It’s good to be Ohio State … at least for this week. The Buckeyes have risen from the dead, notching two big wins in the last week to breathe life into a season that had gone terribly bad. Here’s a look back at the last week—with a peek ahead, too.
THREE STOCKS TO BUY
1. Ohio State. Just when it looked like the Buckeyes were circling the drain, they rise up. Very impressive. Ohio State had lost four in a row and five of six games, falling from 15-0 and No. 3 in the nation to out of the polls and on its heels with NCAA hopes teetering. But the Buckeyes have responded with season-saving victories at Wisconsin and at Iowa.
2. Northwestern. The Wildcats continue to confound, winning four of five games to pump life into what was a listless season that appeared to have no postseason hope. Now, NU is thinking NIT—and more, as its re-birth has been born of terrific defense. Up next is a game vs. Nebraska followed by a trip to Michigan State. Who’s gonna stop this team?
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3. Indiana. Don’t sleep on the Hoosiers. Indiana followed a slump that saw it lose three of four games with a triumphant win over No. 10 Michigan. The Hoosiers were off this week, fueled by the good vibrations of the victory vs. the Wolverines as they prepped for the tasks ahead. IU could be primed to hit it NCAA stride with games coming up at Minnesota, vs. Penn State, at Purdue and vs. Iowa.
THREE STOCKS TO SELL
1. Minnesota. Not long ago, the Golden Gophers were 14-4 and being toasted as a Big Ten upstart. Since those heady days, Minnesota has lost three in a row and five of seven games to throw its NCAA dreams into neutral. And it’s not like the Gophers have been losing to juggernauts, falling to Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue. The misery may continue with games coming up vs. Indiana, at Wisconsin and at Northwestern.
2. Iowa. The Hawkeyes have gone from darling to disappointment. Iowa has lost three of five games, dropping home tilts to Michigan State and Ohio State in the process. If Iowa was going to win the Big Ten, it likely needed to win those contests. Now, some are questioning the heart and toughness of this team that has faded from the Big Ten race.
3. Wisconsin. Yes, the Badgers are coming off a win at Illinois. But, everyone beats the Illini. Prior to that, Wisconsin had lost five of six games to drop like a rock from the Big Ten race. And, don’t look now, but the Badgers’ schedule isn’t easing up: Michigan and Minnesota come to the Kohl Center, where Wisconsin has lost three in a row for the first time since 1997-98. Trips to Michigan and Iowa follow that.
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
1. Never underestimate Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. His ability to impact games in so many different ways never was more evident than in the Buckeyes’ victory at Iowa this week. He played 39 minutes, notching 17 points with six assists, six steals and three rebounds to spearhead a huge victory. Who knows how many other plays he impacted with his flat-out hustle?
2. The Big Ten Player of the Year Award may be opening back up. Nik Stauskas hasn’t looked great in the last two games—a loss at Indiana and win vs. Nebraska. He has hit just 2-of-9 shots and 1-of-5 from three-point range with 15 points in those games. Stauskas was held under double-digits just two times the entire season prior to this funk.
3. The Big Ten championship figures to come down to Michigan State’s visit to Michigan on Feb. 23. And, I can’t wait. Or course, we all recall that the Wolverines won in East Lansing, 80-75, on Jan. 25. Each team currently is tied atop the Big Ten with a 9-1 league mark. I wonder if both teams will have their full rosters at their disposal for this one. I hope.
THREE IMPRESSIVE WINS
1. Purdue’s 77-74 triple overtime triumph vs. Minnesota on Wednesday was draining—and much-needed for the Boilermakers. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Purdue, which won despite hitting just 9-of-23 free throws. Yes, it wasn’t pretty, but it was the kind of gut-it-out victory that could spark the Boilers down the home stretch.
2. Ohio State’s 76-69 win at Iowa on Tuesday turned heads. Some were ready to write off the Buckeyes after they lost five of six, but they first responded with a win at Wisconsin last Saturday before winning in Iowa City. A big key has been getting more consistent offensive production. La Quinton Ross had 13 points in each win, the lone OSU player in double-digits in each game. Keep it up, kid.
3. Indiana may have saved its season with a stunning 64-52 win over No. 10 Michigan last Sunday. Props to Yogi Ferrell, who hit a career-high seven three-pointers en route to a 27-point game and limited Wolverines sharpshooter Nik Stauskas to six points. IU had lost three of four entering the game.
THREE GAMES TO LOOK FORWARD TO
1. Michigan at Iowa, Sat., Feb. 8: Iowa (6-4 in the Big Ten) has lost its last two home games, falling to Michigan State and Ohio State. In fact, the Hawkeyes have lost three of their last five games to slip from title contention. A win here over the first-place Wolverines (9-1) would keep Iowa within shouting distance. A loss would basically kill the Hawkeyes’ dreams, which already are hanging by a thread.
2. Michigan State at Wisconsin, Feb. 9. The Badgers are 2-5 in their last seven games, watching their dream season slip away amid spotty defense and inconsistent offense. A victory over the front-running Spartans would bolster Wisconsin’s sagging psyche. Even better, a win would end the Badgers’ three-game home losing streak, the program’s longest since 1997-98. Wisconsin hasn’t won at home since Jan. 8 vs. Illinois. MSU (9-1 in the Big Ten) needs to win to keep pace with Michigan (9-1) atop the Big Ten standings.
3. Michigan at Ohio State, Tues., Feb. 11. This rivalry is every bit as hate-filled and heated on the hardwood. The Wolverines are cruising along at 9-1 and in first place in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have sprung to life with huge road wins at Wisconsin and at Iowa. Oh-by-the-way: This is the only meeting of the season between these teams, adding to the juiciness factor.
|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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