Big Ten Extended Weekend in Review: Upsets AboundPosted by Brendan Brody on January 21st, 2014
The third weekend of conference play was marked by several unexpected results. After Nebraska knocked off Ohio State Monday night, three Big Ten underdogs had come away with unlikely wins. The Cornhuskers got their first conference win against a staggering Buckeyes squad while Northwestern has now won two more league games than some predicted it would get all year. Here are the rest of the extended weekend highlights from a relatively crazy weekend.
Player of the Weekend: Caris LeVert, Michigan: One of the main reasons why Michigan has survived Mitch McGary’s unfortunate injury is because players like LeVert have stepped up in his absence. He was a huge factor on Saturday, scoring 20 points on 3-of-3 shooting from behind the arc. He also produced seven rebounds, four assists and four steals in a stellar outing. His length allows him to be a defensive menace on the perimeter, where he pestered the Wisconsin guards throughout the evening. On the offensive end, he was able to not only knock down outside shots, but also penetrate and drive at will. LeVert continues to be one of the most improved players in the Big Ten this season.
Super Sub of the Weekend: Zach McCabe, Iowa: This bullish bench player for the Hawkeyes has been struggling with his shooting. He went 0-of-8 from the field against Ohio State last Sunday, but he came back against Minnesota and played the most minutes (22) he’s played since Iowa’s early December win against Notre Dame. He was extremely productive in that extended time against the Gophers despite not lighting up the scoreboard, ending up with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and a team-high three steals. McCabe and Josh Ogelsby show why Iowa is so dangerous — they can avoid foul trouble and ineffectiveness from the starters and still beat a solid team handily.
Most Entertaining Game: Coming into the match-up, you could read the tea leaves and see that Michigan and Wisconsin was going to be played at a high level. Both teams had top-10 offensive efficiency numbers and rarely turned the ball over. In the first half, the teams combined to shoot 64 percent from three and combined for 81 points — in the past, a 43-38 score could very well have been the score after the final buzzer. Every time Michigan went on a run, Wisconsin came back and made it close again. These are two great teams that will play again on February 16 at Michigan with conference championship implications.
Biggest Win(s): It’s too difficult to differentiate between Michigan, Nebraska, and Northwestern for this one. The Michigan win carries more weight nationally and at the top of the B1G standings, as the Wolverines move to 5-0 with a showdown with Michigan State on tap Saturday. But you can’t overlook Nebraska getting its first win in 16 tries against a ranked opponent that was No. 3 in the country as little as a week ago. Northwestern deserves to be recognized because the Wildcats proved that their win over Illinois wasn’t a fluke in beating Indiana. The Wildcats are now 19th nationally in defensive efficiency. People who question whether the B1G is the best conference in the country need to look no further than the bottom of the standings this year.
Worst Loss: Indiana essentially undid all its momentum and cancelled out its only signature win with the weekend loss to Northwestern. Now, if the vastly improving Wildcats go on to an 8-10 or 9-9 record in league play, it won’t look all that bad. Regardless of how Chris Collins’ team finishes, though, the Hoosiers now have to grab at least two more wins against the conference’s power teams while avoiding losses to the bottom third of the league.