Big 12 Team Preview #7: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 6th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Iowa State at the #7 position is next on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 Big 12
  • Key Contributors Gone: F Royce White, G Scott Christopherson, G Chris Allen
  • Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg, 3rd season
  • Projected Finish: 7th

Replacing Royce White will be crucial if Iowa State wants to continue its uptick in the Big 12.

Fred Hoiberg wasted no time after being hired at Iowa State in April 2010, quickly assembling a group of transfers who sat out the first season before making a big impact a year ago. The Cyclones saw a seven-win improvement in 2011-12 and played eventual national champion Kentucky tough — at least for a half — in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament before losing, 87-71. Now Hoiberg is looking to do it again. Last year’s top three scorers are gone, led by NBA first round pick and do-everything forward Royce White. He has two more excellent transfers eligible to play this season and a solid four-man recruiting class to blend with those transfers. Hoiberg proved he could mesh everything together for a successful season a year ago, but he had a lot of help with one of the most difficult forward match-ups in the country in the form of Royce White. The non-conference schedule plays out nicely for the Cyclones, with a few tough games — a possible game with UNLV in Las Vegas in the Global Sports Classic and BYU in Ames — but plenty of multi-directional schools will be at home to boost the win total while the newcomers learn to play together. Hoiberg said at the Big 12 Media Day that he has accomplished what he set out to do, quickly building up the program with transfers and surrounding them with good four-year guys. It was successful last season and Hoiberg’s roster moves this year proves that he thinks it will work again.

The Personnel

Hoiberg said that he’ll always play to the strengths of his team, no matter the style. Last year, he gave the ball to White just about anywhere on the floor and let him distribute to the shooters, and it worked. White was too big for most guards and too fast for most big men. And when he drew extra attention, Cyclone shooters were ready, knocking down 293 three-pointers on the year. Hoiberg called last year’s team unconventional because of White’s offensive game, something that won’t be the case this season. “We’ll have Korie Lucious, a pure point guard again,” Hoiberg said at Big 12 Media Day. “I’m excited about that. It gives us the opportunity to play a little faster.” Lucious, now a redshirt senior, played three seasons at Michigan State, contributing to two Final Four teams for Tom Izzo while averaging 6.5 PPG and 4.1 APG in 2010-11. He takes over for White, sort of. As Hoiberg mentioned, Lucious is a pure point guard, while White was nothing of the sort. Lucious will look to pass first and score second. He’ll push the tempo, and while he’s not a 6’8″, 260-pound mismatch, he brings his own skills to this Cyclone team. “He’s got that experience of leading a basketball team.” Hoiberg said. “And we’ve got the athletes to get out and run and play with him.”

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Big 12 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 26th, 2012

  1. Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2014 out of Huntington Prep (WV) has decided to graduate early and reclassify to the 2013 class, announced Thursday. Wiggins is good enough that he’s already assumed the No. 1 spot in the class of 2013, supplanting Julius Randle or Jabari Parker, depending on whom you ask. Kentucky and Florida State remain in the lead for Wiggins’ services, but North Carolina and Kansas recently checked in on the 6’7″ Canadian as well. Kentucky seems like the obvious favorite at the time but the Wildcats already have five commitments in the class — three in the top 10 — leading to some serious competition for playing time. Wiggins’ father, Mitchell Wiggins, played for Florida State in the early 80s, which has obviously helped the Seminoles in his ongoing recruitment. Kansas and North Carolina sent assistants to Huntington earlier this week, but the interest between the two schools and Wiggins is still largely unknown.
  2. Speaking of the Jayhawks, Kansas announced Thursday the installment of a four-year series with Georgetown to begin next December in Allen Fieldhouse. The two teams will meet in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons with another trip to Kansas in 2015-16. The Hoyas are another quality non-conference opponent for Bill Self in a long line of quality non-conference opponents, from Duke and Kentucky to Michigan State and Ohio State in recent years. The primary incentive of this interesting Big 12/Big East match-up is to benefit KU’s east coast recruiting. Assistant coach Joe Dooley is an east coast native and has helped land a number of local recruits for the Jayhawks, such as the Morris twins (Philadelphia), Tyshawn Taylor (New Jersey) and Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C.).
  3. Baylor opened up its exhibition season with a 103-75 victory over Abilene Christian Thursday night in Waco. Junior guard Brady Heslip hit six three-pointers and finished with 18 points on the night. That Baylor gave up 75 points is a whole lot of scoring to give up to a Division II team, but the game was only an exhibition after all. There was nothing of note to take from the box score, obviously, but it was nice seeing one of those again after a six-month hiatus. Only two weeks until the real games begin.
  4. Jeff Borzello of ranked the top 30 freshman on Thursday, and put Kentucky center Nerlens Noel on top. The Big 12 had four freshmen on the list including three of the top 10. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was second on the list, and his versatility will give him plenty of opportunities to score this season while also racking up plenty of assists alongside scorer Le’Bryan Nash. The Big 12 rounded out its choices with Baylor center Isaiah Austin (#7), Kansas guard Ben McLemore (#9), and Texas center Cameron Ridley (#18).
  5. Yes, it’s another list. They’ve been on fire this week with these preseason lists of players and Jeff Goodman added another quality piece on Thursday, ranking the top 30 transfers this season. Not surprisingly, former Xavier standout Mark Lyons — now at Arizona — topped the list, but not far behind Lyons was Iowa State forward Will Clyburn (#4), who averaged 17.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG for Utah two seasons ago, both team highs. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg seems to love Clyburn, another solid transfer to venture to Ames the last few years. The Cyclones were represented again with former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious coming in at No. 17. Big 12 newcomer West Virginia had two players on the list as well, center Aaric Murray (#5) and point guard Juwan Staten (#13). Oklahoma junior forward Amath M’Baye was the fifth Big 12 player on the list (#23), and was recently named a team captain.
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A Sexual Abuse Case Against the Most Stunning of Suspects

Posted by dnspewak on September 10th, 2012

Much like the recent Billy Gillispie and Dez Wells’ stories, it’s important to stay grounded in light of a recent sexual abuse accusation against Iowa State guard Bubu Palo. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has indefinitely suspended his backup point guard, so it’s now time for the legal process to begin. According to police reports, a woman told authorities Palo and another man, 21-year-old Spencer Cruise, drove her to a home in Ames in May and forced her to have sex with them. A sergeant in the Ames Police Department said it collected DNA evidence from both Palo and Cruise, which led to their arrests last week. In fact, Palo turned himself in at the advice of his attorney, and he now faces a serious prison sentence if convicted. Those are the facts of the case, so judge the situation however you’d like. We’re staying out of this debate. It’d be unfair to the victim to assume she’s lying, and it’d be unfair to Palo to assume the accusations against him are true. So instead of taking aside, this is all we’ll say: There are serious allegations against Bubu Palo, and he’ll likely never play for the Cyclones again unless he’s fully exonerated.

The Charges Against Bubu Palo Offer a Cautionary Tale

That’s the story here– that this happened to Bubu Palo. Whether he’s guilty of sexual abuse or not, it would be almost impossible to find a more bizarre candidate to appear in a story of this magnitude. If there were an illustration of the American Dream walking among us in college basketball, it’d be Palo.  Just look at his background. He’s a hometown kid and a graduate of Ames High School. No criminal history. Academic All-Big 12. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship and made a name for himself as a gritty, underrated reserve. So glancing at a headline about sexual abuse and seeing Palo’s name is, well, stunning, for lack of a better adverb.

The accusations also leave Iowa State without a reliable backup point guard, placing a little more pressure on Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious, the obvious starter at that position. Palo was also the longest-tenured Cyclone guard, having played three seasons in Ames, including a redshirt year. Seniors Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee, on the other hand, joined the program last year as transfers. It seems a little silly to talk basketball after allegations of such consequence, however. Iowa State will trudge on for now without Palo, and Hoiberg must now wait patiently until he learns the legal fate of his backup point guard.

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What To Make of the Big 12’s Big Monday Schedule

Posted by dnspewak on July 27th, 2012

Nine games. That’s all we know right now with regards to the 2012-13 Big 12 hoops schedule — nine games, all part of ESPN’s legendary Big Monday presentation. The four-letter network released the Big Monday schedule this week, meaning we now have five months to let the anticipation build. Want to feel a little giddy during the slow summer months? Take a look at the schedule below and imagine the possibilities: Bob Huggins returning to the one city in the world that cannot stand him, a Week One showdown between the league’s top dogs, and a prime time game at revitalized Iowa State.

Huggins Heads Back to K-State on Big Monday

Before we break down the schedule on a game-by-game basis, there are two noticeable absences from Big Monday this year. First, there’s no TCU. Not a major surprise, but it’s a sign the program clearly still has some work to do to gain relevance in the Big 12. Big Monday also won’t carry the Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It makes perfect sense, of course. Oklahoma hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2008-09, when Jeff Capel and Blake Griffin led the Sooners to the Elite Eight. And Oklahoma State lost 18 games a year ago and hasn’t danced the past two seasons. Plus, according to preseason projections — often a terrible barometer to use, by the way —  there won’t be many critics or even coaches within the league willing to choose either team to finish near the top of the league. So yes, it’s understandable that ESPN would not give a Big Monday slot to a Bedlam game. Perhaps both games will get prime Saturday slots. Who knows? Still, there’s a magic to Big Monday, and a rivalry as sacred as Bedlam deserves that magic. So that’s our plea to ESPN: give Bedlam a Big Monday slot, and give it to them every year. With that rant out of the way, here’s a look at all nine games:

  • January 14, Baylor at Kansas: A year ago, an undefeated Baylor team had a chance to make a statement to the Big 12 during a road trip to Lawrence. Win that game and Scott Drew’s program would have arrived. Predictably, the Bears crumbled under the wrath of Allen Fieldhouse. They fell behind immediately. Thomas Robinson wowed the crowd with one of his inhuman, highlight-reel dunks. It got ugly, and from there, Kansas never looked back. This game could represent a similar opportunity for Baylor to change the dynamics of the Big 12 race in 2013. It’s a lot of pressure to put on one game, but even in July, it’s obvious to see the importance of this first Big Monday game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Summer Update: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by dnspewak on July 10th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. We begin with Danny’s update on Iowa State: 

Iowa State Cyclones

2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 (3rd place)

Fred Hoiberg is having a better summer than you. After every basketball writer in America questioned his risky strategy to recruit four Division I transfers to his Iowa State program last year, the Fab Four silenced the naysayers and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Hoiberg may lose the bulk of his starting lineup to graduation and the pros, but The Mayor has successfully changed the basketball culture in Ames in the span of just one season. So yes — he’s probably having a terrific summer by basking in his team’s 23-win season. And, more importantly, Hoiberg’s bosses rewarded him with a contract extension to give him some extra stability and millions of dollars in cash. That doesn’t mean there’s not work to do while the weather’s still warm, though. Hoiberg’s job now requires him to mix a large class of newcomers with a few returning veterans to keep Iowa State from becoming a one-year wonder.

The Mayor Is Smiling This Summer After an NCAA Tournament Appearance

Summer Orientation: It’s important to stay realistic about summer league basketball, but these statistics for Will Clyburn are too gaudy to ignore. The 6’7’’ wing, eligible next season after transferring from Utah, put up 111 points in two games in the YMCA/Capital City League this summer. He scored 63 in the first game and 48 in the next. For all you math majors, that’s a 55.5 point-per-game average over two contests. Small sample size? Certainly. And summer league? It’s not the NBA. But it’s encouraging for the Cyclones to see Clyburn excel, especially since that league features several of his Iowa State teammates. Former Cyclone Royce White even says Clyburn, a former All-Mountain West honoree at Utah, will make the team better this year than last.

Clyburn has already set a league record for points, but he’s not the only Cyclone making headlines in this league. Freshman Georges Niang actually held Clyburn to 28 points (measly, right?) when the two faced each other in the Y, and there are high hopes for this four-star stud forward from New Hampshire. Fellow froshs Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Naz Long are also earning some experience in this league before their first college seasons, and three-star forward Kerwin Okoro just joined the league in late June.

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Most Impactful Incoming Transfers For Next Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

As most of the top high school recruits have signed their letters of intent and the NBA Draft early entries finish piling up (official deadline: April 29), we’re starting to get a much clearer picture of next season’s rosters. But the other huge factor to consider is the transfer ‘market,’ in which hundreds of players decide to change schools every offseason. Always an unaccounted-for variable in recruiting, certain transfers can drastically change programs. The majority of names on the transfer list each season are players that won’t leave significant dents in a program (coming or going), but there are always some notable departures. Here we lay out the transfers that will have the most significant impact for next season. In that context, this list only includes top incoming players that will be eligible in 2012-13. Most players must sit out for a full year after a transfer, so many of these guys have not been in the news for over a year. We haven’t forgotten about them, and neither should you.

Alex Oriakhi Won a National Title at UConn and Gets to Play Next Season for Missouri (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

INCOMING – These players will be eligible next season for their new teams.

  • Jared Swopshire, Northwestern – He’s taking advantage of the ‘graduate program’ rule in which he can play immediately next season after transferring this offseason, thanks to having graduated from his former school (Louisville) with a year of basketball eligibility still remaining. Despite limited playing time at Louisville, Swopshire is a versatile and talented forward that will look to replace the departed star forward John Shurna and lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament, which is still possible with several returning starters.
  • Alex Oriakhi, Missouri – And the run of Missouri Tigers begins. Oriakhi is eligible immediately next season for a different kink in the rules (UConn being postseason-ineligible), and he fills an important role as a big man for a talented team that lacks size. Laurence Bowers returns from injury next season and Oriakhi steps in as another experienced forward for Mizzou.
  • Jabari Brown, Missouri – This top 20 recruit left Oregon and will be a huge get for Mizzou. The very talented 6’5” guard Brown will help replace the scoring void of departed shooter Marcus Denmon.
  • Earnest Ross, Missouri – Another 6’5” guard, Ross was the leading scorer at Auburn two seasons ago and will step in as another talented scorer for Frank Haith’s Tigers. He can help replace another departed star in Kim English.
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Morning Five: 03.03.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 3rd, 2011

  1. Jason Wright of the Deseret News sums up what he saw from the San Diego State students during last Saturday’s BYU vs SDSU game, and is still none too happy about it. After reading his account, we had some questions of our own for him: how can you blame the crowd for your daughter hearing that often-used and ineffective two-syllable expletive chant (it’s one word, by the way, Jason) after a bad call when it’s your hand holding the remote? You shouldn’t have had a problem changing the channel if this really was one of two games you’ve watched from start to finish this year, as you admit. And as far as BYU going off “to find other places to play?” Well, they did. Care to wager if the reception is any better in the WCC next season?
  2. This isn’t a recycling of a previous M5 nugget, but it is a link to a story about a former Michigan State guard transferring to Iowa State. Last summer, it was Chris Allen. Now it’s Korie Lucious who’s headed to Ames. They’ll practice but won’t play together, since Allen will be on the court next year, a season Lucious must sit out before he returns for 2012-2013. Korie cited ISU coach Fred Hoiberg’s NBA connections as a reason for choosing the Cyclones.
  3. At the Villanova @ Seton Hall game on February 15th, it has been alleged that the partner of Keon Lawrence’s mother (Lawrence had already been dismissed from the team) assaulted the mother of SHU guard Jordan Theodore in the stands. Later that night, Theodore, flanked by two dudes in ski masks, allegedly knocked on Lawrence’s dorm room door while packing a gun. Yeesh. Theodore now faces a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm on school property, despite the questionable testimony that led to it.
  4. The glare problem in Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena has been remedied, but the midcourt line controversy remains. That may soon change. In this story at the blog of The Oregonian, floor designer Tinker Hatfield comments on his inspiration for the court’s design, how he loves the controversy about it, what the symbols on the floor mean, and the competitive advantages that may be inherent in the design. As a defense for the lack of a highly visible half court line, he says that the center line at Kansas‘ Allen Fieldhouse is partially obscured by the large Jayhawk logo at midcourt [Ed. note: I’m looking at KU’s floor as I type this, and the whole center line is visible].
  5. Tell us we haven’t seen the last of Fang Mitchell at Coppin State. The Eagles have been to the NCAA Tournament four times (1990, 1993, 1997, 2008) and Mitchell has been at the helm for each one. In his 26-year tenure, he’s won four MEAC Coach of the Year awards, and from 1992-98 his squads won 54 of 55 conference games. It’s been a tough decade for CSU, though, despite this year’s squad posting a 10-5 MEAC record going into their senior night game this evening against Morgan State. The Baltimore Sun’s Ken Murray writes that the winds of change may be swirling in Baltimore. Despite his evidence, we still hope it isn’t true.
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Morning Five: 02.07.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 7th, 2011

So, now that that’s over…

  1. Despite suffering that defeat at the hands of The Jimmer and BYU twelve days ago, there’s still a lot of love out there for San Diego State. And why not? They’re fun to watch, have multiple weapons, and have a great built-in story of redemption in head coach Steve Fisher. The New York Times’ Pete Thamel recently visited the Aztec boss and explains why there’s a lot more at stake this year for him than just a Final Four or a national title.
  2. Ashton Gibbs leads his Pittsburgh squad in scoring (16.3 PPG), free throw percentage (89.7%), and three point percentage (46.3%). He drilled all five of this treys in the win against Cincinnati on Saturday en route to a 25-point night. Unfortunately for the Panthers, that’s the last contribution Gibbs will be making for a while. Gibbs has an MCL injury as a result of wear-and-tear to his left knee and will miss the next 10-14 days. He won’t need surgery, for now, but you’ll definitely notice him on the sideline with a very large brace on that knee.
  3. The clubhouse leaders for Korie Lucious’ final year of service next season appear to be Iowa State and Marquette. Even with two Final Fours’ worth of experience under his belt, considering the year he’s had both on and off the court, is it worth it for a program to open its doors to Lucious? The Marquette site Cracked Sidewalks lists the pros and cons of bringing the dismissed Michigan State man aboard. For the record, we’ve still got our money on Iowa State, since Chris Allen’s there.
  4. The tall, suited, enthusiastic, bespectacled fellow you see on the Ohio State bench during games is assistant coach and former Ohio Bobcat captain Jeff Boals. His distinct look (with the cool frames), reputation as both a coach and compadre among his players, and tweeting skills — we’ve been followers of @JeffBoals for well over a year, now — have inspired a couple of OSU students who sit near the bench during home games to adopt the coach’s appearance, right down to the hairstyle and specs, calling themselves the Boals Brothers. OSU’s Lantern has a nice piece on the coach who’ll almost certainly be running his own team in the next few years and become another branch of the Thad Matta coaching tree, assuming Boals would ever want to leave the good gig he’s got now.
  5. A basketball Beanpot? Yes, please. For 58 years, Boston’s four major hockey schools — Boston U., Northeastern, Harvard, and Boston College — have taken part in the Beanpot, a tournament among themselves with games on the first two Mondays in February for city bragging rights. As Boston is a young town and one of the best sports cities in the country, you can easily assume how popular the venerated event is. They had a hoops version for 14 years that petered out in 1976, but with the interest of Philadelphia’s Big 5 growing ever further both inside and outside of Philly, and because other cities and states are pondering similar events (get it done, Chicago), a hoops Beanpot with Holy Cross and UMass also thrown in the mix might become a reality, according to the Boston Globe. The coaches seem to be all for it, if they can figure out where to fit it on the schedule. We’d like to go ahead and put in our credential request now…
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Time And What Happened: The Trials of KSU and MSU

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2011

Walker Carey is an RTC contributor.

If someone would have told you in November that the preseason second- and third-ranked teams would be unranked on February 1st, you wouldn’t have believed it, right? Well, as we change our calendars to the new month, that’s the position in which we  currently find ourselves, as Michigan State and Kansas State have each so far experienced what could be accurately referred to as a lost season — that anomaly of a 1-3 year stretch that befalls even the best and biggest programs, resulting from circumstances almost nobody could have forseen.

Nobody Could Predict How Lucas' Would Come Back From Such a Major Injury

Michigan State was a Final Four participant last April and entered this season with almost every publication selecting them to run away with the Big Ten. At the time, it was difficult to come up with reasons why this wouldn’t come to pass. Tom Izzo’s squad included a healthy Kalin Lucas, the versatile Draymond Green, experienced swingman Durrell Summers, formidable big man Delvon Roe, and last year’s NCAA Tournament hero for MSU, Korie Lucious. Shortly after the season began, however, it became clear that this version of the Spartans would be different than the team tabbed as one of the nation’s best.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

This look back is better summed up in three short lists.

  • Rising: Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan
  • Falling: Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern
  • Steadying: Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa

It seems like very few teams have found their level thus far in the Big Ten. Every week brings some notable surprises and last week was no different. One point can be the difference between an awesome week and a tough one as Northwestern, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State all found out this week.

Team of the Week: Indiana: The Hoosiers look much improved recently. A victory over Illinois was followed up by a heart-wrenching one-point loss at Michigan State in overtime. Tom Crean’s squad was left as an afterthought at the beginning of the season, but they’re starting to prove the mantra that there will be no easy games during conference play this season. Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford are taking over the offense for the Hoosiers and it’s proving to be an effective strategy. Hulls missed the final shot against Michigan State, but he scored 18 points against the Illini on nine shots, and followed it up with 15 against the Spartans.

Player of the Week: Darius Morris, G, Michigan: Morris scored 17 points dished out eight assists in Michigan’s victory over rival Michigan State and then against Iowa he recorded a triple-double, the third in Michigan history, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger had 17 points and seven boards against Purdue and then 21 points and eight boards, including the game-winning free throw, against Northwestern. Sullinger is the best player on the nation’s best team and is incredibly impressive in person. His steal, behind-the-back dribble, fast break dunk against Northwestern was one of the more nimble plays you’ll see a power forward make.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (22-0, 9-0) – The number one team in the nation and only undefeated left, the Buckeyes sure do like to make things interesting. After blowing out Purdue and essentially staking their claim as the biggest bully in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes needed a Jared Sullinger free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining to escape Welsh-Ryan with a hard earned victory. It was Ohio State’s sixth conference victory by five points or less this season.

2. Purdue (18-4, 7-2) – Purdue went 1-1 last week and firmly solidified its place as the second-best team in the conference. The Boilermakers, though, need to figure out what’s happened to E’Twaun Moore’s shot. The senior guard from Chicago shot 4-13 against Ohio State and 3-13 against Minnesota. He’s had a few of these clunkers this season, including a 2-10 performance against Penn State and a 2-14 game in Purdue’s other Big Ten loss at Minnesota.

3. Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3) – The Badgers are a much better home team than they are road team. All three of their conference losses have come away from the Kohl Center, with the most recent being a 56-52 loss to an improving Penn State team. Wisconsin went just seven deep in the rotation in that loss.

4. Penn State (12-8, 5-4) – When the Nittany Lions lost to Maine I don’t think anyone would’ve fathomed they’d put it back together like this. Talor Battle isn’t going to let this team fall behind by too much ever. Penn State hasn’t lost a game by more than three points since a January 15 drubbing by Purdue and is 4-2 in the conference during that stretch. This is a team on the rise and one that is starting to put together a good NCAA bubble resume.

5. Minnesota (16-5, 5-4) – The Golden Gophers survived their first test without Al Nolen against Northwestern relatively comfortably, but against Purdue on Saturday both Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith found room on the perimeter scoring 13 and 15 points respectively to carry the Boilermakers to the win. Perimeter defense is a place where Tubby Smith is going to definitely miss his senior point guard.

6. Michigan State (13-8, 5-4) – After Sunday’s one-point overtime escape against the Hoosiers, the Spartans maintain an above .500 conference record, but it’s a mirage of sorts. The team turns the ball over too much and doesn’t shoot many free throws and opponents are able to find clean looks beyond the three-point arc. Michigan State has picked up its last four conference victories by a total of 11 points and three of those were against teams in the bottom tier of the conference. Now Korie Lucious has been suspended for the rest of the season and Tom Izzo has a lot of work to do in East Lansing.

7. Illinois (14-7, 4-4) – There is a ton of talent in Champaign, but the results just aren’t there. A perplexing loss to Indiana led to a court storm for the Hoosiers. Unfortunately Bruce Weber’s team had an extra day or two to ponder the loss too, because they were the odd team out in the Big Ten’s weekend schedule of games. One of Illinois’ big problems is that they’re not getting to the foul line. The Illini rank 320th in the nation in free throw rate, and even against the hack-happy Hoosiers, the Illini attempted only eight free throws against 59 field goal attempts.

8. Michigan (13-9, 3-6) – The Wolverines went into the Breslin Center and got a big upset victory in a rivalry game thanks to some hot shooting. Michigan shot 10-21 from three-point range to get its first victory in East Lansing since 1997. Then on Sunday against Iowa there was no letdown thanks to Darius Morris’ outstanding effort. His triple-double helped lead Michigan, which had all five starters score at least 12 points in the victory.

9. Northwestern (13-8, 3-7) – It was another moment of coming so close, but falling short for the Wildcats against Ohio State on Saturday night. Playing without John Shurna, who suffered a concussion when his head bounced against the basket support after a nasty tumble against Minnesota, Northwestern did everything right for about 39 minutes, but it couldn’t figure out a way to get the victory. With a tough schedule remaining, Bill Carmody’s squad might be hard pressed to qualify for the NIT. Northwestern has a week off to regroup before a nationally televised game against Illinois on CBS on Saturday. Northwestern has picked up the tempo this season, but after almost upsetting Ohio State playing the old 35-second routine, you might see slower games in its future as well.

10. Indiana (11-11, 2-7) – See the “Team of the Week” mention above.

11. Iowa (8-13, 1-8) – The Hawkeyes are playing competitive basketball, but lost a close one to Penn State and played Michigan tough before succumbing to Morris’ triple-double. One of the more interesting players to watch in the Big Ten is on Iowa. That’s freshman Melsahn Basabe. He alternates between great games, 25 points on 11 shots, eight boards, two blocks against Michigan, and poor ones, four points on 1-4 shooting against Penn State. It typically has to do with the experience of the front line he’s playing against.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/1 – Purdue at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/1 – Penn State at Illinois, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/3 – Michigan at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/5 – Illinois at Northwestern, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/5 – Iowa at Indiana, 4 p.m., ESPN2
  • 2/6 – Michigan State at Wisconsin, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/6 – Ohio State at Minnesota, 2 p.m., ESPN

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: There is no defense in the Big Ten. None. It’s crazy, but every team is scoring above a point per possession in league play and every team is allowing more than a point per possession as well. Ohio State slipped over the mark after allowing Northwestern to score 57 points in 49 possessions, which also happened to be the second slowest game in the NCAA this season behind Notre Dame’s effort against Pittsburgh. Iowa slipped over the point per possession mark in scoring due to the Hawkeyes’ 65-possession shootout against Michigan, which ended 87-73. Michigan shot 50 percent from three during the game (14-28) and finished with an effective field goal percentage of 71.4 percent. Of course that’s nothing compared to the 80.7 percent mark Illinois put up against Northwestern earlier this season or even the 80.2 percent mark it hit against the Hawkeyes on December 29.

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