College Basketball Nation: Purdue Boilermakers


For the third time since the ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, more teams have been added to the mix. The battle for conference supremacy started with just nine games deciding the outcome back when that was the extent of ACC membership.

The league has ballooned to 15 teams and now that the Big Ten expanded too, a slate of 14 games over three consecutive nights from Dec. 1-3 will determine bragging rights.

The ACC was 6-0 when just nine teams played in the Challenge. It was 4-2 after ACC expansion and 11 teams played. Since going to 12 teams the Big Ten won once and the Challenge has ended in consecutive ties.

The ACC still holds an advantage winning 10 of the 15 meetings overall, but it has not won the Challenge since 2008.

Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) will make their respective debuts in the Challenge this season. Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech did not participate last season for the ACC. Boston College will sit this one out this season.

As Maryland changes allegiances from ACC charter member to Big Ten expansion team, it becomes the Big Ten team with the most wins. The Terrapins have participated in every challenge and has a 10-5 record, and trails only Duke (13) for most Challenge wins. Five Big Ten teams (Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin) are tied with seven wins in the series.

From top to bottom, here are the best matchups of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge:

1. Duke at Wisconsin: It just might be an early Final Four preview. On paper, both have the rosters that could be playing the final weekend of the season. The Badgers, led by center Frank Kaminsky, return most of the rotation that got Bo Ryan to his first Final Four during his Wisconsin tenure. Duke restocks with the No. 1 recruiting class led by center Jahlil Okafor and guard Tyus Jones. The Blue Devils were 0-4 versus top 10 teams away from home last season in a year that ended with a NCAA second round flameout against Mercer. Wisconsin will be an early test to see if Duke will write a different narrative this season.

2. Iowa at North Carolina: Expect a high-scoring game because the Hawkeyes and Tar Heels both want to run early and often. Forward Jarrod Uthoff and center Gabriel Olaseni give Iowa a formidable frontcourt duo that will put up points in Fran McCaffery’s system despite their roster losses from last season. The Hawkeyes have never won on the road (0-5) in the Challenge. UNC will be a much more athletic team than it was last season with the addition of freshmen Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson. The game could offer a small bit of redemption back home for guard Marcus Paige, who is a Marion, Iowa, native, after the Heels were bounced by Iowa State in the NCAA tournament.

3. Ohio State at Louisville: The last time Thad Matta squared off against Rick Pitino, Xavier upset the Cardinals in the 2004 NCAA tournament en route to the Elite Eight. It was the run that helped Matta land the Buckeyes job. Matta will learn what he’s working with in an early road test for a young, but talented team. The game will also serve as a homecoming for Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, a Louisville native, who had an offer from Louisville. Ironically, next season, the Cards will rely heavily on sophomore guard Terry Rozier, a Cleveland native, who is expected to have a breakout year with the departure of Russ Smith. Montrezl Harrell’s decision to return to school was like a recruiting coup for the Cards.

4. Virginia at Maryland: A new twist to an old rivalry. The two foes have literally played the past 100 years, and as ACC rivals the game had the exalted status of the final regular season game for the better part of the last four decades. It could easily be the most intense game of the Challenge since both teams know each other so well. The backcourt battle pitting Virginia’s London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon against Maryland’s Seth Allen and Dez Wells could determine the outcome.

5. Michigan State at Notre Dame: From 1908 to 1979 the Spartans and Irish had a healthy basketball rivalry, meeting 94 times. It’s the first meeting between the schools since MSU beat the Irish in the Elite Eight en route to its 1979 national championship. The Spartans bring back Branden Dawson, who considered turning pro. The Irish welcome back Jerian Grant, who withdrew from school at the start of conference play due to an “academic matter.”

6. Syracuse at Michigan: Think of how great this game would have been with guard Tyler Ennis and forward Jerami Grant still suiting up for the Orange and guard Nik Stauskas, forward Glenn Robinson III and center Mitch McGary playing for the Wolverines. Instead, they form an all-star lineup of NBA early entries. In a rematch of the 2013 Final Four game, only a combined five players (Syracuse: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney; Michigan: Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert) remain who played in the game.

7. Nebraska at Florida State: If the Cornhuskers plan on improving on last season's NCAA appearance, they have to learn to win games like this. The Huskers were just 3-8 last season on the road and Tallahassee can be a tough place to play. The Seminoles missed the NCAA tournament last season due to several close nonconference losses, a trend they’ll need to reverse this season.

8. Pittsburgh at Indiana: The Panthers haven’t played the Hoosiers in Bloomington since 1941 and Pitt's experienced guards Cameron Wright and James Robinson won’t be intimidated by Assembly Hall. Noah Vonleh’s decision to turn pro possibly set IU back in its bid to rejoin the nation’s elite. But guard Yogi Ferrell and newcomer James Blackmon Jr. means the Hoosiers' cupboard isn’t bare.

9. Illinois at Miami: The Illini could be a darkhorse in league and an early road win could prove it. Guard Rayvonte Rice will be even harder to stop if he can improve his 3-point shooting from 29.5 percent last season. The Canes return just three players from last season, who accounted for just 15 percent of their scoring. Transfers Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) should make immediate impact for Miami.

10. Minnesota at Wake Forest: Guards Deandre Mathieu and Andre Hollins give Minnesota backcourt stability. The Deacons counter with their top duo of leading scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre and leading rebounder Devin Thomas, who should help Danny Manning make a smooth transition in his first season as coach.

11. Rutgers at Clemson: The Mack and Jack show is back for Rutgers. Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack were the top two scorers from last season and a formidable duo. Clemson returned everyone of impact except leading scorer and rebounder K.J. McDaniels. Guard Rod Hall will likely expand his scoring role after leading the Tigers in assists.

12. NC State at Purdue: The Boilermakers are the hottest team in the Challenge with five straight wins. Junior 7-footer A.J. Hammons gives Purdue a solid centerpiece to build around. NCSU has the monumental task of replacing 2014 ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren. The Wolfpack's fortunes could rest with talented, yet erratic, point guard Anthony Barber.

13. Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Both teams hope to get a boost from guards lost to injury last season. Tech’s Travis Jorgenson played in just four games before tearing his ACL. Northwestern’s oft-injured guard JerShon Cobb, its leading scorer returning, missed the last five games with a foot injury. The Yellow Jackets have only won once on the road in the Challenge.

14. Virginia Tech at Penn State: The Nittany Lions return most of their rotation that lost eight games by five or fewer points. Senior guard D.J. Newbill, who led the team in scoring, is now the unequivocal leader with Tim Frazier gone. Buzz Williams begins Hokies rebuilding project with a good starting point -- guard Devin Wilson was on both the coaches and media all-ACC freshmen teams and ranked third in the league in assists.

Robinson's shot a sign of growth

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
11:49
PM ET

Even if Wednesday’s venue weren’t his father’s old palace, Glenn Robinson III's game-winning shot in No. 16 Michigan’s 77-76 overtime win at Purdue -- a victory that helped the Wolverines maintain control of the Big Ten title race -- would have meant something.

No player on the Michigan roster has faced more pressure than Robinson following last season’s Final Four. Trey Burke’s departure, it seemed, meant that Michigan would be Robinson’s World in 2013-14.

He’d return to a more natural small forward slot after competing at the four-spot last season alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. on the wing. John Beilein would run his best stuff through the promising sophomore, who had a chance to make a lot of money last summer before choosing to return to Ann Arbor with his buddy Mitch McGary.

All seemed right for Michigan -- until it all went wrong.

[+] EnlargeRobinson III
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsGlenn Robinson III's game-winning buzzer-beater not only kept Michigan in first place in the Big Ten, but crushed his famous father's alma mater.
McGary’s season-ending back injury only complicated the program’s transition to life without Burke. Plus, Nik Stauskas' emergence as top dog and Caris LeVert's growth pushed Robinson to the background. And he didn’t seem prepared to handle it all.

There were times when he forced everything (see his 4-for-14 effort in a November loss to Iowa State). In other moments, he just disappeared (eight single-digit scoring outputs this season). But he’s also looked like a star in multiple outings.

Consistently being a star has been the unattainable feat thus far.

It has been much easier to note his shortcomings than his strengths. He’s ranked 15th in the Big Ten in Ken Pomeroy’s individual offensive efficiency ratings. He boasts a stat pool (12.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 49 percent from the field) that would be an overachievement for many. But his numbers are down compared to last season.

Therefore, he has been clothed in scrutiny.

Where has he been in late-game situations? Why isn’t he more aggressive? Why the here today, gone tomorrow pattern?

All of those are honest questions.

But they fail to capture the reality that Robinson is a sophomore who is still figuring things out. If his father weren’t a former No. 1 pick, if there wasn’t NBA chatter hovering over his season and a national title game appearance inked onto his resume, it’d be easier to acknowledge that his struggles are the norm for most underclassmen.

That’s not an excuse; just the truth.

He was on the drums last season, but everyone expected him to play lead guitar this one. Sure, he can do it. But that’s a tremendous chasm for any young player to navigate.

As the season comes to close though, Robinson is reminding all of us that his potential never changed. He just needed more time to get there.

With Michigan down one point Wednesday, Beilein drew up an intricate scheme with 2.9 seconds left that had LeVert toss a pass to Robinson on the right side of the floor. He’d found some room by rushing toward LeVert before curling off Spike Albrecht’s screen and reversing to his original spot, a sequence that momentarily perplexed Purdue. But when Robinson caught the high pass, he was trapped. He split a pair of Purdue defenders and scored on a buzzer-beating layup off the glass, a shot that took its time before finally dropping, and crushed a Boilermakers squad that had a 19-point lead in the first half.

On the same floor 20 years ago, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson averaged 30.3 PPG for a Purdue team that he ultimately carried to the Elite Eight. So there’s certainly a poetic element to what Robinson did on his father’s court in those closing seconds on Wednesday.

But that’s not the full story.

Robinson finished with 15 points in a Sunday win against rival Michigan State. On Wednesday, he added 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

That Beilein would put the ball in Robinson’s hands on the final possession showcased the trust he has in the talented sophomore.

Michigan has a deep roster again and is capable of a return to the Final Four. Its versatility has been a thorn in the side of the (arguably) nation’s best conference for months.

And now the youngster who was supposed to lead this potential charge toward Arlington, Texas, before the year began has mustered up the mojo that’s most desirable as the postseason approaches.

Robinson didn’t answer everything with one shot on Wednesday. But there should be fewer questions now about the second-year man who’s growing at a respectable pace.

Video: Oklahoma State 97, Purdue 87

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
3:58
PM ET


Marcus Smart scored 30 points to power Oklahoma State to a 97-87 win over Purdue.

Impressions: Big Ten media day

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
3:40
PM ET

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- What keeps the Big Ten's coaches up at night? What fresh horror haunts their dreams?

If you said the NCAA's new, much-hyped contact rules -- designed to reduce handchecking, bumping and charges, part of an effort to open up the stifled college game -- well, you're close. But for most, it's not so much the rules themselves. It's the introduction of a variable outside their control.

Coaches, you see, tend to be control freaks. And while, within the Big Ten coaching ranks, there might be some measure of mild disagreement over the actual merit of the new rules, the far scarier thing for all involved is not knowing what to expect -- especially early in the season.

[+] EnlargeTom Izzo
AP Photo/Darron CummingsTom Izzo and other Big Ten coaches are anxious to see how the new NCAA contact rules will affect their teams early in the season.
"It's a little concerning," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "But a little bit of a concern that first couple of weeks since we have a couple of big games, and I'm sure there will be pressure on the officials, pressure on the players, pressure on the coaches, on how it's called and what you do. We'll see."

The first of Michigan State's big games -- against newly named Associated Press No. 1 Kentucky -- comes on Nov. 12, when the Big Ten's unanimous preseason favorite (and preseason player of the year Gary Harris) will take on six McDonald's All Americans. Izzo said he'd heard stories from his coaching buddies that scrimmages with officials -- who coaches bring in to help simulate the new rules to their players -- have led to "70, 80, 90 free throws being shot."

"That's a little scary," Izzo said.

He's not alone. Indeed, nearly every coach addressed the new rules changes multiple times here Thursday; it was easily the most discussed topic, with no close second.

"If you're telling me the way the games are going to be called and exhibition games are the way they're going to call them in the Big Ten, we're going to have a lot of good players watching basketball," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "I don't think that will sit with people in this room, with players and coaches across the country. It's definitely not going to sit with the fans."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany acknowledged that risk in his news conference Thursday. Delany, who led the Big Ten's research staff on a deep analytical dive into statistical trends in the sport over the past 50 years -- and used Final Four video to plot where those trends corresponded to rules changes -- supports the new rules and has advocated for them. But if the game is so adversely affected in the short term, as players figure out what is and is not a foul, the outrage could make the NCAA's perfectly reasonable attempt to make college basketball less physical could short-circuit by December.

"What's going to be hard is to get sustainability," Delany said. "We really do have three separate seasons -- we have November and December, conference season and March. I think if we're honest with ourselves, the NCAA tournament [officiating] is different than two months in the conference.

"I think everyone's gotten the message that the game needs to be a bit more open," Delany said. "We have to get predictability and sustainability."

Count Wisconsin's Bo Ryan among those least concerned. That might have something to do with Ryan's defensive principles -- his teams happily trade fewer fouls for fewer turnovers -- but he also chalked it up to faith in his colleagues.

"Most of us were teachers; that's how we got into coaching," Ryan said. "So if a rule is made, you teach to the rule."

Painter agreed, but not without a revealing admission.

"We're trying to be better in terms of position defense," he said. "Keeping the ball in front of us without using our hands."

Fifteen years ago, that was called "playing defense."

Big Ten team previews

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
10:23
AM ET
From Sept. 30 through Oct. 25, Insider will be rolling out its college basketball preview, including breakdowns on every Division I team, projected order of finish for every conference and essays from Insider’s hoops experts.

Here are previews for each team in the Big Ten:

Illinois Fighting Illini Insider
Indiana Hoosiers Insider
Iowa Hawkeyes Insider
Michigan Wolverines Insider
Michigan State Spartans Insider
Minnesota Golden Gophers Insider
Nebraska Cornhuskers Insider
Northwestern Wildcats Insider
Ohio State Buckeyes Insider
Penn State Nittany Lions Insider
Purdue Boilermakers (free)
Wisconsin Badgers Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES