Category: Big Ten



The first State Farm Champions Classic has been filled with emotion and excitement. The first game ended with Coach Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils finishing off the Michigan State Spartans 74-69.  This game was significant in more ways than just one. Not only did this game start  the 3 year 4 team rotation that will be known as the State Farm Champions Classic but, it also set a new all-time record. As many of you know already Coach K has set the coaches win record surpassing Bob Knight with 903 career wins.

In my opinion Michigan State played a much better game than expected.  They really made the game exciting and Coach K’s victory that much more special.  Bob Knight and Jay Bilas were  in attendance at the game as commentators.  Coach K played his college ball under Bob Knight and coached Jay Bilas during Bilas’ college playing days.

As I sit here typing up this post the Kentucky/Kansas game is taking place and Kansas looks awful. Currently losing 48-37 with 12:55 left to go in the second half.  As I watch this game I think of what’s on the line for each team that is participating in this event.

Duke:

Duke seems to be the only team expected to give North Carolina a challenge. Well, at least everyone I’ve talked to thinks so.  Yes, North Carolina is going to be tough to beat but, so is Duke.  Duke has a lot of experience coming back and even though they lost some very very valuable and important assets from last season Duke brought in Austin Rivers, the highly talented freshman recruit and others.  It’s still very early on in the season and I expect freshman for any team to struggle a bit, which was Rivers’ case tonight against Michigan State. With Coach K in charge and the return of many talented players I look for Duke to make a Final Four appearance this season.

Michigan State:

This is undoubtedly a big ole question mark of a season for the Spartans and their loyal fans.  So far, they’re 0-2 but, they’ve played both North Carolina (Carrier Classic) and Duke.  Two extremely solid and talented teams.  Not the typical start of the season as most teams around the same caliber as Michigan State have played scrub teams.  It’s tough to say how well the Spartans will do this year but I think their fortunes will be much better than what I previously thought.  With two good showings this early in the season against top notch opponents I see this Spartan team to hit it’s stride right around Big Ten Tournament play and surprise some teams.

Kentucky: 

Kentucky is completely dominating this Jayhawks team. This team is very intense and solid. Though they started out a little sloppy and seemed to be overly selfish in the first half they’ve come out in this second half and have played exemplary team basketball. They’ve began sharing the ball and getting the KU defenders out of place and most importantly have hit their open shots that they’ve earned.  On the defensive end on the floor they’ve played outstanding team defense! If a KU ball handler gets by his defender he’s almost immediately cut off by help side D.  I think this is good news and will just keep UK fans running their mouth about how awesome UK is.  Little do they know, Calipari will have screwed them over like he did Memphis when the NCAA finds out he cheated…..again.  Overall? Should be a solid season for UK but I see Vanderbilt surprising this team and making the SEC interesting.

Kansas:

Simply looks terrible. Not the KU team fans are used to seeing in Lawrence.  If Kansas can’t find a few more options to lean on throughout the season it’ll be a long season for KU fans.  If Elijah Johnson continues to believe he needs to be the leading scorer, assist man, and the team KU could be in trouble.  Let’s hope they learn from this loss and can turn it up a ton of notches and compete in the Big XII.  If not, Baylor just may run away with it this season on the Big XII.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge


As a fan of the Big Ten the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is something I strongly look forward to each year! It gives me some perspective on how tough the Big Ten will be in their out of conference play and also gives me something to look forward to when conference play begins. 

 

It’s a well known fact that the ACC has dominated this challenge. Winning 10 out of the 12 challenges.  The Big Ten’s only two victories have been won by only a single game and have taken place the last two seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11).  This is the first season where this challenge could end in a tie (12 games will be played between the two conferences. Six on November 29th and six more on November 30th). 

I’m going to lay out my picks for the ACC/Big Ten matchups game by game and add some notes for games I think are bigger and that will be of more interest to viewers. 

Date/Time

Away

Home

Victor

Record(s)

11/29/11 7pm EST

Michigan

Virginia

Michigan

Big Ten 1-0

11/29/11 7:15pm

Northwestern

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech

Tied 1-1

11/29/11 7:30pm

Illinois

Maryland

Maryland

ACC 2-1

11/29/11 9pm

Miami

Purdue

Purdue

Tied 2-2

11/29/11 9:15pm

Clemson

Iowa

Clemson

ACC 3-2

11/29/11 9:30pm

Duke

Ohio State

Ohio State

Tied 3-3

11/30/11 7:15pm

Indiana

NC State

Indiana

Big Ten 4-3

11/30/11 7:15pm

Penn State

Boston College

Boston College

Tied 4-4

11/30/11 7:30pm

Florida State

Michigan State

Michigan State

Big Ten 5-4

11/30/11 9:15pm

Virginia Tech

Minnesota

Virginia Tech

Tied 5-5

11/30/11 9:15pm

Wake Forest

Nebraska

Nebraska

Big Ten 6-5

11/30/11 9:30pm

Wisconsin

North Carolina

North Carolina

Tied 6-6

I strongly believe this season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge will end in a draw.

Games of Note:

Michigan @ Virginia. I think this will be Michigan’s chance to show the nation what they’re made of this year.

Duke @ Ohio State. This will be a great game to watch no matter who the victor is.  I think Sullinger will be a handfull down low in the paint and will also have a dominating presence on the defensive end of the floor and lead the Buckeyes to victory.

Florida State @ Michigan State. The Spartans will win in a close matchup but will have the opportunity to prove all the doubters wrong about projected misfortunes this season.

Wisconsin @ North Carolina. Not many people see North Carolina losing a game this year. I project NC to win with the help of home court advantage but it’ll be a close game regardless. Don’t be surprised if the Badgers and Bo Ryan pull off the upset. 


The frist ever game to be played on a ship will take place this Friday! The game will be on a Navy carrier on Veterans Day in support of the duties and sacrifices all service men and women give freely to this great country, America. 

The first ever Carrier classic is between, highly favored to win the National Championship, North Carolina and Michigan State.  Needless to say this should be an interesting season for the Spartans. Having lost almost all of their starters and leading scorers from a season ago should lead to a frustrating season for Spartan fans.  But, never count Tom Izzo out. He’s one of the best NCAA coaches and has potential to surprise the doubters, which includes me. 

Let’s take a look at this matchup.  The Tar Heels have a loaded team.  They literally lost just under 10 points per game from a season ago (Justin Knox and Larry Drew II who together averaged 9 ppg).  They also have an incredible freshman class coming into Chapel Hill this season.  With Barnes and Zeller teaching the young guys what it means to be a Tar heel and to lead this team NC fans will have a lot to cheer and brag about.

Now compare that to the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans had a promising team last season and high expectations but, they didn’t perform well and lost a few games in non-conference play and were slaughtered by a Purdue Boilermaker team that was hosting the College Gameday staff.  On top of that disappointing season the Spartans also lost practically their entire team. Draymond Green returns, which should give some light and hope, to lead this dwindled down group.  The Spartans, in their entire returning class, have a lousy 38% of their scoring returning.  Compare that to the Tar Heels who have 93% of last years scoring coming back. 

With many unanswered questions on this Spartan squad this is not the way I would want to start the 2011-2012 season.  Taking on this tough and favorable North Carolina team could lead to a beat down.  I see the Tar Heels walking away with the first Carrier Classic Trophy: ( Pictured Below). 

 


A long while ago I posted my Big Ten 2011-2012 predictions.  Well after looking at them recently knowing for certain whose still at their school and what each school is bringing in, recruiting classes, I’m more or less dumbfounded at who I picked to finish where.  I gave some schools way too much credit and really slapped other teams in the face with my rankings.  So, I’m here today to share my revised Big Ten 2011-2012 mens basketball predictions.

1.  Ohio State Buckeyes

I still think it’s hard to argue that the Buckeyes are going to fall off the top.  Yeah so they’re losing one of the best 3 point shooters to ever play the game in Jon Diebler and a very solid defensive play in David Lighty.  But, the Buckeyes are returning their two top scorers and are bringing in 5 freshman that all received a 91 or higher grade from ESPN, including 4 ESPNU 100 players!  This team is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.  They play games for a reason so we’ll see how they do.  Still expect high expectations from this squad as we all know Thad Matta is going to.

2. Wisconsin Badgers

I’ve moved Wisconsin up dramatically since my last rankings.  The Badgers are losing two of their top three scorers from last season but Jordan Taylor was only .3 ppg away from being the leading scorer for the Badgers….as a point guard.  Other than that the Badgers are bringing back a solid assortment of players including Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, and Ryan Evans.   As well as their recruiting class that’s pretty decent.  I don’t expect Wisconsin to lose many games at home this season, they do host the Buckeyes which will be very exciting to watch!

3. Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines also received a very favorable boost since my last rankings.  After looking over their roster and incoming freshman I realized Michigan didn’t lose much.  Well, they lost Darius Morris but, are replacing him with Trey Burke.  Burke is a freshman but has the ability to distribute the ball more than effectively.  If you’re going to judge a player that hasn’t played yet at the point guard position look at Aaron Craft from Ohio State. True freshman last year for the Buckeyes. He was deadly and gave teams much difficulty.  Michigan is also bringing in shooting guard Carlton Brundidge (I see Carlton and instantly think of Fresh Prince of Bellaire).  Brundidge should be a valuable addition to the already decent shooting back court consisting of Zack Novak and Stu Douglas.  The Wolverines are going to surprise a lot of basketball fans that are expecting the same old no good, pushover Wolverines.  They’ll definitely be a fun team to watch!

4. Purdue Boilermakers

I’ve dropped Purdue down two spots. My reasoning? Simple, they lost two of Purdue’s all-time top 5 scorers! With JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore heading to the NBA due to graduating the Boilers are going to need some support players to step up big! Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd to be exact. The Boilers do regain Robbie Hummel, whose been out due to knee injuries for most of the past two seasons.  I look for Lewis Jackson and Terone Johnson to step up and pick up the scoring loads that were lost from a season ago.  Defensively? I’m not worried about Purdue. They’ve always played tough, in your face, man-to-man defense that forces a ton of turnovers and I don’t see that changing any time soon.  This season for the Boilermakers is filled with many many question marks.  We’ll see how this squad performs but I still see them finishing with a moderate but successful season.

5. Indiana Hoosiers

Cody Zeller. IU's hot commodity

The Hoosiers also fall back a bit.  Let’s be honest. IU can’t do any worse this season than they did last year.  They’re not losing any of their top 5 scorers from last year and are bringing in an outstanding power forward Cody Zeller.  Zeller should help the Hoosiers out defensively and should be a factor on the offensive end of the floor as well.  Jordan Hulls returns and always seems to fire the Hoosiers up with his hustle play, which is underrated in my mind.  I love hustle players that produce as well.  I don’t see the Hoosiers going on the road to any of the top 4 on this list and beating them, except possibly Purdue due to their rivalry.  Expect good, not great, things out of the Hoosiers this season.  It’s almost a guarantee they’ll be much better than in seasons past.  Cheer up Hoosiers and enjoy a good season!

6. Illinois Fighting Illini

Yes, I realize the Illini are loosing 3 out of 3 of their top scorers from last season.  They’re also loosing Jereme Richmond to the draft.  Richmond had a lot of talent and even more potential to become and Illinois great, but left early for the draft. This could hurt the Illini. However, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are coming back and look to lead this team.  The Illini are also bringing in an NCAA top 15 recruiting class according to ESPN.  This class includes 4 ESPNU 100 recruits.  Not only are they ESPNU 100 recruits they also fill positions the Illini needed to fill! They’ll be tossed into the mix early but one can expect them to learn and handle it well.  This will absolutely be more of a learning season for Illinois but it’ll still be more successful than the other half of the conference, no doubt.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Gophers creep up just a little bit and possibly tie with Illinois or IU.  I believe the former is bound to happen though.  But, for this post I have them ranked at 7.  Minnesota returns their leading scorer Trevor Mbakwe but lose Blake Hoffarber.  Al Nolen is also gone from the mix but thankfully Ralph Sampson III is returning too.  The Gophers are returning a decent lineup but are adding two ESPNU 100 incoming freshman. Both play shooting guard and should split Blake Hoffarber’s spot last season.  They won’t be quite the leader Hoffarber was but they’ll split his scoring and be valuable 3rd option scorers.  I still think the Gophers have much growing to do but think they’ll be alright this coming season.

8. Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans dropped significantly from my last prediction post.  I didn’t realize how many players Michigan State lost (Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, and some others).  The fore mentioned players were all valuable to the Spartans, and they still somehow accomplished underachieving dramatically last year.  Tom Izzo is bringing in a small class as well, but it does include an ESPNU 100 shooting forward Branden Dawson.  I predict it’s going to be a very stressful, learning season for the Spartans and their fans.  What makes it worse is that it starts with the Carrier Classic against #1 ranked North Carolina on November 11!  Get ready Spartan fans, this could be a long season for you.

9. Northwestern Wildcats

John Shurna will undoubtedly lead this team.  With Michael Thompson gone whose going to fill the distraction + productive role for the Wildcats? Drew Crawford? Incoming freshman PG Tre Demps? Honestly I have no idea.  I do know one thing though, Northwestern always seems to play teams extremely tough at home.  Including an upset against Purdue a couple seasons ago.  We’ll see how they finish but I don’t expect them to make the NCAA tournament but could see them having a presence in the NIT.

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers

They’re losing their top scorer from last season, Lance Jeter, who averaged 11.7 ppg.  That’ll force Jorge Brian Diaz to step up and put up bigger numbers for the Cornhuskers.  Losing 2 of their top 3 scorers + only a decent recruiting class + playing in a new conference = very moderate/disappointing season.  I still like their odds compared to Penn State and Iowa though!

12.  Iowa Hawkeyes and Penn State

I skipped to 12 because this is a tie to me.  Both teams have very little talent returning from last season. The talent they do have returning can be great team leaders and producers but in this conference it takes more than just one guy for a team to finish high.  Mix in the inexperienced incoming freshman and you have recipes for disaster.  Again, I don’t have much hope for these two teams, unfortunately for Iowa and Penn State faithful.  Even more unfortunate I’m probably correct with these assumptions.


Now, you all may be wondering why my blog is called koonskollegebball and not koonsonlywritesaboutbigtenbball.  Well to be honest I love college basketball all the same. However, like every other fan I have my loyalties to my favorite team(s) and am simply a huge fan of the Big Ten and while I’m getting back into this I’m focusing my attentions towards something I’m familiar and comfortable with.  In this post I’ll share with you my grades for each Big Ten schools’ 2011 incoming freshman (2011 Recruiting Class).  My grades are based on a 4.0 grading scale just an FYI. 

Number one overall: Ohio State Buckeyes  3.9 A

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Shannon Scott

PG

96

X

Amir Williams

C

95

X

Sam Thompson

SF

95

X

LaQuinton Ross

SF

95

X

Trey McDonald

C

91

 

Ohio State is filling a vital backup role for Aaron Craft with Shannon Scott at the point guard position.  The Buckeyes are also fulfilling awaited departures from Jared Sullinger and other front court players.  Four of their recruits are ESPNU 100 Recruits.  That’s amazing. The reason why they received an A and a 3.9 grade from me, Professor Koons. 

2. Illinois Fighting Illini  3.7 A

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Nnanna Egwu

C

94

X

Tracy Abrams

PG

92

X

Mike Shaw

PF

92

X

Mycheal Henry

SF

92

X

Devin Langford

SF

91

 

Ibrahima Djimde

C

87

 

The Illini put together an extremely solid recruiting class.  At first glance at Illinois’ roster you see many freshman and notice the loss of the Illini’s 3 top scorers from last season.  I’m not saying a solid recruiting class will have all the answers to these losses but Illini faithful should rest a little easier knowing they have some hot talent in Champaigne for a few more years……hopefully.

3. Indiana Hoosiers  3.4 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Cody Zeller

PF

97

X

Austin Etherington

SF

91

 

Remy Abell

PG

87

 

IU brings in Cody Zeller, the #4 ranked Power Forward in this class.  I see Zeller being the only freshman tossed into a starting role, if not he’ll get solid playing time.  As for the other two I believe they’ll get minutes and build experience to increase their value in the years to come.  I give IU such a high grade solely on the signing of Zeller. He’s gotten a ton of hype and if he can live up to that hype in the near future this grade will have been earned and not given. 

4. Wisconsin Badgers 3.25 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Jarrod Utoff

PF

92

 

Frank Kaminsky

C

92

 

George Marshall

PG

88

 

Traevan Jackson

SG

88

 

Jordan Smith

SG

77

 

The Badgers have added a dependable class this season.  They failed to sign an ESPNU 100 recruit but Bo Ryan does a really good job of not only getting good recruits that fit his system but he does and outstanding job developing his players to play in his system.  These five recruits have a lot of talent and I predict in a few years this will be the team everyone will be looking out for and talking about in the Big Ten. 

5. Michigan Wolverines 3.2 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Carlton Brundidge

SG

94

X

Trey Burke

PG

93

 

Max Bielfedt

PF

87

 

The loss of Darius Morris is huge to the Wolverines who would have had one of the top returning groups in the Big Ten.  However, Michigan is bringing in Trey Burke who receieved a 93 grade from ESPN at the point guard position.  It’s always tough starting a freshman…especially at the point guard spot. But, Aaron Craft did it last season for OSU and look how successful they were! Though this recruiting class is small for the Wolverines I like what they’re bringing in and it will be very interesting to see how they do these next couple years. 

6. Michigan State Spartans 3.1 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Branden Dawson

SF

96

X

Brandan Kearney

SG

91

 

Travis Trice

PG

90

 

This is a good class for the Spartans. They lost pretty much the entirety of their back court from last season. As you can see they’re bringing in three 90+ ESPN ranked guards. These three may not have huge impacts instantly but give them at least a year to grow and I see these guys possibly becoming the next Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and JuJuan Johnson for the Spartans. 

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers 3.0 A-/B+

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Andre Hollins  

SG

93

X

Joe Coleman

SG

92

X

Julian Welch

SG

40

 

Andre Ingram

PF

40

 

With the Gophers losing both Hoffarber and Al Nolen the two ESPNU 100 Shooting Guards are a huge addition for Minnesota.  I look to the top two Gopher recruits to have exceptional freshman seasons! With the low grades of the other two Gopher recruits Hollins and Coleman really boost the grading curve for this incoming class. 

8. Purdue Boilermakers 2.85 B+

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Jacob Lawson  

PF

91

 

Donnie Hale

PF

91

 

Purdue didn’t land many recruits whatsoever but they landed some prospects in a much needed area.  The Boilers front court is very thin and lacks talent.  If Lawson recovered well from his knee injury he suffered last season he should be a valuable asset to the Boilermakers right from the get go.  I look for Donnie Hale to get solid minutes as a freshman and by his Junior year him and Lawson will be forces to reckon with. Should be an interesting season for Boiler nation to say the least. 

9. Northwestern Wildcats 2.8 B+

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Tre Demps  

PG

90

 

Mike Turner  

PF

88

 

David Sobolewski

PG

85

 

Northwestern brings in a small but rather talented class that’ll fit into their style of play pretty easily.  I don’t believe they’ll have a huge impact early on in their careers with the Wildcats but they should turn out to be solid players in their later years with the Wildcats.

10.  Nebraska Cornhuskers 2.75 B

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

David Rivers  

SF

90

 

Corey Hilliard

PG

88

 

Josiah Moore

SG

88

 

Dylan Talley

SG

40

 

I’m not too familiar with Nebraska just yet. I’ll have to watch some of their games when they’re on the tube and do some scouting. But, the Cornhuskers did lose most of their scoring from a year ago and have brought in some solid guards and a shooting forward to help fill the voids. We’ll see how the Cornhuskers do this season and I’ll have more expertise on them as the season goes on. 

11 and 12. Iowa and Penn State tie with a B 2.7 grade. 

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

Team 

Ross Travis

SF

89

Penn State

Pat Ackerman

C

88

Penn State

Trey Lewis

PG

88

Penn State

Peter Alexis

C

87

Penn State

Matt Glover

SG

40

Penn State

Josh Ogelsby

SG

91

Iowa

Aaron White

SF

89

Iowa

Gabe Olaseni

C

40

Iowa

There’s really not much hope for these recruits with the schools they’ve chosen to attend…immediately that is. I feel that all but two of these recruits will have a valuable impact on their respected squads in the years to come. Only time will tell though!

I can’t wait for this season to get under way!

 


As the 2011-2012 mens college basketball season is quickly approaching I’m starting to think more and more of which players I, and the rest of the world, should watch for.  So far I’ve only taken a look at the Big Ten and have come up with the top 21 players I think will have the biggest impacts for their teams.  Obviously the #1 player I believe will have the biggest impact and is the guy everyone should pay the most attention to.

Michigan Wolverines

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#1 Tim Hardaway Jr.

13.9

3.8

1.7

.420

.765

# 17 Zach Novak

*3Pt %=.385

8.9

5.8

1.6

.383

.831

Tim Hardaway Jr. I feel will have the biggest impact for his team in the Big Ten.  He’s young and committed to being a star.  I foresee his near 14 ppg last season to rise significantly as he’ll have to take on more of a scoring load for the Wolverines.  When this starts happening I see teams keying him and doing their best to take away as many scoring opportunities from him as possible forcing him to distribute the ball to his teammate Zach Novak.  As you can see Novak basically shot 39% from behind the arc for Michigan last season.  That’s one heck of an average  and if he can keep that up it’ll be a great season for the Wolverines and their fans.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#2 Jared Sullinger

17.2

10.2

1.2

.541

.784

#11 William Buford

14.4

3.9

2.9

.462

.843

Jared Sullinger was possibly the best player in the Big Ten last season. He’s unarguably the best freshman in the Big Ten. He’s back for round two with the Buckeyes and I’m interested to see how he responds to such a successful first season with the Buckeyes.  He averaged a double-double last season and I don’t see that to change much.  However, his points per game may drop a bit for I see teams working on doubling him up when he gets the ball down low.  The only thing that worries me about Sullinger is his Field Goal percentage.  For a big man he shoots just over 50%.  This is absolutely something that he needs to improve.  Ohio State also has 5th year senior William Buford returning to help lead the Buckeyes.  With the anticipation of double teams on Sullinger I see Buford’s role in scoring to go up.  Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes point guard, will have many options, as he did last season, to distribute the ball to. Having these two guys back increases your chances to succeed significantly.

Purdue Boilermakers

Boiler fans look forward to seeing this image erased from memory when Hummel takes to the court this season

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#3 Robbie Hummel

*2009-2010 stats

15.7

6.9

2.1

.456

.902

#9 Lewis Jackson

8

3.2

4

.503

.716

#15 Jacob Lawson

Incoming Freshman

Robbie Hummel is undoubtedly a huge key to success for the Boilermakers this season.  When thinking back to last season if Robbie Hummel wouldn’t have gotten hurt I think the Big Ten would have turned out quite differently and Purdue would have made the Final Four.  It will definitely be interesting to see how Robbie comes out of his second tear to his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament).  The Boilermakers will be leaning on his leadership and abilities no doubt.  Lewis Jackson also surprised many critics last season with his terrific play. He took much better care of the ball than in past years and also became a well accepted 3rd/4th option scorer.  I only see Jackson picking up where he left off and his skills and knowledge of the game are vital for the Boilermakers to have success this upcoming season.  As for Jacob Lawson, it’s been rumored that he’ll be the starting at center for the Boilermakers.  For those unaware Lawson too is coming off a knee injury he suffered last season (high school).  Lawson was the top ranked recruit Purdue has coming in and big things are expected out of him early.

Minnesota Gophers

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#4 Trevor Mbakwe

13.9

10.5

1.3

.582

.629

#7 Ralph Sampson III

10.2

5.4

1.6

.471

.739

Minnesota may struggle this season with the loss of Hofbarber.  With this well known fact to Tubby Smith and his team they’ll need both Mbakwe and Sampson III to step up big and take not only huge leadership roles but they’ll both need to take on an extra emphasis on scoring.  These two are no doubt impact players and should be fun to watch this year.  With Minnesota’s home court advantage it should be very interesting to see how these two can control games and put up big numbers to lead their Golden Gophers to victories.

Wisconsin Badgers

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#5 Jordan Taylor

18.1

4.1

4.7

.433

.832

# 14 Mike Bruesewitz

4.6

3.1

1

.471

.759

The Wisconsin Badgers are losing some key players from last season. Mainly Jon Leuer.  Jordan Taylor posted an impressive 18 ppg last season at the point guard position.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how he responds to losing two other top 5 scores from last season’s squad.  Taylor has the ability to get through the lane and to the bucket. He also has the finishing ability to drive opposing coaches crazy.  It’s no secret that Mike Bruesewitz is going to have to step his game up to support Taylor and Bo Ryan in hopes of obtaining the Big Ten Title and a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. Bruesewitz is mostly known as a hustle player and his determination and hustle helps boost his value for the Badgers.  If he can improve his game and mix his improved skills with his hustle and determination he’ll be a much more valuable asset to Bo Ryan and his teammates.

Indiana Hoosiers

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#6 Cody Zeller

*Incoming Freshman

#8 Christian Watford

16

5.4

1.1

.422

.843

#12 Verdell Jones III

12.5

3.3

3.2

.448

.672

Cody Zeller is one of the highest, top-ranked recruits for this incoming freshman class.  His impact on the Hoosiers could play a huge factor on how well the Hoosiers do this season.  Watford averaged 16 ppg and Verdell averaged 12.5 ppg.  If Zeller is even half the player people expect him to be I look for these numbers to drop just a bit.  However, I think Watford’s rebounds per game need to improve if the Hoosiers want consistent success, especially in Big Ten play, this season.  Verdell’s shooting percentage as a guard alarms me.  His low percentage explains all too well IU’s recent lack of success.  If Zeller plays halfway up to expectations, Watford increases his boards per game, and Jones III increases his shooting percentage by taking better shots and getting to the basketball Indiana  could pull off one of the biggest turn a rounds in any program’s history.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#10 Brandon Paul

9

3.1

2.1

.399

.767

# 16 D.J. Richardson

8.4

1.8

1.9

.415

.758

The Fighting Illini lost a bunch of valuable assets from last year’s team.   Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson both have the ability to step their game up to the point where they lead Illinois to a very successful season. Both of these players being guards they’ll have to up their rebounds per game to help the weak inside game of this team.  These two players will also be forced to pick up the scoring responsibilities if they want team success this year.  One place to start, improve free throw shooting.  Shooting 75% from the charity stripe isn’t bad but both players need to step it up a few notches and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them at the free throw line.

Northwestern Wildcats

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#13 John Shurna

*3pt %= .434

16.6

4.9

2.6

.481

.707

As in the recent past Northwestern’s  success depends on the play of John Shurna.  Shurna has the ability to light up the score board from behind the arc. If he gets hot he’s almost unstoppable.  His field goal and three point percentages are both higher than 40% which is every coaches dream.  If Shurna and the Wildcats can catch a few more breaks they’ll have a chance to surprise many teams in the Big Ten this season.  Shurna, if healthy, is always a ton of fun to watch and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for him throughout the season.  Look for Shurna to turn to his shooting abilities to lead the Wildcats to some interesting upsets.

Michigan State Spartans

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#18 Draymond Green

17.6

8.6

4.1

.426

.683

With Michigan State losing most of its scoring from last season the Spartans are going to have to rely on Draymond Green to step up and take on the scoring load. 17.6 points per game is a lot but he, and the Spartans, are going to need more.  Michigan States Success depends on Green’s success.

Team Name Rank
Iowa Matt Gatens # 19
Nebraska Jorge Brian Diaz # 20
Penn State Tim Frazier # 21

These three teams need these players to step up and lead them on their journey this upcoming season.  In order for these teams to have any success they each need their main/star player to have strong seasons in hopes of making it into the pool for the NCAA Tournament.

For your liking to compare these players in their play last year (or otherwise specified).

Name 2010-2011 stats Points/game Rebounds/game Assists/game FG % FT %
#1 Tim Hardaway Jr.

13.9

3.8

1.7

.420

.765

#2 Jared Sullinger

17.2

10.2

1.2

.541

.784

#3 Robbie Hummel

*2009-2010 stats

15.7

6.9

2.1

.456

.902

#4 Trevor Mbakwe

13.9

10.5

1.3

.582

.629

#5 Jordan Taylor

18.1

4.1

4.7

.433

.832

#6 Cody Zeller

*Incoming Freshman

#7 Ralph Sampson III

10.2

5.4

1.6

.471

.739

#8 Christian Watford

16

5.4

1.1

.422

.843

#9 Lewis Jackson

8

3.2

4

.503

.716

#10 Brandon Paul

9

3.1

2.1

.399

.767

#11 William Buford

14.4

3.9

2.9

.462

.843

#12 Verdell Jones III

12.5

3.3

3.2

.448

.672

#13 John Shurna

*3pt %= .434

16.6

4.9

2.6

.481

.707

# 14 Mike Bruesewitz

4.6

3.1

1

.471

.759

#15 Jacob Lawson

Incoming Freshman


It’s no secret that the Big Ten is one of the most brutal conferences to play in. Whether it be football or basketball there always seems to be that under dog that surprises everyone at home against the top ranked team in the conference.

 

In this post I’m going to lay out the toughest places to play in the Big Ten.  I’ll state that the numbers that I’ve found could be a tad bit off but are none the less accurate and are from the recent past (starting at 2004 or even later). However, the teams overall history and home court advantage/presence was taken into thought when writing this post.  Without further ado here’s my list of the Big Ten toughest places to play!

1.  Wisconsin. 

The Badgers hold a modest 85-35 conference record dating back from 2004 to the present.  The only other team to match that many wins in the same time is Ohio State.  I’ve been to a game inside the Kohl Center and the noise level is crazy! What’s even more impressive about the game I attended in Wisconsin was that there was literally a blizzard going on.  Fans still showed up to support the Badgers in a close win last season (2010-2011) over the Purdue Boilermakers.  The fans make the home court advantage for the Badgers and they show up game in and game out regardless of weather and lay into the opposing team with heated hatred (but respectful) and support for their home team!

2. Indiana

Indiana has a terrible recent record in the Big Ten (32-56). But, that’s during the Tom Crean and Kelvin Sampson eras.  Which, to say the least, have been overwhelmingly disappointing for IU fans for the past 5 seasons.  However, contrary to the recent past of IU’s basketball program it’s hard to argue that Assembly Hall in Bloomington is one of the toughest, and many could argue the toughest, arenas to play in.  IU has possibly the most loyal fans of any college basketball team out there and they show that every game that’s played in Assembly Hall.   Regardless  of IU’s lack of success recently they play their best and even better than their abilities when they play in Assembly Hall.  That’s why I rank IU so high. 

3. Michigan State

The Spartans boast a very respectable 79-41 conference record in the past seven seasons.  During this time they’ve posted six 20+ win seasons and one at 19 wins.  What Tom Izzo has done at Michigan State is remarkable and when visiting the Breslin Student Events Center you can bet your butt it’s going to be a tough battle! Sparty and his fans bring their all every game and let the opposing team know it.  Earning them the 3rd toughest place to play in the Big Ten!

4. Three way tie between Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue.  I couldn’t decide on which team really deserves the 4th toughest place to play outright.  I’m leaning more towards Purdue and Ohio State but Illinois sneaks in there with it’s crazy student fan section! 

Ohio State ties Wisconsin with the best conference record since 2004-2005 season with a 85-35 record.  Illinois has a 70-50 and Purdue boasts a humble 63-37 conference record (since 2005-2006).  I’ve been to a couple games in Mackey Arena and I have to say the student section is insane! The atmosphere is awesome and makes the game heck for an opposing fan/team and much more enjoyable for home fans and the team.  I’ve never been able to attend a game at Ohio State or Illinois but I can only imagine how the atmosphere would be inside those arenas. 

If I had to choose a team out of this bunch to hold the #4 spot alone I’d go with Purdue.  For those who didn’t know Purdue has the most Big Ten Titles with 22 and is the ONLY team in the Big Ten to hold winning records against ALL other Big Ten teams. Yes, that takes talent, however, you need some advantage, motivation, and help and the Boilermaker fans give them that edge every game inside Mackey Arena. 

7.  Another tie between Michigan and Minnesota

It’s no doubt that these two schools are incredibly difficult to beat at home. With Michigan’s increasing success and young talent obtaining victories in Crisler Arena (please correct if spelling is off there) will become even more difficult.  But, what makes home court advantage home court advantage? The fans.  These two schools’ fans are incredible and give them a slight advantage every home game.  I’ve ranked these two arenas so low due to the lack of rich rich history.  However, that can change and it wouldn’t surpise me if it does.  I also have Minnesota here because they always seem to be upsetting top of the conference teams at home. Last season (2010-2011) they upset Purdue and the year before Robbie Hummel tore his ACL during this game in Williams Arena aka The Barn.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more upsets happen in these stadiums in the near future. 

9.  Northwestern and Penn State…..yes another tie.

It’s difficult to distinguish who should be where after a certain point with these rankings as I can personally see either team in any of these ties holding the same spot.  However, neither of these teams have boasted incredible conference records. Especially at home.  Though, Northwestern is unarguably improving and have some special upsets in the recent past and have held many, thought to be, power schools close.  Penn State is on the same page as Northwestern to me.  This could all change with Ed Dechellis and Taylor Battle leaving the program.  Dechellis resigned as Head Coach and Taylor Battle graduated. This could effect fan morale and fan support.  However, that’s the future and not history….which this post is focused on. 

11. Believe it or not another tie!

Iowa and Nebraska.  Iowa is no doubt rebuilding it’s basketball program and has a decent fan base. But, I’m not sold that they have much, if any, home court advantage behind their backs. As for Nebraska this will be their first season in the Big Ten.  They don’t have much experience against Big Ten schools and I’m not convinced that they’ll have much of an advantage at home against many schools in the Big Ten.

That’s all I have for this post. I hope you enjoyed it and I’m more than open to hearing any comments or thoughts!

Thanks for reading everyone


Should NCAA Student Athletes be paid?

The new hot topic among all college athletics is whether or not college athletes should be paid.  The first that I’ve heard to address this topic is Penn State’s assistant football coach Jay Paterno and the Big Ten Conference.  I’ve heard rumors that the Big Ten will be giving their athletes $5,000 for their participation.  I have no idea whether or not this is true. From my current research there’s no actual evidence that this is true.

Assistant Penn State Football coach Jay Paterno

Jay Paterno has stated that the NCAA should not withhold athletes from making money for their participation.  Jay Bilas of ESPN even went as far as to say, “I believe barriers should be removed that limit an athlete from receiving fair compensation for his or her image and likeness”.

I find that to be a very strange statement from such a renowned, and some would argue; well respected, author from ESPN.  However, we’re all permitted to have and share our opinions.  That’s what makes America better than Canada (That and Hockey. Get it. It’s a joke about Boston beating Vancouver for the Stanley Cup).  My first thoughts on this subject however leave me to feel that paying college athletes is wrong and dumb.  Isn’t that what professional athletics is for?

ESPN writer Jay Bilas

After much debate with myself on this subject I’ve decided that I disagree and agree that college athletes should be paid/compensated/or what have you depending on the level they play at.

Division I: No. Most of these athletes have some portion of their tuition, room and board, and other school fees paid for, if not all of it.  I realize that these athletes bring in a lot of money for the schools and institutions they play for. However, they’re getting paid in a sense. Their education is being paid for and they get to travel a bunch for games for free! Not to mention they get compensated for trips home for multiple reasons (I also consider D I AA in this category).

Division II: I feel that D II athletes shouldn’t be paid either. I’m not quite sure how much money these students are given for their tuition bills in scholarships or how much free apparel they receive but I still don’t think these athletes should be paid or compensated for merely being an athlete.  They also get to travel for free to and from games.

Division III: Interestingly enough I do think D III athletes should receive small monetary amounts for their performances.  As a graduated D III athlete I feel a small compensation would help these athletes out a whole bunch! I don’t think they should be paid anymore than $1,000 a year (which I think would be too much anyway) but, I do think they should get some sort of compensation for their services to the institution.  Maybe it was just the school I attended but I received no pride apparel to show my love, passion, and support for my team or other teams at my school. I attended as many games, for other teams at my school, as I could and to support my Buccaneers I had to wear Beloit Buccaneer Football shirts.  We also didn’t travel too far and the places D III schools are aren’t much to look at nor spend time in.  Personally, I think D III athletes should be given a small amount of money to help pay for food, admission to other sporting events, and school apparel to show their school spirit around campus and at other athletic events.

I realize how much time and commitment it takes to play college athletics.  I’ve been there and lived it. I wouldn’t change anything from my college athletic career but, having a few bucks sent my way at the D III level would have been very nice and extremely helpful.  However, I know for a fact that in the upper levels of the NCAA athletes are taken care of very generously and well.  If the NCAA starts paying athletes where will the NCAA go to next? I don’t want to think about it, honestly.

I’m already not too happy with NCAA basketball as it is at the moment. With the new rule changes I’m pretty angry about the charge arc being implemented into the game.  But, that’s another issue.

Yes, college student athletes spend a lot of time preparing (2 hour workouts all year, games =being there 3 hours early for home games and more for away games + the time it takes for the game, 4 hours of meetings in a week, 15 hours of practice each week, a lot of time per week is needed in order to be succesful come game time)  for their sport even during the off season (I worked out during the winter, winter break from school, spring, and summer break for football) so I understand the costs of being an athlete. The gym membership cost is just one example. There are many costs but also many more benefits of being a college athlete, there’s no reason to start compensating and paying student athletes.  Overall, I do not feel student athletes should get paid. However, I have different feelings for each playing level.  But, in the long run they are STUDENT Athletes. Students first and athletes second.  So, why should they be paid unlike their counter parts who come to cheer them on during their games? Again, A whole other issue.

Thanks for reading….I would love to hear others thoughts and opinions on this issue so please leave a comment!!!!!


After hearing about early declarations to the NBA draft and who will be staying in college for at least one more year I think I have  a pretty solid grip on who should be in the top 5 for the preseason.  And here they are:

North Carolina looks forward to a promising season bringing a top recruiting class and returning class

1)  North Carolina. The Tar heels may not have one of most dominating recruiting classes but they have a very solid recruiting class including 2 top 100 ESPNU recruits.  What’s more impressive for the Tar heels are the players returning.  After winning the regular season ACC Title and an Elite 8 appearance the Tar Heels will return their top 3 scorers AND rebounders from that squad.  Also, they return all 5 of their starters.  Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall all decided to return to North Carolina. This is said to have influenced Harrison Barnes decision to stay as well.  I won’t talk too much about North Carolina’s two McDonald’s All Americans they have coming in.  These two kids will supplement a well experienced and tough squad.  I like North Carolina’s chances this coming season.

2)  Ohio State.  I like the Buckeyes here because they have some young talent coming back in Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger.  They also have Aaron Craft coming back, who ran the point for the Buckeyes for most of last season, also a freshman (going to be a sophomore).  Even though they’re losing some senior leadership in David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale, and Jon Diebler they have William Bufford to step up and take on the leadership role.  They also have a very solid recruiting class coming in including 4 ESPNU top 100 recruits, 2 of which are McDonald’s All Americans.  I look for the Buckeyes to reload and pick up where they left off and can see them possibly winning 30 games for the second straight season in a row.

3)  Kentucky.  The decision hasn’t been made quite yet on whether or not Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones will return to the Wildcats squad. Doron Lamb has also stated that he’ll be back for his sophomore season.  As of right now they have the top recruiting class according to ESPNU signing 4 top 100 recruits.  All of which are McDonald’s All Americans.  John Calipari seems to reload every season with an outstanding recruiting class, which I find a little questionable.  However, Kentucky is my favorite to win the SEC this coming season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make another run to the Final Four.

4)  Texas.  With Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson making the decision to come back Texas is going to be tough to beat.  Not to mention the return of J’Covan Brown (possibly the best 6th man of the past season) who can score lights out when on.  Texas also has the 5th best recruiting class according to ESPNU.  They have one McDonald’s All American joining there already tough squad.  I have a feeling with all the Kansas Jayhawks players leaving early Texas is the favorite in the Big 12.  I can also see Texas making a run to the National Championship game.

5)  Duke.  Even though the Blue Devils are losing Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler I feel the Blue Devils will be just fine.  They still have Mason Plumlee, Andre Dawkins, and Seth Curry coming back.  I can’t forget to mention Duke’s incredible recruiting class.  They have the 3rd best recruiting class according to ESPNU.  They’re bringing 5 top 100 high school recruits.  Including Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee’s little brother, Marshall Plumlee (both are McDonald’s All Americans).  4 of Duke’s recruits are McDonald’s All Americans.  Here’s my equation that will produce Duke’s success for next season:

  • Incoming Talent (Recruits) + Returning Talent (Mason, Andre, and Seth) + Top 5 best all time coaches in the game (Coach Mike Krzyzewski) = Contender for ACC Title and Final Four appearance

I know that equation is pretty intense but it’s the most accurate and accepted equation amongst basketball fans, coaches, players, and so called experts.  I came up with it myself just so you all know.

These are my top 5 preseason picks for the upcoming 2011-2012 season.  Soon I will have up my 6-10 followed by my 11-25 preseason picks.  Hope you all enjoyed reading and I thank you for stopping by. Also, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on preseason picks!


To continue to the list from yesterday I’ll talk about more players that have made the decision enter the NBA draft (with or without an agent).

After failing to meet expectations Selby has declared for the NBA Draft

9) Josh Selby.  I’ll go ahead and state it up front. I think Selby should stay.  The Freshman phenom started the season serving a 9 game suspension for NCAA recruiting violations.  Selby had a break out game against USC hitting a game winning 3 and finished the game with 21 points.  That was his season high.  He only averaged 7.9 points/game throughout the season coming off of the bench as a role player.  He never quite lived up to the expectations this past season.  I do not feel like Selby had a good enough season to even consider leaving Kansas early.  Things should be interesting for Kansas, they’re losing 4 of their top 5 scorers from this past season. Hands down, Selby should stay.

Kawhi averaged a double-double while leading the Aztecs to a school best 34-3 record

10) Kawhi Leonard.  This outstanding sophomore averaged a double-double (15.5 ppg 10.6 rpg)  over the course of the season leading the San Diego State Aztecs to the best record in school history (34-3).  With 3 seniors leaving this team I don’t believe SDSU will be able to make another run at the Mountain West Conference title or another Sweet 16 appearance.  I think it’s a no brainer that Leonard should take off for the NBA.  He’s definitely ready for the next step. The only thing that scares me for this young individual is the possibility of an NBA Lockout.

Isaiah Thomas would the project Pac-12 Player of the Year if he returned to Washington

11) Isaiah Thomas. Thomas averaged 16.8 points/game with 6.1 assists/game.  Isaiah made himself an argument for the Pac-10 Player of the Year but the honors went to Sophomore Derrick Williams of Arizona (who is also on this list, check previous post).  Isaiah has declared for the NBA draft foregoing his senior season.  Personally, I like this kid and think college basketball is losing an extremely exciting player to watch.  Also, I think he should stay at the college level one more season finishing school and getting his degree.  Plus, he would be the favorite for the Pac-12 Player of the Year which would increase his draft status in the NBA.

Richmond had a sub-par season for a Freshman that plans on leaving for the NBA Draft

12) Jereme Richmond.  Richmond averaged 7.6 ppg and 5 rebounds per game.  I would say this is a solid Freshman season, but not for one who plans on entering the NBA draft.  Jereme helped the Fighting Illini post a 20-14 (9-9) record. I don’t think it’s a good idea for this Freshman to leave early.  He’s kind of small for his frame.  He’s 6 ft. 7in. and only weighs around 205.  Personally, I think at least another year or two would help him significantly.  I believe he could make a name for himself as a prominent player in the Big Ten and add weight to his frame making him a force down low.  Richmond, you should stay in school for at least another season.

Keep checking in for more information and my thoughts on players who are leaving early for the draft.  After National signing day and NBA early draft entry day I’ll make some posts with my Top 10 and 25 teams for next season (preseason of course).  Thanks for reading!