First Weekend Observations From the Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 17th, 2014

The Big Ten tipped things off along with the rest of the country this weekend in the form of a whopping 18 games in three days. Minnesota and Rutgers were the only two conference teams that lost, but they also played two teams in Louisville and George Washington, respectively, that should make some noise nationally. While it would be next to impossible to have seen all 18 games in some capacity, here’s some of what we observed on this end.

James Blackmon Jr lead the way offensively in Indiana's huge opening win. (Matt Detrich, Indy Star)

James Blackmon Jr lead the way offensively in Indiana’s huge opening win. (Matt Detrich, Indy Star)

  • Indiana Could be Fun to Watch: A team effective field goal percentage of 75.4 percent will not be duplicated for the whole season, but the Hoosiers played a really fun brand of offensive basketball in their throttling of Mississippi Valley State, 116-65, on Friday night. Freshman James Blackmon, Jr looks to be the real deal, and Robert Johnson (15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals) might not be far behind. Max Hoetzel also was impressive, displaying the versatility at times to serve as a point forward. The Hoosiers did a really nice job moving without the ball and creating offensive spacing, which lead to many of their 23 three-point attempts being wide-open looks. They will get tested playing SMU at home on Thursday night (after tonight’s Mike Davis reunion with Texas Southern), but the contrast in styles and the return of Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson to the lineup will make it worth watching.
  • Michigan State Needs to Find a Post Presence: Michigan State seemed to be sleepwalking through a good chunk of its five-point win over Navy on Friday night, and it wasn’t just from turning the ball over 18 times. The Spartans allowed Navy to score way too easily inside the paint, causing the game to be much closer than it should have been given the size and talent differential on display. With Jahlil Okafor and Duke looming for Tom Izzo’s team on Tuesday night, Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling will have to be much bigger factors on the defensive end of the floor. Denzel Valentine won’t play as poorly as he did that night, but the Spartans’ offense looked disjointed other than the times when Travis Trice got open looks (5-of-6 from three). Michigan State will eventually get things right and still be a factor in the B1G race, but it might take some time if they can’t prevent those easy inside looks.

  • Nigel Hayes is a Good Fit in Wisconsin’s Starting Lineup: Wisconsin was not tested by either Northern Kentucky or Chattanooga over the weekend, as the Badgers beat both teams soundly while giving up an average of 38.0 PPG in the two contests. With Hayes now in the starting five, the team enjoyed a whopping +42 rebounding margin over the pair of games. Hayes’ career high in rebounds had been only six (several times last year), but he grabbed 10 in the first game and 13 on Sunday. The Badgers have five players who can shoot from the outside with this lineup, as Hayes has shown that the three-point shot is also in his offensive arsenal. Frank Kaminsky totaled eight assists in the two contests, proving that he’s going to be a willing facilitator should he garner extra defensive attention. This team looks tough.
  • Purdue Shows Signs That It’s on the Rise: The Boilermakers still have to figure out a rotation, but Vince Edwards is another Big Ten freshman who had an outstanding first weekend. Kendall Stephens could be a breakout offensive star in the making, and they might have the most depth of any team in the league. Purdue showcased its signature defensive intensity by holding IUPUI to only two points in the first six minutes of Sunday’s game, and then closed out the game out on a 12-0 run in the last six minutes of the 20-point win. If they can sustain that level of defense over a 40-minute window, this team will be much improved this season.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *