Big Ten

Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

1 Comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.

Looking Forward: Here’s what the Big Ten has in store for the 2016-17 season

7 Comments

The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the Big 12 over the next six months. 

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

  1. What does Caleb Swanigan end up doing?: Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has one of the most fascinating NBA Draft cases of any freshman. The power forward is currently testing the waters without an agent, but his guardian, Roosevelt Barnes, is an agent with experience on handling things like this. That will help Swanigan make an informed and interesting choice. If he’s back, Purdue still has an interior of Swanigan and 7-footer Isaac Haas and would be the best front court in the Big Ten.
  2. Are things back to normal at Wisconsin?: Last offseason was an odd one for Wisconsin as former head coach Bo Ryan kept his job (for a bit) after back-to-back Final Fours and the team was rebuilding. New head coach Greg Gard took over mid-season and now the program belongs to him going forward as he helped the Badgers make the Sweet 16. This offseason, Wisconsin gets some stability as Gard gets to recruit for the future and has a potentially good team returning. If Nigel Hayes returns from the NBA Draft, the Badgers get most of their pieces back.
  3. Maryland waits on Melo: Next season at Maryland will already look different as the team loses Diamond Stone and Robert Carter to the draft along with seniors Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon. But if sophomore guard Melo Trimble stays in the NBA Draft, the Terps will looks like a completely unique starting lineup. If Melo does come back, he’s a frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year and Maryland has a shot to remain a solid team.
  4. What does Indiana look like after Yogi Ferrell’s departure?: The last four seasons, senior point guard Yogi Ferrell was a key part of what Indiana did on offense. He was the engine that made them go. Now that he’s gone the Hoosiers will be a unique team, as Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson are the beat guys guaranteed back. If Troy Williams returns from the NBA Draft and James Blackmon Jr. (who’s also going through the Draft process) is healthy, Indiana will again find themselves in Big Ten contention.

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State: Tom Izzo reloaded in East Lansing with a tremendous recruiting class headlined by the 6-foot-7 Bridges. Returning home to Michigan, Bridges is powerful enough to unleash ferocious in-game windmills or skilled enough to score on the perimeter.
  • L.G. Gill, Maryland: The Duquesne graduate transfer gives the Terps another body in the front court as he put up 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-7 Gill can also knock down some three-pointers.
  • Tony Carr, Penn State: The headliner of a top 25 recruiting class, the 6-foot-4 Carr has great size for a point guard and he’s the type of player who could make an immediate impact on the perimeter for the Nittany Lions.
  • Spike Albrecht, Purdue: Can you really call an inner-conference transfer a newcomer? Well, either way, if Albrecht can provide steady point guard minutes and some much-needed perimeter shooting for Purdue, then it’s a great addition.

SURPRISING DEPARTURES

  • Deyonta Davis, Michigan State: Now that the Spartans are battling for No. 1 rankings and Final Four appearances, you have expect one-and-done players to happen and after a solid freshman season, Davis has a chance to be a top-15 pick.
  • Robert Carter, Maryland: Not much of a surprise that the junior big man opted to go pro, but rather, that he signed an agent before he had to. But based on his opening day at the NBA Draft Combine — in which he went for 22 points and scored in multiple ways in a scrimmage — Carter looks like he might have made the correct decision.

COACHING CHANGES

Steve Pikiell, Rutgers: The former Stony Brook head man led the Seawolves to the NCAA tournament this past March as he now gets a shot in the Big Ten. Rutgers is one of the tougher high-major jobs in the country, but Pikiell built a successful program at Stony Brook that included a potential draft pick in forward Jameel Warney.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Melo Trimble (Maryland): Player of the Year
Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)
Malcolm Hill (Illinois)
Miles Bridges (Michigan State)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS, IN TWEETS

  1. Michigan State: The Spartans lose Denzel, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but their loaded freshman class and grad transfer Ben Carter (UNLV) will help immediately.
  2. Wisconsin: With the return of Nigel Hayes, the Badgers would return all five starters from a Sweet 16 team. Ethan Happ could be a star in the Big Ten.
  3. Indiana: Hoosiers could have as much talent as anyone in the league if everyone returns, but defense will still be a key for them. Development of O.G. Anunoby should be fun.
  4. Purdue: The Boilers should get some help from freshman Carsen Edwards, but this team still needs consistent shooting around big man Isaac Haas.
  5. Maryland: If Melo Trimble is gone, this ranking is too high. But if he returns? The Terps have a chance for a surprise Big Ten run.
  6. Michigan: Snakebitten by injuries the past few seasons, the Wolverines have a chance to compete in the Big Ten if Derrick Walton can stay healthy.
  7. Iowa: It’ll be a younger roster for the Hawkeyes as they try to replace Jarrod Uthoff. Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl were promising while Fran McCaffery has a solid freshman class.
  8. Ohio State: Roster turnover dominated the offseason news for Ohio State, but they have the makings of a dangerous and talented team if they put it all together.
  9. Northwestern: Is this the year Northwestern finally gets over the hump and makes the tournament? The Wildcats need their young front court to come through.
  10. Penn State: A top-25 recruiting class coupled with a returning lineup of some talented pieces means excitement for basketball in Happy Valley.
  11. Illinois: If this team can ever stay healthy, they have a chance to work into the Big Ten’s top half. Malcolm Hill could have a huge year.
  12. Minnesota: Offseason turmoil aside, the Golden Gophers brought in some talented new pieces. In-state recruit Amir Coffey should play and graduate transfer Akeem Springs could start.
  13. Nebraska: Shavon Shields is gone and now Tim Miles has to find some new pieces to rely on.
  14. Rutgers: Steve Pikiell takes over and he’s hoping for the return of point guard Corey Sanders to build around.

Indiana gets 2016 pledge from Devonte Green, younger brother of Danny Green

Leave a comment

Indiana picked up its fourth Class of 2016 commitment on Saturday as guard Devonte Green, the younger brother of San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green, pledged to the Hoosiers. The 6-foot-1 Green announced his decision to commit to Indiana on Saturday afternoon.

Regarded as a three-star prospect, according to Rivals, Green can play a bit of both guard spots and helps Indiana with additional perimeter flexibility for next season. Green joins four-star shooting guard Curtis Jones, four-star big man Da’Ron Davis and three-star guard Grant Gelon in Indiana’s 2016 class.

With the Hoosiers losing Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft next season — and with the team dealing with roster uncertainty with James Blackmon’s season-ending injury and Troy Williams potentially going pro — Green gives Indiana another insurance policy. The late-blooming Green hails from New York and attends Long Island Lutheran.

Indiana rallies past Notre Dame with 17-2 second half run

Associated Press
2 Comments

Following a Demetrius Jackson tip dunk with 6:32 remaining that gave Notre Dame a 71-63 lead, Indiana looked to be in serious trouble at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. They weren’t stringing together stops defensively, thus preventing them from making a dent in the Fighting Irish advantage despite knocking down shots on the other end.

But Indiana went to a zone defensively and received a much-needed spark from Troy Williams, sparking a 17-2 run that turned the eight-point deficit into an 80-73 victory.

The junior wing scored seven of Indiana’s final 17 points, finishing with 18 points and ten rebounds on the afternoon. Williams’ intensity, like that of his teammates, hasn’t always been present this season especially on the defensive end of the floor. But that changed down the stretch against Notre Dame, with Bonzie Colson (24 points, eight rebounds) and V.J. Beachem (18 points) both going quiet as a result. Notre Dame shot a respectable 45.5 percent in the second half, but a lot of that damage was done early in the stanza.

Mike Brey’s team led by as much as 16, but the Hoosiers managed to avoid the play that could have served as the knockout blow. Ultimately the Hoosiers would take advantage of Notre Dame’s missed opportunities, and their play in the final six-plus minutes should be something for Tom Crean’s team to build upon.

But the question that begs asking is a simple one: why can’t Indiana play that way on a consistent basis?

There’s no question that the talent is present, with Ferrell running the point and multiple players capable of scoring on the wings such as Williams, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. But there hasn’t been a consistent commitment to getting stops instead of simply relying on their offensive talents and the mindset that “we’ll just get the points back on the other end.”

If Indiana is to compete with the likes of Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue in Big Ten play, they have to play with greater consistency and commitment on defense. Colson and Zach Auguste were a big reason why Notre Dame scored 46 points in the paint, as Indiana continues to struggle with its interior defense and that may be a trend the Hoosiers simply have to deal with. The move to zone helped Indiana account for this issue, and unlike their failed comeback attempt against UNLV last month the Hoosiers finished the job this time around.

The last six-plus minutes showed, to a certain extent, what Indiana is capable of when fully engaged. But the fact that they don’t play that way consistently is why there’s been so much frustration with this group. Can Saturday’s win serve as the spark Indiana needs? That remains to be seen.