Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.
Three things from the past week:
- Purdue’s slide stops – After getting knocked off by Wisconsin on the road, Ohio State at home, and Northwestern on the road, Purdue stops the slide against Illinois on the road. It was Illinois’ first loss at home on the road. The big key in the victory was JaJuan Johnson, who poured in a 24/12 game against Illinois after struggling in their previous losses. Will Purdue continue its ascent in the Big Ten?
- The Buckeyes are back – The main reason why the Buckeyes are back isn’t only due to them knocking off Purdue, Wisconsin, and Northwestern in successive games, but more with the way they won. True, it was the Evan Turner show against Purdue, but with him in foul trouble against Wisconsin, the rest of the team stepped up in his absence to win the game. That’s why they are not only back, but I believe they are better than before Turner went down.
- Iowa gets first win in the Big Ten – I was giving Iowa a bit of a hard time scheduling Tennessee State in the middle of Big Ten play, but it looks like it paid off. They not only won a close one at home against Tennessee State, but then they captured their first victory in the Big Ten against Penn State, both nail biters. I will talk more about that game when I talk about each team.
Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #6, Purdue #13, Wisconsin #18, and Ohio State #21.
- Michigan State 16-3, 6-0
- Purdue 15-4, 3-3
- Wisconsin 15-4, 5-2
- Minnesota 12-6, 3-3
- Ohio State 14-5, 4-3
- Illinois 12-7, 4-2
- Northwestern 13-5, 2-4
- Michigan 10-8, 3-3
- Indiana 9-9, 3-3
- Iowa 7-12, 1-5
- Penn State 8-10, 0-6
- Michigan State @ Minnesota – January 23rd – 12:00 ET – CBS – The scheduling gods don’t have much of a sense of humor for Minnesota, as they just played Michigan State on the road last week, and lost by seven. Minnesota suffered another bruise against Indiana on the road, but Minnesota is tough at home, and I think they will give the Spartans a run for their money in this one. The Spartans are still undefeated in conference and playing very well, but the Gophers might be able to catch them off guard. Big game for both teams for different reasons. Plus it’s the first of a Big Ten double header on CBS, so how much better can this get?
- Ohio State @ West Virginia – January 23rd – 2:00 ET – CBS – OK, so this isn’t totally a Big Ten double header on CBS, but both games feature at least one Big Ten team. That counts right? West Virginia just lost a nail biter to Syracuse at home, so you know their fans are going to be hungry to take down a Big Ten opponent, especially after losing to Purdue on the road earlier in the season. Evan Turner wants to show just how well the Buckeyes are playing right now, and this will be a great game to show it. This is assuming that Ohio State takes care of Northwestern prior to this game.
Breaking It Down
- The Spartans take control in the Big Ten. The Spartans are sitting atop the Big Ten conference with a 6-0 record, and have been able to win both at home and on the game, a rarity in this conference. In watching the Illinois game, it was clear that even though Illinois started off hot, once the Spartans gained momentum they never let go, and didn’t let Illinois back in the game. Kalin Lucas led the team with a 20/4 assts game, but had quite the supporting cast, with Raymar Morgan coming off the bench for a 14/10/4 assts game. I was impressed with the unselfishness and physical play of the Spartans. They completely shut down Mike Tisdale like I thought they would. They get to feast on Iowa before traveling to Minnesota, which should be a battle.
- Purdue starting to turn it around. I have already talked about Purdue’s woes earlier, so I won’t focus too much on it here. I guess the most surprising thing is the rebounding, though. Purdue is getting outrebounded by a margin of six in the Big Ten, and the Northwestern game had a 19-board differential. Rebounding is purely heart and effort, so that’s not a good sign for Purdue. They turned it around against Illinois, so I look forward to seeing if it continues. If you want to check out more on the Northwestern game, RTC was there: RTC Live: Purdue @ Northwestern
- Wisconsin missing Leuer – Wisconsin stumbled a bit last week losing to a much improved Ohio State team. Wisconsin thrashed them at home earlier in the year without Evan Turner, but not this time. Both teams are different. Wisconsin is no longer at full strength and they’re without an inside presence, whereas Ohio State is a full strength. The reason why Wisconsin is missing Jon Leuer so much is because of what he does for the Badgers inside. They only shot five free throws against the Buckeyes, making four. Contrast that to their Duke game earlier in the season, when they shot 19 free throws and made 13. Jon Leuer shot eight of those free throws. Wisconsin did turn it around against Michigan, but still had troubles on the inside.
- Ohio State has a huge week. This past week was supposed to be the week that took down Ohio State. Instead, this was the week that will most likely define the turning point in their season. The task of taking on Purdue at Mackey Arena is more than most teams could handle, but the Buckeyes staged a late rally that Purdue couldn’t stop. Wisconsin at home is more realistic than at the Kohl Center, but put Evan Turner in foul trouble and that would spell a loss. Not this time. Evan Turner decided to go for another triple-double against Northwestern, and came up just a bit short with 20/13/8 assts.
- Minnesota stumbles on the road. It’s no secret that Minnesota would rather play at home, especially in the Big Ten, as they stumbled on the road this week against Michigan State and Indiana. The Michigan State game was expected to be close, but I am not sure many people expected Indiana to lead through much of regulation before staging a very late comeback to win in OT. Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber weren’t even a factor in the Indiana game, so they will need to step up if Minnesota should reach their potential. This is a super-talented team that just isn’t quite getting it done. I expect that Tubby Smith will have a heart-to-heart with his team, and they will give Michigan State a run for their money on Saturday after a tough week of practice. If you want to see more about the Minnesota – Indiana game, RTC was at the game (shameless plug alert): RTC Live: Minnesota @ Indiana
- Illinois runs into the Spartans, literally. I talked a little bit about Illinois when mentioning the Spartans, so I will try to keep it a little brief here. Illinois apparently loves being on national TV, as they got off to a hot start against Michigan State, but couldn’t hold on once the momentum shifted. I kind of laughed when the announcers were wondering why Mike Tisdale wasn’t a factor in the game, because he was averaging 20 PPG in the Big Ten. He wasn’t a factor because he has done well against Big Ten teams without height in Indiana and Penn State, and once he finally had to muscle up against some true big men in the Spartans, he just got pushed out of the way. The same thing happened against Purdue. If Illinois wants to win against physical teams they are going to have to get it from someone other than Tisdale. The big bright spot for Illinois is Demetri McCamey, who had a 28/9 assts game against Purdue.
- Northwestern gets board heavy. The big story for Northwestern was how they dominated the boards against Purdue, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. Purdue has some physical and tough big guys like JaJuan Johnson, so I think they should do well against Illinois on the boards. Northwestern got manhandled by Ohio State, down by 21 points at half. They will have to keep from thinking about that game too much, or they will have recurring nightmares throughout the rest of the season.
- Michigan takes two, and knocks out UConn. The great story for Michigan really is knocking UConn out of the Top 25, and finding a third player beyond DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. They introduced the national television audience to Zack Novak, who made his only trey at a very crucial time. This was actually the first game I have seen where Sims and Harris didn’t lead the team in scoring. The same couldn’t be duplicated against Wisconsin, who held off the Wolverines’ late charge.
- Indiana has a down then up week. Watching the Michigan game was disappointing, as everything that could be done wrong late in the game was done. The Hoosiers threw away the basketball at will, and turned what was a semi-close game into a 20+ point blowout. That was the ‘down’ part…now for the ‘up’ part. Indiana did a ton of maturing between the Michigan and Minnesota game. They continued to build on that maturity by winning their first road game of the season against Penn State. Indiana was lights-out in the first half, and then, unlike past games, they didn’t fade midway through the 2nd half. They took it to OT, and even when they started down six, they battled back and forced Minnesota to take a three with seconds remaining to tie. Verdell Jones stepped up with a career high 23 point effort, with Devan Dumes and Christian Watford rounding out the scoring. The usual suspects carried the load for Indiana as of late: Jones, Dumes, and Watford. If you want to see a more in-depth view of the Indiana-Minnesota game, RTC was there: RTC Live: Minnesota @ Indiana
- Iowa’s scheduling pays off. Aaron Fuller had a career night against Tennessee State that got him ready for a big game against Penn State. He was good for a 24/10 night against Tennessee State and a 20/10 night against the Nittany Lions. Things are looking up for the sophomore, and for Iowa. Both games were nail biters, so if they get another W this year, expect it to be close. They are in for a rough haul though, with upcoming road games against Michigan State and Indiana.
- Penn State is still winless. I feel bad for Talor Battle because he continues to put up big numbers, and almost all of their losses have been close, but they just can’t seem to finish one out. Battle had a 31/7 game against Iowa and a slight disappointing 9/4 game against Illinois in a low-scoring close one. Unfortunately for Penn State, their comeback came up short against Indiana. They will have to keep up their confidence at this point, or else it will be a long road ahead.