I did not make this headline up
big ten basketball
My fellow Americans, the state of the union is lol. Abroad we have seen the greatest extension of three-point hegemony in our history. We have looked unto the face of Bo Ryan and lol'ed. Our troops deployed to the darkest reaches of Breslin, where the favored Izzo complained about every which thing, and we lol'ed. At home we have faced adversity and Hawkeyes, and won a great battle, and afterwards we lol'ed.
So I ask you, fellow Americans: how do we ensure the security of these lol's that we cherish?
- How long will Michigan remain atop the Big Ten standings?
- How long will the Big Ten remain the nation's best basketball conference?
- How long will the basketball team remain superior to the football and hockey teams?
Mathlete: With Michigan State's win at Iowa, this year has all the makings of a two horse race with Michigan State. In Big Ten play, anything is possible, but at least a share of the title is highly likely at this point. With McGary, Robinson and maybe Stauskas leaving early, next year could be a tough hill to climb, but Beilein has done more with less. Even though Michigan has been recruiting at a higher level, they've missed on several of their top targets and that will likely keep them from being a perennial elite, first tier team. But based on the track record of Beilein, this team isn't going to be far from the top of the conference any time soon.
|What's wrong, kitty cat? [Fuller]|
Last year's conference lineup was incredible, this year's may still be the best, but the teams do seem to be down a bit from last year. Last season the Big Ten had 7 of the KenPom top 26 and 8 of the top 40. This year the eighth best team is Nebraska at #74. Indiana is in the process of rebuilding, Illinois is wandering in the desert, Purdue has turned into a football sch-can't even finish typing that joke. The top of the Big Ten is outstanding but there is a little more breathing room in the mid and lower tiers than last season.
The ACC has 5 of KenPom's top 22 right now and next year they swap out Louisville for Maryland. Once North Carolina finds their way again, they might be good enough to keep Dicky V at home and out of Michigan. Even if the Atlantic Coast steps up their game, no sport is more dependent on coaching and the B1G's best aren't going anywhere. Izzo, Matta, Beilein, Ryan and Crean are all firmly established winners with no indication of jumping ship. Over the next five years, I would be shocked if any other conferences were close to as good as the Big Ten and ACC.
Now this is the tricky question. Football has the capacity to narrow the gap, possibly as soon as this year. The roster is finally in place, all signs point to a good defense getting better in 2014 and the offense has been written about enough at this point. I'm not going to go picking a Rose Bowl or anything, but this season is the first that's 100% on Hoke. The pieces will be there and the excuses will be gone. If the football team can't get to 9 wins this season, that's probably another 3-5 years of basketball superiority as Michigan would be facing another football coaching spiral. I'm not even qualified to write about random number generating playoff hockey, but my guess is that its going to be easier for Michigan to sustain the basketball success under Beilein than re-establish the elite level at hockey. So I guess the 2014 football season will write the story on whether or not we've become a #basketballschool.
[Jump: more answers, and then Ace and I argue for like 6,000 words]
The chaos! Illinois finally came through on its promise to be an agent of chaos in the Big Ten title race by going on a 13-2 run to beat Indiana; the final bucket was a wide-open layup off an out of bounds play that went down when Cody Zeller lost Tyler Griffey. Court-rush: approved.
Here is John Groce screaming at a shirtless child I hope is not his.
I hope it popped out of a woman at courtside who was not even pregnant.
The implications are large for Michigan. Indiana has now dropped two league games and has visits to OSU, MSU, Minnesota, and Michigan on tap along with a home outing against the Buckeyes. Michigan's tough games left are @ Wisconsin, @ MSU, MSU, and Indiana. Advantage M. While OSU and MSU are proving they are going to have a say in this, the most likely outcome of the season is that the M-IU conference finale will see one team playing for an outright title, the other for a share. Last night's stunner—I think Gasaway will let me get away with that—shifts the outright half of that to Michigan. Viva Illinois chaos machine. Don't make me take this back after your visit to Crisler, kthx.
Meanwhile for, you know, the Illini: their quest to be an at-large team with an under .500 conference record is looking pretty good right now. Adding Indiana to their pile of skulls gives them the good wins of a top four seed and they've got a few more shots at adding to that pile. I think even 7-11 might get them in now. Beilein's bubble resumes with 20-12-ish teams were considerably worse since the Big Ten wasn't nearly as good and they didn't have a pair of nonconference wins on par with Gonzaga/Butler, and on Selection Sunday they were easily in.
- MICHIGAN 2011: 19-12 regular season, 9-9 Big Ten, best wins over 10-seed Penn State, Dayton-bound Clemson, 9-seed Illinois, 10 seed MSU (2x).
- HYPOTHETICAL 7-11 ILLINI 2013: 20-12 regular season, 7-11 Big Ten, best wins over (CTD projection) 3-seed Gonzaga, 2-seed Indiana, 4-seed Butler, 4-seed OSU.
That Michigan outfit ended up nowhere near the bubble, finding themselves in that 8-9 game against Tennessee. Bubble teams are weak yo.
So… who wants to play a John Groce team that consists of a bunch of shot-jackers who can burn your tourney to the ground if you catch them on the wrong day? That's nobody, especially not me. This time Michigan won't see them, though.
Oops. Will Sheehey got a technical late in the first half.
This is either the best thing ever or Bob Knight yelling at librarians, which is also the best thing ever. From Midnight Maize's erroneously named "Crap You Wouldn't Buy On EBay" series:
Someone purchase this and send it to Wolverine Historian.
Words are very unnecessary here.
OSU highlights. A comprehensive reel from MGoVideo:
That sequence of Sam Thompson block to Burke three to Deshaun Thomas missed three to deflected Stauskas pass to Deshaun Thomas three was all sickening lurches back and forth.
Also in OSU video bits, Five Key Plays.
OSU takes from Grantland. Mark Titus's power rankings spend a lot of time talking about how Ohio State should be about as giddy as you can be about a loss, lending credence to our "man OSU played well" meme. As for Michigan:
As giddy as I am over Ohio State's performance in Ann Arbor, a small part of me can't help but acknowledge the obvious — the Buckeyes played their best game of the season and Michigan still won. Similarly, Michigan didn't play very well at all at Indiana over the weekend, yet the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines by only eight. This is terrifying. Michigan is taking the best shots of some of the best teams in the country while not playing anywhere close to their best, and they're still tough to beat. They just have too many weapons, especially now that Mitch McGary is coming around. Very few guys in America can contain Trey Burke one-on-one, but if you decide to help too much to stop him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, or Nik Stauskas will make you pay. The only hope in beating Michigan is to hope several of their players have off nights (like they did at Indiana). I guess you could also try to beat them at their own game and get into a shootout, but unless you're Indiana or Florida, good luck with that.
He cites Michigan's recent three binge as a source of concern. If they have to keep knocking down threes at a 50%+ rate to win games that will indeed be a worry. I tend to chalk that up to randomness and Tim Hardaway going nuts.
Also, all those makes obscured the fact that only 40% of Michigan's looks were from deep. That's only a little high. D-I takes 'em at a 33% clip and Michigan is at 36%. If Michigan had shot a D-I average number of threes against OSU we're talking about four shots migrating inside the arc. I'm not sure that's anything to get exercised about, especially after Michigan was right on the average against Indiana.
I do think he's got a point about Michigan getting deep-jumper happy at times. Like, say, the end of a tie game.
Also on Grantland, Shane Ryan puts up ten things about the game. I disagree that the Burke block was even close to a foul, as he asserts. The last one probably was, sure, but Michigan didn't win this game in regulation by five so whateva. Ryan does slam the heroball bit.
Revise your self-reality-checking. Michigan has gone from 5-1 against to 7-2 against in Vegas. They're now co-favorites with Florida. Also, add this great shot from John T Grelick to both Tim Hardaway's photo pantheon and the rapidly growing Stauskas pantheon:
And you could stand to update you wardrobe, too. Your media meme of the moment is something about Urban Meyer SECizing the Big Ten. The sole piece of evidence cited is increased recruiting budgets at a lot of schools. This is not much evidence. Michigan, the one school to keep pace with OSU's recruiting, actually saw its budget fall this year. Ohio State's is up marginally… and 9th out of the ten schools that responded. Meanwhile the schools that saw massive increases are Nebraska, which is an outlier since they just changed conferences and have gone national in an attempt to replace lost clout in Texas, and teams coming up to the Big Boy average without positive effect on their recruiting.
Nevertheless, the meme is on high today after Meyer said something about learning up his peers on the whole recruiting shazaam:
"Our whole conversation [at the Big Ten coaches meeting] needs to be about 'How do we recruit?'" he told the radio station. "When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the top 25 that’s something that we need to continue to work on and improve."
He called the recruiting discussion "essential," and he'll spearhead it Monday.
Urban Meyer's perception of this meeting:
What everyone else hears:
This is what they hear all the time anyway.
Fitz! Running! A nasty dual break of Toussaint's lower leg results in running ten weeks after:
"Saw him running around -- I was shocked," Jackson said Wednesday. "The kid had a broken leg. Ten years ago, that probably wouldn't have been the case. But he was running around the other day and I don't know if they had him cut, but to me, that's tremendous progress."
As previously noted, the average recovery time of soccer players who suffered the same injury would see Fitz available for the season opener. While everyone's hyped about Derrick Green, it's nice to have multiple options—especially ones versed in Michigan's blitz pickup schemes. And putting a redshirt on DeVeon Smith might be nice.
File under extreme writer envy. Charles P. Pierce, writing on the Ed O'Bannon suit, summarizes one of the running themes appearing in this space for years in a paragraph:
By and large, the people charged with running our various sports conglomerates have proven through history to be as incapable of taking the long view of their own survival as the average brachiosaurus was. They blunder around, eating whatever comes under their noses, trampling the scenery and hooting loudly into the wind. They never see the meteor coming.
Writer jealousy: engaged.
Hugh Freeze going all Lance on us. Ah, youth:
I'm so irritated right now, so forgive me," the Ole Miss football coach said. "I've taken it about up to here with all the media and the Twitters and everybody."
Up next: 7 SEC championships, denials, dating Cheryl Crow, more denials, epic wristbands, tearful Oprah confession.
This Week In We Are Not Iowa. Michigan is trying to assemble a stripeout for… the Penn State game. In basketball. I don't think this will work. Next time go for the Brownian-Motion-Out, you guys.They're wearing 1968 throwbacks, which are actually 1968 throwbacks if the items they're selling on the MDen's site are accurate. As such, they are uniforms, no Z. I actually like them better than the current outfits.
Etc.: ESPN comprehensive photo gallery from OSU. You know what bugs me about the Magic thing? Magic averaged over eight assists per game. 17 and 7 is impressive; 17 and 8 is like whoah. Also whenever it gets brought up my feed fills up with Spartan fans contemplating a raid on Bristol. Kansas lost to TCU! Hoke doesn't like recruiting deregulation. Also, don't freak out about the video: that is not Chantel Jennings looking freakily like Samantha Ponder, it is Samantha Ponder.
The annual Detnews Blue Chips player interviews are a bit less interesting than usual. Reschke slams Urban Meyer, guys not recruited by Michigan are a little bitter, etc.
CORRECTION: In the earlier post on the contenders I overlooked Wisconsin's George Marshall, who redshirted last year. He's a point guard. Given the redshirt it seems unlikely he gets thrust into the starting lineup, but he's another option for the Badgers there. In any case, Big Ten Geeks pointed out that the last time Wisconsin didn't have a point guard they won thirty games. Point guard: optional at Wisconsin.
Out: Bruce Weber, C Meyers Leonard, PG Sam Maniscalco, maybe SG Brandon Paul
In: PG Michael Orris (3*)
Status: On January 19th, A 15-3 Illinois team coming off that game against Ohio State where Brandon Paul turned into Michael Jordan visited Penn State, then 1-5 in the Big Ten. Illinois lost.
They'd win only twice more. Meyers Leonard would collapse into tears on the bench, Illinois bombed itself out of the tournament, and Weber would be fired because obviously. After whiffing on at least Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Illinois settled on Wolverine-slayer John Groce as their coach. It seems no one is happy about this except Big Ten opponents other than Michigan.
Leonard just declared for the draft and Illinois's recruiting class consists of one three-star point guard and a preferred walk-on. Things are going to get worse for Illinois before they get better. Well… maybe not worse. But the prospects for an instant turnaround are not good when the rest of the league is reloading with NBA players and you've lost one of your two players at that level without bringing in a decent replacement.
That said, until further notice Brandon Paul does still play for the Illini. And DJ Richardson can shoot a little bit. And Tyler Griffey had a good game against Michigan and… no, it's not likely anyone can piece that into a team that makes the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Was it really all Bruce Weber's fault?
If you look at this roster it's filled with guys who should have better stats than they do. Paul shot 44% from 2 and 33% from three because he got Dion Harris'd playing with a 7'1" lottery pick. At some point that has to be on the guy in the suit jumping up and down like a lunatic.
According to Kenpom, Groce did better on offense with his Ohio squad. Illinois's best bet is that Bruce Weber was a Greg Robinson-style anchor on the offense and that an unfettered Paul shows Izzo that it was a good idea to fire him.
Minnesota: still history's greatest monsters
Out: PF John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovic, C Davide Curletti
In: C Alex Olah (3*), SG Sanjay Lumpkin(3*), SF Kale Abrahmson(3*), Nikola Cerina (TCU transfer)
The Wildcats graduate the leading scorer in program history plus the other two guys taller than 6'5" who played; they bring in a leafy, bitter vegetable and some other dudes with outlandish names. If you're worried that the post at Northwestern will not feature a guy who sounds like a Soviet apparatchik, don't be: the likely starter at center next year is TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, a Serbian who went to "Nikola Telsa SS" high school.
The Wildcats still have some quality pieces, most prominently rising senior Drew Crawford and rising sophomore Dave Sobolewski. Crawford would start on the wing for just about any Big Ten team. He's a 41% three point shooter who's also efficient inside the line and provides decent ancillary stats. Sobolewski had an impressive freshman year and will take on big chunks of the scoring load left by Shurna. A fully healthy JerShon Cobb will help defensively.
But if this outfit plus John Shurna couldn't give away Northwestern's tourney virginity it's hard to see them on the bubble without him. The defense will remain substandard and it's going to be impossible to replace Shurna's efficiency (44% from three! A top 25 TO rate despite launching over 30% of Northwestern's shots! 92% of NU's minutes!). Minnesota: you bastards.
Question that needs resolving: God, it's me, Margaret. Why do you feel the need to troll Northwestern basketball so hard? Are you an Iowa fan? If so, why do you keep exploding all their tailbacks' ACLs?
Penn State basketball.
Out: SF Cammeron Woodyard, C Billy Oliver, SG Matt Glover, PG Trey Lewis, another Carefrontation subject or two who didn't play meaningful minutes.
In: PF Brandon Taylor (3*), SG Akosa Maduegbunam (3*), SG DJ Newbill (USM transfer).
Status: Penn State basketball is what would happen if Tim Frazier went through the tunnel in Being Tim Frazier: Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier.
Next year they will also be this, but maybe a little more so after Pat Chambers rubbed sophomore Matt Glover and freshman Trey Lewis the wrong way. Both of those guys have exited the program, leaving even less behind Frazier than Penn State had this year when he played 93% of their minutes and used a third of PSU possessions. Frazier almost literally can't do more.
So… who will? PSU fans are banking on DJ Newbill picking up some of the slack. Newbill transferred from Southern Mississippi after his freshman year and is eligible in the fall. He was an efficient scorer at the CUSA level (54% from two, lots of free throws, no range) but a low usage guy who still managed to commit a bunch of turnovers. He's not going to be a program-changer.
In the frontcourt Penn State got a solid freshman year from Ross Travis and some decent minutes from other underclassmen. Frazier and the departing Woodyard were the only upperclassmen to play major roles, so Penn State should expect to improve quite a bit. They can do so and still be miles away from the tourney after finishing 12-20 last year.
Question that needs resolving: Can anyone else score?
Tim Frazier can only do so much, and at the rate he's doing it now Penn State is all but doomed to EFGs in the 300s. Actually, "can anyone else do anything?" might be a better question. Not only is Frazier far and away Penn State's best scorer but his assist rate of 45.3 was second nationally. Penn State has taken the concept of relying on one really good six-foot guy as far as it will go: not far. Newbill doesn't seem like the answer.
Out: Everyone, including Doc Sadler.
In: Some JUCOs and stuff plus new coach Tim Miles.
Status: Nebraska was 4-14 in the Big Ten last year and graduated four starters. Everyone behind the starters was a junior and is not likely to improve much. Their recruiting class consists of low-rated JUCOs and a 5'8" PG.
Question that needs resolving: None. Nebraska will be the worst team in the league.
Out: William Buford, probably Jared Sullinger, possibly Deshaun Thomas
In: Nobody yet. LaQuinton Ross may qualify here since he didn't get until the second semester and did not play.
Status: Yes, it is odd to see OSU in this section, but fresh off a heartbreaking choke job in the Final Four Ohio State faces the prospect of life without 80% of its shots. William Buford is definitely gone. Jared Sullinger is presumed gone. Deshaun Thomas could go. He said "of course I might come back" in the aftermath of the exit. Interpret that as you will. To me that sounds like a guy who will get a first round grade from the NBA and take it. If Thomas is back, upgrade the Buckeyes into the contender tier. FWIW, he's #41 on Chad Ford's board. That seems low to me.
Replacing those lost will be… no one. At least right now. Ohio State is after a guy named Tony Parker who makes it seem odd that you associate such a bland name with French point guards. This version of Tony Parker is a 6'9" post from Georgia. OSU acquiring him is far from certain (the current leader seems to be UCLA) and the Buckeyes seemingly aren't in on any of the other one-and-done types who are probably headed to Kentucky.
Without reinforcements it's hard to see OSU keeping pace at the top of the league. The two returning starters are efficient players that provide a lot of value when they are not asked to be alpha dogs. They are unproven as go-to-guys. The backups will have to make quantum leaps if they're going to take up the mantle.
One probably will. These are highly touted guys, after all. One doesn't seem like enough given the additions at the top of the league.
Question in need of resolving: Can any of OSU's backups actually play basketball?
There are talented recruits behind the starters, but early returns on everyone except maybe Amir Williams are poor. No one could get on the floor for more than about 25% of OSU's minutes; no one save Evan Ravenel and the possibly-transferring, definitely-low-sample-size-possessing JD Weatherspoon cracked 100 in ORtg.
Five star point guard of the future Shannon Scott was particularly awful, shooting 22% from the line, 36% from two, and 5% from three and managing a turnover rate of 34.4. That's good for a 67.8 ORtg, which is the worst I think I've ever seen. Let's click over to his comparables… UNC PG Larry Drew is the #1 hit. He still managed a 79.1 in 2009.
OSU's going to need two or thee of these guys to step up and become quality starters or they're doomed.
Out: PG Bryce Cartwright, SG Matt Gatens, C Andrew Brommer
In: C Adam Woobury (4.5*, right), PG Mike Gesell (4*), C Kyle Meyer (3*), SG Patrick Ingram (3*), PG Anthony Clemmons (3*)
Status: While Iowa barely scraped their head above .500 this year, things are looking up for the Hawkeyes. They should break their NCAA tourney drought and if things go right they could be one of the nation's surprise teams.
Their only major loss is Gatens, who went ham at the tail end of his senior season. Cartwright was an assist machine who also manufactured copious turnovers and missed shots; Brommer was the end of the bench.
They return Andrew White, everyone's Big Ten Third Best Freshman of the Year winner, Roy Devyn Marble, budding wing snipers Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby, and enigmatic but potentially lethal Melsahn Basabe. To this they add a seven-foot center they grabbed from everyone in the world and the point guard who set up most of Glenn Robinson III's dunks in that All Star game. He, too, is a consensus top 100 guy.
There's enough recruiting hype and proven Big Ten production here to see Iowa taking a significant step forward from its Big Ten form. That would have been a game away from a tourney bid if the Hawkeyes hadn't started off so poorly. Losses to Creighton, Campbell, Clemson, Northern Iowa, and Iowa State doomed the Hawkeyes to NIT aspirations before the Big Ten even started. That won't happen next year. The Hawkeyes should find themselves comfortably in the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Melsahn Basabe was Tim Hardaway Jr Jr last year. Which way will he go?
Basabe hit the Big Ten running. His freshman year he was near top 100 in true shooting percentage, blocked a ton of shots, rebounded very well on both ends of the floor, and generally looked like he was going to be an All Big Ten player for multiple years. Like Hardaway, he backslid as a sophomore. He was worse at virtually everything, losing 5% off his FT and 2PT percentages, rebounding less effectively, and seeing slight declines in blocks, minutes and usage.
You'd think Basabe gets a boost playing next to White and Woodbury; last year he had to play a lot of time out of position at the five. Free to take short jumpers and slash into the post he should rebound, figuratively and literally.
Out: C Ralph Sampson
In: PF Trevor Mbakwe (essentially), PF Charles Buggs (3*), SG Wally Ellenson(3*)
Status: When Trevor Mbakwe went out for the year in Minnesota's seventh game, the world left them for dead. This was the right thing to do. The Gopher stomped through a weak nonconference schedule before stopping dead against Big Ten opposition. Eighteen games later, the Gophers were 6-12 with one win against a team that made the tournament (@ Indiana).
Was Mbakwe really that big of a deal? Yes. If you forget his thunderous first year in the Big Ten—something Zack Novak never will—here's a reminder: 58% shooting, top 20 in defensive rebounding, top 30 in getting to the free throw line, and a healthy number of blocks and offensive rebounds. His absence robbed Minnesota of a potential All Big Ten player.
They've got him back. Their only personnel loss is Ralph Sampson, a guy who played 42% of Minnesota's minutes and was no better than his projected replacement, rising sophomore Elliott Eliason. Two of their starters will be making freshman-to-sophomore transitions, and the silver lining to the Mbakwe injury was Rodney Williams bursting onto the scene, often through people's chests.
Minnesota has been a bear defensively since Tubby Smith arrived; they'll be good enough on offense next year to knock off anyone in the conference.
Question that needs resolving: Can Williams and Mbakwe play together?
While they're not quite the same player—Mbakwe is bigger and a much better rebounder—they fill the same niche in the offense. There are only so many alley-oops and thunderous putbacks to go around. I'd guess Minnesota plays Mbakwe at the five quite a bit; having that work out on the boards and on offense will go a long way towards determining how good the Gophers can be.
Out: PF Robbie Hummel, PG Lewis Jackson, SG Ryne Smith, SF Kelsey Barlow
In: PF Jay Simpson (4*), PG Ronnie Johnson (4*), C AJ Hammons (3*), SG Rapheal Davis (3*)
Status: If Minnesota and Iowa are going to rise without the teams that finished at the top of the standings sliding back, it will be Purdue that suffers.
They've lost the heart of their team in Hummel and Jackson. They used almost 50% of Purdue's possessions between them. Ryne Smith was Just Another Three Point Shooter, but he was really good at that (43%). Those three guys were the linchpins of an elite offense that saw Purdue scrape into the tournament as a ten seed, and now they're gone. (Also out the door is the dismissed Kelsey Barlow, but Purdue played a lot better without him.)
What's left behind is alarming given the talent already listed in these posts. Purdue's best returning player is… DJ Byrd? Terone Johnson? Anthony Johnson? It doesn't matter who it actually is, because any of them would be a third banana on a Big Ten contender. Meanwhile, Purdue spent most of the year running Hummel out at the 5 because their best post guy was Travis Carroll. Carroll was invisible offensively and had a defensive rebound rate only 0.4 percent better than 5'9" Lewis Jackson. Jackson created all the shots, too.
All this sounds grim. The Boilers do have a couple of quality recruits incoming who may be able to pick up some of the slack, but their guys are on the 3/4 borderline and seem like they'll take a year or two to get adjusted to the Big Ten. They can't provide enough in a Big Ten that looks even deeper than last year.
Question that needs resolving: Who, like, does stuff now?
About the only thing that Purdue can feel good about next year is Byrd raising up for an open three. The Johnsons drive to the basket with abandon and do not finish well when they get there. They were crappy defensively and their most experienced post is all but useless. Now they have to play him. Robbie Hummel is not walking through that door.