Around the Big Ten: 12/30-1/5

Story posted December 31, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Andy Madore

Conference play begins this week for the Big Ten, as three teams will enter ranked inside the top 5 – No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Wisconsin, and No. 5 Michigan State. Throughout non-conference play, Big Ten schools proved why their conference is often considered the premier basketball conference in the entire nation. Now they will have the chance to beat up on one another and it should be interesting to see which team will be the last one standing.

No. 3 Ohio State at Purdue – December 31, 1:00 p.m.

The Buckeyes enter this matchup undefeated, and look like national title contenders, with senior guard Aaron Craft leading the charge. Craft is the director of the Ohio State offense, averaging 10 points per game and 4.7 assists per game. The Buckeyes should be able to penetrate a below average Boilermaker defense that is surrendering 70 points per game.

Purdue enters this matchup with 10 wins and have been better than most basketball analysts have expected. They are led by senior guard Terone Johnson, who is averaging 14 points per game. As a team, the Boilermakers are averaging 78 points per game, but will face a stingy defensive Buckeye team, that on average is only allowing 55.9 points per game.

Indiana at Illinois – December 31, 3:00 p.m.

The Hoosiers have won 10 non-conference games, but struggled against more formidable opponents - losing to Connecticut, Syracuse and Notre Dame. Losing their four leading scorers from a year ago has yet to slow down the Indiana offense, which is averaging over 82 points per game. Sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell is averaging 16.8 points per game and will be the key to the Hoosiers’ success in the Big Ten.

Illinois has also won 10 non-conference games, and have proved their worth against ranked opponents after beating a #23 ranked Missouri Tigers squad. Junior guard Rayvonte Rice is averaging 17.4 points per game. The Fighting Illini are undefeated at home, in the young season and will look to feed off the crowd’s energy in this matchup.

No. 5 Michigan State at Penn State – December 31, 5:00 p.m.

The former #1 ranked Spartans have looked strong yet again, suffering only one loss in non- conference play to North Carolina. Tom Izzo is proving why he is a top three basketball coach in the nation. Michigan State has a strong offense that is number one in the nation in assists per game, averaging 19. The Spartans should have little issue putting up points against a Penn State defense that is allowing 73.2 points per game.

The Nittany Lions have continued to be a subpar basketball team, and do not show signs of improving upon their two conference wins from a year ago. The return of senior guard Tim Frazier has led to an improved offense, but Pat Chambers’ squad has struggled to finish games down the stretch. Michigan State is far too strong Penn State to handle.

Nebraska at No. 22 Iowa – December 31, 7:00 p.m.

Nebraska appears to be improving offensively early this season, averaging 73.4 points per game. Sophomore forward Terran Petteway is averaging 16.8 points per game and has been a dominant force in the post. However, the Cornhuskers have struggled away from home, which does not bode well for them going in to this game.

The Hawkeyes have been one of the top scoring teams in the nation, averaging 88.7 points per game. With four players averaging more than 10 points per game, Iowa has scored from both beyond the arc and in the paint all year long. Iowa is off to one of their best starts in recent memory and will look to out-muscle a much more inexperienced Nebraska unit.

Michigan at Minnesota – January 2, 7:00 p.m.

After a trip to the NCAA Tournament Championship Game, Michigan has struggled mightily to start the year. They have lost four non-conference games, including a loss to UNC Charlotte. They have struggled on the road, and look like a totally different team from a year ago. The Wolverines will need to rely on sophomore forward Mitch McGary to be a dominant post- presence in order to defeat the Golden Gophers.

Minnesota has fared well so far on the young season, winning the games they are supposed to win. They were even able to give highly-ranked Syracuse squad quite a scare. Junior guard Andre Hollins leads the Gophers, averaging 16 points per game. Hollins and his teammates will look to push against a larger Michigan squad.

No. 4 Wisconsin at Northwestern – January 2, 7:00 p.m.

The Badgers are undefeated, and also like the have a shot to reach the Final Four. They have played well defensively, allowing only 62.1 points per game. Led by 7’ junior forward Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin uses their size to out-muscle their opponents and there rugged style of play should serve them well against an inferior Northwestern squad.

Northwestern has not played particularly well in non-conference play, and may be the weakest Big Ten School. However, they have played well at home, with six of their non-conference wins coming in Evanston. They are young and lack the size to match the Badgers point-for-point

inside the paint. They will need to rely on senior guard Drew Crawford and junior guard JerShon Cobb to knock down baskets from behind the 3-point line.

Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email andymadore19@gmail.com.