Checking in on… the Big TenPosted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009
Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.
- Michigan State (AP #2) 4-0
- Illinois (AP #20) 3-0
- Minnesota (AP #22) 3-0
- Purdue (AP #6) 3-0
- Michigan (AP #15) 2-0
- Wisconsin 2-0
- Ohio State (AP #17) 3-1
- Northwestern 2-1
- Penn State 3-2
- Indiana 2-3
- Iowa 1-2
It is no coincidence that Michigan State, the team at the top of the AP poll from the Big Ten at #2, also has the most successful coach in school history in Tom Izzo. Michigan State, except for its close call against Gonzaga, has been bringing teams up to East Lansing and disposing of them. Kalin Lucas has been leading the Spartans into battle by putting points on the board and stuffing the stat sheet from his guard position. Purdue, not to be outdone at #6, squeaked out a nail biter against #11 Tennessee to win the Paradise Jam Tournament. E’Twaun Moore, leading Purdue with 16 PPG on the year, was named Tournament MVP. Michigan at #15 has played two teams that most people haven’t heard of in Northern Michigan and Houston Baptist. The good news is that they won both, and the dynamic duo of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims combined for 47 of their 77 points against Houston Baptist. It doesn’t look like they should be challenged in the upcoming Old Spice Classic this weekend either. Ohio State at #17 in the AP is the only other team in the Big Ten to have really played anyone so far. They went toe to toe with UNC and lost, even though they shot terribly from the field. Evan Turner is tops in the Big Ten, having garnered player of the week status the past two weeks while stuffing his stat sheet at 21.8 PPG, 14.8 RPG, and 6 APG. His stats are so ridiculous that he has gone off for a double double in every game, and even pulled off a triple double against Alcorn State. Illinois so far hasn’t played anyone of note, although they might get their first test at the Las Vegas Invitational in the next week. Minnesota has steamrolled through an easy schedule thus far, cruising to a 3-0 record, but they will have to contend with Butler and potentially UCLA in the very near future. Minnesota has actually made more news off the court than on, as three players are currently suspended pending team rules violations or pending investigations, things that Tubby Smith would rather avoid if he could. Northwestern has its only loss against a strong Butler squad and will have another upcoming battle against Notre Dame. Penn State, not thought to have any serious chance of competing this year, might surprise a few teams, although their three wins are really due to soft scheduling. They did beat Davidson in a nail biter, but that might be a better indicator of how poor Davidson will be this year than anything PSU is doing. Indiana, on year 2 of their recovery, is showing their youth by dropping all three games in Puerto Rico to teams that weren’t that great. Iowa, not getting let off the hook at all, had to contend with #3 Texas in the semifinals of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. They had enough to stay with Texas for one half, but the game ultimately ended with Texas winning in a 25-point rout.
Week in Review
Really the most exciting things to happen in the past week is Purdue clipping Tennessee by a point in the Paradise Jam, leading to the first Big Ten victory of a ranked opponent thus far. Unfortunately for Ohio State, they couldn’t say the same when they lost to then #4 North Carolina, who has subsequently fallen to #11 after losing to Syracuse. The upcoming week should prove more exciting, as teams are participating in more tournaments and stepping up their schedules beyond the sacrificial lambs that every team works in early. The dominant players this week were Kalin Lucas of Michigan State, Evan Turner for Ohio State, E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel for Purdue, Brandon Paul from Illinois, Lawrence Westbrook from Minnesota, who is shooting 58.3% from three point range (even though he didn’t play in their last game), DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris from Michigan are both averaging over 20 points per game, Jon Leuer from Wisconsin, Michael Thompson from Northwestern, Talor Battle from Penn State, and Maurice Creek from Indiana.
The most exciting games to watch this week are Minnesota against Butler and Notre Dame at Northwestern. Beyond that, I will be pretty shocked if the top teams in the Big Ten fall, although there could be some surprises if the teams rounding out the bottom of the league start playing more consistently.
Team by Team
- Michigan State. There’s not too much that can be said for Michigan State at this point other than they are playing solid basketball. Everyone will have to wait until December 1st in Chapel Hill for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge to see how MSU stacks up against last year’s tormenter. Kalin Lucas is leading Michigan State with 16.8 points per game, followed by Durrell Summers at 14.5, Chris Allen at 12.8, and Draymond Green rounding it out with 10 per game. Delvon Roe and Draymond Green are spraying on the Windex pretty thick with 9 boards and 8.5 boards a game respectively.
- Illinois. They have one of the easier pre-conference schedules in the Big Ten, although they can’t decide which teams they play in their upcoming tournament, so they might get the tougher draw. The next few weeks will hopefully bring some opponents that can challenge Illinois to get them ready for conference play.
- Minnesota. Minnesota will get to see how they stack up against a top team in Butler. Tubby Smith had a somewhat soft pre-season with the exception of this game, so it will show how important their three suspended players are, including last year’s Mr. Basketball for Minnesota, Royce White.
- Purdue. The big three for Purdue are E’Twaun Moore at 16 points per game, Robbie Hummel at 15 per, and JaJuan Johnson at 14.3. From there it is really a balanced scoring attack with the next four guys averaging anywhere from 7 points to 5.5 per game. The only team of note thus far that Purdue has played has been Tennessee, so this was a good test for them. It says a lot that they were able to pull out a close game early, as they have essentially the same team as last year, and this could mean they might be going deeper into the tournament.
- Michigan. This is almost a two man show at this point with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, but nobody will be pushing them anytime soon. I don’t think they will be able to get away with having two scoring threats throughout the year, so this would be a great time for others to show their offensive potency.
- Wisconsin. Give Bo Ryan credit, although the soft schedule he has engineered early might come back to bite him later in the year. Wisconsin’s first test was Arizona, whom they handled in the first round of the Maui Invitational. December should bring an interesting game against Duke, although the game is at home, which is a comfortable place for the Badgers to play.
- Ohio State. Like I said earlier, Ohio State has had one of the tougher schedules, so it should be well tested when conference play starts. It will be interesting to see if anyone will be able to stop Evan Turner this year, as he is on a tear. He didn’t have a great game versus UNC, and they lost, so I hope that his performance doesn’t determine the overall record of OSU this year.
- Northwestern. The Wildcats are looking to improve from last year, and have lined up a schedule that could either get them ready for the conference, or could potentially hurt their confidence going into Big Ten play. Beyond Butler and Notre Dame though, the Wildcats shouldn’t be overwhelmed in any of their pre-season contests.
- Penn State. It doesn’t look like this year is going to get any easier for Penn State, as their schedule is not that tough but they have struggled. If they can get it going in the pre-conference, they might be able to surprise a few teams in Big Ten play.
- Indiana. This young team can be counted on to play hard every night, but they are going to have to get more consistent and start making their free throws if they are going to finish out the close games that they lost in Puerto Rico.
- Iowa. This team might be able to surprise some teams this year because it is playing tough, especially a powerhouse tonight in Texas. Even though they were eventually blown out, if they can put together two halves like the first half they had against UT, it might mean more W’s for the Hawkeyes. It might not be a season like their football team, but it might mean getting out of the basement in the Big Ten.