Like the great Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson once said, “It’s preview season!” (alright, maybe they didn’t say exactly that). With the college basketball season greatly approaching, CHD is bringing you the most important, up-to-date information on your favorite NCAA basketball conferences. We’ll even throw in a little dash of nonsense and a heaping plate full of hype to go along with it (all for free!). Hunker down and strap it in folks, it’s almost time to Rise and Fire once again. Next up, the Big Ten.
Honey Badgers and 300 Spartans
Before I even begin diving into the Big Ten Conference, I want to provide you all with a full disclosure: I am a Big Ten homer. Always have been. Always will be. You see, I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. My formative years as a knowledgeable basketball fan were during one of the greatest college basketball runs of all time (the 37-2 Fighting Illini). During high school, my coach (Hall of Famer, Dave Stephens) who played under Bo Ryan at the University of Wisonsin-Platteville, took our varsity team up to the University of Wisconsin’s summer camps both my junior and senior year (where I was lucky enough to be coached by Bo… and yes I will refer to him as such for the rest of this piece). And as you might have guessed, I obtained my Bachelors Degree at the University of Iowa because I enjoy pain with my sports.
See, All Big Ten Everything.
So allow me to apologize now for any and all of my B1G bias right now.
I mean it in the most loving way possible.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get back to work. For those of you that have been living under your college football umbrella, the AP Poll was released last week and it had not one, not two, not three, not four… BUT FIVE Big Ten Teams (with three more receiving votes). That’s a deeeeeeeeeeep league, friends.
Watching the overall conference standings is going to be a lot like riding an elevator this year. One team goes up, while the other goes down; unless you’re Rutgers, in which case your elevator doesn’t even work.
Now I’ll spare you the “Big Ten is the deepest conference in all of college basketball and I don’t care what you say about the ACC” hot sports take (especially after basically showing off my Big Ten logo tattoo in the paragraph above), but it’s not out of the question that the conference could get two teams into this years Final Four for the first time since 2005 (you can now send all your hate tweets to @Jerjr33; I ask only that you use the hashtag #homerhomerhomerhomerhomerhomer).
I know I’m probably on an island alone on that, but I’m still stranded there from my “Todd Lickliter will take Iowa to the promise land” stance a couple years back.
It all starts with the methodically coached Badgers, who will need to do something they’ve never done in their school’s history: reach back-to-back Final Fours.
Now I realize watching Wisconsin basketball is like watching a sloth climb a tree (or for my older readers, watching paint dry) but trust me, you’ll want to seek these guys out this year. They return the duo of Sam Dekker (who was wildly viewed as one of the top players in the LeBron James summer camp) and Frank Kaminsky (who will forever and always be my saving grace and the shining star that guides me). On top of those two, Bo brings back nearly the entire team that made the Final Four run last year.
If you cant stand Dekker’s 90’s hair cut (gelled down with a little flip until the sweat takes over during pre game lay-up lines) or Kaminsky’s Shawn Bradley-like mouth breathing, you can find solace in sophomore forward Nigel Hayes’ game (hopefully he will force Bo to give him more minutes this year), Josh Gasser (the most Wisconsin-esque player ever) or Traevon Jackson who is still somehow in school.
Wisconsin will stick to their team basics: fantastic team defense. Passing the ball around the arc, running the shot clock down while looking for the best possible shot (Here’s a fun fact: Wisconsin played with their highest tempo in the Bo Ryan era last year and it was still only good for seventh in the conference). And of course, Bo will continue to look like a cross between Steve Ballmer at a Clippers game and a man possessed by an evil spirit every time he loses his mind on an official… or Traevon Jackson.
They are truly a treasure trove of Princeton cuts and proper box out techniques. Pretty jump shots and perfect bounce passes. Masters of the Triple Threat. Aficionados of pick-and-pop’s. Lovers of the out of bounds play.
It’s the little things in basketball.
Now if you still aren’t buying what I’m selling, there is always our old friend Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans.
I suppose I’m going out on a limb here by slotting Sparty in as the runner up in the Big Ten; if only for the simple fact that Izzo doesn’t finish outside of the top three all that often. I like what MSU is brining back this year in senior Branden Dawson (he may be my biggest Big Ten, non-Iowa crush), Boris Diaw-esque Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello and Travis Trice. Bryn Forbes was granted immediate eligibility following a transfer from Cleveland State and he is going to light teams up like a Christmas tree.
Then there is Tum Tum. I can’t wait for Tum Tum. Scroll down for Tum Tum.
Will they be the greatest show on hardwood? No. Will there be a bad loss or two in there? Of course. But this is a Tom Izzo team ladies and gentlemen. That means that it will rebound, play smart, rebound some more, shoot some threes, rebound what they may have missed before and play even smarter. If this team can stay healthy (please basketball gods, look over Dawson), this team will be primed for a run in the post season…It’s basically one of the laws of physics.
Three BIG Questions
Who is going to step up and become the de facto offensive leader for the Hawkeyes after the graduation of Roy Devyn Marble?
See guys, I’m not all that bad. I went 900 words before even mentioning the alma mater. This isn’t just a personal worry, it’s campus wide. Roy Dev took 29.6% of the teams shots in 2013-14, played in 74.3% of the teams available minutes and was involved in 27.3% of the teams overall possessions. That’s a TON of offensive value now in the NBA. One would assume that Aaron White would be the next man up, but I’m not sure I’m sold on that actually happening organically. As a junior, White accounted for 17.9% of the teams shots while on the court (six players, who accounted for more than 16% of the teams overall possessions used, averaged more). White defines the word “unselfish” and for better or worse looks for the right basketball play rather than his own shot (as much as I wish differently).
Could it be Jarrod Uthoff? Peter Jok? Transfer Trey Dickerson? All of the above? I’m really not sure. Depth is Fran McCaffery’s best friend so it could easily be a combination of all the players mentioned above. But when the game is on the line and the Hawkeyes need a bucket, who is that Roy Dev player that demands the ball, despite the outcome?
That ’tis the question.
Will Tom Crean be relieved of his duties if the Hoosiers disappoint in 2014-15?
Those substitutions… the Hoosier offense against anything zone related…the extension and the buyout…the development of his young players…
I hate to beat a dead horse, but everything I mentioned above have not been good. The rumors have been churning for a couple of years now, and the “National Title or bust” boo-birds are swarming. How long until they are looking for blood?
Will Aaron Craft get drafted by an NBA team?
How will the Buckeyes offense look this year after a lack luster 2013-14 season?
According to KenPom, the Buckeyes were sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency (it’s worst in ten season under Thad Matta) and seventh in turnover percentage. To make matters worse, the Buckeyes lost their three top scorers from last season. Now Matta has no choice but to lean on Shannon Scott (in his new starting point guard role) and senior Sam Thompson to push the pace this year, as many expect the buckeyes to possibly lead the league in tempo. The lineup is littered with front court help, but the pieces are young and unproven. With that said, like most of the upper-echelon coaches in the Big Ten, betting against Thad Matta to get the most out of his team is unwise more often than not.
Obligatory YouTube Freshman Hype Machine
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn-Michigan State, G
First a tribute to the OG Tum Tum:
Now, for Spartys Tum Tum:
I honestly hope he earned this nickname by eating Twizzlers on the bench during games, performing karate moves after all And-1 calls and making fun of his older brother for liking girls.
D’Angelo Russell-Ohio State, G
I am going to scream “He didn’t even stretch, doe” every single time this kid does anything at all. Not even joking around. Transition three? HE DIDN’T EVEN STRETCH, DOE! Dunking on Frank Kaminsky? HE DIDN’T EVEN STRETCH, DOE! Thad Matta, red faced and angry, benching him after a crucial turnover? HE DIDN’T EVEN STRETCH, DOE! Gets crossed over by Chris LaVert at Michigan? HE DIDN’T EVEN STRETCH, DOE!
This kid has personality and flash… so if he were a Hawkeye football player he’d be immediately suspended and thrown in the permanent dog house (sorry I had to).
James Blackmon Jr-Indiana, G
Look at that fresh line up! A shaved in middle-part. It’s something I’ve never seen before. I suppose AI had the braids, Anthony Davis had “The Brow” (trademark) and Blackmon has the Middle Part. I’ve watched that video at least 10 times and I still couldn’t tell you if in certain clips he was wearing a head band or not because the Middle Part looks like a logo. I really don’t have any analysis of his game here other than he has a pretty nice crossover (1:28 mark) and what looks like a nice shot from deep. Oh and for all of those that are still reading and not trying to figure out for themselves if he is wearing a headband, this is the best “mix tape” song I’ve heard… THEY’RE ALL CHILDREN!
Player of the Year Top 5
I reserve the right to change these as the season goes in hopes of making myself look smart and wise:
1. Frank Kaminsky (I can’t decide on a proper nickname: Lurch or Blanko, a.k.a. the name of the Blue Monstar in Space Jam. Tweet me your thoughts @Jerjr33)
2. Branden Dawson (please, please, please, please stay healthy)
3. Sam Dekker (sorry haters)
4. Terran Petteway (I so badly want to put him above Dekker, but I’m not quite sure you all realize how good the Badgers are going to be this year)
5. Aaron White (#homerhomerhomerhomerhomerhomer)
Also receiving votes: Yogi Ferrell and D’Angelo Russell…AND HE DIDN’T EVEN STRETCH, THO!
Save the Date
On December 3rd, 2014 the #4 Duke Blue Devils travel to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the #3 Wisconsin Badgers. Coach K vs. Bo. Freshman Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones vs. Lurch and Dekks. ACC vs. Big Ten for all the “Best Conference on the planet” marbles. I don’t care if my loving and supportive girlfriend offered me a million dollars to sit silently while she shows me her Pinterest board, I’m not missing this.
Ok, maybe I’d miss the game for a million dollars… but definitely not for the next best offer… $100, three free Five Buck Box coupons from Taco Bell and a chance to win a Play Station 4.
I’m not even close to being done. I obsessively love Tom Izzo and think his troll like antics are a national treasure.