Jess Settles, BTN men's basketball analyst, December 28, 2015
[btn-post-package]If you haven't heard, Big Ten plays tips off Tuesday night, and BTN/BTN2Go is place to watch both openers.
Below, in my latest "Three Takes," I preview both Big Ten opening night matchups and offer my top long-distance shooters.
Purdue at Wisconsin
Purdue was only 2-of-19 from downtown against Vanderbilt, but that didn?t slow it down. The Boilers crushed Vandy, 68-55, behind 14 offensive rebounds and a stifling defense that held the Commodores 26.4 points under their scoring average. Purdue leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (33.9%) and makes even the best offensive teams look average. A.J. Hammons continues to be a force off of the bench, and is back in the Player of the Year conversation. Purdue is good enough this season to win ugly.
However, there are two causes for concern heading into Madison on Tuesday night. For starters, the Boilers continue to be too careless with the basketball, and too many times they guard themselves with poor spacing. While Purdue is much better this season at protecting the rock, it committed 18 turnovers in its only loss, vs. Butler in the Crossroads Classic. If Purdue turns it over 10 times or fewer against Wisconsin, it will win the game.
Also, there are too many times when the ball goes inside where Purdue?s guards drag their defenders into the paint, clogging things up. Purdue needs to spread the 3-point line when the ball goes inside. The Badgers are one of the smartest defenses in the Big Ten and will cause Purdue problems if the Boilers don?t keep the paint opened up.
Wisconsin has defeated Purdue four times in a row. Look for new coach Greg Gard to play more swing offense, which leads to higher percentage shots and more efficiency. The Badgers need 10 3s to make it five in a row in the series.
Michigan State at Iowa
The Iowa Hawkeyes have proven over the last two seasons that they can defeat ranked teams, win on the road, and compete in the NCAA tournament. What they haven?t proven is that they have what it takes to beat Michigan State. The Spartans have rolled over Iowa nine times in a row and have won 14 of the last 15 contests. It?s a curse the Hawkeye veterans have to break on Tuesday night if they are going to compete for the Big Ten championship.
The top-ranked Spartans fly into Iowa City without their star Denzel Valentine, but still with plenty of firepower to get the job done. Bryn Forbes scored a career-high 32 points in an overtime victory against Oakland and is one of the country?s most improved guards. Also in the win over Oakland, Eron Harris poured in 27 points, easily his top performance as a Spartan.
Iowa is led by senior Jarrod Uthoff, who averages 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and a Big Ten-leading 2.9 blocks. He is the Big Ten?s best defender and is slowly climbing NBA draft boards. Uthoff has to be at his best at both ends of the court if Iowa has any chance of winning. Senior guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons are off to solid starts, and they know the importance of winning home conference games. Iowa?s sharpshooting Peter Jok is a very confident shooter and loves the pressure of big games.
The most intriguing strategy of the night regards Michigan State speedster Tum Tum Narin. Narin leads the conference in assist to turnover ratio (6.3), but has not proven he is capable of shooting outside of the paint. Look for Gesell and Clemmons to abandon Narin when he gives the ball up and roams the paint. How long can Tom Izzo keep Tum Tum in the game if he is missing wide open shots? Can Michigan?s State?s explosive fastbreak make Iowa?s roaming strategy null and void? Will Fran McCaffery play more zone with Tum in the game? Will Matt McQuaid play more minutes and alter the outcome of the game?
Ironically, in 1983 Michigan State won the first ever game played in Carver Hawkeye Arena, and the Spartans' 15 wins are the most by any Iowa opponent in the venue. A victory Tuesday by Iowa would not only ease the pain of a long losing streak, but would arguably be their sweetest victory over Sparty at home. Easier said than done against Michigan State.
Big Ten bombers
There are several under the radar shooters in the Big Ten who need to continue to shoot with confidence in conference play.
Here are my current top 5 bombers:
1. Bryn Forbes, Michigan State. Forbes has already hit several big shots in high-profile games. With Denzel Valentine out against Oakland, Forbes went 7-of-9 from beyond the arc.
2. Duncan Robinson, Michigan. Robinson is leading the Big Ten in 3-point attempts, makes and accuracy (an astounding 59.5 percent!)
3. James Blackmon Jr., Indiana. Whenever Blackmon rises up, it?s a thing of beauty. He has perfect form, which usually leads to perfect results.
4. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern. McIntosh is having a stellar year, and his 47.2 percent shooting from 3-point land makes him a dangerous assignment for defenders.
5. Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa. Uthoff is so long, so it?s hard for defenses to contest his shots. He already has 22 3-pointers, and is making them at a 47.8 percent clip.