Around the Big Ten: 2/3-2/9

Story posted February 3, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Bradford Conners

Though the Big Ten has been ruled by a handful of dominant teams in recent years, this past week showed that parity rules the conference in 2014.

On Wednesday night, two teams that were picked to finish near the cellar in the Big Ten---Penn State and Northwestern---went on the road and shocked No. 24 Ohio State and No. 14 Wisconsin, respectively. Then, over the weekend, No. 7 Michigan State fell to a struggling Georgetown team from the Big East, and Indiana handed No. 10 Michigan its first Big Ten loss.

Teams in the middle of the Big Ten standings look like they will be jostling for positioning all season long, as every team from 4th place, all the way down to 11th in the conference, is separated by a single game in the loss column. And although Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa appear to be the clear top dogs, the first month of the Big Ten season has shown us that anybody can beat anyone on any given night, which should make things very interesting going forward.

Ohio State (17-5, 4-5 Big Ten) at No. 17 Iowa (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten): Tuesday, 7:00 ET

The Buckeyes avoided disaster last week when they followed up their loss to Penn State by squeaking out a one-point win in Wisconsin. Nonetheless, they remain below the .500 mark in a crowded Big Ten, and they’ll need someone other than LaQuinton Ross to shoulder some of the scoring load in a tough test against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes went into Columbus earlier this season and came out with a double-digit victory, and they’ll be looking to get back to their winning ways at home after falling in overtime to Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last week. Iowa did respond by gutting out a road win against Illinois on Saturday behind 17 points from Roy Devyn Marble.

Wisconsin (17-5, 4-5 Big Ten) at Illinois (13-9, 2-7 Big Ten): Tuesday, 9:00 ET

You don’t often hear this coming out of Madison, but perhaps the Badgers could benefit from some time away from the Kohl Center, after dropping three straight on their home floor for the first time under Bo Ryan. Though the Badgers generally make their living from three-point land, they were just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc in the Ohio State loss on Saturday.

A trip to Illinois could be just what the doctor ordered, however, as the Illini have dropped seven straight and fallen into the Big Ten’s basement. It’s been a recent trend for Illinois to look strong in nonconference and then go on a major losing streak early on in conference play. The question is whether the Illini can right the ship like they did last year, or if their season will spiral out of control as it did in 2012. A win over Wisconsin would be a good step in the right direction.

Nebraska (11-9, 3-5 Big Ten) at No. 10 Michigan (16-5, 8-1 Big Ten): Wednesday, 6:30 ET

After starting the Big Ten season 0-4, Nebraska has turned things around by winning three of its last four. However, all of those wins came at home, and the Huskers will attempt to pick up their first conference road win of the year against the only team that beat them at home this season---a 71-70 Michigan win on January 9th.

Michigan will be looking to bounce back after suffering its first loss in conference play at Indiana on Sunday. The Wolverines were outworked on the boards, 31-22, in that one, but they’ll be going against a Nebraska team that is second-worst in the Big Ten in rebounding margin.

Minnesota (15-7, 4-5 Big Ten) at Purdue (13-9, 3-6 Big Ten): Wednesday, 8:30 ET

In its lone game last week, the Golden Gophers dropped a 55-54 heartbreaker to a surging Northwestern team on Saturday. Andre Hollins, who contributed 17 points and 5 assists in Minnesota’s win over Purdue in early January, will likely remain sidelined with an ankle injury.

Purdue, meanwhile, will be glad to return to the friendly confines of Mackey Arena after falling on the road to Michigan and Penn State last week. The Boilermakers will hope that big man A.J. Hammons can build off of his 18-point, 12-rebound performance against the Nittany Lions to help his team end its four-game skid.

Penn State (12-10, 3-6 Big Ten) at No. 9 Michigan State (19-3, 8-1 Big Ten): Thursday, 9:00 ET

After picking up just their second Big Ten road win of the Pat Chambers era by knocking off Ohio State last Wednesday, the resurgent Nittany Lions avoided a letdown at home by taking care of Purdue on Sunday. Penn State will look to keep its three-game win streak alive with a difficult road test in East Lansing. When these teams met in State College in the Big Ten opener, the Nittany Lions raced out to a 47-40 halftime lead but managed just 16 points in the second half and lost 79-63.

Michigan State grinded out a gigantic road win against Iowa last week, but the Spartans fell flat in Madison Square Garden on Saturday and were defeated by Georgetown. Due to injuries to Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, Tom Izzo’s squad has been without two of its top four scorers, but Payne is expected to return against Penn State.

Nebraska (11-9, 3-5 Big Ten) at Northwestern (12-11, 5-5 Big Ten): Saturday, 1:00 ET

After losing its first three conference games by an average of 25.3 PPG, Northwestern looked destined for last place in the Big Ten. However, first-year coach Chris Collins and company have

undergone a remarkable turnaround, as very impressive road wins against Wisconsin and Minnesota last week have put the Wildcats sitting by themselves in fourth place in the Big Ten standings.

Northwestern will need to slow down Nebraska’s Terran Petteway, who is second in the conference with 18.2 PPG, if it wants to climb above .500 in Big Ten play.

No. 10 Michigan (16-5, 8-1 Big Ten) at No. 17 Iowa (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten): Saturday, 2:00 ET

For their third straight home game, the Hawkeyes will be in the national spotlight when they play host to Michigan on Saturday. A win in this game is essential for Iowa if it wants to compete for the Big Ten regular season title.

Purdue (13-9, 3-6 Big Ten) at Ohio State (17-5, 4-5 Big Ten): Saturday, 6:00 ET

Ohio State pulled away in the second half to beat Purdue, 78-69, when these teams met on New Year’s Eve. LaQuinton Ross scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes, and A.J. Hammons turned in a monster performance of 18 points, 16 rebounds, and five blocks for the Boilers. Purdue is just 1-4 on the road in conference games this season.

Indiana (14-8, 4-5 Big Ten) at Minnesota (15-7, 4-5 Big Ten): Saturday, 8:15 ET

After earning a potential season-saving win against Michigan on Sunday, the Hoosiers will return to work, with a trip to The Barn on Saturday. Indiana is hoping that the time off won’t cool down Yogi Ferrell, who poured in 27 points on 7-for-8 shooting from behind the three-point stripe in the victory over the Wolverines.

If Minnesota is unable to beat Purdue earlier in the week, this game against Indiana may become a must-win for the sake of its tournament hopes.

No. 9 Michigan State (19-3, 8-1 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (17-5, 4-5 Big Ten): Sunday, 1:00 ET

The Badgers will have their work cut out for them if they want to avoid their fourth straight loss at home. Michigan State is 6-0 in true road games this season, including wins over Iowa, Texas, and Indiana.

Illinois (13-9, 2-7 Big Ten) at Penn State (12-10, 3-6 Big Ten): Sunday, 4:15 ET

When these two teams met in Champaign, on January 4th, Illinois cruised to a 75-55 win while holding Penn State to below-30-percent shooting, but these squads have been trending in opposite directions over the past two weeks. D.J. Newbill and Kendrick Nunn had a second-half altercation in the teams’ first meeting that led to Newbill’s ejection.

Bradford Conners is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email btc5082@psu.edu.