Michigan Basketball: Annual Big Ten Basketball Predictions and Team Summaries – The Brutal Mixer — Part II
GBMWolverine has described the middle of the Big Ten Pack as the mixer. This is a place many would rather not be, but instead at the elite top of the league. But this is not the Hades of college sports since at least two, three, or four of the mixer teams make the NCAA Tournament annually.
Purdue was mentioned in the first article concerning teams that have a long shot chance to make the NCAA dance. This is only because the Boilermakers have a few games to make up on teams mentioned here in the loss column. It is quite possible Purdue finishes ahead of a couple of the teams mentioned below.Teams that can be considered to be in the mixer, specifically with a slim chance to win the league title, but a very realistic chance to make the tournament, include Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. Unlike the previous two years when the title has been conceded to Ohio State or Michigan State, a mixer team this year could make a serious run at the conference title. However the first two mixer teams mentioned, Iowa and Northwestern, may have trouble running the brutal gauntlet and remaining in tournament contention. Those two teams will be discussed in this segment of the Big Ten preview.
Strengths – discipline, intelligence, coaching, passing, size, three-point shooting
Weaknesses – depth, overall team speed, athleticism, shooting, foul shooting
Northwestern and Purdue are on similar ground and there is little argument that one team could be replaced by the other. That is, Northwestern could be included in the little chance class and Purdue in the mixer.
Northwestern has again run into bad luck with injuries. The leading scorer, senior Drew Crawford, is out for the season and another competent senior, Reggie Hearn, starts the conference season on the injury shelf. Northwestern needs everything to go the Wildcat way to stay in the mixer. The Wildcats have had true opportunities to make the NCAA Tournament the last two years, only to see big leads and winnable games melt into defeat.
Northwestern can still get the ball inside quite well to seven-foot freshman Alex Olah, a good-looking prospect. He lacks speed but has decent strength and shooting technique. This is a player to watch in the future.
Northwestern can hit a fair share of threes, nearly 40 percent. On a good night hot shooting may help make up for some difference in athletic talent. Until Hearns returns, Northwestern will be offensively challenged to score more than 65 or 70 points. Running up and down with most Big Ten teams is a strategy Northwestern must choose with care.
Concerning turnovers, rebounding, blocks, steals, and the usual, Northwestern is very average, but not horrible. The Princeton offense is a nice equalizer and is beautiful to watch.Iowa:
Strengths – plenty of good young talent, getting better athletically, rebounding, blocked shots
Weaknesses – three point shooting
Iowa has had quite the exciting preseason winning 11 of 13 games. A team thought to have had little chance at anything the last two years now has a clear chance at success this year. So, Iowa is out of the needs serious help category to inside the mixer
There are two overriding reasons for this improvement: (1) two great juniors, and (2) a very skilled freshman class, one of the league’s best.
The juniors are the offensively oriented Roy Marble Jr. and the defensively minded shot blocker Melsahn Basabe. Marble, a familiar Iowa name, is one of the top scorers in the Big Ten, hitting near 16 points per game. He can shoot effectively from the arc as well as the normal floor game. Marble’s free throw shooting and rebounding have also been strong so far this season. Basabe is a super quick leaper than can make anyone think twice about venturing into the middle of the Iowa defense. Although known as a shot blocker first, Basabe can hurt a team with inside offense if given a chance.
The talented freshman class is getting quite a few minutes. Mike Gessell is hitting near 10 points a game, but is a little below par on the three pointers, pretty typical for most freshmen. Highly thought of recruit Adam Woodbury is hitting a high percentage of his shots, more so than his free throws. Anthony Clemons and Pat Ingram are seeing good minutes as well.
This Iowa team is much improved in depth and as the season progresses, with the depth available, Iowa may not tire but instead improve.
This is a very good rebounding team and opponents need to keep Iowa away from the boards or find themselves in tight games. The overall three-point game is not near the league’s elite, but Iowa is a team that is stubborn about getting blown out and will score some so-called upsets in league play.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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