It’s shaping up to be a damn good season to watch Big Ten basketball.
In the conference’s now-annual showdown with the Big East, the Gavitt Games, it took four tries for either side to gain the upper hand, but the Big Ten finally broke through with a 5-3 win over the Catholics’ hoops haven, including Michigan blowing past then-#8 Villanova in Philly and Indiana thoroughly demolishing then-#24 Marquette.
Flip to the weekend and non-conference tournaments, and both Iowa and Michigan brought home hardware, sweeping their two-game series on the East Coast, while Purdue demolished two lesser opponents before falling in a tough road game to #16 Virginia Tech.
That leaves the Top 30 of college basketball, at least according to Sagarin, looking really, really damn B1G-heavy:
Kenpom concurs, though the ACC has a hammer-lock on his top spots:
Neither of those ratings systems, it’s worth mentioning, even shows a possibly-resurgent Iowa club. But one thing’s clear: The Big Ten ought to have a lot more teams cracking the NCAA Tournament this year, if these early models hold for the entire season. Buckle up.
We’ve got assorted recaps, reactions, and...well, not hot takes, but a little spice to get your through your Monday across the chilly Midwest.
Gavitt Games: B1G def. Big East, 5-3
St. John’s Red Storm 84, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 65
Other Non-Conference Action
Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1, KP 76)
L, Georgetown, 88-80
Thump: Yikes, our defense is bad and our roster is thin. Ayo Dosunmu is an assassin and the most mature player on the team. This would have been a win with Trent Frazier, but I’m concerned that this loss will age poorly.
Basketball has scored as many points in the last week as football, though, while allowing 63 fewer.
Underwood’s got things goin!
Indiana Hoosiers (3-1, KP 18)
def. #24 Marquette, 96-73
L, at Arkansas Razorbacks, 73-72
Candystripes: I didn’t see or hear any of our game other than the last minute, where we apparently got screwed by officiating to lose at Arkansas.
Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0, KP 33)
2K Classic Champions (New York)
Stewmonkey13: I was really afraid Iowa was going to go 0-2 while in New York for the Empire 2K Classic. The field was pretty damn good with Syracuse, Oregon, and UConn along with Iowa.
Much to my surprise, Iowa went 2-0.
First, winning wire-to-wire against Oregon and Bol Bol. Winning a fairly sloppy game with defense, FT shooting, and having better big men than a team with the aforementioned freak. On the other side of the bracket, UConn upset Syracuse to keep the headline pairing intact.
Iowa vs. UConn provided the semi-rare matchup where Fran McCaffery is the much less obnoxious coach on the sideline. Another fairly sloppy game, which one could easily think would favor UConn, but Iowa just went out and blew the doors off them.
In both games, Iowa played some pretty damn good defense, while simultaneously handling pressure defense without continuously turning the ball over. Neither of these things seemed remotely likely with this team, and was virtually impossible last season. This team appears to be the team I expected last year’s team to be, and that never appeared.
Maryland Terrapins (5-0, KP 36)
#18 Michigan Wolverines (5-0, KP 7)
Hall of Fame Tip-Off Champions (Uncasville, CT)
As we mentioned in yesterday’s gamethread, the luster of Michigan’s upset win at Villanova has been tarnished by the fact that the Wildcats turned around and lost to Furman at home, too.
Don’t let that distract you from just how good Michigan is, though: Ignas Brazdeikis is a damn good two-way player who can run the floor and get his long arms in your face, and even when Charles Matthews was held in check against Providence, the rest of the Wolverines—including reanimated corpse Jon Teske—stepped up to get a grind-it-out win over the Friars.
John Beilein’s team may not play the prettiest basketball in the world, but that didn’t stop wisconsin for the longest time, and this Michigan team actually has the talent for go, too. Look out.
#11 Michigan State Spartans (3-1, KP 12)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0, KP 45)
WSR: Hey! We’re undefeated and have beaten Utah and Texas A&M! But...there are things to work on from both games.
Against Utah Daniel Oturu and Mats Stockman decided to get into foul trouble, and we struggled a bit at times.
Against TAMU we decided to give up 20 turnovers (AMIR COFFEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BABY?!) and let Murphy get into foul trouble, leading to...
But wins are wins are wins, even if Jordan Murphy actually doesn’t get a double-double for once. In the end both games were fun as hell to watch (even if they got a little nail-bitey at times), and I absolutely love the freshmen. Gabe Kalscheur is going to irritate the shit out of people and it’s going to be beautiful.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0, KP 29)
def. Seton Hall, 80-57
Jesse Collins: One of the great concerns coming into the season for Nebraska was that this team was going to be in a tough spot if any of their top four get hurt or in foul trouble. Unfortunately, as Tim Miles pointed out, one of the best of those four—Isaiah Roby—has had foul trouble since high school.
So, in its third Gavitt Games, Nebraska took on Seton Hall which was its first real test of the season and Roby got in foul trouble—which was questionable, but we can gloss over that in hindsight—and the Huskers had to figure stuff out.
They did. James Palmer Jr. started ice cold and still put up 29, Glynn Watson and Isaac Copeland put in 14 and 19 respectively, and with contributions from the bench—including extended minutes from Tanner Borchardt and Brady Heimann—the Huskers kept up their identity as a defense-first team, allowing only 36% from the field. For the year, opponents are shooting 26% and 13% from 3.
They’ve got an identity. Now to keep Roby out of foul trouble...
Northwestern Wildcats (3-0, KP 46)
def. American Eagles, 63-51
def. Binghamton Bearcats, 82-54
The ‘Cats are going to bomb away from three this year, and it’s going to be alternatingly maddening and amusing. The week proved both of those to be true: Against American, Northwestern hucked 22 threes and made only 4 of them—special shoutout to transfer G Ryan Taylor, who went 3-9 (1-6 from deep). Then, against Binghamton...well, they were 5-17 from deep (Taylor was 1-5).
This positively wasteful gunning aside, what will pace the Wildcats will be the crime-fighting duo of Law and Pardon. Senior F Vic Law scores for volume when called upon (26 on 9/19 against American, a quieter 14 on 5/8 against Binghamton), and senior C Dererk Pardon had a 13-point, 18-board night against American and 10 and 9 in the laugher over Binghamton.
Look, this team is...well, probably not that good. The offense struggles to get penetration against teams with length and goes away from Pardon in the post too often—even if the big man’s shots aren’t falling, he distributes too damn well off the block to go as underutilized as he did for parts of the American game. Relying on Law to take over is not the answer, and freshmen Miller Kopp and Pete Nance are just that. But this team rolls 10 deep and, with a better performance from deep, can hang with just about anyone on a good night.
Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0, KP 30)
def. Creighton, 69-60
def. South Carolina State Bulldogs, 89-61
Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1, KP 35)
L, DePaul, 72-70 (OT)
def. Jacksonville State Gamecocks, 76-61
Purdue Boilermakers (4-1, KP 13)
Charleston Classic Runners-Up
Boilerman31: Purdue headed into the Charleston Classic coming off a grinding win over a pesky Ball State team. My expectations were upbeat but tempered.
The Boilers did what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams like App State, run them out of the gym. Carsen Edwards had 25, Ryan Cline found his stroke for 21, and walk-on Tommy Luce got his first career triple en route to a 22-point win.
I had expected to be writing about Purdue taking on Wichita State in the semis, but they were knocked off by Davidson. The last time the Boilers faced them, Chris Kramer and Co. shut down some guy named Curry. Matt Painter’s crew must have channeled that team’s energy as they overcame a less than stellar shooting night and shut down Davidson, winning 79-58.
That set up the championship game with Virginia Tech. Purdue led by as many as 12 in the first half but Virginia Tech chipped away nailing what seemed like 3 after 3. Evan Boudreaux looked great in the first half but the Boilers eventually faded late. There’s plenty to take away from this loss. Someone else has to step up on a regular basis or opposing teams are going to double Carsen regularly and let everyone else figure it out.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-1, KP 136)
L, St. John’s, 84-65
wisconsin badgers (3-0, KP 14)
def. Xavier, 77-68
def. Houston Baptist Huskies, 96-59
beezer07: For the first time since....2016? I really enjoyed watching a Wisconsin basketball game. They helped the B1G utterly roll through the Gavitt Games and looked really good for about 2/3 of the game. Ethan Happ couldn’t be stopped except at the FT line (of course), and D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison shot a million 3s each. Plus the defense mostly looked good!
Concerns: The three guys I mentioned accounted for approximately 90% of the points by the team; the FT shooting was very bad as a team; and the last couple minutes of the game were far more tense than they should have been for a team up by double digits, although this is largely related to the FT shooting.
Overall a ton to be encouraged about but also plenty of reason to only be cautiously optimistic.
I didn’t see the Saturday blowout game, but I know Happ is now the all time rebounds leader for Wisconsin, after only 3 games in his senior season. Plus he’s near the top of the charts in steals and scoring, so this could be a memorable season for him.
Who had the best week in the Big Ten?
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