John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.
A Look Back
All eyes were on Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday when undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State went into the Kohl Center to play Wisconsin in their toughest game of the regular season. The Buckeyes had a 15-point lead but watched it slip away thanks to heroics of Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor, which led to a very justified court rush from the Badger fans.
Elsewhere, though, the top of the conference was solidifying its reign. It’s now a definitive three-horse race between Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin at the top of the standings. Their games will continue to be must-see events. On the other hand, four teams are desperately clinging to bubble hopes below them.
- Team of the Week: Wisconsin – Maybe the Badgers were looking ahead to Saturday, because they had to survive a game on Wednesday that went to overtime in Iowa City. The 62-59 victory, combined with 71-67 victory over the #1 team in the nation, is certainly a solid week’s worth of work.
- Player of the Week: Jordan Taylor, G, Wisconsin – Taylor scored 27 points against the Buckeyes while making every big shot his team needed. He also had seven assists, four rebounds and shot 5-8 from distance. That was after going for 16 points and eight assists the game before against Iowa. Those types of performances get you noticed.
- Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State – It wasn’t Sullinger’s fault that Ohio State lost on Saturday. The freshman had a double-double with 19 points and 12 boards. Unfortunately, his claims of a spitting incident after the game grabbed a number of headlines.
1. Ohio State (24-1, 11-1) – It was the Buckeyes’ defense not offense that let them down on Saturday. Still, it was going to be a tough game to win nonetheless. Ken Pomeroy saw it coming in the middle of the game. Before Taylor took over Aaron Craft had a chance to be the hero. The freshman point guard sparked the Buckeyes with eight points and six assists in 34 minutes.
2. Wisconsin (19-5, 9-3) – See the Team of the Week section.
3. Purdue (20-5, 9-3) – JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore got on a roll this week scoring a combined 84 points against Indiana and Illinois to lead the Boilermakers to two key victories. Lately it has been Lewis Jackson’s turn to be the third banana as he scored 13 points against the Hoosiers and 10 against the Illini.
4. Illinois (16-9, 6-6) – When Bruce Weber isn’t questioning his team’s motivation, he’s overseeing a thoroughly mediocre season. Illinois fans seem to think Demetri McCamey has one foot out the door already and his poor play against Purdue, four points on 1-10 shooting, didn’t help matters.
5. Michigan (16-10, 6-7) – A three-game winning streak has catapulted the Wolverines back into the middle of the conference race. Michigan still needs a quality victory to get into serious NCAA Tournament discussion. It was freshman week as Jordan Morgan scored a career-high 27 points against Northwestern and then Tim Hardaway, Jr. followed it up with a career-high 26 points against Indiana.
6. Minnesota (17-8, 6-7) – Minnesota broke a four-game losing streak on Sunday against Iowa and is desperately clinging to NCAA Tournament hopes. The Gophers are a depleted team and Tubby Smith keeps rolling out lineups with four forwards and Blake Hoffarber and crossing his fingers. Those are his most talented players, but if one of the freshman trio of Maverick Ahanmisi, Chip Armelin or Austin Hollins can give the team something they’ll see their role increase a lot. Ahanmisi played 11 strong minutes against Iowa with seven points, two dimes and a steal.
7. Michigan State (14-10, 6-6) – The Spartans got back on track this week with a blowout home victory over Penn State. Draymond Green joined Charlie Bell and Magic Johnson as the only Spartans to have a triple-double in a game when he went for 15 points, 14 boards and 10 assists.
8. Penn State (13-11, 6-7) – Talor Battle went over 2,000 points for his career against Northwestern and the Nittany Lions got a much needed victory to keep hanging around a weak NCAA Tournament bubble. Penn State, though, is still a long shot, especially because the remaining schedule is difficult with two games against Minnesota, at Ohio State and versus Wisconsin.
9. Northwestern (14-10, 4-9) – When a jump-shooting team goes 3-33 on jump shots during a game, things will get ugly. That’s exactly what happened with the Wildcats on Sunday. Northwestern shot 18-52 from the field against Penn State and scored .695 points per possession. It looks like the Wildcats will be waiting till next year, a common refrain in Chicago.
10. Iowa (10-15, 3-10) – Iowa did everything right except finish against Wisconsin. Melsahn Basabe and Jerryd Cole both had double-doubles against the Badgers, and four players were in double-figures, but Jordan Taylor hit the game-tying shot and then Wisconsin took control late in overtime to get the victory.
11. Indiana (12-14, 3-10) – Tom Crean’s squad will look to get a victory over a reeling Northwestern team at Assembly Hall on Saturday. It might be Indiana’s last chance to get a conference victory. Christian Watford returned from injury against Michigan and scored 14 points in 22 minutes.
A Look Ahead (all times EST)
- 2/15 – Michigan State at Ohio State, 9 p.m., ESPN
- 2/16 – Wisconsin at Purdue, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
- 2/16 – Michigan at Illinois, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
- 2/17 – Minnesota at Penn State, 7 p.m., ESPN
- 2/19 – Illinois at Michigan State, 9 p.m., ESPN
- 2/20 – Ohio State at Purdue, 1 p.m., CBS
- 2/20 – Penn State at Wisconsin, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Ken Pomeroy introduced the “Conference Only” check box (h/t RTC) to the statistics on his web site this week. It has opened up a plethora of new opportunities, but here are a few observations.
- Wisconsin has the best offense in conference and it’s predicated on one thing, not turning the ball over. The Badgers rank first in the conference only turning the ball over 11.9% of possessions.
- Everyone was talking about how great the Northwestern offense was coming into conference play, but in Big Ten play it seems like teams have caught up to Bill Carmody’s strategies. The Wildcats rank ninth in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency.
- Ohio State has the second best offense in conference play and has been the best shooting team thus far. The Buckeyes rank first in two-point and three-point percentage, but 10th in free throw percentage. A lot of attempts by Jared Sullinger, a 69.6 percent shooter, and David Lighty, a 65.0 percent shooter, are weighing that average down.
- I find it shocking that Illinois has the best defense in the Big Ten during conference play. Defense seems to be an “effort” statistic and that’s supposed to be the Illini’s downfall, but they’ve allowed barely over a point per possession in league play. The problem for Illinois is that it doesn’t force many turnovers, so it’s hard for Bruce Weber’s squad to get back into a game quickly.