...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
The "BIG TENNNN" may be a running joke during this current football season, but it's projected to be quite the opposite in basketball; Indiana (#1), Ohio State (#4), and Michigan (#5) make the top five in both the AP and Coaches poll, with Michigan State sitting at #14 in each. If you prefer KenPom (say "yes"), the outlook is even brighter, with Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin running #'s 2-5 and Michigan at #12. The depth is strong, as well: nine teams make KenPom's top 54, while every squad save Nebraska (#216—yikes) is within the upper 90.
How do I see the conference shaking out this year? Find out below.
1. Indiana (#1 AP, #1 Coaches, #3 KenPom)
Last year: 27-9 (11-7 Big Ten), lost to Kentucky in Sweet Sixteen
Returning Starters: 4
Key Returners: C Cody Zeller, PF Christian Watford, SG/SF Victor Oladipo, PG Jordan Hulls
Key Departures: none
Top Newcomer(s): PG Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell (Rivals 5*, #19 overall), SF Jeremy Hollowell (4*, #41 ovr), PF Hanner Parea (4*, #43 ovr)
It's not hard to see why, even in the country's best conference, Indiana is the consensus frontrunner. The Hoosiers return every starter from the only team to defeat Kentucky in the regular season in 2011-12; they also gave the Widcats a run for their money (hurr hurr) in the Sweet Sixteen before falling to the eventual national champs.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller is a near-unanimous preseason All-American after averaging 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his debut season—an extremely efficient post player, his 66.5 true shooting % was ninth in the country. Teams collapsing on Zeller in the post, however, usually pay dearly, as the Hoosiers feature a pair of lights-out shooters in PF Christian Watford (43.7 3P% last year), PG Jordan Hulls (49.3%), as well as a couple capable outside gunners off the bench in Will Sheehy and Derek Elston. Add in athletic slasher Victor Oladipo (52.3 2P%) and a
solid distributing guard in Verdell Jones (23.0 assist rate) and you get perhaps the best starting five in the country.
To top it off, the Hoosiers pulled in three top-50 recruits in the 2012 class, including electric five-star point guard Yogi Ferrell, who should make an immediate splash off the bench. While Indiana isn't a defensive juggernaut, their fantastic shooting and the inside presence of Zeller make them extremely difficult to beat.
EDIT: Verdell Jones graduated, and I am an idiot. Slide Will Sheehy into the starting five; little else changes.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the projected Big Ten standings.]
“Well obviously I’m disappointed. We’re disappointed as a defense. I don’t believe we played at the same progress or the same way that we have been playing as far as moving forward. And we’ve got some things we’ve got to get corrected and still work towards becoming a very good defense. There were times in that game where we did play, but as a whole, we needed to play better to win that football game.”
Do you feel like you took a step back?
“No I don’t think we took a step back. I think that was the first game where our lack of communication hurt us, and it always will. It wasn’t because of the noise. It wasn’t because of it being loud or anything like that. In a game where you’re playing against a high tempo team, you have to make sure everybody gets set. That’s everybody’s job out there. It won’t hurt you until it does, and it did. When you go at fast tempo, that’s one of the things they try to get done, and if you’re not a tremendous defense, then you all have to be exactly on the same page all the time, every player. If one guy isn’t or two guys aren’t, and they’re not hearing it or they’re not completely set on the check, then you’re going to find little cracks, and those cracks become big. That’s what disappointed me.”
Catlab really made it but I turned it into ten minutes of this!
I am having a productive day!
JUST RUN THE BALL
I know you've touched on this before, but why isn't Denard scrambling on at least 25 percent of our called pass plays? I mean, can't Borges just tell him, "If your first and second reads aren't immediately open, run"? It seems like a win-win situation. If guys are wide open, great. If not, the holes are likely to be bigger than on our usual designed QB keepers. I know Denard seems to have problems with this, but has Borges ever actually said this is a problem that they're actively working to remedy? I don't get it.
Nobody knows why, but it's just never happening. I'm sure they've attempted to remedy this in multiple ways, like:
- screaming RUNNNNN at him in practice when he should scramble
- screaming RUNNNNNN at him in games when he should scramble
- calling him at 3 AM and screaming RUNNNNNN at him
- popping out of oversized birthday cakes screaming RUNNNNNN [note: works on children]
- plopping down with despair and saying "I give up and welcome the sweet oblivion soon to follow"
Ain't happening. E-fact.
Student section celebration thing: can we carbon date this?
Regarding the whole rushing the field debate I have a question about the reverse: when the team runs over to party with the student section. You gave a list of when people rushed the field, but when was the first time the players ran over to the student section? I was in the band at the turn of the century (Boom. Old-timed.) and I don't remember that ever occurring. The first time I remember it happening was the Manningham TD against Penn State. Was that the first? When else can you remember it happening?
I do not actually know. 2005 Penn State sounds pretty good as a plausible start for that but I have this feeling it was more something that started in the RR era. I throw it open to readers: when did Michigan going over to the student section after home wins become a thing?
Funchess at WR?
My cousin brought up a scenario during the MSU game that I haven't seen discussed much: could Funchess move to WR next year if no one proves to be an adequate replacement for Gardner? He has proven that he has great hands, leaping and size. Along with this, if the idea is to give matchup issues for the defense, I see no bigger matchup problem than a 5'10" CB covering him. If he has blocking trouble, I don't see the sense in Ricardo Miller-ing him, but obviously I'm no coach. What say you?
For a guy like Funchess that's kind of a distinction without a difference. He's already lining up at WR in a lot of sets, and I imagine he'll continue to do so throughout his career. He is a flex tight end.
But Michigan shouldn't and almost certainly won't try to keep pounds off of him so that he's more of a downfield threat/WR guy instead of a tight end. He's already too big to be a guy who threatens CBs and safeties over the top, and he'll still be too fast for linebacker sorts to reliably cover. Bulking him up to NFL flex TE size—250, 260—makes him a more credible blocker and gets him more open when he does go out to catch passes.
Besides, Michigan's got a slightly smaller Funchess coming in. His name is Jaron Dukes. If there's a role for that on the outside he or Jehu Chesson can fill it.
[AFTER THE JUMP! MORE THINGS! ABOUT STUFF! /bradyhokeinjuryreport'd]
So you saw Michigan's backup plan in case Denard gets knocked out early in a competitive game. The plan was Bellomy. And you saw Bellomy. With regard to the skills, talent, and preparation required to be a competitive Big Ten quarterback, Bellomy was terrible. The offense immediately imploded, Michigan's Rose Bowl chances dropped to "not likely" and we were left facing the bleakness of a Robinson-less future.
So long as nards were left to nard we were perfectly content to ignore things like an apparent lack of receiver talent, or whether the redshirt freshman backup QB we snake oiled away from Purdue could perform well enough in an important game scenario that nobody would think to ask about Jack Kennedy. We could even be blasé about what appears to be persistent offensive coaching mistakes. It was all masked by Wheeeeee!! Saturday the whee was taken away and we got our first real glimpse of the structure they're building underneath it. We've got questions.
1. When your freshman QB is 4 of 21 with 4 interceptions on the year, why not try the junior 5-star quarterback you've got playing receiver?
Everyone can pick a moment. For me it was Russell's first completion of the game, a 12-yard pass to Kerridge:
Alright open man! Get there! … It's still not there. Okay coverage isn't there yet either. But what's taking so long? Did it just sail? No it's on target. Okay here it comes. Catch! First down on the Utah thirty-eigh…oh dear god.
We already knew how bad it could get, but this suddenly looked like we had an outer bound for how good it could get. The feet weren't set, and a guy was coming toward his face, and he got rid of it to the open receiver for 12 yards. Except Kerridge had been open over there for several seconds. And then with that entire windup the ball delivered is a full Sheridan.
With the opponent blitzing their brains out there's going to be open receivers, and Bellomy can learn to find them quicker. But the guys can't stay open so long that defenders won't arrive sometime during the three seconds the ball's in the air. The weird dropsies when Bellomy is throwing the ball could be related to this as well. Accustomed to catching zippy Denard passes, the receivers I imagine are getting thrown off by the the extra half-second of waiting for the ball to arrive. They're losing focus, putting their minds downfield or setting off internal alarms that the coverage is arriving. You'll note in this game more than a few of Russell's open targets were lit up upon reception—the personal foul on Jackson is a good example. Simply the anticipation of such a hit is a known cause of drops.
The scary lack of arm strength raised a few questions, like why he was recruited in the first place if a cannon is a pre-req for Borgesian offense, but a more pressing and more dire query is how bad can Gardner be if they've got this dude under center instead of him?
He's playing receiver. In fact, for all his faults at receiver, he's better at that than our other options. It falls a little flat to say if he's not out there Jeremy Jackson would be, since Jeremy Jackson is out there all the damn time. More to the point, Gardner practiced all week at receiver, and sending him in unprepared would have been unfair, would undermine his confidence, and probably resulted in yackety crap like that which ended the 2011 Michigan State game.
Your brain as it watched Bellomy could not compute this because fan brains tend to hit the panic button and authorize the flinging of excrement in the hopes of finding anything that sticks. This is why it nodded sagely at things like "throw Cullen Christian in there" when the 2010 secondary was staggeringly bad. It cannot compute that things could possibly get worse. The thing is, things can possibly get worse. Obviously the coaches felt that putting an unprepared Gardner in to run "Gardner and stuff" wasn't an option.
Hoke made sure to stress the "if you don't practice during the week at quarterback you don't play" thing in his postgame presser, getting it in as a response to questions about Denard's readiness for Minnesota. I take that as a not-so-subtle reminder that this staff has more patience than the last one, and more patience than the fan-brain. Their plan seems to be if Denard goes down in-game it's Bellomy, but if we lose Robinson for a week or more, Gardner will be preparing for that game.
[More things I don't want to ask after THE JUMP]
Last year Minnesota flirted with being the worst Big Ten team in about 50 years until they had the audacity to win games at the end of the year. Ugh, as if.
Anyway, Illinois has just lost to Indiana to go to 0-4 in the league and it's time to fire up ILLINIQUEST. Traditional weird mascot:
Let's do it.
The worst team in Big Ten history has no wins and no ties; nonconference doesn't matter; 1930 is the cutoff since before that teams played highly variable schedules. Teams from WWII are included. We are going on a straight ranking by scoring ratio, which is:
point scored / (points scored + opponent points scored)
This should help normalize for the fact that football has gotten progressively higher-scoring as the years have progressed.
If they lose all their games Illinois will be the worst team since X if they do Y…
2005: Lose all their games
The last winless Big Ten team was 2005 Illinois.
1981: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 21%
2005 Illinois managed 21% and their 1997 team matched that. The 1981 Northwestern Wildcats scored 75 points in nine league games but gave up 425 for a scoring ratio of 15%.
1961: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 15%
1961 Illlinois never reached double digits or came within two touchdowns of an opponent (23-9 versus Purdue was their closest game) and had a scoring ratio of 12.3%.
1960: Lose, scoring ratio below 12.3%
1960 Indiana managed just 11.8.
1957: Lose, scoring ratio below 11.5%
1944: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.9%
Iowa 1944 set a low bar, and then they lost to Iowa Pre-Flight, though Iowa Pre-Flight was 10-1 that year.
Pretty Much Ever: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.7%
Harry Kipke's 1934 Wolverines managed this.
Illinois is currently on pace to be the worst Big Ten team since…
Illinois's scoring percentage stands at 21%. The Illini are a couple of bad games from falling to 1981, but they're scoring too much to be threatening the 1960s like Minnesota did last year. Those Northwestern teams were horrible almost beyond modern comprehension, and the league isn't good enough to pound bad teams as much as they should be.
NEXT WEEK: Illinois takes on undefeated Ohio State.
Purdue's nowhere near as depressing as certain past teams: their scoring ratio is currently 33%.