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March Watch: Hoosiers hold steady on top line
We’re down to 16 days remaining until Selection Sunday and despite a loss earlier this week at Minnesota, Indiana continues to hold its position from a seeding perspective for this year’s tournament. The Hoosiers can clinch the outright Big Ten regular season championship with three more conference wins, which could lock up the top spot in the Midwest regional that will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium. With just three regular season games to go, it’s time for another edition of March Watch, a look at where Indiana stands in terms of the NCAA Tournament.
The Hoosiers have only played once since our last update and despite dropping a 77-73 decision at Minnesota, they still boast one of the strongest overall profiles in the country. In the most recent update, Indiana is No. 1 on the s-curve of ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi ($).
Nitty Gritty Profile
·Record: 24-4 (12-2 Big Ten) ·RPI: 8 ·SOS: 21 ·Home Record: 16-1 ·Away Record: 6-2 · Neutral Court Record: 2-1 ·vs. RPI Top 50: 7-4 ·vs. RPI Top 51-100: 2-0
Indiana’s RPI dropped one spot since our last update and its strength of schedule figure rose four spots.
Indiana returns to Assembly Hall on Saturday night to host Iowa in the first of its final two home games. The Hoosiers are coming off a 77-73 loss on Tuesday at Minnesota and the Hawkeyes are coming off a 58-48 home win over Purdue on Wednesday. Indiana won the first meeting between the two teams, 69-65, on Dec. 31 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The game will be broadcast on BTN at 7:30 p.m. with Kevin Kugler, Jim Jackson and Stephanie White on the call:
Indiana and Iowa will both have plenty to play for when the two teams get together on Branch McCracken Court on Saturday night. The Hoosiers are looking to not only solidify a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, but also move a step closer to a regular season championship. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, find themselves with 18 wins but on the wrong side of the tournament bubble and without a signature win on which to hang their hat.
Iowa is one of the league’s worst road teams with a 2-6 record in conference play. The two wins came over Penn State and Northwestern. Indiana is 6-1 at home in the Big Ten and over the past two seasons, the Hoosiers have compiled a 14-2 record in conference games at Assembly Hall.
Iowa comes into Saturday with a fairly significant injury in its backcourt as freshman Mike Gesell, the team’s third leading scorer, will be unavailable for a second straight game with a right foot injury. That means Roy Devyn Marble, the team’s point guard last season, will shift back into that role in Gesell’s absence and sophomore Josh Oglesby will likely receive his second consecutive start.
Marble, the team’s leading scorer at 14.0 points per game, will now have the difficult task of not only trying to facilitate for teammates, but also carry a significant piece of the scoring load. He’s using 24.5 percent of Iowa’s possessions, but is average from an efficiency standpoint with an effective field goal percentage of 46.3. Marble is at his best offensively when he doesn’t settle for jump shots and instead attacks the rim and either finishes, dishes off (assist rate of 20.5) or gets to the foul line.
While Oglesby will likely draw the start, he’ll likely split the minutes vacated by Gesell with freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May. Oglesby, who was expected to be the team’s best shooter, has been woeful from the perimeter this season. His 126 attempts from distance are a team-high and his percentage, 26.6, is the second-worst on the team. Clemmons, who has started 13 of the team’s 28 games, is second in the Big Ten with an assist rate of 37.2, but offers little else offensively. May, who finishes well at the rim, is shooting close to 51 percent on twos.
Iowa’s frontcourt play is highlighted by Aaron White, who deserves some type of All-Big Ten recognition. White is second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game, leads the way in rebounding at 6.2 per game and has very few holes in his game. White is fourth best in the nation at getting to the foul line (204 attempts), rarely turns it over (12.6% turnover rate), doesn’t commit many fouls (2.1 per 40 minutes) and is shooting close to 56 percent on twos. White was one of the surprises in the league a season ago and he’s only gotten better as a sophomore.
Freshman center Adam Woodbury has started all 28 games, but has struggled to stay on the floor due to foul issues. Melsahn Basabe has returned to the starting lineup and is the team’s best defensive rebounder and shotblocker. Zach McCabe, a 6-foot-7 forward, prefers to hoist threes rather than play inside and Gabriel Olaseni, another foul prone big man who can block shots, is coming off a four-rebound performance in the win over Purdue.
After a Victor Oladipo score with 15:42 to go in the second half, the Hoosiers found themselves up eight (44-36) and perhaps on their way to assuming control of the game for another road Big Ten victory. From there, the Golden Gophers went on a 10-2 run, tying up the game at 46-all at the 10:51 mark. It was a key run in the game, a momentum swing after the Hoosiers had held Minnesota scoreless for the preceding four minutes.
A look at how it all went down the latest edition of Film Session:
I. After an inbounds pass off the baseline, the Hoosiers sink into a 2-3 zone defense. Maverick Ahanmisi swings the ball to Joe Coleman on the left wing:
Coleman passes the ball back to Ahanmisi, and a weak Rodney Williams Jr. pick allows some room for him to drive into the middle of the zone:
With the Indiana defense collapsing to the middle, Ahanmisi finds Elliott Eliason on the left block:
The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall) and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.
@JSutel writes: Yogi has improved all season, what’s the next part of his game to come, consistent finishing at the rim or that jump shot?
As you said, I think we’ve seen Yogi Ferrell improve in just about every area of his game as the season has progressed. But after a glance at the numbers, I think he’s been adequate in finishing at the rim and with his jumper this season. In terms of finishing at the rim, he’s taking 25 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim and is making 64 percent. For a small guard, that’s a good enough percentage.
As far as the jump shot goes, his overall percentages are not great, but he’s shooting close to 36 percent on threes in conference play, which is an improvement over the 20 percent mark posted in non-conference play. That tells me he’s becoming more comfortable and confident.
I think the next part of his game to come to elevate him into the elite level of point guards in college basketball is to cut down on his turnovers. His turnover percentage (23.8) is the highest among IU starters. Some of that has to do with the pace and style of play the Hoosiers play, but there are also instances where he goes airborne with nowhere to go or tries to make a pass that isn’t there. Some of that is just how he plays, but I also feel like some of it is still a matter of making an adjustment to the college game.
Nathan Curtis-Wagoner writes: What are the chances IU will end up in the Midwest region of the NCAA bracket?
Very good right now, but there’s still a lot to play out. Michigan losing last night at Penn State certainly helped the Hoosiers because the Wolverines are likely eliminated from contention for a No. 1 seed. The Wolverines probably had an outside shot of making a play for the Midwest No.1 before last night, but losing to the Big Ten’s worst team ended that. A team to keep an eye on is Louisville, which is strong in the computers and has won 7 of 8.
Ultimately, Indiana just needs to win games to play through Indianapolis. I believe an outright Big Ten regular season championship makes the Hoosiers a lock for the Midwest No. 1 and if they share the title, they’ll probably have some work to do in Chicago to button things up. I’d characterize the chances as very good at this point, but nothing is guaranteed yet.
@funkmastacrab writes: What’s with Remy? He started the season off strong, but he hasn’t been the same since…is confidence a factor?
Losses by Indiana and Michigan the past two nights have made the race for the regular season Big Ten championship even more interesting with just three games to play for the league’s top five teams. (Note: There are no tiebreakers for the regular season championship. A tie at the top of the standings would result in a shared title. Tiebreakers are only applicable for seeding in the conference tournament.)
Here, again, is a look at the road each team faces the rest of the way and an updated outlook on their chances to capture the league crown:
· Remaining games: Iowa (March 2), Ohio State (March 5), at Michigan (March 10)
· Outlook: Despite Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota, the Hoosiers still control their own destiny with a one-game lead in the loss column over both Michigan State and Wisconsin. Indiana can win the outright Big Ten title by winning out or by finishing 2-1 the rest of the way with the Spartans and Badgers both dropping a game.
· Outlook: The Spartans have dropped two consecutive games and still have a road trip to rival Michigan and a home date with Wisconsin on the schedule. All three games are certainly winnable, but the Wolverines are unbeaten at home and the Badgers are currently the league’s hottest team that will be looking to avenge a narrow loss in Madison.
· Projected record: 13-5
· Remaining games: Purdue (March 2), at Michigan State (March 7), at Penn State (March 10)
· Outlook: The Badgers have the most favorable schedule the rest of the way with the exception of a game at the Breslin Center. If the Badgers can win out and Indiana drops another game, Bo Ryan’s club would share the Big Ten title with the Hoosiers and by tiebreaker, receive the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
With a chance to clinch an outright Big Ten championship at home within its reach, Indiana went to Minnesota on Tuesday night as a five-point favorite and exited with a 77-73 loss.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from Indiana’s third Big Ten loss:
· Rebounding, rebounding and more rebounding: It was the first thing Tom Crean discussed in his postgame comments and for good reason. The Hoosiers were dominated by Minnesota’s offensive rebounding allowing a season-worst 53.5 offensive rebounding percentage by an opponent. That mark topped the loss to Butler where the Hoosiers allowed the Bulldogs to corral 48.7 percent of their misses. Whether it was IU being out of position or getting beat to loose balls, Minnesota came into the game as the nation’s best offensive rebounding team and deserves credit for being the aggressor in that regard. The Gophers finished with 23 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. “Bottom line, in this game there’s a lot of different things to look at, but there’s nothing more glaring than the rebounding,” Crean said. “So that was our biggest issue.”
· For a night, IU didn’t have the best player on the floor: Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are worthy of all the notoriety they’ve received for national player of the year in recent weeks. They’ve earned it. But on Tuesday night, Minnesota’s Trevor Mbawke was the best player on the floor in Williams Arena. Mbakwe set the tone early with 10 of Minnesota’s 14 points and when he wasn’t on the bench with foul trouble, IU had no answer for the sixth-year senior. Mbakwe finished with game-highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds, six of which were offensive. “He’s a grown man. He’s big, he’s strong,” Oladipo said of Mbakwe. “He’s been there, done that. So you know he was going to come and play 110 percent. He played a great game. He’s the reason they won.”
· The zone defense wasn’t IU’s problem: On the broadcast, ESPN analyst and former Indiana guard Dan Dakich questioned Crean’s decision to play a zone in the second half. On one sequence, Dakich predicted that Indiana would give up a 3-pointer if it stayed in zone and on cue, Austin Hollins connected from distance to give the Gophers a 51-48 lead. But when you consider how Minnesota shot from the perimeter on the evening (a dismal 4-of-20) and how badly Indiana was beaten inside (40 points in the paint), you almost wonder if IU could have played more zone to try to pack things in and neutralize Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason, who came off the bench for seven points. “We weren’t physical enough. We didn’t create the first hit,” Crean said afterward. “There were just too many times that the shot went up and they were there before we were because we weren’t into their bodies. And we picked a bad night to do that.”
Minnesota, fresh off a a visit from a sports psychologist and a players-only meeting over the weekend, had its mind right for No. 1 tonight in The Barn. This would not be the Golden Gophers team that found itself embarrassed after two back-to-back 20-point losses, another Tubby Smith team losing its way again in the dead of the Minnesota winter. No, this would be the team that once found itself in the Top 10 in all of college basketball — one with experience and talent and athleticism. A team that made a furious rally against the Hoosiers on Jan. 12 inside Assembly Hall and nearly pulled out a victory.
Trevor Mbwake would make sure Indiana knew early that this game was going to be a physical war in the paint. He would score 10 of Minnesota’s first 14 points and simply could not miss, would not miss. Six years in the college game, the first under Tom Crean, and it was one of his finest performances. Mbwake would keep the grind and the hustle going all night despite foul trouble, and finished with 21 points (8-of-10 from the field, 5-of-7 from the line), 12 rebounds and a block of Cody Zeller in the first half that said: “Yes, Player of the Year candidate, I came to compete tonight.”
Half of Mbwake’s rebounds were on the offensive end of the court, and this is where Minnesota would beat the Hoosiers possession after possession after possession (after possession after possession). An atrocious Golden Gopher performance beyond the arc (4-of-20) was offset by Minnesota’s beasting on the boards; it snatched an ungodly 53.4 percent of its misses, leading to 23 second-chance points. It led to the Gophers taking 11 more shots than the Hoosiers and helping it score 40 of its 77 points inside the paint. Twenty-three offensive rebounds in total, and it was simply too much for Indiana to overcome. Minnesota out-rebounded the Hoosiers and outscored them on a per-possession basis (1.23 vs. 1.13). This does not happen often.
Indiana has gotten off to strong starts on the backs of Christian Watford and Cody Zeller so often this Big Ten season, but they were but ghosts in the 85-year-old Williams Arena. Mbwake and Rodney Williams put Zeller on his heels in first half with a pair of blocks. Zeller would head to halftime with zero fields goals and two points. He wouldn’t make his first bucket until the 8:40 mark of the second half. He would end the game on the bench, fouled out of the contest. The Washington, Ind. native would make all five of his free throws and snag seven boards, but finished the game just 2-of-9 from the floor.
Watford, the model of scoring consistency over the last few months, only mustered one bucket until the last minute of the game, when he’d net both a trailing and corner 3-pointer for six quick points to give Indiana hope. His streak of 19 straight Big Ten games scoring double-figures ended tonight, though, as he would finish with eight points.