Last night in the Big Ten: Nebraska stays perfect with double-overtime win

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Last night in the Big Ten: Nebraska stays perfect with double-overtime win

Who knows how long Nebraska’s run is going to last here at the beginning of Big Ten play. But right now? It sure is fun to watch.

After grabbing upset wins over Indiana and Maryland to start off their Big Ten schedule, the Huskers moved to a perfect 3-0 in conference games Thursday night with a double-overtime victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s the first time Nebraska’s been 3-0 in conference play since the mid 1970s.

The backcourt duo of Glynn Watson Jr. and Tai Webster continue to pile up the points, combining for a whopping 57 of the team’s 93-point total, Watson accounting for 34 of those on a jaw-dropping 7-for-8 night from behind the 3-point line.

Nebraska had its chance to win the thing in regulation when gifted the ball with just a couple seconds left. Evan Taylor’s shot attempt missed, but he was fouled. Still, he missed the free throw, and the game went to overtime.

Iowa went up by four twice in overtime, including on a Jordan Bohannon 3-pointer with a minute and a half to go, but Nebraska came back, Webster hitting four free throws in the final 40 seconds of the first overtime period to tie the game.

Peter Jok’s 3-pointer in double overtime gave the Hawkeyes their only lead of that period, but it was soon wiped away, again by free throws as the Huskers hit four of them in the final 68 seconds to grab the win.

Nebraska got 26 of its points off 19 Iowa turnovers and owned the fast-break battle 10-0. The Hawkeyes lost despite beating the Huskers on the boards, 51-42, and smoking them in second-chance points, 27-5. But Iowa also missed 20 tries from 3-point range, while Nebraska scored 19 points from the free-throw line.

Another sensational scoring night from Jok went to waste for the Hawkeyes. He had 34 points and continues to light up the scoreboard night in and night out. The conference’s leading scorer, Jok has four games of at least 30 points this season.

Miraculously, the two teams at the top of the Big Ten standings at 3-0 are Nebraska and Michigan State. The Huskers went an ugly 6-6 during their non-conference schedule, and folks were panicking over the five losses the Spartans suffered before the start of Big Ten competition. Now they’re both in first place.

Another Northwestern cold snap as Minnesota bags another statement win

Minnesota looked every bit ready to challenge for a spot in the Big Ten conversation this season with that gloriously entertaining overtime loss to Michigan State in the conference-opener.

Since, all the Gophers have done is continue to flex their muscles. After winning on the road at Purdue, Minnesota went into Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday and took down Northwestern. In any other year, that would hardly be regarded as a statement win of any kind, but the Cats are legit this year and are included in many current NCAA tournament bracket projections.

So count Thursday’s win as another statement from the Gophers, who capitalized on some cold shooting by the Cats to grab a second straight road victory.

Minnesota and Northwestern both started off on fire, both teams shooting better than 50 percent in the first half. Five triples helped the Cats to a narrow halftime lead, but their 3-point shooting fell off a cliff after halftime. Northwestern shot a miserable 28.9 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes and went 1-for-15 from behind the 3-point line. Credit Minnesota for putting together a back-breaking 10-0 run in the middle of the second half that sent the Gophers from down seven to up three. After grabbing the lead during that run, Minnesota didn't trail again.

This is becoming a bit of a disturbing trend for the Cats, racing out to hot starts only to go cold late in games. Look back to that win over Dayton, where Northwestern shot better than 50 percent in the first half and under 30 percent in the second half, making just one basket over the final 10 minutes. The Cats shot better than 55 percent in the first half of their conference-opening win over Penn State but just barely better than 30 percent in the second half. And while shooting numbers weren't as drastic in losses to Butler and Notre Dame, the final seconds of those games could have and perhaps should have sealed Northwestern wins instead of leading to heart-breaking losses.

In a quest for enough conference wins to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time, Northwestern’s got to stop doing that — especially at home.

Meanwhile, Nate Mason continued to tear it up for Minnesota. He scored 12 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed five rebound in Thursday’s win and is now averaging 20.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds in conference play.

Loss to Purdue, Bates-Diop’s injury make for tough night for Ohio State

The biggest headline of the night for Ohio State had little to do with the outcome of Thursday night’s game against Purdue, as junior forward Keith Bates-Diop has a stress fracture in his leg and will miss the remainder of the season.

That’s a real bummer for the Buckeyes, who are one of many Big Ten squads floating in bubble territory when it comes to NCAA tournament hopes. Trying to get on the right side of that bubble without Bates-Diop will be tough. Despite dealing with the injury this season, Bates-Diop was having a nice statistical year, averaging nearly 10 points and better than five rebounds a game.

Thursday night, Ohio State dropped to 0-2 in conference play with a gut-wrenching loss to Purdue. It was mostly a tight game, and though the Buckeyes never led in the second half, they were right there at the end, erasing a five-point Boilermakers lead with a little more than two minutes to play. Ohio State tied the game at 75 with 15 seconds left, Trevor Thompson corralling a terrible attempt by Marc Loving and putting it in and drawing the foul. But Thompson missed the free throw and followed by fouling Caleb Swanigan at the other end. Swanigan put in one of his two free throws to get the Boilers out of Columbus with a win.

All in all, it was a real tough night for Ohio State.

Big Ten reportedly talking about expanding conference basketball schedule

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Big Ten reportedly talking about expanding conference basketball schedule

Conference play could be getting a bit longer in the Big Ten.

According to a Monday report from ESPN's Jeff Goodman, there are talks about expanding the Big Ten conference basketball schedule from 18 games to 20 games.

Commissioner Jim Delany told Goodman that while there hasn't been a vote among the league's coaches yet, there are ongoing discussions about lengthening conference play by a couple of games.

Conference play expanded a decade ago, when the number of league games jumped from 16 to 18 for the 2007-08 season.

In order for there to be enough days in between games for players, an expanded league schedule would mean the beginning of conference play coming earlier in December. Recently, conference play has typically started around New Year's. Of course, there will be a week earlier start to conference play this season with the Big Ten Tournament — at Madison Square Garden in New York — a week earlier than usual, wrapping a full week before Selection Sunday.

Similar moves have been made in football, with the Big Ten starting a nine-game conference slate last fall. It's meant league games in September — a no-no in the past — and this season will feature a conference matchup in the season's first week, when Indiana and Ohio State play on Aug. 31.

Expanding conference play in college basketball would have a similar effect as it has had on schedules in football. With fewer non-conference slots to fill, those games become more important to a team's NCAA tournament resume. It forces teams to schedule more high-profile opponents and eliminate games against small schools that generate little interest during the season's first couple months.

The ACC, a league that often runs neck and neck with the Big Ten in the debate over which is America's top basketball conference, announced it will be moving to a 20-game schedule last July, with that starting in the 2019-20 season.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo shared some thoughts on the subject with Goodman, saying he expects the move to happen.

"I personally see us going to a 20-game schedule," Izzo told Goodman. "I don't think there's any question it's going to happen — and I'm not overly against it."

Ohio State has its new head coach in Butler's Chris Holtmann

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Ohio State has its new head coach in Butler's Chris Holtmann

Ohio State found its next head basketball coach, going to one of Thad Matta's former employers to find the longtime coach's successor.

The school announced Friday morning that Butler head coach Chris Holtmann is the Buckeyes' new head coach.

Holtmann spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Butler, posting a 70-31 record and making NCAA tournament appearances in all three of those seasons, including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in March. He was named the Big East Coach of the Year this past season.

Holtmann spent two seasons as an assistant at Ohio under former Illinois head coach John Groce, a former Matta assistant, before serving as the head coach at Gardner-Webb for three seasons. Holtmann left Gardner-Webb for an assistant-coaching job at Butler, though he was quickly promoted to interim head coach and then head coach in Indianapolis.

Holtmann takes over for Matta, who himself was the Butler head coach in the 2000-01 season before becoming the all-time wins leader at Ohio State. Matta's mostly successful tenure was ended earlier this week, when athletics director Gene Smith saw recruiting misses teaming with declining win totals to create a dip in Matta's success.

This week has been dominated by rumors and declarations of lack of interest from numerous candidates and possible candidates for the job. Xavier head coach Chris Mack and Creighton head coach Greg McDermott both made their decisions to stay at their current schools known via social media, and a report linking Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg to the job forced a no-interest comment from Hoiberg, too.

Despite those repeated "no thank yous," though, Ohio State is still seen to be one of the best jobs in college basketball thanks to one of the highest-profile athletics departments and one of the best conferences in the country, providing ample resources.

Recruiting will be a big expectation for Holtmann, as Matta's performance in that area dipped near the end of his tenure. The Buckeyes missed the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons, while Holtmann just took Butler to a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance, the highest in that program's history.