The Big Ten had a loaded slate of games on Monday featuring a number of Big Ten teams tipping off in their non-conference tournaments. Notably, Michigan State had a tricky matchup against an ACC opponent and Nebraska faced a Power Five opponent as well.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Virginia Tech Hokies 71, No. 3 Michigan State Spartans 66
This wasn’t a pretty one for the Big Ten, but anytime a top five team loses, it’s probably going to go down as the game of the night. KenPom gave the Spartans better than 80 percent odds to win this one at opening tip. However, Michigan State struggled with turnovers, gave Virginia Tech a lot of opportunities from the charity stripe, and couldn’t slow down Landers Nolley. All told, Virginia Tech grabbed a 71-66 upset victory.
Let’s be very clear about this before we start jumping to conclusions. Non-conference tournaments can often come with really weird results. The locations are unusual, there can be massive jet lag, and some teams are built better for quick turnarounds than others. The results matter, but it’s important to keep these things in mind. Virtually every year we see a handful of unusual results that mean little on Selection Sunday. Whether Michigan State’s loss will end up in this category remains to be seen, but my gut says that it will.
With that said, this will be a tough one for Spartan fans to stomach. Michigan State was a substantial favorite in this one before tip and should have won. Now, Virginia Tech isn’t a bad team (the Hokiers are 29th on KenPom), but Michigan State shouldn’t be losing to opponents like this on a neutral court. The loss will also send the Spartans to the losers’ side of the bracket, taking away even more potential resume-building opportunities.
On Tuesday, Michigan State will return to action against a Georgia team coached by Tom Crean. Once again, the Spartans will be significant favorites.
The name Louisiana Tech might not elicit a ton of intrigue, but the Bulldogs are actually projected to be a pretty solid team this season. Louisiana Tech was a top 90 team heading into this matchup on KenPom and 4-1 on the season. It would hardly be shocking to see the Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament at season’s end. With this in mind, Indiana projected to have a real challenge on its hands on Monday night.
But that’s not how things ended up going down.
Indiana came flying out of the gates at home on Monday and was able to grab a 13-point win at home to improve to 6-0 on the season. Trayce Jackson-Davis finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Hoosiers are now in the top 25 on KenPom and are quietly putting together a really nice start to this season. Indiana will get one more tuneup game on Saturday at home against South Dakota State before facing some quality opponents.
Don’t look now, but Nebraska might be . . . building momentum? After a horrendous 0-2 start to the season, Nebraska has now won three in a row, including last night’s surprising win over Washington State in the Cayman Islands. The Cougars aren’t a great team, but are certainly the best team the Huskers have played to date. As such, coming out with a win is pretty exciting news for Husker fans.
Nebraska will now face off against George Mason in the Cayman Islands on Tuesday night. Interestingly, Nebraska is set to be a minor favorite in the game. A win there and maybe we can start discussing the Huskers building toward something.
-Northwestern Wildcats 78, Bradley Braves 51
Another team that appears to be improving is Northwestern. After struggling out of the gate, Northwestern has won three of four, including last night’s win against Bradley on a neutral court. Bradley isn’t great, but the win was convincing. Pat Spencer led the way with 23 points and eight assists.
Northwestern will now prepare for a matchup against Pittsburgh in Florida on Wednesday. A win there and the Wildcats will be another team in that “rising” category.
-No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes 71, Kent State Golden Flashes 52
I wrote about this game in my power rankings earlier this week and my concerns ended up coming to fruition. Kent State was a better team than many gave them credit for and the Golden Flashes were able to push Ohio State for large segments of Monday night’s matchup. All told, Ohio State avoided the upset, but there was certainly some uncomfortable segments for Buckeye fans.
Ohio State will now prepare for another tune up game on Friday at home against Morgan State. A win there would push the Buckeyes to the team’s first 7-0 start since 2013.
-Richmond Spiders 62, Wisconsin Badgers 52
This one was a bit of a shocker. Wisconsin entered this matchup with momentum and seemed to be playing really good basketball. The Badgers had just knocked off Marquette and home and seemed like they were starting to come together. Unfortunately, Wisconsin couldn’t follow that up in New York with a loss to Richmond on Monday night.
Now, Richmond isn’t a terrible team (the Spiders are 82nd on KenPom), but this is a game that Wisconsin should have won. And like Michigan State, Wisconsin will now miss out on an opportunity to face off against a better opponent on Tuesday. Instead of facing Auburn, Wisconsin will face New Mexico. It’s a clear hit from the resume-building perspective. We’ll see how the Badgers can respond.