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March Madness 2017: Big Ten Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big Ten Player of the Year: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

A no-brainer for this award, Swanigan posted a ridiculous 25 double-doubles this season while averaging 18.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Nearly unguardable in the post without a double team at the college level, Swanigan has expanded his offensive game as he hurts defenses from every level of the floor. A 44 percent three-point shooter who also makes 79 percent of his free throws, Swanigan has rare touch for a player his size.

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Minnesota looked like they might be in serious trouble entering this season but Pitino has done a remarkable job of helping turn things around while saving his job. After only eight Big Ten wins the last two seasons, the Golden Gophers finished with 11 Big Ten wins this season as they finished in fourth place. Mixing veterans, transfers and true freshmen, Minnesota has a top-15 defense and the future looks solid.

First-Team All-Big Ten:

  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue (POY)
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps lost four starters but Trimble (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.4 rpg) was once again one of the nation’s most clutch players. Trimble scored Maryland’s game-winning points five times in the final 30 seconds this season.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ clearly emerged as Wisconsin’s best player this season, putting up 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Defensively, Happ is perhaps the Big Ten’s best player.
  • Peter Jok, Iowa: One of the nation’s best offensive players, Jok scored in bunches (2o.2 ppg) but also improved his all-around game (5.7 rpg, 2.7 apg) while leading the Big Ten in free-throw percentage at 92 percent.
  • Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan: Finally healthy for a full season, Walton was brilliant in his senior season as he gets a slight nod over Nate Mason. Walton had good numbers (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg) and was very efficient (43% FG, 41% 3PT, 85% FT)

Second Team All-Big Ten:

  • Nate Mason, Minnesota
  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Tai Webster, Nebraska
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The Big Ten Tournament moves east to Washington D.C. for the first time this season as it will be very intriguing to see which fanbases travel to catch this event.

As for the tournament action itself, this has been a strange year for the Big Ten.

Since the committee didn’t give the Big Ten a top-four seed during February’s early bracket reveal, we know that the conference likely has work to do to get even one top-four seed. With the way Purdue has played lately, they have the best chance to win this event and gain a respectable seed, but the Big Ten is going to have to prove itself in March with some pretty undesirable seeds.

The Bracket 

When: March 8-12

Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

Final: Sunday, March 12, 3 p.m. EST

Favorite: Purdue

The Boilermakers are the easy favorite for this event as they won the Big Ten regular season by two full games and enter this week as winners of eight of their last nine games. With the Big Ten’s best player in Caleb Swanigan and a great supporting cast that was built to play around Swanigan’s unique skillset, the Boilers are motivated to earn a better NCAA tournament seed by winning this event. Matt Painter made that clear in the postgame interview following the Northwestern win.

And if they lose?: Wisconsin

Based solely on recent play, Wisconsin has no business being in the title conversation this week. The Badgers had lost five of six games before Sunday’s win over Minnesota as they went into a freefall. But the rest of the Big Ten is still very mediocre and Wisconsin has a veteran group that knows how to win in tournament settings. The win over the Golden Gophers was convincing enough that Wisconsin might have figured things out just in time.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 21: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers fouls Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers while shooting the ball during the second half of the game on January 21, 2017 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Ethan Happ (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Maryland: As long as Melo Trimble is on the floor, you can’t count out Maryland. One of the nation’s elite guards is still great in close games and he has plenty of talent around him.
  • Minnesota: The Big Ten’s biggest surprise has an elite defense anchored by Reggie Lynch, one of the nation’s best shot blockers, and an offense led by breakout guard Nate Mason.

Sleeper: Iowa

The Hawkeyes have quietly crept into the bubble picture by winning four straight — including impressive road wins at Wisconsin and Maryland. The Big Ten Tournament draw also happens to lay out very nicely for Iowa. Potential matchups in the first three rounds come against Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland — three of the four teams Iowa just beat. With something to play for, a potent star senior scorer in Peter Jok and a favorable draw, Iowa could be a team to watch in D.C.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Illinois: A shocking road loss to Rutgers might leave Illinois out either way. A win over Michigan in the first round has to happen at the very least and Illinois might even have to beat No. 1 seed Purdue to get in.
  • Iowa: If Iowa beats Indiana and gets the best of the Badgers again in the quarterfinals then they might be dancing.

Defining moment of the season: The Big Ten didn’t have a lot of great moments this season but Purdue clinching the Big Ten title against rival Indiana on Senior Day was pretty cool.

CBT Prediction: Purdue over Wisconsin

No. 13 Indiana rolls over SIU-Edwardsville 83-60

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana coach Tom Crean doesn’t have a timetable for OG Anunoby’s return from a sprained ankle.

For now, the 13th-ranked Hoosiers are going to have to step up and even overcompensate on some nights to make up for the absence of one of their biggest playmakers. On Friday night, it was Juwan Morgan who answered the call.

“Juwan rebounded for two tonight,” Crean said. “He came out and brought it. When you take OG (Anunoby) out of the lineup, you take so much athleticism, versatility, you take shooting, take the rebounding, the defense out. I thought our guys tried to do a really good job of making up for that. And Juwan did even more there.”

Morgan scored a career-high 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting and finished with 10 rebounds, De’Ron Davis scored 14 points and Indiana rolled to an 83-60 victory over SIU-Edwardsville.

The Hoosiers didn’t start the game firing on all cylinders. Indiana (6-1) didn’t make its first basket until 16:12 remaining in the first half, missing its first eight attempts. Trailing 4-0, the Hoosiers shook off the slow start when Zach McRoberts hit a 3-pointer from the corner that ignited Indiana. The Hoosiers would finish the final 15 minutes of the half outscoring SIU-Edwardsville 40-17.

Led by Morgan, the Hoosiers’ efforts on the glass eliminated opportunities for SIU-Edwardsville (4-4) to score second chance points. Indiana grabbed 30 defensive rebounds. Indiana’s 15 offensive rebounds led to the Hoosiers outscoring the Cougars 17-5 in second-chance points. But the Hoosiers’ second chance points opportunities were non-existent if Morgan was shooting the ball. The sophomore didn’t miss all night, making each of his eight shot attempts and the only 3-pointer he attempted.

“I feel like I’m scratching the surface,” Morgan said. “I think just mentally I’ve been thinking too much about shooting, things like that. My teammates look to give me the ball. And I look to have big games. But it was just a good night for us as a team.”

Indiana molded the rest of the basketball game around an aggressive rebounding effort, ball movement and its depth. The Hoosiers dominated the glass, outrebounding the Cougars 45-31. Indiana’s offense revolved around ball movement, as 15 of Indiana’s 28 field goals came by way of an assist with nine Hoosiers recording at least one assist.

And the Hoosiers bench outscored SIU-Edwardsville’s 34-12.

Burak Eslik finished with 18 points for SIU-Edwardsville. SIU-Edwardsville coach Jon Harris was familiar with Crean having played for and coached with Crean while he was at Marquette. Harris called Friday night’s loss, where the Hoosiers led by as many as 33 points, disappointing.

“There’s a reason why they are ranked No. 13 in America,” Harris said. “(Indiana is) a great team. I really think they’re a high level offensive team. We let them get going and that was the difference and the separation early (in the game).”

BIG PICTURE: Anunoby watched the Hoosiers’ victory from the bench, where he sat in a walking boot. He used crutches when he entered and exited the court from the locker room. He sprained his right ankle during the Hoosiers’ 76-67 win over No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday. On Friday night, Crean told reporters he does not believe the ankle sprain is a long-term injury that could keep Anunoby out well into Indiana’s conference schedule, despite not having a definitive timetable on Anunoby’s return.

POLL IMPLICATIONS: After a thrilling victory over No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday night, Indiana will have two weeks before it plays a ranked opponent, when Indiana takes on No. 18 Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

UP NEXT:

SIU-Edwardsville hosts Stetson on Wednesday.

Indiana hosts Southeast Missouri State on Sunday.

 

Indiana gives tour of renovated Assembly Hall

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Indiana’s Assembly Hall is finishing up renovations as athletic director Fred Glass toured the updated basketball facility with members of the media on Friday.

Among the new amenities in the updated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall include the south lobby with new trophy cases and digital information area, the Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology, a new scoreboard, replaced seats and new bathrooms.

The updated Assembly Hall will undoubtedly keep Indiana among the premier programs in college basketball when it comes to facilities as these new renovations have come out looking great.

To view more photos of the updated Assembly Hall, be sure to check out the photo gallery from the Indy Star.

(Video H/T: Zach Osterman, Indy Star)

Indiana roster dealing with handful of injuries as practice begins

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Indiana has been hit with the injury buy a bit during the start of practice and it doesn’t only involved the recent announcement of knee surgery for senior Collin Hartman.

According to a report from the Indiana Daily Student the Hoosiers are also dealing with a knee injury for junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore Juwan Morgan hasn’t been cleared for practice yet after offseason shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-6 McSwain had a knee injury flare up when he came to Indiana and had surgery to clean it up. Crean told the Indiana Daily Student that McSwain was still a few weeks from returning.

That means Indiana has to find early practice minutes to replace Hartman, Morgan and McSwain up front which gives more reps to players like O.G. Anunoby and freshman big man De’Ron Davis.

Since Anunoby and Davis both dealt with some offseason injuries and guard Robert Johnson was recently cleared to return, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is remaining cautious during the early part of practice this season. Crean also has to monitor the return of starting guard James Blackmon Jr. after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

“We would have already practiced this morning and they would be ready to go tonight, if this were a year ago,” Crean said in the report. “We have to tailor make this thing. We can’t be in too much of a rush with these guys.”

Obviously, the frontcourt injuries are something to keep an eye on for Indiana during the early part of the season. None of the three injuries seem severe, but Hartman’s timetable to return hasn’t been listed and McSwain and Morgan are missing valuable early time in practice.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps younger players like Anunoby and Davis get more acquainted with the first team early on since both could have an impact this season.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Bob Knight continues campaigning for Donald Trump

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Former Indiana head coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Knight continues to publicly support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as Knight made numerous media appearances on his behalf this week.

Providing an introduction for Trump at a rally in Toledo, Ohio and later appearing on Fox News to explain his stance on the election, Knight strongly supported the controversial presidential candidate. Knight notably said that Trump was the “best person ever” at solving problems.

Knight also had some interesting things to say about trying to get Trump to calm down, which he talked about in a radio appearance with host Dom Giordano on 1210 WPHT Philadelphia.

After being asked about helping Trump settle down Knight replied, ““Yeah, but that’s what I’m working on right now. I get a kick out of it. From my mother to people that I’ve known in my lifetime, they’ve tried to settle me down a little bit. Now I’m trying to do the same thing to my man Trump. Because there’s nobody even close to being as prepared
for this job as he is.”

“Sure, he probably talks too much sometimes or he gets too upset sometimes, but so did I,” Knight said to Giordano. “But what he brings to the table no one else has. Trump is not national, he’s international. He’s known all over the world. He has established businesses all over and he has given jobs to thousands and thousands of people all over the world with these businesses that he has put together.”

Trump first enlisted the help of Knight while campaigning in Indiana during the Republican Primary earlier this year. With the election less than two months away, Trump is clearly trying to get anyone he can to voice support to his cause. It’s hard to say how much a retired basketball coach will sway the November election, but I’m sure we’ll see more of Knight on the campaign trail in the next few weeks.

(H/t: Christopher Massie, BuzzFeed; Brett Bodner, NY Daily News)