Big Ten Weekend In Review: Things Just Keep Getting WeirderPosted by Brendan Brody on February 4th, 2014
In the first half of the B1G slate, one team has proven to be more consistent that everyone else. While all of the puzzling final scores have rolled in, Michigan has been rolling over the competition, rising to #10 in the country and sitting at 8-0 in conference play. That of course all changed on Sunday when the Wolverines inexplicably lost to Indiana at Assembly Hall. With that result, there are now eight Big Ten teams within one game of each other (with five or six losses) in the conference standings. Here’s an attempt at summing up what turned out to be another batty weekend around the league.
Player of the Weekend: Yogi Ferrell: If you take a glance at the box score and see that Ferrell went for 27 points on 7-of-8 shooting from behind the arc, you would assume that’s the sole reason why he was the best player of the weekend. But he was also primarily responsible for holding fellow B1G POY candidate Nik Stauskas to only six points on Sunday. The Hoosiers game planned for Michigan’s best player brilliantly, placing Ferrell on him one-on-one and never leaving to help. Ferrell marked him all over the court, and while Stauskas wasn’t his normal aggressive self in Bloomington, the sophomore guard deserves a good deal of the credit for holding him in check. He topped off a tremendous game by grabbing a key rebound in the closing minutes when he simply outhustled everyone as the Wolverines were frantically clawing back. Ferrell put the Hoosiers on his back Sunday, and they earned a huge resume boost in large part because of his efforts.
Super Sub of the Weekend: Gabriel Olaseni: The British big man gets the nod for bench production for the second weekend in a row. He tallied a double-double again, doing so by dominating the offensive glass in Iowa’s survival of the Illini. The Hawkeyes have been going through a malady lately where they go for long stretches at a time without a field goal. During those dry spells, they survive by living at the free throw line. Olaseni was active and at the forefront of this trend in the first half, as he went to the line 10 times (making nine) on his way to an efficient 15 points. He also led the way with 12 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Biggest Win: It’s getting more difficult to choose this one every weekend. Resiliency has been a prevailing theme and a requirement in navigating the parity of the league. And while it was by no means something to put into the basketball archives, Ohio State getting a win in Madison was huge for their once-promising Final Four aspirations. I’m not saying that they’re ready to be ranked in the top 10 anytime soon, but things were at a dangerous level of panic in Columbus. The Buckeyes were a bit more efficient on offense than they have been, and they capitalized on Wisconsin’s continued cold shooting to prevail by a single point. It will be interesting to see whether this win ignites a turnaround for this team, or whether Wisconsin is just in the midst of a horrific shooting slump allowed Ohio State to take advantage. This is just one of many questions left to be answered in the second half of the year.
Worst Loss: Illinois looked much more like the team that started the season 13-2 and made its way into the Top 25 in this one than the Illini have in many of their recent losses. They fought off an early 21-point deficit to take a two-point lead with 4:28 remaining in the second half, before succumbing to the Hawkeyes by seven. They played with tremendous intensity; they made some shots that they hadn’t been making during their recent swoon; and yet they still took a loss. You have to wonder if by blowing this latest opportunity that the Illini’s confidence is destroyed. They’ve now lost seven games in a row, and will have to play a similarly reeling Wisconsin squad tonight. While this season has proven that nothing is surprising anymore in this league, Illinois bouncing back from this tailspin would be really difficult to fathom at this point.
Our Conference is Better Than Your Conference?: Michigan State lost to Big East opponent Georgetown on Saturday afternoon in New York City. The dynamic of whether the B1G is the best conference in college basketball is an interesting one, and this result — with a middling Big East team beating one of the Big Ten’s injured but best teams — gives the naysayers some ammunition. While no one is going to turn around and trumpet the Big East as the best conference out of this single game, it also doesn’t exactly help the B1G’s argument when comparing it against the Big 12, the Pac-12, or the ACC.