Purdue states case as Big Ten's best with double-digit win over Wisconsin

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AP

Purdue states case as Big Ten's best with double-digit win over Wisconsin

We know the middle of the Big Ten is wide open, but what about the top?

Wisconsin entered as the consensus favorite, undefeated in its first two conference games, but perhaps Purdue belongs at the forefront of the conversation after the Boilermakers lit up the Badgers on Sunday afternoon at Mackey.

Purdue shot the lights out to the tune of 52.2 percent as Wisconsin struggled offensively in a 66-55 game, one that saw a dominant performance from Caleb Swanigan. The Boilers' big man scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, doing it all with his 14th double-double of the season. He's posted a double-double in each of his last eight games.

The Badgers' rough offensive afternoon started early. They shot just 34.5 percent from the field and went through an ugly scoreless stretch that lasted nearly six minutes. The Badgers got just one basket — a Khalil Iverson dunk — during a nearly nine-minute stretch and ended the first half without a 3-pointer, 0-for-6 as a team. But Purdue couldn’t do too much to capitalize in the first half. The Boilers shot a stellar 52.6 percent and got a couple big 3s from Dakota Mathias, one that put them up 10 with under four minutes until halftime. But Purdue turned the ball over a whopping 11 times over the first 20 minutes, leading directly to seven Wisconsin points.

The Badgers kept it close enough in the opening stages of the second half and had an opportunity to close within a possession when the game turned around. A Boilers turnover led to a breakaway for Wisconsin guard D'Mitrik Trice, but he was caught too far under the basket and blew the fast-break layup. Purdue's P.J. Thompson went down and splashed in a 3-pointer to turn a four-point lead into a seven-point lead and kick off a 12-0 run that featured seven straight points from Ryan Cline.

Simultaneously, the Badgers went on another long scoring drought, more than four minutes without a point and almost five minutes without a made basket. Wisconsin couldn't close within single digits again, Purdue's 16-point advantage created by the 12-0 run hitting a game-high 17 en route to an 11-point victory.

The Badgers fared much better shooting the ball in the second half but still finished with a low 39-percent mark on the game. Bronson Koenig was pretty much nowhere to be found, scoring just nine points. Ethan Happ had a team-high 17 points and had a whopping six steals but struggled at times against Purdue seven-footer Isaac Haas. Nigel Hayes scored 10 points for the Badgers.

Swanigan led the way for the Boilers with his big day, and Haas was also in double figures with 13 points.

The win sent Purdue to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. The Boilers next travel to play Iowa on Thursday.

The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for Wisconsin and dropped its record to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference. The Badgers take on Ohio State on Thursday.

Big Ten reportedly talking about expanding conference basketball schedule

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USA TODAY

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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USA TODAY

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.