hat a busy week for the B1G in basketball. Things kicked off with the B1G/ACC Challenge where the B1G won 8 games to 6, which was aided by an unexpected win from Rutgers and a big win by Iowa over #12 North Carolina.
Rather than bore you guys with glaring insight to the games, let's just say winning the tournament only proved one thing: The B1G is deeper than the ACC but still has a lot of work to do at the top. Outside of the Iowa upset of #12 UNC, who by the way has looked much weaker than their ranking suggests, the B1G was 2-5 against the Top 7 teams in the ACC (Duke, Louisville, UNC, Syracuse, Miami, Duke, and Virginia). One of those wins doesn't even look so good now with Michigan seemingly forgetting they are a Division 1 team after beating Syracuse. More on that later.
The positives from this? The B1G is a deep conference this year. We all knew that, but the B1G/ACC challenge pits the top two basketball conferences against each other and gives us a solid look at things to expect for the year. Even though there was the 2-5 against their Top 7, I think we can almost easily say that the B1G should see at least 6 teams in the tournament year barring injuries or meltdowns. Once you get to the tournament, all bets are off and the season is fresh. Teams like OSU, Michigan State, and Maryland may have lost, but all three are young and have shown great promise for the rest of the year as they grow and gel together.
Friday through Tuesday Results:
Friday was a rather boring affair with only Western Carolina visiting Minnesota for the day. Minnesota handled the game easily, dropping WCU by 20 points.
Where do I start? I guess I'll go with the wins, because wow the losses need some explaining. Maryland took it to Winthrop handily, dropping them by 20 points 82-62 and bouncing back from that ugly loss to Virginia. Four players scored in double figures and MD asserted themselves on defense blocking 7 shots along with 4 steals, holding Winthrop to 36% from the floor. Iowa did largely the same, dropping UMBC by 30 to continue their streak after dropping those two early games to Texas and Syracuse. MSU bounced back from the heart breaking OT loss to ND by trouncing Arkansas-Pine Bluff 85-52, Illinois did the same to American, beating them 70-55, and Wisconsin did what Wisconsin does best: They beat Marquette by scoring under 50 and holding Marquette to under 40. Ugly.
Now...the losses. I really don't know what to make of Rutgers, who is losing to Virginia and only scoring 26 one minute, but beating Vanderbilt and Clemson the next. Saturday they lost to Seton Hall 81-54 in a game that was over in the first half. Seton Hall went into the half with a 47-25 lead and never looked back. Highly regarded freshman from Seton Hall Isaiah Whitehead dropped 17 in the first half on Rutgers alone while another three players scored in double figures for the night. Rutgers barely shot 30% from the field and lost in all facets of the game. Purdue dropped a game to the University of North Florida, forgetting that games are 40 minutes long and not 37 minutes. Purdue led almost the entire game, but lost in the last 3 minutes to an 18-8 run by UNF, who just looked like they wanted it more. Purdue lacked focus, which was causing them to miss open layups and appear confused on defense. Let's hope it was just a fluke game and that Painter gets them back on the right track.
Michigan..you get a whole section to your own, and not for good reasons. Michigan lost to junior Rutgers (New Jersey Institute of Technology) on Saturday 72-70. To put this in perspective, NJIT is the only team in Division 1 basketball that does not have a conference. The American East will not even let them in. They are a commuter school in Jersey whose basketball arena is also its fitness center. Outside of Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, no one on Michigan scored in double figures and they accounted for 68% of Michigan's point total. As you can guess, a total of 8 assists will not do you any favors with only two people really shooting the ball.
Nebraska, this was your chance! You haven't beaten Creighton in three years, and they have four new starters while you have almost your entire tournament roster back. Good setup, right? Sounds about right, except Nebraska didn't take advantage. Creighton fought the entire game, and while Nebraska held a 1 point advantage at the half, by the end of the game fans were heading for their cars as Creighton had secured a 10 point win and put the nail in the coffin with some clutch late free throws and shooting.
Purdue bounced back today, thoroughly putting their cupcake opponent down 63-43 while leading by 16 at the half. Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW, wow that's a mouthful) was never in the game as Purdue's two seven footers dominated the paint, putting up a combined 23 points and 17 rebounds.
Minnesota pounded North Dakota 92-56 in the second matchup of the night. Six players were in double figures on the night and the game was never in doubt. This is what you do to opponents you should beat. Solid game.
B1G 2-3 [recaps by MNWildcat]
#7 Villanova 73, Illinois 59
Villanova took a five-point lead into halftime and closed on a 20-8 run over the last 8:00 to bury the Illini in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, 73-59. Less of a knock on the Illini than praise for the Wildcats: VU shot 53.6% from the field and did outstanding work on the offensive glass when they missed, picking up 11 out of 27 misses. Malcolm Hill paced Illinois with 20 points on 8/15 shooting, though Rayvonte Rice struggled from the field. Depth really hurt the Illini, as well as shooting: only Kendrick Nunn had any real impact off the bench, and the Illini only managed to hit 5 of 17 three-point attempts. This loss, however, still speaks more to the fact the Villanova is a good team that will still struggle to win the big one in March—their lack of size is concerning. Illinois, if they can get decent contributions out of Egwu or Maverick Morgan, have the presence inside to still be a force in conference play.
Rutgers 60, New Hampshire 56
Rutgers trailed New Hampshire with as little as 5:06 left in the second half, but the Scarlet Knights used stifling defense and a late and-one from Myles Mack to put away the cold-shooting Wildcats, 60-56, at the sparsely-populated RAC. New Hampshire only managed 36% from the field, including 23% from deep, but turned over Rutgers 15 times, keeping the game close. Rutgers got 20 points from Mack, along with a 10-rebound outing from forward Kadeem Jack, but still only managed 8 assists to 15 turnovers while struggling to establish much of a consistent offense. Really, this is what Rutgers is shaping up to be: a team that will win when it shoots the lights out and hangs onto the ball, but is rarely going to outclass opponents.
#4 Louisville 94, Indiana 74
Indiana opted for a 2-3 zone early, slowing the Cardinals down as they tried to push the floor both offensively and defensively with their full-court pressure. When that didn’t work? Indiana decided to run with the Cardinals and shoot themselves into the game. The Hoosiers refused to go away in the first half, trailing by just 5 at the break, and even opened up a brief lead in the second half. The lack of an inside presence and the limited efficacy of using Mosquera-Pereiea, though, would doom the Hoosiers in the long run. Louisville enjoyed superior inside play by Montrezl Harrell who put up 21/11 for the Cardinals who pulled away in the second half en route to a 94-74 win.
Eastern Michigan 45, Michigan 42
Something is wrong in Ann Arbor. Both Michigans, Eastern and plain old, shot ice-cold during the first half, and both continued to do so in the second half. Let’s congratulate the Eagles on being just not-bad enough to beat Michigan, then focus on our friends, the @Champions of the West.@ Two: the number of offensive rebounds the Wolverines collected. Nineteen. The percentage Michigan shot from deep. For a team needing to shoot well from deep to win games? That, uh, that ain’t good. Guards Zak Irvin and Chris LaVert both chipped in 10 points for Michigan, and Derrick Walton, Jr., scored 9 points to go with 6 boards and 5 assists, but they did that on 10-32 shooting. The rest of the team was 4-11. Michigan better find some better shooting, some more depth, especially inside, and some rebounding. Fast.
Iowa 67, Alcorn State 44
Iowa opened up a 15-point halftime lead on the strength of a 12-2 run over the last five minutes of the first half, methodically putting away Alcorn State in Iowa City. Aaron White got to the foul line for ten shots in the first half alone, scoring 9 of his 15 from the line. Gabe Olaseni notched a double-double, dropping 12 to go with his 10 boards, as Iowa used all parts of their deep bench to comfortably romp. One spot of concern for the Hawks? They shot 15.8% (3-of-19) from deep, dropping their not-good season average to 29.9%. If I'm playing Iowa in B1G action, I'm inviting them to shoot at my 2-3 zone.
Rather than making this a long article, I'll quickly hit on tonight's games and give a bigger preview tomorrow along with a quick recap of tonight.
Seven teams are in action tonight in one of the busier nights in the B1G, four of which are televised.
Maryland takes on reigning MEAC champions NC Central, who returns most of their tournament team from last year at 7:00 on BTN. This game may be closer than it would appear as NC Central is one of the best defensive teams in the country, so this should be a solid test for Maryland as a tune up game as they head towards conference play with only Oklahoma State as a bigger matchup until then.
Purdue takes on Arkansas State as they continue to look to put that UNF game behind them. The game will be on ESPN3 for those with access. Purdue will continue to go inside early and often as they exploit the height advantage they'll have most of the year.
Ohio State takes on High Point at 7:00pm on ESPNU as they continue to refine their game and gel together with the freshman that are integrating into the lineup.
Minnesota takes on Southern University at 8:00pm on ESPN3. Minnesota may be on the verge of Top 25 status if they continue to blow through their OOC schedule the way they are. Granted, it's not that strong, but voters like to look at pretty stats. We'll see how it looks towards the end of the month.
Nebraska takes on the Incarnate Word at 8:00pm on ESPN3 as well, looking to bounce back from the loss to rival Creighton this past weekend.
Penn State takes on Duquesne at 9:00pm on BTN as they continue their 8-1 start behind their red hot two guard DJ Newbill. Their only test in OOC play is GW on the weekend before opening up conference play with Wisconsin at the end of the month.
Wisconsin takes on Milwaukee at 9:00pm on ESPN2. I sure hope that Wisconsin breaks that 50 point barrier this time, because watching another 40 something to 30 something game on national TV will be embarrassing.
Northwestern is taking finals all week. Nerds.
Tomorrow we'll have a bigger look ahead for the weekend along with hopefully a short recap of tonight's games detailing how every team drubbed their opponents. Make this happen please B1G. It's really not fun detailing how Michigan is losing to the only Division 1 team without a conference, so let's avoid that in the future.