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2014 Big Ten basketball preview: Part two

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

2014-15 B1G BBall Preview-Part2

Over the past few years an incredible change has passed over the Midwest, which was long praised for elite football programs like Michigan and Ohio State and largely uncompetitive on the hardwood with Michigan State taking the cake nearly every season. Now, the sports landscape has been turned on its head, as Big Ten football struggles to keep three teams ranked in the Top 25 while the basketball conference continues to solidify itself as the best in the nation.

Last season was another great campaign for the conference as a whole. Wisconsin fought its way through a tough West regional to reach the Final Four, while Michigan and Michigan State were just seconds away from doing the same, eventually losing to the two National Championship competitors. Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska were also selected for the Big Dance, giving the Big Ten six teams that made the cut. Minnesota also had a successful postseason, winning the NIT championship.

The Big Ten has climbed to the top of the basketball world by featuring a deep slate of teams led by a few legitimate Final Four contenders. This season will be no different, even as the conference welcomes two new teams that have struggled in recent years.

Below is part two of our Big Ten preview. Although there are no divisions in basketball, we split up our preview into the Big Ten West and Big Ten East divisions for the sake of organization. Part one (the Big Ten West) was posted earlier this week.

Note: In the 2013 Stats & Rankings tables for each team, the darker the shade of maize, the better that team was in that category; the darker the shade of blue, the worse that team was in that category.

Indiana Hoosiers Indiana logo
Head Coach: Tom Crean (7th season)
2013-14: 17-15, T-8th in Big Ten (7-11), No postseason
Returning starters: 3 (Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Yogi Ferrell)
Recruiting class rank: #17 (James Blackmon, Jr., Robert Johnson, Emmitt Holt, Max Hoetzel, Tim Priller, Jeremiah April)
Key non-conference games: Dec 2 vs Pitt, Dec 9 vs Louisville, Dec 20 vs Butler, Dec 27 vs Georgetown

Indiana was surprisingly mediocre last season coming off two straight 27-plus win seasons under Tom Crean. As a sophomore, Yogi Ferrell took over the team and averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists per game to lead the offense. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, dominant freshman Noah Vonleh declared for the NBA draft and senior leader Will Sheehey graduated, leaving Ferrell without much help on the offensive side of the ball.

As Ferrell continues to lead Indiana as a junior, the team will have to solidify itself on defense without that dominating presence inside. The roster is small and turnover-prone, which is a formula for disaster in a difficult Big Ten conference. If strong defensive teams lock up on Ferrell and force the rest of this group to make plays, it could be another empty March for the Hoosiers.

Player to watch: Yogi Ferrell. This guy is really fun to watch, as he is quick and creative off the dribble but also accurate from the outside. As one of the most dangerous offensive players in the Big Ten, Ferrell can explode and give Indiana a chance to win on any given night.

Best-case scenario: Indiana sees even more growth from Ferrell and freshmen James Blackmon and Robert Johnson make a quick transition to the college game, landing Indiana a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: Last year’s mess leaks over into this season and Indiana hovers around .500 all season, giving the players plenty of time to study for exams in March.

Projected finish: 9th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 72.2 5 108
Scoring Defense 67.6 8 96
Field Goal Percentage .448 6 132
Field Goal Percentage Defense .412 4 59
3-pt FG Percentage .344 6 173
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .299 2 8
Free Throw Percentage .730 7 66
Rebounding Margin +7.6 1
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.5/15.1 = 0.8 12 321
Steals 5.9 7 179
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 82


Maryland Terrapins Maryland logo
Head Coach: Mark Turgeon (4th season)
2013-14: 17-15, 9th in ACC (9-9), No postseason
Returning starters: 1 (Evan Smotrycz)
Recruiting class rank: #14 (Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Michal Cekovsky)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia, Dec 21 at Oklahoma State

Maryland will make the move to the Big Ten and find itself in uncharted territory as a grueling conference schedule offers challenge after challenge during the winter months. Despite battling to stay relevant over the past few seasons, Maryland brought in a top 10 recruiting class to counter its first Big Ten slate, including Melo Trumble, who will join the team’s top returner Dez Wells in the backcourt.

Though the Big Ten is much deeper than the ACC, Maryland is no stranger to tough games and atmospheres. The Terrapins lost to eventual champion UCONN by just one point last season and even knocked off the conference champion Virginia Cavaliers.

Player to watch: Evan Smotrycz. Michigan fans will remember the curly-haired senior well from his two seasons in Ann Arbor. The 6 foot 9 forward averaged 11 points and six rebounds per game in 2013-14, both better than his totals in the Big Ten. He will miss at least the first month of the season after breaking his foot in October.

Best-case scenario: Maryland surprises the Big Ten and finishes in the top half of the league behind elite backcourt play from Wells and Trumble. Finishing with just over 20 wins earns the Terps a late invite to the Dace.

Worst-case scenario: The Big Ten proves to be much more difficult than the ACC and Maryland wears down early in 2015, finishing with a losing conference record and missing the tournament once again.

Projected finish: 11th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 157
Scoring Defense 67.7 9 103
Field Goal Percentage .430 8 218
Field Goal Percentage Defense .417 7 78
3-pt FG Percentage .342 7 172
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .341 9 154
Free Throw Percentage .679 12 253
Rebounding Margin +3.3 5
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.7/12.8 = 0.9 11 243
Steals 6.3 6 138
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 81
*Where Maryland’s stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season


Michigan Wolverines Block M - Maize
Head Coach: John Beilein (8th season)
2013-14: 28-9, 1st in Big Ten (15-3), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning Starters: 2 (Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Jr.)
Recruiting class rank: #28 (Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Austin Hatch)
Key non-conference games: Nov 24 vs Oregon, Dec 2 vs Syracuse, Dec 13 at Arizona, Dec 20 vs SMU

John Beilein has certainly turned the Michigan basketball program around. After leading his team to the National Championship game in 2013 and losing stars Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the first round of the NBA draft, Beilein simply reloaded and came within one miracle heavy by Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison of returning to the Final Four. Now the team is hoping to recover from major losses once again as Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III left for the NBA, Jordan Morgan graduated and Jon Horford transferred to Florida for his final year of eligibility.

It’s no secret that Beilein needs to continue developing his players to maintain Michigan’s recent success. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. weren’t the most highly-rated recruits, but they will be asked to lead the offense from the backcourt this season after shouldering a big load last year. LeVert, who was named to the 2014-15 preseason All-Big Ten team, set the precedent for sophomore Zak Irvin, who is the popular choice for Michigan’s third straight breakout star.

As the former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Irvin should welcome lofty expectations. He gave the offense a shot in the arm in a lesser role last season, and will hope to become a more versatile scorer as a starter, much like Stauskas and LeVert did last year.

Michigan also brings in a trio of talented freshmen in D.J. Wilson, Kameron Chatman and, perhaps most importantly, Ricky Doyle. While Wilson and Chatman figure to join a deep rotation of talented guards, Doyle will join redshirt freshman Mark Donnel as the top options at center for Michigan. The two freshmen stand at just 6 foot 9, so Michigan will have to hide that weakness with another elite offensive season.

Player to watch: Derrick Walton. Michigan figures to get great production from the wings while struggling down low because of a size disadvantage. If Walton can build off of an impressive freshman season, he could give Michigan enough of a backcourt to make another run at the Big Ten

Best-case scenario: John Beilein does it again, and the revamped Wolverines improve throughout the nonconference season and emerge as one of the top teams in the Big Ten. After a top-3 finish in the conference, Michigan enters March with a return to the Final Four in mind.

Worst-case scenario: The exodus of centers from last season bites Michigan, and the Big Ten exposes a lack of size and experience in the paint. Michigan finishes the conference season in the middle of the pack and approaches Selection Sunday with a nervous twinge of doubt about their status.

Projected finish: 3rd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 73.9 3 70
Scoring Defense 65.1 5 48
Field Goal Percentage .477 1 18
Field Goal Percentage Defense .445 12 196
3-pt FG Percentage .402 1 4
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .318 6 46
Free Throw Percentage .763 1 10
Rebounding Margin +0.2 10
Assist/Turnover Ratio 14.2/9.3 = 1.5 2 7
Steals 5.2 9 273
Blocked Shots 2.4 12 301


Michigan State Spartans MichiganStateLogo
Head Coach: Tom Izzo (20th season)
2013-14: 29-9, T-2nd in Big Ten (12-6), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson)
Recruiting class rank: #51 (Lourawls Nairn, Jr., Javon Bess, Marvin Clark)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Duke, Dec 3 at ND

Michigan State battled through some regular-season adversity to emerge as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four last March, but fell short when eventual champion UCONN sent the Spartans home. In the following weeks, head coach Tom Izzo said goodbye to his three top players: Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling.

This season, a variety of role players will be asked to fill the void left by those starters, as the incoming freshmen are far from elite. Branden Dawson will be asked to finally embrace his full potential and anchor the starting lineup alongside streaky Denzel Valentine. Travis Trice and Matt Costello will be asked to step into bigger roles this season and give the Spartans a chance to contend for another Big Ten title.

Izzo’s teams often start slowly during the nonconference season, but they will always improve enough to offer a challenge as the calendar turns to March. With all the new faces in East Lansing, this team will likely follow that same script.

Player to watch: Branden Dawson. Will Dawson finally turn the corner and become the dominant inside presence Izzo recruited him to be? He’s no longer in the (exceptionally large) shadows of Derrick Nix or Payne, which means this is his team now.

Best-case scenario: Though this group may not be one of Izzo’s more talented teams, the best-case scenario for Michigan State is always to be in contention for a Final Four run. If Dawson has an All-Big Ten season and the role players progress significantly, no coach in the country will want to match up with MSU in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: A loaded Big Ten proves difficult for the Spartans during a transition year and the team lands somewhere around .500 in the conference and barely squeezes into the Big Dance.

Projected finish: 5th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 75.5 2 49
Scoring Defense 65.6 7 57
Field Goal Percentage .474 2 21
Field Goal Percentage Defense .397 1 18
3-pt FG Percentage .392 2 16
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .332 8 103
Free Throw Percentage .707 9 151
Rebounding Margin +5.1 3
Assist/Turnover Ratio 16.8/11.6 = 1.4 3 18
Steals 6.8 5 85
Blocked Shots 4.6 4 63


Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State logo new
Head Coach: Thad Matta (11th season)
2013-14: 25-10, 5th in Big Ten (10-8), Second Round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Amir Williams, Sam Thompson)
Recruiting class rank: #8 (D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Dave Bell)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Marquette, Dec 2 at Louisville, Dec 20 vs UNC

Remember when Ohio State was 15-0 last season and ranked in the top five? Not many do, because the Buckeyes finished the season 10-10 with a loss to 2014’s Cinderella, the Dayton Flyers, in their first tournament game. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. graduated, and LaQuinton Ross signed with a team in Italy, so things can only get worse for Than Matta’s group, right?

Wrong. Matta countered the loss of three starters by welcoming a top-five recruiting class into Columbus for the 2014-15 season. Top-ranked shooting guard D’Angelo Russell offers a much-needed shot in the arm for what was a terrible Buckeye offense last season. Shannon Scott will take over as the defensive anchor in wake of Craft’s departure, as OSU tries to match last year’s 59.8 points allowed per game (12th in the nation).

In the paint Ohio State will rely on two potential studs to mask an otherwise thin roster. Amir Williams is a beast on the defensive end and will have to stay out of foul trouble. Anthony Lee joins the Buckeyes after transferring from Temple and will partner with Williams to compose a duo that has to grab all the rebounds for this team.

Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell. He’s the top-ranked recruit joining the Big Ten this season, and Matta has a way of getting the most out of his guards. He has to be the go-to man on offense right out of the gates.

Best-case scenario: Matta turns Russell into one of the top players in the country and pairs him with a dominant defense led by Scott and Williams to win the Big Ten and enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four.

Worse-case scenario: A talented trio of recruits suffers growing pains and fails to live up to sky-high standards in Columbus, while foul trouble exposes a thin inside presence on defense. Ohio State struggles in the conference season and finishes sixth in the Big Ten, earning a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament

Projected finish: 2nd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 69.5 9 190
Scoring Defense 59.8 1 11
Field Goal Percentage .450 5 124
Field Goal Percentage Defense .406 2 34
3-pt FG Percentage .324 9 263
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .293 1 5
Free Throw Percentage .689 11 211
Rebounding Margin +0.3 9
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.0/11.3 = 1.1 6 161
Steals 7.7 1 21
Blocked Shots 4.5 5 85


Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State Logo
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers (4th season)
2013-14: 16-18, T-10th Big Ten (6-12), CBI Quarterfinals
Returning starters: 4 (Jordan Dickerson, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, John Johnson)
Recruiting class rank: #86 (Shep Garner, Isaiah Washington, Devin Foster)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia Tech

It might be another tough year for Pat Chambers and Penn State, especially now that Tim Frazier’s rein of terrorizing the Big Ten is finally over. But five of Penn State’s Big Ten losses came by five points or less last season, which means the Nittany Lions were reasonably within reach of finishing 11-7 in the nation’s top conference. That would have put PSU in fourth place with an overall record of 20-12 at the end of the regular season, a resume that almost exactly mirrors the one that put Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament.

Frazier’s departure hurts the Nittany Lions, but D.J. Newbill quietly took over much of the leadership from the senior last year, leading the team with 17.8 points per game and finishing second in rebounds, blocks and steals. Newbill won’t be alone as the team returns each of its top six scorers from last season, with the exception of Frazier.

Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor will start in the frontcourt for Chambers, who will have no shortage of veteran depth across the board.

Player to watch: Devin Foster. The junior college transfer quietly chose Penn State during the offseason and should take over as the starting point guard right off the bat. Foster averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 assists per game last season with Vincennes and gives Chambers a much-needed distributor on offense.

Best-case scenario: A host of returning players continues to improve under Chambers and Penn State wins half of its Big Ten games, threatening fellow bubble teams in the race for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Worst-case scenario: While Newbill performs much like he did last season, the loss of Frazier turns Penn State into the team it was two years ago, when its leader missed the entire season with a ruptured achilles. If so, the Nittany Lions could end up near the bottom of the league.

Projected finish: 10th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 158
Scoring Defense 70.2 10 172
Field Goal Percentage .428 8 228
Field Goal Percentage Defense .414 5 63
3-pt FG Percentage .319 10 284
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .352 12 222
Free Throw Percentage .741 4 38
Rebounding Margin +0.7 6
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.3/10.6 = 1.1 8 144
Steals 4.5 11 327
Blocked Shots 4.7 3 58


Rutgers Scarlet Knights Rutgers logo
Head Coach: Eddie Jordan (2nd season)
2013-14: 12-21, 7th in AAC (5-13), No postseason
Returning starters: 2 (Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack)
Recruiting class rank: #66 (D.J. Foreman, Mike Williams, Ibrahima Diallo)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Duke, Dec 6 at Marquette, Dec 22 at California

Rutgers has battled controversy in its basketball program over the past couple of years, and the looming Big Ten schedule could make the winter just as ugly on the court for the Scarlett Knights. Eddie Jordan’s team failed to knock off a ranked opponent last season and now faces a conference slate that could feature as many as eight ranked teams over the course of the coming months.

Last year’s 20-loss team returns only three of the seven players that averaged more than five points per game. Luckily for Jordan, top playmakers Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack will lead the offense after averaging a combined 29.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists per game last season. Jack is a slightly undersized center who will battle more physical defenses in the Big Ten, and his transition will be a major factor for Rutgers.

Player to watch: Kadeem Jack. His special 2013-14 season was masked by the team’s struggles, but the 6 foot 9 forward put up 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. His 68.8 percent free throw rate will be a number to watch as Big Ten centers bang with him in the paint.

Best-case scenario: Rutgers fans are treated to another version of the Mack and Jack show, carrying the team out of the Big Ten cellar in its first go-around.

Worst-case scenario: Rutgers finished 1-11 on the road last season with the lone win coming over last-place South Florida. With that in mind, Rutgers could realistically lose nearly every single Big Ten game if the players don’t make a smooth transition from the American.

Projected finish: 14th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 71.1 8 185
Scoring Defense 76.2 13 298
Field Goal Percentage .426 11 270
Field Goal Percentage Defense .447 13 232
3-pt FG Percentage .336 7 230
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .371 13 302
Free Throw Percentage .706 10 163
Rebounding Margin -0.6 11
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.7/12.6 = 1.0 9 194
Steals 5.8 8 209
Blocked Shots 4.2 7 114
*Where Rutgers’ stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season

Buckeyes sent home: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 69

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Michigan bench vs OSU 3-15-14(

Six times in the 16-year history of the Big Ten Tournament have Michigan and Ohio State met. All six times the Buckeyes sent the Wolverines home early. That changed on Saturday afternoon when Michigan topped Ohio State 72-69 to advance to Sunday’s championship game for the first time since 1998.

Michigan started the game hitting everything in sight. Nik Stauskas got the scoring started with a three and after Aaron Craft hit a two-point jumper, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert added threes. Robinson then stole the ball for a breakaway layup and Jordan Morgan scored back to back baskets to give Michigan a quick 15-2 lead.

Ohio State scored the next five before Stauskas hit his second three of the game. At the eight-minute mark, Michigan led 30-16 and looked as if it would cruise into the half. But Ohio State had other thoughts juts as it did when it came back from an 18-point second-half deficit on Friday night. The Buckeyes used a 21-11 run to close the half, heading into the locker room down just four points.

Stauskas started off the second half just as he did the first with a three, and after a LaQuinton Ross jumper, Derrick Walton Jr. hit a three and Stauskas added another to put Michigan back ahead by double digits. But once again Ohio State fought back. An alley-oop from Shannon Scott to Sam Thompson gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game at 61-60 with 7:58 to play.

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (

From there, the teams played evenly the rest of the way, neither able to pull away by more than three. Jordan Morgan hit one of two free throws and LeVert followed with a three, but Scott answered with a three of his own to tie the game at 64. LeVert made one of two free throws and OSU got back to back layups by Ross and Thompson to grab a 68-65 lead.

On Michigan’s next trip down the court, Stauskas hit a pull-up jumper to bring Michigan within one with 3:45 to play. After an Ohio State missed shot, Robinson was fouled and made both to reclaim the lead. On the other end, Morgan fouled Aaron Craft, but the Buckeye senior uncharacteristically missed both.

On the ensuing possession, Stauskas got the ball on the left baseline with his back to the basket. Craft went for the steal and Stasukas was able to get around him, drive baseline and lay the ball in to put Michigan ahead 71-68 with 2:08 left.

After missed shots on both ends, Morgan picked up his fifth foul of the game. Ross was able to make one of two and Michigan took possession with 44 seconds remaining, up by two. Stauskas ran the clock down as far as possible and heaved up a three, but it clanged off the rim. However, LeVert soared through the lane and grabbed the rebound, kicking it out to Spike Albrecht, who was fouled with six seconds left.

Albrecht made the first to give Michigan a three-point lead. He missed the second and Craft grabbed the rebound and raced down the court desperately needing a three to send the game into overtime. As he pulled up from the top of the key, the ball slipped out of his hands and he was unable to get a shot off as time expired.

The win put Michigan in the championship game for the first time since it won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament in 1998. It also ended Ohio State’s streak of five straight championship game appearances.

Stauskas paced Michigan with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 4-of-8 from three-point range. LeVert added 17 points and eight rebounds, while Robinson III contributed 11 points. Walton Jr and Morgan each scored eight points and pulled down five boards. Zak Irvin hit two big threes in the first half to add six points.

As a team, Michigan shot 53.2 percent overall and made 9-of-22 three-pointers, but hit just 10-of-19 from the free throw line. Ohio State also shot well, 48.2 percent overall and 44.8 percent from downtown. The Buckeyes out-rebounded Michigan 31 to 26.

Michigan faces its other big rival, Michigan State, on Sunday afternoon in the championship game. The Wolverines topped the Spartans in both of the regular season meetings, but Michigan State has all of its starters back from injury at this point and looked good in beating Wisconsin in Saturday’s other semifinal. Win, and Michigan should gain a one-seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Lose a close game, and a one-seed is still a possibility.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
17 points (6-of-9 FG, 2-of-4 3PT, 3-of-5 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), two assists, four turnovers in 37 minutes

**Nik Stauskas**
18 points (6-of-12 FG, 4-of-8 3PT, 2-of-3 FT), one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 34 minutes

*Shannon Scott*
18 points (7-of-10 FG, 4-of-6 3PT, 0-of-1 FT), five rebounds, six assists, three steals, two turnovers in 32 minutes

Quick Hitters:


Final Game Stats
01 Glenn Robinson III* 4-8 1-2 2-2 1 1 2 0 11 1 1 2 3 36
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 2-3 0-0 0 5 5 1 8 4 3 0 2 29
11 Nik Stauskas* 6-12 4-8 2-3 0 1 1 0 18 1 2 0 1 34
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 2-7 1 4 5 5 8 3 0 0 0 30
23 Caris LeVert* 6-9 2-4 3-5 1 7 8 1 17 2 4 0 0 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-4 1-3 1-2 0 0 0 2 4 1 1 0 1 11
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 0 10
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-3 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 1 0 0 0 13
Totals 25-47 12-23 10-19 5 21 26 11 72 15 12 3 7 200
Ohio State 27-56 7-19 8-12 9 22 31 18 69 17 1 2 10 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Michigan-Ohio State header_BTT

Michigan survived a scare from Illinois on Friday afternoon to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed in 11 years to lose its opening round game to a No. 8 or No. 9 seed. Ohio State, meanwhile, did just what it always does in the Big Ten Tournament — win games. After fending off a pesky Purdue squad in the opening round game on Thursday, Ohio State faced a much tougher matchup against a surging Nebraska team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. The Buckeyes fell behind by 18 points in the second half, but battled back to pull off a 71-67 win.

Michigan and Ohio State squared off just once this season, a 70-60 Michigan win in Columbus on Feb. 11, but the two have a long history in the conference tournament, and it’s not good at all for the Wolverines. Ohio State has knocked Michigan out of the tournament all six times they have faced off (1999, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012). The Buckeyes were the higher seed and favored each time, so that’s the one difference from this year’s meeting.

Here are my three keys to ending that streak:

Michigan's defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Michigan’s defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Don’t settle

On Friday, Michigan’s offense looked stagnant for long periods at a time. Illinois’ aggressive zone defense and Jordan Morgan’s foul trouble kept Michigan out of the paint and the Wolverines settled for three-pointers. Sometimes that works — Michigan does lead the Big Ten in three-point percentage — but others it doesn’t. When taken in the normal flow of the offense or open looks, Beilein will never tell his players to stop shooting. But that’s not what the offense was for most of the second half.

In fact, the 30 three-point attempts were the most since Michigan chucked 31 against Nebraska on Feb. 5, and it was just the third time this season the Wolverines attempted 30 or more. They average 21 attempts per game.

Ohio State’s pressure defense is well known as Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are adept at harassing opposing guards and forcing turnovers. Michigan’s guards are more than capable of handling the pressure, but they’ll need to keep the offense moving and avoid digressing it into one-on-one drives and long shots late in the shot clock.

In the season’s only meeting, Michigan shot just 17 threes — and made eight of them. More importantly, both big men, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford were involved in the offense, combining for 14 points and 12 rebounds. That’s what it will take to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Contain Ross and Smith

Ohio State’s offense has had trouble scoring points for most of the season, and when the teams faced off in Columbus it was virtually a two-man show. LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. combined for 37 of the Buckeyes’ 60 points. Both have the ability to hit the three, although Ross missed all four of his attempts and Smith made 3-of-9. Michigan’s defense needs to force them to pass up the three and let others, especially Craft and Scott, shoot.

Craft is shooting just a hair over 30 percent from downtown on the season and is just two for his last 16. He’s most dangerous when he puts his head down and drives to the basket, able to finish or dish it off to a big man, so keep him outside the arc and make him shoot. Scott shoots just 27.3 percent from three and has made just 7-of-32 since Jan. 7.

Ross, meanwhile, has put Ohio State on his back late in the season, averaging 21 points per game over the last five including a season-high 26 against Nebraska on Friday. Smith has struggled as of late, having made just six of his last 21 shots from the field in the last three games and six of his last 28 three-pointers dating back to Feb. 15. Still, he has made at least three three-pointers in a game eight times this season, so he can’t be left alone.

Play like the underdog

Michigan won the first meeting on the road by 10. They ran away with the regular season conference title and are the No. 1 seed. The bulls eye is squarely on their back. But they need to play like Ohio State is favored. The Buckeyes will certainly be hungry to avenge that loss and move to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the sixth straight season.

Michigan must forget the history behind this matchup in the tournament and simply match Ohio State’s intensity from the opening tip. In all reality, neither team has much to play for in the grand scheme of the season — they’re both locks for high seeds in the Big Dance — but rivalry bragging rights are on the line. Play with fire out of a desire to get the season sweep of Ohio State just like they did against Michigan State.

Prediction: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 70, OT

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

This week’s edition of the Big Ten power rankings features more movement than usual as the conference continues to deal surprise after surprise. With March upon us, teams that play well down the stretch often outperform teams with more impressive overall resumes in postseason tournaments.

While teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa will certainly make the field of 68, playing poorly in late February and early March can really take the steam out of a potential deep run in the Big Dance. Meanwhile, teams that streak into the tournament on the final days of the season (Nebraska? Indiana?) represent extremely dangerous matchups.

So here’s how the Big Ten teams are playing with less than a week remaining before they head to Indianapolis.

1. Michigan (21-7, 13-3)  Even
Last week: Feb. 26 W at Purdue 77-76 OT, Mar. 1 W vs Minnesota 66-56
This week: Tuesday at Illinois 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Indiana 6pm 

The in-state rival Spartans lost just before tip-off in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and after Michigan took care of Minnesota, it officially clinched at least a share of the regular season Big Ten championship. John Beilein’s surprise team can seal the title alone with a win at Illinois tonight or against Indiana on Saturday. 

2. Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5) • Even
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs Indiana 69-58, Mar. 2 W at Penn State 71-66
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 7:30pm 

History shows that no matter what happens early in the season, a hot team is dangerous in March. The Badgers are red-hot heading into the final week of conference play, riding a seven-game winning streak and tied with Michigan State for second place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin could represent the most dangerous team in the conference, but clinching a share of the title gave Michigan the nod at No. 1 for now. 

3. Nebraska (17-11, 9-7) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 26 L at Illinois 49-60, Mar. 1 W vs Northwestern 54-47
This week: Wednesday at Indiana 7pm BTN, Sunday vs #9 Wisconsin 7:30pm

Despite last week’s loss to Illinois, which looks slightly less egregious after the Illini won in East Lansing on Saturday, Nebraska finds itself contending for a first-round bye in Indianapolis. Tim Miles’s team held off Northwestern on Saturday and can secure a winning conference record with a win in either of its final two games (at Indiana on Wednesday or against Wisconsin on Sunday).

4. Indiana (17-12, 7-9) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 25 L at #14 Wisc. 58-69, Feb. 27 W vs #20 Iowa 93-86, Mar. 2 W vs #22 OSU 72-64
This week: Wednesday vs Nebraska 7pm BTN, Saturday at #12 Michigan 6pm

Don’t look now, but Indiana is making the run that Big Ten fans were waiting for. Indiana knocked off two straight top-25 teams last week to keep its dim tournament hopes alive. They may not recover from the 3-7 stretch that plagued the heart of their conference schedule, but the Hoosiers aren’t going down without a fight. It may take a win in Ann Arbor in the season finale to put Indiana over the hump.

5. Iowa (17-12, 6-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 26 W vs Nebraska 60-49, Mar. 1 W at #18 Michigan State 53-46
This week: Tuesday vs #12 Michigan 7pm ESPN, Saturday at #24 Iowa 8:30pm

John Groce waited nearly two whole months of Big Ten play for his team to show some life, and although it’s likely too late to join an already-crowded NCAA Tournament bubble, Illinois played spoiler three times in the past two weeks. A win over Michigan State in East Lansing proved the most impressive feat for Illinois on the season, but beating Minnesota and Nebraska the week before was more nationally significant, as both teams have tournament hopes that hang by a thread.

6. Iowa (20-9, 9-7) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 25 L at Minnesota 89-95, Feb. 27 L at Indiana 86-93, Mar. 2 W vs Purdue 83-76
This week: Thursday at #22 Michigan State 9pm ESPN, Saturday vs Illinois 8:30pm

When both Michigan and Michigan State faltered on their home courts on Feb. 16, Iowa climbed to within one game of the conference co-leaders in the loss column. The Hawkeyes responded by losing their next three games and falling completely out of contention. After struggling to beat Purdue at home, Iowa looks to take advantage of an equally-wounded Spartan squad on Thursday.

7. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) • Down 3
Last week: Mar. 1 L vs Illinois 46-53
This week: Thursday vs #24 Iowa 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Ohio State 4:30pm

All season long Tom Izzo stuck to the same story: when Michigan State returned all of its injured players, the miraculous turnaround would begin. Well on Saturday Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all played against Illinois and the Spartans lost on their home court, and scored just 46 points in the process. The time to start worrying about Michigan State has arrived, as it has dropped six of its last 10 games, with half of those coming at home.

8. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8) • Down 5
Last week: Feb. 27 L at Penn State 63-65, Mar. 2 L at Indiana 64-72
This week: Sunday vs #22 Michigan State 4:30pm CBS

The last time Ohio State lost to Penn State, it responded by winning six of its next seven games. This time, the Buckeyes followed up with a loss to Indiana. Unfortunately for Thad Matta’s squad, the most glaring part of the statement is that the Buckeyes have lost to the 5-11 Nittany Lions twice.

9. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Mar. 1 L at #16 Michigan 56-66
This week: Saturday vs Penn State 8:30pm

Minnesota nearly punched its NCAA Tournament ticket for good Saturday when a furious second-half charge brought it to within two points of first-place Michigan. The visible frustration on coach Richard Pitino’s face as the game slipped away perfectly sums up the remainder of his team’s season. Minnesota will sit and watch the rest of the bubble teams play during the week before hosting Penn State in a game that does little to strengthen its tournament resume. As Joe Lunardi’s “last team in,” this stressful week could turn Pitino’s hair a few shades closer to his father’s.

10. Penn State (14-15, 5-11) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 27 W vs #22 Ohio State 65-63, Mar. 2 L vs #14 Wisconsin 66-71
This week: Thursday at Northwestern 7pm ESPNU, Saturday at Minnesota 8:30pm

Though Penn State is unlikely to win its final two road games and finish the season with an overall .500 record, it did complete a sweep of the preseason No. 11 Buckeyes on Thursday. After losing their first six conference games, the Nittany Lions can settle for morale victories.

11. Purdue (15-14, 5-11) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 26 L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Mar. 2 L vs #20 Iowa 76-83
This week: Wednesday at #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday vs Northwestern 12pm

Purdue played both Michigan and Iowa to the end last week, but the end result was two losses, bringing the streak to a total of four. The Boilermakers’ last chance to play spoiler against a tournament team comes on Wednesday, when they travel to Madison to battle the streaking Badgers.

12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) • Even
Last week: Mar. 1 L at Nebraska 47-54
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 7pm ESPNU, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Northwestern crashed and burned after a strong start to the conference season, currently riding a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats do have an opportunity to finish on a positive note as the final two regular-season games come against fellow last place Big Ten opponents.

Big Ten title race down to three

Friday, February 28th, 2014

UM crowd vs MSU 2-23-14

As February comes to a close and perhaps the greatest month in all of sports approaches, the Big Ten men’s basketball conference remains as unpredictable as ever.

Nearly two weeks ago, the would-be headliner battle between the two Michigan schools that topped the standings all season long suffered a major blow when Michigan fell to Wisconsin and Nebraska shocked Michigan State in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Nebraska put together a five-game winning streak to burst onto the NCAA bubble, only to lose to lowly Illinois and see it all slip away. Even the Iowa-Indiana game scheduled for Feb. 18 proved unpredictable, as an eight-foot beam that fell from the Assembly Hall ceiling postponed the game for over a week.

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the standings usually provide a clearer picture of what the conference tournament will feature. But in the midst of such an erratic regular season, more surprises surely lie ahead, right?

Spoiler alert: This year’s Big Ten regular season championship is Michigan’s to lose.

Remaining schedule for Big Ten title contenders
Michigan Michigan State Wisconsin
Saturday vs Minnesota, 6pm BTN vs Illinois, 4pm ESPN
Sunday at Penn State, 12pm BTN
Tuesday, Mar. 4 at Illinois, 7pm ESPN
Wednesday, Mar. 5 vs Purdue, 9pm BTN
Thursday, Mar. 6 vs Iowa, 9pm ESPN
Saturday, Mar. 8 vs Indiana, 6pm ESPN
Sunday, Mar. 9 at Ohio State, 4:30pm CBS at Nebraska, 7:30pm BTN

After the victory to sweep Tom Izzo’s Spartans, Michigan firmly planted itself atop the conference with four winnable games remaining.

A trip to Purdue, which provided the most difficult remaining challenge, ended with a miracle in-bounds play for the Wolverines, who snuck out of West Lafayette unscathed, much to the chagrin of championship hopefuls Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Now the only teams standing in Michigan’s way are 5-9 Indiana, 5-10 Illinois, and a struggling Minnesota team with just two conference road wins against the league’s last place squads. John Beilein’s one-game lead should hold up and bring Michigan the long-awaited sole Big Ten title.

But outcomes rarely go according to plan in the 2013-14 edition of the Big Ten. If the first place Wolverines do drop any of their final three games, what does it mean?

Iowa’s loss at Indiana on Thursday night and Ohio State’s loss at Penn State made it mathematically official: the only two teams left to challenge Michigan are Michigan State (one game behind) and Wisconsin (two).

Michigan's last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Michigan’s last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Let’s say Michigan finishes the season by winning two of its final three games. Regardless of what Wisconsin does in its final three games, the Badgers would fall short of the Wolverines, having already lost five times in the Big Ten.

A Michigan loss would, however, leave the door open for Michigan State, which could finish the season in a tie and, despite earning the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, boast a share of the regular season championship. But the Spartans face a one of the toughest stretch runs in the Big Ten.

Michigan State played sub-.500 basketball in the month of February, losing four of seven games. The Breslin Center lost some of its esteem after Nebraska came in and bullied the Spartans last weekend, so a matchup with the desperate Hawkeyes on March 6 could challenge Izzo’s battered team. Iowa’s current three-game losing streak compliment’s Michigan State’s struggles to set up a surprisingly important matchup in the final week of the season.

Days later, the Spartans travel to Columbus in what Big Ten officials probably expected to be a conference-deciding game against Ohio State. However, a sweep at the hands of bottom-feeding Penn State dropped Thad Matta’s team well out of contention, and barring a Michigan loss, this game provides little importance in the bigger picture.

If Michigan does lose, then Ohio State earns a chance to play spoiler for Michigan State and help its hated rival from Ann Arbor. Michigan State hasn’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 21 when a win over Indiana marked its 11th straight at the time. Michigan ended that streak.

Clearly, Michigan State’s quest for a Big Ten title remains an uphill battle.

Wisconsin, unlike the Spartans, plays a much easier schedule to finish the season. Penn State and Purdue, both tied for last place, figure to provide little resistance for Wisconsin next week, setting up an important trip to Lincoln on March 9.

Nebraska’s only loss in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena came at the hands of the first-place Wolverines, who snuck out of Lincoln with a 71-70 win on Jan. 9 after the Huskers missed three layup attempts in the closing seconds. Despite the loss at Illinois on Wednesday, Nebraska’s five-game winning streak puts it tied for fourth place in the loss column in the conference. With a Big Ten record that matches Iowa’s and a nearly-perfect home resume, Nebraska provides a real challenge for Wisconsin to finish the regular season.

Even the most unpredictable conference standings take shape near the end of the season. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin played well enough through 15 Big Ten games to stay alive into March, but Michigan represents the clear-cut favorite with less than two weeks to go.

The Wolverines may win all three remaining games and leave no room for another contender to catch up. But even if the surprising Big Ten serves up another upset, the odds lie in Michigan’s favor.

Bucks stopped here: Michigan 70 – Ohio State 60

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Locker room vs Ohio State 2-11-14

When Michigan followed up its 10-game winning streak with two losses in three games, the hype that flocked to Ann Arbor behind the top team in the Big Ten began to fade. Now, after a win over a resurgent Ohio State squad in Columbus, the future looks as bright as ever for the Wolverines.

Heading into the match-up on Tuesday night, Michigan basketball hadn’t won in Columbus since 2003. But this stands as the only scheduled match-up between the teams this season, so John Beilein’s team decided to take care of business.

While the defense of Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft stifled the Michigan guards early, a boost off the bench from up-and-coming freshman Zak Irvin ignited the offense and brought the Wolverines within four points at the half. Irvin made both of his triple attempts and finished the game with 10 points.

Derrick Walton Jr became the first Michigan freshman to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Chris Webber in 1992 (

Derrick Walton Jr became the first Michigan freshman to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Chris Webber in 1992 (

In the second half, it was the Derrick Walton, Jr. show on both ends of the court. The talented freshman point guard recorded his first career double-double, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and only one turnover. He continues to show composure beyond his age, hitting all six free throws to ice the game late.

The story of the game was resiliency, as Michigan fought back from two separate 10-point deficits to cruise to a nice double-digit victory. Irvin’s effort may have kept the Maize and Blue afloat during the early struggles, but the intensity of Jon Horford helped them get over the hump.

Horford’s stats — eight points and four rebounds — don’t fairly demonstrate his impact on the game. Horford played like a beast in the paint and led Michigan emotionally during a 12-0 run midway through the second half that buried the Buckeyes. His counterpart, Jordan Morgan looked hesitant on the offensive end, so Horford’s assertiveness provided a huge boost.

Despite inspiring efforts from Walton, Horford, and Irvin, Nik Stauskas finished the game as Michigan’s leading scorer with 15 points. His jump-shot more closely resembled the Stauskas that fought off NBA draft talk two weeks ago than his performances since then, and left his lackluster effort against Iowa in the dust.

Perhaps the only concern for Beilein in the wake of such a big victory lies in the continued struggles of Glenn Robinson III. Ohio State bullied the athletic sophomore inside the paint and many of his seven missed shots were layups affected by Buckeye defenders. Robinson often disappears during major road games, and a 3-of-10 effort in Columbus did little to shed that reputation.

Most importantly, Michigan returned to its winning ways on the road and held serve in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State’s loss at Wisconsin on Sunday provided Michigan with a golden opportunity to regain control of the conference, and it did so by winning the toughest remaining road game on the schedule.

Michigan now turns its focus to Wisconsin, which visits Ann Arbor this Sunday. If Michigan takes care of business against the Badgers and then Michigan State the following weekend, it will maintain the inside track to the Big Ten Championship.

Three stars

***Derrick Walton, Jr.***
13 points (3-of-10 FG, 1-of-2 3PT, 6-of-6 FT), 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal, one turnover in 36 minutes

**LaQuinton Ross**
24 points (8-of-17 FG, 0-of-4 3PT, 8-of-11 FT), seven rebounds, one assist in 37 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
10 points (2-of-3 FG, 2-of-2 3PT, 4-of-5 FT), three rebounds in 20 minutes

Quick hitters – Drew edition


Final Game Stats
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-10 1-1 2-2 4 1 5 2 9 0 0 0 0 23
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 1-2 6-6 1 9 10 2 13 6 1 0 1 36
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-9 3-6 4-5 0 3 3 1 15 0 2 0 0 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 0-0 6 2 8 4 6 0 1 0 0 19
23 Caris LeVert* 3-11 1-6 2-2 2 3 5 0 9 2 0 0 1 38
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 5
15 Jon Horford 4-5 0-0 0-2 1 3 4 3 8 0 1 0 0 20
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-2 4-5 0 3 3 2 10 0 2 0 0 20
  Totals 22-53 8-17 18-22 14 25 39 14 70 8 9 0 2 200
  Ohio State 23-52 3-20 11-16 8 19 27 17 60 7 8 2 4 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Michigan-Ohio State header

Very rarely do teams cruise through tough conference schedules without experiencing some bumps in the road. For this year’s Michigan team, those bumps have popped up very recently on an otherwise fresh sheet of pavement. With two losses in the last three games and a trio of difficult games coming up, the Wolverines will have to win a couple more tough games if they are to bring the Big Ten title back to Ann Arbor.

Tonight presents another golden opportunity as Michigan travels to Columbus to take on a resurgent Buckeye squad (9 p.m. on ESPN). Here are my three thoughts on how Michigan should approach this monster matchup.

Don’t Beat Yourselves: Michigan has lost two of their last three games on the road in very loud, unforgiving environments. There’s no doubt Michigan deserved to lose those two games either. But there are some concerning aspects of the Wolverines’ recent play that need to be worked on if they are to stand a chance in enemy territory.

First, Michigan needs to control the flow of the game and hold onto the ball. For whatever reason, Michigan is turning the ball over at a much higher clip lately, with 35 cough-ups over the past three contests, despite being one of the best teams in the country at getting a shot up on every possession.

Undoubtedly, Nik Stauskas’s inability to get shots up has contributed to the recent turnover woes, and Glenn Robinson III’s play on Saturday left much to be desired in that department. As a whole, Michigan needs to be careful to not give up easy points to an Ohio State team that struggles to score in the halfcourt.

If Nik Stauskas draws Aaron Craft Michigan will need other scorers to step up (Mike Munden, AP)

If Nik Stauskas draws Aaron Craft Michigan will need other scorers to step up (Mike Munden, AP)

Additionally, the Maize and Blue have to find a way to take the crowd out of the game by dictating pace. When the fast break is there, Michigan needs to run, but the Wolverines need to also not get beat up on the boards or on the breakaway themselves.

Is Anybody Home? Many Michigan basketball followers think that the Wolverines can be just as good with Nik Stauskas facilitating the offense and letting others do the scoring as they are with him shooting the lights out. After all, Stauskas took only three shots while recording eight assists against Nebraska. I, however, have a different philosophy. I believe that Stauskas needs to be the guy if Michigan is to be there at the end of both the Big Ten season and the Big Dance.

Eight times this season, Stauskas has recorded fewer than 10 shot attempts. In those eight games, Michigan is 5-3. In the 14 games the Canadian has taken 10 or more shots, the Wolverines are 11-3. Certainly, the Maize and Blue can be good when Stauskas records eight assists, and Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton have demonstrated an ability to create on their own, but Michigan is not the same with Stauskas camped out in the corner being face-guarded by a guard giving up six inches.

Tonight, Stauskas will likely be guarded by one of the best defensive players in the country, point guard Aaron Craft, but unless he is seeing constant double teams, Stauskas needs to shoot and score to win.

Hope and Pray: There comes a time when you can only do so much against a guy that has caught fire. Michigan has learned that the hard way in three of their last four games, as Gary Harris, Yogi Ferrell, and Roy Devyn Marble have all gone off on their home courts while being guarded by various Wolverines (but usually LeVert). That trio has combined to score 80 points on 43 shots while making 17-of-24 three-pointers (70.8 percent) and rendering any semblance of defense useless.

Mercifully, Ohio State doesn’t really have one guy capable of going bonkers, but long, athletic wing LaQuinton Ross is a player to watch out for. Ross is the only Buckeye shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and having scored double digits eight straight times, he needs to be a focal point of Michigan’s defense. If the Wolverines are again late to contest and sloppy with the ball, perhaps hoping and praying will be the only solution.

Prediction: The pounding on Saturday in Iowa City leaves me feeling less than confident about tomorrow’s game, but John Beilein teams seem to always find a way to bounce back after devastating losses. Unfortunately, I think tonight’s game means just a little bit more to Ohio State than to Michigan, and the road woes are getting to the young Wolverines. Give me the Buckeyes, 70-60.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

1. Michigan (15-4, 7-0) Up 1
Last week: Jan. 22 W vs #10 Iowa 75-67, Jan. 25 W at #3 Michigan State 80-75
This week: Thursday vs Purdue 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Indiana 1pm

Michigan is riding one of the most impressive streaks in the nation after knocking off three straight top-10 Big Ten opponents. More importantly, Michigan is undefeated (4-0) in conference road games against four teams that are an otherwise combined 39-1 at home.

2. Iowa (16-4, 5-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 22 L at #21 Michigan 67-75, Jan. 25 W at Northwestern 76-50
This week: Tuesday vs #7 Michigan State 7pm ESPN, Saturday at Illinois 7:30pm

Iowa has not only started the Big Ten season off 5-2, but it has won every game by 10 or more points. The deepest team in the league has been in every game, and the two losses are on the road by a combined 12 points.

3. Michigan State (18-2, 7-1) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 21 W vs Indiana 71-66, Jan. 25 L vs #21 Michigan 75-80
This week: Tuesday at #15 Iowa 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Georgetown 3pm

Although the Spartans are still alone in second place in the conference, the home struggles continued Saturday night against in-state rival Michigan. Michigan State has lost two home games this season, and all three Big Ten wins in the Breslin Center have been in overtime or by five points.

4. Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3) • Even
Last week: Jan. 22 L at Minnesota 68-81, Jan. 25 W at Purdue 72-58
This week: Wednesday vs Northwestern 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #24 Ohio State 12pm

Wisconsin snapped its surprising three-game losing streak with a rare Big Ten road victory against Purdue on Saturday. Sam Dekker has emerged as the team’s top dog, leading in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (6.4).

5. Minnesota (15-6, 4-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 22 W vs #9 Wisconsin 81-68, Jan. 26 L at Nebraska 78-82
This week: Saturday vs Northwestern 2pm BTN

After surviving a brutal stretch in which it played four straight top-15 teams, Minnesota dropped a game to Nebraska Sunday to fall back to even in the conference.

6. Indiana (13-7, 3-4) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 21 L at #3 Michigan State 66-71, Jan. 26 W vs Illinois 56-46
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 8:15pm BTN, Sunday vs #10 Michigan 1pm

Indiana nearly knocked off No. 3 Michigan State in East Lansing last week, but got back on track by beating Illinois at Assembly Hall on Sunday. The Hoosiers will be the next Big Ten team to try its luck against Nebraska in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena.

7. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5) • Even
Last week: Jan. 21 W vs Purdue 63-60 2OT, Jan. 25 L vs #10 Iowa 50-76
This week: Wednesday at #14 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Saturday at Minnesota 2pm

After getting absolutely stomped in each of its first three Big Ten games, Northwestern has bounced back nicely, winning three of its last five. Chris Collins has his team looking competitive, and the road win against Indiana was impressive.

8. Nebraska (10-9, 2-5) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 20 W vs #17 OSU 68-62, Jan. 23 L at Penn State 54-58, Jan. 26 W vs Minnesota 82-78
This week: Thursday vs Indiana 8:15pm BTN,

Tim Miles has turned things around for the Nebraska program and now the Cornhuskers are a force to reckon with in their new arena. Nebraska’s latest win knocked off a hot Minnesota team coming off a big win over Wisconsin.

9. Ohio State (16-4, 3-4) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 20 L at Nebraska 62-68, Jan. 23 W vs Illinois 62-55
This week: Wednesday vs Penn State 7pm BTN, Saturday at #14 Wisconsin 12pm

Ohio State’s four-game losing streak is over, but Thad Matta’s team looked less than impressive in the win over Illinois. The Buckeyes trailed the Illini for much of the second half but pulled away late to win by seven.

10. Purdue (13-7, 3-4) • Down 4
Last week: Jan. 21 L at Northwestern 60-63 2OT, Jan. 25 L vs #9 Wisconsin 58-72
This week: Thursday at #10 Michigan 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Penn State 11:30am

Purdue’s three-game winning streak that brought them above the .500 mark in the conference came to a sudden halt in Evanston last Tuesday when Northwestern took its first lead of the game in double-overtime and held on for the win. Purdue has played a relatively easy Big Ten schedule so far, so the worst is still to come. A trip to red-hot Michigan awaits on Thursday.

11. Illinois (13-8, 2-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 23 L at #17 Ohio State 55-62, Jan. 26 L at Indiana 46-56
This week: Saturday vs #15 Iowa 7:30pm BTN

Although mid-season collapses have become routine for Illinois basketball, losing six in a row after starting 13-2 is a new low. With Iowa and Wisconsin on the horizon, the streak is likely to reach at least eight.

12. Penn State (10-10, 1-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 23 W vs Nebraska 58-54
This week: Wednesday at #24 Ohio State 7pm BTN, Sunday vs Purdue 11:30am

Penn State got its first win of the conference season this week when it held off Nebraska for a 58-54 win at home. The Nittany Lions might be favored in just one more game this season, at home against Illinois on February 9th.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 3

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

1. Michigan State (17-1, 6-0) Even
Last week: Jan. 7 W at Northwestern 54-40, Jan. 18 W at Illinois 78-62
This week: Tuesday vs Indiana 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs #21 Michigan 7pm

The most impressive number that demonstrates what the Spartans have done in Big Ten play is four. Tom Izzo’s team has already won four road games in the conference, something that most teams will be lucky to accomplish throughout the entire 18-game slate.

2. Michigan (13-4, 5-0) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 14 W vs Penn State 80-67, Jan. 18 W at #3 Wisconsin 77-70
This week: Wednesday vs #10 Iowa 7pm BTN, Saturday at #3 Michigan State 7pm

Four non-conference losses and back surgery for Mitch McGary means the Wolverines must be done right? Wrong. The loss of the preseason All-American has rallied the Michigan big men and the combination of Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan has been consistent enough to lead the Maize and Blue to a huge win in Madison.

3. Iowa (15-3, 4-1) • Even
Last week: Jan. 19 W vs Minnesota 94-73
This week: Wednesday at #21 Michigan 7pm BTN, Saturday at Northwestern 12pm

Iowa has impressed the country with a 4-1 conference start that includes a win in Columbus over the then-third-ranked Buckeyes. A trip to Ann Arbor Wednesday will give the Hawkeyes a chance to prove that game wasn’t just a fluke.

4. Wisconsin (16-2, 3-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 14 L at Indiana 72-75, Jan. 18 L vs Michigan 70-77
This week: Wednesday at Minnesota 9pm BTN, Saturday at Purdue 5pm

Nobody expected Wisconsin to lose back-to-back games after starting the season 16-0, but the Badgers still sit inside the top 10 in the country. Wisconsin is one of the most difficult teams in the country to guard, as players like Josh Gasser and Frank Kaminsky stretch the floor with dangerous outside shooting.

5. Minnesota (14-5, 3-3) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 16 W vs #11 Ohio State 63-53, Jan. 19 L at #14 Iowa 94-73
This week: Wednesday vs #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 6pm

Minnesota has had one of the more difficult conference schedules through six games. Although the Gophers have lost to the top three teams in the conference, wins over Ohio State and Purdue could end up being critical tie-breakers for the middle seeds of the Big Ten tournament.

6. Purdue (13-5, 3-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 15 W at Illinois 66-58, Jan. 18 W vs Penn State 65-64
This week: Tuesday at Northwestern 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #9 Wisconsin 5pm

Matt Painter’s team has yet to play a team with a winning Big Ten record. Purdue appears to be the definition of a middle-of-the-pack conference team, as all five games have been decided by single digits thus far.

7. Northwestern (9-10, 2-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 15 L vs #4 Michigan State 40-54, Jan. 18 W at Indiana 54-47
This week: Tuesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #10 Iowa 12pm

Chris Collins is coming off the most surprising week in the Big Ten this season. The Wildcats got their first conference win against No. 23 Illinois last Sunday, hung with Michigan State on Wednesday and beat Indiana on the road Saturday.

8. Indiana (12-6, 2-3) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 14 W vs #3 Wisconsin 75-72, Jan. 18 L vs Northwestern 47-54
This week: Tuesday at #3 Michigan State 7pm ESPN, Sunday vs Illinois 3pm

Indiana appeared to be turning things around after an 0-2 conference start with a win at Penn State and upset over No. 3 Wisconsin. Then, the streak came to an abrupt halt in Evanston, where Northwestern shocked the streaking Hoosiers, 54-47.

9. Nebraska (9-8, 1-4) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 12 L at Purdue 64-70
This week: Monday W vs #17 Ohio State 68-62, Thursday at Penn State 8pm, Sunday vs Minnesota 6pm

After missing three layups to lose to Michigan by one point and falling at Purdue by six, Nebraska finally broke through to get its first Big Ten win Monday night against No. 17 Ohio State. Remember, power rankings demonstrate how teams are playing right now, and Nebraska has definitely looked better than Ohio State and Illinois, which are currently on a combined eight-game losing streak.

10. Ohio State (15-4, 2-4) • Down 5
Last week: Jan. 12 L vs #20 Iowa 74-84, Jan. 16 L at Minnesota 53-63
This week: Monday L at Nebraska 62-68, Thursday vs Illinois 7pm ESPN

The Buckeyes’ four-game losing streak has covered every side of the Big Ten spectrum. They have lost on the road (Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska) and at home (Iowa). They’ve lost to an undefeated conference opponent (Michigan State) and a previously-winless one (Nebraska). Thad Matta’s team will almost surely get things back on track soon, but right now Ohio State is absolutely reeling.

11. Illinois (13-6, 2-4) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 12 L at Northwestern 43-49, Jan. 15 L vs Purdue 58-66, Jan. 18 L vs #4 MSU 62-78
This week: Thursday at #17 Ohio State 7pm ESPN, Sunday at Indiana 3pm

The difference between Ohio State’s four-game losing streak and that of Illinois is simple: the Buckeyes’ streak will likely end on Thursday. The Fighting Illini have shown no signs of being able to come out of Columbus with a victory, and the losing streak will likely reach at least eight before they visit Penn State on February 9th.

12. Penn State (9-10, 0-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 14 L at Michigan 67-80, Jan. 18 L at Purdue 64-65
This week: Thursday vs Nebraska 8pm ESPNU

Pat Chambers’ team missed a real opportunity to get off the schneid on Saturday. Penn State held a lead late on the road and allowed Purdue to steal away a chance at a valuable Big Ten road win in the final seconds.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 2

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

1. Michigan State (15-1, 4-0) Even
Last week: Jan. 7 W vs #3 Ohio State 72-68 OT, Jan. 11 W vs Minnesota 87-75 OT
This week: Wednesday at Northwestern 7pm on BTN

The Spartans have remained undefeated in the Big Ten by winning their previous two games in overtime at the Breslin Center. Though the performance against Minnesota was less impressive, the victory over Ohio State is enough to make Michigan State the frontrunner through two weeks.

2. Wisconsin (16-0, 3-0) • Even
Last week: Jan. 8 W vs #23 Illinois 95-70
This week: Tuesday at Indiana 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Michigan 6pm

As the highest ranked team in the conference, Wisconsin has taken down a couple of top 25 Big Ten teams in its past two games. A comeback win over Iowa was followed by a 25-point dismantling of Illinois in which Bo Ryan’s team scored an uncharacteristic 95 points. Wisconsin is dangerous in 2014.

3. Iowa (14-3, 3-1) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 8 W vs Northwestern 93-67, Jan. 12 W at #3 Ohio State 84-74
This week: Sunday vs Minnesota 1pm BTN

Iowa has had a brutal early Big Ten schedule, travelling to both Madison and Columbus to play top 5 teams. After blowing a second half lead against the Badgers, the Hawkeyes came up with the best win in the conference so far by beating the Buckeyes on the road. Iowa’s offense ranking in the top 10 nationally in points, rebounds and assists per game.

4. Michigan (11-4, 3-0) • Even
Last week: Jan. 9 W at Nebraska 71-70
This week: Tuesday vs Penn State 8pm BTN, Saturday at #3 Wisconsin 6pm

The Wolverines have had a cakewalk of a conference schedule so far, playing three teams with a combined 3-9 Big Ten record. A close call in Lincoln proved just how deadly this conference can be in road games, so the 2-0 record away from Ann Arbor is a welcome start for a McGary-less Michigan team.

5. Ohio State (15-2, 2-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 7 L at #5 Michigan State 68-72 OT, Jan. 12 L vs #20 Iowa 74-84
This week: Thursday at Minnesota 9pm ESPN2

After starting the season win 15 wins, the Big Ten schedule has hit Ohio State in the mouth. Michigan State won a hard-fought battle in East Lansing after Aaron Craft led a strong fourth quarter comeback to force overtime. Just five days later, Iowa walked into Columbus and stunned Thad Matta’s team, which now sits at just 2-2.

6. Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 8 W at Penn State 68-65, Jan. 11 L at #5 Michigan State 75-87 OT
This week: Thursday vs #11 Ohio State 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at #14 Iowa 1pm

Minnesota has looked shaky since the start of Big Ten play, winning two games over Penn State and Purdue by three points each. On the other hand, both losses have come to undefeated Big Ten teams, one by just three points and one in overtime on the road. All signs point to the Gophers playing to the level of their competition, which makes this team dangerous late in the season, but will keep it from contending for the conference title.

7. Northwestern (8-9, 1-3) • Up 5
Last week: Jan. 9 L at #20 Iowa 67-93, Jan. 12 W vs #23 Illinois 49-43
This week: Wednesday vs #4 Michigan State 7pm BTN, Saturday at Indiana 2:30pm

Chris Collins’ team came from nowhere to upset No. 23 Illinois and get its first Big Ten win Sunday. After losing their first three conference games by 27, 23 and 26, the Wildcats held Illinois to just 43 points in Evanston.

8. Purdue (11-5, 1-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 12 W vs Nebraska 70-64
This week: Wednesday at Illinois 9pm BTN, Saturday vs Penn State 7pm

Purdue has a losing record early in Big Ten play, but single-digit losses to Ohio State and Minnesota suggest that Matt Painter has his team of Johnsons ready to play this season. A 10-3 non-conference finish was a success, too.

9. Illinois (10-5, 0-2) • Down 3
Last week: Jan. 8 L at #3 Wisconsin 70-95, Jan. 12 L at Northwestern 43-49
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #4 Michigan State 8pm

Through 17 games, Illinois ranks outside the top 290 teams nationally in both assists per game and field goal percentage. What does that mean? The team doesn’t make good decisions. Illinois seems to impress the country each year during the non-conference schedule only to struggle through the tough Big Ten slate. After being embarrassed by Wisconsin and losing a laugher to Northwestern, John Groce’s team appears to be heading down that same path in 2014.

10. Indiana (11-5, 1-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 11 W at Penn State 79-76
This week: Tuesday vs #3 Wisconsin 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Northwestern 2:30pm

Easily the most disappointing team in the Big Ten so far is Indiana. The Hoosiers have yet to put a complete game together after losing to both Illinois and Michigan State and squeaking out a three point win against the Nittany Lions. A home game against Wisconsin tonight offers a chance to turn things around in a big way.

11. Nebraska (8-8, 0-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 9 L vs Michigan 70-71, Jan. 12 L at Purdue 64-70
This week: None (Jan. 20 vs #11 Ohio State)

Nebraska is much closer to being competitive than it was last season. Three of the four Big Ten losses so far have come by 10 or less points. Three missed layups in the final seconds against Michigan snatched away the chance to open the new Pinnacle Bank Arena with a Big Ten win.

12. Penn State (9-8, 0-4) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 8 L vs Minnesota 65-68, Jan. 11 L vs Indiana 76-79
This week: Tuesday at Michigan 8pm BTN, Saturday at Purdue 7pm

Unfortunately for Penn State, the return of star guard Tim Frazier has done little to make the team more successful. Eight losses, including the first four of Big Ten play have Penn State sitting at 9-8 halfway through the season.