On Friday, the Big Ten opened regular season play with 11 of its teams in action. All told, it ended up being an exciting and surprising night of action that resulted in a few upsets and a few close games that could have NCAA Tournament implications at season's end.
Let's take a look at the action.
Game of the Night: Western Illinois 69, Wisconsin Badgers 67
The Badgers were supposed to have an easy opener against Western Illinois. The game was largely supposed to be about honoring last year's Final Four team and marking the transition to this year's team. Unfortunately for Badger fans, that's not exactly how things turned out.
From the start, Western Illinois came out firing. The Leathernecks led or hung with Wisconsin for the vast majority of the first half and actually led by as many as eight points in the second half. Certainly, neither team dominated, but this wasn't just one team getting some lucky or fluke plays. Western Illinois played well and probably deserved to win.
For the Badgers, the story was largely about struggling defense and too few options on offense. Nigel Hayes finished with 17 points and four rebounds and Bronson Koenig finished with 17 points and two assists, but there just wasn't a lot of offensive production outside of these too. Vitto Brown got 11 points largely fueled by some buckets late in the game and true freshman Khalil Iverson had a solid first game with six points and seven rebounds, but there just wasn't enough around Hayes and Koenig to get the job done.
Needless to say, this is a big blow to Wisconsin. It's likely the team's worst loss in at least the last five seasons and a big hit to a team hoping to get back to the NCAA Tournament. This doesn't end the season by any means, but it puts the Badgers behind the eight ball moving forward. Wisconsin will have to play well in its next two games against Siena and North Dakota to get back on track.
- North Florida 93, Illinois Fighting Illini 81
The Fighting Illini were hoping to start a campaign for the NCAA Tournament with a solid win over North Florida, but things didn't exactly work out as the team hoped. Despite having some solid preseason projections, the Illini fell to the Ospreys and moved to 0-1 on the year. The big hit was to point guard Jaylon Tate, who went down with a finger injury after playing just 11 minutes. Malcolm Hill and Mike Thorne both had solid games with 20 and 25 points respectively, but with only three players who had more than six points individually, it was an uphill battle. The defense was also underwhelming for where it finished last year. Unfortunately, Illinois will get no breaks with North Dakota State and Providence on the slate next.
- Indiana Hoosiers 88, Eastern Illinois 49
The Hoosiers cruised pretty easily in this one over Eastern Illinois at home. To no surprise, James Blackmon, Yogi Ferrell, and Troy Williams all scored double-digits. However, it was the frontcourt that attracted attention. Max Bielfeldt and Thomas Bryant both played less than 20 minutes and each also scored double-digits. This looks like a loaded roster and a great offensive team. Indiana will face Austin Peay on Monday.
- Iowa Hawkeyes 76, Gardner Webb 59
The Hawkeyes put the team's exhibition loss last week in the rearview mirror on Friday with a respectable win over Gardner Webb at home. The two leaders in the games were Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury. Uthoff put up an impressive 21 points and six rebounds on the night. Outside of these two, it was largely a team effort with no other players cracking double-digits in scoring. Iowa plays Coppin State on Sunday.
- Maryland Terrapins 80, Mount St. Mary's 56
The Big Ten's preseason favorite began its season with a solid win over the Mountaineers. Nothing was too remarkable about this one. Maryland faced a clearly overmatched opponent and was able to live off that advantage. Robert Carter, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens, Diamond Stone, and Melo Trimble all finished with double-digits. This was a team approach and domination. Maryland gets Georgetown at home on Tuesday night.
- Michigan Wolverines 70, Northern Michigan 44
The Wolverines got back on track after a rough 2014-15 season on Friday night. Michigan was led by Aubrey Dawkins and Caris LeVert who both scored at least 15 points on the night. Other notable performances came from Kameron Chatman and DJ Wilson who passed well and provided energy boosts. Notably, last year's minute and scoring leader Zak Irvin sat out the game due to injury. Michigan faces Elon on Monday night.
- Michigan State Spartans 82, Florida Atlantic 55
The Spartans got off to an expected start with a pretty easy win over Florida Atlantic. Denzel Valentine led the way with 13 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds, but the frontcourt also played well. In fact, true freshman Deyonta Davis had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Matt Costello had 15 points as well. Michigan State will get an epic showdown with Kansas on Tuesday in the Champions Classic.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers 76, UMKC 58
The Gophers didn't quite start the game as most hoped, allowing UMKC to hang around for quite awhile, but were eventually able to pull away with a solid win. The big performer on the night was Joey King, who finished with 22 points and four rebounds. Notably, the Gophers shot 42.9 percent from three point range on the night thanks in large part to freshman Jordan Murphy who went 4-for-6. Minnesota gets Louisiana Monroe on Sunday.
- Northwestern Wildcats 79, UMass Lowell 57
The Wildcats were another team that started slowly, but picked it up late. One of the big things that impacted the team was mixed three point shooting. All told, Northwestern ended up shooting 31.0 percent from three point range on the night, led by true freshman Aaron Falzon who shot 4-for-6 from long range. Big man Alex Olah also finished with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Northwestern gets Fairfield on Wednesday.
- Purdue Boilermakers 81, North Carolina A&T 40
The Boilermakers got out to an absolutely dominant start. The defense was fantastic, allowing just 0.58 points per possession. In total, six players scored in double-digits and true freshman Caleb Swanigan put together a double-double in his first career game with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The three point shooting also went well with Purdue shooting 38.7 percent from long range. Purdue gets Vermont on Sunday.
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights 72, Rutgers-Newark 59
Whew. The Scarlet Knights were on the verge of an incredibly embarrassing loss on Friday night. The game was competitive for most of the night and though part of this may have been due to injury and suspension issues, it was a downright bad performance. Mike Williams ended with an impressive 18 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Rutgers will hope to move forward against Howard on Sunday.