Five Stars From the Past Week:
Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards, Purdue – combined to average 49.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in two wins
Tony Carr, Penn State – averaged 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in two wins
James Palmer, Nebraska – averaged 23.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in two wins
Vic Law, Northwestern – 18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a win
Juwan Morgan, Indiana – averaged 25.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals in three games
Five Games to Watch This Week:
Northwestern at Michigan, Monday, 7:00 PM EST, FS1
Indiana at Ohio State, Tuesday, 7:00 PM EST, ESPN2
Penn State at Michigan State, Wednesday, 6:30 PM EST, BTN
Maryland at Purdue, Wednesday, 8:30 PM EST, BTN
Michigan State at Indiana, Saturday, 8:15 PM EST, ESPN
1.Purdue (KenPom: 3 / BracketMatrix: 1 seed)
Purdue didn’t continue pounding opponents into submission, but they did score two big wins. The home victory over Michigan was quite a display of offense by both sides. The road win at IU was more a product of Isaac Haas low-post domination and key defensive plays down the stretch. It was another week of the Boilers showing that they can win in more ways than anybody else.
With that said, we did get a better glimpse of potential issues down the road for Purdue. Mainly pick-and-roll defense. It’s especially not great when Isaac Haas is on the floor. And it’s hard for them to get much better at it because they still don’t have the quickest backcourt and Haas will always be a plodder.
With that said, they’ve now won 17 games in a row. So still pretty good, IMO.
This week: home for Maryland, at Rutgers
2. Ohio State (KenPom: 15 / BracketMatrix: 4 seed)
Well we’re not going to get our Ohio State/Purdue 12-0 showdown. The perimeter defense for the Buckeyes finally caught up to them. They allow a lot of open looks out there and Penn State hit 11 of 14, including the 40-foot game-winner from Tony Carr.
It doesn’t knock the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten title race, obviously. However, they almost definitely have to win at Purdue now. OSU still has road games with the Boilers, Michigan, Penn State, and IU.
I feel like this got a little lost due to the end result, but it shouldn’t: Keita Bates-Diop hit three huge threes down the stretch. The Buckeyes were dead in the water before he hit those. It would’ve been a sort of defining moment for his POY candidacy had Tony Carr not one-upped him at the buzzer. He ended up with 25 on 13 shots in a game he was questionable for due to illness. He’s still my leader for the award.
This week: home for Indiana and Illinois
3. Michigan State (KenPom: 5 / BracketMatrix: 3 seed)
Quite the week. Quiiiiiiiiiiite the week.
It feels weird to talk about the basketball. I also don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been written 100 times in the last few days, except maybe that I’ve seen one quote from Cassius Winston and it was much more impressive than anything his 62 year old head coach has said in many more opportunities.
This week: home for Penn State, at Indiana
4. Michigan (KenPom: 24 / BracketMatrix: 8 seed)
Only game for Michigan was the narrow loss at Purdue. It at least showed that the Wolverines have the potential to be as lethal offensively as they have in years past. It was their most efficient game against any D-1 opponent they’ve played this year. And it came against a team that was Top 5 nationally in defensive efficiency entering the game.
But as I’ve been saying ad nauseam, this Wolverine team goes as their defense does and they got lit up like a Christmas tree.
It was a missed opportunity, but another positive was the continued high-level play from Zavier Simpson. They’ll need similar performances in late February and all of March if this team is going to reach its ceiling.
This week: home for Northwestern and Minnesota
5. Nebraska (KenPom: 62 / BracketMatrix: ORV)
I’m still proceeding with caution with the Huskers. I can’t help it. I just can’t fully commit. They’re like an ex-girlfriend that’s cheated on you several times. Maybe this time she really has changed as a person, but it’s still in the back of your mind that she slept with that waiter from Chili’s named Chad.
That’s where I’m at with Nebraska. Afraid to get cucked.
But they just keep winning. At this point, I think you’d have to give strong consideration to James Palmer being a All-Big Ten First Team guy. Isaac Copeland’s not far behind. They’re still one of the better defensive teams in the league.
But I still see those two road games up north coming soon and I’m skeptical.
This week: at Wisconsin
6. Maryland (KenPom: 40 / BracketMatrix: Second Four Out)
It feels a little high for a team that’s lost five of seven, 4-6 in the league, and is missing one of their best players and another rotation player. But their six losses have come to Purdue, MSU (2x), OSU, Michigan, and a road game at IU.
Tough to knock them too much. While they’re all excusable losses, they’re also running out of opportunities to get big wins. It feels like the Terps are headed to the NIT.
This week: at Purdue, home for Wisconsin
7. Penn State (KenPom: 54 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
Win of the week goes to the Nittany Lions. They were leading for the majority of the game, but it was starting to feel like Groundhog Day when Keita Bates-Diop started raining threes while the Nittany offense went cold. But in fitting fashion, Tony Carr kept the season afloat with the shot of the Big Ten season.
Carr can be Trae Young-like with his shot volume and his body language is sometimes less than ideal, but there are games where he carries PSU to even be in the game. Good for him in finally getting a win in one of those types of efforts. He scored 33 against Minnesota, 28 against IU, 29 against NC State, and 31 against Texas A&M and all four of those games resulted in losses.
Once again, I’m not a bracketologist, but I’d imagine that win at least vaulted them into the conversation for the bubble. And they didn’t ruin it by stubbing their toe against Rutgers.
This week: at Michigan State, home for Iowa
8. Indiana (KenPom: 88 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
Tough to summarize the Hoosiers week in a couple of paragraphs. They drop two spots this week, but at the same time I came away more impressed with them than I was a week ago.
It feels like they’re getting a lot better defensively, specifically contesting shooters on the perimeter. The offense is really probably performing about as good as it’s gonna get. They only have two consistent contributors and the shooting is just brutal. After watching the Purdue game, maybe they should just run nothing but pick-and-rolls with Johnson and Morgan. And I mean every single possession.
I’d also like to use some of this space to talk about how dumb Big Ten scheduling has become. I’d imagine it’d be better if they didn’t sacrifice a week out of the season so that they could play the conference tournament a week early in New York City in front of 500 people, but still. That senseless sacrifice was made the same year that they decided to play games on every day of the week.
IU played three games this week. And they capped that week off by playing the conference leader (Purdue). Seems like a good time to give them a bit of a break, right? Nope, gotta go on the road to play at the league’s second place team (OSU) on Tuesday. They then get a few days off, but get to play the league’s third place team (MSU) on Saturday. Which is then immediately followed by a road trip to New Jersey the next day to dual with Rutgers on the following Monday. That’s four games in nine days, including two road trips the day after game day.
But as always, this is about “student”-athletes getting a proper education and not at all about Jim Delany and the Big Ten squeezing every single dollar out of their television contracts.
Anyway, IU is playing pretty well right now, but their schedule is brutal.
This week: at Ohio State, home for Michigan State
9. Northwestern (KenPom: 82 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
Props to the Wildcats for kind of staying alive with a win at Minnesota behind a monster Vic Law performance. I barely remember the game. But I do remember watching the documentary made by BTN about their season last year and Bryant McIntosh – clearly in the offseason – mentioning that the Final Four “wasn’t out of the realm” of possibilities this year. That was a little awkward.
This week: at Michigan and Wisconsin
10. Wisconsin (KenPom: 85 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
It’s pretty tough right now. Good news for the Badgers: six of their remaining nine games are at the Kohl Center.
This week: home for Nebraska and Northwestern, at Maryland
11. Minnesota (KenPom: 84 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
What a debacle. They might be the worst right now. I don’t know. I don’t give much thought to the bottom of the league.
This week: at Iowa and Michigan
12. Rutgers (KenPom: 135 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
They still play really hard, but the offensive punch is lacking, to say the least.
This week: at Illinois, home for Purdue
13. Iowa (KenPom: 102 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
They won a game. Then decided to get back to their old ways and get absolutely shredded by Nebraska’s pretty average offense. Oh, and everybody found out it costs 10 figures to fire Fran. Great week in Iowa City.
Tuesday against the Gophers should be a great exercise to see who will quit sooner.
This week: home for Minnesota, at Penn State
14. Illinois (KenPom: 107 / BracketMatrix: N/A)
I feel bad for putting Illinois last because they do play with a lot of effort despite losing a lot, but I also don’t feel bad because every Illinois game is the new worst basketball game I’ve ever seen. It’s 40 minutes of fouls, sloppy play, and garbage buckets. There was like eight minutes of gameplay against IU where neither team made a field goal. It’s terrible.
Congrats on the W, though.
This week: home for Rutgers, at Ohio State