Tom’s Take: Best of Week 3 in Big Ten conference play
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If you still are having trouble making sense of the Big Ten, don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone. The conference continues to be difficult to figure out. This week, we saw a hot Minnesota squad ranked for the first time since 2013 lose twice. And we saw first-place Michigan State get dumped at Ohio State, the first league victory of the season for the Buckeyes.
What’s next? Stay tuned. There is a long ways to go. And more twists and turns surely are to come.
Biggest surprise: Maryland. How ‘bout those Terps? Who could have envisioned Maryland being in first place in mid-January? Well, here they are, with a 16-2 overall record and 4-1 Big Ten mark. This is team that lost the likes of Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon. No problem. Maryland has built around guard Melo Trimble, who is surrounded by stud freshmen like Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter. Can this team win the Big Ten? Why not? Give lots of credit to Mark Turgeon, the early leader for Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Biggest disappointment: Michigan State. The Spartans were sitting atop the Big Ten standings with a 4-1 league mark. Finally, it looked like Michigan State was getting on track with star freshman Miles Bridges back from injury and playing well. But then the Spartans went out and lost at Ohio State—which was 0-4 in the Big Ten–on Sunday. That’s two losses in the last three games for Michigan State, which sandwiched an impressive win vs. No. 24 Minnesota between a loss vs. Penn State in Philadelphia and the debacle in Columbus. Will this young MSU team ever find consistency?
Top team: Northwestern. How about those Wildcats?! NU has won three in a row, capping last week with an 89-54 demolition of visiting Iowa, the Wildcats’ biggest triumph ever vs. the Hawkeyes. The guard duo of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey is one of the Big Ten’s best, as Northwestern continues to look more and more like an NCAA tourney team. Don’t be shocked if NU wins its next two (at Ohio State and vs. Nebraska) to set up a big visit from IU on January 29.
Top win: Penn State vs. Minnesota. The victory vs. the 24th-ranked Golden Gophers was Penn State’s first vs. a ranked team since last February. And it was its second win in a row, as the Lions were coming off a 72-63 victory vs. Michigan State in Philadelphia, perhaps the biggest triumph of the Pat Chambers era. The win vs. the Golden Gophers showed moxie, as Penn State rallied from a 14-point deficit. Have to mention Iowa’s win over No. 17 Purdue and the aforementioned Northwestern rout of Iowa, too.
Top stat line: Peter Jok vs. Purdue. The Iowa star played like the best player in the Big Ten in an 83-78 victory vs. No. 17 Purdue on Thursday. The senior hit 11-of-19 shots (four-of-seven from three-point land) for 29 points. And he added six rebounds and eight assists, for good measure. Jok has scored 25 or more points eight times this season. He is a top contender for Big Ten Player of the Year at this point but has to avoid efforts like his four-point outing in a horrid 89-54 loss at Northwestern on Sunday. Can’t ignore Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh’s big game Sunday night, scoring 20 points, on 9-of-11 from the field, and dishing out 10 assists, compared to one turnover.
Top stat: Tom Izzo got his 250th career Big Ten win when Michigan State took out Minnesota on Wednesday. Izzo joins Bobby Knight and Gene Keady as the only Big Ten coaches with at least 250 conference victories. Too bad he ended his week on a downer with a 72-67 loss at Ohio State, the Buckeyes’ first Big Ten win of the season.
Top moment: Wisconsin announced Thursday starting in the 2017-18 season, the Kohl Center court will be named Ab Nicholas Court in honor of the former Badger who played from 1950-52 and has been a big benefactor for the university. A banner featuring his No. 8 was unveiled and raised to the rafters above the Wisconsin bench during a halftime ceremony. “I don’t know if I’ve been around somebody who loved this program and loved this university more than Ab did,” Badger coach Greg Gard said.
Top dunk: Late in a 75-72 loss Tuesday at Maryland, OG Anunoby delivered a rim-rattling dunk that elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd. Yes, IU lost. But this was a dunk to remember, a true rim-rattler that shook your teeth loose.
Did you see this? Penn State’s Tony Carr had not scored all day Saturday vs. Minnesota, going 0-for-6 from the field. But he calmly stepped to the line with 5.2 seconds left in a tie game and sank both free throws to propel the Nittany Lions to a 52-50 victory after trailing by 14 points.
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