I can’t help but feel partially responsible for the mid-season retirement of Wisconsin’s (former) head coach, Bo Ryan. Last week I wrote about how Wisconsin had died and I think maybe it was just too much for Bo to know that a random blogger who gambles obsessively and reviews 10 year old episodes of The Office had the foresight to know that his magical run was over.
I can’t let that be the last thing I say about Bo Ryan because I love that guy, I’m going to miss him, and Big Ten basketball won’t be the same without him. I felt robbed that I didn’t get to fully appreciate the end of an era because he just randomly dropped that he was retiring after a late Tuesday night, ho-hum 64-49 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi. According to him and AD Barry Alvarez, it had been the plan all along to have him step down after semester. Ryan has made it known he wanted his longtime assistant, Greg Gard, to take over – and he will, for now – and apparently Gard’s father’s health was the reason that they were unable to do it this past offseason. There’s a lot of behind the scenes things that took place that I’m sure we’ll never know about, but the one thing that stuck with me is that the players didn’t know it was going to happen. They had the news dropped on them the same night the rest of the world did and that’s the one issue I have with the whole thing.
But either way, I’m happy Bo got to go out on his own terms and it came off his most successful year as a Division-1 head coach. I say Division-1 because as great as he was at Wisconsin, Ryan won four national championships at the Division-3 level. None of that really matters to the common public and I would doubt most of them even knew that fact, but it speaks to how great he was as a coach at every level. What he did at Wisconsin was nothing short of incredible and best believe that every other Big Ten coach can breathe a little easier now that Bo has moved on. Coach Gard has the impossible task of following a legend and if he even achieves a quarter of what Ryan did, he’ll be considered the second best coach in Wisconsin history by a longshot.
Now, enough with the fluff. Let’s review the rest of the week for the Big Ten and make some jokes about Rutgers basketball.
Also, important to note: This is our last week of non-conference, which means are last week without rankings! (Oh, and the games really suck this week.)
Stars of the Past Week:
Malcolm Hill, Illinois – 34p-11r-5a-3b-2s in win over South Dakota
Caris LeVert, Michigan – triple-double in win over Northern Kentucky
Derrick Walton, Michigan – triple-double in win over Youngstown St.
Jordan Murphy, Minnesota – 12 points, 18 rebounds in win over Chicago St.
Nicholas Baer, Iowa – 13 pts, 7 rebs (CH), 6 blks (CH) in win over Drake
Five Best Games to Watch This Week:
Vanderbilt at Purdue – Tuesday, 8:00 pm EST, BTN
Illinois and Missouri – Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN2
Michigan State and Oakland – Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPNU
Mercer at Ohio State – Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPNU
Green Bay at Wisconsin – Wednesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN
The Illini took care of South Dakota at home on Saturday, which may not sound like much, but Minnesota couldn’t pull that off, so congrats to them. More good news was Malcolm Hill’s big performance. He’s been awesome this year, even with his teammates dropping like flies around him. Here’s to hoping he gets the recognition that he deserves at the end of the year even though it’s looking more and more likely like it may be a difficult conference season for his team. The latest teammate to find himself permanently on the bench is Leron Black, who’s out indefinitely with swelling in his surgically repaired knee.
This week: Missouri in St. Louis
The Hoosiers won their only game of the week over Notre Dame on Saturday and they did it in dramatic fashion, overcoming a 16 point second half deficit. Not only did they have the big comeback, but they did it getting only eight points from Yogi Ferrell. They held the Irish scoreless over the final three minutes – Notre Dame certainly helped that cause – but it speaks more to how Indiana has improved defensively. They still rate 11th defensively in the Big Ten, but it’s better than last, which is what they were last year. They’re still getting abused inside, but they’ll try to shoot their way out of it all year and will likely be successful more than not.
This week: Kennesaw State at home
The Hawkeyes rode a career day from freshman Nicholas Baer to get a narrow win over a bad Drake team. This game was weird. There were only 24 fouls called in the entire game, the Hawkeyes had 14 blocks, and Mike Gesell had a crucial dunk to seal the game. Baer had six of those blocks (a career high), seven rebounds (a career high) and 13 points (one point away from a career high). Jarrod Uthoff only played 21 minutes due to foul trouble, which obviously had a negative impact on the Iowa offense. He did still manage to block five shots, which leads me to: did you know Uthoff is averaging three blocks a game? Anyway, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Iowa and they’ll need to get back to playing good basketball before they open up conference season with Michigan State and Purdue.
This week: Tennessee Tech at home
The Terps battled a slow start to put away Princeton convincingly in the second half. Jake Layman had his best game of the year, naturally it didn’t come in a marquee game. That’s about it.
This week: Marshall at home
Michigan put beatdowns on Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky this week. Against bad teams, the Wolverines look as good as anyone. However, their marquee win so far is over Texas, which definitely is starting to look better after the Horns beat North Carolina, but Texas is still likely to be a bubble team at the end of the year. Michigan missed opportunities against Xavier, UConn, and SMU and they missed them all by a lot. I would still say the Wolverines are more likely to make the tournament than not, but they’re going to need a couple of wins over the top teams in the conference to dictate their own fate.
This week: Bryant at home
The Spartans blew out Northeastern on the road, but that’s not the biggest news of the weekend for the number one team in the country. Leading everything man, Denzel Valentine, had surgery on his knee and will be out 2-3 weeks. However, Tom Izzo seems to think it’s rather minor, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal long-term. On the flip side, MSU does have to go on the road to Iowa during that time span and not having Valentine could be the difference between a win and a loss, which could also affect whether the Spartans win the conference title. Luckily for them, they have the most favorable schedule of any of the contenders.
This week: Oakland in Auburn Hills
The Gophers avoided another embarrassing loss – which is good! – by taking care of a dreadful Chicago State team at home. I don’t have much to say about Minny, but I do want to give a special shout out to Jordan Murphy. Murphy’s seen a recent uptick in time on the floor and the freshman has averaged 14.4 points and 12.6 rebounds over the past five games. When you’re cheering for a bad team, it’s always nice to have young players doing well that you can hang your hat on. The Gopher fans have a couple in Murphy and Nate Mason. We’ll see if Richard Pitino gets to coach them as upperclassmen.
This week: Milwaukee at home
Oh, Nebraska. I’ve believed in you all year. I brushed off the blowout loss to Creighton, but I can’t blow off this one. An 11 point home loss to Samford. That’s a dagger. They’re likely to be 8-5 heading into conference, needing 10-12 more wins to make it to the dance. That just seems like too much to ask. It’s becoming clear that the Huskers have two really good players in White and Shields, but they just don’t have enough around them. Tai Webster has improved a lot and Glynn Watson will surely be a really good player in this league as he gets older, but that can’t be the extent of your scoring talent in this league. The Huskers will be a bear on nights when White and Shields are both on, but otherwise it’s looking like a tough haul going forward.
This week: Prairie View A&M at home
The Wildcats had to go to overtime, but they got the road win they needed over crosstown rival, DePaul. They followed it up by crushing Sacred Heart at home tonight, scoring 103 points in the process. The Cats play slow, but they are a very efficient offensive team and they have a variety of guys who can score. I might be more excited to watch them in Big Ten play than anyone. THIS COULD BE THE YEAR.
(The rest of) this week: Loyola (MD) at home
For my money, the Buckeyes are the best 6-5 team in the country. While I don’t think Kentucky is one of Calipari’s better teams, they’re still very talented and OSU beating them at a neutral site is a REALLY big deal for this team’s confidence. They played eight guys and all eight made significant contributions. They also beat Northern Illinois this past week and right after, freshman Austin Grandstaff transferred. Grandstaff was a big recruit, but he was really struggling, especially on defense, and sometimes it can help bring a team together if a guy who’s unhappy leaves the situation. I’m excited to watch this team the rest of the year, as well.
This week: Mercer and South Carolina State at home
The Nittany Lions rallied behind Payton Banks’s career high 20 points to overcome a 17 point second half deficit to beat Drexel. Afterwards, Banks said that Drexel was “a great team”. Drexel is 1-8 and has lost to High Point, UNC Asheville, San Diego, and ALASKA ANCHORAGE. The fact a Penn State player thinks Drexel is “great” tells you all you need to know about how conference season is gonna go for them.
This week: Colorado in Las Vegas
The Boilermakers were the only Big Ten team to lose this Saturday, of the ten that played. It was definitely the worst game they’ve played this year, but they still only lost to Butler by six. Purdue is now 0-5 in the Indiana Crossroads Classic, which isn’t a great look by any means. Everyone who has doubted Purdue’s guard play beamed proudly because none of them were effective offensively. Thing is, though, Purdue was just as good, if not better, than Butler in every phase of the game except for turnovers. Purdue: 18, Butler: 8. Caleb Swanigan was hardly the reason they lost – he had 25 points and 11 rebounds – but he can’t turn the ball over seven times playing in the post.
This week: Vanderbilt at home
The Scarlet Knights were 10 point underdogs at home to Monmouth. THEY COVERED! Still lost, though.
This week: Fairleigh Dickinson at home
Obviously, the big news with the Badgers this week was Bo Ryan’s departure. It will be interesting to see how that affects them going forward.
This week: Green Bay at home