Around the Big Ten (Week of Jan 23)
Around the Big Ten (Week of Jan. 24)
No. 4 Ohio State (17-3, 5-2)
The Buckeyes put themselves back into the top five of the AP Poll after two convincing wins against Indiana and Nebraska respectively. Against Nebraska, the scoring trio of William Buford, Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas led the team as they have for most of the season. The three stars combined for 43 of the team’s 79 points and gave the team their second Big Ten road win. This week they face up against two Big Ten rivals at home in a struggling Penn State team and 20th-ranked Michigan. Wednesday should be a dominating day for Sullinger and company, but Sunday presents a tougher task against the Wolverines. Michigan is an undersized team so it will be imperative for the Buckeyes to get the ball in the paint to their big man Sullinger if they want to stay at the top of the Big Ten standings.
No. 10 Michigan State (16-4, 5-2)
After two straight losses to Northwestern and in state rival Michigan, the Spartans put themselves back on the winning track this weekend with a 83-58 stomping against Purdue. A balanced scoring attack from Tom Izzo’s starters as well as double digit scoring efforts from bench players Austin Thorton and Derrick Nix allowed the Spartans to add another win to their Big Ten win total, putting them tied atop the conference standings. This week for the Spartans they will play a streaking Gopher team, who has won three straight games. The Spartans will need big performances from their two stars, Keith Appling and Draymond Green, in order to get a much needed Big Ten road victory. Also look for Derrick Nix to play a key role in Wednesday’s outcome with his size in the Spartan frontcourt.
No. 20 Michigan (16-5, 6-2)
Inconsistent play haunted the Wolverines once again as they lost 66-64 on the road to unranked Arkansas on Sunday. However, they were able to rebound on the road Tuesday night with an identical score of 66-64 in their win against Purdue. After a few poor shooting performances, sophomore guard Tim Hardaway provided 19 points against the Boilermakers to end his slump, which could be key to the Wolverines plan of an upset this Sunday at Ohio State. Although, Hardaway and his teammates will be undersized against the Bucks, perimeter shooting will determine the fate of the Maize and Blue on Sunday.
No. 16 Indiana (16-4, 4-4)
Tom Crean and company took a deep breath on Sunday as they were able to finally get back home to Bloomington and play a home Big Ten game against Penn State after dropping two straight road games to Ohio State and Nebraska. They also took a deep breath after outscoring the Nittany Lions 46-25 in the second half to claim a 73-54 win. Inside play of freshman sensation Cody Zeller was key to Indiana getting back on track as he provided 18 points for the Hoosiers. This week for Indiana they go back on the road to face 25th-ranked Wisconsin and they will look nowhere else besides Zeller to get them a much needed conference road win in primetime on Wednesday. Sunday Indiana will travel back to Bloomington to face off against Iowa for a much needed home contest against an unranked Big Ten foe. Zeller will play a big role in both games, but also look to Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls to shine at home as they have all season.
No. 25 Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3)
A 1-3 start to the Big Ten season wasn’t exactly what Coach Bo Ryan and his Badger team were looking for when conference play opened in December. However, December is in the rear view mirror for the folks in Madison after the Badgers have pulled out four straight conference wins, including Sunday at Illinois with a 67-63 win over the Illini. Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren combined for 37 points in Champaign and both have been key reasons for the team’s recent surge. Next on the schedule for Ryan’s team is a tough home contest on Thursday against a struggling Indiana team that is 1-3 in their last four. Scoring from Taylor and Berggren will determine if the Badgers can pick up their fifth straight win, but defensive rebounding will also be a deciding factor and the Badgers will look right to veteran Ryan Evans to lead the team in that category as he has all season.
Illinois (15-5, 4-3)
Brandon Paul led Illinois to a stunning win over Ohio State on January 10th, but could not continue their high level of play against Penn State and Wisconsin as they dropped back to back conference games. Foul trouble, specifically with seven-footer Meyers Leonard, hurt the Illini on the road against Penn State, and late game defense prevented them from holding off the Badgers at home on Sunday. Paul has struggled to play consistently after his 43-point outburst against Ohio State, which has allowed sophomore guard Joseph Bertrand to score in double digits in four of their last five games. Bertrand, Paul, Leonard and the Illini travel to Minnesota on Saturday night to try and get back on the winning track against the Gophers and the play of Leonard and Paul will determine if they can pick up their fifth conference win.
Purdue (14-7, 4-4)
In a down year for Purdue, they have relied heavily on sixth year senior Robbie Hummel to lead the team and he has done exactly that for most of the season. It was a different story in the team’s most recent outing against Michigan State where the veteran only had two points in an 83-58 loss. It didn’t get any easier this week as Purdue will welcomed 20th-ranked Michigan to Mackey Arena on Tuesday and dropped their fourth Big Ten contest on the season. The play of Hummel and fellow senior Lewis Jackson, who combined for 33 points against Michigan, will determine the outcome in Purdue’s date with Northwestern on Saturday. However, the emergence of a third score for Matt Painter’s team will be the determining factor for Matt Painter’s team if the want to right the ship on Saturday.
Minnesota (15-5, 3-4)
Signature wins are important for any team on the bubble of the NCAA tournament where Minnesota currently finds itself. There is no better opportunity than Wednesday night in East Lansing for the Gophers to get another signature win. The Gophers are coming off of three straight wins against Indiana, Penn State and Northwestern and a big reason for all three of those wins has been the emergence of junior guard Julian Welch. Welch, as well as the play of Rodney Williams, will be the reason for an upset win against the Spartans or a streak ending loss to Tom Izzo’s team.
Iowa (11-9, 3-4)
Iowa faced three straight top 15 opponents in a one week span and went 1-2 after an upset win over Michigan, but couldn’t continue their momentum as they dropped their fourth Big Ten contest at Purdue. Poor second half shooting caused the Hawkeyes to lose an 11 point lead and the Boilers pulled away once Iowa’s shooters went cold. The emergence of sophomore Zach McCabe and Roy Devyn Marble allowed the Hawkeyes to upset Michigan, and similar scoring performances could allow them to return to an even 4-4 record in Big Ten play as they face off against Nebraska on Thursday.
Northwestern (12-7, 2-5)
A different Northwestern team has shown up almost every night during conference play and after an upset win over Michigan State Bill Carmody hoped that a similar Wildcat team could finish the 2012 Big Ten campaign. However, to the disliking of Carmody, his team dropped their last two games against Wisconsin and Minnesota, both of which were on the road. John Shurna hasn’t disappointed this season with a season average over 19 points a game, and the Senior posted 21 against Minnesota. What has haunted the Wildcats has been the lack of impact from their number two player Drew Crawford. Crawford and company will have a good chance to rebound against a struggling Purdue team at home on Saturday. Look for Shurna’s size to allow him to get his, but also watch how Crawford performs on his home floor.
Nebraska (10-9, 2-6)
Nebraksa had two tough tasks in their last two contests against Indiana and Ohio State, but they were able to pull a one point upset against Indiana at home. They were, however, brought back down to earth by fourth-ranked Ohio State. Nebraska’s two top scorers, Bo Spencer and Toney McCray, only combined for 13 points against the Bucks and subsequently no other Huskers were able to fill in during their struggles. This week, the Huskers will stay away from ranked opponents, but it won’t get much easier in a road contest against Iowa. McCray and Spencer must step up for this Husker team if they want to get their first conference road win of the season.
Mike Esse is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.