People like lists.
Whether they agree with them or not, people still enjoy reading lists.
Basketball is the ultimate team sport. But, at the same time, it is one that can be taken over by a single player. There have been some incredible individual performances over the past couple of seasons in the Big Ten and this year should bring more of the same.
The 2012-2013 season seems to have the Big Ten as strong as it’s ever been. Three teams (Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan) are all ranked in the top five in preseason polls.
On those great teams obviously are some outstanding players. So here are my top ten players in the Big Ten conference for this upcoming season.
10. Brandon Paul (SG, Illinois)
Those unforgettable individual performances from last season I mentioned earlier in this column? Yeah, Brandon Paul had one of those when he lit up Ohio State for 43 points. The senior guard averaged 14.7 points per game last year and is as solid of an all-around player as you will find in the Big Ten. This will be Paul’s senior season for the Illini and knowing they have a player of his caliber on the floor, you can never count the Illini out of any game.
9. Keith Appling (PG, Michigan State)
With Draymond Green finally departing from East Lansing, the Spartans become Appling’s team. Appling averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 assists per game last year, and with Green gone and it being his team this year, there should be a jump in those stats this year. Head coach Tom Izzo will have his Spartans right in the thick of things again this year in the Big Ten and Appling will be his best player.
8. Christian Watford (F, Indiana)
Watford may have already had his moment in his college career when he hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer last year to knock off No. 1 and eventual national champion Kentucky. You learned a lot about Watford’s game with that shot, though. He’s absolutely fearless and he’s got a smoothness to his game that is fun to watch. He averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game a year ago while shooting 43.7% from deep. Watford will no doubt be a key component to Indiana’s national title run.
7. Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, Michigan)
Hardaway Jr. had somewhat of a disappointing sophomore season after an outstanding freshman campaign. But, that doesn’t take away from his talent. He’s a sensational all-around player who averaged 14.6 points per game a year ago. If Michigan wants to be an elite team this year, it will need more production out of the junior guard.
6. Trevor Mbakwe (F, Minnesota)
I had a difficult time trying to figure out where to rank Mbakwe as he comes back from tearing his ACL and only playing in seven games last year. In those seven games, Mbakwe averaged 14 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. If he is fully recovered, he is easily a candidate to be an All-American. He can be a dominating force in the paint, but once again, the question is his health. Read More
With basketball season rapidly approaching and a lot of information to digest from around the conference, I thought it was high time we hear from bloggers representing them. We finish off the series in roundtables with our last seven today! We hope you enjoy the feature and give us plenty of feedback, and be sure to check out Part One.
Introducing our comrades from around the B1G we start off with Rick Reese of the Iowa Blog Black Heart Gold Pants; Brian Rosenthal, Lincoln Journal Star writer and Husker Extra writer; Penn State writer for StateCollege.com Ben Jones; Philip Rossman-Reich writer for Lake the Posts ; Jonathan Foster, writer for From the Barn, one of my favorite B1G blogs.
I honestly had issues trying to round up bloggers for TTUN and for the Fighting Illini, and have the only Michigan fan I like helping out in Giuliano, (So Fla Wolverine to his twitter mates). tBBC main man for basketball Eric will do us the honor of covering the Illini.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White and Zach McCabe are Iowa’s returning starters. There’s also Gabe Olaseni and Melsahn Basabe coming off the bench. Marble holds a slight edge over Aaron White as the teams top returning scorer. Marble averaged 11.5 points per game last season while White averaged 11.1. White was a do-it-all freshman that as freshmen do, only got better as the season carried on. McCabe and Basabe averaged 7.8 and 8.2 rebounds per game. Basabe suffered the dreaded sophomore slump but will hopefully benefit this season with the return of a true center in Iowa’s lineup.
Game Number two of the season series between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Illinois Fighting Ilini rolls on tomorrow night on ESPN/ESPN3 at 7 PM ET. The Buckeyes look to put two losses in their last three games behind them.
Meanwhile, the struggling Illini look to a repeat performance from Brandon Paul the last time these two teams met. After a in depth look at Bruce Weber’s fighting Illini earlier in the year, It’s time to get you updated on what’s happening lately.
It’s Ugly in Urbana:
For Buckeye fans squirming in their seats the last few weeks, remember that at this point of the year, Illinois fans have become accustomed to long, drawn out losing streaks at the end of the season.
Head coach Bruce Weber is yet again on the hot seat, after his squad has lost 8 of the last nine ballgames since beating Ohio State in heroic fashion earlier this season. Their only win was a one point squeaker against Michigan State. Since that point, the Spartans have shot to the top of the conference standings, while the Orange and Blue are competing with Penn State and Nebraska for last place in the conference.
Of course, by definition, you’re not really fighting for it when you lose to Nebraska by 23. A continuing sign that the wheels are falling off in Urbana. In Lincoln, the Illini were statistically out of competition with 9:30 to go in the ballgame.
Many of you probably could have guessed, had you know that a Basketball Breakdown was pending, that this would be the topic of choice for this week. For those that couldn’t, you probably didn’t see the incredible 43 point display that Illinois guard Brandon Paul put on the Buckeyes on Tuesday night. You don’t necessarily want to watch the highlights – it’s pretty gory.
Let me start out from the get-go by saying that scoring 40+ points in a game is an incredible feat. Much applause to Mr. Paul for pulling it off, particularly against the #5 team in the country (at the time). There’s a reason the Buckeyes are ranked so high, and solid defense is one of them. Scoring that many points against a sound defensive team makes it just all the more impressive.
But how can it happen? How can such a sound defensive team allow a player to score so many points? I submit that this had less to do with poor play from the Buckeyes (though that definitely contributed) than it did with some excellent planning and fantastic play on Illinois’ side of the ball. I definitely don’t want to see anyone take anything away from Brandon by saying that it was entirely Ohio State’s fault. He (and his team) had a lot to do with it.
Let’s start by asking how you can tell if a player a hot (or cold) night. Obviously when you’re watching a game you can see it in the player’s and team’s reactions to him hitting (or missing) a lot of shots. Statistically, it’s a little more difficult. You have to look at the player’s averages – preferably over a season, but career can work too – and look at how statistically ridiculous a particular night of shooting is.
Let’s consider William Buford first. Buford has been accused of having some pretty cold nights and not producing particularly well. Looking at his averages, Buford is scoring a little more than 15 points per outing this year. If you consider that he plays on a team with two other lights-out scorers (Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas), and you consider that a good team typically has one guy who averages more than 15 per night, then it’s suggestive that he’s not as cold as people think.
It was the Brandon Paul Show in Urbana-Champaign on Tuesday night. Shot after bone crushing shot. Open Look, double teamed — it didn’t matter. 43 Points later, the Fighting Illini flashed their talent and fought down to the wire, as they were the better team when the game mattered. After dominating the second half, the Orange and Blue earned their first win in the last six tries with a 79-74 upset of #5 Ohio State.
Tonight was a battle of mismatches, pinpoint three point shooting, and runs throughout.
It started with five turnovers early for the Illini, as Ohio State took a 10-4 lead off one of those early giveaways on an Aaron Craft layup. Defensively, it looked like the Buckeyes had the advantage in the paint. Starting 4 guards, Illinois went straight to the block early to Meyers Leonard early and he impressed. After scoring four straight points, including a dunk in the low post to make the ballgame a two point game, he began to gas.
Sullinger took advantage of that midway through the first with a mid-range jumper to give the Buckeyes a three point lead. He then followed it up with a beautiful three point shot from the wing off an assist from Aaron Craft to make it 23-15.
After Sullinger hit the bench just a few moments later, Leonard started to regain his feet from under him. As the home crowd was introduced to the Brandon Paul show.
The Buckeyes and Illini collided in Urbana-Champaign in one of the toughest matchups the Buckeyes had faced all season. The Buckeyes demonstrated that they may be the real deal, coming back from eight down in the second half to beat the Illini 73-68 away from the friendly confines of Value City Arena. The Bucks rode Jared Sullinger’s 27 points and 16 rebounds to the tough fought win, his ninth double double for the season.
Illinois started out of the gate fast and strong. The Illini began with a tough man defense and did not commit to the double team of Sullinger except when Jared possessed the ball below the basket. The strategy allowed the Illini to be aggressive in all other phases of defense and open up a quick lead by forcing turnovers. The Bucks didn’t stay down long, though, finding second chance points in the paint and a long three from Diebler to regain the lead.
The defense on the other end of the court was a tough nut for the Illini to crack. Several times the Buckeyes forced turnovers after forcing Illinois to run 30 seconds off the shot clock. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until Illinois figured out how to work around the OSU help defense. With some clever passing, the Illini were able to find open looks from outside. Worse yet, they managed to get the ball down low to Jereme Richmond who nearly made it to double digits while the Buckeyes struggled to figure out how to defend him.