Despite closing in on exam season for many of the teams in the premier academic conference in all of college basketball that also has a conference tournament, there were a few marquee matchups on the docket for the Big Ten last week.
/checks RSS feed for “Ivy League men’s basketball tournament” for the first time in a year. Oh.
Nevermind the Ivy League’s newfangled four-team tournament—let’s get back to talking about how the Big Ten did in some big, made-for-tv games like Ohio State-UCLA, Indiana-Butler, Purdue-Notre Dame and Michigan State-Northeastern. Let’s get down to business! As always, the rankings in this post are from the most recent KenPom update.
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 15th; AdjO: 11th; AdjD 33rd
Previous week’s results: (L) vs. (neutral) No. 17 Butler 83-78; (W) vs. Delaware St. 103-56
Biggest strength: They didn’t quit when they were down by 16 points in the second half against Butler. They curb-stomped Delaware St. at home like they were supposed to. James Blackmon Jr. was 8-of-14 from beyond the arc last week and only had four turnovers. Got to see Butler Blue III in his first game back from ACL surgery.
Biggest weakness: They, uh, lost to Butler despite the valiant comeback attempt which means they are 0-2 this year against teams from their own state. For a team that prides itself on shooting and making a lot of threes, 28.6% from distance against Butler isn’t going to cut it, and Tom Crean LOVES cutting things. They still don’t force many turnovers.
This week’s schedule: Thursday vs. Austin Peay
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 64th; AdjO: 80th; AdjD: 61st
Previous week’s results: N/A
Biggest strength: This, I guess?
Biggest weakness: Follow the link above.
This week’s schedule: (W) vs. Charlotte 88-72
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 27th; AdjO: 20th; AdjD: 54th
Previous week’s result: (W) vs. Central Arkansas 97-53; (W) vs. Maryland Eastern Shore 98-49
Biggest strength: Upped their scoring average. Derrick Walton averaged 15 points per game. Gave Fred Wright-Jones some playing time. That dude’s name is more of a command, don’t you think?
Biggest weakness: KenPom ranks all 351 D-1 basketball schools. Neither team Michigan played last week was ranked higher than 329th. Continue to play Moritz Wagner despite his relative appearance to Karl from Die Hard. Is Wagner the son of one of the villains from Die Hard? I don’t know, I haven’t seen the DNA testing. But right now I feel confident in saying yes, yes he is.
This week’s schedule: Thursday vs. Furman
Michigan State Spartans
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 55th; AdjO: 66th; AdjD: 55th
Previous week’s results: (L) vs. Northeastern 81-73
Biggest strength: Freshman Cassius Winston had 21 points and 10 assists against CAA powerhouse Northeastern. Northeastern has only lost to Boston University, Harvard, Cornell, Stony Brook and LIU-Brooklyn this year, so you know they’re good.
Biggest weakness: All of MSU’s losses before this week were expected tbqh, but losing to Northeastern, at Breslin no less? That will put a dent in MSU’s tourney hopes if they end up on the bubble this year. They are also struggling to protect the rim in the absence of stud freshman Miles Bridges, something The Only Colors discusses here. I wouldn’t worry too much about MSU this season, but in a much more real sense I would really, really worry about MSU this season.
This week’s schedule: Wednesday vs. Oakland (who is better than Northeastern btw)
Ohio State Buckeyes
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 38th; AdjO: 69th (nice); AdjD: 24th
Previous week’s results: (L) vs. (neutral) UCLA 86-73
Biggest strength: My main man Jae’Sean Tate had 15 points and Marc Loving filled up the stat sheet with 19 points, six boards and three assists. Beyond that, an Ohio state university kinda got steam-rolled by undefeated UCLA and Lonzo Ball (who had eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists). Hold on one second. /sends a series of tweets to @Sixers about Lonzo Ball
Biggest weakness: The Buckeyes got worked on the glass and also couldn’t hit a three-pointer if Brutus’s life depended on it. They also missed a whole mess of layups, which is equal parts hilarious and maddening. Only maddening because I like to watch good basketball. If I didn’t I would just go down the street to the park where my neighbor’s kid Tyler misses layups like he gets a new PS4 game for each one.
This week’s schedule: (W) vs. Youngstown St. 77-40; Thursday vs. UNC-Asheville
Penn State Nittany Lions
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 108th; AdjO: 181st; AdjD: 72nd
Previous week’s results: (W) at St. John’s 92-76
Biggest strength: Ended a two-game losing streak with an... “impressive” isn’t the right word... “adequate” win over the Red Storm and Chris Mullins’s haircut. Five players scored in double figures with Shep Garner leading the way with 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting from distance. The Nittany Lions used a 35-8 run to end the first half to effectively put the game away.
Biggest weakness: Fouled too much. Garner fouled out, which didn’t end up mattering but it could portend future problems. Their offense is still quite terrible. They should probably let TRIGGER WARNING Trace McSorley play point guard.
This week’s schedule: Wednesday vs. Morgan State
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
KenPom rank: AdjEm: 117th; AdjO: 153rd; AdjD: 94th
Previous week’s results: (W) vs. Farleigh Dickinson 82-69; (W) vs. (neutral) Fordham 68-53
Biggest strength: The Scarlet Knights are 11-1 and currently rank as the best offensive rebounding team in the dang nation. They are also now a ‘crootin powerhouse.
They also are avoiding scandals, unlike some of their athletic counterparts.
Biggest weakness: None. Until proven otherwise, this section will read as such.
This week’s schedule: Friday at Seton Hall
Illinois Fighting Illini
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 66th; AdjO: 76th; AdjD: 71st
Previous week’s result: (W) vs. BYU 75-73
Biggest strength: They covered the spread (-1) and beat a team that was better than them. Banner week for the Illini. Maverick Morgan had 14 points and 10 rebounds to pace Illinois. He also has a great name for a cowboy. He and Bart Houston could be the next Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Actually I would pay to watch them rob a bank and then move to Bolivia together. MAKE THIS HAPPEN, JIM DELANY!
Biggest weakness: Their exceeding averageness. Malcolm Hill and Tracy Abrams (who has been around since 2012) deserve better than this team that probably won’t make the tournament again.
This week’s schedule: Wednesday vs. (neutral) Missouri
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 68th; AdjO: 47th; AdjD: 112th
Previous week’s results: (W) vs. (neutral) Northern Iowa 69-46
Biggest strength: After beating UNI and Iowa State in back-to-back games, they are now the undisputed kings of Iowa. Congratulations, Hawkeyes, your prize is us paying attention to you in four years when it’s election season again. Peter Jok had 21 points and eight rebounds.
Biggest weakness: Not much right now. The Hawkeyes have reeled off three straight wins and should make it five straight before opening Big Ten play. They already have five losses, but that isn’t a deal-breaker for getting into the Big Dance.
This week’s schedule: (W) vs. North Dakota 84-73; Thursday vs. Delaware State
(Ed. note: The below also happened Tuesday night, after Drew filed this... column)
North Dakota, down 11, tried to beat the buzzer.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 21, 2016
Fran McCaffery wasn't a fan, so he had Iowa walk off the court. https://t.co/PLkItzgxq0
Minnesota Golden Gophers
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 48th; AdjO: 103rd; AdjD: 22nd
Previous week’s results: (W) vs. LIU-Brooklyn 76-66
Biggest strength: Dupree McBrayer, which is a preposterous name, had 21 points against LIU-Brooklyn and Nate Mason had 19 points and seven assists. Not really sure what to make of this Golden Gopher team. Are they flying under the radar because of all the controversy surrounding the football team’s ill-advised bowl game boycott?
Biggest weakness: They’ve played exactly one game on the road. I’ll let you guess whether or not it was their one loss this year.
This week’s schedule: Friday vs. Arkansas State
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 87th; AdjO: 199th (goodness gracious that’s bad); AdjD: 44th
Previous week’s results: (L) vs. Gardner Webb 70-62
Biggest strength: Can we be serious for a second here? Nebraska has no strengths in men’s college basketball this week. None.
Biggest weakness: You can’t lose at home to Garnder Webb in anything. If Mike would’ve allowed me to exclude a team from this week’s post I would have chosen Nebraska.
(Ed. note: Go for it next time, Drew.)
This week’s schedule: (W) vs. Southern 81-76
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 46th; AdjO: 64th; AdjD: 43rd
Previous week’s results: (W) vs. Chicago St. 68-64; (W) vs. Dayton 67-64
Biggest strength: Getting Archie Miller’s wife to tweet this after the game.
I still can't get over Archie Miller's wife roasting Northwestern last week. pic.twitter.com/CChqsuhNNW— Christmas Hamm (@drewhamm5) December 20, 2016
I know one person that went to Dayton and the only positive thing she could say after this game was that Morgan Miller is “so feisty.” Sanjay Lumpkin went for a cool 14 and 14.
Biggest weakness: Almost blew their monumental 24-point, second-half lead and Vic Law didn’t look great, but who cares? Let’s get NU to the tournament this year!
This week’s schedule: (W) vs. IUPUI 87-65; Thursday vs. Houston Baptist
KenPom rank: AdjEm: 12th; AdjO: 14th; AdjD: 21st
Previous week’s results: (W) vs. (neutral) Notre Dame 86-81; (W) vs. Western Illinois 82-50
Biggest strength: Caleb Swanigan absolutely dominated Notre Dame. 26 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks? Those are some All-American type numbers, friends. The Boilermakers are going to be tough to beat this year.
Biggest weakness: Not much. Their two losses have come by a combined 10 points to the best team in the country, Villanova, and the eighth-best team in the country, Louisville.
This week’s schedule: Wednesday vs. Norfolk St.
KenPom rank: AdjEM: 10th; AdjO: 10th; AdjD: 20th
Previous week’s results: (W) vs. UW-Green Bay 73-59
Biggest strength: With Keifer Sykes finally graduated, the Phoenix posed little threat to the Badgers this year. Nigel Hayes scored 24 points and Ethan Happ had 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Zak Showalter had six steals and made 4-of-6 three-pointers too. Khalil Iverson also did this:
Biggest weakness: Bronson Koenig looked off and Vitto Brown did his usual nonsense of hucking too many threes without making any. Otherwise, the Badgers looked pretty good.
This week’s schedule: Friday vs. Florida A&M (Two sidenotes here: the Rattlers are the second-worst team in the entire country and one time I saw a guy in Madison wearing a Florida A&M Starter jacket and I probably think about him weekly.)