Levy’s Layup Line: Week 10

Posted by Adam Levy on February 5th, 2016

How times have changed. As recently as 2014, the Big Ten was the best basketball conference in the nation for four years running, and it wasn’t particularly close. This season? It’s hard to rank it any higher than fourth due to too many terrible teams wasting away and not enough really good ones to can hang our hats on. Of the 32 Division I conferences, the Big Ten as a whole ranks 28th or worse in four statistical categories (tempo, turnover percentage, free throw rate and steal percentage) and 21st or worse in two other big ones (three point percentage and offensive rebounding percentage). Fortunately, there are still about six to seven teams that are likely tourney-bound, but the bottom half of the conference is simply unwatchable. I’d rather pick my eye lashes off, one lash at a time, than waste two hours of life watching any of those horror shows. Here’s to hoping the top half of the conference provides as much entertainment down the stretch that the bottom half will not.

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

A.J. Hammons Had a Very Good Week. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

It’s week 10 of the Layup Line.


A: A.J. Hammons

Decent week for Purdue’s senior center, who snatched up his fourth career Big Ten Player of the Week honor and third plaudit this season. Hammons had the best game of his career against Nebraska, putting up 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. The inconsistent manchild is in the midst of some of the best basketball of his career right now, evidenced by his per game averages of 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on 59.0 percent shooting in conference play. With the Robert Carter/Diamond Stone and Matt Costello/Deyonta Davis frontcourt duos on the docket for Purdue in the next four days, it’ll be interesting to see which version of Hammons shows up to play.

B: O.G. Anunoby

Say “hello” to my lil’ friend – Tom Crean’s next unheralded star-in-the-making – the “Original Gangsta,” O.G. Anunoby. The 6’8” forward from Jefferson City, MO has seen his minutes increase from 7.7 to 15.4 minutes per game since James Blackmon’s injury (also the start of conference play), and he has taken advantage in a huge way. Anunoby is one of, if not the, most skilled defenders on Indiana’s roster, having pickpocketed Big Ten foes multiple times in five of 10 conference games and using his incredible length to slow down star players (see Zak Irvin’s 1-for-8 performance). He is crashing the glass with authority and continuously finds ways to shift the game’s momentum in Indiana’s favor when it needs it most. O.G. has solidified his spot as the fan favorite in Bloomington and for good reason (chill out, Tim Priller fans). Pay attention, Big Ten fans. This kid is for real.

D: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ever since the Buckeyes got thrown around like rag dolls in a 25-point loss at Indiana, they haven’t been remotely the team that showed flashes of brilliance the prior month before. They currently own six Big Ten wins against the five worst teams in the conference (Rutgers, Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, Illinois twice) and five losses – four of which were by double digits. The Buckeyes closed out their season series with Maryland with another loss on Sunday and finished up their week last night with an unsurprising loss at Wisconsin. They have only one solid win on their resume – a win over Kentucky on a neutral court – which is proving to be less valuable by the day given Kentucky’s recent struggles. There’s no doubt that this is the worst Ohio State team in the Thad Matta era thanks to an inability to shoot, hit free throws and hold on to the ball. Unless they win the Big Ten Tournament, it is nearly impossible to envision Matta’s boys punching a ticket to The Dance this season.

F: Penn State Nittany Lions

Richard Pitino and Eddie Jordan are pushing expulsion from school for receiving too many ‘Fs’ in the Layup Line this year, so it’s time to highlight someone else’s dreadfulness. This week’s ‘F’ goes to the entire Penn State Nittany Lions team, who is currently on a four-game losing streak (have lost past six of seven games) and coming off a 24-point drubbing at the hands of Iowa. Not only is Penn State far and away the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten, but it’s also the eight-worst in the country, shooting an embarrassing 28.8% from behind the arc. This team is absolutely miserable in all aspects of shooting, and that should continue on Saturday against the Big Ten’s best defensive team to date – Indiana. Once upon a time, Penn State had the nation’s fourth best team, Maryland, on the ropes in College Park before blowing a big lead late. Nine games later, it’s clear they’ve never recovered.


Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Have Been Great Together (USA Today Images)

Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Have Been Great Together (USA Today Images)

  1. Scoring Runs: If you happened to catch any of Tuesday night’s game between Indiana and Michigan, you probably witnessed something you’d never witnessed before. After falling behind 15-4, Indiana outscored Michigan 41-9 the remainder of the first half and put up 28 unanswered points from the 8:40 mark in the first half to the 18:36 mark of the second half. Indiana made a Michigan’s then top 15 offense look like Chicago St., forcing the Wolverines into stupid turnovers and terrible shots with its suffocating defense, which is still the best in the conference. That inept offense led to horrific transition defense that allowed the Hoosiers to fly all over the court, knocking down trey after trey and giving us that Yogi Ferrell to Troy Williams alley-oop excitement that we love so much. The Hoosiers have come a long way since that 20-point loss at Duke, and they finally got the impressive road win they so badly needed – in Warrior-esque fashion.
  2. Robert Carter and Diamond Stone Together: Found an amazing statistic about the Terrapins in Luke Winn’s Power Rankings last Thursday that can’t be ignored. In a nutshell, when Carter and Stone are on the floor together, Maryland’s Big Ten efficiency margin is plus-40.0 points per 100 possessions, and minus-0.9 using all other lineups. No further analysis needed.


  1. Illinois’ Inability to Earn Second Chances: There are 351 teams that play Division I basketball. Illinois is ranked 341st in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing just over 21% of their own misses. In conference play, that number dips to 16.6%. For a well below average shooting team (44.7% on twos, 34.6% on threes in conference), not being able to give yourself any second chances is a recipe for disaster. Thus, Illinois sits in 11th place at 3-7 in the Big Ten and needed triple overtime (!!!) to beat winless Rutgers on Wednesday. This is the worst Illini team we’ve seen in some time; you can bet the Orange Crush will be as flat as ever (see what I did there?) when first-place Iowa comes to town on Sunday.
  2. Rutgers Way Too Early Celebration: It’s fine to get excited when the best player on your team hits a shot at the buzzer to force overtime. It’s not fine to form a mosh pit on the floor after the shot, then get outscored 17-8 over the next five minutes. Sure, these Rutgers players can use any kind of motivation they can get – they’re literally 0-10 for god’s sake. But if you’re going to celebrate before the fat lady sings, at least make sure she has eaten herself to death before you head back out onto the court. Corey Sanders?



Biggest takeaway: The fact that Iowa is rated the best team in the country at this juncture is truly astonishing. When was the last time an unranked team in the preseason found itself in prime position for a number one seed in March? Couldn’t tell you to be honest, but me thinks it’s been a while. The Hawkeyes own the fifth-most efficient offense for a plethora of reasons, two of which being their ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor (33rd in effective field goal percentage) and not turn the ball over (4th in turnover rate). They’ve got a ton of length, experience and depth, and the difficult half of their conference schedule is now in the rearview mirror. With only a couple of challenging games left, Iowa should be able to finish Big Ten play with a 15-3 record and earn the top seed in the conference tournament for the very first time. What a year it has been for Hawkeye fans.

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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