touch and the ability to make clutch shots. Fields is back from his own injury suffered just days after Cook’s ACL tear, and looks to regain his standing as a top Big East guard from the perimeter. The sophomore of the group, DeJuan Blair, needs to improve free throw shooting to become a consistent threat, but the knack for finding the basket and his intense rebounding ability is too excellent to ignore.

Michigan State
– The Spartans are in constant contention every season under coach Tom Izzo, but this season could be the return to the National Title last experienced when Mateen Cleaves led MSU. The point guard for Michigan State this year is Kalin Lucas, a speedster play-making slasher with the ability to create for any one of the Spartans supporting cast- Morgan, Suton, Roe or Walton. Lucas could end up being the top PG in the nation by February. Delvin Roe is the five-star freshman ready to make an immediate impact, and Goran Suton is a dependable post presence who needs to be more aggressive for the Spartans to be successful. Raymar Morgan had a bit of a disappointing 2007-08, look for him to come back with a vengeance this season and help Michigan State edge Purdue for the Big Ten title.



Duke
– The Blue Devils could go either way. I like their pieces, but the same issue that’s haunted Duke since the departure of Shelden Williams could ultimately lead to their demise- the lack of a scoring forward/center. Olek Czyz and Miles Plumlee are not ready for prime time, and Lance Thomas has proven to be a soft forward who refuses to bang with any strong opposition. You have to love their guards, though. Greg Paulus continues to progress into a top-notch point guard, even if his detractors refuse to admit it. Kyle Singler can shoot from the outside and wing freshman Eliot Williams will be the next Duke star. The best player of the group is Gerald Henderson, a sensational and athletic playmaker who can shoot and drive. The Duke-UNC battles should once again be epic this season.

UCLA
– The Bruins lost two top-5 picks in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love to the NBA Draft. They also lost their best defensive player in Luc Richard Mbah A Moute. The sensational job of Ben Howland since taking over the UCLA program is shown in the Bruins still being in contention for the #2 spot in the country after losing that much talent and scoring load. They reeled in the best recruiting class in the nation led by Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee in the backcourt, along with J’Mison Morgan providing starting ability right away in the frontcourt. Darren Collison never was 100% healthy last season and went through a disappointing campaign. Look for Collison to team up with Josh Shipp to aid the Bruins in terms of jump shooting, team leadership and continuity.

My quick rankings in order: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Michigan State, Duke

Look for a News and Notes sometime this week from me. Tommy and Patrick are real busy with school, work and various sports, but we’ll be back in full swing by October to preview each conference, rank players and give predictions before guaranteeing a post every day in November.

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Summer Big Ten Report

Posted by Zach on August 12, 2008

We’ve covered the ACC and the Big East thus far in our summer preview editions on the site, and with the Pac-10 coming soon courtesy of Tommy, I figured the Big Ten should be the next in line. While the conference perennially has its fair share of talent, the focus of Big Ten basketball has long been defense, rebounding and physicality. One may see a boring or slow basketball game in a contest that’s 57-55 with 30 seconds to play, but real fans acknowledge the hard-fought tendencies and fundamentals established year in and year out in this conference. This campaign should be a fun one- Michigan State and Purdue as the top contenders, tournament teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota just behind, while Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa and Penn State join rebuilding Indiana in the rear.

Illinois- The strength of the Fighting Illini in their efforts to return to the NCAA tournament will lie in their backcourt. The loss of oft-troubled Jamar Smith hurts the team’s ability to shoot from the outside, but emerging sophomore Demetri McCamey, a three-point specialist who broke out in the classic Eric Gordon clash with Indiana last season, may be able to shoulder much of that workload. The backcourt is strengthened by the addition of Kentucky transfer Alex Legion and the return of scorer Trent Meachem. The questions obviously focus on the frontcourt, and losing both Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle doesn’t help that cause. At least two of Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and Bill Cole must step up for Illinois to contend for the bubble, but none of them even managed 4 PPG last season in limited action. The loss of Smith probably keeps Bruce Weber’s team out of the NCAA picture. Postseason: NIT

Indiana- Diehard Hoosier fans must show patience with new coach Tom Crean in his quest to completely overhaul and rebuild a destroyed program following the ugly departure of Kelvin Sampson. Eleven players are gone from a 25-win team and it’s difficult to point to one area where Indiana is set for this upcoming season in terms of any semblance of a starting five. Indiana was supposed to be returning Armon Bassett (UAB), Jamarcus Ellis, Jordan Crawford (Xavier) and DeAndre Thomas to a squad looking to contend for an NCAA berth, but all have departed for other programs. The Hoosiers will have to depend heavily on freshmen Nick Williams, Matt Roth, Verdell Jones and JC transfers Tijan Jobe and Devon Dumes. Crean is already starting to build a solid program with 2009 commitments Jordan Hulls and Maurice Cheek, the former being the #8 PG in the nation from Indiana’s backyard. Postseason: None

Iowa- Coach Todd Lickliter’s Iowa Hawkeyes still don’t have the talent to contend in the upper echelon of the conference, but Lickliter’s teams always defend well and play inspired basketball on their home court, two factors that prevent their opponents from overlooking Iowa on any given night. Still, the loss of outstanding scoring guard Tony Freeman to Southern Illinois and backcourt mate Justin Johnson to graduation, the only two players who scored in double digits last season, hurts in a profound way. Two players in the frontcourt that need to step up for Iowa to contend for the tournament are Cyrus Tate, a 6’8 senior who averaged 8.3 PPG last season, and 6’7 enforcer Jarryd Cole. Both players finished with over 67% from the floor last season, but will need to do more with increased minutes. The threat from outside is sophomore Jake Kelly, a pinpoint shooter from three-point range at 44% last season.  Postseason: None

Michigan- John Beilein was undoubtedly a tremendous coup for the Michigan program (as was their new football coach), and will have the Wolverines on the track to NCAA contention sooner than later. To expect the team to make that leap this season may be too much to ask, though. They do boast one of the top talents in the conference and the leading returning scorer, sophomore sensation Manny Harris. The success of Michigan will hinge on whether they can provide enough scoring help for Harris. The contenders are forward DeShawn Sims, a 6’8 forward who averaged 12 and 5 last season, and emerging 6’10 junior center Zack Gibson. Unfortunately for them, Ekpe Udoh transferred to Baylor and German recruit Robin Benzing did not meet eligibility requirements, so it’s up to Sims, Gibson and Anthony Wright. Coach Beilein is building a quality team that is clearly on the rise. Postseason: NIT

Michigan State- The loss of Drew Neitzel on and off the court hurts for the Spartans, but Tom Izzo’s squad returns more than enough talent to avenge last year’s disappointing season and win the Big Ten. Topping that list is inside-outside threat Raymar Morgan, a conference player of the year candidate who can score, rebound, dish and is an efficient shooter from anywhere on the floor. Joining Morgan in the frontcourt are experienced seniors Goran Suton and Marquise Gray. Incoming five-star freshman Delvon Roe will likely be 100% healed from micro fracture knee surgery to give Izzo another scoring force from the paint. The backcourt is anchored by speedster sophomore guard Kalin Lucas, a player quickly molding into Ty Lawson Lite with a tremendous feel for the game. Let the debate continue over whether the Spartans or Boilermakers are the class of the conference this season. Postseason: NCAA

Minnesota- Some writers are pegging Minnesota as a potential surprise team in the conference this season, but losing your top three scorers from an NIT team doesn’t put me in that same boat. Still, the Gophers will contend in their second year under Tubby Smith, even with the loses of Lawrence McKenzie, Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman. Look for progress out of guards Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber in the backcourt, one bolstered by the commitment of talented freshman Devoe Joseph in the first of many stellar Tubby recruiting classes (or at least we expect so). The frontcourt is extremely thin with the losses of Tollackson and Coleman, so look for prized freshman Ralph Sampson III to step in right away, and after growing pains and development, become a true force in the paint for the Gophers. Postseason: NIT

Northwestern- Could the Northwestern Wildcats finally make a postseason tournament this season, whether it be the CBI, NIT or (gasp) the NCAA Tournament? Well, no, they don’t have a chance for the NCAA, but Wildcat fans should have a sliver of hope for a successful campaign for a program that has just three conference wins since 2005. They return star forward Kevin Coble (15.9 PPG, 81% FT) and emerging backcourt mates Craig Moore (13.4 PPG, 40% from 3) and Michael Thompson (11.6 PPG), all double digit scorers who will keep Northwestern out of the sixties in points more often than not this season. The recruiting class is loaded with height, the star being 7’0 center Kyle Rowley from Lake Forest Academy. Bill Carmody is obviously on the hot seat given the putridity of Northwestern’s program the last few seasons. Expect them to pull off some stunning upsets and turn a few heads this season. Postseason: NIT

Ohio State- Thad Matta’s recruiting prowess is often able to prevent Ohio State from rebuilding. Losing senior leader Jamar Butler, first round draft pick and inside anchor Kosta Koufos and bulldog Othello Hunter would cripple most teams, but Matta lured in two outstanding recruits- center B.J. Mullens, one of the top five freshmen in the nation heading into this season and a 7’1 behemoth in the paint, and shooting guard William Buford, another five-star with big-time scoring abilities and driving ability. The key for Ohio State will be the progress of guards David Lighty, Evan Turner and Jon Diebler from the outside. They shot 34, 33 and 29 percent from behind the arc last season, so obvious improvements are needed. If they are able to boost those totals, the Buckeyes become one of the best inside-outside teams in the conference with Mullens manning the paint. Postseason: NCAA

Penn State- Losing Geary Claxton, the face of the Penn State basketball team and their only true nationally known player, will be crippling. The Nittany Lions are hoping Jamelle Cornley, an emerging forward scorer and leader from last season coming off knee surgery this March, will take Claxton’s place as the go-to guy. Cornley averaged 12.1 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season in 30 MPG. Talor Battle is an intriguing sophomore with upside and Tony Morrissey is another player who is hoping to become the backcourt floor leader for Penn State and coach Ed DeChellis. The enigma with Penn State has always been their defense, or lack thereof. For them to have any chance of making a postseason tournament this season, the defense must be somewhat respectable. Postseason: None

Purdue- Coach Matt Painter has brought this Purdue program great lengths in a very short period of time and should be constantly praised on a national level. They return all five starters from last year’s Baby Boilers surprisingly successful campaign, only losing Scott Martin to Notre Dame. Matt Painter says the team is determined to advance further than the second round in this year’s NCAA tournament and they’ll use the defeat at the hands of Xavier as motivation. E’Twaun Moore emerged as the team’s most reliable and explosive scorer and fellow guard Robbie Hummel became the glue player so vital to teams hoping to reach the Final Four. Moore, Hummel and Grant all shot over 43% from three-point range last season, as the long-range jumper quickly became as much a strength for Purdue as rebounding is their clear weakness. They need Chris Kramer and JaJuan Johnson to improve in that area. Postseason: NCAA

Wisconsin- It’s been said in every Big Ten preview article and it’s worth being said again: counting out Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin system this season is a grave mistake, much like every other season.  Wisconsin plays tremendous defense and protects their home floor better than any team in the nation. Losing Brian Butch and Michael Flowers stings, but Trevon Hughes is ready to take off as an all-Big Ten contender this season and Jason Bohannon as a top three-point shooter. Role players Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft need to vault themselves to a more integral part of the offense, or Wisconsin will greatly struggle scoring points. Sophomores Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil will play more and help in the frontcourt along with Ryan’s top incoming freshman, center Jared Berggren. Expect the Badgers to make the NCAA tournament once again. Postseason: NCAA

Predicted Order Of Finish:

1. Michigan State, 2. Purdue, 3. Wisconsin, 4. Ohio State, 5. Michigan, 6. Minnesota, 7. Northwestern, 8. Illinois, 9. Iowa, 10. Penn State, 11. Indiana

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Tuesday News and Notes

Posted by Zach on July 29, 2008

– Arizona is making news around the recruiting trail, both favorable to Lute Olson and potentially damaging. The good: Zona received a commitment from Solomon Hill, a 6’6, 195 pound California wing ranked in the top 100 by Scout.com. Hill is an excellent ball-handler with versatility and the ability to play multiple positions. For Hill to become a top-flight player for Arizona, though, his shooting needs to improve. The bad: the #33 player in the nation Greg Smith, a 6’8 power forward from Fresno, de-committed to the Wildcats and instead joined the Bulldogs. Nope, not Georgia or Gonzaga- his hometown Fresno State Bulldogs. Smith marks the best recruit Fresno State has ever reeled in. Smith told Fresno’s Scout.com page that “it was a soft verbal (to Arizona)” and his “heart was with Fresno State.” Arizona is in the running for the second ranked point guard in the nation, Abdul Gaddy, and could be leading, neck-and-neck with Memphis at this point at the top.

– The first round contests for the Old Spice Classic were announced this morning, and Maryland fans have to be feeling very slighted. The Terrapins will have to play Michigan State in the first round, the Spartans being a potential top-10 team and Big Ten title contender. On the same side of the bracket, Gonzaga takes on Oklahoma State, setting up a possible Michigan State-Gonzaga game in the semifinals. On the other side, Georgetown plays Wichita State and Tennessee gets dangerous Siena. The Spartans will most likely have to beat Maryland, Gonzaga and Tennessee to win the tournament title in what should prepare them sufficiently (and more) for the conference slate.

– Richmond lost its best player for the season on Monday. 6’8 forward Dan Geriot, who could have been one of the top players in the A-10 this campaign, tore his ACL in a summer league game in Philadelphia and will miss the entire season. Geriot averaged 14.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG for the low-scoring Spiders as a sophomore last season.

– Indiana extended Tom Crean two more seasons on top of his current deal. The program admires the fashion in which Crean took a devastating situation and is beginning to turn it around. At the recent NCAA committee hearing, Indiana was handed another violation that could result in penalties: a “failure to monitor” charge to the extensive Kelvin Sampson troubles list. The Hoosiers return just one player from last season’s disappointing campaign.

– West Virginia junior guard Joe Mazzulla, who experienced a breakout last few games for the Mountaineers in the NCAA Tournament, was arrested Monday night, along with teammate Cameron Throughman, with aggravated assault, underage drinking and hindering apprehension at a Pirates-Rockies game in Pittsburgh. The players argued with police when asked for an ID, and when resisting, Mazzulla accidentally punched a police officer. While they should face more disciplinary action from the team, if you know anything about Bob Huggins, I wouldn’t expect much.

– Finally, just wanted to point out this good article from Andy Katz regarding the Wake Forest situation. This team has a lot to look forward to. Jeff Teague and James Johnson are outstanding sophomores and the recruiting class new coach Dino Gaudio was able to reel in is phenomenal. Expect a great season in Winston-Salem in honor of fallen coach Skip Prosser.

Also: Ra’Sean Dickey has left to play in Europe and Texas A&M-CC committed nine NCAA violations.

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