Aaron Craft is a very good defensive player. Let’s get that out of the way. Whatever you think of the next few paragraphs, remember that we all agree that Craft’s defense would improve just about any collegiate basketball team.
As we hit mid-February, the thoughts of college basketball fans naturally turn to the impending NCAA Tournament, especially to that dreaded B-word that gives college coaches heartburn–bubble. The Big Ten is not immune to this syndrome; in fact, four conference members find themselves squarely on that bubble. One of them was in action last night, while the other three will play tonight. Let’s examine these squads that are teetering on the edge.
With about 10 seconds remaining, Northwestern had succeeded in holding Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith, and Lewis Jackson to a combined 17 points. That trio spearheads the Boilermaker offense, which has stalled at times this season when one of those three is having an off night. And in Purdue’s final possession, with the game tied, Northwestern played some of its best defense of the season, forcing Robbie Hummel into a contested mid-range jumper from the baseline.
Here’s something you don’t see every night, much less twice in the same night: Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Minnesota’s Julian Welch both hit halfcourt shots on attempted alley-oop passes Wednesday. We kid you not. Craft did it first, as his pass to Sam Thompson went through the rim in Ohio State’s easy win over Penn State. Later, Welch, from just behind the midcourt line, threw a pass in Rodney Williams’ direction and into the bucket in Minnesota’s loss at Michigan State. Watch Craft’s shot here and check out Welch’s in this post.
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.
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.