Ups & downs: Reviewing & previewing hoops

It’s time for my Big Ten basketball 3-Pointers, my look back at the week that was in the Big Ten—with a sneak peek at what’s to come. It has been a good week to be Minnesota and Indiana. It hasn’t been such a good week to be Ohio State and Illinois. And if you’re Richard Pitno’s jacket from Thursday night, you had a little bit of good and bad this week.

Read on, Big Ten fans!

Three Stocks to Buy:

1. Minnesota. Dinkytown residents probably woke up this morning to hear chants of “Ski-U-Mah!” Why not? Minnesota looks legit after last night’s win over visiting Ohio State, ranked No. 11. The Golden Gophers are 3-2 in the Big Ten. And the losses were a three-point defeat at home to Michigan and an overtime setback at Michigan State. Both teams remain unbeaten in conference action. No doubt, the Gophers are early surprise in the Big Ten.

2. Indiana. Don’t look now, but Indiana has life. After an uninspiring non-conference, the Hoosiers shocked the world by knocking off unbeaten and third-ranked Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Yogi Ferrell played like an All-American and IU limited is turnovers. This could be just the win that sparks the Hoosiers on a run to build their NCAA resume. At least that’s what Tom Crean hopes.

3. Purdue. How ‘bout those Boilers! First there was a workmanlike win at home vs. Nebraska over the weekend followed by a gutty victory at Illinois on Wednesday. The keys? The play of point man Ronnie Johnson and big man A.J. Hammons. And team defense has tightened. Purdue may look back on the Illinois win as a defining moment in the season, as the Boilers have a shot to move to 4-2 in the Big Ten with games vs. Penn State and Northwestern next.

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Three Stocks to Sell:

1. Illinois. Some people in Champaign were throwing parties after the Illini opened 2-0 in Big Ten action. Well, that 2-0 start has morphed into a sobering 2-3 reality. And things are about to get even tougher for Illinois, whose next five games are Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin. Buckle up.

2. Ohio State. Tough times don’t last, but tough teams do. What’s my point? Yes, OSU has lost three in a row. But this is a still a very good Buckeyes squad that is on course to get an NCAA bid. But work must be done. Marquee wins? There aren’t many. The defense is a constant. But more consistent scoring is needed. And more production is needed from the post. That means you, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald. Lastly, Aaron Craft needs to snap out of it.

3. Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 8-8 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. Did I expect great things? No. But I did think Tim Miles had perhaps an NIT team. Funny, after last season, Miles bristled at the notion of taking a postseason bid that wasn’t from the NCAA. I bet he’d beg for any invite this season.

Big Ten Standings
Conference Overall
W-L W-L
Michigan State 5-0 16-1
Michigan 4-0 12-4
Wisconsin 3-1 16-1
Iowa 3-1 14-3
Minnesota 3-2 14-4
Indiana 2-2 12-5
Purdue 2-2 12-5
Ohio State 2-3 15-3
Illinois 2-3 13-5
Northwestern 1-4 8-10
Nebraska 0-4 8-8
Penn State 0-5 9-9
View Full Standings

Three Things I Learned:

1. The loss by Wisconsin to Indiana was a good thing for the Badgers. Now, the pressure of being unbeaten is gone. And Bo Ryan has the full, rapt attention of his players, who always are humbled a bit and more willing to listen after tasting defeat.

2. Yes, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino has been impressive. But John Beilein is my early leader for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Not only has he had to deal with replacing stalwarts like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., but Beilein also has had to make do without Mitch McGary for much of this season. The result: a 12-4 overall mark and 4-0 Big Ten record all while playing one of the nation’s top schedules.

3. Speaking of Richard Pitino, his Gophers are legit. The win over Ohio State last night was yet another brick in the wall for a young coach and his overlooked team that continues to cobble together a resume that may be NCAA tourney worthy when it’s all said and done. The Minnesota mojo is off the charts right now.

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Three Impressive Wins:

1. Indiana 75, Wisconsin 72

Time and again, Indiana drove and got good looks at the basket vs. the No. 3 team in America. How impressive was it? The Hoosiers had 52 points in the paint. Yogi Ferrell attacked the hoop off the dribble vs. what typically is a rugged Wisconsin defense, notching 25 points. And how about freshmen Noah Vonleh and Stanford Robinson? Impressive, as the Hoosiers overcame a 10-point deficit after rallying from a 15-point hole in the previous game at Penn State to notch a win.

2. Iowa 84, Ohio State 74

One week, Fran McCaffery is catching the nation’s attention with his antics. The next week, he’s catching the nation’s attention by coaching his surging Hawkeyes to a road victory over the No. 3 team in the nation. Is there a better 1-2 Big Ten duo than Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, who had 22 and 19 points respectively? Nope.

3. Minnesota 63, Ohio State 53

The Gophers roll on, moving to 3-2 in the Big Ten with a victory over the No. 11 team in the nation. Minnesota may have a gem in JC transfer point man DeAndre Mathieu, who outplayed the more ballyhooed Aaron Craft in helping propel Minnesota to victory. This is the signature win of the Richard Pitino era—for now. Elliott Eliason (12 points; 13 rebounds) helped the Gophers dominate in the paint vs. an OSU team that has lost three in a row.

Three Games to Look Forward to:

1. Michigan at Wisconsin, Sat., Jan. 18. This will be a great test for the Wolverines, who roll on without Mitch McGary. But the Badgers will be dialed in and motivated after suffering their first loss on Tuesday.

2. Indiana at Michigan State, Tues., Jan. 21. The Hoosiers have a nice home win, knocking off Wisconsin. Now, can they notch a nice road win? In a bit of bizarre scheduling, these teams met on Jan. 4 in Bloomington, with the Spartans taking a 73-56 decision.

3. Iowa at Michigan, Jan. 22. The Hawkeyes are looking for another notch in their belt. No doubt, a win in Crisler Center would be big. The Wolverines have eyes on the Big Ten crown as one of just two unbeaten Big Ten teams. Michigan, which enters the weekend riding a six-game winning skein, will be coming off a game at Wisconsin.

The full day-to-day Big Ten men’s basketball schedule is right here.

***

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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