Illinois once again put on a dismal offensive display against Cornell. Things started out well, with Bruce Weber’s team taking a 10-3 lead out of the gate, but the offense completely fell apart from there. But we’ve seen numbers like this from Illinois before:
The Gene Keady coaching tree is scratching its head after last weekend. Both Purdue and Illinois lost, and lost in ways that have been all-too-familiar to fans of those teams. The Boilermakers started out well enough, nearly running Butler out of the gym in the first half: But it was a different story in the second frame:
Normally this space is reserved for agonizing over the numbers, details, and minutiae of the Big Ten. Today, I’m instead going to focus criticism on Shane Ryan’s criticism of Bo Ryan, Wisconsin, and slow basketball in general. I’ll leave it to John Gasaway to put to bed the ridiculous notion that pacing a basketball game at 60 possessions instead of 65 possessions means the demise of Dr. Naismith’s gift. Instead I’ll focus on Shane Ryan’s apparent insight into the workings of Bo Ryan’s mind (the Ryans are not related so I’ll henceforth refer to the coach as “Bo” to avoid confusion). Ryan’s telepathy informs us that Wisconsin plays slow in order to “neutralize talent.” Specifically, Bo wants to “limit opportunities” and avoid “a fair fight, because he knows he’d lose.”
Northwestern showed no ill effects from its 10-day layoff in a 30-point shellacking of Texas Southern. The impressive results, as usual for the Wildcats, were at the offensive end, where they posted the second-highest efficiency allowed by the Tigers all season. Texas Southern has faced a couple teams relevant to the Wildcats, so the efficiencies posted by each team against the Tigers may be enlightening:
It’s another light week for college basketball with many students enduring finals, and the Big Ten is no different. Still, we got a few interesting games last night that are worth discussing, plus the quiet period provides us a nice chance to catch up on some individual player stats. Let’s jump right in.
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
No doubt that after the Hoosiers’ dramatic win over top-ranked Kentucky that the talk centers on whether Tom Crean’s rebuilding job of the once-proud program is complete. There are certainly a lot of reasons to think so, even aside from the whole just-beat-the-best-team-in-the-country thing. For one, let’s take a look at the talent on the roster.
Wednesday night brought a slew of closer-than-expected games for Big Ten teams. Most were able to escape without deflating losses, but the way they played may tell us more than the final result. Let’s dive right in.
It’s been a quiet week so far in Big Ten land, but we did get two interesting games last night. Let’s review the light slate, as well as a couple noteworthy performers to this point of the season.
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Sometimes, it is how you lose. In the big picture, losing by 3 on Xavier’s home floor is no reason for Purdue fans to be upset. But that’s a tough sell in light of the fact that the Boilermakers enjoyed a 19-point lead with under 10 minutes to play. Matt Painter’s team dominated the first 30 minutes of the game on defense, forcing 20 turnovers. But over the final stretch, the Boilers forced two. Meanwhile, the Musketeers’ offense (especially Tu Holloway) came to life, and outscored Purdue 30-8 over the final quarter of the game. It should be noted that Robbie Hummel battled cramps throughout the game, and that certainly might have affected his performance down the stretch. But it’s no secret that Hummel isn’t the most durable player–even beyond his two ACL tears he’s missed games for smaller injuries. I don’t see why that would change this season, so Purdue should expect to be without its best player for at least stretches of games. What that means is that Matt Painter needs to find a second scorer to support Hummel while he’s healthy, and to lead the offense when he’s hurt.
Two nights does not a season make, but the Big Ten certainly boosted their reputation as the nation’s preeminent basketball conference by wrapping up the Big Ten/ACC Challenge by an 8-4 margin. But beyond the scope of the Challenge, there are resumes to be built here–let’s see who hurt and helped their cause this week.
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge tipped off last night, and it was (as expected) a good night for the midwesterners. The Big Ten now leads the Challenge four games to two heading into tonight’s action. Let’s run down how the good guys got there.
Like we do every year, us Geeks took to an email exchange to get our season previews in order. What you see below is that exchange, followed by our predicted order of finish.
At this point, any discussion of Minnesota’s 86-70 loss to mid-major Dayton is academic. Generally, this is the sort of non-conference loss that really comes back to bite an at-large hopeful. Theoretically, I’d talk about how the Flyers appear to be an also-ran in the Atlantic 10, but could end up knocking on the Selection Committee’s door in a few months, vying for consideration among the 68 teams. Hypothetically, I’d point out that, although it should count as just another game, it’s going to be hard for said Committee to give only that amount of weight to the fact that Dayton simply blew the doors off when the two teams matched up in November.
It may be Black Friday and football may be on, but there’s still Big Ten hoops to review. The conference has started to show some cracks, with two Big Ten teams losing games they probably shouldn’t have and another couple struggling with lesser opponents. Let’s get right into it.
If you ask most national observers about John Beilein’s coaching style, you’ll hear phrases like “live and die by the three” or “offensive-minded.” In Maui, Michigan used none of the above to get an impressive win over Memphis. The Wolverines took their threes, sure, but they weren’t particularly good from there. Instead, they dominated the Tigers in the paint, making those national observers’ collective heads explode.
Now, it’s time to unveil the projected champs of the Big Ten. Look at us, out here on this limb, picking the Buckeyes.
Our penultimate preview is for the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that’s been a lot more dominant over the Big Ten of late than most people realize.
Next up on our Big Ten season previews are the Boilermakers, who lost stars E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson but return the other popular Baby Boiler, Robbie Hummel. What’s a reasonable range of expectations for Matt Painter’s team? We have them finishing in third place.
We’ve heard it all offseason. With the departures of the likes of Jon Leuer, Talor Battle, Kalin Lucas, Darius Morris, Demetri McCamey, E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Ohio State’s recently-departed class, most concluded that the Big Ten would be down this season. And there’s no reason to disagree with that.
Wednesday and Thursday brought some predictable results for our heroes–the Big Ten went 9-0 against inferior teams–but there were some surprising margins. As you know, we Geeks put a lot of stock in margins, so let’s touch on the most interesting ones.
It’s time now to turn to the teams that figure to be in the thick of the conference title hunt. First up is a team that exhibited a split personality last season: Michigan.
Last night, Ohio State handled a very good Florida team–a squad that at least one astute observer has picked to win the National Championship–with relative ease. After a slow start, the Buckeyes led by as many as 16 points before finally winning by seven. Thad Matta’s team displayed the same strengths as a season ago–namely a high effective field goal percentage and a low turnover rate–but they also showed a new wrinkle: getting to the foul line. It’s extremely early, but Ohio State now has a free throw rate of 72 FTA per 100 FGA. For some perspective, the Buckeyes only eclipsed that number twice all of last season–and both times were against the hacktastic Hoosiers. Perhaps this increase in trips to the foul line shouldn’t be surprising given the players that are being replaced:
We continue to work our way up our projected standings, and today we’ve reached our pick for fifth place: the Illinois Fighting Illini. Bruce Weber’s squad may be the biggest wild card in this season’s Big Ten, as it is supremely talented but woefully inexperienced. What’s a reasonable range of expectations for a team like this? Let’s find out.
Next up on our previews are the mighty Spartans, who endured a pretty substandard season last year (where “substandard” = still dancing. Must be nice.).
In Big Ten play, Minnesota was better than Michigan State last season. Seriously. And the season started out so well. Through 20 games, the Gophers had 16 wins, including victories over UNC, West Virginia, Michigan, and Purdue. But in January, Minnesota lost Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, and the backcourt play crumbled. It’s a remarkable feat to finish dead last in the Big Ten in three-point percentage even while carrying Blake Hoffarber on the roster. With defenses focusing on guarding The Hoff, and no other outside threats to speak of, Minnesota finished the year on a 1-10 skid.