Well, we are almost a quarter of the way through Big Ten (B1G) basketball season already, so let’s take a look back at some highlights and lowlights over the first four B1G conference games of the season with some B1G Bullet Points.
- Iowa (3-0 in B1G play) has been by far the most impressive team of the conference slate so far. Not only have they beaten the previously undefeated Michigan State Spartans, but they also went into West Laffayette (Purdue) and came out with a win over the twin towers of Haas and Hammond. The Hawkeyes are also averaging 76.7 point per game in conference play so far thanks to Jarrod Uthoff (18.6 PPG) who still goes unnoticed despite leading the conference in scoring. Of course none of this comes as a surprise if you read my B1G conference preview.
- The Boilermakers (2-2) have been a roller coaster team so far in the B1G Ten. Winning in Madtown against the Badgers is never easy, and beating an up and coming Wolverine team in Mackey Arena go down as the positives for the Boilers so far. However, blowing a huge lead at home to Iowa and losing against a struggling Illinois squad has people questioning whether this version of the Boilers can find enough consistency to finally get fans off of Matt Painter’s back. Haas needs to help out his frontcourt mate Hammond as he is averaging only 6.2 PPG in conference play so far.
- Northwestern (2-2), looking for their FIRST NCAA tourney bid ever in case you haven’t heard, has gone 2-0 on the road but an unfortunate 0-2 in Evanston to start B1G play. The Wildcats really seem to miss Alex Olah, their starting center out with a foot injury, against premier conference opponents. No center scored more than eight points for NU in either loss to Ohio State or Maryland. They will need to find more consistent low-post play if they want to get the key victories desperately needed on their March resumé.
- Are the Illini (1-3) finally breaking out of their patented early season slump that has become so infamous under John Groce? The Illini looked mediocre at best in their first three games of the B1G season in losses to Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State, but looked like a completely reborn team in a dominating win over Purdue at home. The Illini put up 84 points on one of the best defensive teams in the country. Led by Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn, the Illini have two of the most dynamic scorers in the league, but they will have to improve their defense (giving up at least 70 points in every B1G game) if they want to find some consistency.
- Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the country, the Spartans (3-1) have learned to play without Denzel Valentine. After a tough loss at a surprising Iowa team, the Spartans have rebounded to win their next three games by an average margin of 20 points per game. Izzo has also found a second scorer that has more than stepped up in Valentine’s absence. Bryn Forbes has averaged 19 PPG in the three games following the defeat in Iowa City. That should bode well for Sparty having that second scorer to rely on come tourney time.
- The Hoosiers and Terrapins are the only 4-0 teams in the conference but neither has a huge win on its conference resumé. Melo Trimble created some magic with a buzzer-beating three to beat Wisco in Madison, while Indiana has some solid wins at home over Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Hoosiers somehow don’t play a ranked opponent until February 11th against Iowa, so expect the Hosiers to stay in the conference race for some time.
- On the opposite side of the spectrum, Minnesota and Rutgers are both winless (0-4). Rutgers could be looking for that elusive first W for awhile as the Scarlet Knights don’t play a team in the bottom half of the conference until February 3rd against Illinois. Minnesota meanwhile gets a shot in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers for their next conference game as the two cellar-dwellers duel it out for the prestigious right to finish in last in the B1G.
Well that’s all I got for you from the first 22.22% of conference games. May more buzzer-beaters and upsets be in our future.