Big Ten M5: 02.13.12 Edition
Posted by jnowak on February 13th, 2013
- It appears this almost certainly will not be that year for Northwestern. The Wildcats have come close to making their first-ever NCAA Tournament in the past few years, but they’ve experienced a number of setbacks over the course of this season. The latest is particularly troublesome: Jared Swopshire, a graduate student and Louisville transfer, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season. With senior Drew Crawford already suffering a season-ending injury (shoulder), the Wildcats are now even more shorthanded without their top scorer and top rebounder available. Offensively, this means more pressure on breakout player Reggie Hearn and Dave Soboloweski. As for rebounding, the Wildcats will need more of their bigs to step up and help Hearn (who by default becomes the team’s leading rebounder) on the glass.
- Nathan Palm writes that last year Ben Brust was somewhat of a bipolar player from the non-conference slate into Big Ten play. He was supposed to be a sharpshooter but he shot only 30 percent in Big Ten play. He impressed at times during Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule but fell off the map during conference games. This year has been a different story. Brust was the hero in a huge home win against Michigan last weekend, but he has come a long way in a number of different facets of the game. He’s started every Wisconsin game this season, averaging a team-high 34 minutes. His scoring average has risen by more than four points per game, and he trails only Jared Berggren in team scoring. Wisconsin’s strengths this season on paper are mostly in the frontcourt, but Brust has given the surprising Badgers another important offensive weapon.
- It’s been an up-and-down year for Illinois. The Fighting Illini surprised just about everybody by jumping out to a 12-0 start and beating Butler on its way to a Maui Invitational championship and Gonzaga in Spokane. But once Big Ten play hit, they took a serious dive. John Groce’s team lost six of seven games at one point before its latest resurgence, including wins against ranked foes in Indiana and Minnesota. So where do we place them now? Dave Wischnowsky says it’s still too soon to consider the Illini a lock for the NCAA Tournament, despite its slew of quality victories. The Illini have by and large fallen too far to compete for a Big Ten title, but can still do some major damage in the conference. Four of their last seven games are on the road, with contests remaining against Michigan and Ohio State. There’s more work for them to do.
- Here’s an unfamiliar role for Ohio State in recent years: the spoiler role. The Buckeyes may have fallen out of contention for a Big Ten title after their latest loss to Indiana over the weekend, but they can still manage to do plenty of damage. They’ve already got four conference losses, and the winner of the conference may have as few as three or four. It’s unlikely the Buckeyes will run the table, as they’ve proven to be quite vulnerable this year with games against Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan State remaining on the schedule. OSU may not be league title contenders this season, but this group is as talented as any in the league and it would not be wise for any team to take them lightly.
- Bob Knight is a legend of Indiana basketball. Yet the famed coach-turned-broadcaster doesn’t have a good relationship with the program, and he rubbed some salt in that wound when the Hoosiers traveled to Ohio State this weekend. “I used to coach a little bit,” Knight said in a taped recording before the game,”and there’s nothing like Ohio State basketball.” Sorry, Bob, but Ohio State doesn’t have anything on Indiana basketball. And your feud with the program is just plain silly. Grow up.