Non-conf ends asap and oh my goodness, we start B1G conference hoops, full of snowy nights and really difficult away venues. Our writers recapped their random non-conf thoughts. Oh, and here's a list of the Top 5 B1G Non-Conf matchups in 2013:
- MSU defeats Kentucky. Monster opening matchup, some highlight plays, a big win for NCAA Tourney posturing.
- Arizona 72, Michigan 70. So close to taking down #1 Zona in AA.
- Cuse over Minnesota. I thought Goldy played some gutsy basketball against the talented Orange.
- Wisconsin over North Dakota. The Kaminsky game, 43 points in a great back-and-forth game.
- Purdue over WVU. The kinds of non-conference games the Boilers need to win to get in the Dance.
Do you even watch basketball? If so, who did you enjoy watching during the non-conf?
CANDYSTRIPES: I'm an OTE writer, what do you think? Though I did enjoy the radio calls of Don Fischer for Indiana basketball, so I listened to quite a few games.
MNWildcat: No. Because I doubt what Northwestern trots out on the court this year, even generously, will be called "basketball". I enjoyed watching Northwestern engage in its version of the squeakyfouls with Stanford at Palo Alto. I got to go to the game (family + cheap flights), and while Maples Pavilion is even worse than Welsh-Ryan Arena (no, seriously, it is) and the 'Cats lost, I had a blast.
Aaron Yorke: No, of course not. But if I did watch basketball, I would watch Penn State because its offense is actually good this season with Tim Frazier back at the point. When I wasn't busy watching my alma mater, though, I would watch Michigan State because the Appling/Harris/Payne triangle should be wildly entertaining, even if the offense hasn't totally clicked yet. I would also watch Ohio State because I want to see if LaQuinton Ross can develop into a consistent scoring threat.
Green Akers: The only basketball-related programming I'm watching this year is Tom Izzo's House of Payne. I've caught a few games of Michigan's and thought to myself if they ever get everyone clicking at once they should be a threat to the top tier. Northwestern was on TV once, so I did as the Wildcats do and read a book.
Graham Filler: I've actually watched a ton of baske...Just kidding. It was a slow non-conf season, which is why I'm thrilled for the conference matchups. Nothing like hoping and praying Michigan can make it out of the mushy middle morass of the B1G. I enjoyed watching Michigan's challenging non-conf schedule, the Arizona barnburner being a particularly thrilling game to watch. Although the Arizona talent level is amazingly high, Michigan still almost pulled out a win. We see now that Caris LeVert is going to be playing big minutes this year and taking big shots for Michigan.
#3,#4,#5...#22...and then mahhhhhhhh. Is the B1G as top-heavy as it looks? Or will those pretty records come crashing down?
CANDYSTRIPES: I think the conference is going to be a lot closer once B1G play starts. There will still probably be at least 2 tiers, but I don't think we're as top-heavy as the rankings suggest.
MNWildcat: I think we're going to see a Big 3 system break out. Roughly, by my estimate, we'll see a four-tier system in the B1G: (2-3 losses) MSU/OSU/Wisconsin, (5-6 losses) Iowa/Indiana/Michigan, (7-10 losses, bubble teams) Illinois/Minnesota/Purdue, and (12+ losses, lol postseason) Northwestern/Penn State/Nebraska.
Aaron Yorke: It's kind of top heavy. I mean, I think those top four teams (MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, Iowa) will have no trouble getting into the NCAA Tournament. And then Michigan and Indiana are part of an upper-middle class that could take down one of the top teams on any given night. Minnesota is right in the middle of everything, and everyone else will be fighting over a potential eighth NCAA bid that may or may not even exist. But, yeah, I think the middle and bottom of the conference is good enough to knock off a top team every so often.
Green Akers: Yeah, it is. There's sure to be a few head-scratching upsets because it's so hard to win on the road in this conference, but MSU, OSU and Wisconsin are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, even if any of them is at decent risk to be picked off on any given night.
Graham Filler: That mushy middle is going to be where the money gets made. Last year, Michigan finished fourth in the conference and went to the National Title game. Last year was an outlier. Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, Indiana...That's where it's going to get messy. The top teams are top teams for a reason. Everyone else is fighting for, say, a #5 seed in the Dance.
(For fans of teams not doing so hot so far) Be optimistic. Tell us something you saw in the non-conf from your squad that gives you hope that 2013-14 won't be a wasted year.
CANDYSTRIPES: Despite their up-and-down performance so far, I like to think the Hoosiers will finally get it together enough to make the big dance. Their major problems so far are youth (which you can only do so much about, but it's getting somewhat better) and Tom Crean's substitution patterns (which I hope will be curtailed some as he finally settles on a rotation for conference play). What the Hoosiers really need is one person to step up and be THE shotmaker night in and night out, and there are certainly options for that spot, but someone has to seize it.
MNWildcat: I'm optimistic that Drew Crawford is pretty awesome. I'm optimistic that Northwestern, if they shoot hot like they did against UCLA, could pack into a 2-3 and put the scare in a couple teams that shoot poorly from outside. I'm optimistic that Northwestern is rebounding better than years past under Bill Carmody (miss u bill). I'm optimistic that this season will end.
Aaron Yorke: I'm guessing Penn State counts as one of these teams (even though for PSU it's been a decent season so far). The Lions have a great offense thanks to Frazier, D.J. Newbill, and some forwards who can actually score the ball this season. There's even some depth at the guard positions! The Lions' offense will spring them for one or two upsets, but their poor defense and a couple of bad non-conference losses will keep them out of the NCAA Tourney.
Graham Filler: Michigan...has a ton of young, perimeter talent in a system which is made for perimeter players to flourish. That's exciting for 2013 and beyond. Those 4-26 from the 3pt strip nights? Not as exciting.
Individuals. Last year we had Trey Burke and a plethora of NBA ready stars. They're all gone. Who is our new royalty in the B1G?
MNWildcat: Drew Crawford is your royalty. I will hear no dissent. Failing that? Eh. Gary Harris or someone.
Aaron Yorke: Well for starters, everyone at Michigan State is back. Indiana lost a bunch of stars, but Yogi Ferrell is already one of the league's elite guards and freshman Noah Vonleh is a beast of a newcomer who puts up double-doubles with regularity. PSU's Frazier is also an "addition" to the conference who looks like a First Team player right now. Another non-freshman newbie who is lighting the conference on fire is Rayvonte Rice of Illinois. Finally, don't sleep on Iowa's Aaron White or Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary at Michigan.
Green Akers: House of Payne