On Friday night, the Big Ten had two games. The first was a home game for Ohio State against UL Monroe and the second game was a home game for Northwestern against DePaul. Eventually, the Big Ten ended up going 1-1 on the night, but the Northwestern game was perhaps a little more meaningful than many think. Let's break them down:
OSU vs. ULM - 71-31
This was a complete snoozer. Sure, there were some excellent dunks, but ULM was never in this game from the start. When a team wins by 40 points, it is pretty easy to see why the game was a tad underwhelming. For the Buckeyes, the defense continues to look elite and they coasted into conference play undefeated at 13-0. If Syracuse loses to Villanova on Saturday, OSU may even have a shot at moving up to #2 in the polls on Monday. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. finished the night with 17 points and 7 rebounds. LaQuinton Ross finished the night with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Going forward, all focus will be on a challenging Big Ten slate. OSU begins Big Ten play with a road trip to Purdue, Nebraska at home, MSU on the road, and Iowa at home. Though the home-away split is 2-2 during the first 4 games, that is going to be a challenging stretch. Purdue recently beat West Virginia on the road, MSU is a top 5 team, and Iowa looks very much improved from a year ago. The Buckeyes are still one of the favorites to win the Big Ten, but the first few games could be very important to setting up the conference race.
Northwestern vs. DePaul - 56-57
Well, there was hope for the Big Ten's winning streak to extend straight into conference play, but it came to an end earlier than hoped after Northwestern gave up a late basket to fall to DePaul. We can sugarcoat things here, but the truth is that neither of these teams are very good. DePaul is 8-5 on the year and though they have lost to some quality teams like Wichita State and Texas, they have also lost to teams like Illinois State and Southern Missouri. If Northwestern was really an improved team, this is a game they should have won, especially at home. Tre Demps did have a good game with 23 points, but the starting lineup was inconsistent and Dave Sobolewski struggled all night and only ended up with 6 points and 5 turnovers. This game was simply indicative of Northwestern's season so far this year. The team may have a piece here or there, but there just is not enough to really reach that next level. Realistically, this team should not have been projected for much this year, but it certainly was not crazy to hope for a 9th or 10th place Big Ten finish and maybe an NIT or CBI bid. As things are going right now, Northwestern is going to struggle to even get to 11th place in the Big Ten and the CBI. The unfortunate news for Northwestern is that they have a sledgehammer awaiting them in their first slate of Big Ten games. They get Wisconsin (home), Michigan (road), Iowa (road), Illinois (home), MSU (home), and Indiana (road). Honestly, the Wildcats are most likely going to begin Big Ten play at 0-6 and maybe even worse. This win would have went a long way in getting the team, fans, and the program positive going into that stretch. It will be crucial for Northwestern to continue making strides forward during this brutal stretch and at least keep games competitive. They do have a shot in some of those games like Illinois at home, so as long as they get better, even an 0-6 start should be a good sign.
Big Ten's Winning Streak
Though the winning streak ended, why don't we take a second to at least recognize what the conference accomplished. Yes, some of the games were against lower competition, but here are some stats on what occurred:
- 17-0 Record
- Eleven teams from the Big Ten won during streak (only 12-0 Wisconsin did not)
- Wins over the ACC, Big 12 (twice), Ivy League, Pac 12
- Six wins by at least 20 points
- Three neutral site wins (Illinois, Michigan, OSU)
- Two road wins (MSU, Purdue)