This holiday season, as you shop for the perfect gifts for loved ones, don’t forget the folks who’ve provided so much joy and entertainment this year: The Big Ten. Every week from November to March, these 14 teams give us great basketball and a great escape from our day-to-day lives - and they deserve our thanks. Here’s my round-up of what each Big Ten team has on their wish list.
Fork over the $100 application fee and buy John Beilein TSA Global Entry. In the last five years, three of the Guru’s best and most unheralded recruits have been pulled from outside the 50 states. With Iggy Brazdeikis and his ambidexterosity (?) already dazzling in Ann Arbor, it’s time for Michigan fans to double down on Beilein’s international flavor. Get him Global Entry or dual citizenship or just a house in Ontario. Your call.
Also, buy them this. They need it now. And they’ll definitely need it in February and March. Michigan’s rotation is presently stuck at 7 - and while it’s nice to have a team identity where people know their roles and all that jazz, it’s also nice to get rest and keep legs fresh. Buy Michigan a bench.
For God’s sake, get these guys a bullhorn, vuvuzela, or some sort of other sound-magnifying device to get the attention of the national media. They’re ranked 13 on KenPom and have done everything asked of them thus far, yet every pundit and prognosticator out there is just talking about Michigan and Michigan State.
Wisconsin boasts an All-American with a solid supporting cast, a much-improved defense, and wins over Xavier, Oklahoma, NC State, and Iowa. They plaved Virginia tough on a neutral floor, and I”ll be damned if they aren’t in the mix for a conference title in March. Go ahead and make some noise, Badger fans - one day, we’ll listen.
A rewards membership at the Holiday Inn Express. It’s been a rough start to the season for the Boilermakers, and while you could point to offseason departures as the root cause, I’m going to focus on travel. All of Purdue’s losses have come on neutral floors or on the road. Two of those were pretty darn close, and I’m betting the heavenly mattresses and a robust continental breakfast at America’s premier hotel chain would have done the trick.
If Purdue is going to tidy up the resume mess they created in November and December, it’ll take road wins against MSU, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. So, Boilermaker fans, don’t be cheap - pony up and use your points to give your guys some home comforts on what are bound to be some dark, cold trips through the Midwest in January.
The Huskers just need some good old-fashioned faith. Their resume looks much better than last year and they have a super-balanced offensive attack - any one of 4-5 guys can get theirs on any given night. But I have doubts - will the baddies of Christmas past haunt the Huskers? Some of Tim Miles’ best teams have lacked the grit to grab crucial wins - such as last year against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.
Does Nebraska have the self-belief to ignore the last few years and turn a corner? Take them to church or yoga, buy them an XBox - whatever it takes. Just give the Huskers some faith. Hey, if none of that works, bring them by my local Hindu temple. Walk-ins welcome.
-Illinois Fighting Illini
Don’t give them a present. And don’t spend the holidays with them. They don’t deserve you.
-Penn State Nittany Lions
A Christmas fireside chat with John Beilein. Over the years, the offensive genius has been known to improve the mechanics of his players’ 3pt shots - with a machine to track shot arc or just some general tips on form. Either way, nobody needs his counsel right now more than the folks in State College.
Nearly 41% of Penn State’s field goal attempts come from beyond the arc - but they are making only 31% of them. That’s good enough for last place in the conference when it comes to 3P%. You’re not going to be able to dig out of an early season hole and save Pat Chambers’ job with those numbers - so find Beilein and bribe him with eggnog or sub sandwiches. Do it now.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers
Take the late GOAT Aretha Franklin’s advice and say a little prayer for the Gophers’ health. Minnesota has been plagued with bad luck and bad injuries these past few years - but if they can hold off the demons this year, they might be able to do something real.
Baby Pitino’s team has a good inside/outside balance on offense, experience in the form Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey, and a freshman sharpshooter that can bail them out in close games. If they stay healthy, the Gophers could turn the page on some bad years.
Also, as a Christmas present to me and the rest of the world, give us some more tweets from Richard Pitino. The Minnesota coach has found his groove on social media, and it’s kind of endearing. I don’t really need to know what time he gets to work or what he thinks about Twin Cities driving culture - but the guy is self-aware and trolls in a way other college coaches don’t. Keep it up brother. Maybe there’s a marketing gig out there for you if this whole basketball thing doesn’t pan out.
The Terrapins want some things you can’t give them. 1) They need Kevin Huerter back. Can you do that? Nope, didn’t think so. 2) They need a time travel machine to go back and reschedule their WEAK non-conference slate - 11 games and only one in the KenPom top 50. Soft.
Ok, if you really want to get them something, just buy Anthony Cowan a massage/spa gift card - his muscles deserve a break from carrying the team on his back. Whenever Maryland needs a bucket, everyone knows who’s getting the ball. And if he’d had some help, they could have probably fooled Purdue’s defense and pulled out a big win on the road. Rest easy, young Greg Jennings. We’ve got you covered this Christmas.
Go to Archie Miller’s PCP and renew his prescriptions for ARBs, ACE inhibitors, and Beta blockers. Doc, I know he’s like 25 years old, but the guy needs high blood pressure medication because his team is giving him a heart attack on a regular basis. Four of Indiana’s last five games have been one possession games. They’re winning them, for now, but I wouldn’t be so sure when the schedule turns from Northwestern and Butler to Michigan and Nebraska.
Any chance Santa will give Derek Pardon and Vic Law some friends? The experienced duo is playing stellar basketball - Law is average 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while Pardon is having his way down low with 14 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. In NU’s two Big Ten losses this year, the duo combined for 40 pts in one and 39 in the other. They need some help. Find them friends - transfers Taylor and Turner might be a good place to start.
Also, I hate to get into the muck, but while you’re out shopping, please buy Chris Collins some dignity. You are not a toddler. You are not a member of Michigan State’s floor slapping squad. You’re a grown man - show your passion standing up.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Don’t listen to the rest of America, most-improved and participation trophies don’t make you weak or soft or politically correct. Buy the Rutgers men’s basketball team this weird most-improved medal (in the famous amos cookie font for whatever reason). The Scarlet Knights are trending up under Steve Pikiell - they pulled out a big win on the road against Miami (FL) and have four starters that shoot above 35% from three point range. Spacing is real in college basketball, and Rutgers has more ways to space the floor this season. It’s not close to perfect yet, but give them a medal. And a cookie.
-Michigan State Spartans
Izzo needs a record deal. Also, get each guy on the team a pair of these grip gloves. Turnovers are still an issue for the Spartans - if they can find a way to limit them, a conference title and a deep tournament run is not farfetched.
-Ohio State Buckeyes
Give Chris Holtmann a shrine. Not one of those creepy ones from Hey Arnold. An honest-to-goodness shrine to honor an underrated coach who has exceeded expectations early in his tenure. Things look good in Columbus right now: 15-3 in conference play last year and some solid non-conference wins to start this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Holtmann’s team is contending for conference titles these next few years. Keep him happy, keep his family happy, keep his pets happy. Just be nice to Chris Holtmann is what I’m saying.
The Hawkeyes need you to buy Jordan Bohannon this instrument to help water find its level. The junior point guard shot 41.6% from 3-pt range in his freshman year and 43% in his sophomore year - but this year, he’s only shooting 31%. They say water seeks its own level, but if you’re an Iowa fan, you want it do so as quickly as possible - you are 0-2 in conference play and bouts with Purdue and Nebraska are on the docket.
Also, buy Fran some of these essential oils. His son and the rest of the team will thank you.
Happy Holidays from BTPowerhouse!