Thursday, October 31, 2013

Big Ten Preview

Here we are on the eve of the Gophers kicking off their exhibition season.  Given that, here is a bunch of words that will serve as my official Big Ten preview.  I already talked about the Big Ten like a hundred years ago, and here's a post where I kind of talk about NCAA basketball this year in general, so this will be the capper on the trilogy of posts that form my NCAA preview this year.  Man, I feel like I'm writing an epic or something.  Everybody knows the best things come in trilogies.  I dare you to find something other than Twilight that proves this wrong.  Indiana Jones tried to make a fourth something and it bombed.  Trilogies are the best, ergo, I am the best.  Here are my thoughts, teams in order of my predicted finish.

Big fan of this behavior

1.  MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS.  It's almost unfair.  The Spartans return Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne this year.  That's at least three NBA players.  For me, Michigan State is the top team in the Big Ten by a pretty wide margin, and I think they're the second best team in the entire country (behind Louisville).

If you check out, you'll see the Spartans finished as the ninth best team last year according to his metrics.  Every team in front of them is experiencing some pretty major roster turnover from last season (with the exception of Louisville), while Sparty loses only Derrick Nix and conveniently still have Payne to just stick right in there.  Plus what was Nix's main contributions? Rebounding on both ends of the floor and making high percentage shots.  Well Michigan State as a team is great at rebounding and makes a high percentage of their shots, so it's not like they're losing somebody who single-handedly changed their team like DeShaun Thomas.  Plus with Izzo as their coach you know they'll just get better as the year goes on.  It's just not fair.  Of course, Keith Appling is the kind of player who can burn down a season pretty much by himself so I guess we have that going for us.  Which is nice.

2.  OHIO STATE BUCKEYES.  Even though the Buckeyes only lose one player from last season (unless you count Evan Ravenel as a person, which I don't) but at the same time you could argue that they lost more than any other team in the conference because DeShaun Thomas.  Not only did he take a ton of his team's shots  (30th most of any player in D-1 by percentage) but he was very efficient as well, leading the team in offensive rating by a pretty good amount.   Now he's gone, possibly in the NBA but I couldn't be bothered to look it up, but in any case he gone.

So now Ohio State is made up of a ton of formerly highly rated recruits who have been deferring to Thomas, two new freshman (both top 65 recruits by ESPN of course, this is Ohio State after all not some shit box program), and the Wes Ellsbury Eckstein Welker Punto of college basketball Aaron Craft.  Seriously, who is going to lead the team in scoring this year?  Any of Craft, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, or Kameron Williams could end up leading the team and it wouldn't be a surprise.  Actually, watch Kameron Williams because he's basically the new DeShaun Thomas but shorter and skinnier.  He's definitely never seen a shot he didn't like.  Plus look at this guy, tell me he doesn't look like a chucker:

Doesn't he kind of look like Pauly D.?  Come on, you know you see it.  And Pauly D. would definitely be a chucker if he was a basketball player.  I'm also going to assume J-Woww is still hot even though I haven't watched that show in like 3 years.

I can't wait to watch this guy.  I love chuckers when they aren't on my team.

That's a beer bong coming in from the right side there.
3.  WISCONSIN BADGERS.  I've written too much about Wisconsin already, which you can see if you click on the two links above, but I can't help but be really high on them this year as much as it pains me.  I think their starting guards are absolutely perfect for Bo's system this year.  His boring, boring system of boring opponents to death by being so boring.  Then add in Sam Dekker, who brings a level of athleticism and ability the Badgers haven't had since, geez, maybe Devin Harris, and there's a whole new wrinkle to the offense.  The biggest knock on the Badger offense, besides being so boring, is they get over reliant on the 3-point shot and don't penetrate the lane at times.  Well Dekker can solve all that by being unguardable.

Yes, there are a million questions about the front court, but if Bo Ryan is good at anything, besides being boring and looking ugly and acting like a baby, it's getting seldom used, little regarded big white guys to suddenly be productive and efficient when needed.  Plus Nigel Hayes may be in position to contribute as a freshman, and he led the team in rebounding in their exhibition against UW-Platteville.  Yes, I hated writing every word of this.

This seems like a lot of teeth.
4.  MICHIGAN WOLVERINES.  People seem to think Michigan is going to be really, really good this year and I suppose that might end up being true, but I think they're more of a good not great team.  I mean, it's a pretty big deal to lose your two starting guards to the NBA, especially when they pretty much dominated the ball all the time.  Going from Tre Burke to one of Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, or a freshman is going to be a bit startling, even if Derrick Walton is one of the top PGs incoming this year.

I know there's some good talent back but is this really a top 10 team?  Nik Stauskas is just a shooter (a very good one) and Mitch McGary is a rebounder/dunker guy (a very good one).  Where's the playmaker who makes this an elite team gonna come from?  If Glenn Robinson makes that leap or freshman SF Zak Irvin is a game changer right away (and the PG situation works out) they could certainly end up meeting these preseason expectations, but that's too many unknown variables for me to be really confident in Michigan this year.  So yeah.  I'm also guessing that off all this predictions this is the one that's going to make me look really stupid at the end of the year.  Possibly Penn State too.  You'll see why.

I still hate Iowa, but this is a good argument it it's favor
5.  IOWA HAWKEYES.  The trendy pick for not just Big Ten sleeper but national sleeper, and why not seeing as how they basically have the same team from last year and they were very, very good the second half of the season making it all the way to the NIT Championship game.  Last year Iowa was pretty good at just about everything except shooting where they were just dreadful, ranking 308th in the NCAA in 3-point percentage.  That's pretty much going to decide just how good they can be, and with the same team back things don't look great, but they do everything else well enough that I think 5th is just about right.

One major problem from last year, and the reason they didn't make the NCAA tournament most likely, is their non-conference schedule was shit.  It left their RPI somewhere in the 70s and it's awfully damn hard to get an at-large bid with an RPI up there (and a SoS somewhere in the mid-100s).  Well, they went ahead and made the exact same screw-up.  They have their typical game against Iowa State, play Notre Dame in the B10/ACC Challenge, and they play in the Battle 4 Atlantis where they could pick up some good games, so none of that sounds too bad.  Their mistake lies in scheduling way too many schools that could be in the 300s for RPI and zero other teams that have even an outside shot to crack the top 100.  And yes, if this sounds familiar it should because the Gophers did the same damn exact thing and I don't want to talk about it.

One semi-helpful thing with looking at the Hawkeyes is they've already played six exhibition games this season thanks to their August trip to Europe (they went 5-1 with a loss to the great Hyeres-Toulon Basket team.  I found box scores for five of the games, and they shot 32% for the trip from three, which is a slight uptick from last year but at the same time they were playing exhibition games against Europeans who were probably plucked from the local YMCA if they have those in Europe.  Also this Peter Jok guy?  The one newcomer this year for Iowa?  Holy cow what a gunner.  He took 31 threes in the five games to lead the team, and was either hot (4-8 and 4-7) or really not (1-4, 1-5, 1-7).  Pretty ballsy for a freshman, but he and Josh Oglesby might be the keys for Iowa as the guys most likely to provide the outside shooting they need.  Either way one thing is for certain: Iowa smells like shit.

Indiana was surprisingly lacking in pictures.
6.  INDIANA HOOSIERS.  Indiana, like Michigan, is another team I feel is getting a little bit too much national love based on how gutted they are to last season.  They do bring in a hell of a recruiting class (four ESPN Top 100 guys) and they actually complement what they bring back, but I guess, again like Michigan, I'm just hesitant to throw my opinion behind a team with so many questions.  Besides the four new guys you've got Yogi Ferrell who can't shoot, Will Sheehey who is kind of a spaz, and a bunch of guys who played very limited minutes last year. 

Obviously Tom Crean's hair is recruiting it's ass off so it's probably stupid to dismiss this team with that many ESPN Top 100 guys still hanging around.  Along with those new 4 and Ferrell there are two others from last year, so yeah this team is talented I guess.  The good news though is they seem to be losing out on recruits all of a sudden.  Top 100 guy James Blackmon Jr. had committed but backed out, and they've lost out at the last minute on Top 100s Theo Pinson, Goodluck Okonoboh, and Devin Robinson.  Hopefully this means that recruits are figuring out what a huge piece of crap Tom Crean is.  Because it's true.  [After I wrote this part Blackmon re-committed to Indiana.  I stand by my theory that Tom Crean sucks as a human.]

I like her she seems smart.
7.  PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS.  This is the team, outside the Gophers, I'm having the hardest time ranking, and I think, like the Gophers, it's because my emotions keep getting in the way.  See, I love guys like Tim Frazier and want them to do well.  When Talor Battle was at Penn State (and no, this is not some kind of Penn State phenomenon) I desperately wanted him to do well and carry his team to the NCAA tournament - which he did only to be beaten by some Temple jerks.  Obviously putting them 7th, and I think this is pretty much their ceiling, means I don't think Frazier is going to make it, but if he's 100% back and everything gels perfectly they could do it.

It would have helped if that jerk Jermaine Marshall wouldn't have transferred and deserted Frazier, but with him (Frazier) out all of last season with that knee injury at least that meant everybody else who is back got to gain some valuable experience scoring the ball, mostly D.J. Newbill, but overall there just isn't enough here outside of Frazier to really have faith in this team.  Ross Travis is a heck of a rebounder and the Gophers could definitely use him, but hopefully they'll end up with a different Travis instead (Reid Travis announces Nov 8 with a final three of Duke, Stanford, and Minnesota - have faith).

8.  MINNESOTA GOPHERS.  I'm honestly a little concerned I have them too high - yes, too high - but what can I say optimism is flowing through my veins right now (and it's a really weird feeling, like that one time I woke up not hungover).  But of course that optimism is tinged by reality and pessimism that I cannot escape, and I just don't think there's enough in the front court here to really be even a middle-tier Big Ten team this year.

You've got three guys who are more perimeter guys, a high jumper who is probably way too small to pull it off, and a guy who yes, lost a bunch of weight, but has dealt with knee issues so who knows what you're going to get?  Eliason is the only known commodity, and I think he's just fine as a Big Ten center, but if he's in foul trouble who knows what you're going to get?  Not to mention you still need to find a starting 4 man out of this group of unknowns, and I don't have a particularly good feeling about any of them.  The guard play should be top notch and that alone will keep them in a lot of games, and you just know there's a night here where all the 3-pointers are dropping and they shoot like 14-24 and knock off one of the top teams, but that's not going to be reliable enough to count on night after night.  I hope I'm wrong, but I see the upside here as a bubble team.  Here's hoping they make it.

The pillow says Illinois. Nice microwave.
9.  ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI.  Hey you know what's cool about Illinois?  Besides nothing?  They're another team who has already played an exhibition game this season, and since there are tons of questions about how the team's going to shake out maybe we can learn a little something from that box score.  Such as how Tracy Abrams, the point guard, led the team in shot attempts.  Oh what an Illinois thing.  Seriously, Chester Frazier must be rolling in his grave looking at the line of shoot first point guards who have populated that back court since he graduated.  Well the line is just two, but they've both been extra annoying so it seems longer.

This was going to be a rough year in Illinois either way, but losing out on Ahmad Starks (transfer from Oregon State, going for the ole "closer to home" waiver - denied) is going to hurt since he averaged 10 pts per game last season.  It's always tough to figure out how a team will shake out with so many newcomers (I count 2 transfers (+Starks) and five freshmen) but I'm pretty sure most of these guys suck.  Could they make some noise later in the season after they've had time to play together for a while?  No.

The website said these were Northwestern girls.  Good enough for me.
10.  NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS.  This is a team that for some reason, probably because I like the dudes at Sippin' on Purple, I kept wanting to rank higher but then I slapped myself in the face and looked closer and was like gross.  After being right on the verge of that elusive first ever NCAA bid for a couple years, they took a step back last season (a Drew Crawford injury will do that) and finished 13-19 (4-14 in conference) and finally fired their coach.  Oh, what's that?  You didn't know Northwestern has a new basketball coach well you should since he's a former Dukie which means it's all anybody can talk about.

But I don't want to talk about that even though it's kind of interesting that we should see Northwestern playing in a whole new way.  I'm more interested in wondering how good their back court might be if Crawford is fully healed and all good again and stuff.  The one good thing about his injury last year was it allowed Reggie Hearn to step forward and thrive, and he actually put up nearly identical numbers to what Crawford did before he got hurt.  Should be a pretty dynamic back court, plus they have that little lesbian still running around running point. 

11.  PURDUE BOILERMAKERS.  Well, Purdue has A.J. Hammons, a guy named Basil Smotherman, and a guy (Travis Carroll) whose nickname is "Tacos" because of an auto-correct mistake on a scoreboard.  That's pretty much all the positives.  Maybe this freshman Kendall Stephens could end up being pretty good.  And I suppose they do have two guys with the last name Johnson which means they could nickname themselves Johnson & Johnson, which is catchy.  Not Tacos catchy, but still catchy.

I'm not really sure what's going on here with Purdue lately.  If this season goes the way I'm expecting that'll make a second straight sub-par season and a second straight year missing the NCAA Tournament after making it six straight years (2 Sweet Sixteens).  Looking at this year's freshman class and who is on the hook for 2014 there isn't really much of an impact here.  In fact, Painter hasn't brought in anything resembling an impact class since that crazy Moore/Johnson/Hummel/Martin quartet, and that was back in 2007.  Does this mean we're witnessing the slow death of Purdue basketball?  Yes.

12.  NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS.   I wrote about 11 teams, took my kids trick-r-treating, and boy am I tired.  Yet here is Nebraska staring me right in my stupid face.  I think we all believe that at some point Tim Miles will get Nebraska turned around and at least making them competitive.  This is not that year.

After finishing 5-13 last season they return just two starters and I wouldn't exactly say the "Nebraska recruiting hot bed thing" hasn't started yet so ouch.  Top returner is mad bomber Ray Gallegos (no relation to Mike Gallego) who led the Big Ten with 271 three-point attempts, but made just 30.6% of them.  Remember how Gallegos went 6-9 from three against the Gophers at the Barn?  Yeah, that didn't happen all that often.  This Shavon Shields guy might be ok and they have a bunch of transfers coming in, most notably Terran Petteway from Texas Tech (that's the opposite of exciting), Florida transfer Walter Pitchford (whose name reminds me of Kevin Pickford who was that cool guy who was gonna throw the party in Dazed and Confused so I already like him) and guard Tai Webster out of New Zealand.  According to some Webster would have been a top 50 type recruit if he came up through the AAU system and is an absolute steal for Miles.  So maybe Nebraska will provide some excitement this year.  Beyond just when we kicked their football asses!!!! SKI U MAH!!!!!


pd said...

The YMCA was actually started in England and is headquartered in Switzerland.

I just learned this two days ago.

WWWWWW said...

That is a fun fact.

Loretta8 said...

Would it be possible to provide a little bit more blank space below and above the pictures of scantily clad college girls? As much as I enjoy looking at them, I just read this at work and it was quite a challenge to minimize the window to keep from creeping out the girl who sits next to me.

In exchange for this, I promise not to mock you any more about the Red Sox winning the World Series and costing you money on your futures bets.

WWWWWW said...

I will take your concern under advisement in the future.

Loretta8 said...

Thank you. Luka Mirkovic would approve.