UI 66, Iowa 63: Notebook
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When the All-Big Ten teams are announced, chances are Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble will be among the five players honored on the first team. Some experts consider him to be a legitimate candidate to be named the conference’s Player of the Year, along with Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Michigan State’s Gary Harris.
Illinois coach John Groce is among those who have come away impressed with the Big Ten’s fifth-leading scorer at 17.3 points per game.
“His size, he’s 6-foot-6 and he’s playing the 2 guard spot and the 1. He’s got great size, great length, great instincts. He can dribble, pass, shoot. He has the ability to get his own shot. I think he’s one of the better players in our league,” Groce said. “He’s a guy that can make tough shots. That’s always a good thing when you’re a coach and you have a guy on your roster that has the ability to make chicken salad out of chicken dung.”
Marble was honored along with Iowa seniors Zach McCabe and Gabe Olaseni prior to Saturday’s game against Illinois at a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Marble, No. 6 on the Hawkeyes’ all-time scoring list, was joined on the court prior to the game by Iowa’s all-time scoring leader, his dad Roy.
The Marbles are the top-scoring father-son combo in college basketball history.
“He’s terrifically talented on the offensive end,” Groce said. “The thing I’ve appreciated about watching him is he also defends. He gets his hands on a lot of balls. He anticipates well; he’s got great instincts. He’s a really good player, and I really appreciate the way he plays both ends of the floor. That’s certainly what makes him one of the elite players in our league.”
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Entering the Big Ten tournament, Jim Delany’s conference continues to be considered among the country’s best. It’s right there at the top along with the Big 12. Whether it’s the best is up for debate.
It was, however, strange with so many teams from the bottom pulling upsets of teams at the top regularly. For just the third time in league history, every team in the conference will finish with at least five conference wins.
“It was definitely strange,” former Illini Jerry Hester said. “Michigan really stood out, especially toward the end, but even that was unexpected. You expected it to be Michigan State, but they dealt with a lot of injuries. Every team seemed like it went through a drought or a rough stretch, and that was unusual.”
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With plenty to still be decided entering the conference tournaments next week, the three teams near the top of the Big Ten appear to be contenders to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament and potentially reach the Final Four in north Texas.
“Michigan State, now that they’re healthy and have everybody back, we’ll see how they do. Keith Appling finally got out of his shooting slump or whatever it was,” said Hester, Illinois’ radio analyst. “The way Wisconsin is playing offense now, they’re a team that can get hot, and they’ve been playing well as of late. Michigan is another one, and this team, Iowa, if they can shore up some things they do defensively, they’re a team that has the potency offensively to get out and make a run.”
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Entering Saturday’s game, a handful of scenarios were in play for Illinois with regard to seeding in the Big Ten tournament. Seeds 7 through 11 were up for grabs for the Illini entering the game against the Hawkeyes, but Groce said the number itself doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re outside of the top four teams that get a first-round bye.
“Having a bye can matter,” Groce said. “Matchups matter, and having to play three games instead of four, how deep is your team and adjusting based on that. Those things are a little bit more important than the actual seed number.”
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Illinois fans might be familiar with the name Josh Oglesby. The Iowa junior was an Illinois recruiting target in the Class of 2011, though the Illini eventually decided to take Devin Langford in that class over Oglesby and Stanford’s Chasson Randle.
Oglesby is averaging 7.2 points per game off the bench for the Hawkeyes, and he’s shooting 44 percent from behind the three-point line this season.
Langford played one season at Illinois after redshirting and averaged 0.5 point in 22 games. He played on last year’s NCAA tournament team before transferring to Kentucky Wesleyan.
Langford is averaging 11 points and 5.7 rebounds per game at Kentucky Wesleyan in 21 appearances.
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The Illini played their second consecutive game without backup point guard Jaylon Tate. The freshman missed the game against Michigan on Tuesday with an ankle injury suffered against Michigan State.
Entering Saturday, Tate was a game-time decision. He joined his teammates late in the pregame warmup and couldn’t move well enough on the ankle to play against the Hawkeyes. Tate will have until Thursday to rest his ankle to give it a go for the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.