It’s Friday, which means it’s time for Three-Pointers, a chance to take the temperature of the Big Ten in several different areas. It’s a good time to be John Beilein and Michigan. Conversely, it’s not such a good time to be Tom Crean and Indiana.
THREE STOCKS TO BUY
1. Michigan. How about those Wolverines? Just when it looked like things could go sideways with two losses in three games, Michigan waltzed into Columbus, Ohio, and beat a white-hot Ohio State team. It was the Wolverines’ first win in Columbus since 2003.
2. Nebraska. The Cornhuskers went 5-13 in their first season under Tim Miles last year; they are 5-6 this season with a shot to reach 9-9 and earn an NIT bid for the first time in three seasons. Nebraska is hot, having won four of its last five games.
3. Iowa. The Hawkeyes made a big statement with an 18-point win over Michigan on Saturday. Now, they have a shot to gain some mojo with games at Penn State and at Indiana. Then again, with the way the Big Ten season has gone, maybe not. Still, the Hawkeyes showed their full fury of ability in that win vs. Michigan.
[ BIG TEN GEEKS: What’s going on with the Hoosiers? ]
THREE STOCKS TO SELL
1. Indiana. That home loss to Penn State on Wednesday effectively put a fork in the Hoosiers’ NCAA hopes. That’s a big descent from being a No. 1 seed last season. This team commits too many turnovers and lacks consistent shooting, blowing double-digit leads in losses at Minnesota, at Nebraska and vs. Penn State.
2. Ohio State. Just when America was ready to embrace the Buckeyes again after a three-game winning streak, they blow a lead at home to Michigan and lose. Ohio State is a good—not great—team, an incomplete squad that easily could be a one-and-done NCAA squad. Offense remains a big issue in Columbus.
3. Minnesota. Yes, the Gophers still have a good shot to earn an NCAA bid. But, they need to pick up the pace. Minnesota has lost four of five games. The team hasn’t won two in a row since beating Purdue and Penn State on Jan. 5 and Jan. 8, respectively. The biggest issue: an inability to defend. The Gophers will face some must-win games down the stretch: at Northwestern; vs. Illinois; vs. Penn State. Lose any of those, and Minnesota’s NCAA hopes may be in peril.
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
1. Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble is a legit Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. He showed his full arsenal of wares in the win vs. Michigan, scoring 26 points. If that wasn’t enough, Marble also helped defend Wolverines’ star Nik Stauskas for most of the game, helping hold him to 10 points. It was one of the best individual efforts of the Big Ten season.
2. Indiana’s NCAA hopes are toast—unless it makes a run to the Big Ten tourney title. This has been the most disappointing team in the league. No one expected a conference championship or No. 1 seed; but a bid to the NCAA tournament was expected. There is too much talent on the Hoosiers roster for this to be happening.
3. The Big Ten looks like a five-bid league. Go ahead and pencil in Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State. The lone wild card is Minnesota. But the Golden Gophers could make it with an 8-10 Big Ten mark. I guess I thought the league could get seven bids. A bit disappointing.
THREE IMPRESSIVE WINS
1. Iowa 85, Michigan 67
This was one of the best efforts by any Big Ten team this season. In fact, if the Hawkeyes can bottle this performance, they will be very difficult to beat down the stretch. This was Iowa’s second win over an AP Top 10 team in the regular season, which last happened in 1990-91. The Big Ten title still is within sight. Iowa hasn’t won a regular-season crown since 1978-79.
2. Penn State 66, Indiana 65
The Nittany Lions trailed, 64-53, with 3:19 left. No problem. Penn State closed the game on a 13-1 run capped by a driving layup by Tim Frazier in the dying seconds that won the game. The Hoosiers were done in by 20 turnovers and an inexplicable inability to inbound the ball late.
3. Michigan 70, Ohio State 60
The Wolverines showed resiliency by rallying for their first win in Columbus since 2003 (0-9) coming off a crushing loss at Iowa. Even more vital: Nik Stauskas broke out of funk with 15 points. Oh, and freshman point man Derrick Walton looked like a future star with a double-double. This was Michigan’s third road game in 10 days and fifth tilt overall in the last 13 days.
THREE GAMES TO LOOK FORWARD TO
1. Wisconsin at Michigan, Sun., Feb. 16. Both of these teams are destined to make the NCAA tourney. But the Wolverines want more than that; they want to win the Big Ten for a second time in three years. Michigan won earlier this season in Madison. There will be some good guard play in this one—and maybe not much defense.
2. Iowa at Indiana, Tues., Feb. 18. Yes, the Hoosiers are struggling, falling at home to the likes of Northwestern and Penn State. But this is still a prideful club that wants to finish the season strong. And, IU has topped highly-ranked teams in Wisconsin and Michigan this season in Bloomington. The Hawkeyes still are within shouting distance of the Big Ten title. They need to win this game to keep hope afloat. This could be a fun, up-and-down, high-scoring game.
3. Minnesota at Northwestern, Sun., Feb. 16. Gotta love this meeting of two rising young coaches in Richard Pitino and Chris Collins. The Golden Gophers are on course to earn an NCAA bid. A loss here would hurt—but it wouldn’t be a shock, as NU won at Minnesota earlier this season. An interesting contrast also will be on display, as the Wildcats struggle on offense but excel on defense; the Gophers are just the opposite.
|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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