Around the Big Ten: May The Odds Be in Every Team’s Favor
The Big Ten Conference showed its depth this week as teams began to beat up on one another. After two weeks of Big Ten play, Indiana and Wisconsin are the last remaining undefeated teams in conference play.
Michigan fell to Ohio State by three points last week, and Minnesota fell to Indiana. It is clear that as the season progresses, the Big Ten will continue to beat up on each other, but in doing so, play will prepare the premier teams for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
It takes a certain mental toughness to compete in a conference like the Big Ten. Games will be lost, but it is how teams respond to losses that make a great team. Not only did then #8 Ohio State beat #2 Michigan at home, but also #12 Illinois was upset at Wisconsin, and #5 Indiana beat a tough-nosed #8 Minnesota team.
Deshaun Thomas was simply sensational as his 20-point performance helped Ohio State knock off the final overall undefeated team in Michigan. Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dominated down low as he finished with 15 points and 12 boards to help Wisconsin upset Illinois. Andre Hollins’ 25 points for Minnesota were not enough to beat Indiana, as all five Indiana starters scored in double figures (Watford, Zeller, Hulls, Oladipo, and Ferrell).
There are still many questions to be answered in the Big Ten. With all these great teams defeating one another, who will be the king of the hill when it is all said and done? Can Cody Zeller lead Indiana where they are predicted to go? Can Michigan bounce back strong from their loss to Ohio State? Will Penn State win a conference game? Is Matt Painter capable of turning his Purdue team into a possible tournament team?
Big Ten Conference play will continue to answer these pertinent questions. It takes so much grit and toughness. May the odds be in every team’s favor.
Wisconsin at #5 Indiana (Jan. 15 at 9:00)
Playing in the friendly confines of the Kohl Center in Madison has benefited Bo Ryan and his Badgers during his tenure there. However, early on this season the Badgers lost at home to then #14 Creighton and Virginia. Wisconsin then welcomed #12 Illinois into their home for a heated Big Ten contest this past weekend, and surprisingly, Wisconsin upset the Illini 74-51 to move to 3-0 in Big Ten play. Senior forward/center Jared Berggren led the Badgers, scoring 15 points and coming down with 12 rebounds. Berggren’s skill set that he has displayed all season creates an intriguing story line as he goes up against a very talented Indiana team led by likely All-American Cody Zeller. Berggren will be able to handle Zeller to a certain extent, but Indiana is just too well balanced. Senior forward Christian Watford is key for Indiana to make a run when March comes around. The leadership he displays on the court and his knack for scoring and rebounding makes him a dynamite part of Tom Crean’s team. Moreover, Indiana is coming off a big win at home against a very talented #8 Minnesota team. With the Badgers playing away from the Kohl Center, and with Indiana at home playing with one of the deepest benches in the country, it will be a challenge for the Badgers.
#22 Michigan State at Penn State (Jan. 16 at 7:00)
Check out ComRadio’s preview of this matchup.
Purdue at Nebraska (Jan. 16 at 9:00)
While the Boilermakers are coming off a big win over Penn State this past Sunday, the Cornhuskers struggled in a loss to Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. Nebraska is currently winless in Big Ten play whereas Purdue has two quality Big Ten wins, the other against a ranked Illinois squad. Nebraska has a strong and experienced backcourt in Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos, but their interior play is very inconsistent. Down low on the block for the Huskers is 6-11, 310-pound center Andre Almeida who hails from Brazil. He is a daunting presence inside, but against Michigan State, he recorded zero points and only three rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Purdue has a strong but young frontcourt led by AJ Hammons. Against Penn State Hammons recorded 12 points, ten rebounds, and five blocks. Only a freshman, Hammons will certainly cause problems for Nebraska. Another player to watch is junior guard Terrone Johnson. He was quiet against Penn State, but is a great scorer, facilitator, and leader for Matt Painter’s Purdue squad. This will be a tough road test for Purdue.
#2 Michigan at #8 Minnesota (Jan. 17 at 7:00)
This is clearly the game of the week. Both teams are coming off tough losses – Michigan to Ohio State and Minnesota to Indiana. Not surprisingly, both losses came on the road. Michigan’s advantage is its strong backcourt led by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Burke is shooting over 50% from the field, averaging 18.2 points per game and 7.3 assists per game. Hardaway’s numbers are a little lower, but equally as good. Both guards are quick and are able to penetrate and dish. Players get caught looking quite often, leaving big men like Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III wide open underneath the basket. What keeps Minnesota in this game is its frontcourt led by Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. The two big men have the Golden Gophers ranked 21st in the nation in rebounds per game. Do not sleep on sophomore guard Andre Hollins, who led all scorers against Indiana with 25 points. On paper Minnesota may have the advantage at home in Williams Arena, but the way in which Michigan clawed back at Ohio State from down 21 points to only losing by three shows the fight in John Beilein’s Wolverines.
Northwestern at #12 Illinois (Jan. 17 at 8:15)
To say that Northwestern’s week went from hot to cold would be an understatement. After crushing Penn State on the road earlier in the week, Northwestern returned home and got smoked by Iowa. Northwestern has lost six of its last eight home games. Lucky for Bill Carmody’s Wildcats, they travel to Champaign, Illinois to play the Illini. Simply put, the Illini did not look like they were the #12 team in the country as Wisconsin embarrassed them on the road. After starting the season 12-0, Illinois has lost four of its past six games. Led by senior guard Brandon Paul, Illinois is known to live and die by the three-pointer, and recently the Illini have been shooting sub-15% from downtown. With no real presence inside, teams have taken advantage of Illinois in Big Ten play. Luckily for Illinois, Northwestern does not have a great frontcourt. Having said that, seven-foot center Alex Olah is the strongest inside presence the Wildcats have had in a while. Senior guard Reggie Hearn has been sensational for the Wildcats, averaging 14 points and five assists per game. Losing star senior Drew Crawford for the season due to injury really hurts Northwestern. A big win over Penn State earlier in the week shows up in the standings, but is simply not that impressive of a victory.
Nebraska at Penn State (Jan. 19 at 1:00)
Stay tuned for ComRadio’s preview of this matchup (Coming Soon).
West Virginia at Purdue (Jan. 19 at 2:00)
West Virginia, now a part of the Big 12, is not having a good season for Bob Huggins’ standards. If you take junior 6-10 center Aaric Murray out of the picture, this Mountaineers team is very young and inexperienced. Luckily, he is healthy and is averaging ten points and seven rebounds a game. Sophomore guard Juwan Staten is a young, talented, yet raw player. He is a player to watch for the next couple of years. Two games in three nights will be a challenge for Matt Painter’s Boilermakers. However, the play of AJ Hammons has been sensational. The matchup of the game has to be Hammons vs. Murray. The two big men are going to be fighting hard for position on the block all afternoon. The x-factor in this game is junior guard Terrone Johnson. If he plays well like he has for the majority of the season, Purdue has a great chance to win. West Virginia is a young team and will return to being a strong program soon. The Mountaineers will have a challenge against the Boilermakers, especially playing in Purdue’s Mackey Arena.
#15 Ohio State at #22 Michigan State (Jan. 19 at 6:00)
Thad Matta’s Ohio State team, which is coming off of a thrilling win over #2 Michigan at home last weekend, now must travel to East Lansing, Mich. to take on Tom Izzo’s Spartans. This game epitomizes the greatness of Big Ten basketball. Ohio State is a very well balanced offensive team, losing only to Duke, Kansas, and Illinois. The loss to Illinois was not pretty, but like any strong team, the Buckeyes came back to beat Purdue and then knock off #2 Michigan. Led by junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who is averaging 20 points and seven assists per game, the Buckeyes are able to score from basically anywhere on the court. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. has almost out of nowhere gone from a sixth-man to a scoring threat for the Buckeyes. If Aaron Craft can get out of his shooting slump, Ohio State can make a run late into March. On the other hand, the Spartans have themselves quite the balanced attack with their trio of guards, Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are both picking up the slack on the boards. Michigan State matches up very well with Ohio State, and playing at home benefits the Spartans in this contest.
Wisconsin at Iowa (Jan. 19 at 8:00)
Iowa arguably had the toughest three games to begin Big Ten. They finally got off the schneid, beating Northwestern on the road by 20 points. Iowa, a team that has lost to Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State, but defeated Northwestern in Big Ten play, cannot be taken lightly. Junior guard/forward Roy Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeyes in scoring with 15.5 points per game, but the real star is sophomore forward Aaron White, who is averaging 13 points and six rebounds per game. Even though Iowa is ranked 28th in the nation in rebounding, Iowa has to go up against the mammoth Jared Berggren. Additionally, senior forward Ryan Evans is a mismatch for Iowa. Standing at 6’6’, Evans is averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game. The fact that Iowa is ranked 16th in the nation in assists per game may come as a surprise, but distribution does not always correlate to winning games.
#5 Indiana at Northwestern (Jan. 20 at 1:00)
Although seven-foot center Alex Olah is the most versatile big man Northwestern has had since Evan Eschmeyer, the Wildcats are still outmatched down low in Big Ten play. Senior guard Reggie Hearn has been great for the Wildcats, averaging 14 points and five assists per game, but losing star senior Drew Crawford for the season due to injury really hurts this team, similar to how Penn State losing Tim Frazier has basically destroyed the Nittany Lions’ hopes this season. Indiana should have no problem handling the Wildcats on the road. Indiana senior guard Jordan Hulls has been exciting to watch this year. He is never afraid to pull the trigger when he is open, distributes the ball well, and is an excellent ball handler.
Tyler Feldman is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, e-mail email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Marketing
Currently, Feldman is an executive producer, reporter and anchor for the Centre County Report, as well as ComRadio’s senior sports director. He also is the host of the Penn State Coaches Show featuring Guy Gadowsky, which airs live from Lettermans on ESPN Radio 1450 and GoPSUSports.com every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Additionally, he was the first to report the hiring of Joe Moorhead as Penn State football’s new offensive coordinator on December 12, 2015.
He’s a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism within the College of Communications and enrolled in the Smeal College of Business.
Feldman, a Pittsburgh native, has broadcasted sporting events from a number of international and professional venues, including Estadio Latinoamericano in Cuba, Madison Square Garden, CONSOL Energy Center, Wells Fargo Center, MetLife Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, and EverBank Field.
Last spring, he traveled with the Penn State men’s volleyball team as their play-by-play man, announcing his very first NCAA tournament matches at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.
He has gained valuable broadcasting and reporting experience interning and working at WTAJ-TV, MLB Network, GoPSUSports.com, 105.9 The X, 970 AM ESPN, Big Ten Network Student U, and State College’s ESPN Radio 1450.
Feldman has a strong passion for sports and dreams to become a sports anchor/reporter in a national market and/or a hockey play-by-play announcer.