This week was a big one in the Big Ten. The Iowa Hawkeyes seemed an unlikely pick to compete for a conference championship due to their tough, tough schedule, but so far they have represented themselves very well on the road, picking up a win at OSU and pushing Wisconsin to the brink. Iowa is good enough to win on the road and they're going to need to be to finish ahead of clubs like Wisconsin and Michigan State that have slightly easier schedules.
The Week That Was
Ohio State 68, Michigan State 72 (OT) - Michigan State controlled this game late in the 2nd half, but the Buckeyes never say die. A late defensive stand allowed the Buckeyes to climb back into the game and force the Spartans to overtime, where the OSU offense could no longer keep up. Adreian Payne did not start due to his ongoing struggle with plantar fasciitis, but he was able to log over 30 indispensable minutes off the bench.
Minnesota 68, Penn State 65 - Wednesday began what was ultimately a rough week for the Nittany Lions. After leading Minnesota for most of the game, Penn State fell behind late and couldn't come back thanks to an off-night by D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier fouling out of the game.
Illinois 70, Wisconsin 95 - This game was never close. Well, it was tied at 13 before Wisconsin snapped off a 12-37 run to end the half. The 25-point margin Wisconsin took into the locker room then was the same margin they ultimately won by after riding a very strong 1st half to a win.
Northwestern 67, Iowa 93 - This game was never close. Northwestern Wildcats opened the game by allowing Iowa to score a quick 10-0 lead that the Hawkeyes were able to not only maintain but expand before halftime. The wildcats did cut the lead to 4, briefly, in the 1st half but couldn't keep up with Iowa's speed or depth.
Michigan 71, Nebraska 70 - After missing a point-blank attempt that could've sealed the victory for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Terran Petteway covered his face with his jersey and laid on the floor. The Huskers missed out on a prime opportunity to knock off the Wolverines, who had a poor defensive showing. Nebraska was effective offensively, but gave up too many unforced turnovers to beat a good team.
Indiana 79, Penn State 76 - D.J. Newbill made up for his weak outing earlier in the week with a fantastic 24 point effort, but Tim Frazier, who fouled out again, had a bad game and that was enough to sink the Nittany Lions at home for the 2nd time this week. The Hoosiers, for their part, had 13 turnovers, which is actually below their season average. Jeremy Hollowell was removed from the starting lineup and did not play a single minute, in favor of less explosive players like Austin Etherington and Jeff Howard that turned the ball over less.
Minnesota 75, Michigan State 87 (OT) - Adreian Payne did not dress for the Spartans' home game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and his absence was felt. Matt Costello rebounded and defended pretty well, but wasn't able to score like Payne usually did. Kenny Kaminski, however, was on fire from 3, knocking down 5 of 7, to cover the rest of Payne's scoring punch. Andre Hollins was sensational for the Gophers, with 24 points, but was the only starter to reach double figures. Minnesota led for the majority of this game before Michigan State found ways to reach the foul line late in regulation and pulled away in OT.
Nebraska 64, Purdue 70 - Nebraska has been a tough team in conference play, but it hasn't translated to wins for Tim Miles' team. The Cornhuskers tied the Boilers in the 2nd half, but never had an answer for A.J. Hammons, who scored 18 points on just 9 field goal attempts. Hammons is an up and down player, but when he's active and aggressive there are few, if any, players in the Big Ten that can slow them down. Nebraska picked a poor time to shoot uncharacteristically poorly from 3, a better shooting night may have helped them overcome Hammons' major effort in the paint.
Iowa 84, Ohio State 74 - Though Aaron Craft was allowed to be fairly physical with Roy Devyn Marble, he could not stop or even slow down the talented senior forward from putting up 22 big points to lead the Iowa Hawkeyes to a major road win in Columbus.
Illinois 43, Northwestern 49 - I watched every second of this game and I sorely regret it. Illinois' leading scorer Rayvonte Rice appeared slowed by an injury to his lower limbs, and that was enough to severely hamper the Illini offensively. Illinois shot a scintillating 28.1% from the field. Northwestern only shot 37.2% from the floor, but by rule someone had to win. JerShon Cobb had a good game, but got into foul trouble quickly in the 2nd half and never recovered.
The Week That Will Be
Can't decide what to watch? These games should be this week's highlights.
Purdue at Illinois - January 15, 9:00 PM ET - BTN - Rayvonte Rice's health will be a big story going into this game, and the winner's NCAA tournament prospects will be a big story following this game. Both Illinois and Purdue have a shot to make the tournament, but they're going to need to win against middle of the pack teams like... Illinois and Purdue. Whomever wins this game will have a leg up on the loser looking towards March, at least for now.
Ohio State at Minnesota - January 16, 9:00 PM ET - ESPN2 - This road trip is now a huge game for the Ohio State Buckeyes after they dropped a home game to Iowa on Sunday. If they can't beat the tough Gophers at home, they'll be just 2-3 in conference play with a razor-thin margin for error in the hunt for the Big Ten title.
Michigan at Wisconsin - January 18, 6:00 PM ET - ESPN - This will be one of the rare occasions where a card-carrying Spartan fan may find themselves cheering for Big Blue. Wisconsin must take full advantage of their advantageous schedule by protecting their home court. Michigan has been a bit up and down since McGary officially left their lineup, but they've avoided losses. Wisconsin will be a tall task for Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and company, but they've pushed Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in the past.
Michigan State at Illinois - January 18, 8:00 PM ET - BTN - Adreian Payne will be coming off more than a week's rest if he returns against the Illini. If he doesn't, Illinois will have an opportunity to get a big-time win over MSU while the Spartans don't have their most effective front court player. Nnanna Egwu would appreciate having some room to work in the post without Payne looming over him, though Matt Costello is no stiff.
Minnesota at Iowa - January 19, 1:00 PM ET - BTN - If Minnesota can't stand up at home against Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes, their next game won't be any easier. So far, the Gophers have been competitive in every game they've played this season and this one shouldn't be any different. The Hawkeyes are deep and athletic but Minnesota likes to play small with their cadre of guards and should avoid getting run out of the building.
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 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.