Big Ten Feast Week Primer: Part Two

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 21st, 2016

Eight of the 14 Big Ten teams will play in early-season tournaments over the next seven days. The festivities begin this afternoon with Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational, but continue for much of the next week as turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce commingles with basketball in far-flung locales. Here’s the first of a two part-breakdown that discusses what each participating Big Ten team faces this week.

Nigel Hayes needs to have a productive stretch of games in Maui for Wisconsin to win it. (Getty).

Nigel Hayes needs to have a productive stretch of games in Maui for Wisconsin to win the event. (Getty).

Maui Jim Maui Invitational

  • Teams: Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgetown, Oregon, Oklahoma State, UConn, North Carolina, Chaminade
  • Capsule: Wisconsin is 2-1 and looking to gain some momentum after losing a road game to Creighton and not playing well in a win over Chicago State. The Badgers’ offense is attempting a robust 29 three-pointers per game, so establishing Ethan Happ in the paint should help. Top 10 teams like Oregon and North Carolina potentially await later in the week if Wisconsin can get past Tennessee.
  • Key Player: Nigel Hayes hasn’t shot the ball well this season (38.7% FG), only scoring three points in 16 minutes of action against Chicago State. The preseason Big Ten Player of the Year needs to start producing for Wisconsin to earn some big wins on the islands.
  • Prediction: Wisconsin will go 2-1 in Maui. They will win their first game against Tennessee; lose to an Oregon squad that expects to have Dillon Brooks back; and then beat either UConn or Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Legends Classic

  • Teams: Northwestern, Texas, Notre Dame, Colorado
  • Capsule: Northwestern is also 2-1 after taking Butler to the brink last week. If this is the year that the Wildcats finally break through to make the NCAA Tournament, a couple of wins here would help their resume tremendously. Vic Law has been outstanding (126.5 Offensive Rating), and the team itself is shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. Northwestern will need to take care of the ball, however, as they’ve suffered double-figure miscues in each game thus far.
  • Key Player: Bryant McIntosh struggled with five turnovers against Butler and has only connected on 22 percent of his threes this season. The junior needs to start connecting from deep and log a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in this event for Northwestern to grab some wins.
  • Prediction: Northwestern will lose to Texas but will rebound by beating either Notre Dame or Colorado. The Butler game showed that this team is going to be tough all season long, and they’ll prove it by getting at least one good resume win in this event.

Cancun Challenge

Purdue could use a good week in Cancun (USA Today Images)

Purdue could use a good week in Cancun (USA Today Images)

  • Teams: Purdue, Utah State, Auburn, Texas Tech
  • Capsule: Purdue is now 2-1 after using a furious comeback to beat Georgia State at home on Friday night. The frontcourt trio of Vincent Edwards, Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas are averaging a combined 51.4 PPG so far this season. The Boilermakers will play Utah State first — off to a high-scoring 4-0 start and carrying a scorching 59.2 percent eFG rate — leading to a potential rematch against the coach (Chris Beard) who led Arkansas Little-Rock to an upset win over them last season.
  • Key Player: As a result of all the defensive attention inside, Dakota Mathias has shot the ball very well (46.7% 3FG) this season. He will need to continue to do so as teams playing Purdue must first clog the middle to stop Swanigan and Haas from destroying them down low.
  • Prediction: Purdue will win this event. The Boilermakers played really well in a home loss to Villanova, and the close win against Georgia State will serve as a wake-up call heading to Cancun.

Battle 4 Atlantis

  • Teams: Michigan State, St John’s, Baylor, VCU, LSU, Wichita State, Louisville, Old Dominion
  • Capsule: Michigan State has the feel of a very young and inexperienced team that will improve, but it will be interesting to see if Sparty’s four freshmen can show progress in this event. The Spartans are likely to be challenged in their first game against a St. John’s squad that features two high-scoring freshmen guards — Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett.
  • Key Player: Eron Harris really struggled in his first two games of the season, but he’s since bounced back — Michigan State needed every one of the 31 points he scored on Sunday against Florida Gulf Coast. The freshmen will ultimately determine how good this team can be, but Harris’ scoring from the perimeter needs to continue if the Spartans want to gain confidence this week.
  • Prediction: An opening win over St. John’s will be followed by a loss to Baylor and a third-place game victory against Wichita State.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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