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Big Ten Basketball: Week Two in Review

Should we be concerned that the supposed top of the conference is struggling?

NCAA Basketball: Massachusetts Lowell at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Gavitt Tipoff is over with we are firmly in cupcake season. There are a lot of teams that are still undefeated but what has that really shown us? A few teams have played a quality opponent but even more teams have played cannon fodder teams generally on the level of Rutgers. Here is what each team looks like so far (that’s played since Tuesday night):

Maryland Terrapins

Maryland took on Georgetown on 11/15 and came out of the Verizon Center with a 76-75 victory. In a battle with the refs all night, both teams struggled to shoot throughout the game and Georgetown was kept in it by some amazing free throw shooting. Maryland trailed by as many as 8 points late into the second half but utilized a meltdown by Georgetown and a key block in the last 10 seconds by true freshman Kevin Huerter to win the game. Maryland took on St. Marys College of Maryland (DIII) on Thursday night and more than doubled them up in the final, shocker.

What to take out of this week? Maryland’s three point game is still struggling and, in particular, Jared Nickens may be shooting his way out of the rotation if he can’t find his shot again as he doesn’t bring much to the court otherwise. The inside rotation is still a mystery as Michael Cekovsky works his way back from a sprained ankle but Ivan Bender has been impressive with interior passing.

In more positive news: Maryland signed both 2017 recruits in the early signing period over the past week or so. Unless they start practicing Creaning, that should wrap up their 2017 recruiting class.

Michigan Wolverines

Smashed Marquette on ESPN which was fantastic.

Michigan has system on both offense and defense (as do other teams obviously), but it’s clear that if Michigan is allowed to play its system, they are devilishly effective. Over and over, Marquette dumped the ball inside, and Michigan played one-on-one post defense, daring the offensive player to try and exploit the matchup. This worked quite well. This is the Beilein defensive philosophy.

DJ Wilson’s long arms change many things about this Michigan team. Basically having functional and versatile bigs (finally??) changes everything about this team. Will it hold up against good Big Ten competition?

MNW: Speaking of, Luke Fischer was absolutely terrible inside for Marquette. Looked awful defending the pick-and-roll in the first half, frequently over-pursuing, couldn’t make a bucket to save his life… That said, just slop all around from the Golden Eagles and good on the Wolverines for capitalizing.

That Sideshow Bob freak with the Stockton shorts needs a good hard fouling, though.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Hey everyone, did you know this is the first time Rutgers has started 3-0 since WWII? That’s about their only accomplishment this week as they played three teams that were all 180 or worse in RPI. Of course, for Rutgers that’s just playing on their level so there is something for that.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Three games, three wins for the young buckeyes. Je’Sean Tate and Kam Williams continue to carry the Buckeyes so far this season, averaging a combined 27 points a game. Ohio State beat an above average Providence team 72-67, led by Je’Sean Tate’s 21 points and 7 assists.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota has played nobody of interest three games into the season but they are 3-0 nonetheless. Minnesota won on Wednesday night, beating Mt. Saint Mary’s 80-56 in a tune up game. Their next game against St. Johns should provide a bit more of a measuring stick for this Minnesota team that is trying to dig themselves out of the bottom of the Big Ten. Minnesota joins Maryland in the sub 30% three point shooting on the year but get more than 10ppg from all five starters to show off nice balance.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa dispatched its first two cupcakes while playing all 13 scholarship players meaningful minutes. However, in their first real test of the season, the youth on the team really showed. Some sloppy defense and untimely turnovers were enough to cost a win against a good Seton Hall team.

This is a super young team, and Peter Jok. Jok has looked like he’s going to up to the lofty expectations, being able to hit his silky smooth shot with just a sliver of daylight. True Freshman forward, Tyler Cook, is dunking on everyone. Overall, this should be a very fun team to watch. They’re fast, and can score in buckets, while defense is going to be a problem.


Nebraska played Sacramento State and something called "Mary," which once produced a Tim Miles, so yeah, not a lot of really informative games happening in Lincoln. Happily, the Huskers managed to win both of these games handily, so that’s something. It’s a very, very young team, who lost great leaders in Shavon Shields and Benny Parker, as well as a reliable shooter in Andrew White, so it’s anybody’s guess who is going to step into these roles. So far, Glynn Watson Jr. has played well and with ferocity, which may be important with a team that appears to have leadership roles up for grabs, and Tai Webster, one of the few returning players with significant playing time last year, will need to be a reliable scorer. Unfortunately, the Huskers still seem to be very turnover-prone, which won’t end well. In all likelihood, this will be a rough season for Nebraska, but hopefully we will see progress with a young roster throughout the season.

Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana only had one game this week as they look to next week before their next game. Indiana put a bad team to bed with no issue in UMass Lowell in the "Indiana Classic" and will continue to wait for Ft. Wayne next. An odd scheduling strategy has them taking about a week off before the next game and then even more extended rest.

Northwestern Wildcats

You want to know why it’s not The Year? Why it’s never the fucking Year? Watch Northwestern’s game with Butler from Wednesday. The ‘Cats did just about damn near everything to frustrate the Bulldogs in Hinkle, but came up :00.5 short when Butler’s Kamar Baldwin stepped back on Gavin Skelly and drained a long jumper. That had been set up by a bad Bryant McIntosh turnover with the game tied, because of course it had.

Vic Law had 17 to lead the ‘Cats in his comeback year after shoulder surgery, and he’ll make noise in Big Ten play--he’s rangy, athletic, and can shoot from outside. Too bad Northwestern’s never going dancing, so his talent will be totally irrelevant and wasted.

Next up in the ‘Cats three-game tour of playing good opponents on the road or neutral-site venues is Brooklyn, where they’ll fall agonizingly short against Texas on Monday, then either Notre Dame or Colorado on Tuesday.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Pat Chambers was right about one thing. The Lions are scoring more than 80 points per game, just like he said they would before the season started. The bad news is that there is already one ugly loss in the books, that being to Albany in the season opener. It still stings, even after win over such powers as Duquesne and Grand Canyon.

The big picture is a lot prettier, though, as three of the team’s most talented newcomers are playing very well alongside junior leader Shep Garner. Lamar Stevens in particular has shown the ability to draw contact around the rim and took advantage with 12-for-13 free throw shooting in the win over the Dukes. Tony Carr and Mike Watkins are rougher around the edges, but each guy has had him moments. Carr’s jumper can use some work, but the point guard of the future has at least four assists in all three games.

Meanwhile, Watkins has been incredible on defense with 13 total blocks compared to 10 personal fouls so far. And that’s with him working fewer than 30 minutes per night. He’s also a terrific finisher at the rim. Once he polishes his offensive game, Watkins has a serious chance to be a dominant player in the Big Ten. But for now, there will be growing pains as these young players grow into their roles and learn to work alongside each other.

Wisconsin Badgers

When you play teams like Chicago State, you can play 10+ players and allow Bronsin Koenig to go 1-6 from 3 and shoot 33% from the field overall. Wisconsin did just that en route to an 86-59 victory on Thursday night in a tune up game for their bench players.

We’ll have a preview of this weekend’s games and an open thread for the weekend as well coming out later this afternoon.