Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Michigan and Michigan State played a highly entertaining game that lived up to advance billing, with the Wolverines prevailing by the slimmest of margins. This result flew in the face of the conventional wisdom that Michigan can’t win when its threes aren’t falling, as John Beilein’s team scored quite well despite shooting 29 percent from deep. As it usually does with a Beilein offense, the answer lied in a high conversion rate on twos and a low turnover rate.
How do you break a Big Ten losing streak? Last night, the unlikely answer was to take a trip to snowy Indiana. Wisconsin and Minnesota got their seasons back on track with impressive wins in the Hoosier state.
With an amazing 43-point performance from Brandon Paul, Illinois shocked Ohio State in Champaign. Coming in, this looked like a game that the Illini might hope to keep close with their defense, but it seemed unlikely that Bruce Weber’s struggling offense would be able to scrape together enough points against the nation’s top defense. That analysis went out the window once Paul got rolling.
Illinois picked up a much needed victory at Northwestern, but they sure didn’t make it easy on themselves. The Wildcats came out executing their offense to the tune of 1.13 points per possession in the first half, a very solid showing against a good Illini defense. John Shurna was at the forefront of the attack, putting up 17 first half points. Northwestern built a double digit lead before a late Illinois run made it closer at the half.
Wisconsin and Michigan State squared off last night in a game that will not help the Big Ten’s national image. Via a combination of slow pace, good defense, and missed shots that both teams would normally make, the Spartans and Badgers labored for points. It took Michigan State over 13 minutes of game time to break into double digits–and even then they were only down two points. Wisconsin’s shooting nightmare that began against Iowa persisted, and it truly looked like the first team to 50 would win.
The conference season is officially underway, as every B1G team has played a game (isn’t that 12-team balance nice?). Let’s take a look at the opening performances from Wednesday and Thursday.
And they’re off! Conference play began last night, and we’ve already been treated to a close game and a Wisconsin blowout–two things we’ll probably see plenty of over the next two-and-a-half months. Let’s get to the details.
Wednesday’s and Thursday’s games marked the end of non-conference play for many Big Ten members. With the holiday break looming, let’s run down who has been naughty and nice.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: