Well, I really do not know how to pick ‘em. What seemed like a simple straightforward evening turned extra weird and while the Big Ten won five of six games, a few W’s were surprisingly close. My 2-4-1 record against the KenPom spread tonight is not something I wish to repeat any time.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Michigan 53, Texas 50
The Wolverines needed every second of this slugfest to prevail at home. Moritz Wagner, who missed a free throw that would’ve tied the game at 50, redeemed himself moments later by rebounding and putting back a Zak Irvin miss. He then sealed the victory with an emphatic block with the clock winding down.
Neither team shot or played exceptionally well, but Beilein’s club prevailed in advance of their mammoth road test against UCLA on Saturday night.
-Illinois 85, IUPUI 77
The Jaguars put the fear of god into the home Illinois crowd, taking a 3-point lead into the second half’s under 8 timeout. A Malcolm Hill three-pointer tied it a minute later and then Mike Thorne’s And-1 put them up for good. Hill led the way again with 32 points on 11-18 shooting. At this point, he has to be in the running for Conference POY heading into the Big Ten schedule. 45% 3-point shooting will do that.
-Michigan State 77, Youngstown State 57
A close first half broke in the second frame, as Joshua Langford finally busted out, scoring 15 points on 8 shots in 19 minutes. Cassius Winston and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. combined for 16 assists.
-Minnesota 74, NJIT 68
Another Big Ten team struggled in a back-and-forth affair at home, as the Highlanders hung with the Gophers every step of the way. Unheralded Senior Akeem Springs, saved Minnesota with 19 off the bench while Nate Mason was his usual dependable self with 18 points on 4-5 from 3.
-Florida Atlantic 79, Ohio State 77 (OT)
What in the ever-loving you-know-what happened here?? Seriously, how did the Florida Atlantic Owls, ranked #240 by KenPom, with wins against #237 South Florida and Edward Waters, come into Columbus and beat a team that had just taken Virginia to the wire? Clearly, Thad Matta’s young men did not show up tonight, shooting just 20% from long range and turning it over at inopportune moments. Shocking.
-Purdue 97, Arizona State 64
This is more like it. Six Boilermakers scored in double figures in a hyper-efficient showing at Madison Square Garden: 97 points, 64 shots, 26 assists. Arizona State isn’t good, but this is the Purdue team we expect to see most of the year.
-Rutgers 79, Central Connecticut 37
Raise your hand if you thought Rutgers would be the team that demolished their weak competition.
Put your hands down, liars.
But the Scarlet Knights continue to pleasantly (and cynically, since they’ve played busters) surprise. Saturday night should be fun when they travel to Steve Pikiell’s former school, Stony Brook, who he coached for 11 seasons before bolting to the Power 5 spotlight. I really hope the Scarlet Knights can make some noise in the conference this year. It’s more fun when everyone is good.