Big Ten Feast Week Primer: Part Three

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2016

Eight of the 14 Big Ten teams have already started, finished or will play in early-season tournaments this week. The festivities began Monday afternoon with Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational, but continue for much of the week as turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce commingles with basketball in far-flung locales. Here’s the third of a three-part breakdown that discusses what each participating Big Ten team faces this week.

NIT Season Tip-Off

Malcolm Hill will need to display the form that made him a Preseason All Big-Ten player in New York City this weekend. (USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Hill will need to display the form that made him a Preseason All-Big Ten player in New York City this weekend. (USA Today Sports)

  • Teams: Illinois, West Virginia, Florida State, Temple
  • Capsule: Things were looking relatively good for Illinois as it got off to a 4-0 start… and then the Illini lost to Winthrop at home. In what might be a make-or-break season for John Groce, a couple of wins against quality teams in the Big Apple would definitely ease some stress. Illinois squares off today against the national leader in creating turnovers and steals when it plays West Virginia. Those same 22 turnovers against Winthrop will end this game quickly.
  • Key Player: Tracy Abrams will be the key here. The sixth -year senior not only needs to break the Mountaineers’ press, but unlike the offensively-challenged Jaylon Tate, he can also be a threat to score. Abrams needs to max out his experience and ability for Illinois to come away with two wins in New York this week.
  • Prediction: The West Virginia game will be an ugly loss, but expect the Illini to respond and beat Temple in the consolation game on Friday.

DirecTV Wooden Legacy

  • Teams: Nebraska, Dayton, Texas A&M, Cal State Northridge, New Mexico, Virginia Tech, Portland, UCLA
  • Capsule: Nebraska might be one of the least known quantities in the Big Ten because it has only played three games, two of which were against low-major Division I opponents. They’ll remedy this by playing three games against much better opposition in Orange County this weekend. The true litmus test of whether the Cornhuskers have improved starts here. A win against a tough and battle-tested Dayton squad today is likely to lead to a Friday game versus an uber-talented UCLA squad near their home turf.
  • Key Player: Tai Webster is the lone non-sophomore starter and he’s started his senior campaign with an offensive rating of 122.3 on 28.4 percent usage. He’s been outstanding in getting to the free throw line (18 attempts in three games) and his aggressiveness is something that the younger players need to mimic as the competition improves this weekend.
  • Prediction: Even though the Flyers just lost Josh Cunningham to a serious injury, Dayton has too much depth and experience for Nebraska in the first round. The Huskers will then beat Portland on Friday before finishing the West Coast trip by beating New Mexico.

Emerald Coast Classic

Virginia's Defense Will Have Its Hands Full With Peter Jok (USA Today Images)

Virginia’s Defense Will Have Its Hands Full With Peter Jok (USA Today Images)

  • Teams: Iowa, Virginia, Memphis, Providence
  • Capsule: Iowa has only played one difficult game (a home loss to Seton Hall) en route to a 3-1 start heading into its match-up with Virginia on Friday. There is a juicy stylistic contrast with the Cavaliers, as Iowa plays at the 12th fastest tempo nationally and Virginia plays at the second slowest. Tony Bennett’s team also leads the country in defensive efficiency, which means that the Hawkeyes’ Peter Jok (24.3 PPG) will need help from his teammates in pushing tempo and providing secondary scoring options.
  • Key Player: Tyler Cook has flashed immense potential but he hasn’t faced the kind of heat he will encounter today against Virginia. Cook really needs to break out here for Iowa to grab an upset and a follow-up win.
  • Prediction: Iowa will pull off the second largest upset of the season involving Big Ten teams by knocking off Virginia in a track meet. They’ll then beat Providence in the championship to make a case for inclusion in next week’s Top 25.

Barclays Center Classic

  • Teams: Maryland, Richmond, Boston College, Kansas State
  • Capsule: On paper this looks like the weakest field of the four remaining tournaments, with Maryland and Kansas State the clear favorites in the first round. The Terps are difficult to figure out so far this season, with veteran players like Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley struggling. Their three freshman starters are playing well, however, so maybe this trip to Brooklyn will give everyone a chance to contribute.
  • Key Player: Justin Jackson has started his college career by averaging 7.8 RPG, and Richmond checks in with both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages among the nation’s worst. If he continues to play well on the boards and the Terps can just make some shots, Maryland has a reasonable chance to move to 7-0 here.
  • Prediction: Maryland will win against Richmond on Friday before holding on in a close win against Kansas State on Saturday.
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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One response to “Big Ten Feast Week Primer: Part Three”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Iowa is a bottom half of the B1G team, I’m not sure they have enough talent past Jok and Cook to even give UVa a competitive game. The other predictions look sound to me. Lots of good early season opportunities for the league to make an impression and it looks like there will be much more top-to-bottom parity than in recent seasons.

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