Yeah, we get it by now. This season is not going to be dominated by the Big Ten like the last two or three campaigns. There just aren't as many good veteran players as there were last year. In fact, a lot of the conference's most fascinating players are freshman. That's good for the future of the conference (if these guys stick around), but for now we're stuck with a league that's living in the shadow of the Big 12. Maybe Iowa State should brag about that instead of its lame football conference.
Just because the Big Ten is down doesn't mean it's not a lot of fun to watch, though. Here's the most important stuff from the holiday weekend.
Indiana jumped into the national rankings
With a win over Illinois on Sunday, the Hoosiers are now No. 23 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. Although they're not the defense-and-rebounding stalwart of yesteryear, they can still make moves this year. The development of Troy Williams into a key offensive weapon and the hot shooting of freshman James Blackmon Jr. means that Indiana can still whip up 80 points against the Illini on a night when Yogi Ferrell shoots 1-for-9 from the field.
With Hanner Mosquera-Perea missing due to injury, the Hoosiers are going to struggle to get stops, but they showed this weekend that they can still score enough to stay in the Big Ten title race.
Andre Hollins and D.J. Newbill blew up the box scores
Hollins had been relatively quiet for Minnesota this season but he had a huge game on Saturday to help his team earn its first conference win. The senior guard shot 7-for-10 from beyond the arc on his way to 31 points and an 89-80 win for the Gophers. The score was surprisingly high for a game against Rutgers, who has two Big Ten wins this season despite some serious scoring slumps. That wasn't the case on Saturday, as Myles Mack poured in 26 points and eight assists to help the Knights keep up with Minnesota until the very end.
The most impressive performance in a losing effort this weekend, though, belongs to D.J. Newbill. He scored 37 points against Purdue, but the Boilers came back to win in overtime, 84-77. Penn State led most of the way, but Kendall Stephens dropped in a three-pointer with less than 10 seconds to play in regulation. That was just one of his six triples on the day, and it wasn't even Penn State's biggest problem on defense. That would be A.J. Hammons, who scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds. Penn State just doesn't have an answer for big men who can physically dominate the way Hammons can.
Maryland versus Michigan State wasn't as close as last time
These two went into double overtime when they met in East Lansing mere weeks ago, but it was the Terps who dominated the rematch, winning 75-59 to move their Big Ten mark to 5-1. Freshman stud Melo Trimble was the star with his six three-pointers, 24 points, and this illegal-in-several-states move on Tum Tum Nairn. The Terps and Spartans actually shot similar field goal percentages, but Maryland was 20-for-22 from the charity stripe while Michigan State went 4-for-13. Blech.
Another rematch on Saturday was Ohio State versus Iowa. The Hawkeyes surprised with a win in Columbus earlier in the season, and they took control of this one as well for a 76-67 victory. D'Angelo Russell led everyone with 27 points and 14 rebounds, but the Ohio State defense couldn't slow down Aaron White, who scored 22 points on just eight field goal attempts.
Michigan is somehow still on the bubble
After a nightmarish non-conference season, the Wolverines are still in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament thanks to a 4-2 start in the Big Ten. The competition hasn't been the best -- Michigan's win came against Illinois, Penn State, Minnesota, and now Northwestern -- but we're quickly finding out that there aren't a lot of great teams in the league this year. On Saturday, Michigan barely held on against the Wildcats 56-54 despite being terrorized by Alex Olah (22 points, seven rebounds) and shooting 35 percent from the field. The Wolverines took advantage of Northwestern's overly polite defense by only turning the ball over three times, while Caris LeVert had a team-high 18 points and seven assists.
Update: LeVert broke his foot in this game and is out for the remainder of the season. With Rutgers up next on the schedule, Michigan may very well move to 5-2, but their tournament hopes are very much in doubt.
This week's schedule
Tuesday: Michigan at Rutgers, Minnesota at Nebraska, Iowa at Wisconsin
Wednesay: Penn State at Michigan State, Purdue at Illinois
Thursday: Ohio State at Northwestern, Maryland at Indiana