Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 4

Posted by Adam Levy on December 11th, 2015

The week after the ACC/Big Ten Challenge usually consists of a bunch of major conference teams playing a bunch of cupcakes to beef up their win columns, and that’s exactly what we had here in the Big Ten. Outside of the Iowa vs. Iowa State game last night, it was a pretty uneventful week in terms of competitiveness and good basketball, but one shall always strive for giving some love to those who deserve it and hating on those who suck or continue to suck. It’s week four of the Layup Line.


A: Andrew White

Nebraska's Andrew Smith

Nebraska’s Andrew White Has Been a Revelation in Lincoln (USA Today Images)

Nebraska has played three and a half good teams so far in Villanova, Cincinnati, Miami, Creighton (they’re the half, obvi) and lost them all, so I’m not going to bore you with details on how bad they are. However, I will bore you with details on how good their junior guard/forward, Andrew White, was this past week. 30 points, seven rebounds, four steals, four treys and 14/16 from the line in a win against Abilene Christian; 28 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three treys in a win at Creighton. He’s fourth in the Big Ten in scoring just behind Michigan’s Caris LeVert and finds himself in the top five in three pointers made.

What most casual fans don’t realize is that White is a Kansas transfer. He was the 48th best prospect in the Class of 2012 according to ESPN but found himself playing behind the likes of Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, etc. throughout his first two seasons. He’s a good spot up shooter with an excellent mid-range game. This kid is no joke and could very easily find himself on an All-Big Ten Team by season’s end.

B: Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner

It’s finally time for some Penn State love. It has been an up and down season for the Nittany Lions so far, but they had a decent week by beating Eastern Michigan and Canisius and playing a very underrated George Washington team close on the road. They may not be any good, and they may not have any supporters whatsoever (because, you know, Penn State basketball), but amidst all of the negativity throughout the Pat Chambers era arises a two-player nucleus that has made some noise this season.

Senior Brandon Taylor and sophomore Shep Garner are neck and neck with the aforementioned Andrew White and Shavon Shields as the highest scoring teammates in the Big Ten at about 32 points per game. Taylor put up a monstrous 27 point, 12 rebound effort against Eastern Michigan, followed that up with 15 points and six rebounds against George Washington and finished off with 18 points and six rebounds against Canisius. He only sat nine minutes in those two games. Garner is averaging 19.8 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 treys and 4.3 free throws made over his past four games and ranks top-30 nationally in percent of minutes played. Sure, there’s virtually nothing to be excited about in State College right now, but I’ll be damned if these two guys don’t lead this team to at least one upset victory during the conference season.

C:  Iowa Hawkeyes

All things considered, it was actually a really solid week for Iowa, as they destroyed both UMKC and Western Illinois (who beat Wisconsin on the road, by the way) by 20 points and 34 points, respectively. Problem is, they blew a 20-point second half lead on the road against their in-state rival, Iowa State, who happens to be the number four ranked team in the country, and lost on a game-winning shot by Monte Morris in the final seconds. Iowa was up eight at the 1:43 mark before allowing the Cyclones to finish on a 9-0 run. Now, you may be sitting there saying “shut up, Adam, the fact they nearly won should count for something.” I’ll sit here and respond that moral victories don’t mean squat. Good teams do not blow leads that big, no matter the location. It just can’t happen. Sure, this Iowa squad has a lot of potential, as they are in the upper tier in numerous offensive and defensive categories and have one of the best players in the country right now in Jarrod Uthoff (I wrote about him enough last week, but what a week he had again – 30 first half points against Iowa State). However, they’ve now lost three close games against tournament-caliber teams (Dayton, Notre Dame, Iowa State) – you’d expect otherwise from a team that starts four seniors and a junior. If they’re going to do anything noteworthy in March, these upperclassmen will need to figure out how to close games together.

D: Wisconsin’s “Shooters”

I’m going to cut right to the chase. This is quite possibly Bo Ryan’s worst team in Madison for one reason and one reason only: they can’t shoot. In Ryan’s entire 15-year tenure, his Badger teams have never had lower than a 48.7% effective field goal percentage, never shot lower than 33.0% from three and never shot lower than 46.8% from two. This season?  46.2%, 32.2% and 45.5%, respectively. Bronson Koenig is the only true shooting threat on this roster, and even he hasn’t been all that great. Nigel Hayes does his damage in the mid-range and in the post, but he’s not a guy that can really create for himself. Ethan Happ is still adjusting to the college game. Zak Showalter is a career 25% three-point shooter. Vitto Brown is brutal. Everyone expected some kind of a drop off after losing Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Duje Dukan, but everyone also knows that Ryan always finds a way to make it work. For the first time ever, however, I’m not sure that he will.

F: Minnesota Golden Gophers

It could not have been a worse week for the Gophers. No one realistically expected Richard Pitino’s team to be anything close to good this season but, somehow, they’re actually worse. They are by far the worst defensive team in the Big Ten (yes, Indiana and Illinois – you’re still terrible too), rating 228th nationally in defensive efficiency and are allowing opponents to shoot 40.4% from behind the arc – higher than Reggie Miller’s career three-point percentage (39.5%), to put that crappiness into perspective. That “defense” was on display in a terrible double overtime loss at home to South Dakota on Saturday when they blew a six-point lead in the first overtime with 1:35 left to play. The Gophers then followed that up with another home loss to the only other organized sports team in the entire state of South Dakota – South Dakota St. (albeit a pretty good team) – that saw them down 24 points at halftime. Needless to say, it’s a total disaster right now in Minneapolis, and conference play is still three weeks away. After the crazy Louisville recruiting stories that came out in October, who’d have thought that baby Pitino might actually lose his job before his father?


Kendrick Nunn

Kendrick Nunn’s Illini Need All the Help They Can Get (USA Today Images)

  1. Kendrick Nunn’s Health. After having offseason thumb surgery on his shooting hand that cost him the first five games of this season, Nunn wasted no time picking up his struggling teammates. Outside of a rough shooting night against Notre Dame, he has drained three or more treys in every game and has averaged 34.4 minutes per game since his return. This past week, Nunn averaged 27.5 points and sank 4.5 threes and 10/12 free throws in two wins against Western Michigan and Yale. He has decreased his turnover rate from 18.5 to 13.8 to 5.8 (five game sample, of course) since his freshman year and ranks 27th in the country in that stat. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Nunn is, and will continue to be, Illinois’ most important player, and the fact that he has improved each season and has not skipped a beat since his surgery should allow fans a little glimmer of hope as the Illini head into conference play at the end of the month.
  2. Purdue’s Defense. Just another week at the office for Purdue. Their offense is as efficient as any we’ve seen under Matt Painter, as they’re obliterating teams by an average of 24.3 points per game and have yet to win a game by less than 12 points. It’s the number two rated defense, though, that has led to this fantastic 10-0 start for the Boilermakers. It’s amazing to watch this group play together. Their guards are up in your grill on the perimeter (27.3 opponent three-point percentage) and rarely allow lane penetration, and when they do, there’s always a seven footer there to alter the shot (35.7 opponent two-point percentage – best in the nation). They know how to defend every ball screen and understand how to rotate over from the weak side, something that can’t be said about a lot of college teams. They rebound tremendously (24.3 opponent offensive rebounding percentage), and they’re one of the best at avoiding fouls (26.8 opponent free throw rate). They have held opponents to less than 60 points in five straight games. This team is scary good right now, but the real test begins Saturday when they take on Butler, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan in consecutive games. Should be fun.


  1. Michigan When Caris LeVert Struggles. Tuesday night’s performance against SMU was far and away LeVert’s worst in his entire college career. He scored five points on 1/13 shooting (0/6 from three) and missed three of six free throws. Absolutely brutal. Not coincidentally, the Wolverines got whooped 82-58 on the road and never found a rhythm all night. LeVert is so incredibly important to the success of this Michigan team – he’s playing 81.9% of the team’s minutes, using 27% of their possessions and leading them in scoring, rebounding, assists and free throws – that any subpar game from him puts them in serious jeopardy of losing. Between the lack of any reliable post presence, the poor defense and the over-reliance on the three-ball, Michigan will need LeVert playing at or near his best every night if they’re going to win games against above average teams. Otherwise, that performance against SMU could become the norm and not the exception.
  2. Utterly Ridiculous Court Rushings. I’m not one of those guys who complains whenever fans rush the court. I love a good court-storming. I believe it’s something every college basketball fan should have the opportunity to experience. So much so, that I was one of the idiots that stormed the court when a terrible Indiana team beat a barely-ranked Illinois team during my senior year of college – I refused to go four years without the experience. That said, the line was crossed Thursday night in Hilton Coliseum when Iowa State took down Iowa. I don’t think I’ve ever seen fans storm the court after their top-five ranked team (or any ranked team for that matter) took down an unranked team. It’s unprecedented. Absurd. Preposterous. What are you doing, Iowa State fans? Your team has been to four straight NCAA Tournaments and earned consecutive #3 seeds. Your team has won 32 consecutive non-conference home games. Your team is the fourth best team in the country. Cut it out. You’re embarrassing yourselves.



Biggest takeaway: Maryland deserves some praise after an impressive win in Madison Square Garden over UConn on Tuesday  night. Behind Melo Trimble’s 25 points, they dropped 1.10 points per possession on the nation’s 20th most efficient defense. The Terrapins found themselves at the free throw line 29 times, 14 of which were made by Trimble. His aggressiveness was the story of the game as he weaved his way into the lane and had his way all night. This performance boosted Maryland into KenPom’s top-10 offenses.


Northwestern’s All-Time team

  • G: Michael “Juice” Thompson (2007-11)
  • G: Billy McKinney (1974-77)
  • F: Drew Crawford (2009-14)
  • F: John Shurna (2008-12)
  • C: Evan Eschmeyer (1995-99)

Coach: Arthur Lonborg (1927-50)

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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