Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 3

Posted by Adam Levy on December 4th, 2015

It was a jam-packed week in the Big Ten as we transitioned from Feast Week to the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Some teams continued to feast and looked like their usual great selves. Other teams continued to be feasted on and looked like their usual awful selves. Week 3 of the Layup Line is back to break it all down. Let’s get after it.


A: Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok

Peter Jok and Iowa have gotten off to a solid start. (Globe Gazette)

Peter Jok and Iowa have gotten off to a solid start. (Globe Gazette)

Great week for Iowa but an even better week for the top-scoring duo in Iowa City. Uthoff is off to a phenomenal start this season as he sits third in the Big Ten in scoring and second in blocks. In three games against Notre Dame, Wichita State and Florida State, the 6’9″ forward averaged 19.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, a steal and 1.7 treys per game, and he currently ranks in the top 50 nationally in block percentage. Simply put, Uthoff gets it done on both ends of the floor and looks to be a surefire First Team All-Big Ten candidate this season. Meanwhile, Jok has never been much of a shooter (37.3% for his career), but he has been Iowa’s go-to-guy thus far (29.2% of possessions used) and it showed on Wednesday night against Florida State. He had a career night, making some big free throws down the stretch and hitting what would be the game-winning three in overtime. He scored eight of Iowa’s 15 points in the last frame to help his conference clinch the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Good work, Peter.

As for Iowa as a whole, there’s absolutely no shame in losing to Dayton and Notre Dame – both of which are likely NCAA Tournament teams – on neutral courts. Iowa is underrated as the 21st best team in the country (per KenPom) – top 30 in both offense and defense – and Iowa State stands as the Hawkeyes’ only true test left before Big Ten play begins. They will look to beef up their record as they make their case for becoming a top-five Big Ten team.

B: Michigan Wolverines

After getting blown out by Xavier and UConn in , the Maize and Blue have started coming together. The Wolverines obliterated Charlotte and Texas in the Bahamas before passing their first true road test with flying colors on Tuesday night. Heading into the game with NC State, the Wolfpack had the clear advantage both in the paint and on the glass. The latter advantage played out as expected, with the Wolfpack grabbing 13 offensive boards in the contest; however, their big men (BeeJay Anya, Lennard Freeman, Abdul-Malik Abu) did virtually nothing offensively and relied heavily on guards Cat Barber and Caleb Martin to carry the load. After NC State cut a 15-point Michigan lead down to four late in the first half, Michigan’s sharpshooters and surprisingly stingy defense took over a hostile environment and never looked back, holding the Wolfpack to 32.8 percent shooting and 21 points below their season average.

Oh, and this kid, Duncan Robinson? He’s a former Division III player shooting 60.6 percent from distance this season, potentially making him the best spot-up shooter in the conference. Very impressive week for his Wolverines.

C:  Maryland Terrapins

All things considered, Maryland actually played one hell of a game in Chapel Hill on Tuesday night, storming back from an early 13-point deficit to take a one-point lead with roughly 13 minutes left. The thing is that if you’re the #3 team in the country, you simply cannot turn the ball over 22 times no matter who and where you’re playing. Melo Trimble may have been brilliant in scoring 23 points and dishing out 12 dimes, but he committed eight turnovers and looked uneasy in the early going. The Tar Heels cashed in 23 points off of those turnovers and also got to the free throw line 25 times. On top of that, Jake Layman’s early-season struggles continued. He’s shooting just 28.6 percent from three and averaging only 10.6 points per game – his lowest scoring average since his freshman season. If this team has any aspirations of cutting down the nets in April, they’ll need to improve that dreadful 20.6 percent turnover rate (ranked 270th nationally) and get their senior leader going.

D: Ohio State Buckeyes and Indiana Hoosiers

It has been a trying year for Thad Matta and company. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

It has been a trying year for Thad Matta and company. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Another week, another couple of losses for the Buckeyes. This is certainly Thad Matta’s worst team in a long, long time, but it’s also a very young one. That said, between the turnovers, poor free throwing and poor rebounding, there are simply too many flaws here that will prevent this team from punching its ticket in March. As for the Hoosiers, well, they don’t even deserve a section in this column. Allowing 1.52 points per possession against Duke (the best offensive performance against a major conference opponent in 20 years of data) is unfathomable. The Indiana defense is historically bad. They’ll provide plenty more material for review throughout the season. Let’s move on.

F: Home Teams in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge

After winning the first 10 battles from 1999-2008, the ACC hasn’t won this challenge outright since then – it has been all Big Ten, with a couple of ties mixed in. It was an 8-6 split this year in favor of the good guys but, outside of the Duke, UNC and Michigan State (the three best teams, all of which played at home), home teams went 2-9 throughout the three-day challenge with an average of a 6.2 point-deficit across those nine losses. In a sport where home court advantage is worth around four points, it blows my mind to see such a disappointing effort from home teams in this season’s challenge. Thank the lawd for Minnesota and Iowa, I guess.


Denzel Valentine and the Spartans hope to wind up in Indy next weekend. (Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

What can’t this guy do at this point? (Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Denzel Valentine’s NPOY Chances. Seriously: It’s now the third week in a row that I’ve mancrushed on Valentine, but each week he’s done something to make us somehow almost forget the previous one. With his team down four at the 11-minute mark against Louisville, Valentine stepped to the free throw line, drained both, grabbed a defensive rebound and drove the ball on the other end to tie it up at 47-all. He then proceeded to score or assist on 16 of Sparty’s next 23 points, made 6-of-6 free throws in the final 49 seconds to ice the game, and finished with a cool 25/5/7 line – just another day at the office for the senior. I don’t recall any one player in the country being as important to the success of his team since Creighton’s Doug McDermott a few years ago. With all due respect to LSU’s Ben Simmons (who is just ridiculous, by the way), Valentine really is the most valuable player in the country right now.
  2. Seniors Completely Dominating the Big Ten: Denzel Valentine, Caris LeVert, Yogi Ferrell, AJ Hammons, Raphael Davis, Joey King, Jarrod Uthoff, Tre Demps, Shavon Shields, Brandon Taylor. What do all these guys have in common? They’re the best players (or co-best players in the case of Hammons/Davis) on their respective teams, the best players in the Big Ten, and they’re all seniors. In the era of the one-and-done star where freshmen have taken over the sport of college basketball, it’s refreshing as hell to see the sport’s best conference being dominated by a group of seniors who put their blood, sweat and tears into a full college career.


No smiling here ... the officiating this season has been nothing to write home about. (Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports)

No smiling here … the officiating this season has been nothing to write home about. (Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. “Freedom of Movement” Rule Change: My two biggest non-team, non-human loves in life: college basketball and Portillo’s chocolate cake. Give me a piece of cake and a glass of skim milk (yes, I drink skim milk – get off me) while I’m watching a college game, and I could die a happy man the next day. Sure, the college game has been nearly unwatchable at times over the years, what with the horrific officiating, the insane amount of timeouts, and the inability for anyone to distinguish a block from a charge. But it has still always held the key to my heart… until this season. Whoever thought it was a good idea to come up with this ridiculous “freedom of movement” rule is truly an idiot. I don’t have any statistics on this, so maybe it’s just me, but the number of ticky-tack calls I am seeing has gotten to be too much. Lay a finger on your man 20 feet from the ball? Foul. Graze your hand across someone’s shorts trying to get around a screen? Foul. When I’m watching Michigan State vs. Providence, I want to see the Denzel Valentine vs. Kris Dunn Show. Watching them sit on the bench all half because of stupid fouls like that while their inferior teammates try to fill the void is not fun for anyone. I’ve had enough. Tom Izzo has had enough. No more cake and milk until this is fixed, please.
  2. The Misfortunes of Illinois: The Illini lost Tracy Abrams for the second season in a row to a torn achilles. They lost Kendrick Nunn for a month with a broken thumb. Leron Black and Jalen Coleman-Lands missed some time with injuries. Darius Paul got kicked off the team. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the basketball gods decided the Illini somehow deserve some more misfortune by tearing Mike Thorne Jr.’s meniscus on Saturday. This season is already all but lost for Illinois, and it’s too bad. They may have some terrible losses on their resume, but they also played Iowa State and Notre Dame real close this week and have shown some signs of life. This team won’t go down without a fight, and they’ll probably win a couple of surprising games this year, but it’s time for Illini fans to start thinking about next season.



Biggest takeaway: I haven’t even gotten a chance to discuss Purdue in this column but the Boilermakers may have had the most impressive win during the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Matt Painter’s team completely stifled Pittsburgh – KenPom’s 20th rated offense (and 39th rated team) – on the road without Raphael Smith. AJ Hammons had a fantastic game, helping catapult his team to a top five standing. No one has been able to shoot on them all season (36.1% opponent’s effective field goal percentage – best in the country) – but we’ll see if they can keep that up with New Mexico, Butler and Vanderbilt all on the docket this month.


I’m switching it up on you this week. The weekly poll is no longer weekly. Throughout the season, I’ll randomly pick my top five all-time players at a certain Big Ten school. I’ll start out with Minnesota – they need some more Layup Line love.

Minnesota’s All-Time team

  • Coach: Dave McMillan (1927-42, 1945-48)
  • G: Voshon Lenard (1991-95)
  • G: Lou Hudson (1963-66)
  • F: Kevin McHale (1976-80)
  • F: Jim Brewer (1970-73)
  • C: Mychal Thompson (1974-78)
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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One response to “Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 3”

  1. Mike says:

    I just want to offer a friendly correction. The senior guard for Purdue is Rapheal Davis, not Smith.

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