Stars of the Past Week:
Jordan Murphy, Minnesota – 17 points and 11 rebounds in win over Maryland
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State – 24 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds in win over Wisconsin
Troy Williams, Indiana – averaged 18.5 points in wins over Nebraska and Purdue
Marc Loving, Ohio State – averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds in wins over Michigan and Nebraska
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4 steals in two games this week
Brandon Taylor, Penn State – averaged 17.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in wins over Iowa and Rutgers
Five Best Games to Watch This Week:
Michigan State at Ohio State – Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN
Wisconsin at Iowa – Wednesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN
Maryland at Purdue – Saturday, 4:00 pm EST, ESPN
Iowa at Ohio State – Sunday, 4:00 pm EST, CBS
Michigan at Wisconsin – Sunday, 6:00 pm EST, BTN
As always, the seeding numbers come from BracketMatrix.com.
Michigan State – 2 seed (2.41 average; 99/99 brackets)
The Spartans rolled over Wisconsin in their only outing of the week. They also moved up a seed line in BracketMatrix world and are one step closer to avoiding having to play on Thursday of conference tournament week. In other words, it’s beginning to look a lot like March in East Lansing.
Denzel Valentine was awesome again in the win over the Badgers. At this point, I think it’s a toss-up between him and Jarrod Uthoff for the player of the year award. Uthoff was the leader halfway through the Big Ten season. A big part of that was Valentine missing a few games, but also due to Iowa running through the league. Uthoff is still playing well, but his efficiency is waning a bit and his team has hit a bit of a slump. Meanwhile, it seems as though Valentine will have the benefit of finishing stronger – both him and his team. Although, Uthoff can flip that script down the stretch because the Hawkeyes have much tougher games to play than the Spartans. It’s an interesting race.
This week: Ohio State on the road and Penn State at home
Iowa – 2 seed (2.55; 99/99)
About that slump for the Hawkeyes. The loss at Indiana wasn’t surprising given that the Hoosiers still haven’t lost in Assembly Hall this season. Their performance at home against Minnesota was a little more concerning. They ultimately won, but it was much more difficult than you would’ve hoped for as an Iowa fan.
Then in their only game this week, they lose at Penn State. They’re the second victim of the Bryce Jordan Center this year. It’s a weird place to play, no doubt. It’s one of the 30 largest D-1 arenas and it’s horribly attended, even for the big-time opponents. The Hawkeyes shot poorly from the outside, turned the ball over, and made Donovon Jack look like an All-American.
In addition, they played the Nittany Lions to a wash on the glass. Iowa isn’t a great rebounding team as it is, but it hasn’t mattered as much this year because they don’t turn the ball over. They can’t rebound like they do AND turn the ball over like they did at Penn State and expect to go far in March.
This week: home for Wisconsin and at Ohio State
Maryland – 3 seed (3.21; 99/99)
It was the second straight week of non-encouraging play from the Terps. First, they lost at Minnesota, the Gophers first win of the Big Ten season. Over the weekend Maryland built a 16-point lead over Michigan at home before watching that lead completely evaporate before ultimately closing out another close win at home.
Probably the worst part about it was Melo Trimble’s performance. He combined to go 6-21 from the floor and had 13 turnovers in the two games. There’s been some talk that Melo’s not fully healthy. Maybe that’s the case. But either way, he’s still playing 35+ minutes per game right now and he’s not playing very well. If he isn’t full healthy, I don’t really see the benefit of playing him all these minutes every game.
Winning the conference title – which doesn’t seem likely with their remaining schedule – isn’t nearly as important as being locked and loaded for the NCAA tournament. Right now, it just kind of seems like people trying to make an excuse for his poor play. There’s been talk about his hamstring since early January. That has nothing to do with making poor decisions and turning the ball over. I don’t know if he’s injured or not, but if he’s going to play this many minutes every game, I can only judge him on his performance. And his performance hasn’t been an offensive rating over 96 in his last four Big Ten games.
This week: Purdue on the road
Purdue – 5 seed (5.45; 99/99)
The Boilermakers played two games this week. One of them they shot 38.3% from the field. The other one they shot 58.7% from the floor. Guess which game they won? As expected, they won the first one!
It was a weird week for Purdue. They won one of the ugliest games I’ve seen in a while against Northwestern. They then shot that near 59% mark at Indiana and were blown out for much of the game. The reason for that was a common issue for the Boilers: turnovers. They had 13 compared to the Hoosiers’ 4. They were down by 19 at one point in the second half before crawling all the way back. Purdue was down two with under a minute to go before A.J. Hammons was called for a controversial goaltending with just a few seconds to play.
The comeback was certainly admirable, but a lot of the same concerns remain with this team. Sometimes their offense gets so bogged down, their spacing is often poor, their guards go quiet, and they struggle to guard perimeter-oriented teams.
I’m not totally sure how they’re going to fare in the tournament. It’s often a guard-dominated time of year, but Purdue also isn’t very reliant on outside shooting, which is a problem for teams who are constructed that way. They still defend really well, in general. But I was thinking about who Matt Painter would go to with under 10 seconds to go and needing a score if they wouldn’t have gotten that goaltending call and that’s a question that still doesn’t have an answer 28 games into the season. It just takes too long to set up one of their big guys in the post. They don’t have one guy on the team who’s consistently shot well from the outside or consistently driven the ball well.
Ultimately, it’s a team that’s success when it matters most is heavily dependent on its matchup. They’re at the mercy of the committee.
This week: Maryland at home
Indiana – 6 seed (5.79; 99/99)
It was a great week for the Hoosiers. They got an easy win over Nebraska and defeated their rival for the first time in three years. Last week I complimented their balance as a team and that continued in to this week. It wasn’t quite the same, but it seemed like every Hoosier that played against Purdue hit a three-pointer (it was actually seven of them).
We know they’re awesome at home. I worry about their dependency on outside shooting when they have to play on neutral floors in the postseason. History doesn’t favor teams whose offense thrives on that type of play. Troy Williams is such an X-factor for this team and the difference in his play depending on the venue is especially significant. He hasn’t been good away from Assembly Hall, to put it bluntly. With that said, if they ultimately do end up a 6 seed there’s certainly no 3 seed out there who would be excited to be in the same bracket.
This week: at Illinois
Wisconsin – 9 seed (9.38; 96/99)
The Badgers didn’t stand much of a chance on the road against the Spartans. They followed that loss up by getting into a 13-point deficit at home in the second half against Illinois. That would’ve been a really detrimental loss to Wisconsin’s tourney hopes, but they did a great job of responding and pulling the game out somewhat comfortably. Did they benefit from some classic Kohl Center calls? Probably, but this team has been great at getting to the line all year.
There’s no time to let up for Greg Gard’s crew. They dug themselves a hole in non-conference and they’re still trying to play their way out of it. They don’t have to win at Iowa this week – IT WOULD HELP, THOUGH – but they can’t lose to Michigan at home. That would be somewhat of a back-breaker before going on the road for their final week against a pesky Minnesota team and Purdue.
But that’s just life on the bubble. Just keep winning and you’ll be fine. Don’t, and there will be a lot of sweaty palms at the Badger watch party on Selection Sunday.
This week: at Iowa and home for Michigan
Michigan – 10 seed (9.95; 92/99)
This would be the team that would most prefer Wisconsin stop winning this week. It wasn’t a great week for the Wolverines. They weren’t really close to winning at Ohio State and they had a huge opportunity slip away from them at Maryland.
Caris LeVert sat out both games this week and it just seems to me from an outsider perspective that he may never be back. The experiment with him coming back against Purdue was a bad one. At this point it seems like the team would be better off moving forward with the thought that he won’t be coming back.
In positive news from Ann Arbor, Mark Donnal was awesome this week. If he can continue to be a major scoring threat, it’ll make the Wolverines a very difficult team to guard. Of course that won’t matter if they played as poor of defense as they did this week.
Northwestern at home this week is a must win.
This week: Northwestern at home and at Wisconsin
Ohio State – Others Receiving Votes (11.00; 1/99)
Did you know Ohio State is fourth in the Big Ten standings? It’s true.
Do you remember a few weeks ago when I pointed out just how weak Indiana’s Big Ten schedule was at that time? Well, at this point Indiana’s conference schedule is now more difficult than Ohio State’s. That’s why you still see the Buckeyes on the outside looking in when it comes to the tournament discussion. They’re still 1-7 against the RPI top-50 and have three bad losses.
Good news, bad news time. Good news: They have three opportunities to get wins over the RPI top-50 in the rest of the regular season. Bad news: they all come against Michigan State and Iowa. More good news: two of them are at home. Even more good news: they avoided another bad loss by winning at Nebraska in overtime.
That’s why they’re still lingering. Do I think they’ll make it to the tournament? Probably not, but it’s still very possible. As long as they believe, they have the talent to make a run. And I’d like them to because I appreciate any outcome that makes me look like a genius.
This week: home for Michigan State and Iowa
Everyone Else Except For Rutgers
The Nittany Lions had a great week beating Iowa at home and Rutgers on the road. I guess at this point they’ve got a chance to make the NIT, which would be cool, I guess.
This week: home for Nebraska and at Michigan State
Life without Shavon Shields hasn’t been kind to the Huskers, which is far from surprising. Last week they were still in the “Lingering” section, but at this point their only hope is winning the conference tournament.
This week: at Penn State and home for Purdue
Another former lingerer (shout out to James Franco) that missed an opportunity at Purdue. Purdue didn’t play particularly well to beat them, but the Wildcats just couldn’t stop fouling.
This week: at Michigan and home for Rutgers
Their loss at Wisconsin was detailed in the Badgers’ section. It was another Hill-Nunn performance that wasn’t supported by much else besides Michael Finke’s 8 points. Apparently Leron Black is spending time on the injured list by pulling knives on bouncers, so there’s some more good news for John Groce.
This week: home for Indiana and Minnesota
THE GOPHERS GOT A WIN! AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO WAIT TO PLAY RUTGERS!
In all seriousness, you have to respect the Gophers’ refusal to quit this season. They’ve battled all year without seeing any wins and they finally broke through against one of the conference’s elite teams.
If you missed it, Joey King’s interview after the game was all kinds of awesome.
If you didn’t get some feels during that interview, check your pulse.
This week: home for Rutgers and at Illinois
Lower-Tier Ohio Valley Conference Team That Gets To Play In The Big Ten
10 of the OVC’s 12 teams are ranked higher than Rutgers on KenPom. I really need to see the numbers of the BTN in the NYC market post-Rutgers addition. Hope it was worth it, Jim.
This week: at Minnesota and Northwestern