In a week full of surprises, the biggest may have been the Northwestern Wildcats' road victory against the Indiana Hoosiers, just their third victory in Assembly Hall in the history of the series. That Penn State nearly notched an improbable road win of their own later that night speaks to the strength of the Big Ten and the uncertainty that defines every matchup. Like last week, this week's games had huge ramifications in the race for the conference title.
The Week That Was
Wisconsin 72, Indiana 75 - The week began with what may end up being one of the biggest upsets in conference play. Wisconsin was undefeated at 16-0. Indiana did not have a victory against a top 100 opponent. Wisconsin had beaten Indiana 12 straight times and Bo Ryan had had success against Indiana's Tom Crean which Crean coached at Indiana and while he coached at Marquette. Indiana's young team was able to take advantage of a Badgers' team that was simply incapable of defending against the drive. Indiana didn't make many adjustments and didn't need to as Wisconsin allowed drive after drive to the rim.
Penn State 67, Michigan 80 - Penn State had at least been competitive for most of the season before this game but Michigan simply controlled this matchup. By now, Michigan looks to have adjusted very well without the services of Mitch McGary.
Michigan State 54, Northwestern 40 - After coming off of an improbable victory against Illinois, Northwestern proved that their defense was for real by holding Michigan State to just 54 points. Northwestern was salty on the defensive end, but Michigan State is a tough defensive team themselves and the Wildcats couldn't rely on anyone as talented as Gary Harris to make tough baskets.
Purdue 66, Illinois 58 - In a back and forth game, Purdue was able to pull away late thanks to finally getting some contributions outside the arc late in the 2nd half. Nnanna Egwu struggled mightily against the sturdier A.J. Hammons.
Ohio State 53, Minnesota 63 - After heading into halftime with a tied score, Minnesota controlled the 2nd half thanks to the excellent play of Elliot Elliason. Aaron Craft struggled again in Ohio State's 3rd straight loss, turning the ball over 5 times, failing to bring in a rebound, and scoring just 7 points on 6 shots. Ohio State coughed up 13 turnovers, which is starting to have the makings of a troubling trend for the Buckeyes.
Northwestern 54, Indiana 47 - Northwestern again relied on their defense to hold a more talented opponent to a low number of points, but this time they found enough offense to win. Despite being one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference on the road against the conference's top rebounding club, Northwestern was able to keep pace with Indiana on the glass and limited the Hoosiers offensive rebounds. Alex Olah had a career game, recording 6 blocks, and Tre Demps had a huge game off the bench.
Michigan 77, Wisconsin 70 - Wisconsin has struggled badly defensively in conference play. Iowa very nearly toppled the Badgers while the Hoosiers and now Michigan were able to best them. Wisconsin lost its first home game of the season thanks to a defense that allowed the Wolverines to shoot 54.7% from the field. It was the Badgers' 2nd time giving up better than 50% from the field to an opponent.
Penn State 64, Purdue 65 - With a 3 point lead and under 10 seconds remaining, the Nittany Lions probably felt like they were in great shape to win their first conference game and reach 10 victories on the year. Then Terone Johnson get down the floor quickly and nailed his first made three of the afternoon to tie the game at 64. Then Penn State turned the ball over. Then Ross Travis fouled A.J. Hammons under the basket with under 5 seconds remaining in regulation. The sophomore, who had some up and down performances before conference play, won the game with a made free throw. Hammons may be steadying as the season goes on.
Michigan State 78, Illinois 62 - Adreian Payne sat out of Saturday's matchup, which seemed to offer guys like Nnanna Egwu and Maverick Morgan to score in the paint. Matt Costello had other ideas, tallying 6 blocks against the Illini. Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine were unstoppable as the Spartans rolled on the road. Nnanna Egwu, a starter, was held scoreless for the 2nd consecutive game.
Minnesota 73, Iowa 94 - Minnesota is a good team, but Iowa handled them with ease in the 2nd half after heading to halftime with a deficit. Iowa is not only one of the best teams in the Big Ten but one of the best teams in the nation. Josh Oglesby was red hot which was enough to counter one of Andre Hollins' strongest games of the year.
The Week That Will Be
Not sure what to watch? These games should be worth checking in on.
Ohio State at Nebraska - January 20, 7:00 PM ET - BTN - Ohio State has been sliding and a game against Nebraska could be just what the doctor ordered. Or it could cement Ohio State's descent from conference contender to possible also-ran.
Purdue at Northwestern - January 21, 9:00 PM ET - BTN - Don't look now but Purdue is on a 3 game win streak after opening conference play with an 0-2 start. Northwestern's defense has played very well for 3 straight games now, and could be the key to smudging Purdue's NCAA resume the way they did Indiana's.
Iowa at Michigan - January 22, 7:00 PM ET - BTN - Iowa needs to play well on the road if they mean to continue to be a factor in the race for the Big Ten title. Michigan is undefeated in conference play thus far, but I don't think they've played anyone quite as good as Iowa just yet. Hosting the Hawkeyes will help.
Wisconsin at Minnesota - January 22, 9:00 PM ET - BTN - Wisconsin is in real trouble of adding another loss to their 0-2 skid when they travel to Williams arena. The Gophers have proved to be a tough team and Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu are the exact sort of driving guards that Wisconsin has struggled with lately.
Michigan at Michigan State - January 25, 7:00 PM ET - ESPN - In a game with huge implications in the Big Ten title race, it is uncertain whether Adreian Payne will be ready to return. Either way, Michigan will have their hands full as Gary Harris and Keith Appling have played very well recently.
Illinois at Indiana - January 26, 3:00 PM ET - BTN - The team that wins this game will have an outside shot to make the NCAA tournament. The team that loses this game will not.
That's all for this week. As an aside, remember that if you'd like to submit questions for next week's mailbag you can leave them in the comments below or tweet them to @BTPowerhouse - just be sure to use the #BTPMailbag hashtag. We could always use a few more questions for this week's mailbag, so if you have any questions about Big Ten basketball, recruiting, or major events in college basketball fire away.