Men’s Basketball: Around the Big Ten Preview
As the calendar turns to February, teams begin preparing for the second half of conference season. The race for the title is sure to be exciting with Indiana and Iowa tied atop the standings at 8-1, two meetings still looming between them. Maryland, Michigan, and Purdue are each less than two games behind the leaders, sitting at 8-2, 7-2 and 7-3, respectively, in conference.
Michigan’s leading scorer Caris LeVert has missed most of the Big Ten season, but his fellow Wolverines don’t seem to be missing him, winning four straight games with a big week ahead of them. They have not lost at home in conference play, and they welcome Indiana and Michigan State to the Breslin Center, crucial games in regard to the Big Ten pecking order.
The Hoosiers dropped their first game of conference play at Wisconsin, but they had a nice bounceback win over Minnesota to close the season strong. They hit the road to visit Michigan and Penn State this week, and they will most likely need two wins to stay at the top of the standings.
The Big Ten is now home to two top five teams after Maryland’s strong showing last week. TheTerrapins sit at No. 4 in the most recent AP rankings while Iowa is right on their heels at No. 5. Maryland and the Hawkeyes are the two most well-rounded teams in the conference, with Melo Trimble and Jarrod Uthoff being arguably the two best Big Ten players right now.
Maryland has a couple of tricky tests coming up, as they travel to Nebraska during the week before coming home to face Purdue. The Huskers have always been difficult to beat in Lincoln, and the two-headed monster of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas for Purdue is likely to cause nightmares for Maryland big man Diamond Stone.
The Hawkeyes, having already faced the toughest part of their schedule, should have a relatively easy week as they match up against Penn State and Illinois, two teams that have severely underperformed in conference, winning only two games apiece thus far. Peter Jok has emerged as the right-hand man to Jarrod Uthoff, bringing his scoring average up to 15.3 PPG after a 26-point performance against Northwestern.
Wisconsin and Ohio State are both flying under the radar, but their matchup this weekend could go a long way towards determining if either of them are dancing come Selection Sunday. The Badgers have won four straight games, including wins over Michigan State and Indiana, to crawl back above .500 in conference. This team seems to be over the transition from Bo Ryan to Greg Gard, and Nigel Hayes is back to playing like his usual self as the leader of this team. The Buckeyes lost a tough one against Maryland last week, but if Marc Loving and company can regroup for this win, they have a very favorable schedule leading up to their final three games.
Rutgers and Minnesota have gone a combined 0-19 so far in Big Ten play, but this seems to be as good a week as any to get into the win column as neither squad faces a ranked opponent. The Scarlet Knights host struggling Illinois and visit Nebraska, while the Gophers welcome Northwestern to Minneapolis for their only game of the week.
Regardless of what happens this week, there are sure to be some significant games down the stretch as March Madness is now only seven weeks away.
Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at email@example.com.