Category Archives: College Basketball

B1G BRIEFS – 11/19/12


B1G BRIEFS
Monday, November 19, 2012

Get caught up quickly on how teams around the Big Ten fared this past week with Late Night Hoops and their B1G BRIEFS!

Big Ten teams in the AP and Coaches Polls released Monday, November 19:
Indiana (#1 AP/#1 Coaches)
Ohio State (#3/#3)
Michigan (#4/#4)
Michigan State (#15/#19)
Wisconsin (NR/#24)
Also receiving votes: Minnesota (26th/29thth), Wisconsin (27th/ranked)

Illinois (3-0)
The Illini won 89-64 at home against St. Francis (NY) before traveling to Honolulu. There, they took on Hawai’I and survived 78-77 in overtime.

  • D.J. Richardson is shooting 31.0% 3FG (9/29). The rest of the team is connecting at a 45.6% rate (26/57). Tyler Griffey (5/11) has used the 3-pointer to push his average up to 9.7 points per game.
  • Brandon Paul leads the team in scoring with 19.7 per game, which isn’t a surprise. Not far behind is sophomore guard Tracy Abrams at 16.7 points per game and only 7 turnovers in total this year.
  • The Illini received a fifth commitment for 2013 when Austin Colbert chose them. Colbert is a long and athletic 6’9” forward from New Jersey.

Indiana (3-0)
The Hoosiers beat a solid North Dakota State team 87-61 and destroyed Sam Houston St. 99-45. Both games were at home.

  • NDSU shot a respectable eFG% of 48.2% against Indiana.
  • Will Sheehey moved into the starting lineup, replacing senior Christian Watford. Said Watford about coming off the bench, “Just give 100% on both ends of the floor and everything will take care of itself.” Good comments from Watford, but the finite minutes available for a roster filled with talent will continue to be something coach Crean must navigate carefully.

Iowa (4-0)
The Hawkeyes played three relatively easy home games and came out unscathed: 73-61 over Central Michigan, 66-36 over Howard and 65-56 over Gardner Webb.

  • Nine Hawkeyes are averaging more than 13 minutes per game.
  • Aaron White hasn’t been in a sophomore slump so far. He’s averaging 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The 6’8” forward has been to the line 39 times already this year and is grabbing offensive rebounds at a rate of 17%.
  • Junior Roy Devyn Marble leads Iowa in scoring at 15.5 per game.
  • Freshman point guard Mike Gesell hasn’t shot well, but is averaging 28.5 minutes and playing solid basketball.

Michigan (3-0)
No problem this week for the Wolverines. They played two games at Crisler Center and won both easily: 91-54 over IUPUI and 77-47 over Cleveland St.

  • The team is shooting an amazing 65.6% eFG thanks to making 34 of 64 3-point attempts (53.1%).
  • Tim Hardaway, the player we’re keeping an eye on most this year, is averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting 81.5% eFG, including 8/11 3FG (72.7%). Hardaway is also averaging 7.7 rebounds a night.
  • Trey Burke leads the team in scoring at 18.3 ppg. In addition to Burke and Hardaway, freshmen Glenn Robinson (13.3) and Nick Stauskas (11.0) are also averaging double figure scoring.

Michigan State (2-1)
The Spartans earned a 67-64 victory over Kansas in a neutral court game in Georgia and followed that up with an easy home win over Texas Southern, 69-41.

  • Gary Harris won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. He’s leading the Spartan scoring attack with 16.0 ppg this year.
  • The team is shooting just 25.0% (10/40) from 3-point range this season. Other than Keith Appling (5/9), that percentage is 16.1%.

Minnesota (4-0)
The Gophers started off with big leads and cruised to victory over Toledo (82-56) and Tennessee State (72-43) before getting a bit of a test from Richmond before pulling away for a 72-57 win. All of Minnesota’s games have been within the friendly confines of Williams Arena.

  • Opposing teams have been limited to a 31.5% eFG. Five Gophers are averaging one or more blocks per game and the team has 35 on the year.
  • As they did last year, Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins have led the way, both averaging 14.5 points per game.
  • Williams has been excellent and has his usage rate over 21% while maintaining an offensive rating of approximately 127. In addition, he’s been a key to the defensive dominance the Gophers have enjoyed so far this year.
  • Trevor Mbakwe played a season-high 27 minutes against Richmond and the tentativeness that he appeared to have in the first two games of the season looks to be a thing of the past. He looked like his old self against the Spiders, grabbing 12 boards.

Nebraska (3-0)
The Huskers survived Valpo 50-48 and beat Nebraska-Omaha 75-62, both games at home.

  • Of their top four scorers, three are seniors (Ubel, Talley, Almeida) and one is a junior (Gallegos). Combined, they’ve scored 81.2% of the team’s points this year.

Northwestern (3-0)
Three home games this week for the Wildcats and three wins: 79-49 over Texas Southern, 81-68 over Mississippi Valley St. and 80-53 over Fairleigh Dickinson

  • Reggie Hearn has led the scoring with 15.3 ppg and an eFG% of 84.8%.
  • Freshman center Alex Olah is averaging 20.3 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 2.0 bpg.

Ohio State (3-0)
Ohio State won their home opener, downing Albany 82-60. The Buckeyes then went on the road to Connecticut and won games on back-to-back days over Rhode Island (69-58) and Washington (77-66).

  • Who will score for this team besides Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith? How relevant is that question? Thomas is happy to carry more of the scoring load. Through 3 games, he’s averaging 25.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, has turned it over only 4 times and has an eFG% of 60.0%.
  • Thomas also earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
  • Aaron Craft is averaging 17.0 points and 5.0 assists per game. The junior point guard has an eFG% of 61.7% and has made 50.0% of his 3FGA (7/14). His turnover rate has been high during his first two seasons in Columbus, but has limited his miscues to just 1.0 per game this year.
  • The Buckeyes received a pledge from 2014 forward Keita Bates-Diop of Illinois. A very nice addition for Ohio State.

Penn State (2-2)
The Nittany Lions dropped games to North Carolina State (72-55) and Akron (85-60) and beat Providence (55-52 in overtime). All three games were played in Puerto Rico.

  • Tim Frazier went out with an injury just several minutes into the Akron game Sunday. The senior guard was holding his left ankle, but was eventually able to hobble off the court. The team will take a closer look at Frazier back in Pennsylvania, but there is a wide range of possible severity here. Any significant missed time for Frazier would be a huge blow to Penn State.
  • Impact transfer D.J. Newbill is putting up 14.5 points per game.

Purdue (1-3)
Purdue beat Hofstra at home 83-54 before traveling to New York and dropping a heart breaker to Villanova (89-81 in overtime) and another to Oregon State 66-58. Coming into the year, we were down on Purdue compared to the consensus media picks (we slotted them as the tenth best team in the Big Ten, ahead of only Penn State and Nebraska) and are not surprised by their start.

Nonetheless, some of the Purdue freshmen have shown they can play and it’ll be interesting to see what Matt Painter can get out of this team.

  • D.J. Byrd (11.0 ppg) is the only player averaging more than 9 points per game, but his shot has not been falling (8/27 3FG for 29.6%).
  • As a team, the Boilermakers have shot 25.0% from 3-point range (19/76).

Wisconsin (2-1)
Florida throttled the visiting Badgers 74-56 on Wednesday. Wisconsin returned home and did the same to Cornell 73-40.

  • Jared Berggren leads the team with a scoring average of 16.0 points and has also pulled down 7.0 rebounds per game.
  • Ben Brust has been very good, averaging 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds and maintaining a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.

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B1G BRIEFS – 11/12/12

B1G BRIEFS
Monday, November 12, 2012

Through Sunday, all Big Ten teams except for Northwestern and Purdue have played one game. Northwestern’s first contest is Tuesday and the Boilermakers played two games over the weekend.

Below are notes on how each team started the year, as well a couple of 2013 Big Ten commitments (to Indiana and Wisconsin, respectively).

Illinois
John Groce won his first game as head coach at Illinois, beating Colgate 75-55 in Champaign. The Illini connected on 10/18 3-point attempts in the first half (13/30 for 43.3% for the game) and coasted in the second half.

  • Brandon Paul led the scoring for Illinois with 20 points. Paul also had 8 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl.
  • Six players made at least 1 3FG; three players made 3 3FG’s.
  • Six players had at least 6 rebounds. Illinois out-rebounded Colgate on the offensive boards 19-4.

Indiana
The Hoosiers strolled to a 97-54 win over Bryant.

  • Cody Zeller’s double-double (18 pts, 10 reb) was only the sixth of his career.
  • Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell looked good: 10 pts, 7 ast, 5 reb in 24 min. He also nabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
  • A guy we especially like as a future star, Jeremy Hollowell, also made his debut: 12 pts, 2 reb, 3 TO in 17 mins
  • Noah Vonleh of New Hampton School (NH), a top-10 ranked recruit in the class of 2013, committed to the Hoosiers.
  • Indiana announced it had reached an agreement on a new deal with Tom Crean. The contract is not finalized, but Indiana says it runs through 2020 and the increases the average annual non-performance based compensation resulting from $2.52 million to $3.16 million and that the incremental income will be paid through deferred compensation.

Iowa
Fran McCaffery’s team made an easy night of it, winning their opener 86-55 at home against Texas-Pan American.

  • Freshmen Adam Woodbury (10 pts, 3 reb, 3 blk in 14 min) and Mike Gesell (7 pts, 4 ast, 3 reb, 1 TO in 24 min) started.
  • With Aaron White, Adam Woodbury, Melsahn Basabe and Gabe Olaseni, Iowa is going to block a lot of shots this year.

Michigan
The Wolverines demolished Slippery Rock 100-62 behind big games from Tim Hardaway Jr. (25 pts, 10 reb, 105% eFG, 5/5 3FG) and Trey Burke (21 pts, 8 ast). Hardaway was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week.

  • Freshmen Glenn Robinson III (10 pts, 8 reb), Mitch McGary (9 pts, 9 reb), and Nik Stauskas (7 pts) all had nice showings.

Michigan State
The Spartans tipped off against Connecticut in Germany. Things started off slow for Michigan State, trailing by as much as 16 in the first half. Tom Izzo’s team made it a game in the second half, but came up short and lost 66-62.

  • Branden Dawson is coming off ACL surgery, but looked explosive. The sophomore scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds (8 offensive) and earned 5 steals.
  • True freshman Gary Harris wasn’t shy: 11 points on 4/13 shooting (1/7 3FG).

Minnesota
The Gophers manhandled American University 72-36. American’s 26.3% eFG was the lowest against a Minnesota team this century.

  • Junior wing Austin Hollins led the scoring with 20 points, also adding 5 rebounds and 5 steals.
  • Minnesota held a 22-8 advantage in turnovers.

Nebraska
New head coach Tim Miles was victorious, beating Southern 66-55.

  • Senior forward Brandon Ubel led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Dylan Talley, also a senior, scored 17 and junior guard Ray Gallegos added 16.
  • Nebraska shot an eFG of 54.6%.

Northwestern
The Wildcats begin their season on Tuesday, November 13 at home against Texas Southern.

Ohio State
The Buckeyes’ aircraft carrier game against Marquette was canceled Friday night, but they hosted Albany on Sunday and won easily 82-60.

  • Strong contributions from several players, led by Aaron Craft (20 pts, 7 ast, 5/7 3FG), Deshaun Thomas (19 pts) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (18 pts, 5 reb, 8/11 FG).
  • The Buckeyes shot a blistering 67.9% eFG.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions won their opener 65-58 at home against Saint Francis. The Nits were outshot 54.4% to 39.4% eFG, but got to the line 18 more times than Saint Francis and allowed their opponent just 2 offensive rebounds (7% OR%).

The three double-figure scorers for Penn State were the three players we highlighted in our preseason preview:

  • Tim Frazier: 39 min, 23 pts, 6 ast, 4 reb, 17/18 FT
  • Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill: 16 pts, 7 reb, 9/10 FT
  • Minnesota’s Ross Travis: 10 pts, 9 reb (5 off)

Purdue
Minnesotan Mike Muscala and the Bucknell Bison went on the road and defeated Purdue 70-65 by outscoring the Boilermakers by 13 at the foul line.

The Boilers bounced back Sunday against Hofstra, winning 83-54.

  • Who will score for Purdue? The question remains… they’ve had 5 double-digit scorers, but no one who scored double-digits in both games.

Wisconsin
The Badgers hosted Southeastern Louisiana and jumped out to a 19-0 lead in a game that ended 87-47.

  • Ben Brust had an impressive game with 14 points and 11 boards while Jarred Berggren added 19 and 8.
  • Mike Bruesewitz was cleared to play after a leg injury suffered in practice last month. He played only 13 minutes, but poured in 10 points and was a perfect 3/3 from the field (2/2 3FG).
  • Redshirt freshman George Marshall started at point guard and finished with 5 points, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 28 minutes.
  • Senior Ryan Evans, a career 71.1% free throw shooter coming into the game, was 1/8 from the line.
  • 2013 F Nigel Hayes committed to the Badgers over the weekend.
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Recruiting Notes – USA Basketball Mini-Camp for 2015 & 2016 classes [Oct/12]

Earlier this month, LateNightHoops.com attended the USA Basketball Men’s Development National Team mini-camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. There, 44 of the country’s top players from the 2015 and 2016 high school classes were on hand to be introduced to USA Basketball and to be evaluated by the staff, who was led by head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City HS/Iowa City, IA). Coach Showalter has led the USA Developmental National Team to four straight gold medals as head coach from 2009-2012.

If you have questions or comments, including inquiries about other players that attended the camp but are not included in this article, please send us a message via our Contact Us page.

TWIN CITIES & SURROUNDING AREA TALENT
Henry Ellenson
(Rice Lake, WI)
6’9”, 250 | Rice Lake HS | Class of 2015

October 2012 Notes
You may hear Ellenson called a center by some, but that’s selling him short. Physically he looks the part and he can certainly battle on the blocks, but his skill and athletic ability sets him far apart from other kids his size.

Henry is an excellent shooter with plenty of range well past the three-point line, but has also worked on developing his game on the blocks. Over the next few years he should be able to continue adding to his arsenal of offensive weapons, which is a scary thought for teams trying to defend him.

His strength and quickness are not areas of concern, but there is opportunity for him to be elite if these areas progress nicely over the next few years. In college, there is no reason Ellenson can’t be a 3/4 switchable type who can score at multiple levels and defend multiple positions.

Now, at this point in time you wouldn’t have him dribbling the ball all the way up the court on a 3-on-1 fast break, but there’s not a lot I’d give him a red light on doing.

At a minimum, he’s a very good college prospect. With hard work, I can see Henry winding up as a top 10 player in the 2015 class.

Other potential factors such as good coaches, supportive family and older brothers who also play basketball (the oldest brother, Wally, is a freshman at Minnesota and will be able to share his D1 experience and Henry’s father played college ball for Marquette and Wisconsin) all seem to favor the likelihood of success for Henry Ellenson. He’s legit and the sky is the limit.

Amir Coffey (New Hope, MN)
6’3”, 160 | Hopkins HS | 2016

Amir Coffey
2016 Amir Coffey

October 2012 Notes

The first thing that stands out about Amir is his length and how well he uses it. With the ball, he’s able to create passing lanes and make plays that others can’t. On defense, his instincts combined with long arms result in frequent steals and deflections.

He’s a good scorer, but with more consistency and aggressiveness he could become excellent.

Coffey can play off the ball or at point and his ball handling, passing and feel for the game is especially propitious considering he’ll likely wind up standing a solid 6’7”.

I’m very high on the future prospects for Amir and can see him at the college level as a versatile wing and distinguished defender.   Similar to Ellenson, Coffey’s family (father Richard played for the Gophers and his older sisters are excellent basketball players) and other factors should help him along the way.

With Amir now being just a freshman at Minnesota high school basketball powerhouse Hopkins and there being a special class of 2014 in Minnesota, it may be a little while before the masses recognize how good Coffey can be. Nonetheless, we here at LNH are sold and look forward to watching his progression over the next several years.

USA Basketball U16 Mini-camp, Selected October 2012 Notes – Public Version

Diamond Stone (Milwaukee, WI)
6’10”, 252 | Dominican HS | 2015

Stone can be as good as he wants to be. The big man controls space inside, but it’s his hands and seemingly delicate touch when shooting that are most impressive. Elite prospect. Likeable demeanor and court presence, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. Great voice too – post-playing career as an on-air talent awaits Mr. Stone.

Guys I Want With Me in a Brawl – Horace Spencer (State: PA/Height: 6’8”/Weight: 210/Class: 2015) and Andrew Fleming (TN/6’4”/185/2015).

Spencer had me worried about his safety – unquestionably willing to sacrifice his body to make a big play. It often looks as if his life depends on denying the opposition’s shot. He’s absolutely a full tilt player with good length. Offensively he’ll clean up the glass and put it back, but has a lot of room for improvement with the ball. However, Spencer’s ability to run the floor, block shots and rebound, as well as his borderline-crazy effort earns his game a ton of respect.

Coming off the bench for M33M this summer, we saw Andrew Fleming at several tournaments across the country providing a spark for his team. Sometimes it was relentless defense or a hustle play to save a ball heading out of bounds. Other times it was a deep three or an aggressive drive the bucket where he was able to absorb contact and finish.

Fleming is a good shooter, big time worker and fearless. In Colorado, we saw more of the same – tireless effort from a very competitive kid.

Jaw Dropper Harry Giles (NC/6’8”/205/2016)

Giles is no longer a slim, wiry young kid. It appears he’ll be able to add a lot of strength by the time he reaches college.  Very athletic, runs the floor well and is everywhere on the court. Would think it may be difficult to get him out of ACC country, but schools should sure try. He’s excellent at this point, but I believe he’ll be ridiculously good in a few years. I’m sold.

Who is That?! – Malik Monk (AR/6’3”/170/2016)

Monk was not a guy I was there to see, but his play dictated that I had to watch him. Time and time again he impressed when finishing at the rim, pulling up for jumpers and passing. His athleticism really stood out on certain plays – had several “woah, he just did that?” moments.

Wise Beyond His YearsJosh Langford (AL/6’5”/200/2016)

Strong all-around player who made smart decisions throughout the weekend. I think he projects more as a 2/3, but I really liked what he did when making decisions with the ball in his hand. Will be interesting to see if he continues to hold an edge in court IQ as time goes on, but right now looks like a guy who you’d want as your team captain.  Tough, strong and smart kid.

Other Selected quick comments:

  • Charles Matthews (IL/6’4”170/2015) – Matthews is 6’4” and a long combo guard who looked great scoring off the dribble. Worked with the point guards at USA basketball mini-camp and has the potential to be a dangerous point guard. May wind up as a wing, but if he becomes a good defender and continues developing his lead guard skills, he could be spectacular. Lots of possibilities for Matthews.
  • Simeon’s “next up” include D.J. Williams (IL/6’7”/186/2015) and Benjamin Coupet (IL/6’6”/180/2016). Both are long wings that can run and score in transition. Two to keep a close on eye.
  • Ivan Rabb (CA/6’8”/191/2015) is legit. Super active and a ton of fun to watch. It’s also obvious he’s having a lot of fun while on the court. Could wind up in conversation of top 5 in his class.
  • The camp’s youngest player Seventh Woods (SC/6’1”/168/2016) is unquestionably a superior athlete. Explosive. Has work to do if he’s going to play point in college, but at a minimum he’ll be one of the most athletic players in his class regardless of position. Head-shaking highlight-maker.
  • Eric Davis (MI/6’3”/161/2015) played a lot of point guard over the weekend, but he’s a combo guard that is always looking to score.  His shot wasn’t consistently dropping this weekend, but he showed no fear in taking the ball to the rim against an impressive collection of lengthy wings and big men who were there to challenge him on defense.  Quite animated and competitive. Lots of Big Ten interest.
  • Josh Jackson (MI/6’6”/175/2016) passes the eye test with his length and athleticism. Sunday morning during a four-on-four fastbreak/transition drill he fired up the entire gym with an impressive two-way display.  First on offense, he drove the lane and slammed home a contested dunk.  Quickly, his team had to turn their attention to defense.   Jackson turned on the jets for a sprint down the length of the floor and leaped high off the ground to block a dunk attempt from behind, drawing cheers from all of the players and setting the tone for the session.Not sold on his jumper, but he was effective slashing to the bucket this weekend.  Length and quickness allows him to come up with blocks, steals and boards in bunches.  Loads of realizable potential; future impact Big Ten player?
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Unbridled Optimism at Indiana

Deep talent, a legitimate star and big time PR have pushed the Hoosiers to No. 1

Indiana has a great basketball team and an incredibly supportive fan base. Neither of these facts should come as a surprise. After all, every four year player at Indiana since the 1950s has played for a nationally ranked squad at some point during their career.

Heading into the 2012-13 college basketball season there aren’t many teams that look like a sure shot national title contender. I understand why most of the nation has Indiana ranked number one in the land, but personally I’m unable to rationalize an argument for that expectation.

The Hoosiers’ offense does not have much room to improve and their defense has too much room for improvement.

Prior to the season tipping off, LateNightHoops.com will preview each of the Big Ten teams, highlighting positives, negatives and overall outlook. However, today we’ll get a start on Indiana and offer some thoughts on why they don’t look like a team that will win it all in 2012-13.

How good were they last year?

Indiana’s 27-9 record in 2011-12 looks good, but their non-conference schedule included a lot of awful competition. More than half of the Hoosiers’ 27 wins were 15+ point blowouts.  While the Kentucky game at Assembly Hall stands out, Indiana didn’t play many games that went down to the wire.  More than half of their losses were by double-digits.

Indiana finished conference play in 5th place last season and compiled a road record of 3-6, with none of those wins coming against foes that finished ahead of them.

From an efficiency standpoint (KenPom.com adjusted; Editors note: subscribing to KenPom.com is highly recommended & the small cost is a tiny fraction of the value you’ll receive), the Hoosiers posted an offensive efficiency of 120.6 and a defensive mark of 95.3 for a net of 25.3.

Looking back at the five most recent national champions, their net efficiency numbers were as follows: 34.8, 25.4, 37.6, 34.5, 42.5.  Connecticut, who had an incredible late season run in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments, is the outlier at 25.4 in 2010-11. The average of the second best net efficiency in the last five seasons has been 33.5.

To feel good about Indiana as a No. 1, I’d want to see a believable path to around 34.0.  That said, the Hoosiers need about 9 additional points in 2012-13 and I can’t get there.

Offense

Matching last year’s efficiency won’t be easy and improving it by more than a few points is not a reasonable expectation.

In the past five seasons, just eight teams have reached 123 and only four of those surpassed 125.

Let’s be generous and assume Indiana increases its offensive efficiency by 2.5 points to 123.1.

Below is just a sampling of the road blocks the Hoosiers could encounter when trying to be a better (or even equal) offensive team in 2012-13:

  • Cody Zeller is absolutely legit.  As a sophomore he’ll showcase an expanded game and be even more fun to watch. However, I project his offensive rating to decline a bit. His total value to the team should improve some, but he won’t provide nearly the same incremental boost as last season.
  • Indiana’s free throw rate (“FTR”) in the Big Ten was the best seen in the conference over the past 5 years. Much like the Indiana defense focused on reducing their own fouling of the opposition last year, others teams will do the same this year when defending the Hoosiers’ attack. The Hoosiers were 0-5 in conference games when they had a FTR of less than 32.7%.
  • The three-pointer wasn’t used a lot, but it did provide a big boost to the team’s overall shooting because of their incredible accuracy from deep.
    – The team shot 43.1% 3FG (41.4% conf; 44.9% nonconf).
    – Jordan Hulls won’t match his 49.3% 3FG (42.1% conf; 57.1% nonconf)
    – Considerable downside risk for Christian Watford’s 43.7% 3FG
    – Matt Roth was effectively cut from the program. His 54.5% 3FG (59.2% in Big Ten) won’t come close to being duplicated by anyone. Ex-Roth, Indiana’s 41.4% 3FG in conference drops to 37.4%.
  • The Hoosiers still must play on the road. Matt Roth nailed 5 of 6 three point field goals during a 22 point performance in a victory at Penn State, a win that broke Indiana’s 16-game Big Ten road losing streak.  Indiana was 2-6 in other conference road games, losing 4 by double digits and dropping a close one at lowly Nebraska.
  • Roth and senior Tom Pritchard were ultra-low usage guys that played with great offensive efficiency in their combined 24+ minutes per Big Ten game last year.  How well will Tom Crean mix in guys with more regular usage tendencies?
  • Giving Indiana some hope, Cody Zeller still needs to prove he can dominate consistently away from home and he could help them to a better road showing this year. In Big Ten play, he was a far better performer at Assembly Hall:

            Points       FG%       FT rate
Home    19.8        71.1%        70%
Away     11.6        51.4%        54%

Defense

A 6.5 defensive efficiency improvement may not sound like a lot, but it is. Remember, Indiana’s 2011-12 was not nearly as bad as the few years prior.  Although there wasn’t anything particularly good about their team defense, it wasn’t awful and improved by 3.8 points last year.

The Hoosiers lowered their defensive free throw rate significantly last year, but won’t realize such a drop again this year.  A place they can improve is forcing turnovers, but at what cost?

Indiana needs a big improvement on defense. Are a talented group of freshmen the answer? I wouldn’t think so. Perhaps having veteran wings Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey start games to set the defensive tone would be wise, but it is possible Coach Crean has Yogi Ferrell and senior Jordan Hulls in the backcourt together a lot.

Ferrell is smart, strong and overall a great player. Nonetheless, he’s also small, a freshman and a kid that played 2-3 zone in high school. Pairing him with Hulls will scare the opposition’s defense, but delight their offense.

Improving their defensive efficiency by 6.5 points would take Indiana to 88.8. That would place them among the top 10 or 15 best defensive teams in the nation. Is that enough to get a national championship done? Sure. Will they get there? I just don’t see it.

Summary

The Hoosiers should have an excellent season, but I just can’t rationalize them as No. 1.

Indiana has tremendous talent and unreal depth, but now it gets down to coaching. Tom Crean is a great PR man, but are there concerns with the X’s and O’s? Having tons of talent is better than having no talent, but optimally balancing this group of players throughout the year could prove to be quite a challenge.

The youngsters are terrific and I’ve watched them in person many times. Ferrell is strong, clever and incredibly agile in the lane. Hanner is an impressive physical specimen that will shock people who haven’t seen him up close with his strength, athleticism and aggressiveness near the rim. Jeremy Hollowell’s combination of skill and size is good enough that if he can consistently work hard, he’s a next level guy. The future is bright, but they are all freshmen.

Their schedule lends itself to high expectations continuing for much of the year. After a weak non-conference portion, the season heads into conference play where Indiana’s most difficult four road games are all on the back half of the calendar.

Indiana will lose road games during the last month of the regular season, pushing them away from the top spot in the polls at year end. In the tournament, their defense makes it highly unlikely that they’ll be able to put together a six-game run.

If I had to select five teams with the goal of naming one that would either finish the regular season ranked No. 1 or win the national championship, Indiana would not be one of those teams. It’s not that there are many teams who are clearly better than Indiana, it’s that there are many teams who have the potential to be a No. 1, whereas I can’t get there when projecting the Hoosiers in 2012-13.

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Minnesota Basketball Players Leading Teams Across The Nation in 2012-13

Alec Brown
Alec Brown of Wisconsin-Green Bay

The state of Minnesota continues to produce impressive basketball talent, including those who stay home and play for the Gophers. However, with so many skilled players and some excellent high school and AAU programs, there are numerous student-athletes from the state that join Division I programs across the country.

In 2012-13, a number of Minnesotans will be difference makers at their respective schools. Today, we highlight several players who look primed to take sizable steps forward in their collegiate careers.

Marshall Bjorklund, North Dakota State
Junior, Forward
2011-12: 26.2 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg

Not recognized nationally or in Minnesota as much as is probably warranted. Extremely efficient offensive player who shot 67.1% FG% last year.  Bjorklund doesn’t turn the ball over and is a very good on the offensive boards  Tough, solid interior guy.  The Gophers will host NDSU on December 11.

Alec Brown, UW-Green Bay
Junior, Center
2011-12: 31.3 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 89 blk

Now a veteran at UWGB, he’ll need to lead a UWGB team that should be much improved compared to last year’s 15-15 team.  His game should continue to expand under third-year head coach Brian Wardle (Marquette, 2001).  It’s a huge year for both Brown and Wardle and one in which both of them are capable of earning national recognition.  With his skills and a bit more bulk, Brown could find himself on NBA draft boards.

Sam Dower, Gonzaga
Junior, Center/Forward
2011-12: 18.1 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Quietly very productive off the bench last year, he’ll look to prove just how good he can be in 2012-13. Zags center Robert Sacre was drafted by the Lakers this summer, giving Dower a great opportunity to impress.

Carlos Emory, Oregon
Senior, Forward
2011-12: 17.9 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

High-flying 6’6” forward played his first year of D1 basketball last year at Oregon with Gopher transfer Devoe Joseph.  Emory is a big time athlete that will regularly make the highlight reel.

Ross Travis, Penn State
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 17.9 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg

With Tim Frazier on the team and transfer D.J. Newbill now eligible, Travis may not see his offensive usage go up tremendously, but he’ll be improved as a sophomore and should have a strong career at PSU.  Minnesota plays Penn State in Minneapolis on either March 2 or 3 (date to be determined).

Jonah Travis, Harvard
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 6.5 mpg, 2.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg

With an always impressive motor and significant added strength, it’s only a matter of time before Jonah shines at Harvard.

Shelby Moats, Vanderbilt
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 4.1 mpg, 0.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg

Moats didn’t see much playing time on a highly talented and senior-heavy team last year, but will be called upon often this year.

Kevin Noreen, West Virginia
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 12.0 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Received a medical hardship waiver for 2010-11 season and played just 23 games last year before breaking an ankle.  Noreen can be a prolific scorer and a match up problem for opponents at 6’10”.

In addition to the names above, there are returning players that look to build on their past success at the Division I level and may already have a bit more name recognition with followers of college basketball than those players listed above:

Mike Muscala, Bucknell, Sr, F/C: 17.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg. Muscala has impressed every year, but was superb as a junior. A strong senior season for the Bison could help his chances of reaching the NBA.

Nate Wolters, South Dakota St., Sr, G: 21.2 ppg, 5.9 apg, 5.1 rpg. Wolters is an ultra-productive point guard with good size. Some NBA teams will want to consider him next summer. Wolters & SDSU visit Williams Arena on December 4.

Trent Lockett, Marquette, Sr, G: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg (with Arizona State). Big guard could be a difference maker in Milwaukee.

Jared Berggren, Wisconsin, Sr, F/C: 10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg. Versatile 6’10” big man looks to build on solid 2011-12 performance.  The Gophers play at Wisconsin January 26 and host the Badgers on February 14.

Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin, Sr, F: 5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg. Bruesewitz is a high-energy worker who may increase his offensive production now that fellow Minnesotan Jordan Taylor has graduated.

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