Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week Two

Posted by Adam Levy on November 27th, 2015

We’re back for Week 2 of Levy’s B1G Layup Line and boy, what a week it was. A lot of tournaments, a lot of turkey, too much family and somehow too little basketball. If you feel you were cheated by a new, terrible stuffing recipe like I was, cheer up. At least you have all of the Big Ten stuffing you need right in front of you. Let’s get right to it and carve up the week that was.


A: Purdue Boilermakers

Matt Painter's Team Hasn't Gotten a Lot of Attention Yet (USAT Images)

Matt Painter’s Team Hasn’t Gotten a Lot of Attention Yet (USAT Images)

Purdue is good. Like really, really good. Coming into the season, everyone knew about their scary frontcourt and, thus far, it has probably exceeded expectations. It’s the performance of the backcourt, however, that is taking the college landscape by storm and led to a beat down of Florida in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship. Sophomore point guard P.J. Thompson took home the fictional MVP award after his 15-5-4-2 line in that game, boosting his offensive rating to 155.5 – good for 17th best in the country. Thompson also has yet to turn the ball over in any game this season and owns a 12-to-0 assist to turnover ratio so far – a crazy feat in its own right. P.J. Thompson: #RememberTheName.

Outside of a rare bad game against Old Dominion, reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Raphael Davis has been his usual great self, leading the way with unfathomable shooting splits (53.8% FG, 46.2% 3PT, 90.9% FT). Those numbers are clearly unsustainable, but it’s obvious that the senior leader is on a mission to prove something in his final season in West Lafayette. That something sure as hell could be shocking the world by winning a Big Ten title and making serious moves in March. This team is as balanced as any in the country. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

B: Bryant McIntosh

In three games against Columbia, North Carolina and Missouri this past week, McIntosh averaged 35.7 minutes, 19.7 points, and 5.7 assists while shooting 8-for-14 from distance and 13-for-15 from the charity stripe. It’s no coincidence that the underrated ‘Cats went 2-1 in those games and hung with one of the nation’s best in the Tar Heels for all of the first half before their athleticism simply took over. It may be a small sample size, but the sophomore point guard is looking like a legitimate All-Big Ten player with an incredibly bright future in purple. This Northwestern team has been as competitive as can be in the early going, and they’ll go as McIntosh goes. If he can continue to lead the offense by setting up his teammates (38.3% assist rate – 44th nationally) and getting to the free throw line at a consistent rate (88.2% from the line thus far), Northwestern will surprise a lot of people.

C:  AP Voters

Things that really tick me off: losing a sock during every single laundry cycle, receiving a “Call me back” voicemail, people texting “K” in response to something I’ve said, and the AP Top 25. It truly is the dumbest ranking of all time. Maryland barely held off a struggling Georgetown team at home, then needed six free throws in the last minute to beat Rider three days later? What the hell, let’s move them up a couple spots to #2 in the polls just because some other, better teams (Duke, Kansas) lost to some other, better teams (Kentucky, Michigan State). The Terps then followed up that poop fest with a crappy showing against Illinois State in the first round of the Cancun Challenge that saw them down 5 at the seven minute mark before pulling away late. I don’t care how good people think this team could be. The polls should be about who the best basketball teams are right now and, right now, outside of Rhode Island (who already lost their best player for the season), Maryland is struggling to beat every decent team they play. Sorry voters, but as I sit here stuffing my face with turkey in November, I feel comfortable saying that this is just not a top two team.

D: Illinois Fighting Illini

Can John Groce Come Out of This Tailspin? (USAT Images)

Can John Groce Come Out of This Tailspin? (USAT Images)

How bad was Illinois this week, you ask? Well, they lost to Chatta-friggin-nooga on Saturday, then needed a buzzer-beating three two days later from Jalen Coleman-Lands to take down lowly Chicago State, the 337th rated team by KenPom standards. Think about that – Illinois literally trailed by 14 in the second half against the 15th-worst team in the entire country. The Illini are horrendous defensively, allowing their opponents to shoot 41.3% from behind the arc (317th) thus far with a 55.6 percent effective field goal percentage (296th). What else needs to be said? If John Groce gets out of this season alive, I’d be stunned.

F: Ohio State Buckeyes

What the hell is going on with Ohio State? They hadn’t lost back-to-back home games since February 2008 until this week. It’s one thing to drop a couple of tough home games in the middle of a grueling Big Ten season. But in November? Against UT-Arlington and Louisiana Lafayette? Unacceptable. Although they’re super young – junior Marc Loving is the only upperclassman in their rotation – there’s too much talent here to be dropping games like this. They are 322nd nationally in turnover percentage (turning the ball over 22.5% of the time) and 331st in free throw percentage (shooting 58.8%) – two key factors in their early-season struggles that could keep them out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since – you guessed it – 2008.


  1. The Gavitt Tipoff Games
    • Any time a power conference pairs up with another power conference to have one of those “let’s see who’s better” competitions, sign me up. I love that the Big Ten and Big East signed on for this event for eight years while paying tribute to one of the real giants of the game, the late Dave Gavitt – a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer who had a huge influence on the sport of basketball at all levels. Yes, the Big Ten lost the competition this year (3-5 record) but, unless Iowa plays Marquette every time (the Hawkeyes lost by 28), the Gavitt Tipoff Games will be something to look forward to each season as a Big Ten fan – much like the Big Ten/ACC challenge.
  2. Michigan State’s Offensive Balance
    • I don’t want Denzel Valentine’s greatness to hijack this section, but I have to say: this kid is absolutely out of his mind. He casually put up another triple double last night against Boston College (29-11-10 and six threes) and single-handedly ripped them to shreds. He has the best assist rate in the country at 56.2% and is top-50 in defensive rebounding percentage. Stop it, Denzel. Stop it immmmmmeeeediately.
    • As for the rest of this Spartans’ squad, well, they’re for real. Between five players averaging double digit scoring (I’m rounding Matt Costello’s 9.8 up to 10 because I do what I want), three players averaging 7+ rebounds per game, a shot blocking machine (Deyonta Davis) and a three point sniper (Bryn Forbes), I truly don’t see any weakness whatsoever right now. They may not force any turnovers (342nd nationally), but neither had any of Bo Ryan’s Badgers teams. Not only are the Spartans now my front runner to win the Big Ten, but they might actually be the best team in the country. Watch out.


Maui Did Not Go Well For Tom Crean's Hoosiers (USAT Images)

Maui Did Not Go Well For Tom Crean’s Hoosiers (USAT Images)

  1. Everything about the Indiana Hoosiers
    • I can go on for hours about how pathetic the Indiana Hoosiers are right now – there’s so much to cover from their Maui trip – but I’ll spare you almost all of the rant. In short, watching this team is actually like watching a group of five guys playing in a pickup game together for the first time. To turn the ball over nearly a quarter of the time you have the ball in six games against zero good teams is mind blowing. The Hoosiers turned it over 54 times – yes, 54 times – in three games in Maui and got pretty much embarrassed the entire time there, throwing errant passes all over the court and making idiotic decisions throughout the trip. They now rank 337th in the country in turnover percentage.
    • On top of that, Indiana’s ball pressure and defense continued to be brutal, as Wake Forest dropped 52 points in the paint on Monday. James Blackmon is a revolving door defensively – one of the slowest lateral movers I’ve ever seen – and when your perimeter players simply cannot stay in front and close driving lanes, it puts a lot more pressure on the frontcourt to step up and alter shots. The fact that Indiana’s frontcourt has no depth at all and is anchored by a developing freshman in Thomas Bryant screams trouble, especially when Tom Crean pulls a classic Tom Crean and takes out said freshman in crunch time when rebounding and stops are absolutely critical, which he did.
    • Between the size issues, the turnovers, the lack of getting to the free throw line, the defense and the coaching, the Hoosiers are in serious trouble, especially because they blew their golden opportunity to bulk up their resume by winning games they were expected to win and playing better teams. With Duke and Notre Dame as the only remaining tournament-caliber teams on their non-conference slate, Indiana will likely head into Big Ten season with one of the worst RPIs out there. Not good, people. Not good.
  1. Troy Williams’ Mom



Biggest takeaway: Michigan has moved down 21 spots since last Thursday, primarily due to bad defensive showings against Xavier and Connecticut. Their frontcourt seriously lacks athletes and will have trouble keeping opposing teams with size out of the paint all season long. Caris LeVert can’t do this alone. Other guys will need to step up if Michigan is going to threaten anyone good.


In honor of Thanksgiving week, we’re ranking the Big Ten’s biggest turkeys, also known as worst coaches (voters: me and four other Big Ten lovers), ordered by total points, with number of first-place votes in parentheses:

  1. Eddie Jordan, Rutgers (2): 17
  2. John Groce, Illinois (1): 14
  3. Fran McCaffery, Iowa (1): 12
  4. Tom Crean, Indiana (1): 11
  5. Pat Chambers, Penn St. (0): 8

Also receiving votes: Richard Pitino, Minnesota, 6; Mark Turgeon, Maryland, 5; Chris Collins, Northwestern, 2.

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.

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