Big Ten

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Four Takeaways from No. 10 Miami’s win at No. 12 Minnesota

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After beginning the season with five consecutive wins, the toughest of which coming against La Salle in Lonnie Walker IV’s “homecoming,” No. 10 Miami was going to answer some questions about itself one way or another in Wednesday’s game at No. 12 Minnesota. The Hurricanes passed that test, beating the Golden Gophers 86-81 behind a balanced offensive effort in which Jim Larrañaga’s team found its way into the paint for much of the night.

1. Miami’s perimeter options make the Hurricanes a nightmare to defend.

This group of Hurricanes isn’t as experienced across the board as Larrañaga’s best teams at Miami have been, but what they do share with those teams is having a host of options capable of breaking down defenses off the dribble. JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown Jr., Chris Lykes and the aforementioned Walker are all capable of making plays, either for themselves or their teammates. Miami was able to break down the Minnesota defense on a consistent basis, either by using the dribble to beat a defender straight-up or in ball-screen actions.

The Hurricanes shot 50.7 percent from the field and 10-for-25 from three, with many of those looks coming by way of dribble penetration that opened up shooters such as Brown, Anthony Lawrence II and D.J. Vasiljevic. To make plays offensively against the teams Miami beat for its first five wins is one thing; to go on the road in a tough environment against a quality opponent and do it is another.

2. The value of Dupree McBrayer was evident in Minnesota’s first defeat of the year.

This was part of the reason why Miami was so successful with its dribble penetration. With McBrayer, who was sidelined with a right leg injury, out of the lineup Minnesota went up against a team loaded with quality ball-handlers without an athletic off-guard who at 6-foot-5 has some size to him as well. Isaiah Washington made his first collegiate start as a result, and while the focus of some may be the freshman’s off shooting night (6-for-17 FG, 14 points) what Minnesota lost defensively was of even greater importance.

McBrayer’s a solid defender, and his versatility offensively — as he can operate either with or without the ball in his hands — makes the junior a valuable member of Richard Pitino’s rotation. It was clear that Minnesota missed McBrayer’s presence, especially when Miami was able to get rolling offensively via dribble penetration.

3. Dewan Huell continues to build on his positive start to the season.

With his 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting Huell, a McDonald’s All-American out of high school, scored in double figures for the sixth consecutive game this season. By comparison, as a freshman the 6-foot-11 Miami native reached double figures six times the entire season. With his athleticism Huell was able to finish multiple pick and roll actions above the rim, and despite the low rebound total (two) he more than held his own against the Minnesota tandem of Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch.

Huell’s play throughout the night afforded Miami the luxury of being able to devote more defensive attention to Murphy, who still went off for 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks (he’s that damn good). Miami shaded its defense towards Murphy for much of the night, and while he still got his Minnesota’s experienced front court tandem was not able to dominate the game. Lynch added 12 points, ten rebounds and seven blocked shots in a solid effort.

4. The Big Ten really needed Minnesota to come through.

With its win at Providence and Saturday’s neutral site win over Alabama, Minnesota’s got some quality results on its early-season résumé. As for the rest of the Big Ten outside of Michigan State and Purdue? Not so much, with Maryland having two wins over KenPom Top 100 teams in Butler and Bucknell. And given how much the Big Ten has struggled in this edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Minnesota finding a way to come back and defend its home court would have provided a needed boost in what has been a rough week for the Big Ten.

Minnesota will be fine; Washington and Nate Mason should get more comfortable sharing the court as two primary ball-handlers and McBrayer’s eventual return will help as well. But a team that’s gotten off to a good start to the season could have given its slumping conference a much-needed boost by beating a Miami team that at minimum has the look of an ACC title contender.

Top 50 SG Tyler Herro de-commits from Wisconsin

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Last September, Wisconsin landed a pledge from a highly regarded 2018 prospect as shooting guard Tyler Herro announced that he would remain in state and play for Greg Gard. Tuesday evening Herro, considered to be a Top 50 prospect by many of the major recruiting services, announced that he has decided to reopen his recruitment.

“After a lot of conversations with my family and prayer I have decided to reopen my recruitment and explore all of my options,” Herro said in a statement released via Twitter. “The past year since I committed I have grown not only as a basketball player, but as a person. My drive to become the best on all levels has been the fuel that drove this decision.”

With Herro’s change of heart, Wisconsin is now without a verbal commitment in the Class of 2018. The 6-foot-4 Milwaukee native picked Wisconsin over Arizona, Florida, Indiana, DePaul and Marquette, and given his talent Herro’s recruitment should not take long to pick up following his decision to open things back up.

The Badgers added three scholarship freshmen to the program this summer, with two being perimeter players in Brad Davison and Kobe King. Wisconsin currently does not have a senior in its perimeter rotation, which helps from a numbers standpoint when it comes to 2018. But to lose a recruit of Herro’s caliber, and an in-state prospect at that, is a major hit for the Wisconsin program to absorb.

4-star center commits to Purdue

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With Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas entering their senior seasons, adding front court options in the 2018 class was something that Purdue needed to do. Purdue added its second front court commitment in the 2018 class Tuesday evening, as four-star center Emmanuel Dowuona reportedly made his pledge. News of Dowuona’s commitment was first reported by the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

Dowuona, a 6-foot-11 big man who attends Westwood Christian School in Miami, joins fellow four-star prospect Trevion Williams in Purdue’s 2018 class to date.

Dowuona’s commitment comes just days before he was reportedly to visit Tennessee. Among the other programs to have offered Duwuona were Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and UConn.

Dowuona played for the Team Breakdown program on the Under Armour Association circuit during the summer, averaging 7.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. While still a bit raw offensively, the native of Ghana provides value as a defender and rebounder. Dowuona is joining a program that during Painter’s tenure as head coach has done a good job of developing big men.

Dowuona and the aforementioned Williams will look to compete for playing time in 2018-19 alongside current redshirt junior Jacquil Taylor and 7-foot-3 redshirt freshman center Matt Haarms.

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

Maryland lands four-star Class of 2017 big man

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Maryland picked up its first commitment in the Class of 2017 over the weekend as four-star big man Bruno Fernando made a pledge to the Terps.

The 6-foot-10 Fernando was at one time an SMU commit, but he opted for a postgrad year and re-opened his recruitment before deciding on Maryland. Regarded as the No. 112 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Fernando should add to a solid stable of big men that the Terps have had the last few years.

Coming off of a class where they picked up four, four-star prospects, Maryland is off to a very good start in the Class of 2017 with Fernando. With Damonte Dodd being a senior and Michal Cekovsky starting his junior year, Maryland can develop Fernando as a rotation player the next few years before he needs to play bigger minutes.

Wisconsin snags four-star 2018 guard Tyler Herro

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Greg Gard landed perhaps his most important recruiting victory on Monday afternoon as in-state Class of 2018 guard Tyler Herro pledged to the Badgers.

A consensus four-star prospect who is ranked No. 66 in the latest Rivals Class of 2018 national rankings, Herro is a talented 6-foot-4 guard who can put up points and handle the ball a bit.

Herro’s commitment is Wisconsin’s first in the Class of 2018 and its an important one because Gard and the Badgers were able to keep a potential national recruit home. Arizona had recently offered Herro and others were likely to join and for Gard to keep him here is very big for his recruiting future.

The Badgers did a nice job in the Class of 2017, as they’ve landed some skilled shooters, including four-star guard Brad Davison and four-star forward Nathan Reuvers. Now they’ve also started well in the next class and not many college programs have commitments from four-star top-100 prospects.