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Saturday, November 16, 2013

2013-14 Men's Big Ten Basketball Preview: P & W

Today we preview the last three teams in the Big Ten.  There might be a couple of surprises so read on!

Penn State Nittany Lions
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers
Last Season: 10-21 (2-16), last in Big Ten
Graduated: G Nick Colella
Transfered: F Jermaine Marshall, F Jon Graham
Left Early: F Sasa Borovnjak
New Faces: Graham Woodward, Geno Thorpe, John Johnson (transfer)
2013 recap: There was some optimism in State College entering the season and things were looking good after a mild upset victory over Providence in November.  Unfortunately in the following game star point guard Tim Frazier suffered an achilles injury causing him to miss the rest of the season.  Without their star player, the Penn State team fell into complete disarray and began the BIG season 0-14 before finally getting a victory against Michigan.  When the season ended the second best player on the team, Jermaine Marshall, elected to transfer potentially setting back some
May people have forgotten Tim Frazier is
one of the 10 best players in the conference.
progress the team made during the year.
The Starters:

Pos Players Height Wt Year
PG Tim Frazier 6'1" 170 Sr.
G DJ Newbill 6'4" 205 Jr
F Brandon Taylor 6'7" 235 So.
F Donovon Jack 6'9" 210 So.
F Ross Travis 6'6" 225 Jr.

Point guard Tim Frazier can do it all.  He's one of the best passers in the nation, knows how to get to the rim, and as a result he gets to the line.  It's not uncommon for him to also lead the team in rebounding. If he's back to form Penn State will be blessed with possibly the league's best player.  DJ Newbill was forced to grow up quite a bit in Frazier's absence.  He became more assertive shooting and learned how to facilitate the offense at the same time.  Look for him to combine with Frazier to give the Nittany Lions one of the conference's best backcourts.  Brandon Taylor is a solid rebounder but more of a role player on offense which works out perfectly for a team whose guards will take the majority of the shots.  If Taylor can establish himself as a decent low post player to compliment his mid-range jumper he could find himself more involved as the season goes along.  Donovan Jack is the "big man" on this team.  Like Taylor, he showed potential as a freshman last year and looks to be an important component for this team's success.  He'll be forced to guard the other big men in the conference and while that may seem daunting he appears to be a solid defensive player.  Ross Travis is the energetic glue guy every team needs. Last season he averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds and coach Chambers has even said he's capable of guarding all five positions.
The Bench:

G Allen Roberts 6'3" 214 Sr.
F Alan Wisniewski 6'9" 230 Sr.
G Graham Woodward 6'0" 170 Fr.
G Geno Thorpe 6'3" 180 Fr.
F Julian Moore 6'10" 215 Fr.
G John Johnson 6'3" 185 Jr.
F Payton Banks 6'6" 220 Fr.

The bench will likely be pretty short at least until John Johnson is eligible to participate in January.  Guard Allen Roberts is a transfer from Miami (OH) who's experience should enable him to be a quality backup immediately.  In MAC play he proved adept at drawing fouls and was a decent defender.  Geno Thorpe and Graham Woodward are two freshmen who will also get minutes.  Though not ranked in the Rivals top 150, the team seems excited to have them in their midst nonetheless.  Alan Wisniewski will be counted on to provide quality minutes when one of the starting forwards sits.  Freshmen Julian Moore and Payton Banks aren't expected to contribute much but the team could desperately use something out of them.
2014 Outlook: With Tim Frazier back, Penn State is definitely improved from how they finished last season.  The loss of Jermaine Marshall hurts as well as having two potential impact players unavailable to the team due to transfer rules.  The non conference schedule is manageable and should give the team opportunity to sort out a rotation early. Only getting Michigan and Wisconsin once each helps their chances and as a result I expect a bit of a surprise season from the Nittany Lions.
Projection: 9th in Big Ten, NIT invite

Purdue Boilermakers
Head Coach: Matt Painter
Last Season: 16-18 (8-10), tied for seventh in Big Ten
Graduated: G DJ Byrd, G Dru Anthrop
Transferred: G Anthony Johnson, F Sandi Marcius, F Jacob Lawson, F Donnie Hale
Left Early: None
New Faces: Kendall Stephens (#61), Bryson Scott (#75), Basil Smotherman, Sterling Carter (transfer), Erick Peck (transfer)
2013 recap: An opening night loss at home to Bucknell should have been considered an omen for how the season would unfold.  Nothing went right for Purdue last year.  There was fighting amongst the team and after getting off to a great start, a certain freshman decided he could coast and do whatever he wanted. This prevented the team from ever getting into a rhythm and as a result they struggled and underperformed.  Towards the end of the season they coasted as if they were just ready for it all to be over. They eventually got their wish after being embarrassed by Santa Clara in the CBI tournament.  Once
This image says it all to Purdue fans. If Hammons is
focused Purdue could be a sleeper this year.
the season ended Painter cleaned house encouraging those who needed an attitude adjustment to seek playing time elsewhere.

The Starters:

Pos Players Height Wt Year
PG Ronnie Johnson 6'0" 178 So.
G Terone Johnson 6'2" 198 Sr.
F Kendall Stephens 6'6" 193 Fr.
F Erick Peck 6'6" 223 Sr.
C AJ Hammons 7'0" 280 So.

Ronnie Johnson might be the fastest player in the Big Ten and is exceptional at running the fast break.  He struggles in half-court sets because he's a poor shooter and is small.  Due to his quickness he gets fouled at a decent clip so he needs to improve on his 59% free throw percentage to stay on the floor.  Terone is a wide bodied guard who has a great floater and can work in the paint.  His jump shoot is poor and his free throws are worse. He can man up on d and rebound with anyone though.  Freshman Kendall Stephens is undoubtedly the best shooter on the team.  Look for Purdue to use him like they did Ryne Smith a few years back; catch and shoot while playing strong defense.  Erick Peck transferred from Cornell and the team looks to utilize him immediately.  He's a decent shooter but has already said his role is to rebound, play defense, and hustle.  His leadership might do more to help this team than any of his skills.  AJ Hammons is the most frustrating player to wear a Purdue uniform I can remember.  He's got good post moves, has a solid mid-range shot, and is a monster on defense. Still, he makes plenty of bone headed mistakes and was benched for stretches last year when his effort was lacking.  Reports said he got the memo with all the transfers at the end of the season and rededicated himself to staying in shape and improving his game.  If he's serious then the sky's the limit for him.
The Bench:

G Bryson Scott 6'1" 201 Fr.
G Raphael Davis 6'5" 211 So.
F Jay Simpson 6'10" 250 Fr.
F Travis Carroll 6'9" 247 Sr.
G Sterling Carter 6'0" 193 Sr.
F Basil Smotherman 6'5" 222 Fr.
F Neal Beshears 6'7" 198 Jr.

Bryson Scott is the recruit most Purdue fans are excited about due to his bulldog mentality and desire to play tough defense all the time.  He'll push Ronnie for playing time if he proves adept at running the point.  Raphael Davis is a well rounded player with long arms who can guard both guards and forwards. He's not a great shooter from three but hits enough to keep teams honest. He, too, will get plenty of time on the court.  Jay Simpson is a jack of all trades player. He can post up and hit threes.  Expect him to be on the floor next to Hammons to create mismatches.  Travis Carroll is the guy who works harder than any other. Not especially skilled, he will play defense and clean up the glass. Painter loves him.  Sterling Carter is another transfer to wear the Gold and Black this season. He's adept at hitting threes and could be a valuable weapon a la Steve Kerr if his shots are falling.  Basil Smotherman will have a hard time getting quality playing time with the team's newfound depth.  He has a good mid-range game and can jump out of the gym.  Neal Breshears is a former walk-on who provides depth on the deep bench.
2014 Outlook:  Last season for Purdue is but a memory. Now Painter has an excellent freshman class to back up the sophomores and two quality transfers.  It seems everyone is buying into the program this time around which is the big key for Purdue to be successful.  I'm still concerned about the perimeter defense but the shooting will be better and this year's roster has more depth and maturity.  I expect some boneheaded losses as well as a couple of upsets. This team is better than they're getting credit for.
Projection: 5th in Big Ten, qualify for NCAA Tournament

Wisconsin Badgers
Head Coach: Bo Ryan
Last Season: 23-12 (12-6), tied for fourth in Big Ten, lost in first round of NCAA tournament to Ole Miss.
Graduated: C Jared Berggren, F Ryan Evans, F Mike Bruesewitz
Transfered: None
Left Early: None
New Faces: G Bronson Koenig (#73, will redshirt?), F Nigel Hayes
2013 recap: Last year may have been Bo Ryan's best effort yet.  Without star point guard Jordan Taylor many pundits expected Wisconsin to fall to the middle of the Big Ten. Just 9-4 after non-conference play, which included losses to every ranked team they faced, the Badgers were faced with an uphill battle if they were going to make the NCAA tournament.  The team responded well by going 12-6 in BIG play including wins over Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State.  A first round exit in the NCAA Tournament put a damper on the season but it showed that we should never underestimate the Badgers as long as Bo Ryan is at the helm.
The Starters:

Pos Players Height Wt Year
G Traevon Jackson 6'2" 208 Jr.
G Josh Gasser 6'3" 190 Jr.
G Ben Brust 6'1" 196 Sr.
F Sam Dekker 6'7" 220 So.
C Frank Kaminsky 7'0" 234 Jr.

Expect more than Bucky Badger to present Mr.
Dekker with accolades this season.
Both Jackson and Gasser are capable of running the point.  Jackson struggles shooting threes but is a good point guard overall.  If he's improved his shot this season, it's conceivable the Badgers can have four double digit scorers in the starting lineup.  Josh Gasser missed last season with a torn ACL but appears to be back and ready to go.  Two seasons ago he hit 45% on threes and 48% on twos. I expect him to remain efficient on offense while providing more than capable defense.  Ben Brust is yet another guard who excels shooting threes while rarely turning the ball over. He's also proved to be a strong rebounder.  Sam Dekker is the key to the offense. I read somewhere that Bo Ryan wants to use him similarly to Butler's Gordon Hayward. If so, expect Dekker to play down low on defense and move all around the floor on offense. He may also be put in isolation spots as he's one of the few guys Bo Ryan has ever allowed to create his own shot.  Frank Kaminsky is a versatile big man that allows Wisconsin to sretch the floor.  He's a decent enough three point shooter but his height also allows him to post up other big men.  If he proves ready for a starting role the Badgers may have the best starting five in the conference.
The Bench:

F Duje Dukan 6'9" 220 Jr.
G George Marshall 5'11" 182 So.
C Evan Anderson 6'10" 245 Jr.
F Nigel Hayes 6'7" 250 Fr.
F Zach Bohannon 6'6" 206 Sr.
F Aaron Moesch 6'8" 200 Fr.
G Bronson Koenig 6'3" 190 Fr.

This looks like another short bench.  Duje Dukan can step outside and shoot the three while also guarding some of the bigger guys. The range on his shot will allow for better spacing on the offensive end.  George Marshall is a steady guard Bo Ryan can turn to when one the starters needs a breather. He's a bit smaller than the typical guard in Ryan's system but he'll get an opportunity for minutes.  Evan Anderson is a huge x-factor for this team.  With Kaminsky a bit of an unknown as a starter, Anderson may be required to soak up huge minutes. He won't make much of an impact in the box score, however.  Freshman Nigel Hayes is probably the last guy on the bench for Bo Ryan but it's possible he sees the most minutes.  A highly touted recruit, Hayes will be the new Ryan Evans/Mike Bruesewitz forward who plays both inside and outside.  Zach Bohannon has been around four years making him valuable from an experience standpoint. His game has not improved enough, however, to be counted on for more than a few minutes each night.  Aaron Moesch is a big freshman who likely won't get any playing time while Bronson Koenig appears to be heading towards a redshirt season.
2014 Outlook: Some people may be lamenting the losses of Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz but let's look at the facts for a second.  Ryan Evans  was one of the worst offensive players in the country last season. He was 2-24 from three point range (8.3%!) and hit just 41.6% of his twos.  Worse than that was his 42.6% free throw percentage! Oh yeah, and he was the leading shot taker and free throw attempter for the Badgers. Mike Bruesewitz was a decent shooter inside the arc but was third on the team in three point attempts despite only making 28% of them.  Don't you think we can expect an improvement in these two areas? Wisconsin can't possibly let their worst player on offense lead the team in shot attempts can they? I know Berggren is gone but the Bo Ryan system has effectively replaced impact players for years. This year it's Sam Dekker's turn and I think he's a rising star.  Don't underestimate these guys just because they play slow and aren't as tall as other teams.  Bo Ryan has a pretty good team on his hands this year.
Projection: 2nd in Big Ten, #3 seed in NCAA Tournament
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