Basketball LiveBlog and B1G Q&A

Written November 3rd, 2011 by Eric

Basketball season is rapidly approaching, and I’m sure you’re wondering what we’re planning to do about it here at the BBC. The answer is, getting totally pumped!

Buford's ready to get back to his high flying act!

With the Buckeyes taking on the Walsh Cavaliers for an exhibition matchup this weekend (Sunday, November 6th, 2 PM) it is the perfect time to run the first Buckeye Basketball LiveBlog of the season!

But, you point out, the game is not on television? You’re correct, it’s on the BigTenNetwork.com – behind a paywall no less. But you didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without a solution, did you?

If you go to The Big Ten Network “Net Only” section (just click the link) and scroll to the middle of the page, you’ll see a “Subscribe Now” button. But you don’t have to pay $15 to see the game! Just enter “BTDN3FR33” in the coupon code box and you’ll be signed up for a free month of the BigTenNetwork online! Just remember to cancel before the end of the month if you don’t want to continue using the service.

Viola! Basketball LiveBlog here we come! They start 30 minutes before the game, so feel free to be late!

We were also approached a couple of days ago by the Minnesota basketball blog From The Barn to answer some questions regarding the upcoming basketball season for them. Joe Dexter and I were more than happy to oblige. We offer the questions and answers here for our viewers to read and enjoy!

Q1:  Who Would You Say is the most feared player in the conference this season? (JoeD)

When it comes down to it, there is only one player with the true experience of dominating play consistently. Jared Sullinger is on another level when it comes to taking over a ballgame. He might not necessarily strike fear in players guarding him, but he does give coaches headaches with his range, execution of the offense, and ability to take over the post offensively. Whether it be scoring with his back to the hoop, distributing the basketball out of coverage, or his much improved mid range jumper, Sullinger is the one player that has to be reckoned with night in and night out.

Jordan Taylor, Robbie Hummel, and Trevor Mbakwe all have aspects to their game that are nearly unstoppable, but nobody changes a basketball game like Jared Sullinger in this conference or quite frankly in the nation.

Q2: Which teams have the most potential to surprise in the Big Ten? (JoeD)

Tubby Smith and the Gophers are ready to play.

As a whole, this will be an interesting year for the conference, as it is arguably more competitve throughout than it has been the last few seasons. At the top, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin seem to have the edge.

The middle of the pack though is up for grabs. Minnesota seems to be gathering steam heading into exhibition play. If they can find a point guard, they will compete in this conference. Trevor Mbakwe has the ability to take over a game in the post. Nobody knows what Nebraska will offer. They return five seniors and had their moments last season. Illinois has some questions, but Bruce Webber always gets them competing for a chance to get in the tourney. Iowa and Indiana are improved and surely are on the upswing. The middle of the pack this season will definitely be a back and forth affair.

When it comes to teams that could surprise in that pack, Indiana and Minnesota stick out to me. If Cody Zeller can give the Hoosiers a nice post presence, there are pieces around him that can fill in. Christian Watford, if healthy, can be another weapon inside. The Hoosiers just have to learn to take care of the basketball. If they can do that, they really have a chance at getting a tournament bid.

Minnesota has the coaching and talent to improve on last season. Like mentioned above though, they need to find good guard play. As we saw last season, Tubby Smith’s team falls apart without a court leader at the point. They have a nice conference schedule, and will have a chance to mold together. The perimeter game will also be key, as Minnesota struggled last season from deep. When you take away Blake Hoffarber’s numbers away from this team, they shot less than 30% from beyond the arc. Oto Osenieks seems to be the guy that can hit from long range. Things have to go just right and they can’t have many injuries if they want to play well in the big ten conference. If they stay healthy, there is a good chance they surprise a bunch of Big Ten fans.

Q3: Who are your top 3 players to watch in the Big Ten? (Eric)

There are two different ways I interpreted this question, so I will of course answer it both ways.

The “top 3 most exciting players to watch this season” will absolutely be, in no particular order:

  • Jared Sullinger, Ohio State – We’ve already gone crazy about him, but he was ranked as the #1 player in the nation this season by CBS.  You’re not going to get much more exciting than what this kid can do.
  • Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin – He’s a freaking monster for the Badgers, and can light up the scoreboards in a hurry.  Few, if any, defenders are going to be able to stop him.
  • Robbie Hummel, Purdue – He’s essentially all Purdue’s got right now, and you just know he’s going to play lights out basketball every single night he steps on the court.

The “top 3 players to watch because it will be interesting to see if they can step up for their teams” are, again in no order:

  • DJ Richardson, Illinois – With Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale gone, Richardson will need to play incredible basketball to fill in for their lost production and make gains for the Illini.  DJ will be a very exciting player if he can do it, though.
  • Tim Frazier, Penn State – The Nittany Lions just lost 77% of their scoring production from last season’s team, and they have a new head coach.  Frazier’s got to play excellent basketball and be a leader on the court for these guys.
  • Julian Welch, Minnesota – I’m taking a bit of a liberty here and assuming that Welch will win the starting point guard spot for the Gophers, despite popular opinion seeming to be pulling for Andre Hollins.  Whoever wins that spot needs to fill Al Nolen’s mighty tall shoes.  Someone has to be able to get Sampson and Mbakwe the ball down low or this team will struggle again. (Ed. Note – Andre Hollins started at point guard for Minnesota against Bemidji State.  His play may have secured the starting position)

Q4: What do you think the Big Ten standings will look like at the end of the regular season? (Eric)

This is probably the most difficult question to answer of them all, and not simply because prognosticating is basically a WAG.  There are plenty of teams in the Big Ten this year with serious question marks in key positions.  Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, and Purdue could all end up from anywhere from first to last in the conference, and none of those possibilities would shock me too much.  However, my best guess would have to be:

Who's gonna be hoisting the golden rock this year?

1. Ohio State – Yea yea, homerism at it’s worst.  The losses of Lighty and Diebler may only sting early in the season, perhaps in a loss to Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.  Matta’s coaching and the sheer talent on this team is hard to ignore, and they’ll be favorites in many games this season.

2. Wisconsin – Jordan Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz can carry this team a fair way.  We also know that Bo Ryan doesn’t put up with crappy play regardless of the situation.  Wisconsin will get up here on sheer will-power alone.

2. Michigan – I list Michigan and Wisky as a tie for no other reason than I could easily see either one actually taking the #2 spot.  Tim Hardaway Jr. is an incredibly dangerous basketball player, and Beilein finally has a team that fits his style of basketball.

4. Purdue – Robbie Hummel and Matt Painter carry this team further than they rightly should after losing JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore.

5. Michigan State – Izzo struggles a bit to adjust to the style of his players, as evidenced by last season.  Lacking decent backcourt experience will cost this team, and that’s assuming the frontcourt has come together properly and plays the right style of tough basketball Izzo likes.  Missing Delvon Roe will hurt.  Ultimately, it is still Izzo, and there are still enough decent pieces to win basketball games.

6. Illinois – DJ Richardson will make up for McCamey, but they’ll struggle to find a decent replacement for Tisdale inside.

7. Minnesota – You couldn’t ask for a stronger frontcourt, but the backcourt is young and inexperienced.  Finding a solid point guard and a good shooting guard is the first critical step.  Without them, this team is simply too one-dimensional to be more than a middle-of-the-pack team.  We saw last year what happens when the backcourt is non-existent – it’s not pretty.

8. Northwestern – Shurna is back, and will help make Northwestern a dangerous team.  They have some decent pieces that will help him out, but Shurna will single-handedly try to drive this team into the tournament.

9. Indiana – Tom Crean is finally winning some recruiting battles and bringing some big names onto the team.  They’re still a year or two away from being able to really climb the standings, but they’ll win some games they shouldn’t this season.  A lot will ride on the incoming freshman class as to just how well they do this season.

10. Iowa – You know all that rebuilding Tom Crean has had to go through at Indiana to even come close to having a competitive team?  McCaffery has to go through that now too.  It’s going to be a few years for Iowa to make serious waves.  I must say, though, that their upsets last year were impressive.  Expect that to continue this season.

11. Nebraska – Welcome to the conference Nebraska!  They were a tough team last year and took out a decent Texas squad that was ranked second in the country at the time.  The team will benefit from being in the Big Ten, but it’s going to take time before they see dividends on the court.

12. Penn State – You can’t lose your head coach, and 77% of your offensive production, and move up in the world.  I was excited by what they managed to do last season, but it will be a few years before they can pull that off again.

Q5: How many Big Ten teams make the Big Dance? (Eric)

Last season, the Big Ten was believed to be the strongest conference in the nation before the games even started.  This year it’s widely believed that the conference will be weaker because of the lose of some of the best players like Darius Morris, Demetri McCamey, Talor Battle, David Lighty, and Blake Hoffarber.  That said, I believe the Big Ten will be a more competitive challenging league, with plenty of talented players across the board.

Last year saw 7 B1G teams make the field.  This year I could again see as many as 7, or even 8, teams make the field.  A lot will hinge on who can successfully find the pieces to their puzzle, and who ends up being inconsistent all year.  The total quantity will depend on how good the Big Ten looks in preseason play.  If the conference as a whole can beat up on some quality teams in November and December, it will go a long way towards increasing the available slots open to the Big Ten.

Ultimately though, these are the names that could make the field of 68 (damn them…64 was perfectly satisfactory).

Locks: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
On the Bubble: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern
The NIT/CBI Counts, Right?: Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State

Q6: When all is said and done, how do the Buckeyes end up this season? (JoeD)

If they don’t repeat as Big Ten regular season and tournament champions, it would be upsetting for many Ohio State fans. There is just too much talent on this team to not play up to or above last year’s team.

That doesn’t mean they will end up losing only two games like last year. This team will have a lot of room to improve as the season starts, but it also is more athletic, has more talent (believe it or not), and creates even more mismatches against conference opponents.

If the Buckeyes can answer replace Jon Diebler and David Lighty statistically, there should be no problems going into the tournament as a number one seed of some sort. William Buford will also need to take the opportunity to become an primary offensive threat as well in order for the Buckeyes to have major success. If things come together like they should, It’s final four or bust for this team.

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