Tag Archives: Trevor Mbakwe

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

Video Highlights: No. 5 Indiana defeats No. 8 Minnesota

The No. 5 Hoosiers took a 52-29 lead in the first half and nearly gave it up to No. 8 Minnesota.

Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller dunks against Minnesota in the first half. Zeller had 18 points and 6 rebounds in the IU win.
Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller dunks against Minnesota in the first half. Zeller had 18 points and 6 rebounds in the IU win.

Ranking the 6 Power Conferences in College Basketball

The majority of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament every spring are from the Power 6 Conferences: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC. From year to year, the best college basketball conference varies. With three teams in the top five, the Big Ten takes the crown this year.

Big Ten

Ranked Teams

1. Indiana

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

14. Michigan State

23. Wisconsin

All-Americans

Trey Burke-Guard-Michigan

DeShaun Thomas-Forward-Ohio State

Cody Zeller-Center-Indiana

The Hoosiers have taken control of the preseason #1 ranking thanks to Cody Zeller and depth unparalleled in the rest of college basketball. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1319961-big-ten-basketball-predicting-the-2012-13-big-ten-stats-leaders

Big Ten basketball is back. The Indiana Hoosiers are the unanimous preseason number one team with the best player in the country. Ohio State returns junior DeShaun Thomas, who shot 52% from the field last season and doubled his scoring from his freshman year. The Buckeyes also have Aaron Craft, who is arguably the best defender in the country. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which are historically schools focused on their football programs, finished with a record below .500 last season. From top to bottom, the Big Ten has depth in teams and individual players. Minnesota, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, has a top prospect in power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke is a preseason All-American in many sports outlets after averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman.

ACC

Ranked Teams

6. North Carolina State

8. Duke

11. North Carolina

25. Florida State

C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack to the top ten rankings and NC State is ready for a national championship run. Courtesy of http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/acc/story/2012-04-18/cj-leslie-nc-state/54385466/1.

North Carolina lost four starters and Duke lost two starters to the 2012 NBA Draft, which hurts the strength of the ACC this year. However, North Carolina State is taking over the reigns as a national championship contender because its top four players are returning from last season. C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell all averaged double-digits in scoring last year, when the Wolfpack made a Sweet Sixteen run. They also have the tenth best recruiting class, which is highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis. The bottom of the ACC drops off quickly with teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, which were significantly below last season.

Big East

Ranked Teams

2. Louisville

9. Syracuse

22. Notre Dame

24. Cincinnati

Peyton Siva is an electric guard and the motor behind the Louisville Cardinals. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/9vA3Yb_luTk/East+Basketball+Tournament+Second+Round/k0L4kz6WMdR/Yancy+Gates.

Louisville was a surprise Final Four team in a region that featured Michigan State and Missouri as the top two teams. The Cardinals return a loaded roster with Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva, and Gorgui Dieng, which is why they sit at the second spot in the preseason rankings. While Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in July of 2012, the Big East will still benefit from the Orange’s top ten preseason rank. While ‘Cuse lost Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft, they bring back Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas. They also have the fifteenth ranked recruiting class for this year, with forward Jerami Grant, guard Trevor Cooney, and forward DaJuan Coleman. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the upset-minded Xavier Musketeers and Cincinnati Bearcats, led by their talented backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, are also ranked going into the season. Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown are all knocking on the door of the top 25.

SEC

Ranked Teams

3. Kentucky

10. Florida

15. Missouri

While the SEC is the perennial powerhouse in college football, it does not have much depth in college basketball. Outside of its top few teams, the conference is dismal. Kentucky is one of the best teams in country once again thanks to the best recruiting class in the nation with four ESPN 100 players. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein are the next class of potential one-and-dones who were recruited by John Calipari. Senior Kenny Boynton will have Florida in the spotlight this season. The newest school to the SEC, Missouri is ranked fifteenth in the preseason. Tennessee received some attention in the preseason rankings but is still far off from cracking the top 25.

Big 12

Ranked Teams

7. Kansas

19. Baylor

Kansas’ Jeff Withey is one of the best centers in college basketball and will be crucial to the Jayhawks’ success this season. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Jeff+Withey/Ivo+Baltic/Las+Vegas+Invitational+Day+One/h5A83sDt-ft.

Overall, the Big 12 had a successful 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas made the National Championship game and Baylor made the Elite Eight. Three of its six teams lost to the eventual champion Kentucky. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are now in the NBA, which means that this year’s Kansas squad will rely on Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to take them back to the promised land. Baylor will be a prominent team on the national level. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all received votes for the AP Top 25 but fell short of being ranked. Having Missouri leave for the SEC will hurt them.

Pac-12

Ranked Teams

12. Arizona

13. UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring back the glory days of UCLA basketball but that may be hard to do if he is only there one year. Courtesy of http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/ucla-shabazz-muhammad-miss-2-4-weeks-due-005359555–ncaab.html.

Similarly to the SEC, the Pac-12’s top tier is elite and the rest of the conference struggles greatly. Arizona and UCLA are both bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will certainly bolster the Wildcats’ lineup this season. The Pac-12 is looking to improve upon its overall performance last season, where only Colorado and California made the NCAA Tournament.