Big Ten Weekend in Review: A Slight Return to NormalcyPosted by Brendan Brody on February 11th, 2014
After the finish of the Penn State-Illinois game on Sunday afternoon, a look at the standings showed that the upside-down nature of the first six weeks of the Big Ten season has self-corrected a little bit. The five teams that the media and our microsite predicted to finish in the top 5 are situated that way with just three games separating first through fifth place. Illinois climbed out of the basement with a win at Penn State, Nebraska got a road win, and Indiana continued to be as inconsistent as any team in the league/country. Here’s the rest of the highlights from the weekend:
Player of the Weekend: Mike Gesell. Iowa got solid efforts from pretty much everyone in their rotation in their vital home win over Michigan. Roy Devyn Marble hit six three-pointers in the first half and carried them offensively. Their starting frontcourt of Melsaan Basabe, Aaron White, and Adam Woodbury combined for 11 offensive rebounds. Although he didn’t put up a ton of points, Gesell played the biggest role. Part of the problems he has had at times this season has been forcing things on the offensive end. His assist-to-turnover numbers coming into the game in Big Ten play was 2.38/1. So for him to deliver 8 assists to 1 turnover in the game shows what the Hawkeyes can do when he is playing well. He had an offensive rating of 170 and he also had 3 steals. Although he didn’t take many shots, he was efficient in knocking down both threes he attempted, going 3-for-5 from the field for the game. Gesell has gone from a bit of a timeshare with Anthony Clemmons, to playing more minutes. If he can continue to distribute and cause problems on the defensive end like this, Iowa can make a run late in the season at winning the league.
Super Sub of the Weekend: Maurice Walker. Elliott Eliason got the majority of the minutes in the post during the early portions of the season. But as Eliason has been in foul trouble more often than not lately, Maurice Walker has really come on for Minnesota. He went for 14 points and 8 rebounds on Saturday night against Indiana. With Andre Hollins still slowed by his ankle injury, and no one else that is terribly consistent on the perimeter for the Gophers, the inside emergence of Walker has offset the struggles of Eliason lately. Walker seems to be a completely different player, seemingly gaining confidence with each good game. In his last five games, Walker has gone for 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Indiana had no answer for him as he went 7-for-11 against them, scoring all of his points inside the paint.
Biggest Win: Wisconsin righted the ship at home with their win Sunday against Michigan State after losing their previous three in Madison. After falling out of the AP top 25 by starting league play at 4-5, the Badgers got an important win here. They got back to shooting the ball much better from behind the arc, going 9-for-23 even with Ben Brust going 1-for-8. Going forward, Wisconsin still has to go to Michigan and Iowa. The rest of the schedule is somewhat manageable however, so this win keeps them on the outside of being able to still win the conference regular season championship if they can split those two road games against top 25 foes, and win the rest.
Second Biggest Win: Iowa did a good deal of damage to the arguments that they can only beat the teams they are supposed to beat. They completely shut Nik Stauskas down, and Roy Devyn Marble proved in this match-up that he’s still in the mix for Big Ten Player of the Year. The Hawkeyes carved up the Michigan defense to the tune of 1.33 points per possession, and they grabbed 15 offensive rebounds on the night. When they hit the boards like that, and go 10-17 from three, there aren’t very many teams in the country that can play with them. They play Penn State and Indiana on the road next before they get Wisconsin at home. There’s a very good chance that this team could be 10-4 with a chance to still win the league.
Worst Loss: Indiana played a de facto bubble game at Minnesota Saturday night, and once again turned in an inconsistent and uneven performance. They did a nice job avoiding turnovers in the first half, but then things came apart at the end. When the Hoosiers get a consistent effort from everybody, they can beat pretty much everyone they play. Instead they produce efforts like this one more often than not. They didn’t do a good enough job trying to get the ball inside to Noah Vonleh, Yogi Ferrell only went 2-for-9 from deep, and they lost another game to a team they could very well have beaten.