Big Ten M5 12.13.13 EditionPosted by Max Jakubowski on December 13th, 2013
- It has been 26 years since there was a match-up of the two flagship programs in Iowa as members of the Top 25, but that’s exactly what we get tonight when #23 Iowa travels to take on rival and #17 Iowa State in Ames. These two programs were largely irrelevant five years ago, but the hiring of Fran McCaffery at Iowa and Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State has really changed everything in both programs. Each team has realistic expectations to make the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even go deep. Hopefully this intrastate rivalry continues to become must-see television each year (and kudos for the schedule makers for giving us this treat on an otherwise quiet Friday night).
- Speaking of the Hawkeyes, their bench play has been absolutely spectacular this year. Via @IowaHoops, the Hawkeyes’ bench is averaging 42.3 points, 24.9 rebounds and 4.2 blocks through 11 games. The two players fueling the bench are senior Zach McCabe and Gabriel Olaseni. McCabe is a tough-nosed forward who attacks rebounding fearlessly and can also knock down perimeter shots. Olaseni is seeing his first real playing time in his career and he is doing a great job protecting the rim for Iowa.
- Coming into the season, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross was expected to become the Buckeyes’ primary scoring threat this season. As the season got underway, though, Ross struggled by only averaging six points in his first five games. But it now looks like Ross could emerge into the type of scorer many had hoped he would become after Deshaun Thomas. Already Ross’ three-point and turnover percentage are better than that of Thomas, and Ohio State will need the gifted junior to take over offensively if the Buckeyes and Thad Matta are to reach another Final Four.
- Michigan and Illinois are looking for their first big non-conference wins this year. Michigan gets #1 Arizona at the Crisler Center on Saturday, and the match-up to watch is in the backcourt. Arizona’s duo of TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson will go against a young tandem of Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. If Michigan’s guards allow Arizona’s guards to go wherever they want on the floor, it will be a long day for Michigan. Illinois heads to Portland to take on #15 Oregon as well on Saturday. The Illini lost to Georgia Tech in the last minute but then rebounded nicely by destroying Auburn. Oregon will represent a major test for the Illini, as the Ducks have excellent pieces at all positions that can really expose the Illinois’ lack of length.
- Bo Ryan and his fourth-ranked Wisconsin squad easily defeated in-state opponent Milwaukee earlier this week. The Badgers have been steamrolling everyone so far but their biggest upcoming challenge may be next month when they go to Bloomington to take on Indiana. There are four games between now and then and they should all be wins for the Badgers. The one game Bo Ryan’s team can’t overlook before the Indiana game is when Iowa visits on January 5. Iowa has the depth to stay with Wisconsin on the perimeter and multiple players who can guard Frank Kaminsky.