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Big Ten media day notes

The annual kickoff to the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball seasons took place today at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

The Indiana men’s basketball progran grabbed all the attention throughout the preseason and was one of the hot topics of today’s event.

Indiana was picked as the favorite in the official Big Ten preseason basketball poll with star sophomore Cody Zeller being named the player of the year and a unanimous preseason all-league selection.

“When you look at this league, I don’t think you can do anything, in my mind, but look at the fact that Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State won the championship last year and until somebody unseats them that’s the way it is,” Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said. “It’s a new season and all that, but those teams didn’t get any worse, they’re probably even a little bit better.”

Michigan and Ohio State were each picked to finish second and third respectively in the official Big Ten preseason poll and were also rated as top five teams in the coaches poll. MSU was ranked 14th in that poll – giving the Big Ten a strong national presence.

During his time on the podium, MSU coach Tom Izzo mentioned the strength of the Big Ten this year is comparable to the time when he was an assistant under Jud Heathcote.

“I felt like the league was really good back then,” Izzo said. “You had incredible coaches and I think right now this league has the best coaches that we’ve ever had and a lot of it starts there.”

Izzo also took time to praise an NCAA rule allowing the coaches to work with players for two hours a week in the offseason.

“Remember now, for 20 years it was illegal to talk to them,” Izzo said. “You walk by them in the hallway and you can barely say hi because you’re afraid somebody is hiding out behind the garbage can or something. So it’s just the relationship you build with them.”

It was during that time in the summer where Izzo got an opportunity to learn more about highly touted Gary Harris, who was rated as the 12th best freshman in the nation by CBSSports.com.

“He’s (Harris) been better than I thought he would be, shooting better than I thought he would, and he picks up things so fast,” Izzo said. “I tease his dad because his mother played in the WNBA and she was a very good player at Purdue, so he’s a chip off her block, I guess, but he’s just a great kid to coach, he’s a great student, he picks things up and he’s been shooting the ball better and better.  Defensively I give his high school coach credit because he had it before he came here.  He’s very, very intelligent defensively and works very hard at it.”

Other players named to the preseason All Big Ten men’s team were Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft of Ohio State, Michigan’s Trey Burke and Penn State’s Tim Frazier.

On the women’s side, defending champion Penn State is the favorite followed by Nebraska. The coaches and media differed on the third-place team as the media chose Ohio State and the coaches picked Purdue. Only the top three teams are revealed.

MSU finished tied for second in the league last season but will be young with nine freshmen/sophomores. The team is still trying to get completely healthy with many players with nagging injuries or still in the recovery mode. That includes prized recruit Madison Williams.

“She’ll be a kid that we apply for that sixth year later down the road. But it’s been a challenge a little bit. She’s doing well, she’s practicing,” MSU coach Suzy Merchant said. “Our team of people do an amazing job just checking on the status of her knees all the time. She does get some swelling in there, but I was kidding her the other day, I’m like, you’re a pencil that swallowed a grape. That’s just how she’s built. She’s a stick. So she swells a little bit there in her knees. The big thing is that we stay on top of it medically and from a conditioning standpoint, as well.

As coaches we meet every day with our trainer and strength and conditioning coach just to make sure we have a good plan for her that day. Does she do everything in practice? No, she doesn’t need to do everything in practice. But she’s out there and she’s competing and she’s doing well when she’s in there, so that makes me happy.”

Ohio State senior guard Tayler Hill and Penn State senior guard Alex Bentley were picked as the Big Ten preseason players of the year.

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22 Responses to Big Ten media day notes

  1. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Thanks Brian good stuff. I like being picked fourth a good place to come out of the pack hungry and sneak up on people.

  2. avatar USMCSpartan(Ret.) says:

    For our budding narcissist Behind the Green Curtain also better known as JLS from the previous thread:

    John L, it’s just simple intelligence gathering: easy for some – baffling for others. Something you might have considered before you went in hock for >$40M, but then intelligence and John L Smith were never ever used in the same sentence, now were they, Bunkie?

    • avatar Behind the green curtain says:

      Regardless, I am doing it for the kids,6-6 will get them the extra practices they need. Purely unselfish motives it is all about the kids

      • avatar USMCSpartan(Ret.) says:

        Right! It’s always been about JLS, it’s why you seek the limelight with your PR stunts in the off season.

        When you fail, as you will, call on me and I’ll hook ya up with a good cardboard box maker.

  3. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    MSU trails 3-0 at halftime. Breadtruck 86 tweets the SID threatening financial sanctions. The defense responds with a heroic effort allowing no first downs the entire second half but racking up a safety. Roushar goes into a shell and becomes even more conservative. The offense crosses midfield once all day but makes it count. Dan Conroy hits a 51 yard field goal as time expires. Roushar is carried off the field.
    Friday Prediction
    MSU 5
    Wisconsin 3
    Epilog
    Breadtruck 86 attends the football fundraiser in Grand Rapids and writes the
    usual check. (Breadtruck’s 86 spouse and chief financial officer approves the transaction) After the victory Atlanta Spartan ends his silence and again posts his well thought out and insightfull comments which have been missed.

  4. avatar USMCSpartan(Ret.) says:

    Really sad, ’81. You, me, and troll named Bunkie in over 24 hrs.

  5. avatar GoSt8Go says:

    Brian, that got the spirit going on Basketball. Thankyou. I have been considering the media (and Appling’s) picks for pre-season All B1G. First, as those wiser than me know, it doesn’t matter. Second, I think Zeller is a solid player, but I remember how he was shut down in E. Lansing. While he did well at IU during our game there (18 points), he was not dominate. Izzo characterized the game as: “We didn’t defend them, we didn’t rebound, we didn’t execute,”

    I look forward to what Nix/Payne have to say it.

    • avatar USMCSpartan(Ret.) says:

      Everyone gave the title and POY to the Acorns last preseason, how’d that work out? Really when you think about it, folks doing all this preseason hype are the same guys, or their ilk, who did all the football guessing, too. BUT, as I luv to say, in Basketball unlike football, they really do get to play the games.

  6. avatar USMCSpartan(Ret.) says:

    If anyone wants more proof that Cracker is promoting his own anti-B1G Ten agenda just look at his damn with faint praise headline for a basketball article. So, GoldGirl, how’s that bribe working out for ya, little shih tzu bit the master’s hand some I’d say.

  7. avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

    The traffic on the blog has died off. Hopefully a win over the Badgers will generate some enthusiasm. Our blogging goals all lie before us.

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      My best guess is at follows
      Lost 30% May 1 , many never came back to find out pay wall did not materialize
      Lost 30% more when Joe Left
      Lost 20% to Only Colors, have seen Mayo and MSU Dersh Drew Perkins others there
      That leaves 20% lost half of that to disappointing football season, that will come back,
      So we are at 10% LSJ and some of that gets siphoned off to Couch one blog makes more sense.

  8. avatar '89 Chemistry says:

    How Dantonio Blew a Better Chance of Winning the UM Game

    I was only able to see the last eight minutes or so of the MSU-UM game. It was two minutes of joy and hope followed by ~6 minutes of Cassandraesque dread.

    MSU was down 7-9 when I saw Bennie Fowler make a masochistic contortionist’s catch at the UM 12 yard line—on a play with two UM penalties. Only one was enforceable, but it gave MSU a 1st & goal at the six. After an incomplete pass and two short but fairly decent Bell runs, it was 4th down with four feet between the ball and the goal line—with just over six minutes left remaining.

    Having heard [1] that Conroy had missed a 38-yard FG and [2] that the drive had consumed 90 yards and half of the quarter, the gutsy but smart decision became obvious: MSU would either punch the ball in for a huge lead or strand the Gulos for a safety or, at worst, a commanding field position advantage to virtually assure that MSU had another shot at a FG without—vitally—UM having any chance to score more points.

    Naturally, MD decided to make his annual appearance and called for the easy three points. It was then I knew the Spartans had lost; all that remained were details.

    It’s long been asserted by analysts that a play from 4th down and less than five is more beneficial than a kick. Even Bell’s very poor 2.6 yds/carry Saturday was twice the distance needed for a TD in MSU’s penultimate drive—which means that the odds for success were well over 50%. (They were actually ~69% at the time, but we can’t assume MD had access to well-detailed in-game stats.) And there was a 10% chance that UM could’ve scored on a ~75-yard TD drive to overcome the probable Spartan TD. Going for it at the opponent’s one-yard line late in a low-scoring game (but not so late that the FG would’ve won the game to a 99% certainty) should’ve been obvious.

    Joe Rexrode disagrees. In his Detroit Free Press blog, he wrote, “…on fourth down, you have to take those points that late in a 9-7 game. The gamble isn’t worth a 14-9 lead.” Apparently Joe hasn’t thought things through—even with the benefit of hindsight. And worse still, he hasn’t considered the implications of his own reporting. He should know better than anyone in the press corps that the Spartans have a low-stamina defense: Somewhere around the 26th or 27th minute of opponents’ possession time, they’ve substantially petered out in highly-winnable losses. UM demonstrated its two-minute-drive ability for a FG in the first half; it was reckless for Dantonio (and, by extension, Rexrode) to assume UM wouldn’t get another FG try with six minutes to go—especially with MSU having more 3-and-outs than UM up to that point.

    As for that 38% chance of MSU not scoring to go up 14-9: It’s all but certain UM would’ve taken over on its own one-yard line—and with MSU’s tackles for loss up to that point, there was a decent chance [almost 17%] for a safety. That would’ve tied the game at 9-9; MSU would’ve likely had the ball at its own 35 with 5½ minutes to go; and State would’ve had a better chance than UM to win in regulation.

    Without the safety: There would be essentially no chance for UM to score any more points; a 9% chance of a safety on the final UM drive; and a 30% chance of a red-zone field goal.

    Obviously I didn’t have those #s in front of me live—but my sense of game theory checks out with a detailed analysis [explained, in part, above]. Had the Spartans gone for a second TD, their odds of winning were, considering the game’s dynamics up to that point, almost 85% [assuming a 50-50 shot at winning in OT]. In contrast, the seemingly safe choice of kicking the field goal from Conroy’s worst hash mark and settling for a one-point lead at best with six minutes turns out to have had less than a 63% chance of success (63% assumes no MSU defensive stamina problem). To spell it out for the Rexrodes of the world: It was a bigger gamble to go up by one. Such is the difference four points—or 24 yards of field position—makes.

    But beyond probabilitites, there was another reason to go for it. MSU overcame an early fumble on the drive. Dantonio went on to make a nearly foolhardy gamble with a 4th & 9 fake punt. His players drove 84 yards on 17 plays. So what does MD do? He tells his offense—in actions louder than words—that after they weren’t good enough to get six yards on four downs against the Gulos. That they must bow down to a Michigan defense they’d just bullied to a precipice. That he does not believe his offense, even when clicking, can finish the job.

    Thankfully, MSU won’t see a defense as tough as UM/Iowa/Notre Dame/BSU unless it meets one in a bowl game. And this critique doesn’t weigh nearly as much [I hope] as the credit Dantonio deserves for improving his team from the previous week. But this is definitely a bigger deal than an early-game field-goal attempt with a possibly-injured Bell adding to uncertainty—and a more palpable mistake than giving Roushar play-calling fiat after two great drives (since this wouldn’t have been written at all had that last 2nd-down pass connected).

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      But what is even more tragic, is that all this journalistic talent was going to waste raising a pole barn why far more pedestrian writers were in the press box of Spartan Stadium. I weep for the inequities; it’s the equivalent of Michelangelo sweeping the floors of the Sistine Chapel, while the team of Valverde Rousher& Smith paints the ceiling. What a waste of God given talent.

    • avatar GoSt8Go says:

      Joe was right. That late in the game, most coaches in America will opt for points on the board. That’s what I would have done and I would do it again. That may not be all coaches, but most.

      What any Div 1 college coach will NOT do, except maybe Saban, is believe that he will get a safety if he falls short on 4th and inches.

  9. avatar dmbtierney says:

    Media day picks are interesting. Obviously, the pick of IU as #1 is a no-brainer. However, IMHO MSU, UM and OSU are all about equal. We lost Dramond, OSU lost Sully and Buford while UM lost Stu and Zach, all of these being significant. UM is counting heavily on their freshman class, because they have absolutely no depth otherwise. OSU’s losses were greater and they don’t have that good of a class coming in. MSU has more depth than anyone in the B10 and if Harris comes through as a super star, MSU should be challenging IU for the title.

    Of course, an injury here or there could jumble everything. Should be a great race with a lot of B10 teams getting high seeds in the NCAA’s.

  10. avatar USMCSpartan(Ret.) says:

    Outside of the Midwest the game Sat. is only on espn3 – internet

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