It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for my final Three Takes of the 2016-17 regular season.
Let’s get after it.
Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon has put together a spectacular freshman season, and is playing like a future Big Ten star. He is one of two freshmen nationally this season who has drilled 65 3-pointers and handed out 125 assists. The other is UCLA’s probable No.1 NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball. Think about that for a second: Bohannon and Ball in the same sentence. The last time out, on the national stage and in a hostile environment at Maryland, Bohannon went all “Steph Curry,” draining 8-of-10 3-pointers. With his next 3, Bohannon will surpass brother Jason’s best season from behind the arc (68 3s with Wisconsin in 2010). Expect that to happen Thursday night in Madison, Wisconsin. Bohannon has serious work to do, though, if he wants to pass brother Matt’s 93 triples last season at Northern Iowa. That might have to wait until his sophomore, junior or senior season.
It’s Biggie Time
Congratulations to Coach Matt Painter and the Boilers for securing at least a share of the “Biggie” Ten Championship. The work the Purdue staff has put in to make Swanigan an elite player is inspiring. Swanigan’s weight loss and conditioning is well documented, but his maturity on the court can’t be overlooked. For the most part, Swanigan has learned to avoid foolish fouls early in the game, knowing his team needs him at crunch time. He hasn’t tried to conquer double teams, instead making pinpoint passes to open teammates. Yes, Swanigan has dominated several games this year, with 24 double doubles, but Purdue is ranked in the top 5 nationally in assists and 3-point field goal percentage because of the attention Swanigan draws, which creates open looks for his sharpshooting teammates. Did I mention Swanigan also shoots from beyond the arc (30-66; 45 percent)? Earlier this season, the eventual Big Ten Player of the Year told me that he just wants “to execute the game plan and take what the defense gives me.” Mission accomplished.
Northwestern’s Tall Task
As if the pressure on Northwestern couldn’t get any greater to win one more game and secure a spot in its first NCAA tournament, Michigan and Purdue parade into Evanston this week, both equipped with plenty of talent and every reason to compete. Michigan has won five of its last six games and is looking for its 20th victory. The Wolverines play fast and yet lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game (9.4) With the way Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson stretch the floor and set screens, Dererk Pardon and Sanjay Lumpkin will be under constant pressure to defend the 3 as well as stop dribble penetration. Meanwhile, Purdue just wrapped up a share of its first Big Ten crown since 2010, and now the team that drilled Northwestern earlier this season will be motivated to clinch the program’s first outright title since 1996. Northwestern’s tall task would be made a little easier if Vic Law can snap out of his eight-game shooting slump (17-75; 23 percent). The Wildcats will need their athletic wing playing well on both ends of the floor to capture one of these final two games. Plain and simple, if Northwestern wants to make history, it will have to earn it.