Big Ten basketball roundup: Rebounding from rough weekend

Big Ten basketball roundup: Rebounding from rough weekend
December 18, 2013, 11:00 am
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Vinnie Duber

It wasn't a good weekend for the Big Ten.

Ten games on Friday and Saturday resulted in six losses for the conference, and the defeats weren't all high-caliber, either. Heading into the weekend, it was evident that many of these games were the final tests of the non-conference portion of the schedule for many of the teams. But in the end, these tests were not passed.

Whether falling to in-state rivals — Iowa was the latest loser at Iowa State, Indiana lost to Notre Dame and Purdue fell to Butler — or blowing second-half leads — Michigan ended up losing by two to No. 1 Arizona, Illinois had another road collapse vs. Oregon and Penn State went from a blowout win to an overtime loss at home to Princeton — the Big Ten did not look pretty. That goes for at least one victor, too, as No. 5 Michigan State didn't exactly run away with its win over Oakland.

While no team's season was derailed because of any one loss, come tournament time this weekend could mean a lot when it comes to the national perception of the conference.

This week marks one of just two remaining before Big Ten play begins on New Year's Eve.

Illinois Fighting Illini (9-2)

AP Rank: Not ranked

With few notable games on Illinois' schedule entering Saturday night's game against the top-15 Oregon Ducks, a strong showing early from the orange and blue was impressive. But when the Illini built and then blew another significant second-half lead — nine points this time, following that double-digit collapse against Georgia Tech — it just reinforced the idea that they can't beat any opponent of consequence. Of course, John Groce's team will have another big opportunity to prove that notion incorrect when it heads to St. Louis for the annual Braggin' Rights game against Missouri. The Tigers are off to an undefeated start and hold the country's No. 23 ranking.

This week: vs. Missouri (in St. Louis), 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Indiana Hoosiers (8-3)

AP Rank: Not ranked

The Hoosiers are in a similar spot to their rivals to the west, as they too have nothing but losses against quality competition. Heading into this past weekend, that meant a pair of losses against top-10 teams in Syracuse and UConn, but now Notre Dame gets added to that list after Saturday's game in Indianapolis. Indiana got a strong performance in this one from Will Sheehey (22 points) and Yogi Ferrell (13 points), but freshmen stars Troy Williams (0 points in just 14 minutes) and Noah Vonleh (the Big ten's leading rebounder hauled in only six boards) were ineffective.

This week: vs. Nicholls State, 6 p.m. Friday; vs. Kennesaw State, 11 a.m. Sunday

[MORE: Tough schedule not helping preseason top-10 Michigan]

Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2)

AP Rank: 25

Iowa's Friday-night loss to Iowa State kicked off the sour weekend, and though the Cyclones have made a habit of rudely dispatching of visitors to Hilton Coliseum, the Hawkeyes could have and perhaps should have won this one. Iowa had a seven-point lead at the half before Iowa State outscored Iowa 47-37 in the second half. The loss to a quality opponent didn't bump the Hawkeyes out of the top 25, though it did nudge them down from No. 23 to No. 25. Iowa should have a very good chance of getting back on track vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

This week: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 1 p.m. Sunday

Michigan Wolverines (6-4)

AP Rank: Receiving votes

It hasn't been a good go of things for the Wolverines thus far, falling from the preseason No. 7 team to a 6-4 team before the end of December, and they can partially blame a ruthless schedule. Losses to Iowa State and Duke preceded the most recent defeat to No. 1 Arizona over the weekend in Ann Arbor. And though John Beilein and crew were pleased with their performance after losing by just a bucket to the nation's top team, it could be tricky to end the season without double-digit losses. A neutral-site date with Stanford looms this weekend.

This week: vs. Stanford (in New York), 7:30 p.m. Saturday

[RELATED: Behind Crawford's 26 points, Northwestern bests MVSU]

Michigan State Spartans (9-1)

AP Rank: 5

You'd think the Spartans would have been immune to the weekend's trip-ups, as they had Oakland on the schedule, hardly a tough non-conference test. But that's exactly what the Golden Grizzlies gave them. Trailing at halftime, Michigan State needed everything to get past Oakland by just four points, winning 67-63. Strangely, depth was the issue for the Spartans. Without Gary Harris, Tom Izzo's crew needed to be completely carried by Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson, who combined for 57 of the team's 67 points.

This week: at Texas, 3 p.m. Saturday

Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-2)

AP Rank: Not ranked

Since a not-so-great trip to Maui started with back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Arkansas, Richard Pitino's team has rattled off four straight victories, winning every game by at least 10 points. That includes a 10-point defeat of Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. And though a glance at the schedule reveals that the Gophers are lacking wins against top-notch competition — with the exception of that game against the Seminoles — this team is 9-2 and figures to be 11-2 when Big ten play begins.

This week: vs. Nebraska-Omaha, 8 p.m. Friday

[MORE: Illini blow another second-half lead, fall to Oregon]

Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-3)

AP Rank: Not ranked

Tim Miles' team hasn't played away from its brand-new arena much this season, which is a good thing. The Huskers are undefeated in their new place, winning all six games. Unfortunately, that means they're also 1-3 on the road. But two of those losses have come against pretty strong teams in UMass, now ranked, and Creighton, boasting All-America candidate Doug McDermott. This week allows for another home contest against The Citadel before testing that road play again at Cincinnati to wrap up non-conference play.

This week: vs. Citadel, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Northwestern Wildcats (6-5)

AP Rank: Not ranked

The rough start to the "NU Era" had a bright spot Monday, when Drew Crawford poured in 26 points en route to a runaway win over Mississippi Valley State, a victory that gave Chris Collins his second winning streak of the year. Two more home games against Brown and DePaul figure to extend that streak to end the non-conference season. It'd be nice to get some wins under the Cats' belts. They open Big Ten play by hosting No. 4 Wisconsin on Jan. 2.

This week: vs. Brown, 1 p.m. Sunday

[RELATED: Chris Collins: Northwestern is 'a work in progress']

Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0)

AP Rank: 3

The Buckeyes cruised to victories last week over Bryant and North Dakota State, as the highest-ranked Big Ten team managed to avoid the weekend blues. LaQuinton Ross and and Lenzelle Smith Jr. each went for 18 points in Saturday's romp of North Dakota State, though the Ohio State defense continues to reign supreme. Aaron Craft might have a threat for the Big Ten steals title, and it might come from his own team. He and Shannon Scott are tied atop the conference with 2.4 steals per game. 

This week: vs. Delaware, 6 p.m. Wednesday; vs. Notre Dame (in New York), 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4)

AP Rank: Not ranked

Perhaps the biggest disaster of a loss over the weekend came in Not So Happy Valley, where Penn State blew a massive lead and was stunned by Princeton in overtime. Up 12 at the half, the Lions were outscored by 15 over the final 25 minutes of this one. Again, big days from the stars couldn't to lead to a "W." D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier are the conference's two top scorers and each scored 24 points Saturday, but their amazing play, for the fourth time this season, didn't translate to a team win.

This week: vs. Mount St. Mary's, 1 p.m. Sunday

[BIG TEN FOOTBALL: Could a Big Ten player win the Heisman Trophy in 2014?]

Purdue Boilermakers (9-3)

AP Rank: Not ranked

The Boilermakers couldn't get by in-state foe Butler over the weekend but did rebound Tuesday with a win over Maryland-Eastern Shore. Good news for the Boilers is their freshman point guard, Bryson Scott, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season, the first Purdue freshman to ever do that. Scott is averaging 10.2 points per game and has scored in double digits seven times this year, including a season-high 18 points in Purdue's loss to top-10 Oklahoma State.

This week: at West Virginia, 12 p.m. Sunday

Wisconsin Badgers (12-0)

AP Rank: 4

The Badgers just keep on rolling. They easily dispatched of Eastern Kentucky last weekend, 86-61, thanks to four different Badgers scoring in double figures. No BIg Ten team has made more 3-pointers this season than Wisconsin, led by the conference's top individual 3-point shooter, Ben Brust, who's splashed home 34 of them. There's just one non-conference game left for the 12-0 Badgers: They host Prairie View A&M before beginning Big Ten play Jan. 2 at Northwestern.

This week: No games

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