Tag Archives: Minnesota

B1G Ten Midseason Breakdown

Well we have officially reached the halfway point in the Big Ten (B1G) conference season and there is a lot to discuss. The conference crown is still very up for grabs and there’s also a clear divide between the top and bottom half of the conference. So without further ado, let’s take stock of where each team is at in the B1G power rankings after nine conference games. We’ll also dive into what teams have to look forward to the rest of the season.

  1. Iowa: The clear winner of the first 50% of the conference slate is one of the surprise teams in the nation (feels very familiar to football season doesn’t it, Hawkeye fans?). Iowa is tied at the top of the conference with an 8-1 conference record (17-4 overall) and has their hardest part of the schedule behind them. With two wins apiece over Purdue and Michigan State, their toughest test left on the schedule a visit to Bloomington to face the Hoosiers. These Hawkeyes have to be the favorites to win the league. Iowa is a lock for the tourney and could set up as a possible one-seed, sitting at #5 in the country currently.
  2. Maryland: Just a half-game behind the Hawkeyes, the Terps are sitting at 8-2 in conference play (19-3 overall). Melo Trimble has found a solid front court duo in Robert Carter and Diamond Stone who combine for 26 points and 12 rebounds a game. The Terps still have to face Purdue twice and travel to Bloomington, so they have their work cut out for them if they want to chase down Iowa for the B1G crown. Beyond that, Maryland should be another lock for the B1G to make it to March Madness, with their seed the only thing left up in the air.
  3. Purdue: The Boilers are a solid 7-3 in the B1G so far, and outside of a baffling loss at Illinois have looked very solid throughout. They still need more out of their backcourt with a forward (Vince Edwards) leading the team in assists at a paltry 2.9 average. The Boilers have a solid resume and should be a lock if they can avoid a catastrophic collapse, but a B1G title will be tough to attain given a more difficult second half of conference play, including two against Maryland.
  4. Indiana: No one knows what to make of this team quite yet. That’s because they easily had the softest schedule to start the year which could be why they are tied for first at 9-1 in conference (19-4 overall). Their best win came last night in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines and they have a brutal stretch run featuring games against Iowa (twice), Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan State. The Hoosiers are averaging a robust 85 points per game (tops in the B1G), but their remaining schedule should spell doom for a team competing for the crown. The Hoosiers should make the tourney, but a poor Strength of Schedule and a mediocre RPI (50) means this Hoosier team needs quality wins to beef up their resume for March.
  5. Michigan State: The Spartans got off to a disappointing start in B1G play at 3-4 but have recovered to win their last three (19-4 overall), including a win over Maryland. Tom Izzo’s squad posts the best defense in the B1G, holding opponents to 62.4 points per game. Meanwhile Denzel Valentine picked up where he left off before his injury, averaging 19 PPG, 8 RPG, and 7 APG. The Spartans will make the tourney in all likelihood, but their poor start ends their B1G title hopes, being down three games to Iowa and losing the tiebreaker to the Hawkeyes.
  6. Michigan: John Beilein’s team is the dividing line in the B1G between the top and bottom half of the conference. Michigan sits at 7-3 in conference play (17-6 overall) losing their only tough games of the first half against Iowa, Indiana and Purdue. The Wolverine’s boast a very balanced squad with four players averaging in double figures. They have work left to do to make it to March due to their lack of quality wins. Getting leading scorer Caris Levert back from injury should be a big boost for Michigan as their schedule intensifies in the second half of B1G play.
  7. Wisconsin: After a brutal start to the B1G season at 1-4, the Badgers have done a complete 180 in winning their last four (13-9 overall), including huge wins over Michigan State and Indiana. Wisconsin isn’t blowing anyone away, with their average margin of victory at 4.5 points per game in those wins, and they’ll need to pick up their offense if they want to continue their hot run. The Badgers are one of only four B1G teams averaging less than 70 points per game (69.2) with the other three making up the bottom of the B1G. Wisconsin has some good wins, but their record needs some work in order to make a real case for getting in to the tourney.
  8. Ohio State: At 6-4 in the B1G (14-9 overall), Ohio St. finds themselves squarely on the bubble for March Madness, and probably on the outside looking in at this point. The Buckeye’s best B1G game came this past weekend in a loss to Maryland 66-61. With their best win against an underachieving Kentucky squad, Thad Matta and his group will have to take advantage of concluding three games in the B1G that read: vs. Michigan State, vs. Iowa, and finally @ Michigan State. Marc Loving will have to pick it up to score a couple victories in that stretch as he’s shooting just over 40% on the season.
  9. Northwestern: Getting off to a 3-2 start in conference play had the students in Evanston dreaming of their first NCAA tourney. But losing five straight against tough competition has dropped NU to the bottom half of the B1G. Bryant McIntosh continues to impress with 15 points and seven assists per game but needs more support from the rest of the team. The Wildcats are squarely out of the tourney at this point, but a favorable remaining schedule gives them a slight glimmer of hope the rest of the way.
  10. Nebraska: Tim Miles can’t quite put a finger on the quality of his Cornhusker (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten) squad. Nebraska started off the B1G campaign by promptly losing their first three games. They followed that up with a winning streak of four games, before dropping their past two contests. Kansas transfer Andrew White is having a breakout year with the Huskers averaging 17 points and six boards per game. Unfortunately, unless Nebraska goes on a major run, they’ll need to win the B1G tourney to sniff March Madness.
  11. Illinois: The injury bug continues to bite the Illini. Already missing projected starters Tracy Abrams, Leron Black, and Michael Thorne, John Groce could add Michael Finke and Kendrick Nuun to that list after both got banged up against Wisconsin. Illinois is a disastrous 2-7 in the B1G (10-12 overall) after having expectations of at least being on the bubble before the season started. With the scoring duo of Malcolm Hill and Nunn combining for 36 points per game, this Illini team really ought to have more than two conference wins at this point. The lack of production around those two tells the story, with the point guard duo of Khalid Lewis and Jaylon Tate averaging a minuscule five points per game combined. Illinois’ tourney dreams are non-existent with their NIT hopes going down the drain with games still left against Iowa and Maryland.
  12. Penn State: Another 2-7 squad in the B1G (11-11 overall), the Nittany Lions have showed a lot of heart, losing nail-biters to Maryland, Michigan and Wisconsin. Brandon Taylor is having a memorable season for coach Pat Chambers, averaging 16 points and six boards a game. Penn St. won’t make the tourney, but look for this squad to play spoilers for a few of the bubble teams in the conference.
  13. Minnesota: We now get to the cellar-dwellers of the league. The Golden Gophers are winless in 10 attempts but they are getting as close as a team can get without scratching out a W. They’ve lost their last five games by seven points or less, meaning a win should be on the horizon. Upcoming games against Northwestern and Rutgers provide their best chances for the foreseeable future.
  14. Rutgers: The other winless team in the B1G is the not-so-mighty Scarlet Knights from New Brunswick, NJ. Rutgers is 0-9 in the B1G (6-16 overall) with every loss coming by at least seven points. In fact, the Scarlet Knights haven’t played a single-digit game since their B1G opener against Indiana, a game they lost by seven. Rutgers has winnable games against Illinois (twice), Penn St., and Minnesota coming up so the opportunities are there. For our sake, I’d like to see both Minnesota and Rutgers go in winless to their game in what might have the most intensity of any game left on the B1G schedule since both will be looking for their first W’s in conference play.

So there you go, we’re now 50% done with 50% ahead of us in a scintillating B1G Ten race with plenty of twists and turns still left to go. Be on the lookout for a B1G Ten Bubble Watch as March Madness creeps up around the corner.

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B1G Ten BULLets: Conference play is underway

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.

B1G Ten Conference Preview and Power Rankings

While Christmas has passed and New Years is just around the corner, many people are focusing on the NFL or College Football bowl games. But here at DRosesAndThorns, not only are we focused on the NBA, but also looking forward to the start of Big Ten (B1G) conference play this week.

With that in mind, let’s do a quick power rankings and check in with each team’s season so far and where it might be headed once the bloodbath that is the B1G conference season gets underway.

  1. Michigan State

Looking Back: This is an easy one. The #1 team in all the land is the only undefeated left in the conference (13-0). With big wins over Kansas, Providence, and Louisville, the Spartans easily have the best resume of any team in the B1G. They have also been demolishing teams, with an average margin of victory north of 20. The Spartans have been powered by the do-everything Denzel Valentine who will be out for the next couple of weeks with a knee injury.

Looking Ahead: Fortunately for the Spartans, they won’t face a tough beginning to the B1G schedule without Valentine, as their first big test doesn’t appear until January 23rd against Maryland. The Spartans have arguably the easiest conference schedule, facing Indiana, Maryland, and Purdue only once, while facing bottom-feeders Penn State and Rutgers twice. Michigan State appears to be a lock for the tourney as Izzo looks to put his stamp on this team before making a deep run into March.

Editor’s note: since these rankings were submitted, Iowa upset Michigan State to start conference play.

  1. Maryland

Looking Back: In a good but not great non-conference slate, the Terps (11-1) played some solid ball. However, their only notable wins are against UCONN and an underachieving Georgetown team. They played their best game in a loss to UNC up in Chapel Hill that had the feel of a tourney game. Maryland was led by their stud point guard, Melo Trimble who is averaging 14.8 PPG on 52% shooting and 5.8 APG heading into conference play.

Looking Ahead: Maryland has a pretty tough slate ahead of them. The Terps play Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin all twice while facing Indiana and Michigan State only on the road. Maryland should have no problem making the tournament, but getting a few marquee wins in conference play will go a long way towards getting this team a more favorable draw come Selection Sunday.

  1. Purdue

Looking Back: Purdue rounds out the clear top tier heading into conference play. The Boilers (12-1) were steamrolling opponents until facing the Butler Bulldogs in the Crossroads Classic. Purdue, powered by their two-headed monster down low in Isaac Haas, and A.J. Hammons, had some quality wins against Florida, and at the Zoo in Pitt, before hitting a wake-up call in Indy where they couldn’t crawl their way back against Butler. The Boilers rebounded with a nice win over Vanderbilt to close out the non-conference slate.

Looking Ahead: Purdue has double dips against Maryland, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This isn’t the easiest trio to play multiple times but the Boilers will be ready. Their main concern going forward is getting more consistent play out of their backcourt with only one of their guards, Rapheal Davis, averaging more than 9.0 PPG. Purdue will make the tourney, but to get past the first weekend, improved guard play will be a must.

  1. Indiana

Looking Back: With their only notable win coming at the end of non-conference against Notre Dame, it appears the Hoosiers (10-3) are peaking at the right time. Before that, the team struggled in Maui, loosing a pair to Wake Forest and UNLV and getting man-handled by Duke. It looks like they aren’t quite ready for the big time yet. The Hoosiers were led by veteran point guard Yogi Ferrel, who has stuffed the stat-sheet with 16.1 PPG, 5.9 APG, and 4.7 RPG.

Looking Ahead: The Hoosiers only face the top tier of this conference (Michigan State, Maryland, and Purdue) once each in conference play. Playing Wisconsin twice won’t be easy but this is a down year for the Badgers. The main issue with this team is defense, giving up 70 points per game (tied for 155th in the nation). The Hoosiers should make it to March with their schedule, but to make some noise some much-needed defensive toughness will need to emerge.

  1. Iowa

Looking Back: The Hawkeyes (9-3) played some great basketball in non-conference games. If they could’ve won a couple more of their close games (*cough cough* Iowa State), this team would be ranked heading into B1G play. Iowa has a great win over an underrated Marquette team, and three excruciatingly close losses to Dayton, Notre Dame, and the aforementioned Iowa State. Led by the most underrated player in the conference, Jarrod Uthoff (18.3 PPG), the Hawkeyes are the best team no one is talking about.

Looking Ahead: The Hawkeyes face a tough conference schedule with Indiana, Michigan State, and Purdue on the slate twice each. However they have a pretty soft home schedule outside of their double-dips in Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. Iowa must stiffen up their defense, which is surrendering 68 points per game, but expect them to make the tourney and even make some noise for the conference crown.

  1. Michigan

Looking Back: The Wolverines (10-3) faced a pretty calm non-conference schedule with their best win coming against Texas and no bad losses. Michigan has been led by senior guard Caris LeVert who has been averaging 17.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.8 APG. Now if only he could get more help this team could make some noise.

Looking Ahead: Michigan gets Maryland and Purdue twice, but plays Indiana and Michigan State only once and they are both in Ann Arbor. As previously stated, the Wolverines will need to find more help for LeVert as only 3 of their players are averaging double figures. If they want to make it back to the tournament after a one year hiatus, Michigan will need to find some low-post scoring; their leading frontcourt scorer is Ricky Doyle with 5.4 PPG.

  1. Ohio State

Looking Back: Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have had an interesting season thus far, to say the least. His team (8-5) followed up a disappointing start by capping off its non-conference schedule with arguably the best win of any B1G team to date, at Kentucky. However, bad losses to Louisiana Tech and Texas-Arlington will leave a bad taste in the Buckeyes mouths come Selection Sunday.

Looking Ahead: Ohio State easily has the toughest road schedule playing at Purdue, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and doubling up against Maryland and Michigan State. The Buckeyes as a team need to learn to share the ball better, as their 11.9 APG ranks them 272nd in the nation. OSU is still in need of a lot more marquee wins like the one against Kentucky if it wants to crawl its way back into the tourney picture.

  1. Illinois

Looking Back: Has their ever been a team hit worse by the injury bug in the first couple months of the season? Before the season the Illini (8-5) lost their veteran point guard Tracy Abrams, then lost terrible games at home to North Florida and Chattanooga with Kendrick Nunn out of the lineup. Following that was promising transfer, and previously starting center, Mike Thorne tearing his meniscus and missing the remainder of the season. And most recently, with Leron Black being ruled out indefinitely after suffering a set-back from his meniscus injury. Injuries aside, this team shows promise but no consistency. Losing tight at Providence and on a neutral floor to Iowa State shows they have talent, but no quality wins will hurt come tourney time. The Illini have the best scoring combo in the league with Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn averaging 18.7 and 18.5 PPG, respectively.

Looking Ahead: Luckily, for the injury-riddled Illini, they have a rather easy conference schedule. They face the top 3 teams only once while facing Rutgers and Minnesota twice. The team gives up 74.4 points per game which ties them for 234th in the country and that rate will be unacceptable come B1G play. If the Illini can tighten up on D and win the few marquee games it has on its conference slate, John Groce’s bunch may yet hear their names called in March.

  1. Wisconsin

Looking Back: No team in the league had a more tumultuous non-conference than the Badgers (8-5). The team beat Syracuse and Temple while losing a heartbreaker to Marquette, but the players took a backseat to the coach on December 15th when the legendary Bo Ryan abruptly retired. This obviously threw a wrench in the Badgers’ season and it will be interesting to see how the team handles it come conference play.

Looking Ahead: Wisco plays their first B1G game in 15 years without Bo Ryan at the helm against Purdue. After that, the schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Badgers play the Boilers, Maryland, Michigan State, and Indiana all twice. If interim coach Greg Gard can hold his own against this gauntlet the Badgers will find a way into this tournament and Gard will be able to remove the interim tag.

  1. Northwestern

Looking Back: Just when everything finally looks to be going right for the ‘Cats to go dancing for the first time in their history, they lose starting Center Alex Olah indefinitely. The Wildcats (12-1) played a fairly easy non-conference schedule, with their only loss coming to North Carolina and their biggest win against a mediocre Virginia Tech squad. Bryant McIntosh has been one of the most improved players in the conference, with the sophomore point guard averaging 16.2 PPG and 6.8 APG. Coupled with senior guard Tre Demps, this duo makes up the most underrated backcourt in the league.

Looking Ahead: The Wildcats will struggle to replace big man Olah, with offensively-limited Joey van Zegeren and size-limited Gavin Skelly the only options to replace the senior. On the bright side, the ‘Cats get Nebraska and Minnesota twice while only drawing Indiana, Michigan State, and Purdue once. Given their lack of quality wins, Chris Collins will probably need 10 conference wins if he wants to make history in Evanston.

  1. Nebraska

Looking Back: There were no surprises in the Huskers non-conference performance. With their best win against a middling Tennessee, Nebraska beat who it was expected to, and fell to the stronger opponents on their schedule. Junior guard Andrew White has been a nice surprise for coach Tim Miles, as the Cornhuskers look to replace Terran Pettaway.

Looking Ahead: The Huskers get Indiana and Purdue twice, but only face Michigan State and Maryland at home. Much like the Buckeyes, Nebraska will need to learn to share more as their team averages only 12.5 APG with the team leader, Shavon Shields, averaging only 2.9 APG as a forward. This team looks unlikely to make the tourney.

  1. Penn State

Looking Back: Pat Chambers has done a solid job with this relatively young group. The Nittany Lions (9-4) have solid wins over DePaul and Boston College. Led by senior guard Brandon Taylor (16.2 PPG), Penn State should be able stay competitive in most games. However their lack of firepower–just 67.3 points per game–will be their undoing.

Looking Ahead: Of all the teams that struggle sharing the rock in the B1G, no team is worse than the Nittany Lions. In fact, no team in the country is worse than the squad from Happy Valley, who manage only 9.5 APG as a team. To give you an idea, the leading assister is Kahlil Felder of Oakland with 9.3 APG. The Nittany Lions have a fairly favorable schedule, but with the lack of scoring and ball movement, this young team has no chance of making it to late March.

  1. Minnesota

Looking Back: Richard Pitino’s group has had a disappointing start to the year to say the least. The Gophers are a measly 6-6 with their only decent win coming at home against a struggling Clemson team. Close losses to Temple and Oklahoma State should have this team encouraged it can compete, but their are still several holes to be fixed and B1G play is not the time for resolving issues.

Looking Ahead: Someone on this Golden Gopher squad needs to step up. Joey King is their leading scorer at 13.8 PPG, which is only good for 20th in the conference. King, or sophomore Nate Mason needs to to take charge of this team or Pitino’s third year at the helm will easily be his worst yet, despite a soft conference schedule.

  1. Rutgers

Looking Back: Rutger’s continues to disappoint. With the worst record in the B1G at 6-7 and no notable wins to speak of, this team will struggle to beat the low-bar mark of 10-22 (2-16 in the B1G) from last year’s team. One bright spot has been freshman Corey Sanders, who leads the team in points (14.0) and assists (3.5).

Looking Ahead: It will be tough for Rutgers to scratch out more than a few wins, but home games against Penn State, Minnesota, and Nebraska present their best chances to pick up a few Ws. Eddie Jordan has his work cut out for him in trying to get his young core to compete in the B1G.