Checking In On… The Big Ten ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 10th, 2012
Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.
The Week That Was:
- OT Madness in Madison: It was just one of the most unusual endings to a basketball game in recent memory. Ryan Evans banked home a turn-around desperation heave from the right wing as time expired, and many thought the Michigan State–Wisconsin game in Madison was heading to a second overtime tied at 63. It was waved off, however, after officials discovered the there was a 0.2-second disparity between the game clock on the basket and the one on the scoreboard. By rule, the officials used the clock on the basket, which expired with the ball in Evans’ fingertips. (The must-see full video is after the jump). Ball game over as Wisconsin’s woes continued under truly bizarre circumstances.
- Bertrand to the Rescue: A subtle, underrated move by Illini coach Bruce Weber has Illinois at 3-1 and currently tied for second in the conference. Looking to shake up his lackluster team, Weber gave little-used sophomore wing Joseph Bertrand more minutes against Missouri. Bertrand responded by going 9-9 from the field for 19 points. In the last five games, Bertrand has averaged 15 points and 3.2 rebounds in 29.2 minutes, and has even started the past two. He poured in a career-high 25 points on 11-12 shooting to help the Illini survive Nebraska at home.
- Road Warriors: First, Iowa took down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. As a follow-up act, the Hawkeyes went up to The Barn this week and knocked off Minnesota. That’s no small feat for team who was blown out by Campbell earlier this season and whose leading scorer in conference play is 28th in scoring (Matt Gatens at 10.5 PPG). It’s doubtful Fran McCaffrey’s bunch will finish conference play with even a .500 record, but they have proven they can make shots and win on the road.
- Ohio State (15-2, 3-1) – When you consider that Ohio State plays in the nation’s top-ranked conference (according to the RPI), it’s pretty insane that the Buckeyes have won three of their Big Ten games by an average of 31 points. They aren’t just beating lesser opponents; they are destroying them. It’s a clear indication of why the Buckeyes are considered by many the class of the conference and one of the favorites to win it all in New Orleans. Another reason is that OSU is ranked in the top 3 in 16 of the Big 10’s 21 statistical categories.
- Michigan State (14-2, 3-0) – Draymond Green was everywhere against Wisconsin, scoring a team-high 18 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He is playing like a man inside, averaging 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds. His six free throws in OT helped the Spartans stretch their winning streak to 14 games. He would likely be the Big Ten POY if not for the guy in Columbus named Jared Sullinger.
- Indiana (15-1, 3-1) – Northwestern may attempt and make the most three-pointers in the Big Ten, but no one in the country – let alone the conference – shoots the triple as proficiently as the Hoosiers do. With their season-high 16 made three-pointers against Penn State on Sunday, Indiana is now scorching the nets at a 47.6% rate from beyond the arc. That’s more than 10% better than the second-best school in the Big Ten (Wisconsin – 37.3%)! Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Matt Roth are all hitting at better than 52% and that kind of firepower means IU is never out of a game.
- Michigan (13-3, 3-1) – They may have only gone 1-1 this week, but it was a great week for the Wolverines. Michigan showed good resiliency by hitting five three-pointers and erasing a 15-point deficit before eventually falling to Indiana on the road, 73-71. Then they harassed Wisconsin into 31% shooting in a 59-41 win that ended a 10-game losing streak to the Badgers. Trey Burke completely outplayed counterpart Jordan Taylor while Tim Hardaway, Jr. posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
- Purdue (13-4, 3-1) – This week, the Boilermakers exhibited their best and their worst qualities. They play solid defense, but their lack of an inside presence makes them very dependent on the outside shot. When the Boilermakers are hot from the outside, it also allows lightning-quick senior point guard Lewis Jackson to get to the basket. They struggled to score against Penn State (45 points), but exceeded that total in the first half at Minnesota (47). Against the Gophers, Purdue went 10-12 from beyond the arc in the first half led by sharpshooter D.J. Byrd’s 5-5 effort.
- Wisconsin (12-4, 1-3) – What has happened to the Wisconsin offense? The Badgers has lost three straight, primarily because they are a jump shooting team, but rank 11th in the conference in scoring offense (57.5 PPG) and field goal percentage (37.1%). Jordan Taylor scored 28 points against Michigan State, but it seems like the Badgers have no alternatives if he struggles with his shot (as he did against Michigan, going 5-15). He has received little scoring support from fellow scorers Ryan Evans (6.0 PPG) and Jared Berggren (8.0 PPG) during this skid.
- Illinois (14-3, 3-1) – Talk about living by the skin of their teeth. Sure, the Illini are 3-1, but they have had to squeak by Minnesota, Northwestern, and Nebraska, each by five points or fewer. Still, you are what your record says you are – and for Illinois, that means they tied for second heading into Tuesday’s home clash against Ohio State.
- Northwestern (11-4, 1-2) – You have to wonder about Northwestern’s confidence right now. A slow start to conference play might have them thinking, “Here we go again … ” Northwestern has lost three of their last four games and the schedule only gets more difficult as they visit Michigan, host Michigan State and visit Wisconsin in their next three. John Shurna and Drew Crawford need to shine.
- Iowa (10-7, 2-2) – While Iowa doesn’t have a ton of prolific scorers, there is one thing the Hawkeyes did extremely well to earn their first back-to-back road conference wins in five years: defend the perimeter. After holding Wisconsin to 3-28 (11%) from beyond the arc, Iowa stifled Minnesota into 4-24 (18%) shooting from 3-point range. It’s also a credit to their on-ball defense that they force teams to settle for so many outside shots.
- Minnesota (12-5, 0-4) – It’s a combination of not making enough threes and allowing too many triples that has Minnesota fading fast. The Golden Gophers make fewer than five per game (4.8) and allow opponents to knock down 37.5% of their attempts. Minnesota has been in pretty much every conference game this season, but have nothing to show for it yet. Their problems are more than just missing Trevor Mbawke.
- Penn State (9-8, 1-3) – Give Penn State the “stunning victory award” this week. The Nittany Lions held Purdue to a season-low 31% shooting in a 65-45 throttling in State College. Where did this come from, Billy Oliver? The 6’8’’ sophomore had scored five points total in PSU’s first two conference games, but hit four three-pointers and put up a career-high 21 against Purdue.
- Nebraska (8-7, 0-4) – Two tough road games this week (Ohio State and Illinois), two different contests, but ultimately, two more losses. The Huskers rank dead last in the conference (by a mile) in both scoring offense (47.0 PPG) and field goal percentage (35.8%). Still, give the Huskers credit for fighting Illinois tooth-and-nail to the wire on the road after OSU destroyed them by 31 points. The talent just isn’t there for this team to win much in the Big Ten this season.
- Tuesday, 1/10: #4 Ohio State at Illinois – Another road trip to an Assembly Hall, another loss? Illinois is a banged up right now, which is not what you want to be when welcoming the Buckeyes to town. Can Myers Leonard clog the middle and slow the torrid pace of Jared Sullinger?
- Wednesday, 1/11: Northwestern at #13 Michigan – The Wolverines are playing really good basketball right now, particularly in the friendly confines of the Crisler Center. Northwestern hung tough with Illinois at home, but fell short in agonizing fashion. The Wildcats need to pull off an upset or two to impress the selection committee.
- Thursday, 1/12: Wisconsin at Purdue – The schedule does no favors for the Badgers, who have to travel to hostile environs to try and snap their current three-game losing streak. It’s not crazy to question Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament chances if they don’t right the ship soon.
- Sunday, 1/15: #6 Indiana at #4 Ohio State – The Buckeyes will be out for revenge when they welcome the Hoosiers to Value City Arena. Indiana ended 2011 with a 74-70 upset of Ohio State in Bloomington. But OSU is tough to beat at home. It seems unlikely that William Buford and Deshaun Thomas, who combined for just 13 points in the first game, will be held in check nor will Aaron Craft turn it over six times.
Caught on Film
Can you imagine a time when refs couldn’t go to the video monitor and watch replays of the below video? Wisconsin would have forced a second OT, and then who knows what might have happened? As it was, the officials did deliberate and the final verdict stunned the Badger faithful and gave Tom Izzo his first win in nine tries over Bo Ryan at the Kohl Center.