Five Stars From the Past Week:
Carsen Edwards, Purdue – averaged 21.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.5 steals in two wins
Nick Ward, Michigan State – 18 points, 13 rebounds in win over Indiana
James Palmer, Nebraska – averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in two wins
CJ Jackson, Ohio State – averaged 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals in two wins
Anthony Cowan, Maryland – averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.5 steals in two games
Five Games to Watch This Week:
Maryland at Indiana, Monday, 7:00 PM, FS1
Nebraska at Ohio State, Monday, 8:00 PM, BTN
Michigan at Purdue, Thursday, 7:00 PM, ESPN
Michigan State at Maryland, Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS
Purdue at Indiana, Sunday, 3:30 PM, FOX
Legitimately Good Teams
1. Purdue (KenPom: 2 / Bracket Matrix: 1 seed)
Last week, this section was dedicated to discussing the multitude of ways that Purdue could win. Isaac Haas was featured in the very prestigious “Five Stars From the Past Week”.
This week Haas scored a grand total of five (5) points and the Boilers won their two games by an average of 25.5 points.
Iowa and Wisconsin are hardly the defensive stalwarts Purdue needs to be able to score against in March, but it’s yet another example of their ability to generate points in a variety of fashions. It helps when you hit 20 three-pointers.
I’m not saying they’re unguardable, but there’s definitely a major “pick your poison and hope they miss” element to them.
And as potent as their offense has appeared lately, they rank higher nationally (3rd) in defensive efficiency than they do offensive (5th). Pretty good team.
This week: home for Michigan, at Indiana
2. Ohio State (KenPom: 11 / Bracket Matrix: 6 seed)
I was still kind of wary of the Buckeyes for one real reason and that was not knowing how they’d play as a team when Keita Bates-Diop wasn’t dominating the game.
I’ve referenced his streak of 11 straight KenPom MVPs in Buckeye games. That ended this week. Heading in, OSU was 3-3 in games KBD didn’t win the MVP. The best win was Stanford. The losses included two blowouts and a choke job against Butler.
This week, KBD didn’t win either MVP and they got a road win over Northwestern and rolled Minnesota (with Amir Coffey) on a neutral site.
That’s a really good sign for a team that already had everything going for them lately.
Also good: their next four games are at home and KP gives them a minimum of 85% of winning each of those games. We’re one week closer to an OSU/Purdue game where they have a combined record of 24-0 in the league.
This week: home for Nebraska and Penn State
3. Michigan (KenPom: 27 / Bracket Matrix: 7 seed)
Not a great week for Michigan. They ended it with a home win over Rutgers, but, ya know.
The Wolverines got run out of the building in Lincoln. The Huskers sliced and diced them by scoring a bunch of points around the rim and at the free throw line.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about this being maybe John Beilein’s best defensive team ever. And that’s a crucial point because it’s not only the best defensive team he’s had, but there has been a direct correlation between defensive performance and winning/losing with this team. Their five least efficient defensive performances have resulted in their five losses.
Conversely, three of their four worst offensive performances have resulted in wins, including the road game at Texas and home games with UCLA and Rutgers.
Also at play in that Nebraska game: the Mo Wagner disappearing act. It’s gotta stop happening at some point, right? Especially after two big performances?
This week: at Purdue
4. Michigan State (KenPom: 5 / Bracket Matrix: 3 seed)
I’m sure a lot of people would/will move MSU up after UM’s week and the Spartans rolling over IU in their only game this week.
I’m gonna leave Sparty here for the time-being. After all, it’s still only been a little over a week since the Wolverines won in East Lansing.
There’s not a lot to say about MSU this week. They played well against the Hoosiers, but IU isn’t really designed to give them problems and especially so if Juwan Morgan isn’t playing, which he didn’t in the second half.
This week: at Illinois, home for Wisconsin, at Maryland
5. Maryland (KenPom: 36 / Bracket Matrix: First Four Out)
On the surface, I guess it was a fine week for the Terps. Avoided a damaging loss and played pretty well.
But for a team that’s likely to be flirting with the bubble until Selection Sunday, the narrowest of losses at Michigan may haunt them. Maryland was up by 14 with less than a minute to go before halftime. They then gave up the entire lead and doubled down by actually trailing by 10 points with six minutes to go.
And they fought through all of that to recapture the lead with 3 seconds to go. Only to lose it by a pair of MAAR free throws because they let him catch it 50 feet down the court.
That’s gut-wrenching and a big missed opportunity for their tournament resume.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’ve got another opportunity against Michigan State this weekend in College Park.
This week: at Indiana, home for Michigan State
6. Nebraska (KenPom: 67 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
Probably the biggest win of the week belongs to the Huskers. I’m not a bracketologist, but I’d have to think Nebraska has at least a bubble-worthy resume at the moment. All of their borderline “bad losses” have come on the road. The problem is the wins. They have the Michigan one now. But it’s also important to point out that they beat Minnesota back in December before the Gophers completely fell apart due to “roster issues”.
Either way, the Huskers need to keep winning, which has been a problem for them in February/March over the last few years.
Last year, they were 9-6, 3-0 in the Big Ten (with several quality wins) before losing 13 of their next 16.
In 2016, they were 12-8, 4-3 in the Big Ten and fresh off a win at Michigan State, who would go on to be a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They finished the regular season by dropping 9 of 11.
In 2015, they were 12-7, 4-3 in the Big Ten and once again fresh off of a win against Michigan State, who would go on to the Final Four. They finished the season by losing 11 of their last 12.
So we’ve been in this spot with the Huskers before. It was a great performance against Michigan and they’ve been trending upward. But recent history suggests that we’re still on a wait-and-see approach.
This week: at Ohio State and Rutgers, home for Iowa
Could Be Decent, Could Be Terrible
7. Indiana (KenPom: 97 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
Not a lot to say this week. They lost big on the road against a very good team, which was not at all helped by losing the one guy they couldn’t afford to lose. That’s a terrible sentence, but, yeah, they need Juwan Morgan. And they need him now.
It’s a big week for IU. The tournament doesn’t seem likely, but it’s still in the realm of possibility. And this week they have home games against Maryland and Purdue. If they can get one of those in the win column and pick up a victory in Champaign, they’ll have some nice momentum going into another big week.
This week: home for Maryland, at Illinois, home for Purdue
8. Wisconsin (KenPom: 79 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
It’s hard to lose a game by 28 points and move up a spot in the rankings, but that’s just the league we’re dealt with. FWIW, the Badgers did play really well against Illinois.
This week: at Iowa and Michigan State
9. Penn State (KenPom: 62 / Bracket Matrix: ORV)
They’re crippled without Josh Reaves and generally still haven’t figured out how to close out games. Won’t be a threat for the postseason until they do. I wouldn’t hold your breath.
This week: at Ohio State, home for Rutgers
10. Northwestern (KenPom: 90 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
What a disappointing group. Couldn’t have picked a worse year to be playing games off campus. I don’t really have anything against them, but I really just don’t enjoy watching them. Especially when they’re playing in a dark, empty, lifeless arena. It’s depressing.
This week: at Minnesota
11. Rutgers (KenPom: 119 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
I think for the first time in their Big Ten history, the Scarlet Knights took somebody to the woodshed. And they did it without Mike Williams. Geo Baker is a candidate for the All-Freshman team. More Big Ten-level players coming in next year. Corey Sanders will be completing his unprecedented ninth year of eligibility. Things keep getting better in Piscataway.
This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State
12. Minnesota (KenPom: 80 / Bracket Matrix: ORV)
Amir Coffey came back. He looked good, but it didn’t help the results for the Gophers. They’re a tire fire. Seems like a good time to get your talented freshman some more minutes. Jamir Harris has found more, but Isaiah Washington has essentially been cut from the rotation. With no inside knowledge, I’d be surprised if Washington came back next year.
This week: home for Northwestern
13. Iowa (KenPom: 100 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
At least pretend to care, fellas. (directed at everyone except Luka)
This week: home for Wisconsin, at Nebraska
14. Illinois (KenPom: 105 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)
They had 18 offensive rebounds in a game, the other team went 5-23 from three, and they still lost. They can’t stop turning the ball over and they apparently haven’t figured out that they can’t shoot yet.
This week: home for Michigan State and Indiana