Around the Big Ten: Week 2 (Basketball)
Host Jon Draeger and analysts Adam Sheetz and Austin Groft open up the college basketball season for the Big Ten with their thoughts on the good and the bad after one week of non-conference play.
The college basketball season kicked off on Nov. 25, and seven teams in the Big Ten conference were originally ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll.
As the new rankings were released on Monday, one team from the Big Ten dropped out: the Michigan Wolverines. Head coach Juwan Howard’s team has yet to lose a game in their non-conference slate, but the margins of victory have been too close for comfort.
The Wolverines had a 14-point victory over the Bowling Green Falcons, then got taken to overtime by an 0-2 Oakland Golden Grizzlies team. Tensions rose when star forward Isaiah Livers had a heated exchange with Howard during a timeout but later cooled after their overtime win.
Staying in the polls, the Iowa Hawkeyes look to fight for the No. 1 spot in the NCAA Tournament. Forward Luka Garza leads the team in three categories, most notably in points with 33.5 per game. His play makes him a Wooden Award candidate, especially after his 41-point performance against Southern University.
Not far behind the Hawkeyes are the Illinois Fighting Illini, led by junior Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore Kofi Cockburn. This guard-center combo, alongside a role player in freshman guard Adam Miller, have stood out as a team to watch for come March, as they won three straight games in three consecutive days before falling to No. 2 Baylor on Wednesday.
Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans look to move past the Cassius Winston era of basketball, as they faced the Duke Blue Devils in the Champions Classic after wins against Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame. The eighth-ranked Spartans upset the sixth-ranked Blue Devils Tuesday night, improving to 3-0 on the season.
The Wisconsin Badgers shot up to the No. 4 spot in the nation after impressive blowout victories against Green Bay and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Badgers have depth on their team, with three players averaging double digit points per game, along with bench players getting significant buckets in garbage time.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights look to keep their winning ways going after an impressive season last year, and they may continue their tear with guard Ron Harper Jr. leading the team with 21 points per game. Beating their last three opponents by at least 14 points, the Scarlet Knights look to gain their first tournament bid since 1991.
The Ohio State Buckeyes round out the Big TentTeams in the Top 25 poll, ranked 23rd in the nation. They struggled slightly to UMass Lowell after blowing out Illinois State to start the season, but the depth the Buckeyes have can prove to be a problem for Big Ten opponents.
The Purdue Boilermakers look to get back into the polls, and they may do so with 7-foot-4-inch freshman center Zach Edey, who leads the team in points with 18 per game. Matt Painter’s team plans to use the freshman class it brought in to complement the returning players.
The Maryland Terrapins continue their tear on opponents this season, winning their last three games by more than 10 points. On the other hand, Maryland’s games against Monmouth, George Mason and Towson have been canceled, so fans will have to wait to see the three-headed beast of Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell until they face James Madison on Saturday, Dec. 5.
The Indiana Hoosiers put up an impressive performance against Providence in the Maui Invitational, only to get dominated by Texas the following day, putting their record at 2-1 for the season until they defeated the Stanford Cardinal in the third-place game a day later.
As for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, they look to improve to 3-1 as they face the South Dakota Coyotes. Nebraska’s only loss came on a heartbreaking 3-pointer from Nevada.
The Penn State Nittany Lions took care of business after the first half struggles against VMI, then followed up with a 72-69 win over VCU off a Myles Dread buzzer-beater to win the game. The Nittany Lions, without head coach Pat Chambers, have a tough slate of games ahead with the Seton Hall Pirates and the 14th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies both on the schedule.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers moved to 3-0, as they won a game against Green Bay and had back-to-back victories over Loyola Marymount. Guard Marcus Carr withdrew from the NBA draft to help lead this Gophers team back to the tournament, and he is doing just that with 29.7 points per game.
The Northwestern Wildcats played their first game of the season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a 92-49 victory. Their game against Prairie View A&M was canceled due to COVID-19.
Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.