Big Ten M5: 01.03.13 EditionPosted by Deepak Jayanti on January 3rd, 2013
- Wisconsin guard Ben Brust injured his lower leg during practice on Wednesday but is supposedly “fine” after going through a few tests. Brust is averaging 11.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG as the starting guard while playing a very important role in the Badgers’ offense after the loss of Josh Gasser for the season. The junior guard will be ready to play against Penn State to open conference play on Thursday in Madison. Bo Ryan needs his experience and three-point shooting (42% 3FG) during Big Ten play in order to finish in the top half of the league and win 10 games.
- Wolverines’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable for Michigan’s conference opener against Northwestern on Thursday. He was on the sidelines with an ankle brace against Central Michigan over the weekend and the UM training staff will not be sure about his status until Thursday’s practice. Hardaway had started 81 games in a row in the maize and blue but his streak was snapped on Saturday. He is averaging 15.8 PPG but has not practiced since last week. The Wildcats will be seeking some revenge after their overtime loss to the Wolverines the last time they met in Evanston during the 2011-12 season.
- While John Beilein might miss his best wing on Thursday night, Northwestern’s Bill Carmody will not have his best forward on Thursday either as Reggie Hearn hasn’t practiced since twisting his ankle against Stanford on December 21. Hearn had been averaging 14.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG this season and had clearly stepped up since Drew Crawford was declared out for the season, scoring 18 points in a tough loss to the Cardinal in Evanston. The Wildcats have a very tough schedule ahead – five out of their first six games are against Big Ten teams currently ranked in the top 11 teams of the AP poll. When the head coach was asked about Hearn’s injury, Carmody replied, “Three weeks ago, we had Drew and Reggie and they gave me 30 a game. Who are you going to get it from?” Sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski (11.3 PPG) and Jared Swopshire (8.8 PPG) will need to carry the offensive load while Hearn is out.
- Tom Izzo‘s big frontcourt of Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Branden Dawson did not work too well against Minnesota earlier this week as the Spartans lost 76-63 in Minneapolis. Izzo said “Payne did not play very well” because he could not stay out of foul trouble. Nix shot just 5-of-15 from the field in scoring 10 points and appeared to be too “relaxed” in the second half as he missed a couple of easy shots around the basket. The Spartans play the Boilermakers on Saturday which won’t be an easy game especially after Painter’s team beat Illinois at home to open the conference season. A little bit of home-cooking should help Nix and Payne after a rough outing on the road against a Gophers team that at this point looks like a solid candidate to win the Big Ten title.
- Speaking of Minnesota, the Gophers made a bold statement in their win against the Spartans. The Star Tribune’s Amelia Rayno outlines the key factors from their big win on New Year’s Eve. Tubby Smith’s squad showed that they are tough by holding Michigan State to just 32 rebounds and dominating the glass, with Trevor Mbakwe leading the charge by pulling down 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Depth is a huge asset for Smith but he chose not to use it during the game as Julian Welch only played four minutes. The Barn will be a tough place to win for visiting teams this season but the Gophers need to prove that they can be as effective on the road if they want to compete for a conference title.