Penn St. ends Northwestern’s NCAA Dreams

By Paul M. Banks

Nittany Lions’ first win in the Big Ten ends NU’s at-large NCAA chances.

How could this happen? How could Penn St., a de facto “one man team” beat Northwestern? For their FIRST win in conference play, on a night when their one man, Talor Battle, was limited to very few shots, and he made very few of them? If you’re a Cats fan, at least you have closure on their NCAA tournament prospects.

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Talor Battle Pretty Much is Penn State Basketball

By Paul M. Banks

Battle has played every minute but three in big ten play, and currently leads the Nittany Lions in scoring, rebounding, assists, minutes, and steals. “Guys have been keying in on me defensively, I heard Bruce Weber all game yelling wherever I was at, I felt like he was guarding me,” Battle told me following a 54-53 loss to the Illini.

[Read more…]

Talor Battle and Evan Turner: BFFs

By Paul M. Banks

The Big Ten’s talent is concentrated at the point guard position, junior class. And two of the most talented guys who fit in at both categories (Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Penn State’s Talor Battle) also happen to be very good friends. [Read more…]

Jim Jackson on the Big Ten’s Strengths & Weaknesses

jj

By Paul M. Banks

At Big Ten Media Day, Ohio State alum Jim Jackson was just like the rest of us journalists, he participated in the college hoops version of speed dating that is Media Day, as he went from table to table interviewing players and coaches. At the same time, the NBA veteran of 14 seasons, 1992 #4 overall draft pick and current Big Ten Network analyst was utterly NOT like the rest of us journalists, as reporters and bloggers gathered around Jackson to ask him his thoughts on the 2009-10 season, a year in which most national pundits deem the Big Ten the strongest or second strongest in the country. I was one of those writers, and this is what JJ, the only player ever to win the Big 10 conference player of the year award twice, told me during our exclusive chat.

Obviously, Jackson had a lot to say about the Big Ten’s junior class, finding some natural comparisons between this class and the state of the league at the beginning of the last decade.jim_jackson

“I take a look back at the early 90s, at some of the classes that came to Indiana, even our class at Ohio State, Michigan State had a great class at the time. I think it kind of recycles a little bit, you go through those periods where it’s a down a little bit then it builds back up. And it’s a reflection of the coaches in this league, the resumes and pedigrees they have. Now the talent is going to catch back up with the coaches.

You got Manny, Talor, Evan, Kalin, guys that I think are going to take it up another level this year. Evan had his first year of being the go-to-guy. Now that he has that under his belt, he’ll be more comfortable in that role. So how much better will he be? Kalin didn’t have the expectation of being Big Ten player of the year but he got it, so now he has that confidence.”

Jackson continued: “I love Talor’s game. His quickness separates him because he can get from point A. to point B. at the drop of a dime, but he can shoot the basketball- stick that open jump shot. And still finish at the rim, it’s a combination that’s a tough assignment for any point guard to have. Talor may not be the most vocal leader, but this year he’ll be more vocal, and also more of a lead-by- example guy with his play.”

And then there’s Purdue’s famed junior class. These days so many players leave early for the NBA draft, so it’s exceedingly difficult for one highly heralded class to stay together for multiple years, but Purdue is one place where they’ve been able to retain their nucleus.

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“In Purdue’s instance, as talented as those guys are, I don’t think any of them were ready to take the next step which is a good thing for the University. Because now you have a core group of guys coming into their junior year that are very experienced in playing together. It’s a catch-22 when you look at it that way. The talent is there, but maybe not at that level. JaJuan (Johnson) established himself last year, as a go-to player. He really worked on his inside game, his post moves. You look at what Robbie (Hummel) brings to the table, a little bit of everything; rebounds, shoots, he’s a leader. Coming off the injury, he had a great summer with the USA team. He’s probably their best all around player,” said Jackson, co-holder of the NBA record for most teams played for (12).

The 2009-10 Big Ten will of course be known for it’s junior class. However, year-in, year-out, the conversation starts and ends with the collective group of league coaches.

“Name a bad coach in this league. You can’t do it. Carmody is great at what he does offensively. Ed DeChellis may not have the name recognition, but he can do it. Crean has recognition. Thad Matta has established himself. Beilien got it done at West Virginia. Of course, Izzo, Bo Ryan and now Matt Painter is establishing himself. jimjackson

Tubby is a kind of coach that is going to go get the players he wants, recruit the players that are smart, and get up and down the court, understand the game, shoot the ball and play aggressive defense. And it’s great for Minnesota, because that arena is already tough to play in. Now you put a product on the floor that makes it an even tougher place to play again,” he said.

So where does the Big Ten Network analyst put the conference nationally? (Not that he’s biased or anything, of course not, no bias from this BTN analyst here)

“Top to bottom, it’s got to be one or two, this league could go nine teams deep, and that’s good and bad for the NCAAs. They’re going to beat up on each other. But at the same time they’ll get quality wins. And look at the Big East last year, you had 16 teams, and they took eight to the tournament, four in the Sweet 16, two in the Final Four, and it could be very similar here in the Big Ten, because you have quality teams and depth,” Jackson said.

I concur 100%. Visit this site tomorrow for part two of this interview, and to see JJ’s picks for this season.

2009-2010 Big Ten Basketball Preview: Part 1 of 4

Tom Crean

By: David Kay

The excitement is quickly building for the up-coming college hoops season.  This week most teams will finally strap up the kicks against real competition as exhibition play tips-off.  That is right, we are only about a week away from actual, meaningful games being played.  I’m more excited than Brett Favre after throwing his fourth touchdown at Lambeau Field this past Sunday.

While we are on the doorstep of the 2009-2010 season, we at The Sports Bank have been in college basketball mode for the past five weeks, giving you in-depth team previews and predictions from five major conferences.  Now it is time for the sixth and final preview, the “hometown conference” of TSB.net, the Big Ten.

It’s back baby.  After a couple years of being considered an inferior conference to others around the nation, the Big Ten is shaping up to be the most competitive it has been in years.  Despite being “down” last year, seven teams ended up dancing and it’s very possible that will be the case again this year, only with more competition at the top, rather than among the middle teams.  Unfortunately for the following four teams of Part 1 of our Big Ten preview, their future does not include the Field of 65.  (It should also be noted that my one year grace period of hating Tom Crean for bolting Marquette for Indiana is officially over.)

8. Northwestern (9th in B10, 8-10 in B10, 17-14 overall, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:
For a program that has never made the NCAA Tournament, they are getting close.  Really close.  Close enough that Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said at Big Ten Media Day that he thinks this is the year the misery comes to an end and the Wildcats make the Big Dance.  Only one player is gone from last year’s team that qualified for the NIT.  Kevin Coble has developed into one of the best scorers in the Big Ten and this once young is starting to mature into a solid Big Ten team.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Kyle Rowley (So)/Luka Mirkovic (So)
F: Kevin Coble (Sr)/Ivan Peljusic (Jr)/Davide Curletti (So)
F: John Shurna (So)/Mike Capocci (Jr)/Drew Crawford (Fr)
SG: Jeremy Nash (Sr)/Jeff Ryan (Sr)/Reggie Hearn (Fr)
PG: Juice Thompson (Jr)/Alex Marcotullio (Fr)

Gone: SG-Craig Moore, G/F-Sterling Williams

B10 Northwestern Minnesota BasketballPlayer to Watch: Coble- Let me just say this, if Coble played at Duke everyone in the nation would be aware of his abilities.  But because he plays at Northwestern, he has continually flown under the radar on the national scene.  He is a versatile forward who can score in a variety of ways and continues to develop his all-around game.  Coble will be the driving force behind whatever success the Wildcats may encounter this season.

Illinois Penn St Basketball9. Penn State (T-4th, 10-8, 27-11, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:
The Nittany Lions are coming off a championship season!!!  Okay, it was only the NIT title, but that is quite the accomplishment from a team that has traditionally been the door mat of the Big Ten.  Penn State fell on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday and were the rare exception of a major conference team finishing with a winning record in conference play and not making the tourney.  All-Big Ten first team player Talor Battle returns to lead the team, but PSU will have to replace the loss of three valuable seniors.  I am not expecting a repeat performance of last year’s successful season.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Andruw Jones III (Jr)/Andrew Ott (Jr)
PF: Jeff Brooks (Jr)/Sasha Boronjvak (Fr)
F: David Jackson (So)/ Bill Edwards (Fr)
SG: Chris Babb (So)/Cammeron Woodyard (So)/Jermaine Marshall (Fr)
PG: Talor Battle (Jr)/Tim Frazier (Fr)

Gone: G-Stanley Pringle, F-Jamelle Cornley, SG-Danny Morrissey

Player to Watch: Battle- The conference’s leading scorer from a year ago, Battle did a little bit of everything for the Nittany Lions last season.  He played 37-plus minutes a night averaging 16.7 points, 5.3 boards, and 5.0 assists per game.  Battle also led the U.S. team in scoring at the World University Games.

indiana bball

10. Indiana (11th, 1-17, 6-25)

2009-2010 Outlook:
It cannot get much worse for the Hoosiers who had the worst season in the school’s history last season.  In his second season, Tom Crean continues to try and right the wrongs Kalvin Sampson did to the program.  Landing a crop of talented freshman was a step in the right direction to gaining back some respect for IU.  Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers is eligible this season and should provide Indiana with some stability and much needed leadership.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Tom Pritchard (So)/Tijan Jobe (Sr)/Bawa Muniru (Fr)
F: Derek Elston (Fr)/Bobby Capobianco (Fr)
G: Devan Dumes (Sr)/ Maurice Creek (Fr)/Christian Watford (Fr)
G: Jeremiah Rivers (Jr)/ Matt Roth (So)
PG: Verdell Jones III (So)/Jordan Hulls (Fr)/Daniel Moore (So)

Gone: G/F-Nick Williams (transfer-Mississippi), G/F-Malik Story (transfer-Nevada), F-Kyle Taber

Player to Watch: Rivers- The Hoosiers are very young and despite sitting out last year, Rivers’ addition on the floor should be a major plus for Crean due to his basketball lineage (his father is Celtics’ head coach Doc Rivers.)  Last we saw him at G-Town, he was not an intimidating offensive talent, but really got after it on D’.  For a Tom Crean-coached team, that aggressive work ethic will be welcomed.  If he has become a more dangerous scorer, all the better.

11. Iowa (10th, 5-13, 15-17)

2009-2010 Outlook:
The Hawkeyes are going to be the Hoosiers of last year; only they might not be lucky enough to win a game.  Seriously, that bad.  Three expected starters chose to transfer which makes me wonder what is going on with this program.  There will be some serious growing pains this season and Todd Lickliter needs to turn things around soon or he could be on the hot seat.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Andrew Brommer (So)/Brennan Cougill (Fr)
F: Jarryd Cole (Jr)/Aaron Fuller (So)/Devon Archie (Jr)
G: Matt Gatens (So)/Eric May (Fr)
G: Anthony Tucker (So)/ Devan Bawinkel (Sr)
PG: Cully Payne (Fr)/John Lickliter (Fr)

Gone: SG-Jeff Peterson (transfer-Arkansas), SG-Jake Kelly (transfer-Indiana State), C-David Palmer (transfer-Northern Kentucky), F/C-Cyrus Tate, G-Jermain Davis (transfer-Minnesota State-Mankato)

Player to Watch: Payne- The only other point guard on Iowa’s roster is Lickliter’s son, John, meaning Payne will likely shoulder the ball-handling responsibility.  Having Tucker and Gatens alongside Payne in the backcourt should help ease the transition, but it is still a lot to ask a true freshman.

Iowa Transfers

The Sports Bank Big 10 Preview Continues:
Wednesday: Teams 4-7
Thursday: Teams 1-3
Friday: Big Ten Award Predictions

The Sports Bank Big 12 Previews/Power Rankings:
Teams 10-12 (Colorado, Texas Tech, Nebraska)
Teams 7-9 (Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State)
Teams 4-6 (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M)
Teams 1-3 (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma)

The Sports Bank ACC Previews/Power Rankings:
Teams 10-12 (Virginia Tech, Virginia, N.C. State)
Teams 7-9 (Wake Forest, Miami FL, Boston College)
Teams 4-6 (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech)
Teams 1-3 (UNC, Duke, Maryland)

The Sports Bank SEC Previews/Power Rankings:
SEC East Teams 4-6 (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia)
SEC East Teams 1-3 (Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida)
SEC West Teams 4-6 (Arkansas, Auburn, LSU)
SEC West Teams 1-3 (Mississippi State, Mississippi, Alabama)

The Sports Bank Pac-10 Preview/Power Rankings:
Teams 8-10 (Washingon State, Arizona State, Stanford)
Teams 5-7 (Arizona, USC, Oregon)
Teams 1-4 (Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, Cal)

The Sports Bank Big East Previews/Power Rankings

Teams 13-16 (Rutgers, South Florida, Providence, DePaul)
Teams 9-12 (Notre Dame, Pitt, Marquette, St. John’s)
Teams 5-8 (Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, Seton Hall)
Teams 1-4 (Villanova, West Virginia, UConn, Georgetown)
Post-Season Award Predictions

For all the latest college basketball info, you can follow David Kay on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB