Mutka: Hummel, Hoosiers grade A+ in Big Ten hoops
By John Mutka email@example.com April 1, 2012 11:26PM
Updated: May 3, 2012 8:14AM
It’s time to put the lid on Big Ten basketball for another year.
No better place to start than by warbling a swan song for Purdue’s Robbie Hummel.
Honors keep piling up for the senior All-American, who was named the program’s first Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner over the weekend, an honor which embraces the 4Cs (classroom, character, community, competition).
Coach Matt Painter summed up his relationship with the three-time all-Big Ten selection this way: “Guys like Rob Hummel don’t come around very often, but as a coach you wish you had 10 of them.”
Gallant to the end, Hummel bowed out with 26 points and nine rebounds, 22 coming in the first half of a heartbreaking NCAA loss to Kansas.
“It was a grind-it-out, typical Big Ten game,” said coach Bill Self after the Jayhawks’ narrow escape. “Hummel was unbelievable.”
Unbelievable, incredible, amazing ... all those superlatives apply to someone who overcame two season-killing knee injuries to finish as Purdue’s No. 9 all-time scorer with 1,772 points, a number padded by a single-season best average of 16.4 points.
Big Ten basketball won’t be the same without Purdue’s inspirational leader, Valparaiso’s best player since Bryce Drew.
Here are my final grades in Hoops 101 on the Big Ten (records in parentheses):
Purdue (22-13, 10-8 Big Ten)
It’s back to the drawing board for the Boilermakers. They rally around Lewis Jackson, their top returning scorer (10.4 average) and D.J Byrd, who shot better from the arc (43 percent) than from two-point range. Purdue struggled to adjust to the abrupt exit of Kelsey Barlow, a talented problem child who ran out of chances in the heart of the Big Ten season. Terone Johnson stepped up with 22 points at Michigan, costing the Wolverines an unbeaten home season. Lacking the inside game previously provided by J.J. Johnson, the undersized Boilers were outmanned underneath. Grade: A-
Indiana ( 27-9, 11-7 )
All due respect to Tom Izzo, but his former assistant, Tom Crean, deserved to be Big Ten coach of the year. The Hoosiers, invigorated by 6-11 Cody Zeller, improved 15 games in the win column, knocked off three top five teams, including No. 1 Kentucky, and beat Purdue twice on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.
With four double-figure scorers returning, the Hoosiers will reload with eagerly awaited five-star recruits Yogi Ferrell, who led Park-Tudor to two Class 1A state titles, and 6-8 Hanner Perea of LaPorte LaLumiere, plus Lawrence Central all-stater Jeremy Hollowell. Grade: A+
Iowa (18-17, 8-10)
On the rise, the Hawkeyes swept Wisconsin and split with Iowa, a boomlet which boosted average home attendance by nearly 1,000 (11,908 average) over the previous season. Holdovers include Roy Marble, who averaged 10.9 points and 3.5 assists; freshman All-American Aaron White (11.1 ppg, 5.7 rebounds) Zach McCabe, who had back-to-back 20-point games against Purdue and Nebraska, and 6-7 Melsahn Basabe. Advanced to the second round in the NIT. Grade: B
Illinois (17-15, 6-12)
The free-falling Illini went from three straight top 15 rankings and a Final Four appearance in Bruce Weber’s first three years to its worst Big Ten showing since 1999. Ohio’s John Groce, a Muncie native who graduated from Taylor, where he once served on Hammond native Paul Patterson’s staff, hopes to revive the Illini in the lab, where an alarming lack of chemistry revealed itself in a 2-and-11 finish. Grade: D-
Michigan (24-10, 13-5)
Next season the Wolverines will be missing their Hoosier guard tandem of co-captains Zack Novak (Chesterton), one of 28 players in the history of the program to notch over 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, and Stu Douglass (Carmel), but incoming recruit Glenn Robinson III, the Calumet Region player of the year, maintains the Indiana connection. What Coach John Beilein didn’t anticipate was the premature exit of 6-9 sophomore Evan Smotrycz. Their top 3-point marksman (43.5 percent) and No. 2 rebounder is transferring. Grade: A-
Michigan State (29-8, 13-5)
In spite of the belated loss of Gary freshman Branden Dawson, an offensive rebounding monster, the Spartans advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Hopefully, his torn ACL ( left knee) will mend for next season. Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green, who averaged a double-double and provided outstanding leadership, can’t be replaced.
Their only returning scorer in double figures is guard Keith Appling (11.4 ppg), but the Spartans will flex their muscles on the boards with 6-9 Derrick Nix and 6-10 Adreian Payne. Grade: A
Minnesota (23-15, 6-12)
Look out for the Gophers, who return five players with at least 20 starts, are headed by 6-7 Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Andre Hollins. Both made the all-NIT tournament team. The Gophers will climb into the first division if pre-season all-Big Ten player Trevor Mbakwe takes advantage of a sixth year of eligibility. Grade: C+
Nebraska (12-18, 4-14)
The Cornhuskers ushered in Tim Miles from Colorado State after a disastrous Big Ten debut. His coaching resume includes a 20-win season and the Rams’ first NCAA bid in nine years. Overall, he’s won 283 games in 17 seasons.
Miles inherits an anemic offense, even more so with the departure of leading scorer Bo Spencer, who averaged 15.6 points after transferring from LSU. Grade: F
Northwestern (19-14, 8-10)
Five from Northwestern’s 8-man rotation return, but the departure of John Shurna, the program’s all-time scoring leader with 2,038 points, complicates the rebuilding process. LaLumiere grad Luka Mirkovic, who was limited to 15 starts because of injuries, also exits. Injuries benched three players for 32 games, key factors in yet another NCAA denial. Grade: C+
Ohio State ( 31-8, 13-5)
Jared Sullinger & Co. came up short in the Final Four, but William Buford (14.4 ppg) is the only senior on coach Thad Matta’s roster. Fort Wayne’s DeShaun Thomas (16.1 ppg, 5.4 rebounds) should be the Buckeyes’ standard bearer next year with the expected departure of Sullinger, who averaged 17.6 points and 9.4 rebounds. Guard Aaron Craft, who led OSU in assists (4.7) and steals (2.1), was the Big Ten defensive player of the year, but will need to step up to create a stronger perimeter presence. Grade: A
Penn State ( 12-20, 4-14)
Three freshmen and three sophomores combined for 84 starts for the anemic Nittany Lions, who averaged just 61.8 points per game. All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier, doing everything but selling popcorn, led the Big Ten in assists and averaged 18.8 points. Jermaine Marshall was PSU’s only other double-figure scorer. Grade: D-
Wisconsin (26-10, 12-6)
No surprises when Coach Bo Ryan made out his lineup. It never changed. Four 36-game starters return, including double figure scorers 6-6 Ryan Evans, UW’s top rebounder (6.8 average); and 6-10 Jared Berggren, who was equally at ease firing from the outer limits. Grade: A