Tuesday, January 3rd
Wisconsin Badgers 63, Minnesota Golden Gophers 60
MaximumSam: Hey, Minny was competitive in a basketball game against a good team! That’s surprising! Wisconsin was in close game. That’s not so surprising. The main takeaway is Tyler Wahl injured his ankle in the first half and didn’t return. In his absence, Steven Crowl and Chucky Hepburn picked up the slack combined for 33. The Gophers continue to be undone by the struggles of Jamison Battle, who played 40 minutes but only shot 5-15 and had 6 turnovers. Someday, he will have a good game and Minnesota may win snag one. It’s bound to happen, right?
Kind of...: Tyler Wahl turned his ankle and didn’t play the second half. Wisconsin played mostly like dogshit, especially in their inability to keep the Gophers off the boards, getting outrebounded 40-24. Fortunately, UW was able to force 20 Gopher turnovers (13 steals!). Wisconsin was paced by Steven Crowl’s 17 points, and he continues to improve. As I type this, Wisconsin is all by themselves in first place at 3-0. However, the wins are over teams who are a combined 1-8 in conference play, and the only road win required OT to defeat a Kris Murray-less Iowa squad. Eastern Illinois was able to do the same in regulation. With a trip to Champaign coming up, 4-0 will be a tall order, even if Wahl is back in the lineup.
MC ClapYoHandz: Wisconsin is ranked #14 but is more realistically a borderline Top 25 team that’s benefitted from some poll inertia lately. They survive and thrive on team efforts that work well because they’re all complementary of each other on the floor, but they need Wahl back soon. This isn’t the type of team that can lose its best player and just keep rolling. Badgers feasted on points off turnovers today and that was the difference. Reserve bigs had a terrible rebounding day, heartburn for all.
MaximumSam: All Sparty in this one. They led by 22 at halftime and were never threatened in the second half. Tyson Walker led all scorers with 21. Sparty crushed the boards on both ends and locked down Nebraska. Not much positive to say for the Huskers - Derrick Walker had a nice game with 15 and 9. Keisei “The Silent Assassin” Tominaga was heavy on the silence, getting 2 points in twelve minutes.
BigRedTwice: Nebraska had an atrocious performance, headlined by terrible shooting from the field and even worse free throw shooting. The best that can be said is that the effort remained good, but this was a forgettable performance.
Green Akers: MSU better hope it gets a little more from Malik Hall as he works back into form, because counting on this kind of sharpshooting from Tyson Walker probably isn’t a recipe for the January gauntlet coming up. Joey Hauser and Mady Sissoko have the boards under control and AJ Hoggard is dishing incredibly without mistakes. They looked a bit off-guard when Nebraska’s bigs started driving after halftime, but MSU’s own offense overwhelmed the Husker defense such that it didn’t really matter. This is a team with great balance that’s rounding its two injured starters back into form, and at a crucial time.
Wednesday, January 4th
#44 Penn State Nittany Lions (11-3, 2-1) at #63 Michigan Wolverines (8-5, 2-0), 6 pm, BTN
MaximumSam: Michigan is feeling good about themselves with their one game winning streak, and they now welcome Penn State. This promises to be an interesting contrast. Hunter Dickinson woke up against Maryland and scored 32 and now faces the size challenged Nits. Conversely, Jalen Pickett gets to attack Michigan’s often porous defense and see if Michigan is committed to closing out on shooters. It should be a fun challenge of watching Penn State close inside and Michigan close outsides, plus you have two of the league’s best players on the court. Torvik goes Michigan, 71-70.
misdreavus79: Penn State looks to go 3-1 in conference play against Michigan, on the road. Prior to the Maryland game, this one seemed a bit more attainable, but after that explosion of offense, the best we can hope for is for a closely contested affair that is decided late.
All that said, if the Nittany Lions shoot anywhere near as well as they did against Illinois, or in the first half against Iowa, this could be a lot more interesting for the Lions than the guys in, uh, white.
#37 Illinois Fighting Illini (9-4, 0-2) at #71 Northwestern Wildcats (10-3, 1-1), 8 pm, BTN
MaximumSam: Another interesting game, though not one that promises to be a great watch. Northwestern can barely throw the ball into the ocean, but does play defense. Ohio State solved them a bit with some great ball movement and good shooting. The Illini have been having some issues with their chemistry, especially on offense. They turn the ball over a lot (302nd in the country) while Northwestern forces a lot of turnovers (31st in the country). We are looking at a potential Slop Fest, which is just what Northwestern wants. Torvik tips to the Wildcats, 64-63.
Thumpasaurus: I had some thoughts on this in r/sportsbook’s Pick of the Day thread.
Under is a good bet. When Mizzou coasted in the second half, Illinois found a lot of open threes with a lot of different players who all missed with remarkable consistency. Northwestern’s offense doesn’t flow well enough to take advantage of the fact that Illinois doesn’t communicate at all on defense and it’s very easy to get them to switch on to nobody.
Illinois has a lot of very talented players, and I’m not convinced most of them could name the whole roster of all of their teammates. Illini fans care about beating Northwestern. Does Brad Underwood? He doesn’t care about beating Mizzou.
As an Illini fan, I’m taking Nern moneyline as an emotional hedge.
Hey, I have a question. When you assemble a professional basketball roster, does that mean we’re allowed to talk about them like they’re pros? Skyy Clark has been a massive disappointment and as a result we’re running the offense through Turnover Hawkins as a point guard. The last Illini team to have a very tall NBA prospect be used like a guard was the Meyers Leonard team. Bruce Weber was fired at the end of that season.
Everyone who definitely cared about beating Northwestern (Da’Monte Williams, Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo) is gone. While it would be funny for Illinois to win this game by playing terribly and just having far superior 1-on-1 players that make enough athletic plays to score more points than the opponent, it wouldn’t do anything to answer the burning questions like: what exactly are they doing in practice? Does Skyy Clark know who Dain Dainja and Coleman Hawkins are? Have they ever talked? If the offensive gameplan is for whoever doesn’t have the ball to stand there and watch an NBA prospect try to do something by himself, why don’t our players just take out their phones and record the play?
This is a waste of time. An Illini team that’s better than the sum of its parts plays Northwestern at home tomorrow night, and anyone who still cares more about the men’s team than the women’s team at Illinois is a starfucking clout-chasing casual.
All the writeups will be like this until they win the Big Ten, make the Final Four, or at least erase all traces of the gutless, pride-free disaster of a team that showed up to Braggin’ Rights.
MNW: Northwestern was listless in a loss to Ohio State, but they are actually now up to 7th in the country in adjD. The problem, though, is that their offense is in the bottom half of the country. They, simply put, cannot shoot. It is actually painful to watch Chase Audige attempt to play offense; the same usually applies, as well, to Boo Buie.
I assume none of this changed against Illinois in a mildly competitive loss.