Illinois shocked Minnesota in the Barn on Wednesday, dealing a serious blow to the Gophers’ NCAA tournament hopes. Minnesota actually got off to a great start in this game, leading 14-3 after eight minutes, but it was all Illinois after that. The Gophers had a terrible night from the outside (4-for-25, 16 percent), and the turnovers mounted as they tried to make plays going to the basket.
If there is a theme to this Big Ten season, it would be “expect the unexpected.” Down is up … up is down … in is out … out is in. You get the idea. Each week is like a roller-coaster, as upsets seemingly have become the norm. Heck, we even had one last night, with last-place Illinois winning at Minnesota.
We’re in the home stretch of conference play, so it feels an appropriate time to check in on the play of the Big Ten’s freshmen. Who has the inside track on freshman of the year? What youngsters are doing more than you realized? Let’s find out.
I long for the days when every Big Ten school played twice every season. It was a symmetrical schedule that crowned a true champ in a neat and tidy 18-game league schedule. The only thing missing was a bow on top.
The spotlight this week swings on Ann Arbor, where Michigan will play host to Michigan State in a battle between Big Ten front-runners this weekend. Each squad is 10-3 in league action. Wisconsin and Iowa are right behind the Wolverines and Spartans. And, ironically, the Badgers and Hawkeyes meet in a big game in Iowa City this week.
On Monday, the 12 Big Ten men’s basketball coaches joined the Big Ten teleconference to take questions from the media. We’ve posted the audio for each coach on the call here, and will do so every Monday throughout the basketball season.