Stars of the Past Week:
Robert Carter and Rasheed Sulaimon, Maryland – combined for 40 points and 17 rebounds in win over Purdue
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin – 21 points and 7 rebounds in win over Ohio State
Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok, Iowa – combined for 41 points and 17 rebounds in win over Illinois
Brandon Taylor, Penn State – 24 points and 6 rebounds in win over Indiana
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State – 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in win over Michigan
Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern – combined for 43 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals in win over Minnesota
Five Best Games to Watch This Week:
Michigan State at Purdue – Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN
Iowa at Indiana – Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN
Purdue at Michigan – Saturday, 2:00 pm EST, ESPN2
Wisconsin at Maryland – Saturday, 6:30 pm EST, ESPN
Indiana at Michigan State – Sunday, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
Tier 1: Tourney Locks (if Selection Sunday was today)
1. Iowa (Previous: 1; BracketMatrix: 1 seed; RPI: 8; KenPom: 2; Sagarin: 3)
An uneventful week for the Hawkeyes with their only games being a blowout over Penn State and a rather easy road win over Illinois. They did a nice job slowing down the two-headed monster of Hill and Nunn, only giving them 20 points on 22 shots.
Iowa has to travel to Indiana this week, but I wouldn’t expect them to be challenged all that much until they play the Hoosiers again at home at the end of the month.
This week: at Indiana and home for Minnesota
2. Michigan State (Previous: 3; BracketMatrix: 3 seed; RPI: 16; KenPom: 4; Sagarin: 2)
The Spartans went into their in-state rival’s building and hit 14 three-pointers en route to a 16-point win. And it wasn’t even that close. MSU was up 30 with three minutes to go before Michigan put lipstick on the proverbial pig.
Tom Izzo’s club has been impressive in four straight games. It seems as though Izzo has cut his rotation quite a bit. Only seven Spartans played double digit minutes. Compare that to earlier in the year when Izzo was playing nine, ten, or even a high number of eleven in their first match-up this year.
I wrote about the guard rotation a few weeks ago and it’s still a question moving forward given the uncertainty of exactly when Tum Tum Nairn will be returning. Izzo said on Monday that he wasn’t sure if Nairn would even be back in the next month. Even then, Nairn is only likely to play 8-10 minutes a game and won’t be able to practice.
At the moment, it appears Alvin Ellis and Javon Bess were the “victims” of the rotation cut, although Bess is probably closer to a 4 than a 2 given his skill set. Matt McQuaid keeps getting better, making 8 of his 13 three-point shots during the win streak.
If Nairn is unable to come back – even if he does, he won’t be his usual self – the Spartans have at least shown they can be a good team without him. He doesn’t do much in the way of scoring, but he is their second best passer and really gave them a different element with his ability to penetrate on offense, push the ball in transition, and was one of their better on-ball defenders. It’s not a crippling loss, but we’ll see how the Spartan D holds up against a point guard like Yogi Ferrell without Nairn.
This week: at Purdue and home for Indiana
3. Maryland (Previous: 2; BracketMatrix: 3 seed; RPI: 5; KenPom: 9; Sagarin: 10)
Terps have certainly proved their ability to close out close games, especially at home. I thought Robert Carter was the difference in the Purdue game. Sulaimon and Trimble were able to break the Boiler defense down at times with their dribble penetration and Carter was the beneficiary, knocking down four three-pointers on six attempts. His teammates combined to go 0-12 from distance. Free throws were also a huge factor. Maryland went 24-27 while Purdue only attempted five total.
Earlier in the week, the Terps earned a hard fought victory on the road over Nebraska.
This week: Bowie State (what?) and Wisconsin at home
4. Purdue (Previous: 4; BracketMatrix: 4 seed; RPI: 23; KenPom: 15; Sagarin: 11)
Purdue nearly pulled off the road win over Maryland, but their poor shooting was a killer, going 3-25 from outside. Maryland wasn’t much better (4-18), but the Terps got to the line a lot more. It’s not uncommon for the home team to have some calls go their way in Big Ten play (i.e., Indiana at Wisconsin recently). That was really the only noticeable difference statistically in the game. The two teams basically shot the same percentage, had an equal number of rebounds, and were within one in turnovers. It kind of allowed both teams to walk away feeling good about themselves.
But if Purdue is going to do anything in March, one thing is clear: their shooters have to be effective. They don’t have to carry the offense, but they have to be more of a factor than they were on Saturday. Purdue’s not alone in shooting poorly from outside against Maryland, but their poor shooting allowed the Terps to really give backside help on Purdue’s post players and it was difficult for them to get the ball inside down the stretch.
When Hammons, Swanigan, and Haas did get the ball in the paint they were 18-29 from the field, but the water got shut off late in the game because Turgeon and company didn’t feel threatened at all by Purdue’s perimeter shooting. That’s been a recipe for disaster for the Boilers all year.
This week: Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road
5. Indiana (Previous: 6; BracketMatrix: 7 seed; RPI: 56; KenPom: 24; Sagarin: 17)
The Hoosiers rode a 25-0 run into halftime to cruise on the road over Michigan. It was probably IU’s most impressive win given the quality of opponent, venue, and the style of which they carried out the victory. A team that’s so reliant on three-point shooting didn’t even shoot that well and still crushed a quality opponent on the road.
Then they lost to Penn State. WOOF. Michigan dropped out of the RPI top 50 on the same day that the Hoosiers lost to the Nittany Lions and just like that IU lost a quality win and gained a bad loss.
IU went back to their old ways in the PSU loss, shooting seven more threes than twos. It was Yogi Ferrell’s worst Big Ten game, going 3-12 from the field and giving away five turnovers. The Hoosiers ignored their freshman big man, Thomas Bryant, for a majority of the game. He was in foul trouble and only played 24 minutes, but he only attempted four shots. Like always, Bryant was efficient with his touches, scoring 10 points. That’s life as a post man in this offense. He has the highest field goal percentage from two-point range in the conference by a 10% margin and has gotten double digit attempts a whopping three times all year. Give him the ball.
This week: Iowa at home and Michigan State on the road
Tier 2: Bubble Teams
6. Wisconsin (Previous: 7; BracketMatrix: First 4 Out; RPI: 59; KenPom: 51; Sagarin: 46)
The Badgers pushed their four-game winning streak to five. It was a balanced scoring effort from Wisconsin, with four guys in double figures.
If the Badgers are now knocking on the door of the tournament, but if they’re going to beat that door down they’re going to have to pick up some quality wins down the stretch. The losses at home to Western Illinois in the first game of the year and Milwaukee a month later are killing their resume right now. In order to negate those wins in the committee’s eyes, they need as many top-50 wins as they can get. They have three at the moment, with the IU win possibly being a fourth, depending on how they finish. The good thing for Wisconsin is they’ll have plenty of opportunities and if they keep playing the way they have been, they’ll win a couple of them.
This week: Nebraska at home and Maryland on the road
7. Michigan (Previous: 5; BracketMatrix: 9 seed; RPI: 55; KenPom: 47; Sagarin: 35)
Oof. That’s the only word I can use to describe Michigan’s week. Not only did they lose at home twice this week, but they weren’t competitive in either of them. I think it’s safe to say now that this is a team that definitely needs its star player back.
Good news: Caris LeVert has been cleared to play. It’s not exactly clear when he’ll enter a game, but it’s positive news that he’s at least allowed to at this point. What state he’s in as a player is unclear still, however. Lower leg injuries are always a tricky thing for players and sometimes it takes a long time to get truly healthy.
The Wolverines are now dangerously flirting with being on the bubble. They really need to beat Purdue at home.
This week: at Minnesota and home for Purdue
Tier 3: Deep Bubble
8. Ohio State (Previous: 8; BracketMatrix: 1 Vote (10 seed); RPI: 85; KenPom: 79; Sagarin: 73)
The Buckeyes lost their only game of the week at Wisconsin. The biggest story of the game – at least from an OSU perspective – was JaQuan Lyle’s 27-point effort. He’s seemed to be in and out of Thad Matta’s dog house recently, but there’s no denying the freshman is a highly talented player.
It was another missed opportunity for a team that has struggled to find quality wins all year. They’re 1-7 against teams in the RPI top-100. That’s the biggest reason the Buckeyes are staring the NIT right in the face, which would mark only the second time in Matta’s tenure at OSU that his team missed the NCAA tournament when eligible. They’ve still got a few opportunities, but time is running out.
This week: Northwestern at home and Rutgers on the road
Tier 4: NIT/CBI Teams
9. Nebraska (Previous: 9; BracketMatrix: –; RPI: 163; KenPom: 93; Sagarin: 78)
The Huskers were nearly able to pull off their second big upset of the season over Maryland, but couldn’t quite close. It was kind of amazing they were even in the game when they shot 31% from the field. Shavon Shields had a forgettable night going 4-17 from the floor.
Nebraska finished the week by burying Rutgers at home.
This week: Wisconsin on the road and Penn State at home
10. Northwestern (Previous: 10; BracketMatrix: 😦; RPI: 104; KenPom: 87; Sagarin: 74)
Demps and McIntosh carried the Wildcats in their second blowout win over Minnesota this year. They did a nice job on the Gophers perimeter players at the other end, as well.
I’ve made mention before that I hope a guy like Malcolm Hill for Illinois doesn’t get left out of end-of-season awards due to his teams not winning many games. Same goes for McIntosh. He’s led Northwestern in points and assists, which is a category he also leads the conference in. McIntosh deserves some consideration at the end of the year.
This week: at Ohio State and home for Illinois
Tier 5: 3-8
11. Penn State (Previous: 12; BracketMatrix: –; RPI: 108; KenPom: 136; Sagarin: 115)
The Nittany Lions were the ones in the bottom of the conference to wreak havoc this week, upsetting Indiana at home. Not surprisingly, it was on the back of senior leader Brandon Taylor. Fellow senior Devin Foster chipped in with 13 (5-6 FG) of his own, a career high for him.
This week: Nebraska on the road
12. Illinois (Previous: 11; BracketMatrix: –; RPI: 119; KenPom: 132; Sagarin: 112)
The Illini had to utilize three overtimes to outlast Rutgers this week and then dropped one at home to the Hawkeyes.
For a team that doesn’t have any postseason aspirations, the most important thing for them is that their young players continue to get better.Jalen Coleman-Lands has been inconsistent shooting the ball this year, but he had a great week averaging 21.5 points in the two games, making 11 of 25 threes in the process. In addition, he leads the Big Ten in turnover rate in conference play. He’s committed two turnovers in the last ten games, which is a really impressive stat for a freshman guard in this league.
This week: Northwestern on the road
Tier 6: Winless, But Still Not The Worst Ever
13. Minnesota (Previous: 13; BracketMatrix: –; RPI: 228; KenPom: 198; Sagarin: 172)
After an encouraging week last week, the Gophers got blown out by Northwestern for the second time this year in their only game.
This week: Michigan at home, Iowa on the road
Tier 7: ALMOST WON A GAME THIS WEEK
14. Rutgers (Previous: 14; BracketMatrix: LOL; RPI: 248; KenPom: 283; Sagarin: 271)
Lost in three overtimes, though. Lost the next game by 24 points to Nebraska.
This week: Ohio State at home