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B1G Hoops Weekend Recap: Just how mediocre is the conference?

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Reports of Nebrasketball’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. And: is Minnesota actually good?

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get my thoughts out of the way:

  • The Big Ten is a no-good, very-mediocre basketball conference.
  • Unless you’re counting on the wisconsin badgers’ usual attempt at “basket ball” to bring the conference a lot of acclaim, there’s not too much hope for the conference to impress anyone unless NCAA Tournament time.
  • Turns out Tim Miles’s “hiatus” from tweeting...might actually have been what the doctor ordered for the Huskers? OK, maybe it’s actually that they’ve (at least momentarily) overcome their shooting woes, but perhaps tweeting, coaching, and writing lesson plans for 4th-period social studies got to be too much.
  • Michigan State is going to go 11-7 in the Big Ten and make the NCAA Tournament. Fuck me sideways.
  • Hey rutger fan(s)...THIS IS WHY WE TOLD YOU MAYBE 11-2 WASN’T ALL THAT IMPRESSIVE.
  • Seriously, for as bad as Penn State is at shooting the basketball, rutger found a way to be even worse. Congratulations to all parties involved.
  • Minnesota has found its shooting stroke and, barring another round of sextape-making, looks like they’ll be dancing.
  • There’s no reason to panic in West Lafayette, but Purdue missed a serious chance to establish itself as the early conference front-runner.
  • Get your shit figured out, Maryland. Are you going to be decent or just mediocre?
  • Illinois might be good. Or not.
  • Ohio State might be good. Or not.
  • I could not pretend to care about Illinois-Ohio State basketball if I wanted to.
  • It is still not The Year.

Friday

Michigan State 61, Northwestern 62

Cassius Winston broke out of his slump to drop 15 points and 6 assists, Alvin Ellis III added 16 off the bench, and the Spartans took a slopfest over Northwestern at the Breslin Center.

It’s yet another example of Sparty finding a damn way to ensure that their 11-7 Big Ten record puts them back in the Dance and Northwestern finding yet another way to shoot themselves in the foot in their quest to remind us all that it’s not The Year. Fun to know this year it’ll be a lack of size and rebounding inside! Dominated 43-27 on the glass, Northwestern couldn’t overcome a 36% shooting performance when they had to trot out Sanjay Lumpkin at center and Nathan Taphorn at power forward because Gavin Skelly put all his lunch-pailiness to good use, fouling out without scoring a point, and Barrett Benson looked every bit a freshman inside.

Bryant McIntosh’s shooting woes continue: I don’t care if he reminds Chris Collins of himself or some bullshit, 3/14 against MSU (7 pts, 5 ast) and a 35% FG rate (25% from deep) while taking the most shots on the team is unacceptable. He can run the offense and not continue to drag it into the fucking mud.

Saturday

#6 Louisville 77, #16 Indiana 62

A double-double from James Blackmon Jr (10 pts, 11 reb) wasn’t enough to overcome a terrible shooting performance—the Hoosiers were 19% from deep and just 32% from the field. They still dominated the glass (19 of a possible 41 offensive rebounds), but performances like Robert Johnson’s 1/13 shooting night meant Indiana could not keep up with a hot Louisville shooting night.

Tom Crean mentioned after the game that he didn’t see the Hoosiers shooting that poorly again, and part of me is inclined to just chalk that performance up to another bad night in Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse. Indiana might “just” be a Top 25 team this year, but that monster inside presence will keep them afloat through the Big Ten schedule.

Sunday

Nebraska 67, Maryland 65

After a 14-0 run to close the game, Nebraska is 2-0 in the Big Ten, with both wins coming on the road.

I don’t know. You figure it out.

Jesse: This team might not be particularly great, but it’s also 2-0 with wins against preseason bets to win the B1G - Indiana and Maryland - both on the road (as MNW mentioned). So how did they do it? Well, probably the best way to put it is that Nebraska led for most of the game, lost it on a 10 minute stretch where they forgot how to score, and finished on a whopping 14-0 run that was highlighted by a ridiculous 1-3-1 defensive effort.

Neat.

That in mind, I love this team. It’s still incredibly young and full of talent. If the offense can figure itself out, this will be a really fun team to follow. Freshmen Isaiah Roby, Jeriah Horne, and Jordy Tshimanga all have shown why there was so much excitement around this year’s class and if you add in transfer Evan Taylor, you have four new rotation players to mesh with last year’s budding stars Ed Morrow, Jr., Glynn Watson, Michael Jacobson, and Jack McVeigh. Tai Webster is the engine for these young kids right now, but that’s a decent team no matter how you write it up. There will be some bad days ahead for Nebrasketball - maybe even against Iowa - but they’ve proven that they’re not afraid of anyone. I like it.

BigRedTwice: Now, I’m not some crazy that thinks this is The Year or something...but it’s certainly been The Week, and no one saw that coming. All of a sudden, there’s a lot more excitement and optimism about Nebrasketball—certainly more than there was two weeks ago when they lost at home to something called a Gardner-Webb. But, for a team whose leading adjectives prior to the Indiana game were “young” and “inexperienced,” it’s sure nice to see “surprising,” “tenacious,” and full-of-hustle” added to the list of descriptors. I’ve been so impressed with the no-quit attitude of this team in the past couple of games. Their rebounds seem to be more numerous (note: I have not actually quantified this and could in fact be entirely wrong, but it seems like they’re fighting for more and getting them). And when they get in a tight spot, they do. not. quit. Maryland went on a 17-0 run in the second half of this game. 17-0! Maryland was up by 12 with six minutes left in the game. Plenty of teams, especially on the road, would have gotten demoralized at that point. But not these young Huskers. Perhaps they feel they have nothing to lose (which is true). Maybe Tai Webster is one hell of a senior leader. Maybe The Gardner-Webb Incident was a bit of a turning point. Whatever the reason, it’s good to know that they’ve got the guts to at least have a go at their Big Ten schedule, and finding improbable success in these first two games will hopefully help them further cultivate whatever it is they’re doing.

I am sure there will be some frustrating, ugly games ahead for this team. They’re too young and inconsistent for that not to happen. But as long as they keep playing with the determination they showed this week, I think they also have some exciting games (and wins?) ahead of them too.

Some fun numbers from this one:

—Nebraska snapped Indiana’s home winning streak at 26. They notched a similarly impressive stat at Maryland, becoming only the second Big Ten team to win there since Maryland joined the conference.

—The last time Nebraska started conference play 2-0 was 2005, when I was, alas, a junior in college, and Nebraska was in the Big XII, and smartphones weren’t even a thing. It was awhile ago, is what I’m saying.

—The last time Nebraska started conference play 2-0 with both games on the road was 1979. I don’t even know what was going on in 1979, it was so long ago.

So yay. Great work, Nebrasketball!

Penn State 60, rutger 47

In lieu of writing a recap for this traveshamockery masquerading as basketball, I have screenshotted the boxscores of Penn State and rutger. Things I am generously terming “not awful” are boxed in green. Things I am generously terming “take it out behind the barn and shoot it” are boxed in red.

That’s not fair to Tony Carr. Pretend his shooting isn’t boxed in red. Because...

Fuck you, Jim Delany.

Iowa 86, Michigan 83 (OT)

Holy shit, DJ Wilson (28 pts, 14 rebs, 6 ast). Holy shit, Peter Jok (just basically his entire performance). This game was Fun, as both teams’ inability to lock down their defensive glass meant lots of scrambling, extended possessions,

Is Iowa going to shoot 11/19 from deep every game? Hell no. Jordan Bohannon had a helluva game (17 pts on 6/8 shooting), and Nicholas Baer (12 pts, 5 boards) continues to do work off the bench.

Is Michigan going to continue to chuck? You bet your sweet ass they are. 12 of 35 from deep, and God bless ‘em for just throwing up three on three on three.

Ultimately I still consider Michigan the better of these two teams, as Iowa’s not going to be ridiculously good from the field every game and weathering Peter Jok remains the “easier said than done” answer. But for two teams in the mushy middle tier of the Big Ten, this was a game to win, and Iowa found a way.

Stew: That was a really fun game. Iowa still makes some really dumb mistakes, and big defensive lapses (especially rotating when in zone to cover a 3). Jordan Bohannon is a chucker and was on down the stretch. Pretty quiet game out of Isaiah Moss and Cordell Pemsl, though. I think McCaffery is starting to get his rotation figured out with this young team. There’s still going to be a couple more games like what happened against Purdue, but man, watching Jok raining shots down and Tyler Cook dunking on everyone is a lot of fun.

Minnesota 91, #15 Purdue 82 (OT)

So that’s what happens when Minnesota turns in a competent second half. The Golden Gophers overcame all three of their bigs fouling out, Eric Curry decided he suddenly knows how to shoot threes, and Nate Mason torched the Boilers’ backcourt for 31 points as Minnesota got the road upset.

Caleb Swanigan continued his dominance of the stat line, dropping 28 points and grabbing a stupid 22 rebounds. He is just good. But late in the game Minnesota found ways to neutralize him inside, forcing him into a secondary role as Purdue’s guards struggled to enter the ball into the post and Reggie Lynch hounded him when they did.

The end of this game frustrated the hell out of me. For one, Swanigan traveled on his game-tying layup. For two, so did Curry on his running layup early in overtime. Stop fucking swallowing your whistles, ref. Traveling is traveling.

But the shots didn’t go for Purdue (Dakota Mathias won’t often go for 4 pts but 10 assists), Mason was out of his gourd, and Minnesota will be a deservedly-ranked team when the polls come out later this week.

Illinois 75, Ohio State 70

Leron Black’s inside presence gives Illinois the physicality they need to be an NCAA Tournament team. Thump’s despondent ramblings will not convince me otherwise.

Jaquan Lyle had a great night for the Buckeyes, dropping 26 points on 10/18 shooting, but what boiled down to essentially six-man rotation for Ohio State struggled to gain traction against an Illinois team which got to the line and won an edge on the offensive glass.

Thump: John Groce finally got the best of Thad Matta thanks largely to Leron Black's rebounding and some very poor shooting by the Buckeyes. He's still a very subpar coach.


Give us your thoughts on the weekend. Do Indiana and Purdue have real cause for concern? Is Minnesota for real, and is Michigan back? Just how bad is the Big Ten?

-MNW