Wisconsin knocks off No. 2 Indiana, so why did we question Bo Ryan?

13 Comments

source: Getty Images

And the streak continues.

For the 11th consecutive time, Wisconsin has beaten Indiana, with Tuesday’s win coming as the unranked Badgers went into Assembly Hall and knocked off No. 2 Indiana, 64-59. All of a sudden, in the loaded Big Ten, the Badgers are sitting alone atop the league standings at 4-0.

Ryan Evans led four players in double figures with 13 points for Bo Ryan’s club, including the biggest bucket of the game. Indiana had cut a 10 point lead down to one, at 54-53, when Evans was being hounded by Victor Oladipo and hit a ridiculous, 17-foot fadeaway with the shot clock winding down.

After a a turnover from Cody Zeller, Traevon Jackson hit a 12-foot pull-up in the lane to put the Badgers up 58-53. The Hoosiers never truly threatened again.

The biggest change in the second half came on the defensive end of the floor for the Badgers. For the first 20 minutes, Jared Berggren and company allowed Cody Zeller, the Preseason National Player of the Year, to look like he was deserving of being on the NBA all-star team. Zeller played undoubtedly his best half of basketball this season, finishing with 18 points on 8-8 shooting in the first 20 minutes, playing as aggressive as he ever has in a Hoosier uniform.

The second half, however, was a completely different story. Zeller’s first field goal came with less than a minute left on a put-back dunk that cut Wisconsin’s lead to seven points. He missed six straight shots in the mean time, including a couple lay-ups and a couple potential and-ones.

In fact, Indiana’s offense, as a whole, was downright horrendous. They shot 37.0% from the floor for the game, a number that’s no where near as impressive once you factor out the 8-8 that Zeller shot in the first half. Without Zeller’s first 20 minutes, Indiana was 12-46 from the floor.

That’s a cool 26.1%, and you’re not going to win many games that way.

But, frankly, the story of this game isn’t Indiana’s offensive struggles. It’s not Zeller’s second half disappearing act. It’s not even the fact that Wisconsin went into Bloomington and knocked off the No. 2 team in the country in the same gym where Minnesota was losing by 23 points after 20 minutes.

Where did this Wisconsin team come from?

Seriously!

The Badgers are coming off of a 74-51 mollywhopping of Illinois on Saturday. That was their sixth-straight win, but it was the first time in that streak they had beaten an opponent better than … Nebraska? Wisconsin-Green Bay?

This Badger team was embarrassed by Florida earlier this year. They were beaten pretty soundly by Creighton and lost to Virginia at home. They looked downright bad in the loss to rival Wisconsin, and certainly didn’t impress with single-digit wins over Penn State and Nebraska. And then, out of nowhere, they’re blowing out Illinois and beating Indiana in Bloomington?

So, again, where did this Wisconsin team come from?

The biggest improvement is offensively. For starters, Traevon Jackson has been terrific the last two games, averaging 12.5 points and making good decisions. Sam Dekker has 23 points in the last two games, which has also helped out the Badger offense. With more weapons they become more balanced, and Bo Ryan’s swing offense sure does like a balanced offensive attack. And since the Badger’s defense has picked up over the last month or so, it’s only understandable that they would start winning games impressively when they start scoring more points.

Because the bottom line is that Wisconsin is currently leading the Big Ten race. They are alone on top of the standings, a game in front of Indiana. And a game in front of Michigan. And a game in front of Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State, too.

Ugh.

I thought I was smarter than to count out Bo Ryan.

There’s a reason he’s never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten.

(Photo via Getty Images)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Forward leaving Kansas program

2 Comments

Kansas’ already thin frontline took a hit Wednesday night when it came to light that Jack Whitman will not suit up for the Jayhawks.

Whitman, a transfer from William & Mary, will leave the Kansas program, according to multiple reports.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season for the Tribe before deciding to graduate transfer, committing to the Jayhawks in May.

“I know I can play with these guys, contribute and help us win games this year,” Whitman told the Kansas City Star last month.

Instead, the Jayhawks will have to make due with a frontcourt that will be lacking much depth. Udoka Azubuike is back after missing most of last year with an injury while Billy Preston and Mitch Lightfoot will also be expected to be contributors. Whitman wasn’t expected to put up huge numbers for the Jayhawks, but his departure does leave them vulnerable should injury or foul trouble find the Kansas big men at some point.

As the KC Star points out, though, Kansas is in contention to land top recruit Marvin Bagley, who is considering classifying to 2017, a class in which Kansas now has an open scholarship that could conceivably go to the 6-foot-10 five-star prospect.

 

Duke’s Grayson Allen underwent offseason ankle surgery

Chet Strange/Getty Images
3 Comments

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski went on a podcast with ESPN’s Seth Greenberg this week and casually mentioned that Grayson Allen, who was banged up for most of last season after entering the year as the Preseason National Player of the Year, underwent a procedure on his ankle.

“We had him away from basketball for about three months,” Krzyzewski said of Allen. “He had a minor operation on his ankle. He’s now fully recovered, so his athleticism is back. He’s happy, he’s in shape and he’s sharing that.”

Allen struggled with his confidence and his emotions last season, and that ankle issue never quite went away, bothering him from the start of the year throughout the season. Time away from basketball — and from the limelight, after a third tripping incident — was good for Allen, according to Krzyzewski.

“I’m really happy where Grayson is at emotionally, physically and he’s really excited about leading these guys.”

“Gary Trent, talking with him after a workout yesterday, I said, ‘What do you think?'” Coach K’s story continued. “He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t know G was that good.’ Well, he’s healthy. ‘You didn’t think he could shoot that well, did you?'”

Minnesota lands in-state 2018 forward

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

Minnesota is building its frontcourt of the future in its 2018 class without even leaving the Twin Cities.

Jarvis Thomas, a four-star forward, committed to the Gophers on Tuesday evening, becoming the second in-state frontcourt player in Richard Pitino’s newest class.

The 6-foot-7 forward hails from the Minneapolis suburbs and joins another local product, four-star center Daniel Oturo, to forge a potentially formidable future frontcourt for Pitino and Co., who are coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance in four seasons at Minnesota. Both Thomas and Oturo play for the Howard Pulley program.

I’m headed to Minnesota & I picked them because it’s home. I have a good relationship with the staff. I’m just comfortable,” Thomas said, according to Ryan James of Gopher Illustrated. “I made a decision for myself, but Daniel was a plus to it. Me & Daniel room every tournament we play.We are always together.”

Landing two high-profile in-state recruits is a major development for Pitino after the Gophers went 0-for in the 2017 class despite offering numerous Minnesota prospects. In fact, Thomas’ commitment, presumably, sent Pitino to Twitter to celebrate with a Gopher GIF from ‘Caddyshack.’

While this is a strong tweet from a sitting head coach, the response it generated from Xavier assistant Luke Murray, son of ‘Caddyshack’ star Bill Murray, might have been just as good.

Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun assists cast in play about recruiting

AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb
Leave a comment

WATERFORD, Conn. (AP) — Actor Sam Kebede went to rehearsal hoping to get some insights about what it’s like to be recruited by a big-time college basketball coach. Hall-of-Famer Jim Calhoun was happy to assist.

The coach who led UConn to three national championships before retiring in 2012 is serving as a technical adviser on the production of a new play, “Exposure,” which is being put on this weekend at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford.

Kebede portrays a player experiencing the world of AAU basketball and the dark side of recruiting.

Playwright Steve DiUbaldo played Division I basketball at Winthrop under Gregg Marshall, now the coach at Wichita State. Director Wendy Goldberg grew up in Michigan and watched her friend, retired NBA star Chris Webber, deal with choosing a college before he wound up at Michigan.

But both sat in rapt fascination with the cast and crew for well over an hour prior to rehearsal Tuesday as Calhoun answered their questions and regaled them with stories, drawing on more than a half-century of experience in basketball. He offered insights and opinions on the NCAA, the recruiting process, shoe companies, players, parents, other coaches and even fans (“They love you, win or win,” he joked).

“It made it all a lot more real,” said Kebede. “He just put me in those shoes. He gave me a fuller idea of what it means to be a recruit.”

Calhoun talked about forming personal relationships with recruits and their families, showing them the formula he used to help players like Ray Allen and Kemba Walker fulfill their dreams. But he also addressed the games flaws.

Calhoun talked about the struggles the NCAA has governing institutions as diverse as Harvard and Alabama. He told the ensemble about coaches who thought they were doing things the right way by only giving players “used cars” and teenagers who feel entitled to fame and riches because they’ve “worked hard all their lives for it.”

“All your life? You’re 18,” he said.

“Have I ever been offered, ‘You give us this, and we’ll give you that?’ Yeah,” Calhoun told them. “I always said, ‘I’m never going to own a kid, but a kid is never going to own me. It was never worth it, ethically, morally or otherwise to do those things.”

Calhoun said he tried to get across that basketball can’t be portrayed in black-and-white terms — good guys and bad guys. It’s about human beings, relationships, mistakes and trying to do what’s right for the players and doing it the right way, he said. And, he said, there is a lot of gray area.

The vast majority of college basketball, he said, is great, “but in the midst of millions and millions of dollars, things happen.”

“Something that I found enlightening was how much he loved his kids and how much the game is at the base of basketball,” said DiUbaldo. “And amidst all this stuff that will make us cynical with the recruiting process and other things, at the end of the day we love the game and we love the kids that play it.”

DiUbaldo said he hopes all of that comes across in his play.

Calhoun, who sits on the board at the O’Neill Theater, said being involved in the production is exciting for him as a long-time fan of the performing arts. He said he marvels at the athleticism of dancers and the discipline it takes for actors to learn how to portray a character.

He also sees a lot of parallels to basketball — the ensemble feeling, the work ethic and the joy that comes from pulling off a great performance.

“I’ll come Saturday and Sunday nights to see it,” he said. “I want to see how they handle it.”

___

Follow Pat Eaton-Robb on Twitter @peatonrobb

Former Kentucky player Jerry Bird dies

Adolph Rupp, Bird's college coach; AP photo
Leave a comment

CORBIN, Ky. (AP) — Former Kentucky basketball player Jerry Bird, who was a member of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame and had his No. 22 jersey retired to the Rupp Arena rafters, has died.

An obituary posted by O’Neil-Lawson Funeral Home says Bird died Sunday at a hospital in Corbin. He was 83.

Media report Bird played for Kentucky from 1954 to 1956 and helped the school attain two Southeastern Conference titles in 1954 and 1955. He was part of the 1954 team crowned national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation after a 25-0 season.

Bird scored 713 career points and had 589 career rebounds under coach Adolph Rupp.

“Jerry Bird was Kentucky through and through,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement by the school. “He was proud to be a Wildcat and is an important part of Kentucky basketball history.

Bird played one season with the New York Knicks before returning to his hometown of Corbin to work at American Greetings.

His is survived by a son, two grandchildren, a brother and a sister. Visitation and services are scheduled for Saturday at Central Baptist Church in Corbin.