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Boiling Point

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Tough to defend

Big Ten coaches didn't stop at one player when asked during Monday's teleconference who is the most difficult offensive threat in the conference to game plan for this season.

Here are more responses (or longer answers) to the question that sparked a story in Tuesday's Journal Gazette:

Indiana coach Tom Crean: "I think every team has some, but I would go to (Sunday) with Deshaun Thomas. He's really, really hard to deal with. He can score at the block. He can score in the mid-post. He can score from three. He can come off screens. He can handle the ball. He can rebound. There's so many different attributes that he brings to the game, and he's got a real edge to him. He really plays hard. He played all 40 minutes (Sunday), and every time we thought he might be a little bit tired, he just picked up steam. I would say he's as hard as anybody to deal with, but there is quite a few, I don't want to generalize that there are just one or two. There a quite a few in this league."

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery: "The first guy is the first guy I think everybody would mention is Trey Burke. Often times, it starts with the guy who's got the ball. In particular if he is a big-time three-point shooter, a big-time scorer and a big-time assist guy. Those guys in ball screen situations are an absolute nightmare. Now what helps him in particular is he's got three-point shooters around him.

"We could go team by team. Deshaun Thomas is a guy that he makes shots sometimes and I don't know how he makes it. He's not even facing the basket. His shoulders are going in the wrong direction. He's going in the wrong direction, and his shots go in. And you say, 'You know what, there is a reason why he had 4,000 points in high school,' or whatever he had. This guy leads the league in scoring, and he's one of those guys. If you don't play him before he gets it, you got major problems.

"Then you go to (Cody) Zeller, he's so long. And he's so nimble. And he puts it on the deck, and very few 7-footers can put it on the deck and run like that. And you look at a guy like (Kevin) Yogi (Ferrell) , he's virtually impossible to keep in front of you. You're only hope is that you give him a little bit of room and he misses jump shots. And he's a pretty good shooter.

"We could go on and on and on … there are a handful of guys. I mean (Victor) Oladipo is a handful, you can't keep him in front of you. There are probably five or six more players that I could mention."

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers: "Obviously, Indiana would be very difficult to game plan for because they can beat you is so many different ways with Cody Zeller, and you obviously saw what they did (Sunday against Ohio State) with those three guys – Cody, Victor (Oladipo) and (Christian) Watford – really stepped up with 20-plus games.

"This league is very difficult, but that is what great coaches do. They find your weaknesses. They exploit your weaknesses. We game plan like no other, like a football team. Everybody knows everybody's cuts. I think the difference is talent, and I think Indiana has that talent as you saw (Sunday).

"Without having seen Michigan and Trey Burke yet this year, he would be the next guy I would say would the challenge to game plan for because he can do so much with the basketball. And he makes his teammates so much better."

Purdue coach Matt Painter: "I think each guy is a little bit different, but Trey Burke is a tough matchup because he can make one-on-one plays. Deshaun Thomas goes into that category, a little bit different as a combo forward, but both of those two guys are really, really dangerous.

"(Victor) Oladipo is a guy, it's hard to keep in front of him. He's very shifty. He scores in a variety of ways. He does a lot of different things for that team to help them be successful. And then Cody Zeller is a guy you have to give a lot of attention to. But then you have to be careful because he's such an unselfish player. I've always said very few people make others around them better. I think he's probably the No. 1 guy in our league in terms of making his teammates better, just because he plays so hard every possession and he's unselfish. He won't force things if it's not there.

"I'm probably leaving a couple of guys out, but those are the guys who stick out to me."

Michigan coach John Beilein: "There's a bunch of them. There really is a bunch of them. The one that stands out probably the most is (Victor) Oladipo. Because he has not always been a shooter. Now he makes outside shots, and he's an incredibly gifted athlete who also can change directions. He's not the only player, obviously, Indiana is extremely talented. But he's a tough guy, because he's unselfish too. He's difficult.

"We got guys in (Tim) Hardaway (Jr.) and (Trey) Burke, but of opposing team, Oladipo comes out right away. He gets to the foul line. He shoots threes. He makes plays for others, and he gets 50-50 balls. He's a tough one."

Ohio State coach Thad Matta: "There's a lot of them. I think the thing that couples with that is you've got great systems as well. Guys can really, really coach in this league. I think from that perspective, you see guys really doing a good job of putting their players in a position to be successful. I wouldn't say there is one particular guy like, 'Oh, geez, this guy … 'but with that said there are some unbelievable players in this league for sure."

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