Around the Big Ten 2011-12: Minnesota

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The next feature in our Around the Big Ten preview series of Q&As, Jonathan Foster from FromTheBarn stops by to discuss Minnesota’s team this season.

Previously: Penn State

The Gophers lost 10 of their final 11 games last season despite a promising non-conference start. What are the expectations for this season in Minneapolis?

With so many new faces on the team, the only real expectation is to not lose 10 of the final 11 games. The Big Ten should have something of a down year, with the departure of so many of last year’s best players, so finishing in the top half of the Big Ten is a goal. But no one would be shocked if the Gophers slide off the bubble into the NIT. But hey, that is better than last year, and better than most other teams in this town in the last year.

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Big Ten Roundup: Media Days and Midnight Madness

bilde[1]With the first day of practice on Friday and team media days taking place across the conference, here’s a run-down of news, notes and updates on all 12 Big Ten schools. (Photo: Indy Star)

Illinois: Illinois held an open practice on Saturday attended by around 3,000 fans including Evan Turner (supporting his friend, 5th-year Bradley transfer Sam Mansacalco). The Illini come off confident and Weber plans to utilize a deeper rotation this season, somewhere from nine to 11 players. Paul Klee has more detailed notes at IlliniHQ.com from the scrimmage.

Indiana: Indiana hosted its Hoosier Hysteria event on Saturday evening, conveniently scheduled to host Gary Harris on an official visit, and welcomed over 16,000 fans to Assembly Hall. There’s a buzz around the Indiana program that hasn’t been there for the last two seasons. Will Sheehey won the dunk contest and Inside the Hall has all the coverage you need including scrimmage observations.

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(caption) Michigan players (left to right) Zack Novak, Matt Vogrich (hands on court), Evan Smotrycz, Darius Morris, Jordan Morgan and Stu Douglass react to a three-point attempt by junior guard Corey Person late in the Wolverines' victory. Person's shot missed.  *** Michigan defeated Tennessee 75-45. The Wolverines outscored the Volunteers 42-16 in the second half to blow open a close game. Led by Zack Novak with 14 points, the Wolverines had five players score in double digits. *** The Michigan Wolverines take on the Tennessee  Volunteers in a second-round NCAA tournament game at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photos taken on Friday, March 18, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )
Photo: Detroit News

Basketball practice begins in Ann Arbor and across the country today with the first regular season game less than a month away. Tim Hardaway Jr. is the leading returning scorer for the Wolverines. Hardaway averaged 14 points per game last season but is also the only returning player to average over 10 points per game last season which leaves Michigan searching for a number two scorer this season.

The Candidates

  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan averaged nine points per game last season and is Michigan’s second leading returning scorer. However, a significant chunk of his baskets were assisted by Darius Morris. Does Morgan expand his game? Does he find similar pick-and-roll opportunities from Hardaway and Burke?
  • Zack Novak: Novak has improved his year-over-year scoring output by roughly one point per game each season, continuing that trend would put him right around 10 points per game as a senior. Despite his improvement, Novak still has the feel of a shooter, not a scorer, and has used just 14 percent of Michigan’s offensive possessions throughout his career.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass seems to add more responsibilities to his plate each season. He’s a shooter first and foremost but he’s also Michigan’s primary defensive stopper on the perimeter and will have to spend more time at the point guard position this season. With that added responsibility, it’s tough to imagine his scoring output increasing significantly.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz is an intriguing choice. He gained 36 pounds and is more equipped to deal with the rigors of Big Ten play. He proved himself as a three point shooter (38 percent last season) and if he’s able to improve inside the arc (43 percent last season), he should be able to increase his scoring output significantly.
  • Trey Burke: The most likely candidate to start at point guard, Burke’s greatest asset offensively is his three point shot. His shooting ability and quickness could easily allow him to pack a scoring punch.
  • Carlton Brundidge:  Nobody is quite sure where Brundidge will play (he declared himself a point guard at media day) but there’s no questioning his scoring ability. Brundidge put up huge point totals throughout his prep career in high school games, AAU events and at the prestigious Nike EYBL. If he’s in the game, he’ll be attacking the basket and scoring the ball.
Who do you expect to be Michigan’s number two scorer? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments.

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Video: Nick Stauskas Documentary

2012 Michigan commitment Nick Stauskas is featured in this YouTube video which includes old video footage and interviews with Nick, his family and various coaches throughout his career.

2011-12 Big Ten Position by Position: Bigs

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1. Jared Sullinger – Ohio State

MPG PPG RPG ORtg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Block% FT Rate
31.7 17.2 10.2 120.4 27.0 54.5 14.0 26.2 2.0 65.1

Upside: Sullinger dominated the league last season and he spent the off-season getting in shape – bad news for the Big Ten. He converts on the block, gets to the free throw line, dominates both backboards and rarely turns the ball over. The only thing that he doesn’t do well is block shots.
Downside: Sullinger loses a pair of wing guards that made over 40 percent of their threes last season, without such shooting prowess on the wings he should see even more double teams this season.
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Around the Big Ten 2011-12: Penn State

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For the third consecutive we’ll be previewing the other 11 teams in the Big Ten by interviewing a collection of bloggers and beat writers with firsthand knowledge of their respective teams. We’ll begin with Penn State, who will be breaking in a new head coach after reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade last season. Eric Gibson, the basketball guru at Black Shoe Diaries, graciously agreed to answer some questions about the Nittany Lions this season.

Tell us about Pat Chambers. Most casual fans probably don’t know much about the young head coach.

I feel obligated to describe him with the one word everybody else uses – energetic. He doesn’t have much of a coaching profile, but what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in salesmanship. His college coaching career started at Villanova, when Jay Wright brought him on as the Director of Basketball Operations. Five years later, Chambers was the associate head coach during Villanova’s 2009 Final Four run. That landed him his first head coaching gig at Boston U, where he won 20+ games in back to back seasons. He’s pretty green, so I expect some learning on the job, but as a recruiter I think he’s really going to elevate Penn State’s image. It’s been hard to get a read on Chambers’ style of play, but it’s expected he will attempt to bring the Villanova 4-out 1-in model to Penn State.

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