Tag Archives: Big Ten Men’s Basketball

Takeaways and observations from the opening weekend of March Madness

The madness is under way and it is as awesome as ever. Nine lower seeded teams won in the first (technically the second) round. Four more upsets occurred en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some takeaways, observations, facts, and figures about the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • A No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 seasons and in 22 of the past 24 years. 2013 was no exception; in fact, it was even more extreme than normal. Three No. 12 seeds (Oregon, California, and Ole Miss) pulled off an upset against a No. 5 seed (Oklahoma State, UNLV, and Wisconsin).
  • For the first time ever, a No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seed in the same region lost in the round of 64. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin were defeated in the West Region.
  • The Mountain West, which was the toughest conference in the country in the regular season according to RPI, has been completely eliminated from the tournament after a 2-5 showing for its five teams that made the tourney.
  • The Pac-12 may have been under-seeded and is getting hot at the right time. Two Pac-12 teams with No. 12 seeds (California and Oregon) defeated No. 5 seeds and the conference put two teams (Arizona and Oregon) in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona defeated No. 11 seed Belmont by 17 points and No. 14 seed Harvard by 23. Oregon topped No. 5 seed Oklahoma State by 13 points and No. 4 seed Saint Louis by 17.
  • Teams from the state of Florida are 6-0 and all three (No. 2 seed Miami, No. 3 seed Florida, and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast) are in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will face each other on Friday.
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that did not win a game in the tournament. The conference is 10-3 and has a team in the Sweet Sixteen in each region.
  • For the third year in a row, there was a matchup between a No. 12 seed and No. 13 seed in the round of 32. No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle faced off in the West Region. Last year it was No. 12 South Florida and No. 13 Ohio that matched up in the Midwest Region and two years ago No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Morehead State played in the Southwest Region.
  • No. 13 seed La Salle is doing its best to model itself after 2011 Virginia Commonwealth, who was a No. 11 seed. The Rams played in the First Four before making a Final Four run, where they lost to No. 8 seed Butler. The La Salle Explorers finished tied for third in the A-10, then defeated No. 13 seed Boise State, No. 4 seed Kansas State, and No. 12 seed Ole Miss to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday.
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth's footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com)
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth’s footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)
  • Only two of the four Naismith Award finalists remain in the tournament–Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not make it out of the first weekend.
  • The main color of the past nine NCAA Champions was blue. Eight (Duke, La Salle, Arizona, Marquette, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, Michigan, and Kansas) of the remaining schools have blue as their main color.

Reactions to college basketball conference awards

Where I agree:

  • ACC Coach of the Year-Jim Larrañaga-University of Miami: The U was projected fourth in the ACC preseason coaches poll and the Hurricanes did not receive a single first place vote. Larrañaga led a Miami team with four fifth-year seniors and a flashy sophomore point guard to the school’s first ACC Championship. The Hurricanes were ranked as high as second in the country and will likely be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
  • Big Ten Player of the Year-Trey Burke-University of Michigan: The Big Ten POY race came down to two players–Burke and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. There wasn’t a wrong choice but I think that the Michigan sophomore was more deserving. Trey Burke averaged 19.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game this season and had a strong finish to Michigan’s Big Ten schedule by scoring at least 20 points in five of the team’s final six games. He won the game against Michigan State by picking Keith Appling’s pocket in the final 30 seconds and giving Michigan a two-point advantage with a dunk at the other end; he makes Michigan go. While Burke’s efficiency isn’t ideal (20 points on 20 shots and 25 points on 24 shots against Indiana, 19 points on 21 shots against Wisconsin, 19 points on 19 shots against Illinois, etc.), he gets the job done. Both Oladipo and Burke have talented running mates but Indiana has more depth and offensive weapons, including the preseason national player of the year in sophomore center Cody Zeller.
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of www.freep.com)
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of http://www.freep.com)
  • Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-Victor Oladipo-Indiana University: Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is probably the best on-the-ball defender in the country and he showed the Hoosiers his peskiness on March 5 when he led the Buckeye defensive effort that resulted in 12 Indiana turnovers. However, Oladipo is a more versatile defender. Oladipo can lock down almost any player from a point guard to a power forward. He has had multiple 20+ deflection games this season and has 69 steals (Craft has 60, for a point of comparison). There was no way that Victor Oladipo was going to go home empty handed on both the Big Ten POY and DPOY awards.

Where I disagree:

  • ACC Player of the Year-Erick Green-Virginia Technical Institute: It’s time to dust off the files containing the arguments about whether or not Alex Rodriguez should have won A.L. MVP in 2003 when the Texas Rangers finished 71-91 and were 25 games out of first place in the A.L. West. This is a similar situation in a different sport but this time there is no discussion. This is blatantly wrong. Green’s Hokies finished dead last in the ACC with a 13-18 (4-14) record. Three of Virginia Tech’s conference wins came against the three teams that are immediately ahead of them in the league’s standings–Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson, whose cumulative record is six games below .500. Yes, Green leads the country in scoring at 25.4 points per game but  VT hasn’t accomplished much this season besides knocking off then-No. 15 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1. What’s wrong with Miami’s Shane Larkin, who led the ACC Champion Hurricanes in points, assists, steals and three-point percentage? What’s wrong with Mason Plumlee, who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game for the No. 2 Blue Devils? The ACC voters were way off in their POY vote. 
  • SEC Player of the Year-Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-University of Georgia: I have a similar beef with the SEC voters that I do with the ACC voters. The Georgia Bulldogs finished 9-9 in the SEC. They tied for eighth place in a power 6 conference that barely has three teams in the current projection of the 68-team NCAA Tournament field that will be released on Sunday. There’s no doubt that Caldwell-Pope is a good player–he is in the top 10 in the SEC in nine of the 13 statistical categories. Plus, he is projected to be a future first round draft pick in the NBA. However, the combination of his occasional struggles with inefficiency and inability to excel against ranked opponents do not make him deserving of the honor. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had difficulties with inefficiency in the beginning (17 points on 21 shots against Souther Mississippi on 11/15), the middle (16 points on 18 shots against Georgia Tech on 12/4 and 19 points on 19 shots against Ole Miss on 2/16) and the end (14 points on 15 shots against Alabama on 3/9) of the season. Coincidentally, Georgia lost all of those games. Also, Caldwell-Pope scored below his 18 ppg average in all five of UGA’s games against ranked opponents. In fact, he averaged nearly four fewer points. Star players step up in big games instead of backing down. Maybe I should just accept the SEC’s POY award as a sign of how bad the conference is this season but I think that Tennessee’s Jordan McRae was robbed. The Vols tied for fifth in the SEC and are only a win or two from making the tournament. McRae led UT in scoring with a 16.2 points per game average but he averaged over 24 in the team’s final seven games. In that stretch, Tennessee went 6-1, demolished No. 25 Kentucky by 30 points, defeated No. 8 Florida and McRae scored over 34 points on two occasions.

Bracketology Report: Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana Hoosiers—(24-3, 12-2)—1st in the Big Ten

Strength of schedule: 25

RPI: 7

BPI: 1

Good wins:

  • 88-81 vs. Minnesota
  • 75-70 vs. Michigan State
  • 81-73 vs. Michigan
  • 81-68 @ Ohio State
  • 72-68 @ Michigan State

Bad losses:

  • 74-72 @ Illinois

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/26 @ Minnesota
  • 3/2 vs. Iowa
  • 3/5 vs. Ohio State
  • 3/10 @ Michigan

The Hoosiers started the season at No. 1 and have been ranked no worse than seventh this season thanks to their 24-3 record. Indiana has lost on two last-second shots and IU’s losses have been by a total of nine points.

Indiana’s non-conference schedule was worse than almost every other top-ranked team. The only ranked team the Hoosiers played before the start of their Big Ten schedule was No. 14 UNC, who hasn’t been ranked since week 7 after the Tar Heels suffered five losses by at least nine points in its first 15 games.

Indiana junior Victor Oladipo is a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. (Image courtesy of www.nba-draft.com)
Indiana junior Victor Oladipo is a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. (Image courtesy of http://www.nba-draft.com)

However, IU’s weak schedule early in the season proved not to be a cause for concern for the Hoosiers once they won 12 of their first 14 conference games, which included five against opponents ranked in the top 15. One of Indiana’s greatest achievements has been its ability to win on the road in tough environments. IU won at Ohio State and Michigan State, which are the Buckeyes’ and Spartans’ only home losses in conference play this season.

Indiana will be favored to win its next three games—against Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio State—but the regular season finale at Michigan could be problematic for the Hoosiers. Michigan has not lost at home this season and the Wolverines will be eager to get revenge for their eight-point loss at Assembly Hall on Feb. 2nd.

Indiana has established itself as the No. 1 team in the country by holding the spot for 10 of the 17 weeks this season. The Hoosiers’ strong performance in the Big Ten made up for a weak non-conference résumé and they are on pace to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. As long as IU does not lose more than once in the remainder of the regular season and is not blown out in a loss, the Hoosiers will likely maintain the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.

Prediction: Indiana will win its next three games relatively easily but the game at Michigan will be a very tough challenge for the Hoosiers. IU will defeat Michigan by fewer than five points in a competitive matchup. The Hoosiers will be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament but will lose to Wisconsin or Michigan State in the semi-finals or championship. However, Indiana will maintain its No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will be placed in the Midwest Region.

College basketball stock report for week 16

After five consecutive weeks of teams moving up to the No. 1 spot one week and then back down the next as if there was a revolving door for the top spot, Indiana has held on to the No. 1 rank for the past three weeks. Miami (FL) has continued its ascent up in the polls from No. 25, No. 14, No. 8, and No. 3 to No. 2 and 23 first place votes behind the Hoosiers.

The Big East leads all conferences with six ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten with five and Big 12 with three.

With three weeks left of regular season conference play, here is my college basketball stock report:

BUY

Michigan State Spartans-(22-4, 11-2)-Ever since losing by five on the road to No. 7 Indiana, the Spartans have rattled off five wins in a row, including a 23-point drubbing of No. 4 Michigan. Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten with the opportunity to have sole possession of first place with a game against No. 1 Indiana tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)
Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.
(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)

Georgetown Hoyas-(19-4, 9-3)-The Hoyas have taken advantage of Syracuse’s three losses in the Orange’s last six games; Georgetown has won seven straight games, including three against ranked Big East opponents, and is in a three-way tie for first place.

Gonzaga Bulldogs-(25-2, 12-0)-Gonzaga has won 16 of its last 17 games and the Bulldogs’ only loss in the new year was a one-point defeat at the hands of Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs on the road. Gonzaga played and defeated the four teams remaining on its schedule by an average of nearly 13 points this season. It would be no surprise if the Bulldogs do not lose until the NCAA Tournament.

SELL

Butler Bulldogs-(21-5, 8-3)-Butler has proven that its best is very good after the Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana in December. However, Butler has lost three of its past eight games. Even though the Bulldogs play in an improved A-10, they have gradually fallen from their top 10 ranking.

Michigan Wolverines-(22-4, 9-4)-There is no doubt that the Wolverines have a roster that has the ability to play in Atlanta for the Final Four but Michigan has slipped up several times lately. The Wolverines lost three of their past five games. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have come on the road and the No. 7 team in the country will have to be able to play away from Ann Arbor, Mich. in order to go deep in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats-(19-7, 7-6)-Cincinnati has been ranked for most of the season but fell out of the top 25 this week after losing three of their past four games and four of seven. All of the Bearcats’ losses have been by ten points or fewer, with four of them being by less than five points, UC has struggled to emerge as one of the best teams in the Big East. Cincinnati is tied for ninth in the conference with games against Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats were projected to be a No. 3 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament but they are falling quickly.

HOLD

Notre Dame Fighting Irish-(21-6, 9-5)-In the past two weeks, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes and No. 20 Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Fighting Irish also lost to No. 9 Syracuse by 16 and unranked Providence by 17. Notre Dame has a lot of potential but the team has been too inconsistent.

Marquette Golden Eagles-(18-6, 9-3)-With the exception of a loss at Green Bay in December, Marquette does not have any horrible losses this season. The Golden Eagles were routed by Florida and Louisville, two teams that have been at the top of the polls for most of the season, but they have faired well in their conference schedule. Marquette hasn’t proven that it’s a great team but has exceeded expectations in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. With four road games and two matchups against ranked opponents remaining on their schedule, the Golden Eagles have a challenging home stretch before the Big East Tournament.

Preview: No. 1 Indiana v. Nebraska

There’s a new sheriff in town in the Big Ten, even if it’s only momentarily. For the first time of the 2012-13 college basketball season, No. 8 Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) has sole possession of first place after handing No. 4 Michigan a 75-52 loss in East Lansing, Mich. on Tuesday.

In order to keep pace with the Spartans, No. 1 Indiana (21-3, 9-2) will have to defeat Nebraska (12-12, 3-8) at Assembly Hall tonight in Bloomington, Ind. The Cornhuskers are in eleventh place in the Big Ten with two wins against Penn State and one against Northwestern. When at its best, Nebraska has played some of the Big Ten’s best close with a six point loss to Wisconsin, 10 point defeat at No. 22 Michigan State and a seven point loss against No. 11 Ohio State; however, the Cornhuskers have four conference losses by at least 15 points, which is why the Hoosiers enter as a 23.5 point favorite.

The Hoosiers have a bad taste in their mouths after losing 70-69 to Nebraska last season. No. 1 Indiana will hope to avoid another slip-up against the Cornhuskers tonight. (Image courtesy of http://abcnews.go.com/meta/search/imageDetail?format=plain&source=http%3A%2F%2Fabcnews.go.com%2Fimages%2FSports%2F32b8b9e1b1b94913a2f81ac16c578f77)
The Hoosiers have a bad taste in their mouths after losing 70-69 to Nebraska last season. No. 1 Indiana will hope to avoid another slip-up against the Cornhuskers tonight. (Image courtesy of http://abcnews.go.com)

This week is the closest thing to a respite that Indiana will have during its Big Ten schedule with home games against Nebraska on Wednesday night and Purdue on Saturday afternoon. Last week, the Hoosiers were unable to play a full 40 minutes in the front of an orange sea of Illinois fans at Assembly Hall West in Champaign, Ill. when they lost 74-72 on Tyler Griffey’s last second layup. Indiana redeemed itself and held on to its No. 1 ranking with a decisive 81-68 victory against No. 10 Ohio State. The win was Indiana’s first road win against a ranked opponent since November 26, 2002 against No. 21 Gonzaga, which was a major step for the Tom Crean era at Indiana University.

The top-ranked Hoosiers are electric on offense. They ranked second in the country in points per game with an average of 83.2 points per contest. Indiana shoots 50.2% from the field as a team, which is good for fourth in the nation. IU is a nightmare to defend because the Hoosiers have six players who have proven that they can score 15 to 20 points on any given night. Sophomore center Cody Zeller leads the team in scoring and rebounding with averages of 16.5 ppg and 8.3 rpg. However, the pre-season All-American and national player of the year candidate may not even be the best player on the Hoosiers roster. Junior guard Victor Oladipo, who is coming off of a 26 point and 8 rebound performance against Ohio State, does not take any days off. The Upper Marlboro, Md. product averages 14.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg and 2.3 spg. It is not uncommon for Oladipo to have at least 20 deflections in a single game.

For Nebraska, a trio of upperclassmen leads the way. Junior guard Ray Gallegos leads the time in scoring at 13.3 ppg. Gallegos’ partner in the backcourt, senior Dylan Talley, averages 13.1 points per game and he is the team’s second best rebounder at 5.4 rebounds per game. The third Cornhusker that averages double figures in points scored per game is senior forward Brandon Ubel. Ubel scores 11.9 ppg and grabs a team-best 6.9 rpg.

Nebraska’s biggest woes are on offense. The Cornhuskers average 59 points per game, which ranks 332nd out of 347 Division I men’s basketball programs. The team shoots 41.2% from the field, 68.4% from the free throw line and  just 30% from behind the arc. Only Gallegos and Talley have made more than six three-pointers this season but both players make less than one-third of their shots from long range.

Nebraska has held Big Ten opponents to 71 points or fewer in 10 of their 11 conference games but it’s tough to win games when a team struggles to score.

Key Matchup

Cody Zeller-So.-Center-7’0″-240 lbs. vs. Brandon Ubel-Sr.-Power Forward-6’10”-234 lbs.

Over the past four games, Cody Zeller has averaged 19 points, 9.5 rebounds and seven free throw attempts per game. He will be facing Nebraska’s Brandon Ubel, who is statistically Nebraska’s best offensive weapon because of his 47.8% shooting percentage. Ubel is very inconsistent and Zeller could be a dominant force if Ubel does not show up at Assembly Hall ready to play. He made six of his seven shots for 13 points against Minnesota two weeks ago but was limited to only one rebound and fouled out after 26 minutes of matching up against Trevor Mbakwe. Nebraska’s big man made just two of his 10 shots against Ohio State, 4-13 against Northwestern and 4-11 against Illinois. Brandon Ubel gives up only a two inches and a few pounds to Cody Zeller, which means that the control of the paint will be determined by whether or not Ubel shows up to play and how often Indiana feeds Zeller early in the game.

X-factor

Victor Oladipo-Jr.-Guard-6’5″-214 lbs.

Oladipo is one of the best defenders in the country and has the ability to defend almost every position. Nebraska struggles to break 60 points on a nightly basis and by having him guard Ray Gallegos and Dylan Talley, the Cornhuskers will have even more difficulty establishing their offense than normal. Victor Oladipo is coming off of his career best scoring game and he will have the opportunity to improve his season averages tonight against a struggling Nebraska squad.

Prediction

IU is at its best when the Hoosiers play at Assembly Hall and they will want to seek revenge for last season’s 70-69 loss in Lincoln, Neb. Indiana wins 84-59.

Location: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Coverage: Big Ten Network

Point spread: Indiana -23.5

Over/Under: 133.5

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

ESPN college basketball writer Dana O’Neil sees two future NBA players on IU’s roster

On Wednesday, I asked ESPN college basketball writer Dana O’Neil how many future NBA players she sees on No. 1 Indiana’s roster and she sees two: sophomore center Cody Zeller and junior guard Victor Oladipo. To view the entire live chat click here.

Dana O'Neil Live Chat

Press conference previewing No. 3 Indiana at Purdue

No. 3 Indiana (18-2, 4-1) will travel to Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. to face the Purdue Boilermakers (11-9, 4-3) on Wednesday, January 30 at 8:30 pm ET.

On Tuesday afternoon, IU Associate Head Coach Steve McClain, junior forward Will Sheehey and graduate student guard Jordan Hulls met with members of the media in Assembly Hall’s media room to preview the in-state rivalry.

The two schools have a long history and tradition of being competitive in basketball. Indiana and Purdue first met in 1901. The Boilermakers lead the all-time series 112-87. They have combined for 61 NCAA Tournament appearances, 88 All-Americans and 9 Big Ten Players of the Year.

“There aren’t many rivalries in the country that compare to Indiana-Purdue,” IU Associate Head Coach McClain said. “Maybe Kansas-Kansas State, I don’t know how many of them you can find where it’s truly the biggest game.”

Jordan Hulls, a native of Bloomington, Ind. and a Bloomington South High School graduate, said that everyone is going to be excited to play in the game because of the rivalry between the two Big Ten teams.

“Being from Indiana, once you put on the Indiana jersey that’s all that matters,” he said. “You’re a Hoosier for life when that happens.”

Will Sheehey, who hails from Stuart, Fla., said that he recognizes the significance of the Indiana-Purdue rivalry and he said that the matchup hasn’t changed over the course of his three years in Bloomington, Ind.

“We all know that it’s our biggest rivalry, it’s not a secret,” Sheehey said. “The game is going to be tough and hard fought. It has not changed for me since I’ve gotten here, it’s the same level of intensity every year and every game.”

He said that Purdue likes to be physical similarly to every other Big Ten team so he said that Indiana is viewing the game in West Lafayette, Ind. simply as the next game on its schedule.

Although, the matchup against Purdue will be different from every other game that the Hoosiers play this season because of the familiarity between the two teams.

Indiana freshman point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Purdue freshman point guard Ronnie Johnson competed against one another throughout high school. Ferrell played for Park Tudor and Johnson played for North Central. The opposing starting point guards also faced off in AAU basketball.

Hulls and Purdue forward D.J. Byrd first played basketball together for the Indiana Elite when they were in seventh grade.

“We’re pretty good buddies, we played AAU together for a long time and we talk pretty often,” Hulls said. “It’s fun playing against guys that you know and guys that you’re good friends with. We’re competitors so we’re going to compete and try to beat each other. It’s a pretty cool dynamic out there.”

IU Associate Head Coach McClain said that the childhood rivalries will bring some extra emotion for the players but once the game starts, he said that he’s not sure whether or not relationships formed in high school with opposing players will be much of a factor once the game starts. He said that all of the players from both teams have improved from high school.

“Just like Yogi [Ferrell] has gotten better, Ronnie [Johnson] has gotten better,” McClain said. “Yogi’s got to understand what he’s [Ronnie] gotten better at as I’m sure the Purdue coaches will make sure Ronnie knows what Yogi has gotten better at since his senior year in high school.”

Hulls said that his AAU teammate Byrd has developed as a basketball player since high school.

“He’s being very aggressive,” Hulls said. “He’s always been able to shoot the ball, come off screens and quick release but I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s always played hard, he’s going to make the hustle plays.”

The graduate student and starting guard said that the Hoosiers have to stick together in the crazy environment at Purdue. He said that the upperclassmen need to let the freshmen know that it is going to be a physical game and that they need to come ready to play.

“It’s a rivalry game so you can throw everything out the window,” Hulls said. “You got to bring it no matter who you’re bringing. You have to bring your best game and your defense because it’s going to be pretty hostile up there.”

ESPN college basketball writer Myron Medcalf responds to two of my questions on live chat

On Monday afternoon, ESPN college basketball writer Myron Medcalf held a live chat for fans on ESPN.com. Fortunately, he got around to answering two of my questions involving the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers and their star wing Victor Oladipo. Click here for the full live chat.

No. 1 v. No. 2

 

Victor Oladipo POY?