This Week in Big Ten Men's Basketball 2/16 to 2/22

WOW! Ohio State goes down and Purdue drops three straight games all while Michigan State takes the top spot in the conference and in the nation (well, according to the Coaches Poll). The Big Ten was on track for the first time ever to have three teams finish with 2 losses, and now only two still can. Within a week we have had Ohio State, Purdue, and Michigan State all sit at the 1, 2, and 3 spots in the conference while all were top-10 in the nation. Michigan stayed in the latest polls and Nebraska has continued to receive votes. Even with the movement in the top three, there have not been any changes with which teams are in the top-6 for over two weeks. There has been very little change other than Northwestern and Indian flip-flopping and Rutgers getting a third win to jump them from 14th to 12th. This conference has proven to be one of the most top-heavy in college basketball and many college award watchlists even further push the point. Of the major late-season award watch lists, Purdue and Michigan State accounted for 9 of the 13 nominations by conference players. An award list with conference players is below. Even with this top-heaviness, this homestretch of conference play is as competitive as ever before. Teams like Penn State and Wisconsin earned some big wins and all we can expect is more surprises and drama down the stretch.
Award Watch List
Bob Cousy Award: Cassius Winston (Michigan State)
Jerry West Award: Carsen Edwards (Purdue)
Julius Erving Award: Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), Miles Bridges (Michigan State), Vincent Edwards (Purdue)
Karl Malone Award: Jordan Murphy (Minnesota)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award: Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), Issac Haas (Purdue), Jaren Jackson Jr (Michigan State)

Men’s Citizen Naismith Trophy Late Season Team: Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Vincent Edwards (Purdue), Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), Miles Bridges (Michigan State).

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Standings (As of February 16th, 2018)
AP Poll/Coaches Rankings (NA=Not Applicable; RV=Receiving Votes)
1. 2/1 Michigan State (13-2) 25-3
2. 8/9 Ohio State (13-2) 22-6
3. 6/7 Purdue (12-3) 23-5
4. RV/RV Nebraska (11-4) 20-8
5. 22/21 Michigan (10-5) 21-7
6. Penn State (9-6) 19-9
7.Indiana (8-7) 15-12
8. Northwestern (6-8) 15-12
9. Maryland (6-9) 17-11
10. Wisconsin (5-10) 12-16
11. Minnesota (3-12) 14-14
12. Rutgers (3-12) 13-15
13. Iowa (3-12) 12-16
14. Illinois (2-12) 12-15
Friday, February 16th
Saturday, February 17th
2 PM, 2/1 Michigan State @ Northwestern, FOX
Michigan State is coming into this game as perhaps the best team in the whole nation. They have one of the best starting fives with an elite balance on offense and defense, but they have been susceptible to letting worse teams into the game. Iowa took MSU to the wire as did Rutgers once. One time MSU was off on their shots and the other they were in big foul trouble. Both times were more MSU losing the game than the other winning. Michigan State has to play their brand of basketball and not fall back to their common struggles, turnovers and big man foul trouble. Northwestern needs to play perfectly.
Prediction: Michigan State 84-71 (Michigan State gets the W and is now in sole possession of 1st)
2 PM, Indiana @ Iowa, ESPN
Indiana and Iowa have not performed as well as either team has wanted this season but IU has still managed to be 7th in the conference. Both teams are +1 in the point differential and have earned this in two different ways. IU is low scoring and defensive minded, Iowa is high paced and all offense. IU has the weapons to keep up with the scoring but has struggled to finish many games this season. Iowa has dropped four straight and Indiana has rattled off three wins in a row. Momentum will be key and could possibly overrule the Hawkeye home court advantage.
Prediction: Indiana 89-87 (IU is now 16-12...did they meet expectations?)
8 PM, Rutgers @ Maryland, Big Ten Network
Rutgers has been one of the worst offensive teams in the nation this year and, that being said, they still have managed to win games in the conference. This game is not going to be one of those though. Maryland is averaging 74 points per game and allowing 67. Rutgers is allowing 63 but only scoring 65. Rutgers may have scoring sensation Corey Sanders but they won’t be able to keep up with the Terrapins.
Prediction: Maryland 77-65 (Maryland wins but the season is still over)
Sunday, February 18th
1 PM, 22/21 Ohio State @ 8/9 Michigan, CBS
Ohio State is coming off a big loss to Penn State that essentially made it very hard for them to win the Big Ten outright. Going into the Crisler Center with no losses to give is even harder. Michigan has not been particularly hot, but has performed above expectations against rivals. Michigan will win this game and for one reason, defense. Allowing only 63 points per game this season, Michigan has quietly become a monster on D. Ohio State won’t manage their modest 77 points per game average and the Wolverines will win this tight and low scoring affair.
Prediction: Michigan 69-68 (Ohio State’s third Big Ten loss hurts SO BAD)
3:30 PM, Nebraska @ Illinois, Big Ten Network
James Palmer Jr. may not get on the all-conference first team but he ranks among the most individually important players to a team’s success in the nation. Nebraska has heavily relied on the transfer and will again as they jockey for the fourth place in the conference. Illinois comes into this game with nothing to lose and should come out hungry. The Illinois defense allows 72 ppg, a mark that is not desirable if you want to be competitive in the Big Ten. Palmer will play big as the Huskers continue their great season.
Prediction: Nebraska 76-69 (Nebraska...tournament bound)
8 PM, Penn State @ 6/7 Purdue, Big Ten Network
Tony Carr and the Giant Slayers... I mean Nittany Lions... head to take on Purdue. Some say stats don’t lie so let’s compare PSU and Purdue. Purdue outscores Penn State 82 to 76 and allows only 64 to Penn State’s 67. BUT, Purdue is now riding a three-game losing streak including a loss to Wisconsin and Penn State just beat 8th ranked Ohio State by 23 for the second time this year. Are we going with the stats and the whole body of work or the recent gameplay?
Prediction: Purdue 76-69 (We went with the stats and the whole body of work)
Monday, February 19th
7 PM, Maryland @ Northwestern, Fox Sports 1
Maryland comes into this game averaging 74 points a contest and allowing 67 while the Wildcats put up 70 and allow 66. These are two defensive-minded teams with low scoring outputs who will battle it out in Chicago. The home court advantage has not been all too great this year at NU since they have been playing off campus and that hurts. Maryland has blown many leads late this year and Northwestern has the steady play to possibly repeat this trend.
Prediction: Northwestern 72-70 (Northwestern overcomes a deficit for the win)
9 PM, Minnesota @ Wisconsin, Fox Sports 1
Coming off a huge win over Purdue, Wisconsin looks ready to once again defend their home court. Minnesota looks like a group of zombies when they are on the court as there have been many people claiming the Gophers have given up on their season. Wisconsin’s low scoring offense has struggled but their defense came up big last game and I’m putting my faith in it again.
Prediction: Wisconsin 67-60 (Minnesota is 3-13 in the Big Ten...Wow)
Tuesday, February 20th
7 PM, Illinois @ 2/1 Michigan State, ESPN
It is senior night in East Lansing and the Spartans will take on the Fighting Illini in hopes of earning a Big Ten Championship. MSU is scoring the ball at an impressive clip of 83 a game and allowing 63 points. Illinois are scoring 76 a game and allowing 73. It’s senior night, the stats, it’s at the Breslin, it’s Michigan State... is there a debate? Yes, there is. Illinois has the ability jump out to a start that the Spartans are not expecting. MSU also struggles with turnovers and big man foul trouble. Back up bigs and empty possessions could lead to a much more interesting game than most would expect.
Prediction: Michigan State 87-73 (Michigan State are so close to the title)
7 PM, Rutgers @ 8/9 Ohio State, Big Ten Network
Is it possible Ohio State drops another game to a sub-50 team? Yes, but it won’t be on Tuesday. Bates-Diop is looking for redemption for his Buckeye squad. Rutgers simply cannot keep up to Ohio State’s offense and this is very detrimental to their chances. How poor is their offense? If Ohio State allowed 66 points a game, the average their terrific defense allows a game, it would be a high scoring affair for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers has a chance to win the same way Wisconsin did over Purdue, slow possessions and forcing Ohio State to shoot.
Prediction: Ohio State State 77-64 (Ohio State pulls away in the second half)
9 PM, Indiana @ RV/RV Nebraska, Big Ten Network
Nebraska has quietly challenged the historical Big Ten powers this season. Finishing fourth in this conference is a huge accomplishment for a team that many picked to finish in the bottom three. Both teams allow in the upper 60’s and score in the low 70’s, but when the point differentials are calculated IU sits at +2 and Nebraska sits at +4. The little things add up. These little things being the chip on the Huskers shoulders, the home court advantage that many don’t recognize, the six game win streak, the conference’s most underrated player, and a 2 point advantage in point differential. Nebraska wins and will be one game away from finishing the regular season on a nine game win streak.
Prediction: Nebraska 72-64 (The little things over the season add up to a top-4 finish)
Wednesday, February 21st
7 PM, 22/21 Michigan @ Penn State, Big Ten Network
This could be a trap game for the Wolverines. Penn State took down Ohio State twice this season, the rest of the Big Ten is 0-13 (unless Michigan gets the rivalry win). It’s senior night and Tony Carr will be looking to put on a show for his home crowd. Both teams have a point differential of 10 with Penn State allowing and scoring 2 more a game. This game will be very even and could help add fuel to Penn State’s late-season hopes of the tournament. Michigan needs the win to earn favorable seeds in the conference and national tournament. The x-factor of the game will be how Michigan defends Tony Carr and who steps up on offense.
Prediction: Michigan 79-74 (Penn State’s hopes of the NCAA Tournament are extinguished)
9 PM, Iowa @ Minnesota, Big Ten Network
Minnesota has essentially given up on their season a while ago but this game will be different. Nate Mason will go down as one of the better point guards in recent memory at Minnesota, and it’s his night. I expect Mason and the Golden Gophers to jump out on a lead over the 3-12 Hawkeyes. Iowa scores the ball well but has one of the worst defenses of major conference teams at 79 points allowed a game. The combo of Mason and Murphy will overpower the Hawkeyes at home as they get a contested win.
Prediction: Minnesota 83-81 (Mason leaves the barn on a good note)
Thursday, February 15th
7 PM, Wisconsin @ Northwestern, ESPN 2
Northwestern and Wisconsin are two very slow paced teams with notable defenses. Northwestern has 2 point advantages in points allowed and scored over Wisconsin, but still averages less than 70 points a game. Both teams have been struggling as of late but Wisconsin’s win over Purdue is much more meaningful than Northwestern’s lone win over Michigan. If we go back to the last meeting to these two teams, Northwestern won in Madison 60-52. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but these teams do not score a lot. Northwestern will sweep the season series in a low scoring but competitive game.
Prediction: Northwestern 63-57 (Low drag it out basketball)
7 PM, 6/7 Purdue @ Illinois, Fox Sports 1
Purdue may have tumbled this last week but they still are one of the favorites to win it all and rightfully so. The Boilermakers average 83 points a game and allow 64. Illinois allows 73 and scored 76. After seeing those stats many will have made up their mind on the victor. But this is senior night! Players put all they have out in front of their home crowd for the last time ever. Emotions run high and players step up. This win would be court storming material in Champaign and a good turn for the program. If I had it my way, the Illini would be victorious and send their seniors out on a high note. But in reality, Illinois has no senior superstar and Purdue is Goliath.
Prediction: Purdue 86-69 (Purdue wins just as everyone thought)