Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 1

Posted by Adam Levy on November 19th, 2015

Welcome to Rush the Court’s first ever edition of Levy’s B1G Layup Line, a weekly column set to give you all the water cooler material you need for all things Big Ten basketball. If you’re reading this, congratulations – you’re losing your virginity to this column, and so am I. We’re now linked together forever as eskimo brothers; if we’re going to embark on this season-long journey together, we may as well check ourselves into the EBDBBnB and enjoy it.

Before we do that, though, let’s break in the 2016 season by recapping what was a very interesting first week in the Big Ten.


Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

A: Denzel Valentine

I could make this all about Michigan State’s incredible come-from-behind victory against a rock-solid Kansas team poised to win its 12th straight Big 12 title. But I won’t. Reason being: Denzel Valentine is a freak of nature. The captain of both a veteran Spartans’ team and the “How is He Still In College?” team made history on Tuesday night in front of 50+ NBA executives and scouts at the United Center, becoming the fourth player in Michigan State history to post a triple-double (Magic Johnson – 8; Draymond Green – 3; Charlie Bell – 1) with an absurd 29/12/12 stat line and earning himself a postgame phone call from Magic Johnson. Valentine scored or assisted on 22 straight points in the second half to dig his team out of an 11-point hole and give Sparty a permanent lead. Without him, Michigan State loses by over 20. You don’t usually see the best individual performance of the season happen in mid-November, but this very well may have been it.

B: Caleb Swanigan

Speaking of Michigan State, their favorite non-Spartan had himself a weeeek. He recorded a double-double in each of his first two collegiate games (12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game), earning his first Freshman of the Week honor in as many tries. With two massive seven-foot centers and no big to stretch the floor last season, Swanigan was the key missing variable to solving Purdue’s frontcourt equation. Now that AJ Hammons is back, it’s absolutely terrifying to think about what that frontcourt is capable of doing.

C: Maryland Terrapins

You’d be hard pressed to find a basketball fan out there who didn’t think Maryland was a top-five team nationally heading into the season. What those people need to be reminded of is that 60.0 percent of this team’s starting five is brand new (Rasheed Sulaimon; Robert Carter; Diamond Stone). It will take more than a week for Mark Turgeon to mold the clay and allow his team time to develop chemistry and learn to play together. It was no surprise to see Maryland struggle to put away a gritty Georgetown team in a game where Melo Trimble did not score until about five minutes left in the first half. And after all that talk about Maryland’s top notch frontcourt, it was the Terps’ small-ball lineup (Jake Layman at the four; Carter at the five) – the method that led to their 28 wins last season – that won out. Sure, a win’s a win. But this thing will take a little time. Patience, people.

D: John Groce and the Illini

It’s one thing to lose to Providence on the road, even with Kris Dunn having a bad game. No shame in that. It’s another thing to lose in the way the Illini did (scored two points in the final 6:06 of action and missing a layup and dunk at the end to win it), coupled with a horrific loss to North Florida in the season opener in Springfield (Illinois won’t play on campus until December 2 due to ongoing renovations of the State Farm Center) – the first opening loss since 1998. Given the offseason John Groce and his program have had, you’d expect his team to look somewhat prepared in its first game – rather than giving up 93 points to a former #16 seed. The Illini followed that debacle up with a near-loss to North Dakota State on Sunday. Kendrick Nunn can’t come back soon enough. If you thought Groce’s seat was hot before last week, think again. Hansel has nothing on that seat.

F: Wisconsin Badgers

Western Illinois was one of the worst teams in the nation last season, averaging 0.90 points per possession. On Friday, though, the Badgers hoisted a second-straight Final Four banner into the Kohl Center rafters, then proceeded to give up 69 points in 57 possession in an upset loss. For a program that has lost just 22 home games in 15 seasons under Bo Ryan, a loss like this one is simply unacceptable. It’s far too early to panic and it’s more likely than not that Ryan continues his forever-long streak of Big Ten top four finishes, but this was not the way to get things started. Oh, and Nigel Hayes: It’s time to boost that field goal percentage, bro. Hovering around 40 percent ain’t gonna cut it.


Yogi Ferrell (USAT)

Yogi Ferrell Looks to Continue His Three-Point Streak in Maui Next Week (USAT)

  1. Yogi Ferrell’s three-point streak
    • Coming into college, Ferrell was (and still is) the kind of point guard that any coach or fan would love to have. The ball-handling skills, the vision, the quickness: off the charts. But the shooting? Terrible. Right on cue, Ferrell shot 40.3 percent from two and 30.3 percent from three during his freshman year. Since then, however, it has been a completely different story. In fact, the kid has made a three in literally every single game he has played since November 8, 2013 – the first game of Indiana’s 2013-14 season. That’s 68 consecutive games. The all-time record of 88 straight made threes (from November 10, 1998 to February 10, 2001) belongs to Cory Bradford of Illinois. Your move, Yogi.
  2. Guess who’s back? Back again? LeVert is back. Tell a friend.
    • After a lost season for Michigan where Caris LeVert missed the final two months to recover from foot surgery, the Wolverines are back to their dominant ways. LeVert, as expected, led the charge in two blowout wins over Northern Michigan and Elon, and leads the team in minutes, points, assists, and steals. Ho-hum for the senior guard, who is likely on his way to a first team All-Big Ten selection and the NBA lottery in June.


  1. A.J. Hammons Idiocy
    • Hammons has had his fair share of off-court issues throughout his tenure in West Lafayette, but it seemed like the senior center was finally past all that… until last week, when Matt Painter benched him for Purdue’s first two games in order to “take care of some business internally in our program, especially as a senior.” What the hell does that even mean? I don’t really know, and I guess I don’t really care, but something’s fishy. Hammons returned Wednesday night against Incarnate Word, scoring eight points and blocking three shots. Still, get it together, A.J.
  2. Vic Law’s Torn Labrum
    • This was supposed to be the year for Northwestern to finally earn a NCAA tournament bid. Law, coming off a so-so freshman year, was Northwestern’s first ever top-100 recruit – a kid that was supposed to make it cool for the local talent to stay local. With a starting five of Bryant McIntosh, Tre Demps, Vic Law, Aaron Falzon and Alex Olah, Chris Collins had his team in prime position to punch its ticket. Without their most athletic and highly-touted prospect, however, accomplishing such a feat will be that much tougher. It’s certainly not impossible, though – far stranger things have happened.


Each week, I’ll give you a side-by-side statistical comparison of each Big Ten team and fill you in on who’s trending up and who’s trending down based on Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings. Since it’s only Week One, there are no trends to see, but here is how everyone ranks up against one another thus far, as well as what’s on tap for their next game.

B1G Pomery Week 1

Biggest takeaway after the first week: Indiana still is and will continue to be an offensive juggernaut. On Monday against Austin Peay, the Hoosiers logged an effective field goal percentage of 80 percent, the highest ever for the program under Tom Crean. They hit 15 consecutive shots at one point in the second half, and hit 16  three-pointers overall, falling two shy of the school record of 18. Even in November, the Hoosiers’ offense already appears to be in midseason form. If they can limit the turnover issues they’ve had in the past, they will be tough to stop on that end of the floor.


Ranking the Big Ten’s best point guards (voters: me and four other Big Ten lovers), ordered by total points, with number of first-place votes in parentheses:

  1. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (3): 23
  2. Melo Trimble, Maryland (2): 22
  3. Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan (0): 12
  4. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin (0): 11
  5. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern (0): 4

Also receiving votes: Mike Gesell, Iowa, 3; Tum Tum Nairn, Michigan State, 1.

Adam Levy (12 Posts)

Adam Levy is an analytics consultant by day and Big Ten columnist for Rush The Court by night. He is also the founder, editor, and writer at chicitybs.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChiCityBS.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

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