Big Ten M5: 01.29.13 Edition
Posted by jnowak on January 29th, 2013
- CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman had an especially busy Sunday, watching Michigan State–Indiana in Bloomington before driving to Champaign to catch Michigan–Illinois. He got to see arguably the Big Ten’s top three teams live in a matter of hours, and here’s what he came away with: Michigan is #1 for the first time since 1992, and deservedly so; while Indiana, which was ranked in that top spot at the beginning of the season, is not playing to its full potential because its star, Cody Zeller, is not asserting himself. After watching both games Sunday — Zeller was a no-show for most of the Hoosiers’ close win against the Spartans, and the Wolverines handled sputtering Illinois at Assembly Hall — it’s hard to argue with either point.
- Just as soon as Minnesota‘s Trevor Mbakwe was working his way back to full health, the Gophers forward has been bothered by a right wrist injury in recent games against Northwestern and Wisconsin. But ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz said that the Minnesota staff expects Mbakwe to be available for tonight’s game against Nebraska. The Gophers, who have lost four in a row (three of which were on the road), need Mbakwe now more than ever. Four of their next five contests are at home.
- For years, Wisconsin has been associated with slow, grind-it-out basketball and low-scoring games. But, as Jim Polzin writes for the Wisconsin State Journal, the Badgers haven’t been winning many games this season by playing that way. Their victories against Minnesota and Nebraska marked the first occasion in the last 16 years in which the Badgers won two consecutive games without scoring 50 points. “It’s how this team has to win right now,” associate head coach Greg Gard said Sunday. It’s hard to believe, given some of the performances, but the Badgers remain right in the thick of things for a Big Ten title.
- For most of the early season, Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises of the season, looking much like a Big Ten title contender and possibly even a Final Four team. But then the Big Ten schedule hit, and the Gophers have been free-falling ever since. Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that Minnesota needs Rodney Williams to regain his previous form as soon as possible if the Gophers stand any chance of picking themselves up off the mat. According to Fuller’s story, Williams was leading the team with 13.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG while shooting 56 percent from the field and 69 percent from the line during non-conference play. But since Big Ten play started, he’s the team’s fifth-leading scorer at 9.0 PPG, while shooting 37 percent from the field and 57 percent from the foul line.
- If you tuned in to Indiana’s win Sunday against Michigan State, you likely heard the “Gary sucks!” taunts targeted at Michigan State freshman Gary Harris — unless they were targeting Branden Dawson, who hails from Gary, Indiana, but I seriously doubt that — and saw the way Harris responded. Battling through a bit of a freshman slump the last few games, Harris nearly helped the Spartans pull the upset by knocking down five three-pointers and totaling 21 points. This led the Lansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch to wonder whether taunting opposing players can only come back to bite home fans. It has certainly fueled the likes of Jalen Rose and Dawson over the years, and Tom Izzo chimed in with a story of his own.