This week the BT Powerhouse staffers take a look at the Big Ten's bubble teams, Minnesota and Nebraska, and explain Wisconsin's six-game win streak. The staffers also select their go-to guy in the clutch and determine the Big Ten's best home court advantage.
1. Take your pick: Minnesota or Nebraska?
Drew Hamm - Like Michael Scott choosing between watching "The Devil Wears Prada" again or finally seeing "Sophie's Choice," what we have here is a classic difficult decision. Minnesota has the better RPI and SOS, Nebraska has the better conference record and has beaten Minnesota. I like Minnesota's chances just a little bit better right now due to their better overall record and better non-conference schedule. Nebraska has a chance to change my mind with a win over Wisconsin next week.
Chris Kay - It's really hard to go Nebraska if on a neutral court. They are not good on the road, but great at home (13-1). I'll take Minnesota over the Cornhuskers if we're talking NCAA chances. I think the Gophers win over Iowa was huge and they should be in barring some meltdown here at the end of the season. Nebraska needs that win against Wisconsin bad, but I don't think they get it even at home.
Aaron Yorke - This week's events may have swung the pendulum in Minnesota's favor, but I still think that Nebraska is the stronger team right now. The Huskers have been more consistent lately, and the club's solid defense along with the scoring touch of Terran Petteway give Nebraska a chance to win every night. Minnesota, on the other hand, is just 3-5 in February and ranks 12th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. The Gophers are always one scoring drought away from being beaten.
Jason Dorow - I like Minnesota down the stretch. If not for the injury to Andre Hollins, the Gophers could be 4th in the conference. They went 0-3 (losing by a combined 8 points) against Nebraska, Northwestern, and Purdue after he went down. The Gophs just got the big win their resume needed with a victory against Iowa. Pitino also has a little more depth to work with than Tim Miles, and a team that is conditioned to run the floor through the playoffs.
Tim Beck - If I had to pick one, I would go with Nebraska, although neither will make the Big Dance without finishing strong and getting a couple wins in the B1G tournament. Minnesota probably has a better chance as of right now, but I only see them getting one more win (against PSU). Nebraska should get two more wins (Northwestern, @Indiana), and that would put them at 10-8 and 6th in the B1G.
Andrew Holmes - Can I take both? If not I'll take Nebraska based on Petteway. I think he is going to be huge come BTT time.
2. What's gotten into Wisconsin (6-game win streak)?
Drew Hamm - I'll tell you exactly what's gotten into Wisconsin over their six game winning streak: more three pointers have gotten into the basket, that's what. Check it: in their six games before this win streak (record of 1-5) the Badgers shot 34-of-122 from distance. Good (bad?) for 27.9%. During this six game winning streak, the Badgers have shot just one more three, but made 13 more (47-of-123, 38.2%) threes. *drops mathematical mic*
Aaron Yorke - Except for a very rough patch from mid to late January, Wisconsin has been dominant this season. During the team's latest streak, its been playing the kind of defense that led to such a pleasant start to the season. And against clubs like Iowa and Michigan, the Badgers can outscore their opposition with a classic combination of sharp shooting and few turnovers.
Tim Beck - Agree with Aaron here. They have a slue of quality wins too: Florida, Virginia, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa. Wisconsin is good team this year that had one bad stretch where they lost 5 out of 6. Otherwise they have played very well.
Jason Dorow - A combination of great defense and hot shooting has helped the Badgers to this six-game win streak. Of course, this Wisconsin team looks a lot more like the one that we saw in November and December. Really, they just went through a rough patch in January.
Andrew Holmes - I think the better question is what got into them during their losing streak. The Wisconsin team we're seeing now seems to be here to stay.
3. 10 seconds on the clock. You're down two. Which B1G player you want taking the shot?
Drew Hamm - Somebody stupid who has no business making a three but always seems to if the clock is running down, like Aaron Craft or Traevon Jackson or Brian Butch that one time against Indiana. I guess my actual answer is... *checks 3-point FG% leaders for B1G*...Josh Gasser! Woo! On, Wisconsin!
Chris Kay - I think I'd take Caris LeVert right now. He's playing much better as of late and he scores in multiple ways. He's taking the ball to the hoop strong and has had monster games from long range this season. He's playing very well right now and that's why I'd want him taking my last shot... For now.
Aaron Yorke - He doesn't have the best shooting percentages this season, but Drew Crawford has the right combination of experience and skill that I'm looking for when the game is on the line. Crawford won't shrink in a big moment, and he can score from anywhere on the floor.
Jason Dorow -This comes down to two guys for me: Nik Stauskas and Yogi Ferrell. I like Ferrell's quickness and ability to get to the basket, but I always go for the win. Stauskas is cold-blooded late in the game. He would knock down the game-winning three.
Tim Beck - Depending on the situation, I would go with Nik Stauskas. The kid is probably the best pure shooter in the B1G and when he is on, he is unstoppable. Plus, he is not just a shooter and can create with the dribble drive.
Andrew Holmes - Yogi Ferrell, he is one of the leaders in three point percentage. The sophmore has also put in some really impressive individual efforts this season.
4. Toughest place to play in the Big Ten?
Drew Hamm - Can I get this off my chest? The Kohl Center is not an intimidating place to play basketball. The student section is lackluster, and has been since 2003 when I was a freshman (yikes, that was a while ago). The Badgers have a great record there, because Wisconsin has been a good team for the last decade and teams play better at home. The loudest arena I've been too, and it's not really close, is the Breslin Center in East Lansing. As soon as walked into the arena I could hear the crowd making noise (we were a few minutes late) and they didn't stop until MSU had won. I, begrudgingly, salute you Michigan State. Now, if we're talking hockey, it gets no better than a game at the Kohl Center. Another argument for another post, I suppose.
Aaron Yorke - Michigan State has lost three home games this season, but I still think the Breslin Center is the toughest place to play. I love the way the student section wraps all the way around the lower bowl, ensuring that opponents are surrounded by noise and craziness at all times. Plus, "Izzone" is the second best student section name in the conference. The best is Wisconsin's "The Grateful Red."
Tim Beck - So many good ones to chose from. Breslin, Kohl, Assembly Hall, Value City and nowaday Crisler is right up there. But the best home court advantage has to be the Breslin Center. The Izzone is so large and imposing, countless times they rattle visiting teams. The Spartans love them some basketball.
Jason Dorow - Going into the Breslin Center is an extremely tough task nowadays. The Izzone is immense and gets plenty loud, and MSU is the most talented team in the Big Ten right now. Going to East Lansing is the toughest trip but don't underestimate Welsh-Ryan Arena. It's been so low scoring in Evanston, that Welsh-Ryan should be nicknamed the brick house. The high-school gym like atmosphere certainly affects opposing shooters.It's probably due to depth cues from the close quarters of the arena, considering the student section turnout has been pretty pathetic, but Welsh-Ryan will be a tough place to play if NU improves in the coming years.
Andrew Holmes - Every B1G home court presents a challenge for visiting teams, and to me the toughest place to play changes each season. This year it has been a huge surprise, the new Pinnacle Bank Arena has proved to be difficult place to win for any team other than Nebraska. Michigan has been the only one to steal a victory...by one point.