Men’s Basketball Around the Big Ten: Week Three

Story posted November 23, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Tom Shively

Early-season tournaments are always an exciting part of the college basketball season, and 2016 has left no shortage of thrills in its few short days. From top 10 clashes to titanic upsets, we have seen quite the start to this year. Here is a look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten and how they are faring so far.

Illinois (4-1): Malcolm Hill has looked like an all-conference performer in his first five games, averaging 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds for a team that struggled to create offense last year. We’ll find out a lot about the Fighting Illini in their next three games against No. 19 West Virginia, North Carolina State and VCU, all perennial NCAA Tournament teams.

No. 3 Indiana (3-1): It’s hard to believe the same team that beat Kansas last week lost to Fort Wayne on Tuesday, but that is the scenario the Hoosiers have created for themselves. They hope to sharpen up against Mississippi Valley State as a showdown with No. 4 North Carolina looms next week.

Iowa (3-1): Peter Jok has taken over as the leader of this team, and he’s done a nice job fostering all the young talent on this team. Much like Illinois, we’ll learn what the Hawkeyes are made of this week as they take on No. 7 Virginia and Notre Dame.

Maryland (5-0): Four Terrapins currently are scoring in double figures, which has been a huge part of Maryland’s success so far. Lackluster performances against Georgetown and Towson have kept them out of the top 25, but they’re doing what they have to do to keep that loss column clean. This week’s slate features games against Richmond and Pitt.

No. 25 Michigan (4-0): Fresh off a 2K Classic title featuring wins over Marquette and SMU, the Wolverines find themselves in the rankings for the first time this season. A tricky visit to South Carolina awaits them as they try to keep the momentum rolling.

No. 24 Michigan State (2-2): It hasn’t been the start Tom Izzo is accustomed to in East Lansing, but two top 10 losses seem to be firmly in the rearview mirror as the Spartans look towards the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. They’ll compete in a loaded field featuring No. 10 Louisville, No. 20 Baylor and Wichita State, among others. The Spartans draw St. John’s in the first round of that tournament.

Minnesota (5-0): The Gophers are yet to play away from Minneapolis, but they do have an impressive win over Arkansas already on the résumé. Freshman Amir Coffey has been a huge boost and will certainly be needed as the Gophers travel to No. 25 Florida State on Monday following a game against Southern Illinois.

Nebraska (3-0): Tai Webster has been lighting things up from beyond the arc, knocking down half of his three-pointers thus far. The Cornhuskers have won all three of their games by double digits and await a visit from Dayton on Thanksgiving night.

Northwestern (3-2): A close loss to Notre Dame in the Legends Classic championship game won’t overshadow a key win over No. 22 Texas for a program trying to build a team that can contend year in and year out. Winnable games against Bryant and Wake Forest this week should get the Wildcats to 5-2.

Ohio State (4-0): The Buckeyes finally put together a complete performance against Western Carolina, having won their first three games by 10 points or less. Jae’Sean Tate continues to be the main cog in this offense, shooting 55 percent from the field and pacing the team in points and rebounds. Visits from Jackson State and Marshall highlight the Ohio State schedule until attention turns to football on Saturday.

Penn State (2-3): Losses to then-No. 1 Duke and Cincinnati over the weekend may not have been pretty, but those are the kind of games this young team needs to experience if they want to grow into a team that can consistently win in the Big Ten. Josh Reaves can supply a much-needing boost with his return likely for the next game. Colgate and George Washington await the Nittany Lions in the coming days.

No. 17 Purdue (3-1): Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan may be the best frontcourt duo in the Big Ten, as Haas is scoring 20.6 points per game and Swanigan averages a double-double. If they keep this up, the Boilermakers may be the conference favorites. Auburn and NJIT have the unfortunate task of trying to stop the Purdue roll this week.

Rutgers (4-0): Perhaps the most surprising team in the Big Ten is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are off to a promising start including a road win at DePaul, but the jury may still be out on how good this team really is as relative cupcakes in North Texas and Hartford are on the schedule this week. At least they have more wins than the football team.

No. 16 Wisconsin (4-1): The Maui Invitational is widely considered one of the premier early-season tournaments. The Badgers have proved they belong on the national stage, taking down Tennessee and Georgetown in the first two rounds. A statement win over No. 4 North Carolina in the championship game all but erases that disappointing loss to Creighton last week.

 

Tom Shively is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email shivelyt97@gmail.com