Jess Settles, BTN men's basketball analyst, January 14, 2016

With Wednesday night?s Big Ten games behind us and more basketball ahead tonight, here is my latest edition of ?Three Takes!?

This week I look at Michigan State vs. Iowa, Illinois' ability to shut down Purdue's big, and Michigan's outstanding 3-point shooting.

Spartans vs. Hawkeyes

Tonight's showdown in East Lansing will not make or break the season for the Spartans or the Hawkeyes, but it is a battle that is very significant in the Big Ten race. Michigan State is looking for revenge and can't afford to fall two games behind the Hawkeyes after dropping a game in Iowa City.

Iowa has already defeated Purdue on the road, and a victory over Sparty in East Lansing would put the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten drivers seat for the time being. The Big Ten Player of Year award will also be impacted by the performances of Iowa's Jarod Uthoff and Michigan State's Denzel Valentine. Because of Valentine's injury, if I were voting today, Valentine would be the National Player of the Year, and Uthoff would be the Player of the Year in the Big Ten. Hopefully Valentine will have shaken off the rust and be at full strength so that we can see these two stars shine. If Valentine stays healthy, he will be in a position to sweep both awards.

As is always the case for opponents in East Lansing, Iowa will have to protect the basketball, hit open shots and sprint back on defense to slow down Michigan State's explosive fast break. No one turns a missed shot, turnover, or slow retreat into scores better than Tom Izzo and company. And Iowa has to contain Bryn Forbes. Forbes is one of the best shooters in the business and he wasn't at all happy with his performance in Iowa City (0-5 FG, 3 points).

Iowa hasn't won in East Lansing in 23 years. That losing streak includes yours truly. The last time I was in the Breslin center was 1999 when I was competing for the Hawkeyes. I was playing on a sixth year redshirt and the student section chanted "Grandpa Settles" at me for much of the night in a blowout loss. I'll be in attendance again tonight. Hopefully I'll get a better reception. That won't be the case for this years group of Hawkeyes. It never is.

Illini shut down Purdue's big men

John Groce and his Illini team played an inspired game in a home victory over Purdue, beating the Boilermakers, 84-70. Illinois decided to double and triple team Purdue's skyline of A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan, and the strategy payed off. Hammons and Haas combined for only 16 points, and Swanigan turned the ball over five times. Purdue's guards couldn't consistently knock down open shots, and even when Swanigan and guard P.J. Thompson hit a few early 3's, Illinois stayed the course. Purdue finished 7-22 from beyond the arc, but many of their misses were uncontested. Rapheal Davis finished with 0 points.

On the offensive end, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn showed why so many Big Ten opponents fear playing in Champaign. The two juniors exploded for 52 combined points and made Purdue's nationally ranked defense look vulnerable. Purdue has now lost to Butler, Iowa and Illinois, and a similar pattern is developing. All three opponents have forwards who can stretch a defense with the 3-point shot. Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan were exceptional, luring Purdue's giants away from the rim which opened up the lane for Hill and Nunn to attack. Matt Painter and his staff are going to have to manage their rotations over the next few weeks as more and more teams study their weaknesses and try to counter their size. We thought Purdue would dominate the depleted front line of Illinois, but that wasn't the case. Credit Illinois for an excellent game plan.

Raining 3's in Ann Arbor

In Michigan's upset win over No. 3 Maryland, the Wolverines used the 3-point shot to counter the size and power of Maryland. Duncan Robinson continues to take the conference by storm and Michigan hit 12 bombs against the Terrapins. Derek Walton scored 12 points and took over the game down the stretch. Mark Turgeon elected to play Jake Layman, Diamond Stone and Robert Carter together late in the game, and Michigan's guards toyed with them. Zak Irvin and Walton's eyes lit up when they were being guarded by bigger, slower players, and Michigan coach John Beilein once again proved that no one creates mismatches better than he does.

With all of the advantages Purdue and Maryland have in the paint, it has been fascinating to watch Big Ten opponents counter them at the offensive end by pulling their size away from the basket. Every coach in America wants powerful inside players, but the 3-point line and ball screen offenses have neutralized their threat.