Well. Some movement at the top of the conference, as the former #1 team in the nation now has a losing record in Big Ten play.
Here’s what happened.
Sunday, January 2
#10 Michigan State Spartans 73, Northwestern Wildcats 67
Green Akers: It’s probably, kinda, I guess a sign of a good team if you can win, technically on the road, when two of your best players have horrendous games. PG Tyson Walker and PF Malik Hall had games to forget, but Gabe Brown warmed up enough after halftime to pace MSU to a win.
Survive and advance in this league, man.
MNW: Did somebody say “two of your best players have horrendous games”?
Northwestern’s backcourt duo of Chase Audige (12 pts on 3/14 shooting, inc. 1/7 from deep) and Boo Buie (12 pts on 3/13 shooting, 0/4 from deep) were offensive black holes, as once again the ‘Cats found new and creative ways to fuck around and find out against Sparty. This time it was a second half where they repeatedly missed front ends of 1-and-1s (20/30 FTs on the night for a 77% team), charged the basket on hopeless contortion-based layup quests only to be blocked by Michigan State defenders, and, God love them, fought back over and over again only to lose their composure down the stretch.
In a vacuum, a 6-point loss to a Top 10 team isn’t crushing. It’s just that as Northwestern finally feels like they’re putting it together—hard, hedging perimeter D that got better rotations from Buie and spark plugs Ty Berry and Casey Simmons, aggressive rebounding on both ends of the court, a capable center in Ryan Young, an NBA-type body in Pete Nance—they flinch.
And so we’ll continue to talk about Northwestern as an “almost” team, though finishing .500 or better should at least get them to the NIT with these levels of talent.
misdreavus79: This game was close for all but a two minute stretch, where Penn State built a 10-point lead at 51-41. If the Nittany Lions hope to win a decent number of conference games this season, that’s what they’ll need to do: Keep games close throughout, build a big enough lead to be able to survive the inevitable scoring drought that is so synonymous with the Penn State program, and hope your key players can make just enough threes to respond to whatever barrage the opposing team throws at them.
I’ve given up on the hope that they’ll fix the turnover issue, but if they can make up for it by actually playing as sound a defense as they did in this game, I’ll grow to get over it.
Buffkomodo: If anything, this first slate of games tells you how hard it is to win road games in conference play.
As for Indiana, I’ll say it again: Indiana will only go as far as its guard play allows it to. Rob played okay, moderately good even. XJ, Stewart, and Kopp didn’t get on the bus, and Tamar hasn’t recovered from missing time a couple weeks ago. Kopp may not be a guard, but he shoots so I’m lumping him in there. Between Kopp, XJ, Stewart, and Bates, you got 16 points on 6-21 from the field, 2-4 from the line, and 4 TO. Forget going to the tournament, that’s barely an NIT stat line.
Give Penn State credit for fighting, but this does hurt. Doesn’t hurt near as bad when you look around and see a lot of other notable teams at 1-2 in the conference, but in a schedule with few winnable away games you kinda had to get this one. The meltdown from the fanbase seems a bit out of touch with reality, but I get this one stings. See you Thursday in the hall!
#13 Ohio State Buckeyes 87, Nebraska Cornhuskers 79 (OT)
BoilerUp89: Would have helped if the nebby player had made just one of his two free throws.
BRT: Or the last shot. Or, or, or.
The tough thing for them is that they just have zero margin for error to win these games. And they aren’t good enough to play a game error-free. Bad combo. They play so damn hard, I wish it could work out for them sometimes.
Jesse: Wooo. Nebraska WBB just knocked off #8 Michigan. At least someone is making good on PBA Magic.
BRT: We just need to quit men’s sports and give all the money and resources to the women’s teams.
Jesse: Baseball and Wrestling get to stay but otherwise yes. Maybe T&F too but that’s a team effort where they’re coached together so the men can benefit from women’s funding.
MaximumSam: Hey, the Buckeyes hadn’t played and barely practiced for three weeks, and were missing Kyle Young. The Huskers are bad at basketball, but a a road win? I’ll take it.
Monday, January 3
#23 Wisconsin Badgers 74, #3-for-now Purdue Boilermakers 69
BoilerUp89: Well, shit. Purdue sleepwalked through the first half and it cost them another game.
Wisconsin shot 8% from 3 in the first half but still led by 5 points at the half because Purdue didn’t put forth the effort that is needed for the entirety of the first half. Lazy passes, not boxing out, getting lost on defense. It was all the result of a complete lack of effort and resulted in the Boilers trailing at the half.
Painter got their heads on straight at the half and the effort was better in the 2nd half, but Wisconsin shooting returned towards their season averages in the second half and was able to play the second half even with Purdue. It turns out you can’t play half a game against a tournament quality team and get a win.
I said in the most recent preview article and I’ll repeat it now: Purdue has followed up a really promising November with a pretty disappointing December. They are going to have to be more focused than they have in recent games if they want to get wins. This team needs to get much more mentally tough and be prepared to play a full 40 minutes of basketball every night if they want to even come close to any of their goals.
Iowa Hawkeyes 80, Maryland Terrapins 75
Stew: This is a game that definitely happened. Maryland is definitely not good, and my goodness Iowa looked largely lethargic and disinterested.
Outside, that is, from Keegan Murray, who continues to be an absolute monster, and looks fully healthy again after a bit of an ankle injury last month. He had close to half of Iowa’s points (35/80). There are members of the team that have shown flashes in games, but the inconsistency of pretty much every other player is gonna lead to some bad results.
Tuesday, January 4
RU in VA: Finally good to get over the hump and get a W against Michigan Basketball. The game wasn’t necessarily that close - sometimes it would close to 7 but be as wide open as 16.
Apparently Ron Harper read my scouting report from last week - he did not look lazy anymore. Geo Baker was on fire. Aundre Hyatt put in some great minutes.
Omoruyi did get taken to the woodshed one too many times by Dickinson though by pretty simple back down and spin to the basket moves. He either needs help or to realize that B1G post players make a living getting easy layups basket side from the post up. Kofi does it, Garza did it, Dickinson does it.
It wouldn’t be a “Michigan Man” visit without a hard blind side pick with 4 seconds left and a freshman that weighs about 190 lbs soaking wet with rocks in his pockets trying to fight Ron Harper in the handshake line.
MaximumSam: Michigan was pretty shorthanded, but they were also down by 17 in the second half. They should not blow as much as they blow.
Thump: Well, it was a little closer than our last two against Minnesota, but Brad Underwood has run his streak of eviscerating the Gophers to 3 in a row.
This team still has vulnerabilities, such as a 6:40 stretch in the first half without a bucket, or a series of consecutive turnovers in the second half. Minnesota couldn’t exploit these because Kofi Cockburn is just too big and strong to be guarded by a mere two players. As a result, the plan of “threaten with Kofi and find a shooter” worked wonders. This is still a pretty good team.
WSR: Kofi is really good. He doesn’t need the refs help when playing against Minnesota, but he got it anyway.
Oh well. No Gopher fan thought that game was winnable and now it’s in the past. Only a trip to Sparty and Purdue left in the “why the hell do we even have to play them” category.”
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Big Ten Bracketology Corner
Michigan off the bubble entirely, Purdue probably off a 1-seed as a result of the loss to wisconsin. Strap in for a wild ride.