Who said the Big Ten conference wouldn’t be entertaining in the 2016-17 season? Sure, the top of the league may not be nationally elite, but the first few weeks of the conference have been one heck of a ride.
With that in mind, we here at talking10 give you a new weekly basketball feature. It is our way to make sense of the chaos and take stock of the league from the past week. Along with our newly minted weekly power poll, look for us to have a heavy dose of basketball coverage every Monday morning for you throughout the rest of conference play.
So, let us not waste any more precious words and let us get right in to the fun of breaking down the week that was in Big Ten basketball.
Team of the Week: Purdue Boilermakers
When you are in a conference that is a complete log-jam, just simply winning out for the week can work. Such is the case this week as we pretty much had to go with the Boilermakers on this one.
Caleb Swanigan nailed a free throw to give his team a one-point win on the road to Ohio State, then followed it up with an incredible one-man effort in an 11-point win over No. 13 Wisconsin just yesterday. That win alone should’ve been enough, but coupled with what took place around the league in total, this was an easy call.
Add in an 11-point win over arguably the second-best team in the conference in Wisconsin? Well, the call gets real easy at that point. It wasn’t just the final margin of victory, it is how it happened that was so impressive.
Wisconsin just couldn’t get much going offensively thanks to the effort Purdue put in on the defensive side of the ball. Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter were a combined 6 of 16 from the field and a lot of that had to do with the defense played on the perimeter against them.
No one is going to run away with this league if early results hold firm, but should there be a run-away winner, look no further than the team that won a game on the road and took down the best team they’ll see all season at Mackey Arena.
Player of the Week: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Sensing a theme here? Well, when you happen upon a pair of double-doubles and sink a pressure free throw to win the game? You bet this was the easy and the right choice this week.
Swanigan put up 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win at Ohio State, while putting up an even more impressive 18 points and 13 boards against Wisconsin. He also happened to shoot 50.0 percent (11-of-22) from the field, 60.0 percent (3-of-5) from three-point range and 81.8 percent (9-of-11) from the free throw line for the week.
Weeks like this could also make it a very easy choice for Player of the Year, with Swanigan third in the conference in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game and topping the league in rebounding (12.9 per game).
Most Surprising Win: Penn State over Michigan State
The whole neutral court (well, at least in name in this case) thing should be old hat for the Spartans by now. It turned out to be exactly the same as before for the Spartans, as they were dropped at the famed Palestra in Philadelphia by a game Penn State program.
It was a raucous environment, one in which the Nittany Lions actually felt like they had a home-court advantage for a change. But, what made this result so surprising is that it came with Miles Bridges rounding back in to form.
Even his return to the lineup could do nothing to stop the bleeding that took place in Philly.
This is also the type of win that can change some minds and hearts in Philly recruiting circles. Pat Chambers has made significant inroads in the city, but this win is going to make everyone in the Philly basketball world stand up and notice Penn State basketball just a bit more.
PSU’s win was also a first, a first for Pat Chambers. He had previously never beaten Tom Izzo in a coaching matchup, and getting over that hurdle is a major one in a make-or-break season in Happy Valley.
Of course, doing something to build off the win is imperative, but that isn’t our worry here.
Most Disappointing Loss: Nebraska to Northwestern
If ever a game from this past week showcased the parity that could be on display in the Big Ten this season, the contest in Lincoln between Northwestern and Nebraska was exactly that.
So, why is it disappointing to see this loss? Well, if you’re Nebraska it is doubly disappointing. First off, you were one of the two undefeated team left in the conference coming in to Sunday and had a chance to cement yourselves in the conference title discussion early on.
That’s now gone.
Additionally, this was a home game. Winning at home is imperative in the Big Ten and not holding serve against a team that has been up and down so far in league play.
Home field advantage? That’s now gone too.
But, the most disappointing aspect of this loss is how it happened on the court — mainly a second half outburst from Northwestern that became a 14-0 run to whip out what was a double-digit Nebraska lead.
You simply can’t do that at home or anywhere and expect to be taken seriously. The road only gets tougher for the Huskers from here too. So, we’ll see if they can rebound from this defeat and continue to threaten at the top of the conference.
For a team many believed weren’t very good out of conference, they have been easily the biggest surprise in league play (sorry, not sorry Minnesota).
Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball needs to turn over a new leaf, and fast
One player transfers, ok. Two players, maybe there is something going on? But four players gone in one offseason? Perhaps it is time to do some program soul-searching for the Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball program.
Tim Miles’ team isn’t exactly off to a rip-roaring start to the offseason, as he has seen four players leave. None bigger than the announcement that Michael Jacobson is transferring out of the program.
Jacobson averaged 24.0 minutes per game last season, while putting up 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as well. The junior-to-be wasn’t just anyone on this team, he was seen as a glue-guy and a key component to Nebraska’s frontcourt.
However, his transfer puts a rather large spotlight on a troubling problem that has plagued the Huskers basketball program under Miles.
Miles, to his credit, acknowledges the difficult task of competing in the Big Ten. But, a quote from an article at Omaha.com should trouble anyone if you ask me.
That isn’t exactly singing a positive tune. Miles should be embracing the challenge and getting his players to dig in instead of taking their ball and going home.
The flip side to that is at least Miles understands what some of these players are made of. If they don’t want to do the hard work of re-building or committing to a difficult task, perhaps they don’t belong in Miles’ program after all.
Research also shows that Miles and Nebrasketball’s situation isn’t really that out of the norm. According to NCAA numbers, some 40 percent of players who come to Division I basketball programs have transferred by the time they are sophomores.
Additionally, Nebraska’s four transfers are just four of 400 already in progress this offseason.
But, those numbers only hold water if it is a one-time thing for Miles. Additionally troubling is the fact that over 50 percent (57 percent to be exact) of the players Miles has recruited to Lincoln have left before their eligibility has expired. That can be a killer to any momentum a program is trying to build. It can also be a signal that something is internally rotten with a program.
Clearly this isn’t a one-time deal for Nebrasketball under Miles. However, it isn’t something that really bothers Miles all that much.
“I’m bothered by it, so I would expect our fans to be bothered by it,” Miles said to the Omaha World-Herald. “But we still have a lot of talent left here.
“I want to concentrate on guys who want to make Nebraska basketball a winner. If you decide you don’t want to be a part of that, I’m not going to hold it against a guy. You only get four years for a college career. So it’s got to go right, and on their terms.”
While the sentiment is a nice one, this past season on the court suggests this program has a long way to go in terms of being competitive at the Big Ten level. Losing four players off a 12-16 team and one that started off hot in the Big Ten only to go frigid isn’t exactly confidence-inducing.
The way this offseason has gone certainly should give athletic director Shawn Eichorst a lot to think about when it comes to Miles. Perhaps a change of scenery and a fresh start is what is best for everyone involved.
Rumors linking Miles to other jobs this offseason also haven’t helped things in terms of the public perception. Unfortunately for Miles and Co., perception can be reality and the reality is that Miles hasn’t been able to build a stable program.
What could’ve been a great building block in getting to the NCAA tournament back in 2014 has proven not to be a catalyst for things to come. Instead, it has been an anomaly of an otherwise mediocre (at best) coaching tenure.
Something needs to change quickly, and unless Eichorst knows something we don’t know it is hard to see that change coming from within this current Huskers coaching staff.
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.
Big Ten Basketball Weekly Roundup: Jan. 16
Another week, another set of “we didn’t see that coming” results. Welcome to the Big Ten basketball season apparently.
While a few teams appear to be separating themselves at the very top of the conference, 10 teams are within two losses of the top spot in the B1G. That’s how insane the Big Ten has been already.
So, here we are with our second weekly roundup, trying to make sense of the chaos. Enjoy the week that was in Big Ten basketball.
Team of the Week: Northwestern Wildcats
You don’t need to refresh the page…this is not a drill. Northwestern had the best week of any team in the Big Ten this past week. It’s part expectations, part potential amazing story and a whole lot of things that NU needed to do to become an NCAA tournament team.
Northwestern survived a scare in Piscataway, New Jersey, narrowly beating Rutgers 69-60 on the road. Teams that make the NCAA tournament find ways to grind out these types of games. NU
While that wasn’t a great night, Northwestern put the bad moments behind them in a return to Welsh-Ryan arena and proceeded to dismantle Iowa in an 89-54 result. Sure, Iowa isn’t great this season, but that was the biggest ass-kicking in the Big Ten so far this year.
In fact, dare I say it was the most complete performance I have ever seen from Northwestern at any point in the 30-plus years I have been paying attention to Big Ten basketball. NU shot nearly 60 percent from the field, held Iowa to just 35.3 percent shooting and had four of five starters reach double figures (two of which went off for 20-plus points).
Northwestern taking care of business against teams it should be hasn’t been a consistent thing in a long time. If the Wildcats keep winning games they should and find a way to get a bigger win down the road this could well be an NCAA tournament team.
Other Big Ten coaches should also be calling Chris Collins, because the Wildcats have figured out the road win thing…starting off the B1G campaign 3-1 in road contests.
Player of the Week: Scottie Lindsey, G Northwestern
For the second straight week, the team and the player of the week are the same on our end. This was an easy one, as few players in the conference were as clutch as Lindsey was nor were they as vital on both ends of the court as Lindsey was either.
He finished the week averaging 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds against Rutgers and eight against Iowa. Lindsey also shot 48.2 percent from the field this past week. Not too shabby from the junior guard that most people outside of the Northwestern basketball community could’ve picked out of a lineup heading in to the season.
Lindsey’s game against Iowa should’ve been good enough alone — finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and 53.3 percent from the field. Incredible stuff for an incredible game as a team.
We Didn’t See That Coming: Ohio State’s win over Michigan State
Seriously, who saw Michigan State going in to Columbus and dropping that game? Even the most diehard of Ohio State fans likely didn’t see that coming. After all, the Buckeyes just got done get blasted by Wisconsin earlier in the week and Michigan State appeared to be rounding in to form.
Instead, Ohio State played some physical basketball and matched Michigan State’s intensity level from the opening tip-off on. Ohio State even managed to handle a few runs made by Michigan State including a 5-0 run to start the game that had an eerie feeling of deja vu for OSU after Thursday’s game at Wisconsin.
But, the Buckeyes battled hard in this one and came out the other end with a huge win. Will this be a catalyst towards a crazy run in conference play? That remains to be seen, but it was very important for Thad Matta to have his team not let that Wisconsin butt-kicking snowball on them.
Biggest Disappointment: Nebrasketball
What a cute hashtag #Nebrasketball makes. However, it needs to be backed up by quality basketball, and it appears a lot of the early season production was smoke and mirrors for Tim Miles’ crew.
Staring the Big Ten season at 3-0 and becoming the final team to stand undefeated in conference play seems like ages ago now. That’s what happens when you go from undefeated to a two-game losing streak.
It’s not so much that Nebraska has dropped a pair of games, it is that the Huskers have done it at home and on the road and begun to lose the close games they were winning earlier in the Big Ten season.
Nebraska’s three-game winning streak to open conference play came by a combined nine points. Teams like that usually are the ones that not only have luck, but the grit to grind out any and all close games throughout the season.
That has been quickly reversed as soon as the undefeated B1G bubble burst in Lincoln against Northwestern. But, perhaps the most disappointing result came in the lone game the Huskers had this week — giving up over 90 points to Michigan in Crisler Arena.
It was a brutal defensive performance for a team that has a reputation as one of the toughest defensive teams in the Big Ten. Miles has built his program on that defensive reputation.
Hopefully for the Huskers’ sake, that performance over the weekend was a blip on the radar. If it is a symptom of a larger problem afoot, Miles may be in some serious trouble in Lincoln.