14. Rutgers (10-16, 2-11 B1G)
Last Week: Purdue (L, 51-61)
This Week: at Iowa (2/19); Indiana (2/22)
13. Northwestern (11-14, 2-10 B1G)
Last Week: Michigan State (L, 44-68); Iowa (W, 66-61)
Northwestern almost Northwestern'd again.
Seeking to end a 10-game losing streak in which there had been numerous last-minute losses, Northwestern had a three-point lead with 11 seconds left in regulation against Iowa. However, Iowa had the ball, so the Wildcats still needed to force one final Iowa miss -- or, you know, prevent Iowa from even launching a potential game-tying three by fouling and putting the Hawkeyes on the free-throw line. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, it never is for Northwestern...
It was happening again.
Even Doug Collins -- father of Northwestern coach Chris Collins -- couldn't believe it:
But then something strange happened in overtime: Iowa didn't allow Northwestern to complete its patented collapse. Iowa had open look after open look against the Wildcats' 2-3 zone in the extra period, but none of them fell until Jarrod Uthoff made a layup with 30 ticks left to cut Iowa's deficit to three points. The Wildcats tried to give it away again..
... but Iowa refused Northwestern's generous offer.
So, yes, Northwestern won a close game!
[peaks through the window to see if the zombie apocalypse has begun]
This Week: at Minnesota (2/18); Penn State (2/21)
12. Nebraska (13-12, 5-8 B1G)
Last Week: Wisconsin (L, 55-65); at Purdue (L, 54-66)
This past Friday, we learned just how difficult this season has been for Terran Petteway. His on-the-court struggles already have been well-noted in this space. Though he's the Big Ten's third-leading scorer, averaging 18.6 points per game, he scores that much only because he shoots more than any other player in the Big Ten. He's the Big Ten's Kobe Bryant -- a volume scorer with a shot selection that often leaves you wondering, "Why?" He was like this last season, too, but he wasn't criticized because Nebraska was winning games. But, with Nebraska falling to the bottom of the standings after lofty preseason expectations this season, his ability and even his leadership skills have been questioned.
On Friday, Petteway opened up and shared with the public that his mother currently is battling and undergoing treatment for cancer. He stated that he's worried about his mother and her condition has weighed on him throughout the season. I mean, how could it not? His stats have remained the same, but his on-the-court demeanor and connection with coaches and teammates have been more volatile. He's had more emotional reactions to officiating and coaching decisions with which he disagreed, and, according to Tim Miles, Petteway hasn't connected with his teammates like he had in previous seasons.
I hope that, with his disclosure of his mother's fight with cancer, Petteway can be more at peace for the rest of the season. I hope that he can play some of the best basketball he is capable of in these final few weeks of the season. And I hope he realizes that the entire Big Ten basketball community has he and his mother in its thoughts and prayers.
This Week: at Maryland (2/19); Iowa (2/22)
11. Penn State (15-11, 3-10 B1G)
Last Week: at Ohio State (L, 55-75); Maryland (L, 73-76)
So, somehow, this was whistled as an offensive foul on Jordan Dickerson:
I have no clue what the official saw here. To me, it looks like Evan Smotrycz lost his balance while attempting to maneuver around Dickerson's screen, hooked his arm around Dickerson's arm as he fell, and pulled Dickerson to the ground. Maybe, just maybe, Smotrycz lost his balance because he stumbled over Dickerson's right foot while Dickerson tried to set his screen, but then this should be a no call, not an offensive foul.
Penn State coach Pat Chambers understandably blew up about this foul call:
"That was the worst call I've ever seen in my entire life," Chambers said after the game. "They're pulling Jordan Dickerson down.
"First of all, time and score. [The referee is] too young. He doesn't have a feel for the game. He shouldn't call that foul. That's one. Two is, [Geno Thorpe] back cut it, he went down the middle. He didn't even use the screen. And [Dickerson got pulled down, and they call a foul on him?"
Chambers' reference to the "time and score" is critical, too. This horrendous call on Dickerson was made with Penn State trailing Maryland, 70-68, with 1:50 left in the game. If no call was made, it seems Penn State would have scored and knotted it up at 70-70. Instead, the referees handed the ball to the Terrapins, who proceeded to make a layup and extend their lead to four points on the ensuing possession. Penn State still had a chance to send it to overtime in the final seconds when D.J. Newbill fired a three-pointer, which he missed, but this "foul" drastically altered the dynamic of the last two minutes of the game and may have robbed Penn State of a rivalry win over Maryland.
Chambers has every right to be as frustrated and upset as he is with that awful call.
Of course, that right comes with a $10,000 cost.
This Week: Wisconsin (2/18); at Northwestern (2/21)
10. Michigan (13-12, 6-7 B1G)
Last Week: at Illinois (L, 52-64)
Since Caris LeVert fractured his foot, Michigan has played in three overtime games -- against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Illinois -- all of which the Wolverines lost. But they were not just out-dueled in these extra sessions. They were smoked as the Badgers, Spartans, and Fighting Illini outscored them, 36-9, in those three overtime periods.
The four factors for these 15 minutes are, well, you may want to avert your eyes:
The pattern here is easy to diagnose. Michigan is undermanned and forced to give its starters a huge dose of minutes. For example, four Wolverines played all 20 minutes of the second half against Illinois and didn't sub out once. Thus, when overtime begins, Michigan is exhausted and has nothing left in the tank to offer unlike its opposition. This is why all three of Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Illinois have opened up the overtime session with no worse than a 6-0 run, from which Michigan must try to recover. But, because the Wolverines then feel compelled to chuck threes, of which they have made only 1-of-11 in the three overtime periods, they fall even further behind and must foul intentionally, hence their absurd defensive free-throw rate. It's become a vicious cycle.
So, if Michigan wants to beat its rivals this week, it may want to do so in regulation.
This Week: Michigan State (2/17); Ohio State (2/22)
9. Illinois (17-9, 7-6 B1G)
Last Week: Michigan (W, 64-52); at Wisconsin (L, 49-68)
The big news for Illinois last week was the return of Rayvonte Rice. Since January 3rd, Rice had been sidelined with a broken hand and then a suspension for undisclosed reasons. Prior to his injury, Rice sneakily had been one of the Big Ten's best and most efficient high-usage players, averaging 17.2 points per game with an eFG% of 51.5 percent, so Fighting Illini fans eagerly were anticipating his return. However, with his non-shooting hand still heavily bandaged, Rice looked rusty against Michigan and Wisconsin last week. He averaged seven points in 28.5 minutes per game while making only 6-of-19 shots (1-of-6 3FG) total. Not stellar. The good news is that Illini don't need Rice to regain his previous form as a star immediately with Malcolm Hill still playing like an All-Big Ten second-teamer. But it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to rediscover his offensive rhythm as Illinois tries to make an NCAA Tournament push.
This Week: Michigan State (2/22)
8. Minnesota (16-10, 5-8 B1G)
Last Week: at Iowa (W, 64-59); at Indiana (L, 71-90)
For the second straight week, Minnesota excelled at forcing turnovers. After harassing Nebraska and Purdue to turn over the basketball 33.2 percent and 34.9 percent of the time last week, respectively, Minnesota's defense caused Iowa and Indiana each to cough it up more than one-quarter of their possessions this week. However, Minnesota's press didn't have the same effect on both the Hawkeyes and the Hoosiers. While the pressure disrupted Iowa's offensive flow, holding the Hawkeyes to just a scoring rate below 100 points per 100 possessions, it did nothing to slow down the offensive machine that is the Hoosiers. When they weren't turning over the ball, they were putting it in the basket. Indiana finished with a scoring rate of 137 points per 100 possessions, which is the most a Minnesota defense has permitted since the 2009-10 season, and demolished the Gophers. It doesn't matter much now that their NCAA Tournament hopes are kaput, but the Gophers must do more than just get steals on defense if they want to experience success:
This Week: Northwestern (2/18); at Wisconsin (2/21)
7. Iowa (15-10, 6-6 B1G)
Last Week: Minnesota (L, 59-64); at Northwestern (L, 61-66)
There's nothing more "Iowa" than following up a week in which the Hawkeyes stomped Michigan on the road and ran Maryland out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena by losing to both Minnesota at home and Northwestern in Evanston. What the heck, Iowa? For once, can you just be a normal team that makes some sort of sense? Last week, we all debated if Iowa could be the front-runner for second place in the Big Ten. Now? Iowa is out of the conversation. I want to trust that Iowa can perform well down the stretch. I really do. They certainly have the talent with players like Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff leading the way, but I'm starting to doubt the coaching of Fran McCaffery. Under McCaffery, Iowa is 13-31 in games decided by six points or fewer. Generally, I'd blame this on bad luck, which I'm sure has played a role, but, when I see some of the temper tantrums he's thrown or the rotations he's made, like continuing to play a struggling Adam Woodbury in overtime against Northwestern when Gabriel Olaseni had been much more effective, I begin to believe that Iowa's poor record in close games is more of a reflection of bad coaching than bad luck. And it makes me wonder if Iowa is in for a repeat of last season:
|Season||Record Before January 20th||Record On and After January 20th|
This Week: Rutgers (2/19); at Nebraska (2/22)
6. Indiana (18-8, 8-5 B1G)
Last Week: at Maryland (L, 66-68); Minnesota (W, 90-71)
Ferrell's game is awesome. He's the straw that stirs the drink for Indiana; (James) Blackmon theoretically could be considered a combo guard (so the Hoosiers could potentially work without Yogi), but Ferrell elevates the entire team to another level with his distribution. He's a true point guard, or as true as point guards can be - he looks to set up his teammates and they all thrive because of it (especially Williams and the White Guys, as well as Stanford Robinson and Hanner Mosquera-Perea - so basically half the team). Ferrell was thrust into a leadership role last year as a sophomore because of the exodus of talent following the Zeller-Oladipo year and, predictably, he struggled. Few sophomores can captain a ship full of young players to anything resembling coherence.
While another year of maturity and growth has assisted Ferrell in his development as a leader of the Indiana program, it must be noted that he has been able to flourish this season because he no longer must carry the entire offense by himself, to which Cook does allude later in his piece. Yes, Ferrell did have an NBA lottery selection in Noah Vonleh in the front court last season, but Ferrell was the only guard or wing worth a damn, and his offensive rating (114.5) and usage rate (25 pct.) relative to those of the other Hoosiers on last year's roster indicate that. This season, with Blackmon and an arsenal of sharpshooters spacing the floor, Ferrell hasn't had to do as much work on the offense end -- his usage rate has dipped to 22.8 percent -- which has allowed his efficiency to boom (124.9 -- 48th in the nation). Thus, he's been the Big Ten's best point guard and most likely the Big Ten's third-best player overall this season behind only Frank Kaminsky and D'Angelo Russell. It's amazing what a point guard can do with efficient teammates.
This Week: Purdue (2/19); at Rutgers (2/22)
5. Michigan State (17-8, 8-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Northwestern (W, 68-44); Ohio State (W, 59-56)
I mean, it was Valentine's Day. Did we really not expect Denzel Valentine to do this?
Valentine's "lovely" game-winning three in the final seconds not only capped a 17-point, three-rebound, three-assist performance on Valentine's Day but it also delivered Michigan State its first win over a top-25 team this season. While I think the Spartans will cruise to the NCAA Tournament, this was a much-needed win for their resume.
This Week: at Michigan (2/17); at Illinois (2/22)
4. Purdue (17-9, 9-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Rutgers (W, 61-51); Nebraska (W, 66-54)
Though two wins were expected last week, Purdue continues to defy the odds:
|Rank||School||Actual B1G Wins||Expected B1G Wins||Margin|
What the Boilermakers are doing right now is incredible. This was a team that lost to North Florida and Gardner-Webb at home in December and now is in a second-place tie in the Big Ten. If the Boilermakers can beat rival Indiana at Assembly Hall this week, not only would it be a monumental win for their still-shaky NCAA Tournament chances, it could give Matt Painter an insurmountable lead in the Big Ten Coach of the Year race.
This Week: at Indiana (2/19)
3. Maryland (21-5, 9-4 B1G)
Last Week: Indiana (W, 68-66); at Penn State (W, 76-73)
There's little doubt that Maryland is a quality team (No. 39 on KenPom), but few schools have been luckier than the Terrapins this season. In fact, according to KenPom, the Terrapins are the fifth-luckiest team in the nation. This is no surprise when you realize that Maryland's average margin of victory in its nine Big Ten wins is 6.6 points and its average margin of defeat in its four Big Ten losses is 16.5 points. And four of those wins were decided by three points or fewer, all of which had some sort of ridiculous sequence at the end that went in the Terrapins' favor. There was Dez Wells' game-tying three that forced overtime against Michigan State in East Lansing. There was Wells' putback that completed an epic comeback against Northwestern. There was Yogi Ferrell not seeing a wide-open Troy Williams underneath and missing this potential game-winning three from the top of the key. And there was the horrible offensive foul whistled on Penn State's Jordan Dickerson in the last two minutes that completely changed the game. Maryland better enjoy this luck because, sometime soon, it will turn.
This Week: Nebraska (2/19)
2. Ohio State (19-7, 8-5 B1G)
Last Week: Penn State (W, 75-55); at Michigan State (L, 56-59)
Ohio State remains at No. 2 despite last weekend's loss to the Spartans for the same reason I didn't drop the Buckeyes below Indiana when they lost to the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall back in January. A close loss to an upper-half Big Ten team on the road is not deserving of punishment. If anything, such a loss informs me that the losing team likely would win more often than not if the two teams met on a neutral floor. And that'd almost certainly be the case if the two met on the loser's home court. Michigan State may have won that game, but that the Spartans needed Denzel Valentine to drill a three in the waning seconds to beat the Buckeyes at home makes me think Ohio State is still the second-best team in the Big Ten and my pick to finish behind Wisconsin in the standings.
This Week: at Michigan (2/22)
1. Wisconsin (23-2, 11-1 B1G)
Last Week: at Nebraska (W, 65-55); Illinois (W, 68-49)
Bo Ryan infamously brought us "Murder Ball." Now he's about to bring us this:
|Rank||School||Adjusted Offensive Efficiency|
|3||2005 Wake Forest||124.0|
|6||2011 Ohio State||123.3|
|8||2009 North Carolina||122.4|
|9||2005 North Carolina||121.9|
Wisconsin's offense is clicking at a historic level and on the verge of shattering the previous record for the best offense in the KenPom era. During this eight-game winning streak, for all of which Bronson Koenig has been the starting point guard, Wisconsin has averaged 129.1 points per 100 possessions. This is literally off-the-chart efficiency:
So I suggest you sit down and watch Wisconsin whenever you can for the rest of the season because I don't know when we'll see an offense of this caliber in the near future.
This Week: at Penn State (2/18); Minnesota (2/21)