Taking stock after another wild Big Ten week
If you are a fan of rushing the court, then you should be loving this season. Upsets and unpredictability have been the norm. This week, began with No. 1 Indiana falling at unranked Minnesota on Tuesday. Then, No. 4 Michigan got unceremoniously dumped at unranked and Big Ten-winless Penn State on Wednesday. I can hardly wait to see what type of zaniness awaits this week.
Bottom line: Keep your Chuck Taylor’s laced tight, because you never know when you’ll need to rush onto a court. Saturday features three games, including Iowa at Indiana at 7:30 p.m. ET on BTN/BTN2Go.
THREE STOCKS TO BUY
- Minnesota. The Gophers were in a deep malaise—a golden malaise, if you will–having lost eight of 11 games, their NCAA fate seemingly slipping onto the bubble. How bad was it going? Minnesota had lost its two previous games by an average of 23.5 points. But that’s when the Gophers shocked the world with a stunning 77-73 win over No. 1 Indiana. Tubby Smith could exhale—at least for a few nanoseconds.
- Wisconsin. Amazingly, the Badgers remain in the hunt for a share of the Big Ten title. They have won three in a row and six of seven to be in this position, the lone loss coming in overtime at Minnesota. If Wisconsin can win its last three games (Purdue; at Michigan State; at Penn State), and Indiana loses once, the Badgers can call themselves “champs.” And Bo Ryan can call himself a “genius.”
- Penn State. The Nittany Lions had been busting their tale of late, playing well in close losses to Iowa, Michigan and Illinois. Still, Penn State had nothing tangible to show for it with an 0-14 in the Big Ten. You could sense there would be a payoff at some point. But against No. 4 Michigan? No one saw this 84-78 stunner. It was sweet payoff for a coach and team that have refused to quit amid tough circumstances.
THREE STOCKS TO SELL
|T. Hardaway Jr.||27||924||4.7||2.3||15.2|
|G. Robinson III||28||924||5.5||1.3||11.1|
- Michigan. I’m left speechless, frankly. The loss at Penn State makes the Wolverines 3-4 in their last seven games. Big Ten title hopes? NCAA No. 1 seed dreams? Pretty much trashed. This team’s heart and defense have been called into question—and rightly so.
- Iowa. The loss at Nebraska last Saturday was the fork in the Hawkeyes’ NCAA hopes. They are done, save for an improbable run to the Big Ten tourney title. But the NIT looms—again—offering more chance for this young and promising team to grow. An NCAA bid will be expected in 2014.
- Purdue. This is assuming there are any hearty souls who still retain any Boilermakers stock. There must be some out there. This team is a good bet to close the season with four losses in a row and losers of seven of eight. The problems with this team? Where do I begin? A lack of leadership and shooters are a start.
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
- Indiana has to toughen up. The Hoosiers got pushed around in the loss at Minnesota by a more physical Golden Gophers squad. This should be disconcerting Indiana, as opponents now have the M.O. on how to play this team. Let’s see how Cody Zeller and Christian Watford respond in March. Quick tip: more punches in the nose are coming.
- Penn State has a bright future. Pat Chambers is a terrific coach whose players work hard. And the talent is underrated. Players like D.J. Newbill, Jermaine Marshall, Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor will be back next year to join Tim Frazier, who has been out with an Achilles injury. This may be an NCAA tourney team in 2014. You heard it here first.
- Michigan lacks leadership. These are the time when the Wolverines desperately miss leaders like Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, who last season helped the program win a share of its first Big Ten crown since 1986. With the wheels coming off during a 3-4 stretch and their postseason stock tumbling, some Wolverine needs to step up. This team was No. 1 in the nation 28 days ago. And it seems like an eternity.
THREE IMPRESSIVE WINS
- Minnesota 77, Indiana 73. Trevor Mbakwe led a physical Golden Gophers attack, notching 21 points with 12 rebounds vs. No. 1 Indiana. Minnesota dominated the paint and glass (23 offensive rebounds!) in pushing to the program’s first win over a No. 1 team since dumping Illinois in 1989. It marked the third time this season that the Hoosiers lost as the No. 1 team.
- Penn State 84, Michigan 78. The Wolverines came to State College ranked No. 4 with Big Ten title dreams. They left humbled, losing to a Nittany Lions team that entered the game 0-14 in the Big Ten and with an overall 18-game league losing skid. Penn State roared back from a 15-point second-half hole to pull of the biggest upset of the college hoop season. It was the highest-ranked opponent PSU had beaten since moving into the Bryce Jordan Center in 1996.
- Ohio State 68, Michigan State 60. Aaron Craft was at his best in this game, scoring a career-high 21 points in a win over the No. 4 team in the nation. Time and again, he blew past Spartan defenders. Oh, and Craft played his usual sticky defense. The win was the second of the season vs. a top-five team at home, a first in Ohio State annals. The Buckeyes’ 2-7 mark vs. Top 25 teams is the worst among Big Ten teams projected to be in the NCAA tourney.
THREE GAMES TO LOOK FORWARD TO
- Michigan State at Michigan, Sunday. This game has lost some luster. The Spartans have lost two in a row; the Wolverines have lost four of seven. However, MSU still harbors hopes of forging a share of the Big Ten title with Indiana. The Spartans must win out and hope the Hoosiers lose once. It will be fascinating to see how the Wolverines play. And will they remember the 75-52 beat down they took in East Lansing?
- Ohio State at Indiana, Tuesday. It will be Senior Night in Bloomington. Do you think there’s any chance the Hoosiers won’t be fired up? Indiana won the first meeting in Columbus in impressive fashion, 81-68. Indiana needs a strong finish if it hopes to secure the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tourney.
- Wisconsin at Michigan State, Thursday. A battle between second-place Big Ten squads. The Badgers remain in the hunt to claim a share of the Big Ten title. They need to win out and hope Indiana loses down the stretch. And Wisconsin would love to pay back the Spartans, who won in Madison earlier this season, 49-47.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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