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Big Ten Basketball Week in Review, Tourney Projections

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Is it way too early? You bet!

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Yo! I’m almost done with my doctoral qualifying exams, and that means I finally have time to think and write about basketball again. And that’s good, because there’s been a lot happening in the last couple weeks with Big Ten shootyhoops.

It was Finals Week for a number of Big Ten schools, meaning we were a little deprived of quite the high-level action we were hoping for, but there were still upsets, close shaves, and shenanigans left and right since last Monday. Let’s get to it and preview this week, too!

Monday

Iowa 95, Stetson 68

Bigger things happened for Iowa this week. Moving on.

Tuesday

#18 Purdue 97, Arizona State 64

The Sun Devils aren’t a bad team, per se (KP #88), but this one was never in doubt, as the Boilers came out and stifled Sparky in the first half, taking a 47-21 lead into the break and never looking back. Quiet day at the office for Caleb Swanigan (7 pts and 10 boards), but the 16 and 7 from Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards coming off the bench with 16 points on 4/5 three-point shooting was more than enough.

Michigan State 77, Youngstown State 57

Freshman guard Joshua Langford had 15 for the Spartans after being called out by Tom Izzo following a 4-point win over Oral Roberts. The Penguins didn’t put up much in the way of resistance, but the Spartans—who were without Miles Bridges (ankle) for the second straight game—assisted on 28 of their 34 baskets and rolled.

Florida Atlantic 79, Ohio State 77 (OT)

…welp. The Kenpom-220 Owls came to Columbus and, Nick Rutherford hit a close runner with a second left to help FAU pull off the stunner. Florida Atlantic did nothing spectacular save shoot a respectable 40% clip from deep, but a strong 23 from bench player Adonis Filer and another abysmal shooting night for the Buckeyes (42% from the field, 20% from deep) doomed them at home.

More on the Buckeyes later, but it’s worth noted that once again the struggles of Kam Williams and Jaquan Lyle, who in 68 combined minutes managed just 6/22 shooting, 0/7 from deep, and 5 TOs. Trevor Thompson did have 16 and 7 on 7/9 shooting for Ohio State.

Rutgers 79, Central Connecticut 37

We’ll get to Rutgers later. Central Connecticut is bad. Like, Kenpom 338th bad.

Illinois 85, IUPUI 77

Jeeeeeepers Illinois lives and dies by Malcolm Hill. Good thing he deposited 32 points, 23 in the second half, because the Illini turned it over 15 times and lost the battle on the offense glass. It was an impressive shooting night, though, as embattled Jim Groce’s club shot 55% from the field and 44% from deep.

Minnesota 74, NJIT 68

After leading by 8 just four and a half minutes in, Minnesota never led by more than 4 until free throws allowed them to salt this one away. Akeem Springs came off the bench to drop 19 for the Gophers, complimenting the 13 and 8 from wunderkind Amir Coffey. Reggie Lynch had a helluva game inside, swatting 5 of the Gophers’ 10 blocks, and Nate Mason was 4/5 from deep en route to his 18 points.

I just want to make particular note of the Highlanders’ Damon Lynn, who was impressively inefficient over playing the full 40—he went 5/24 from the field, 2/15 from deep, scoring 12 points and routinely thwarting NJIT possessions. Yet they nearly pulled off the upset—two years to the day since they did the same at Michigan.

Michigan 53, Texas 50

Man, BeileinBall is working and working in the worst ways again. DJ Wilson’s 13 and 6 along with the eminently punchable Moritz Wagner’s 15 and 5 were enough for the Wolverines to hold off the green Longhorns. Neither team shot well—both were 32% from deep, and Michigan’s 42% from the field hardly makes Texas’ 39% look bad, but the Wolverines avoided fouls (9 total) and got a late block from Wagner up just 1 point with seconds to go.

Wednesday

#10 Creighton 77, Nebraska 62

Up just one at half, the Jays put on the afterburners and eased away from their in-state little brothers, rendering inconsequential the 20 points and 6 boards from Tai Webster. Maurice Watson, Jr., had 25 on 10/20 shooting for Creighton, which held the Huskers to just 32.4% shooting and an abysmal 3/22 from deep.

The Huskers were active on the glass, pulling down 16 offensive boards (5 of Ed Morrow’s 13 came here), but just 8 assists to 13 turnovers belie an inability to get things started on offense for Tim Miles’ club. It didn’t get any easier for them this week.

#17 wisconsin 78, Idaho State 44

What the hell is this, Idaho State?

George Mason 85, Penn State 66

…oof. Hard to say much more positive about this one. After Payton Banks made it a 3-point game with a triple with 11:05 to go in the second half, the Patriots used a 20-4 run over the next 5 minutes of gameplay to turn this into a blowout at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State was abysmal shooting the ball once again (36.1% from the field) and if things aren’t falling for Shep Garner, he has a nasty habit of turning into a black hole on offense. Banks added 21 of his own in the Lions’ only good shooting performance of the night (5/12 from deep), but we’re seeing the same flaws recur from the Nittany Lions, who are looking like a borderline-KP 100 team at best.

Maryland 79, Howard 56

The Bison are bad.

Thursday

Iowa 78, #25 Iowa State 64

The Hawkeyes (5-5 wait seriously they’re only .500 on the year when did that happen) are riding momentum into their Finals Week break, knocking off then-#25 Iowa State in convincing fashion at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes found some stifling defense a week after losing at home to Nebraska-Omaha, keeping the ‘Clones to just 36% from the field and 27% from deep while shooting at 47 and 41% clips themselves.

In your weekly Peter Jok is Very Good at Basketball update, the senior from West Des Moines stayed at his averages for the season, turning in a ho-hum 23 points (on 9/17 shooting) and 9 rebounds. Yawn.

Can we interest you, though, in some Nicholas Baer or Isaiah Moss? The sophomore hunchback/forward gave Franimal 10 points and 8 boards in just 17 minutes off the bench, while the freshman guard showed why he is starting—after seeing limited action against Omaha, he provided 21 against the Hatters and 14 more against the Cyclones. If Fran and Friends are finding a rotation and gamespeed that works for them, the Hawks will still make some noise in the Big Ten.

Friday

Minnesota 86, Georgia Southern 49

Noooooooooooope.

Saturday

#2 UCLA 102, Michigan 84

So…UCLA (10-0, KP #10) is really good, and that’s concerning to more than just Iowa fans now. The Bruins flexed all over the Wolverines (7-3, KP #32), emerging from a 50-50 tie at halftime to run Michigan out of Westwood. To their credit, Michigan shot the ball incredibly well after an awful performance against Texas: 50% from the field, 54% from three, and 92% from the free throw line. But when the Bruins go 67% from the field and 62.5% from deep (oh, 50% from the line didn’t matter I guess), that’s gonna make it tough to win too many games.

Harried by the UCLA defense, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Derrick Walton Jr. had rough nights, with just 6/18 shooting combined for 20 points. Zac Irvin was solid for the Wolverines with 18, and the eminently punchable Duncan Robinson provided 13 off the bench to go with benchmate Mark Donnal’s 13 on 5/5 shooting, but the UCLA line…goddamn.

21 for TJ Leaf on 10/14 shooting. 19 for Lorenzo Ball on 5/8 shooting (4/7 from deep). 18 for little Alford. 17 on 5/5 deep-ball chuckin’ for Aaron Holiday. That’s a ridiculous night at the office, but there have been a lot of ridiculous nights at the office for the Bruins, who are turning into a national darling despite not playing a lick of goddamn defense.

#3 Kansas 89, Nebraska 72

The Jayhawks (9-1, KP #4) opened up a 20-point halftime lead on the Huskers (5-5, KP #84) and cruised at the Phog. Bill Self, I learned from ESPN, is now 211-9 in Lawrence. That is just fucking silly.

In the Tai Webster is the Peter Jok of Lincoln update realm, he had 22 and 5 dimes on 9/20 shooting. Ho-hum for the senior Kiwi.

Ed Morrow continued his nice week, collecting 7 boards in 24 minutes to go with his 16 points, and whatever the hell a Jordy Tshimanga is added 10 and 8 off the bench. Nebraska has a center, huh? And it’s not Andre Almeida? Are you…are you sure?

I don’t believe you.

#9 Indiana 103, Houston Baptist 61

Indiana is now 8-1 and rated 14 in Kenpom. James Blackmon Jr. is good despite having that weird haircut. I blame Tom Crean.

#17 wisconsin 93, Marquette 84

Speaking of "I blame Tom Crean," HEY LOOK MARQUETTE BASKETBALL LET ME DOWN ONCE AGAIN.

The Golden Eagles (7-3, KP #38) got Ethan Happ in foul trouble and went toe-to-toe with the badgers (9-2, KP #8 with the good ol’ 10th-ranked AdjO, 20th AdjD, and 344th AdjT) for the first 20 minutes, leading by 5 at the break, then decided they forgot how to play basketball and gave up a 16-0 run in the second half. That was swell.

Everyone’s Golden Boy Nigel Hayes had 17 and 9 while demonstrating that at some points in basketball it’s totally acceptable to drop your shoulder into a defender and knock him on his ass. I don’t know. You tell me.

Whatever, though—Khalil Iverson had a great game for Wisconsin, adding 16 and 5 off the bench, while Bronson Koenig finally got revved up in the second half as Marquette went back into the Steve Wojciechowski Shitty Offense Shell of lots of stagnant possessions (8 assists to 12 TOs), little ball movement, and just expecting something would work out with Haanif Cheatham (16 points on 6/14 shooting). They did not.

#18 Purdue 77, Cleveland State 53

The Fightin’ Hagar the Horribles (3-6, KP #222) offered little in way of resistance for the Boilermakers (8-2, KP #12), who collected seven steals and five blocks in a ‘meh’ home win.

Did Caleb Swanigan get another double-double?: Yes, he did (13 and 10).

Is there anything else interesting about this game?: Special congratties to Vikings’ guard Tim Hasbargen, who picked up 2 Trilly honors. We knew you could do it, Tim.

Maryland 66, St. Peter’s 56

The Terps (10-1, KP #66) led this one 40-18 at halftime, but the Peacocks (4-5, KP #193) came strutting back, as they are wont to do.

Justin Jackson Not-the-Ball-Carrier-Because-That’s-Illegal-in-Basketball had 19 and 5 for Maryland, who once again went into its shell (I swear that wasn’t intentional) in the second half and was bailed out by their ability to get to the line (though they were only 65.5% from the stripe).

I don’t know what the hell is up with Mark Turgeon’s club—they look capable enough, but there’s just no depth to that bench’s scoring capability, and I’m not even that confident in anyone not named Jackson or Melo Trimble (who somehow only had 5 points on 2/4 shooting in this one and WHAT THE HELL, MARYLAND).

Michigan State 71, Tennessee Tech 63

Eron Harris had 20 points to help the Spartans (7-4, KP #42) hold off the Golden Eagles (4-7, KP #288) at home. The Spartans had a laudable 19 dishes on 22 makes, and anything slightly more competent than a 17/30 effort from the line would’ve likely been enough for Izzo’s crew. Nick Ward was admirable off the bench, providing a nice 10 and 5 on 4/4 shooting in just 12 minutes.

Pittsburgh 81, Penn State 73

Another day, another ugly shooting performance from the Nittany Lions (6-5, KP #123), who only managed 36% from the field and 27% from deep en route to an in-state loss to what had been a scuffling Pitt (8-2, KP #59) team.

Mike Watkins came alive for the Lions, collecting 15 boards to go with his 17 points, and Payton Banks was again good off the bench (13 points on 3/6 three-balls), but Penn State had no answer for the length of Michael Young (29 points, 11/14 FTs) and Sheldon Jeter (10 boards, 5 blocks).

Illinois 92, Central Michigan 73

Tracy Abrams is now 25 years old and still playing basketball somehow. I don’t know how the fuck that works, but the senior (he’s a senior, right) had a career-high 31 for the Illini (8-3, KP #67), who rendered Chips’ guard Marcus Keene’s 25 points moot.

With the win over Central Michigan (8-3, KP #144) the Illini move into their Finals break staring down winnable games against BYU on Saturday and Mizzou in Braggin’ Rights. Are they as bad as Thump’s inconsolability would suggest? I don’t think so—besides the home loss to Winthrop (and the Screamin’ Eagles are 118th in Kenpom and 5-3 overall), the Illini have lost to two Top 25 teams and have good wins over VCU and NC State.

Ohio State 64, Connecticut 60

UConn is not good (4-5, KP #78), so I don’t want to read too much into the Buckeyes’ (8-2, KP #33) win, but we’re seeing the emergence of Trevor Thompson inside for Thad Matta’s crew. The 7’ junior from Indianapolis had 17 and 17—his second double-double of the season—and made 9 of his 10 free throws. Keep on keepin’ on, big man.

Elsewhere, the Buckeyes shot 34% from the field and 11 fucking percent from deep, so you tell me. I don’t get it, but they forced 16 Husky TOs and got a seven-man UConn rotation into foul trouble (26/34 from the line). They have the bad loss to Florida Atlantic, but their only other loss is to #6 UVA, so we’ll learn a lot more when they take on UCLA this weekend after Finals.

Rutgers 71, Stony Brook 66

First things first: Rutgers is 9-1 (KP #131), and that’s damn laudable for Steve Pikiell in the first year of what looked like a multi-year salvage operation on the banks of the ol’ Black-and-Tan. The Scarlet Knights found a pair of late free throws from Mike Williams and used a 15-0 run to take a 57-55 lead in the second half that they wouldn’t relinquish. Traveling to his old stomping grounds, Pikiell got 21 points and 6 boards from transfer G Nigel Johnson and another 13 from Corey Sanders to go with Deshawn Freeman’s 12 boards [Rutgers is tall, in case you hadn’t heard].

Second things second: Rutgers is still not very good. In case the Kenpom-131 ranking (or isotope, I’m not sure) didn’t clue you in, the Knights have needed comebacks to beat Hartford, Stony Brook, and Niagara.

Now, in a rebuilding season you’ll take whatever you can get, but I’m still pumping the brakes on Rutgers as we approach the season. Their schedule, in case you were curious:

Team

Molloy

Drexel

DePaul

Niag.

UNT

Hart.

MIA

Morg

C.CT

StnBrk

FairDick

Ford.

Seton

Result

86-57

87-66

66-59

78-65

66-53

77-75

61-73

72-58

79-37

71-66

KP #

D-II

250

177

277

272

322

26

330

338

233

290

198

46


In case you were wondering, that’s an average opponent of a 230 ranking in Kenpom. One win inside the KP Top 200. So we’re not gonna hold our breath just yet, though Rutgers is certainly turning it around in a nice way—one that now the rest of the Big Ten doesn’t have to be in fear that one bad night will turn into a loss to a team outside the Top 200 in RPI.

Sunday

Northwestern 83, New Orleans 49

The ‘Cats came out of finals right where they left off, pounding the Fightin’ DeGenereses (4-4, KP #261) at Welsh-Ryan Arena to improve to 7-2 (KP #40) overall on the year. Nathan Taphorn was his usual efficient self, dropping 18 and a sick put-back dunk that looked like a comet shooting across the sky—and that’s not just a crack at his straw-colored hair, pasty complexion, and white shoes. (It mostly is, though.)

Gavin Skelly has been making a name for himself in the absence due to injury of Dererk Pardon. The junior from Cleveland had 14 and 9 for the ‘Cats, who need Vic Law to regain his shooting stroke heading toward conference play.

Is it The Year? No. It is not The Year. It is never The Year. But a solid showing in conference should get the ‘Cats to the NIT, and that’s a positive step or something, I guess. Whatever.

Minnesota 77, Northern Illinois 57

Reggie Lynch poured in a double-double (18 and 11) for the Gophers (10-1, KP #47) as did All-B1G-All-World Jordan Murphy (12 and 10), as the Gophers assisted on 17 of 24 baskets, grabbed 16 of an available 37 rebounds on the offensive glass, and eased past Northern Illinois (4-5, KP #176).

On a rough shooting night for Nate Mason (11 on 2/9) and Amir Coffey (6 on 2/7 plus foul trouble), the Gophers’ bigs came up, well, big, and Minnesota has eased themselves into a nice 10-1 start to the year.

Worth noting? They have won 9 of those 10 games on home court. They don’t leave the state of Minnesota (and really, why would anyone?) again until New Year’s Day, when they take on Purdue. I’m staying firmly Jury Out on Minnesota until further notice.

Tourney Talk?

Joe Lunardi’s been out there predicting away, and I’ve tried to keep my finger to the pulse of the conference’s fortunes, as well. Here’s who he’s got, who Bustin Brackets has, and where I standing on their picks, as well. No Jerry Palm til he updates L

Team

Lunardi

Busting Brackets

MNW

Indiana

#2 seed, South

#3 seed

I find it hard to believe that the Big Ten won’t put at least one team in on a 2-seed. Indiana’s still there for me, especially with a win over Butler.

wisconsin

#5 seed, West

#4 seed

I’m not quite sure what scared Joey Brackets off the badgers, but Wisconsin does lack a Good Win in the RPI Top 50. Indiana twice on the schedule should help them stay around a 4-seed.

Purdue

#5 seed, East

#5 seed

Can’t argue here. Boilers have a decent win over Auburn and close losses to both ‘Nova and Louisville, and a showdown with Notre Dame will look good for the RPI.

Michigan

#7 seed, Midwest

#8 seed

No RPI Top 50 wins, not a ton setting them apart from any other like-school, and a reliance on the three-ball has me thinking Michigan’s an 8-9 seed.

Ohio State

#7 seed, West

#7 seed

I really need someone to explain this Ohio State fascination to me. Providence is a good win and a narrow loss to UVA isn’t bad, but there has been so little about the Buckeyes outside of their offense…that looks like a 9-10 seed right now.

Michigan State

#8 seed, South

#7 seed

Sparty will do what Sparty does, rebound in Big Ten play, and wind up on a hot streak and a 5-seed. All four of their losses are to teams inside the RPI Top 40. I will shake my head inconsolably.

Maryland

#10 seed, East

#8 seed

Will there be a less-inspiring 10-seed than Maryland? Pitt is as close as the Terps get to a good loss, but Oklahoma State’s also as close as they get to a good win. If they underwhelm in the Big Ten I can see them being a First Four kind of game.

Minnesota

#11 seed, Midwest

First Four Out

Nope. Still don’t see it. Absolutely not. Hanging your hat on beating two mediocre SEC teams and losing a close one to Florida State will not do it, and the Gophers’ RPI will have them by season’s end either in the Last Four In or the NIT.

Northwestern

Next Four Out (#6)

#12 seed (Last in)

I’m down for whatever that second dude is having. But nah, it’s not happening. The ‘Cats have to show they’ve got the inside muscle to make it through the Big Ten season, because they’re going to go cold at points from outside.

Illinois/Iowa

Whichever team of these two comes out of the gate hotter in Big Ten play will go to the NIT. Book it.