Men’s Basketball: Around The Big Ten

Story posted January 31, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Joseph Esquivel-Murphy

As the calendar changes to February, basketball teams around the country are jockeying for position in their conference and are trying to avoid any bad losses that could damage their tournament resume. The same holds true for the Big Ten with eight teams being within four games of the conference leader.

The Indiana Hoosiers are atop the standings with a record of 8-1. They hold a slight edge over the Iowa Hawkeyes as both teams entered the week as they were the last two teams with an unblemished conference record.

Indiana has two road games this week against a surging Michigan team and a Penn State team that seems to play well against the top teams in the conference. Both games will be televised and offer Indiana a different challenge.

Since the loss to Iowa, the Wolverines have won their last four games, including a seven point victory over Penn State in Madison Square Garden. Duncan Robinson will have to dominate his matchup with James Blackmon for the Wolverines to win their Tuesday night matchup on ESPN.

Penn State has struggled this Big Ten season, with four conference losses by double digits. Brandon Taylor typically plays well against top-ranked competition, so Troy Williams better be prepared to battle Taylor all night.

Iowa also has only one loss in league play and are one of two Big Ten teams in the top 10 of the AP Top 25. The Hawkeyes do not have a rough stretch of games this week as they face Penn State and Illinois.

While Taylor is a force down low for the Nittany Lions, he is overmatched by Jared Uthoff. Guard play is the weak point of this Hawkeye, so look for Shep Garner and Josh Reaves to take advantage of their matchups.

Illinois has had a struggle all season as they have riddled with injuries and poor play. The saving grace for Illinois is do everything player Malcolm Hill who is one of three players in the country that leads their team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

The Maryland Terrapins are the other Big Ten team that are ranked in the top 10. After beating Iowa last week, Maryland has another home ranked matchup this week. This time, the Terrapins face Purdue at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6.

The matchup will be televised on ESPN and should feature two of the best frontcourts in the Big Ten. While the Big Ten’s leading rebounder in Caleb Swanigan might not be able to play, Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons are more than capable of controlling the post.

Both players are over seven-feet and are extremely skilled around the basket, making it a tough matchup for Robert Carter, Diamond Stone and Damonte Dodd. This game is vital for both teams as they are both within a game and a half of the conference leader.

This week is not filled with as many high-profile games as last week, but the Big Ten is always filled with quality basketball on a weekly basis.

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu.