It was a pretty "bleh" week for Big Ten basketball, as just six teams were in action:
Maryland 92, Jacksonville State 66
(We already recapped this one on Tuesday.)
Michigan 97, Central Arkansas 53
A school-record 19 three-pointers, four each for Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Derrick Walton, Jr. paced the Wolverines to a runaway win over the Bears.
Northwestern 68, Chicago State 64
Wait...what? Yeah. Let’s pretend that didn’t happen, aight? The ‘Cats never pulled away from the Cougars, who took the lead late in the second half and seemingly couldn’t miss from deep (13/26 on some of the most ridiculous three-pointers you’ve ever seen). Vic Law did yeoman’s work, dropping 18 on 7/14 shooting, and Sanjay Lumpkin nabbed 11 boards.
We should probably talk about how bad Bryant McIntosh’s shot is, but I don’t need to start drinking yet today.
Rutgers 82, Fairleigh Dickinson 69
The Scarlet Knights ran their comeback tour to 10-1, getting 12 and 8 from fifth-year transfer center CJ Gettys to put away the plain ol’ Knights. Rutgers dominated the boards on the undersized Knights, pulling in an impressive 41% Oreb%, with 13 of their 43 coming from Deshawn Freeman.
Minnesota 76, LIU-Brooklyn 66
Dupree McBrayer exploded for 21 points on 8/11 shooting, Nate Mason chipped in 19 points while going 4/6 from deep, and the Gophers eased past LIU-Brooklyn. The Blackbirds closed it to 2 a couple minutes into the second half, but Minnesota (11-1, KP #48) applied pressure and 19 Blackbird turnovers cost them down the stretch.
#14 wisconsin 73, Green Bay 59
Linc Darner’s crew fell behind early, and 18 points from Kerem Kanter weren’t enough to stem the tide of Ethan Happ’s double-double (14 and 10). The badgers (10-2, KP #8) got 24 points on a solid night from Nigel Hayes (8/15 shooting), and Zac Showalter added 16 of his own by going 4/6 from deep.
#15 Purdue (8-2, KP #12) vs. #21 Notre Dame (9-1, KP #24)
1pm || ESPN2 || Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Caleb Swanigan is cruising along at a double-double clip (15.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg), and Purdue comes cruising along into a showdown with the Fighting Irish, who just suffered their first loss of the year to Villanova but have already taken down two Big Ten clubs (Northwestern by 4 and Iowa by 14) on the year.
Bonzie Colson (16.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg) should provide a great test for Swanigan’s defense, and the scrappy, gritty, gym-ratty, lunch-paily backcourt of Steve Vasturia (16.6 ppg) and Matt Farrell (13.0 ppg, 5.5 apg) are liable to take the Boilers off the dribble and get to the basket. Matt Ryan (47.6% 3pt) can come off the bench and gun for the Irish under Mike Brey, who just got a bunch of gently-used Volvos on the lot and would love to have you take one for a test drive. No credit needed, apply within!
Michigan (8-3, KP #31) vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore (1-9, KP #332)
2pm || BTN
The Hawks are...a bad basketball team. Their only win this year came against Central Pennsylvania College, a D-II school. Outside junior guard Ryan Andino (14.0 ppg, 44.9% 3pt), UMES lacks a real threat besides interior presence Bakari Copeland (13.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg). The Wolverines should be able to play this one at their pace, and barring a shooting slump, this one should be a cakewalk.
Ohio State (8-2, KP #34) vs. #2 UCLA (11-0, KP #10)
2pm || CBS || T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
The Bruins are still cruising—TJ Leaf (18.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is getting Player of the Year chatter and 6 players average double-digit points per game—and are looking for their third Big Ten scalp of the year in the CBS Sports Classic in Vegas.
It’s uncertain as of Thursday afternoon if 7’ C Thomas Welsh is returning from his bruised right knee yet, and if he’s not around, the Buckeyes will need to feed the ball inside to Trevor Thompson and attempt to slow down the 3rd-best offense and 12th-fastest pace in college basketball (per Kenpom).
I like the Buckeyes to keep this a little closer than most others (save Nebraska and Texas A&M, perhaps) deeper into the game, if only because their defense is the best one UCLA has played outside of Kentucky. If the Bruins get hot from outside again, though (they shot over 50% from the field and deep in running Michigan out of the gym), this one could be over early.
Iowa (5-5, KP #78) vs. Northern Iowa (5-4, KP #73)
3:30pm || ESPN3 || Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
The Fightin’ Peter Joks head down I-80 to take on their in-state rivals in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic. The Panthers went on a four-game skid in the middle of the non-conference, amusing losing to Xavier in two consecutive matchups, one at the Tire Pros Invitational and the other on the Musketeers’ home court. Just a little fun fact.
Ben Jacobson’s club plays one of the slowest paces in basketball, sure to piss Stew off with its 339th ranking in AdjT, and guard Jeremy Morgan (18.1 ppg, 45.8% 3pt) will make for a nice scoring competition with Jok. Ball movement and good offensive possessions will be key for the Panthers against the length and speed of Iowa, who hopes to get another strong showing out of Cordell Pemsl and Isaiah Moss. I like the Hawkeyes here, but this one will be good TV regardless as Northern Iowa seems to make it a transitive Panther State.
#9 Indiana (8-1, KP #14) vs. #18 Butler (9-1, KP #19)
4pm || BTN || Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
The grind-it-out Bulldogs look to keep bouncing back from a one-point loss to Indiana State (they beat #22 Cincinnati last weekend) by taking their deep bench—8 players average over 10 minutes per game—up against the athleticism of the Hoosiers. Kelan Martin (17.7 ppg) continues to put up points for the Bulldogs, and Tyler Lewis (8.7 ppg, 5.7 apg) spreads the ball around for a very efficient offense (20th in AdjO).
I like the Hoosiers to get after the Bulldogs on the glass—they average 14 more rebounds per game than Butler, and Tom Crean’s club is pulling down (this can’t be right, can it?) 13 offensive rebounds per game, led, of course, by Thomas Bryant (11.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg). James Blackmon Jr. (16.9 ppg) and Robert Johnson (13.1 ppg) have been shooting the lights out for the Hoosiers, both over 40% from distance and the latter at 55% from the field.
Either way, coming on the heels of Purdue-Notre Dame, this one should be another barn-burner. Tune in.
Northwestern (8-2, KP #47) vs. Dayton (7-2, KP #39)
6pm || BTN || United Center, Chicago
In their quest to destroy the remaining fragments of my liver, the Wildcats head down to the Madhouse on Madison for the first half of the Chicago Legends Classic to take on a surging Dayton club.
Since a pair of losses to then-#17 Saint Mary’s and Nebraska, the Flyers have rattled off five straight with the return of senior forward Kendall Pollard in the last three, turning over their opponents 19 times per game during that stretch. Senior guard Charles Cooke (20.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) continues to pour it in for Archie Miller’s squad, which is a virtual mirror image of the ‘Cats (but slightly better) in their Kenpom profile.
Without the services of Dererk Pardon inside, Northwestern will need big games from Gavin Skelly and Barrett Benson, along with continued efficiency from Sanjay Lumpkin (just 6.6 ppg but 6.1 rpg and lockdown defense). Vic Law continues to drag the ‘Cats through games with his 15.8 ppg, but the real issue is Bryant McIntosh, whose plummeting FG% (37.9% now) is somewhat balanced out by his 5.1 assists per game.
This one will be close to the end, I have a feeling, and a win here would go a long way to reaaaally driving the knife home when Northwestern goes 7-11 in the Big Ten.
Illinois (8-3, KP #68) vs. BYU (7-3, KP #57)
8:30pm || BTN || United Center, Chicago
Fresh off his two-year mission, Eric Mika has been nothing short of stellar for the Cougars, averaging 21 points and 8.5 boards a contest. Don’t blink during this one—you’ll miss the Cougars getting out and pushing the pace to blinding speeds (they’re the third-fastest in the nation).
The Illini have quietly put together a nice little resurgence, and while there’s always Malcolm Hill (18.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), John Groce’s club has gotten some excellent work out of Leron Black, who has scored 17 a game in his last five appearances, shooting 54.5% from the field and pulling down 7.4 boards per game during that span.
Penn State (6-5, KP #122) vs. St. John’s (5-6, KP #114)
10am || FS1 || Madison Square Garden
Is getting out and trying to score 80 ppg a good idea if you have the 200th-best AdjO rating in college basketball? Asking for a Pat Chambers.
Having lost consecutive ugly games to Pitt and George Mason, Penn State heads to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John’s in the Hoops Holiday Classic. Lucky for the Nittany Lions, the Red Storm like to run just as much, but the loss of freshman guard Marcus LoVett (18.8 ppg) to an ankle injury and big man Yankuba Sima to transfer has hurt Chris Mullin’s club.
If LoVett is back, the Red Storm could give Penn State some problems. Along with guards Shamorie Ponds and Federico Mussini, St. John’s gets out and chucks, but Penn State’s balanced attack (five players are over 10 ppg) is due to break out of its shooting slump—no Nittany Lion of consequence shoots over 40% from deep and only Mike Watkins (10.2 ppg) shoots over 45% from the field.
Rutgers (10-1, KP #131) vs. Fordham (5-6, KP #199)
12pm || BTN+ || Madison Square Garden
What a big day for the denizens of MSG. Penn State-St. John’s followed by Rutgers-Fordham. Truly inspiring.
Since starting 5-1, the Rams have dropped 5 consecutive to such luminaries as Sacred Heart, UT-Arlington, and Manhattan. They like to drag the game to a slow pace and play defense, and if they can keep the Scarlet Knights from penetrating off the dribble, Rutgers’ 29.3% shooting from deep could cause problems. Unfortunately, only one Ram that sees substantial minutes stands over 6’7" (6’10" F Prokop Slanina is a rotation forward), and the height of Steve Pikiell’s squad should continue their hot offensive rebounding stretch (15.6 OReb/gm).
Watch out for 6’7" German forward Christian Sengfelder for Fordham, who averages 13 points per games while shooting a respectable 39% from deep. Ultimately, unless the Rams can defend and keep their big men out of foul trouble, Rutgers should roll.
Nebraska (5-5, KP #82) vs. Gardner-Webb (5-5, KP #228)
1pm || ESPNU
The Runnin’ Bulldogs continue to live up to their name, as they’ll push the pace on the Huskers and try to get Laquincy Rideau (13.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 46.4 3pt%) calling the shots. Guard David Efianayi (13.7 ppg) and forward Tyrell Nelson (12.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) complement Rideau, but Gardner-Webb lacks the muscle inside—L’Hassane Niangane plays an uninspiring 15 mpg—to control Nebraska.
Tai Webster should be able to break the Runnin’ ‘Dogs down off the dribble, but I’m looking for sophomore forward Ed Morrow (10.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg) to control the boards for the Huskers. Morrow is averaging 9.5 boards a game in his last 4, and a little high-low action with Michael Jacobson would be a nice look for the Huskers in slowly taking the game to Gardner-Webb.
Michigan State (7-4, KP #43) vs. Northeastern (5-5, KP #173)
6pm || BTN
The Huskies, who claimed a UConn scalp earlier in the year, stopped a three-game skid with a comeback win over Vermont a week ago, but they haven’t faced a team of Michigan State’s caliber yet this year.
TJ Williams averages almost 22 points per game for the Huskies and has a nice stroke from the field (53.1% and 41.7% 3pt), and 6’10" F Jeremy Miller could turn in a decent showing against the depleted Spartans front line. Miles Bridges appears to be likely a ways off from returning, but it’s been all hands on deck for Tom Izzo’s club, who still haven’t lost to a ranked team in 2016. Nick Ward continues to perform at a high level, and both Cassius Winston (5.5 apg) and Tum Tum Nairns (5.0 apg) help drive an offense that assists on 73.7% of their made baskets.
The Spartans should roll, though I’m not so sure if the men’s hockey team—which plays Northeastern earlier that afternoon—will be so lucky.
That’s all I got. Here’s your open thread for weekend basketball! Usual rules apply, don’t be a jackwagon.