Around the Big Ten: 1/27-2/2

Story posted January 30, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Andy Madore

Big Ten conference play is fast approaching the midway point on the season with five Big Ten schools ranked in the Top 25 in Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State. Recent upsets like Michigan over Michigan State, Minnesota over Wisconsin and Penn State over Ohio State have proved that the top spot in the Big Ten Conference is very much up for grabs and there should be a plethora of teams vying for that spot down the stretch.

Indiana (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten) at Nebraska (10-9, 2-5 Big Ten) – Jan 30, 8:15 p.m.

The Hoosiers are coming off a dominant defensive performance against Illinois, holding the Fighting Illini to only 46 points and .333 field goal percentage. Sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell (17.5 PPG) has been the leader of Tom Crean’s squad all year. He should be able to penetrate a Nebraska defense that has struggled against quick guards like Penn State’s Tim Frazier and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft in the past.

The Huskers are riding a two game home winning streak that features upset victories over a nationally ranked Ohio State team and a 15-win Minnesota squad. Nebraska is averaging 73.3 points at home in conference play this season and scored 82 points in its last home contest against Minnesota. Sophomore guard Terren Pettaway, who scored 35 points against the Gophers, will try and stay hot against a young Hoosier team.

Purdue (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten) at No. 10 Michigan (15-4, 7-0 Big Ten) – Jan 30, 9:00 p.m.

The Boilermakers come into this matchup having lost two in a row, and are faced with the difficult task of knocking off a red-hot Michigan team. Purdue has yet to beat a ranked team this year, and it will be difficult to steal a win in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have won 47 of their last 48 home games. However, that one loss was to Purdue back in February of 2012.

Michigan has beaten three consecutive ranked opponents – Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State – and suddenly looks like the top team in the Big Ten. This is Michigan’s best start to conference play since the 1976-77 season. Nik Stauskas and the Wolverines will look to take advantage of the Boilermakers’ weak team defense that is surrendering almost 70 points a game.

No. 24 Ohio State (16-5, 3-5 Big Ten) at No. 14 Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4 Big Ten)–Feb 1, 12:00 p.m.

The magical undefeated season for the Buckeyes quickly turned south in conference play, having losing five of their last six games. Coming off a home overtime loss to Penn State, Ohio State finds itself slipping in the conference standings. Things do not get any easier against a Badgers team that is only allowing 63.5 points per game. Senior guard Aaron Craft needs to rally his team in order to secure a win in Madison.

Similarly to the Buckeyes, Wisconsin has lost four of its last five games and is coming off a home loss to a far-less talented Northwestern squad. The Badgers, who have been known for their rugged, dominating style of play, have had a hard time slowing down opposing offenses, allowing over 71 points per contest in their last five games. Wisconsin will look to stop the bleeding against an Ohio State team who is also stuck in a downward spiral.

Northwestern (11-11, 4-5 Big Ten) at Minnesota (15-6, 4-4 Big Ten) – Feb 1, 2:00 p.m.

The Wildcats enter this contest coming off a surprising 65-56 win over Wisconsin in Madison. Northwestern has won three of its last four games and have shown signs of being a team capable of knocking off some of the top Big Ten schools. They have consistently played tight defense over the last two weeks, allowing less than 60 points a game.

The Golden Gophers have been a pleasant surprise in the Big Ten this year, with upset victories over Ohio State and Wisconsin. Minnesota was on the brink of being ranked before dropping a game to the Huskers in Nebraska. Led by junior guard Andre Hollins, the Gophers offense will need to be at their best in order to have success against a formidable Northwestern defense.

No. 7 Michigan State (19-2, 8-1 Big Ten) vs Georgetown (11-9, 3-6 Big East) – Feb 1, 3:00 p.m.

In a late season non-conference game, the Spartans and Hoyas will go up against one another in Madison Square Garden. Michigan State has played in three tight contests over the last ten days – a five point win against Indiana, a five point loss to Michigan and a two point overtime win over Iowa. With injuries to Adreian Payne and Brandon Dawson, the Spartans have looked less and less like the dominant team everyone saw early in the season. However, guards Keith Apling and Gary Harris should be able to muster enough offense to beat a reeling Georgetown squad.

The Hoyas have lost six straight conference games in the “new” Big East. They have been unable to consistently put points on the board, averaging only 71 points a game. Without a dominating scorer, Georgetown may be unable to handle the athleticism of the Spartans.

No. 15 Iowa (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) at Illinois (13-8, 2-6 Big Ten) – Feb 1, 7:30 p.m.

The Hawkeyes enter this game coming off a heart-breaking overtime loss to Michigan State at home. However, Iowa is still third in the Big Ten and within striking distance of the top spot. Using a potent offense that is ranked eighth in the nation in scoring, the Hawkeyes have been able to have great success in a difficult Big Ten conference. Their offense will have to be at the top of its game in order to put up points against the Fighting Illini, who are surrendering only 63.3 points per game.

After a 2-0 conference start, Illinois has lost six straight conference games. Over that span, the Illini have only averaged 55.7 points per game and have lost by double digits three times. In order to upset Iowa, Illinois will need to get a lot of production from its top two scorers junior guards Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams.

Purdue (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten) at Penn State (11-10, 2-6 Big Ten) – Feb 2, 11:30 a.m.

Purdue should be able to put up points in this contest as the Nittany Lions are surrendering 72.5 points per game. The Boilermakers would be best served getting the ball inside to their big men Neal Beshears and A.J. Hammons, both of whom create an advantageous size mismatch against Penn State.

After a slow 0-6 start to conference play, the Lions have won two straight games against Nebraska and Ohio State. Their overtime victory at Ohio State was their first win over the Buckeyes in their last 18 attempts. Led by D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier, Penn State will need to continue to shoot effectively in the second half in order to defeat Purdue.

No. 10 Michigan (15-4, 7-0 Big Ten) at Indiana (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten) – Feb 2, 1:00 p.m.

Michigan will face a tough test going into Indiana on Sunday. The Hoosiers have already knocked off one undefeated conference team in Wisconsin and have proved that they are capable of playing with the best the Big Ten has to offer. If Indiana’s freshman forward Noah Vonleh is able to dominate the paint and the boards, the Hoosiers will be able to control the pace of the game.

John Beilein’s teams always like to push so it is likely that sophomore guard Nik Stauskas will be bringing the ball up quickly for the Wolverines while attempting to accumulate fast-break points.

Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email andymadore19@gmail.com.