Tag Archives: John Groce

Hoosiers to compete in Big Ten Tourney

IU is in control of its own destiny.

After finishing the regular season with a 17-14 record and an eighth-place finish in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers only have one way to punch their ticket to the big dance — winning the Big Ten Tournament.

IU’s first-round matchup is against Illinois (18-13, 7-11) at noon today in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Fighting Illini enter the tournament having won four of its past five games, including road victories against then-No. 18 Michigan State and then-No. 24 Iowa.

During Monday’s Big Ten Coaches Teleconference, IU Coach Tom Crean said Illinois has played great basketball during the last month, with the exception of its 31-point loss to Michigan.

“I don’t think there’s any question that they are playing with excellent confidence,” Crean said, adding that the Illini are playing with tremendous energy and at a high level on defense. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us at any point in time with anybody in this league. But certainly going into this game, we have great respect for what they are doing and how they are progressing.”

Illinois’ road game against Penn State on Feb. 9 was the team’s turning point, according to Crean.

After an eight-game skid during the heart of the regular season, Illinois Coach John Groce changed his starting lineup in State College, Pa.

He moved graduate student Jon Ekey and redshirt senior Joseph Bertrand to the bench. Freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill were promoted to the Illini’s starting five.

Illinois finished 5-3 down the stretch in conference play, and Nunn has been a catalyst in his new role.

He scored 95 points during the team’s first 23 games of the season. The 6-foot-3 guard poured in a season-high 19 points against the Nittany Lions and has averaged 12.1 points per game since becoming a starter.

“Kendrick Nunn, with more minutes, provides just a little bit more explosiveness to their game that creates things for other people,” Crean said. “The way he plays is he is a very, very high-energy type of player and a lot of similarities, in my mind, to Victor Oladipo.”

While Nunn is a key contributor, he is just one of Illinois’ weapons.

Redshirt junior Rayvonte Rice scored 49 points in his two games against IU this season.

Crean said the Hoosiers have to improve their defense against Rice in Indianapolis.

“We have to do a much better job against him, but at the same time, they put 3-point shooters on the court,” he said. “They are playing some young guys now that have the benefit of playing with the older guys, the fifth-year guys or the fourth-year guys who have been through it, and they’ve been able to blend in.”

The winner of Thursday’s game gets the opportunity to face Michigan, the Big Ten regular season champion, on Friday.

However, IU remains focused on the next game on its schedule. Crean said the Hoosiers have to be locked in to what’s in front of them.

“The most important thing is that you don’t ever look ahead,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what team you have going in. If you look ahead to day two, you could be done on day one.”

College basketball stock report: 5 teams to buy, sell or hold

Illinois

SELL

The Fighting Illini started the season 12-0 and defeated No. 10 Gonzaga on the road by double digits. However, since Illinois’ victory over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 16, John Groce’s squad is 3-5 and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Illini lost to unranked Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern, which does not bode well since their schedule will only get tougher as the season progresses. They still have to play Michigan twice, Indiana and Michigan State for the first time, in addition to rematches against Minnesota and Ohio State.

Michigan State

BUY

It's a good time to be in East Lansing, Mich. as Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. (Image courtesy of http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/sep/24/msu-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-guest-speaker-at-kalamazoo-benefit/)
It’s a good time to be in East Lansing, Mich. since Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. (Image courtesy of http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/sep/24/msu-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-guest-speaker-at-kalamazoo-benefit/)

The Spartans were on the verge of dropping out of the AP Top 25 after three losses in the 2012 calendar year. Michigan State’s challenging non-conference schedule paid off; Tom Izzo’s squad is leading the Big Ten with a two game lead over Michigan and Indiana. Three of Michigan State’s Big Ten wins are by three points or fewer, which separates great teams from the good ones in March.

 Oregon

BUY

The Ducks sit alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings after defeating No. 24 UCLA last Saturday. Arizona and UCLA only appear once on Oregon’s schedule, which means there are no ranked opponents remaining on the Ducks’ schedule. Oregon is in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 now that the team’s biggest challenges are in the Ducks’ rearview mirror.

Wisconsin

HOLD

Bo Ryan’s Badgers are a very perplexing team. Wisconsin lost four of its first 10 games then rattled off seven consecutive wins, including victories over No. 12 Illinois and No. 2 Indiana. After defeating the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall, the Badgers dropped two games to Iowa and Michigan State by a total of six points. Wisconsin has the coach and the talent to finish in the top three in the Big Ten or the Badgers could end up sixth or seventh. They have been too inconsistent to determine how good they can be in college basketball’s toughest conference.

Xavier

BUY

The 2012-13 Musketeers are possibly one of the weakest Xavier teams in the past decade and most Atlantic 10 projections have Xavier as a middle-of-the-road team in the conference yet Semaj Christon & Co. have started to turn their season around in conference play. Don’t look now but Xavier is tied with Virginia Commonwealth for first place. The Muskies have pulled out close wins against Temple, St. Bonaventure and La Salle after losing four straight games in non-conference play. They don’t play VCU and Butler until late in the season, which means that Xavier has over a month to improve before it faces two of the A-10’s best teams.