Big Ten Men’s Basketball Recaps
Tuesday, January 25
#24 Illinois Fighting Illini 56, #10 Michigan State Spartans 55
HWAHSQB: For the second year in a row, Illinois played MSU without their best player although this year, it wasn’t because of violent thuggery by the aptly nicknamed Spartans.
Without their sixth man of the year PG and All-American C, Illinois appeared tired and struggled with scoring droughts, going five minutes without scoring in the first half and only scoring four points in the final 9:49 and ZERO points in the final 5:33. Fortunately for Illinois, they held MSU to a season low 55 points, which was good enough for the dub despite shooting 41% from the free throw line including missing the front end of three 1 and 1s.
BoilerUp89: The turtles took advantage of some offensive slumps by the Knights in the 1st half to build a sizable lead by halftime and then just held onto it. The game never really got super close in the 2nd half. Fatts Russell had a season high 23 and Eric Ayala added 22 for the tortoises. Together they combined for 10 three pointers.
For Rutgers it marked just their second home loss of the year - which puts their tournament hopes on thin ice. Ron Harper Jr’s 0/4 from 3 was particularly not helpful (seriously, where the hell was that against Purdue? /end rant). Rutgers has been noticeably better at home than on the road this season and really needed to keep collecting home wins to give themselves a shot at an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Instead, Rutgers sits at 5-4 in conference play with a 5 game streak against the top 25 B1G teams looming in the near future. Before that kicks off though, they have two roads games that will very much determine the stakes of that difficult stretch.
Kind of...: We haven’t been running the flaming dumpster gif for Maryland lately. Is that because after this game it floated into a New Jersey landfill, whereupon it collided with the remnants of a vat of Jersey Mike’s hoagie oil and exploded?
Wednesday, January 26
MNW: Out of ways to say “Northwestern wilted when the lights were brightest under Chris Collins’s squad.”
On the one hand, I know he can’t shoot it for ‘em, can’t miss the front end of seemingly every fucking one-and-one...on the other, Michigan shot 8/12 from deep (Eli Brooks, as I foretold, was 3/4 for 12 while Caleb Houstan was 3/5 for 18), while no one bothers to rein in Chase Audige and Ryan Young always feels JUST underused enough for it to be criminal.
NIT is a pipe dream. Maybe this will all finally be over. I sure hope Rutgers gives Nebraska their first win this weekend, because otherwise it’ll be us.
Buffkomodo: Indiana bounced back nicely from that horrible Michigan outing. They played with fire from the tip and it showed. They held Penn State to 17 1st half points and were up by as much as 30 before letting off the gas late in the second half. The score is much closer than the game actually was.
XJ has really come along this season. Sure he still has some brain dead plays now and then, but he’s stringing together great possessions and that can really help Indiana come tourney time. I also hope Rob isn’t done for the year after landing awkwardly in the 1st half. If he is, someone will need to step up.
Thursday, January 27
#11 Wisconsin Badgers 73, Nebraska Cornhuskers 65
Kind of...: The overall play is what you would’ve expected from a 4:00 p.m. tip. And I continue to think Nebraska is not THIS bad. But if you’re down 8 at halftime to UW and Johnny Davis hasn’t scored yet, that’s not good.
Neither team cracked 1.00 points per possession, but five 3s from Brad Davison, mostly in the first half, helped UW keep the Huskers at arm’s reach. Special credit to Chucky Hepburn, though, The Omaha native netted 13 points and grabbed 9 boards just days after the tragic death of a dear friend who had lived with the Hepburns for much of last few years.
BRT: As it turned out, my preview was exactly correct, so we'll just go with that again.
#16 Ohio State Buckeyes 75, Minnesota Golden Gophers 64
MaximumSam: The name of this game was rebounding. Ohio State had more offensive rebounds than Minnesota had defensive rebounds, and totaled 48 to Minny’s 22. Ohio State is still struggling to get back to their early season form shooting the ball - this game they only shot 25% from three. Offensive rebounds helped solve the cold shooting, but not sure that’s a winning formula against the rest of the B1G.
#6 Purdue Boilermakers 83, Iowa Hawkeyes 73
BoilerUp89: Purdue starts off a tough week of games with the road victory. Purdue struggled with Iowa’s press at times - especially in the 2nd half - but when they broke it, they made the Hawkeyes pay by getting easy buckets. The Boilermakers shot a ridiculous 61.2%/59.1%/45.5% from field/3-pt/FT and had an answer every time Iowa got it down to 5 or so.
The 1st half defense was the best half of defense for Purdue since pre-B1G play. The second half wasn’t awful defense either, but lots of FTs and some fast break points for the Hawkeyes off of Purdue turnovers allowed the Hawkeyes to put up 40 in the latter half of the game. Ethan Morton’s patience and composure helped Purdue figure out the press late in the game and he hit a timely 3 pointer as well.
Meanwhile - Iowa needs to figure out how to keep their court from being so slippery. It’s not even a hockey arena. Bunch of players were slipping and falling over on both sides -
although the refs were kind enough to call fouls for some of the guys falling over on their own. Oh, and Matt Painter moved into 5th place on the wins by a Big Ten coach list passing fellow Purdue legend Piggy Lambert.
Who had the best week of Big Ten basketball?
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More importantly, who had the worst?
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NCAA Tournament Bracketology
MNW: I feel like the optics I’ve given off are that once Northwestern stopped being worth fucking anything in basketball, I stopped caring about this. That’s not entirely true (COVID in the household + the semester starting screwed me over), but man is there less joy in looking at this not because I really want the ‘Cats to be on the bubble or something, but because the way in which they slid off the bubble was effectively this:
Here’s where the conference stands as we begin to close the book on January.
Need to know which of your upcoming games could hurt the most with a loss? While it’s easy enough to say “Don’t lose to Nebraska,” here’s a helpful chart of where each Big Ten team sits on the “Quad” wins chart for NCAA Tournament seeding:
- Quad 1: Home vs. 1-30, neutral vs. 1-50, away vs. 1-75
- Quad 2: Home vs. 31-75, neutral vs. 51-100, away vs. 76-135
- Quad 3: Home vs. 76-160 teams; neutral vs. 101-200; away vs. 136-240.
- Quad 4: Home vs. 161-plus teams; neutral vs. 201-plus; away vs. 241-plus.
Special shout-out to Northwestern for being JUST terrible enough to only count as a Quad 3 win for Michigan right now. Other notes:
- Dobbertean moved wisconsin onto the 1-seed line just before their loss to Michigan State, I think...but that feels like a charitable reading of a badger club that, while able to rack up wins in the Big Ten, doesn’t look like a 1-seed in any other metric.
- It’s honestly fun to look at Purdue’s 3-14 matchups with someone like Wagner, see no one over 6’8”, and think “How can Matt Painter fuck THIS one up?” (Low-key: South Dakota State trying to run-and-gun past the Boilers would likely end poorly but would be a LOT of fun to watch if the Jacks were hot from deep.)
- Vermont has won TWO NCAA Tournament games in their history, but that 2005 win over Syracuse is doing a LOT of work in my mind, because I see the Catamounts as a potential Michigan State opponent and think “could they do it?”
- Illinois: The most dangerous 7-seed in all of college basketball. (Unless they draw Loyola.)
- It remains baffling to me that Ohio State stays seeded higher than Illinois in particular, because I see nothing out of the Buckeyes that terrifies me. And yet there they are! First-rounders like UAB or Florida, though, could be a tricky one for the Basketbucks.
- That Iowa in the tournament at all is a testament to why Keegan Murray should possibly be the Player of the Year in the Big Ten. And as a 7-seed, to some! Baffling.
- Has Indiana had a chance to pick up a coveted Quad 2 win at Northwestern yet? I really want to see (1) Killer Mopp’s triumphant return to Evanston, and (2) just how ugly that basketball game could be. Now imagine Indiana facing the Marquette version of Havoc. I’m shedding a happy tear just thinking about it.
- As of right now, only the Gophers are in the NIT. YOU GOT WORK TO DO, CHRIS COLLINS.