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Big Ten Geeks: Master of his Craft?

Ohio State picked up a solid road victory at Purdue last night, but the bigger story may be the point guard controversy simmering in Columbus. After just five minutes of play, the Buckeyes’ Aaron Craft  picked up his second foul and headed for the bench, with his team leading by a point. Replacement Shannon Scott would ignite the team, helping to grow a double digit halftime lead that Ohio State would not relinquish, despite some valiant efforts from the Boilermakers. Scott was excellent in many ways, but most impressive was his ability to create for others on the offensive end. Scott finished with

Big Ten Geeks: Digging deeper on Illinois' offense

With the latter half of this quiet week bringing nothing but blowouts, let’s instead focus on one of the more surprising developments of the season thus far–the play of the Illinois Fighting Illini. The John Groce era has gotten off to a remarkable start in Champaign–the Illini are 12-0 and ranked 10th in the AP poll. But, college basketball observers can be forgiven for asking: haven’t we seen this film before? After all, this is largely the same group of guys that got off to a surprising start last season: W-L Best win Losses KenPom rank AP rank 2011-12 Illinois,

Big Ten Geeks: Michigan State and Turnovers

In our preseason Michigan State point/counterpoint, Josh and I debated how the Spartans would replace Draymond Green. Of major concern were not only Green’s offensive contributions but also his excellent defensive acumen. So, after 12 games, how does this Green-less squad compare to last season’s team? At the most basic level, Michigan State is 10-2 with one very good win and two not-terrible losses. Last season, Michigan State was 10-2 with two good wins and two not-terrible losses. On the surface, everything is basically the same to this point. But, dear reader, we always look below the surface. Just as

Big Ten Geeks: Digging into Indiana's defense

This week’s slate is extremely light, so rather than dwelling on the few results we do have (Minnesota handling North Dakota State in impressive fashion, Illinois struggling with yet another low major), let’s delve deeper into a subject that will play a major factor in the Big Ten race: Indiana’s defense. Indiana was the preseason No. 1 because of its offense. The Hoosiers scored very efficiently last season and returned all the major pieces. Indiana’s offense has indeed been outstanding, but it is on the defensive end where major strides have been made–last season’s Hoosiers finished 64th nationally in adjusted

Big Ten Geeks: Contenders and Pretenders

Up until Saturday night, Illinois’ season has been described in strange terms. At that point, it was “surprising” that Illinois was undefeated. The Illini won the Maui Invitational, which was a very “prestigious” early-season tournament. This isn’t normally how one talks about an undefeated team that’s ranked in the top-15. That’s because very few people were declaring that this team was actually as good as it looked on paper. That’s partly a function of having not played a murderer’s row of opponents (Butler destroyed the Maui bracket, making it such that Illinois might not have played a single NCAA Tournament

Big Ten Geeks: Four weeks in & what do we know?

With the volume of competitive games slowing considerably this week, it seems like a good time to reflect on what we’ve seen in the first four weeks of the 2012-13 basketball season. In bullet point format, here’s what I’ve found interesting so far: Jared Berggren is an NBA player. This statement could prove a bit premature, as Berggren has struggled with conference play in his career, but Wisconsin’s senior center has been off the charts. Berggren is shooting 65 percent on twos, 41 percent on threes, and 84 percent on free throws, all while dominating the offensive glass and rarely

Big Ten Geeks: Northwestern wins in Waco

It’s been a bit of a quiet week for Big Ten basketball, with most teams facing tune-up games against over-matched opponents. Let’s take a quick look at the games that weren’t complete blowouts. Northwestern jumped out to a shocking big lead at Baylor, thanks primarily to defense. After a first half in which both teams scored efficiently, the Bears scored just one point in the opening seven minutes of the second half. By the time Baylor’s offense recovered, Northwestern had an 18-point lead and some serious swagger, as evidenced by a Drew Crawford technical for hanging on the rim. Defense? Taunting techs? Is this Northwestern

Big Ten Geeks: Longing for the Bubble

Purdue isn’t used to this. Under Matt Painter, only once have we seen the Boilermakers struggle, and that was in Painter’s understandably rebuidling 2005-06 season, which managed only a 9-19 record in the wake of Carl Landry’s knee injury that kept him off the court for the majority of the season. Since then, Purdue has won no fewer than 22 games a season. It didn’t matter if the team was relying on freshmen, whether it was short, or whether key players were lost to injuries. Painter somehow kept the whole thing going. So I understand why other prognosticators had trouble

Big Ten Geeks: The ACC Strikes Back

In a bit of a surprise, the ACC took four of six games last night to clinch a tie in this year’s Challenge. Let’s look at how they did it. Ohio State played an excellent first half at Cameron Indoor, but the Buckeyes’ defense let them down after the break as Duke pulled away. The change in Duke’s efficiency was startling: First Half Efficiency Second Half Efficiency Ohio State 1.04 1.03 Duke 0.77 1.39 This scalding second half can be explained with a basic stat: the Blue Devils made eight dunks or layups in the second half, after making only

Big Ten Geeks: Indiana's defense impresses

All in all, it was quite a good first night for the Big Ten in its Challenge with the ACC. Let’s take a quick look at the results. The night’s marquee game was Indiana vs. North Carolina, and the nation’s number one team did not disappoint. The Hoosiers were  a double-digit favorite, so the fact that they won was not a surprise, but the manner in which they won was mighty impressive. For much of the first half, it was a back-and-forth game, with neither team really playing their best. Indiana closed the half on a run to take a