Big Ten Opening Week: A Primer

Posted by Chris Hatfield on November 13th, 2017

Honestly, there’s not much good about winter as a season. If you live in a city like Chicago, for example, the only good thing about the cold is that college basketball has returned. That’s it. There is nothing else. Your face may freeze off outside but it’s a trade-off we have to make. What do you have to look forward to in the world of the Big Ten? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are three things this week.

1. Duke vs. Michigan State, a Final Four Preview?

Two titans of the game set to go at it again this week. (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the first thing that has to be addressed. I don’t make the rules. It just has to happen this way. It’s the biggest game of the opening week in college basketball and, in all likelihood, the biggest of the opening month. We know nothing about these teams. We think we know things. We know some things, but others are educated guesses. Things go awry, outliers exist — that’s why we love the sport. I’ll be 100 percent there for Rush the Court preseason All-Americans like Miles Bridges and Nick Ward on the Michigan State side and Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley on Duke’s. Beyond that, it seems a little different than just an early season game. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where either team falls off the top two seed lines. You’re looking at the two teams with arguably the most talent in the country, and we could easily see them match up again in San Antonio next April. Will Michigan State, the less proven of the two teams, be ready for the moment? If so, I’ll certainly feel better about picking Sparty to cut down the nets.

2. Minnesota Basketball and Fun

The Minnesota faithful is gearing up for a big season. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

I will not hide how excited I am to watch Minnesota basketball this season. Some of my excitement stems from how nice the people of Minnesota are to me on Twitter, and some of it stems from the level of extremes that you’re able to see its season going (i.e., from missing the NCAA Tournament altogether to that of a Final Four darkhorse), and still some more stems from other things. One is “The Jelly,” the movement that freshman Isaiah Washington is bringing to college basketball in the form of a finger-roll (well documented by SBNation here). And it’s beautiful and I am ready for it to completely take over. Minnesota opens the season at Providence tonight, which is fitting considering “The Jelly” originated on the asphalt of New York’s basketball courts. I also picked the Gophers as my dark horse team to make the Final Four and I’d at least like to start off the season not looking like a complete fool.

3. Can Indiana do something against Seton Hall?

I confess. Prior to the Hoosiers’ Friday night debacle against Indiana State, this space was reserved for questions about any improvement visible against Seton Hall. But then a 90-69 home loss happened, and after video review, it wasn’t even that close. Maybe the only bright spot was confirming that De’Ron Davis figures to be a consistent scoring option for Indiana this season. He led the way with 14 points, but it was rough beyond that. Now people have questions for Archie Miller, but the criticism can dissipate against Seton Hall this week even if the Hoosiers do not come away with the win. You’d like to see something positive. This is probably the best Pirates’ team that Kevin Willard has had and consequently the best offense he’s also had (led by double-double machine Angel Delgado). It’s not the most favorable position to be in but you’d like to see a better effort from a defense that gave up 1.25 points per possession in its opening game and followed that up with 1.03 PPP (including 13 threes) against Howard. I told you that Archie Miller was the right guy to fix this program, so maybe he starts to shows how on Wednesday night in Newark.

Chris Hatfield (6 Posts)

Indeed, ball is life, but can we find a new expression?


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