Six Stars From the Past Week:
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
James Palmer, Nebraska
Bruno Fernando, Maryland
Jordan Murphy, Minnesota
Charles Matthews, Michigan
Geo Baker, Rutgers
Six Best Games to Watch This Week:
Purdue at Indiana, Tuesday, 7:00 EST, ESPN2
Maryland at Iowa, Tuesday, 8:00 EST, BTN
Michigan at Minnesota, Thursday, 7:00 EST, ESPN
Ohio State at Maryland, Saturday, 2:00 EST, ESPN
Purdue at Nebraska, Saturday, 4:00 EST, BTN
Michigan State at Michigan, Sunday, 3:45 EST, CBS
In parentheses is their current standing in the Bracket Matrix.
1. Michigan (BM: 2 seed)
Highs and lows for the Wolverines this week. They had a good chance to sit alone atop the conference standings after Purdue lost at Maryland, but Michigan played their worst game of the season at Penn State on Tuesday night. Offensively, they were actually pretty good, but they couldn’t slow Myles Dread down on the other end and they were abused on the glass by the Nittany Lions. Of course to make matters worse, they were without John Beilein the entire second half.
They responded with a dominant first half performance on defense against Maryland. They let Aaron Wiggins loose a few times in the second half for some open shots, but otherwise they kept the Terp shooters under wraps. Michigan continues to overcome their own shooting woes by giving opponents even greater shooting woes.
This week: at Minnesota, home for Michigan State
2. Michigan State (BM: 2 seed)
The Spartans scored the biggest win of the conference title race in the last few weeks on Tuesday. Adding in losses for Michigan and Purdue on the same night, it only magnified the importance of MSU’s victory at Wisconsin.
It looked for a minute like MSU was going to give the big win right back with an extended slow start at home against Ohio State. Things were looking a little bleaker after Nick Ward hurt his hand – looks like that may be serious – but they completely locked up the Buckeyes in the second half and won comfortably.
This week: home for Rutgers, at Michigan
3. Purdue (BM: 3 seed)
It looked like Purdue might put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for a championship after they took an eight-point halftime lead at Maryland. That did not hold. The Boilers had their worst shooting half of the season in the second half and it appeared as if the shooting frustrations carried over to the other end of the floor. All of a sudden they started giving up easy buckets to the Maryland bigs on seemingly every possession.
The Boilers were extremely careless with the ball at home against Penn State, but they overcame a slow start and built a big second half lead with some strong bench contributions and Carsen Edwards actually making some good decisions with his shot selection.
This week: at Indiana and Nebraska
4. Wisconsin (BM: 5 seed)
The only game this week for the Badgers was the home loss to Michigan State. Wisconsin had their chances to win, but they didn’t get a good shooting night from anybody besides Nate Reuvers. Ethan Happ was able to score 20, but the Spartans forced him to take 20 shots doing it and Happ had six turnovers, which usually means it’s going to be a long night for the Badgers. They’re just 3-8 in Happ’s career when he has five or more.
We’re also now at six straight games that D’Mitrik Trice has been held to a single-digit scoring total. It only happened four times in the first twenty games. Trice hasn’t seen his shooting percentages drop off a cliff, but his usage rate certainly has gone down. I know Badger fans have their issues with some of Trice’s decision making at times, but the offense has undoubtedly been worse the less it involves Trice.
This week: home for Illinois, at Northwestern
5. Maryland (BM: 6 seed)
The Terps scored a big win over Purdue on the back of an A+ defensive effort in the second half. Purdue simply couldn’t guard Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith on the other end and the freshmen wings knocked down quite a few big shots to get Maryland the lead initially.
Only Aaron Wiggins could repeat his shooting performance on the road at Michigan, however. Everyone else went 3-16 from three in Ann Arbor. The Terps were able to do good work on the offensive glass, but it didn’t matter much with 16 turnovers.
This week: at Iowa, home for Ohio State
6. Iowa (BM: 6 seed)
The Hawkeyes keep flirting with some not so good losses, but they keep dodging them with some very timely shotmaking. I imagine the ends of these games are incredibly fun for Iowa fans, but I’m guessing the constant stress of these games isn’t going to go away with the polarization of Iowa’s offense and defense.
Speaking of polarizing, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone run as hot and cold as Isaiah Moss. He may give you 25 or he might give you 2. You never know and they’re about the same likelihood.
This week: home for Maryland and Indiana
7. Illinois (BM: N/A)
I’m not sure anybody wants to see the Illini right now. They were never going to be fun with the way they attack and try to force turnovers on defense, but now they’re starting to score the ball pretty well, too. They’re not a tournament team unless they win the BTT, but they’re playing a lot better at the moment than some of the Big Ten teams that are still in the NCAA conversation.
This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn State
8. Ohio State (BM: 9 seed)
I’m not sure what has happened to the Buckeye offense, but it’s been a downhill slide ever since they scored 77 against Michigan State at home back on Jan. 5. That slide was punctuated by the 44 point effort they had against the Spartans on Sunday, with OSU only mustering 13 in the second half. Playing at home is worth something, but it’s not worth 33 points on offense.
They made mention during Sunday’s broadcast that Chris Holtmann had to recruit Keyshawn Woods three times before he finally got him to commit to Holtmann’s program. Holtmann finally got him to say yes to OSU and this has without a doubt been the worst season of Woods’ career. Tough break.
This week: home for Northwestern, at Maryland
9. Minnesota (BM: 10 seed)
The Gophers got their turn with IU and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Minnesota was on a four-game losing streak, fresh off the controversial heartbreaker at Nebraska.
The Gophers are still flirting with the bubble a bit. Going 2-0 this week would relieve a lot of stresses. They’ve proven it’s not likely they repeat their 12-22 three-point shooting effort against the Hoosiers, but Minnesota needs to keep finding different ways to win.
This week: home for Michigan, at Rutgers
10. Rutgers (BM: N/A)
Rutgers was this close to being 6-8 in league play until Joe Wieskamp defied physics with a prayer of a three from the corner. Earlier in the week they won their second Big Ten road game of the year, which has been no small feat for the Scarlet Knights.
This week: at Michigan State, home for Minnesota
11. Penn State (BM: N/A)
If you watch the Big Ten long enough, you know the Nittany Lions are going to be a real, real problem for at least one of the title contenders when they come to the BJC. They nearly took down Purdue and then led to start to finish this week against Michigan.
The Nittany Lions are actually pretty good when they’ve got Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread going at the same time.
This week: home for Nebraska, at Illinois
12. Nebraska (BM: Second Four Out)
This week’s games couldn’t have come at a better time for the Huskers. They desperately needed some winnable games and they took advantage. Neither win is going to be at the top of their NCAA Tournament resume, but more than anything, the Huskers just needed a win of any kind to get some confidence back. They’re still alive.
This week: at Penn State, home for Purdue
13. Northwestern (BM: N/A)
Things are bad. Only thing keeping them out of the cellar is the fact they beat IU fairly easily a few weeks ago.
This week: at Ohio State, home for Wisconsin
14. Indiana (BM: First Four Out)
Despite some of their wins, including the random Michigan State win recently, nobody has been as consistently poor since the start of the new year. I’m sure they’ll beat Purdue Tuesday.
This week: home for Purdue, at Iowa