A wild week for Big Ten basketball saw Buckeyes, Illini, Gophers, and Wolverines all fall victim to an upset, more cracks show up in the Scarlet Knights' armor, and the Hawkeyes, Spartans, and Boilermakers just keep on rolling. Let's hop to it:
- AJ Hammons is back for Purdue, and y'all should be really, really afraid.
- Split between Louisville and Arizona (potentially), Sparty, and I think you're cruising toward a 1-seed.
- I'd get your houses on the market, John Groce and Richard Pitino.
- So Indiana might be pretty damn good, too, especially if Thomas Bryant continues his scoring ways.
- Maryland might be good, but they're looking more than a little overrated, and if Marcus Paige isn't back in time for the North Carolina-Maryland game in the ACC/B1G Challenge, they might not be exposed for a while.
- A 4-4 showing against the Big East in the Gavitt Games is an ugly showing for the conference, especially when Rutgers blew a lead against St. John's, Michigan shat themselves at home, and Illinois...oh, Illinois.
"Let's discuss this. The Big Ten's claim to be the "best conference alive" in recent years always centered on its depth and the "no easy games in the Big Ten" mantra. It's not clear if that will persist through the 2015-16 season. Over the past 72 hours, Ohio State lost to UT-Arlington, Wisconsin got pummeled by Georgetown in New York on Friday and then defeated VCU in a thriller on Sunday, Illinois took a bad loss against Chattanooga, Penn State lost to Duquesne, and in Ann Arbor, Xavier outclassed a Michigan team that will lose its spot in the top 25 come Monday. Maryland, Indiana and Michigan State are all national championship threats. It's not clear, however, if the rest of the conference will help the Big Ten maintain its status as the deepest league."
Jesse Collins: Did we talk about UNC losing in that same article? Or how about talking about how good Purdue has looked? Like, I'm not exactly all-in on conference solidarity, but fuck those guys. This has been a wild fucking opening month. Shit is gonna even out.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Also link to South Carolina's football box score from last weekend.
DJ: Yet we can't get the same written about the SEC in football? I don't see anyone there calling for the SEC's status of the greatest football conference ever to be dropped after they needed OT to defeat two FCS opponents and dropped another game to an FCS opponent in the same weekend? Or how ESPN's SEC Network is using FCS ranks to attempt to falsely hype Alabama playing an FCS opponent by putting their 8th rank in the FCS polls next to their name? It's atrocious how much they cater to the SEC in football and yet are quick to judge any other conference the minute it looks like they might not be as strong as said.
Never stop that sky from fallin' on the Midwest, ESPN.
Last week: L @ Providence, 60-59; L vs. Chattanooga, 81-77
Let's...let's just gloss over Illinois' week and say we talked about it in detail, huh? Shit's bad in Chambana. Someone check up on Thumpasaurus to make sure he's OK. Oh wait:
Thumpasaurus (7:39 PM, Saturday): Illinois looks fucking terrible early against Nooooooooga. Fortunately, I drifted my way to a bar
(7:43 PM) I did not think I would still be this pissed off about the Illini
(9:33 PM) Well, dance away on the grave of Illinois Basketball
(9:34 PM) It's all over.
That pretty much says it all, John.
This week: vs. Chicago State (Monday, 7pm, ESPN3); Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, FL, vs. UAB (Friday, 8:30pm, CBSSN), vs. Iowa State/Virginia Tech (Saturday, TBD, CBSSN)
#13 Indiana (3-0)
Last week: W vs. Austin Peay, 102-76; W vs. Creighton, 86-65
The Hoosiers answered some of the questions asked of them last week, showing that they could both score—Yogi Ferrell (22 pts, 9 ast and 15 pts, 9 reb, 6 ast) and James Blackmon Jr. (39 total points on 8/12 shooting from deep) were efficient as hell—and defend—6 steals and 15 total forced TOs against Creighton. That's a scary proposition for the Big Ten, especially since Thomas Bryant appears to be the real deal on the inside.
The freshman from Rochester, NY, has shot 16/20 from the field on the year, with all four misses coming from deep. You read that right: Thomas Bryant has yet to miss a 2-pt shot in 2015 on 15 attempts. Gulp.
Candystripes for Breakfast's Vanilla Coke Crisp and Refreshing Take of the Week: Indiana's in Maui for the week. It'd be nice if they took the tournament down, but it wouldn't shock me if they dropped a game. Dropping two would be a bit surprising, and also concerning, but I don't think the team will get that distracted.
This week: Maui Invitational vs. Wake Forest (Monday, 4pm, ESPN2), vs. St. John's/Vanderbilt (Tuesday, TBD), vs. TBD (Wednesday)
Last week: W @ Marquette, 89-61
Stewmonkey's #TepidTake: Iowa played Marquette last Thursday in the Gavitt Tipoff. Coming into the year Marquette has been pretty hyped as they brought in super 5* recruit Henry Ellenson and Indiana transfer Luke Fischer. Things have not gone to plan for them. They lost to Belmont in their opener, and Ooey-Pooey took them to overtime. Iowa went to The Good Land and dispatched with the Eagles rather easily, 89-61. Iowa's guards overwhelmed Marquette forcing turnovers, finishing in transition and bombing from behind the arc (12-22). In the paint Adam Woodbury and Jared Uthoff dominated Marquette's studs, holding them to 5-16, for 11 points, and getting Fischer to foul out in only 16 minutes.
Iowa did manage to (barely) out rebound Marquette, and only drew 14 fouls, two things that were questions coming into the year losing White and Olaseni. However, as has been speculated previously, it seems Iowa is going to shoot much better from 3, something that has plagued the team in past seasons.
MNW: Can confirm. Said game sucked balls. And now that rankings have been released, I'm surprised the Hawkeyes still haven't cracked the Top 25. A win over ranked Notre Dame in Orlando would fix that.
This week: Advocare Invitational in Orlando vs. Dayton (Thursday, 8pm, ESPN2), vs. #18 Notre Dame/Monmouth (Friday, TBD), vs. TBD (Sunday)
#2 Maryland (3-0)
Last week: W vs. Georgetown, 75-71; W vs. Rider, 65-58
DJ Carver's #hottaek: Maryland won their game in the Gavitt Tipoff against Georgetown, but in the process showed that they still need to gel together as a team and learn to play interior defense. They were pushed around on the boards, which is not the signature of a Mark Turgeon team and he was rightfully annoyed about it after the game. On Friday against Rider, Maryland was down 14 at one point and looked like they had no idea what defense was. This is going to be a problem and you could tell that it was communications breakdown occurring.
The bottom line here is that Maryland, while star studded and very deep on the bench, still needs all of these pieces to gel together and learn to play as a team. On the bright side it would appear that Rasheed Sulaimon has accepted his role on the team and is doing a great job facilitating from the 2 guard spot in the lineup. He dropped 7 assists against Georgetown and a handful against Rider while also knocking down clutch shots. UNC also lost to UNI over the weekend and is still without Marcus Paige, so the premiere game of the OOC for Maryland is definitely very winnable at this point.
This week: Cancun Challenge vs. Illinois State (Tuesday, 7:30pm, CBSSN), vs. Rhode Island/TCU (Wednesday, TBD)
Last week: W vs. Elon, 88-68; L vs. #23 Xavier, 86-70
After opening with an easy win against D-II Northern Michigan, the Wolverines have gradually increased their degree of difficulty each game. The bad news: It doesn't appear to be working, and now Michigan gets a date with #18 Connecticut as a reward.
After handling Elon on the back of Derrick Walton Jr.'s 24 points, 7 assists, and 6 boards in a game that served as transfer guard Duncan Robinson's coming out party (19 points on a ri-damn-diculous 5/5 shooting performance from deep), the Wolverines were outmanned at home by the Musketeers in a depressing 16-point loss in the Gavitt Games. Most concerning for the Wolverines, as usual, was rebounding: Xavier crashed the offensive glass for a 45% OReb%, which is...abysmally bad. Caris LeVert was a bright spot for Michigan, dropping a cool 29 against Xavier, but the Wolverines need to play better inside against the Huskies, who have the length and size to frustrate Michigan's shooters.
This week: Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas vs. #18 Connecticut (Wednesday, 8:30pm, AXS.TV), vs. Charlotte/Syracuse (Thursday, TBD), vs. TBD (Friday)
#3 Michigan State (3-0)
Last week: W vs. #4 Kansas, 79-73; W vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 92-46
Andrew Kraszewski's #hottaek: MSU spent last week upsetting Kansas in the Champions Classic and sandblasting Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a bodybag game. They get a somewhat tougher opponent in Eastern Michigan before seeing Boston College and TBD in the Wooden Legacy tourney. Despite lacking a true point guard, this team moves the ball unlike any college outfit I can remember seeing. A loss at any time this week would be a surprising disappointment, but Izzo does like to fidget with his lineups early in the season enough that dropping one isn't out of the question.
This week: vs. Eastern Michigan (Monday, 6pm, BTN); Wooden Legacy Tournament (Fullerton, CA) vs. Boston College (Thursday, 5:30pm, ESPN2), vs. UC-Irvine/Boise State (Friday, TBD), vs. Evansville/Providence/Santa Clara/Arizona (Sunday, TBD)
Last week: L vs. Temple, 75-70; W vs. Missouri State, 74-69; L vs. Texas Tech, 81-68
Ohhhh, Minnesota. The Gophers went to Puerto Rico and, like my Aunt Millie during the family vacation to Punta Cana, got horribly burned in the Caribbean sun, dropping two out of three to Kenpom #71 Temple and #84 Texas Tech. Stop me if you've heard this before: in their two losses, the Gophers shot, respectively, 38% from the field and 33% from deep, coupled with 42% and 20%. Joey King can't do it all, and unless Richard Pitino can find a way to get production out of King, Carlos Morris, and Nate Mason all at once, the Gophers—stuck, as I noted last week, with little-to-no presence in the middle—have their sights set on rebuilding in 2015-16.
Friedrich Nietzsche WhiteSpeedReceiver's Take of Eternal Sadness: We lost to Tubby Smith. There is no God.
This week: vs. Nebraska-Omaha (Friday, 2pm, ESPN3)
Last week: L @ #11 Villanova, 87-63; W vs. Delaware State, 75-60; W vs. Southeastern Louisiana, 92-65
Jesse Collins on the Huskers: Nebraska was obliterated by a ranked team in the Gavitt Tipoff Games as Villanova forced a wonderful 6.5 minute scoring drought. Even more concerning, Nebraska went back to turning the ball over and losing focus. Andrew White and Shavon Shields can score at will but they need a third option for when things go south. Nebraska also went on a 6+ minute scoring drought two nights later against Delaware State proving this might be a thing. Of course, they also dropped 90 on an outclassed Southeast Louisiana. It's a strange team with potential, but youth and inexperience everywhere may prove to be a rough ride in 2015-16.
This week: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Tuesday, 7pm, BTN+); Barclays Center Classic vs. Cincinnati (Friday, 5:30pm), vs. Tennessee/George Washington (Saturday, TBD)
Last week: W vs. Fairfield, 79-72; W vs. Columbia, 83-80 (OT)
The ‘Cats remain a work in progress. Sophomore Bryant MacIntosh did the Lord's work, coming up with 20 against the Stags and pouring in 32 on his 21st birthday as Northwestern escaped Fairfield and Columbia in increasingly nerve-wracking ways. Chris Collins needs to find a way to get more out of Alex Olah, as the senior Romanian is looking alternatingly ignored and lost on the inside, averaging just 9.5 ppg and 6 rpg against two undersized teams. With showdowns against #9 UNC and either Mizzou or Kansas State (purple cat-on-purple cat violence possible!) looming, Northwestern needs to put together a much more complete performance on both ends of the floor to have a prayer in 2015-16.
Is this year The Year? Watch:
This week: CBE Hall of Fame Invitational vs. #9 UNC (Monday, 8:30pm, ESPN2), vs. Mizzou/K-State (Tuesday, TBD); vs. New Orleans (Saturday, 7pm, BTN+)
Ohio State (2-1)
Last week: W vs. Grambling State, 82-55; L vs. UT-Arlington, 73-68
That, um, Ohio State...what? After a customary romp over Grambling State in which Kam Williams dropped a cool 22 points, the Buckeyes were stunned at home by a deep Mavericks squad, 73-68. Despite holding UT-Arlington to 37.5% shooting and just 26% from deep, the Buckeyes allowed a horrendous 42.9% Oreb rate and shot 13/27—48%!—from the free throw line. That's...well, that's horrible. Freshman C Daniel Giddens acquitted himself nicely for the Buckeyes and can hopefully provide a spark off the bench when Trevor Thompson struggles. I don't think there's a ton to take away from this other than that it's a bad loss: this young Buckeye squad had a bad night from the line, allowed a pesky UT-Arlington team to run around on them, and lost a very winnable game. They'll just have to flush it and move on.
This week: vs. Louisiana Tech (Tuesday, 7pm, BTN); Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational in Miami, FL, vs. Memphis (Friday, 6:30pm, ESPN2)
Penn State (2-1)
Last week: W vs. DePaul, 68-62; L @ Duquesne, 78-52
Penn State appears pretty committed to chuckin' it from deep (35% of their attempts come from behind the arc), but defending the deep ball might be a good idea, too. After senior F Brandon Taylor went 4/7 from distance in a 22-point showing to lead the Nittany Lions over DePaul, the entire Penn State squad went cold from deep in a blowout loss at Duquesne. More concerningly, Penn State allowed the Dukes to shoot 50% from deep (17/34!) and couldn't manage a 30% rate from the field. Penn State won't shoot that badly again, but for a team as absent inside as the Nittany Lions are—the lack of development from senior C Jordan Dickerson has been inexcusable—they need to defend the perimeter better.
This week: vs. Radford (Tuesday, 5pm, BTN), vs. Bucknell (Saturday, 12pm, BTN+)
#16 Purdue (5-0)
Last week: W vs. Incarnate Word, 96-61; W vs. Old Dominion, 61-39; W vs. Florida, 85-70
It's AJ Hammons! We found AJ Hammons! You're on notice, rest of the Big Ten. Purdue wasted no time getting the enigmatic senior C back into the fold: he's not played more than 19 minutes in a game, but he's already averaging 24.9 pts and 14.3 rebounds per 40 minutes of play. That's a scary prospect for teams who don't run two centers over 7'0". Oh, that's not many, you say? Shit.
Even in the event that the Boilers can't get it done offensively, Purdue showed they can play lockdown defense, holding Old Dominion to 23% from the field and 14% from deep.
Also of note: Caleb Swanigan's experiencing some of the requisite growing pains, turning in an ugly shooting performance against the Monarchs and giving the ball away 5 times against Florida. Nonetheless, the Boilers captured the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament against the Gators, improving to 5-0 on the season.
This week: vs. Lehigh (Saturday, 6pm, ESPN3)
Last week: L @ St. John's, 61-59; W vs. Central Arkansas, 87-84
Rutgers...we wanted to believe. So badly. Instead, you blew a 16-point second half lead and fell to the Red Storm in the Gavitt Games. The Scarlet Knights have been sloppy with the ball, turning it over 14 times as they narrowly escaped Central Arkansas, but sophomore G Mike Williams remains a revelation, going for 25 points on 8/13 shooting against the Bears. What remains the challenge for Rutgers is finding a complement to Williams. That'll most likely be freshman F Deshawn Freeman, who has turned in a solid 15 ppg and 5.8 rpg so far, but will likely need to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden for a struggling Rutgers squad.
Apparently the Scarlet Knights are still in the process of reminding us to get our prostates checked, as they'll take off a struggling Creighton team, so this apropos metaphor in which Rutgers reminds us to get a finger poked up our butts is...continuing, weirdly.
This week: Men Who Speak Up Main Event in Las Vegas vs. Creighton (Monday, 11pm, YouTube livestream), vs. Clemson/UMass (Wednesday, TBD)
Last week: W vs. North Dakota, 78-64; L vs. Georgetown, 71-61; W vs. VCU, 74-73
An up-and-down week for the Badgers culminated in a thrilling last-minute win over VCU, as a Bronson Koenig layup salvaged a trip to New York for Wisconsin. It's proven that Wisconsin, while still able to control the pace and tempo of a game in the face of a diametrically-opposed defense (VCU), does not yet have the guns to run with more athletic teams like Georgetown. The Hoyas stifled the Badgers from the field (32% FG%, 26% 3pt%) with an extended zone, but when the Badgers set up in their half-court offense against the Rams, Koenig shone (9/14 from the field for 22), Ethan Happ set up camp under the hoop (12 and 10 for a double-double), and Nigel Hayes slashed and got to the line.
While disrupting the Badgers offense with an extended defense looks like it'll be effective in the short-term, if that trio of Hayes, Happ, and Koenig can find their rhythm, BoBall looks to make a splash in conference play. In the meantime, the Badgers can build momentum into another Kenpom Top 50 showdown (Georgetown is 33, VCU is 49, and the Badgers are 29) with KP#13 (AP #7) Oklahoma on Sunday.
One last note on the Badgers: 6'11" freshman Andy Van Vliet, a Belgian who was supposed to add some length to the Wisconsin interior, was ruled ineligible for this season by the NCAA. Quite a blow for the Badgers, who could use that interior presence.
This week: vs. Prairie View A&M (Wednesday, 7pm, BTN), @ #7 Oklahoma (Sunday, 1:30PM, ESPN2)
All I needed to do was hit publish for the AP to come out with new rankings. Edited to reflect that! Now vote in the poll and give us your thoughts on an exciting upcoming week of Big Ten basketball!