The Big Ten opened up the 2019-’20 season on Tuesday night with a plethora of teams in action. The highlight of the night was certainly Michigan State’s game against Kentucky, in a rare season opening game between No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP Poll. Wisconsin also played a ranked Saint Mary’s team on a neutral court and there were several other interesting results.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Day:
-No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats, No. 1 Michigan State Spartans
On a loaded opening night for college basketball, this was the blockbuster of the evening. And generally speaking, the game lived up to the hype. Kentucky controlled much of the game, but things were always pretty close. Unfortunately for Michigan State, the team just didn’t have quite enough to get the job done and walk out with a win.
Cassius Winston played pretty well and finished with 21 points, but Michigan State didn’t get a lot of consistency around him. No other Spartan finished with double-digits and two starters finished with offensive ratings under 70. Winston is good enough to win this team a lot of games, but the Spartans will need more from the supporting cast to beat better opponents when the going gets tough.
Michigan State still remains in good shape and will look to rebound on Sunday at home against Binghamton. The loss will likely end the team’s reign at No. 1 in the polls.
-Illinois Fighting Illini 78, Nicholls State Colonels 70 (OT)
Given the hopes coming into this season, Tuesday night probably could have started a bit better for the Illini. The team started slow and struggled to get the offense going all night. Illinois finished the night with 0.99 points per possession and three starters finished with offensive ratings below 100.
One does have to wonder if Illinois was overlooking this game with the team’s trip out west set to take place this weekend. Either way, Illinois is going to have to play much better if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament at season’s end.
The Illini will get back into action on Friday night on the road against Grand Canyon. Illinois will follow that up with a road game against Arizona on Sunday.
Although the Hoosiers started slow on Tuesday night, Indiana was able to get things sorted out by halftime and cruised to an easy win. Justin Smith led the team with 24 points and seven rebounds. Indiana’s next game will be on Saturday at home against Portland State.
-No. 7 Maryland Terrapins 95, Holy Cross Crusaders 71
This was about as ‘meh’ of a game as you are going to see for a top 10 team. Maryland ended up winning in convincing fashion, but it never felt like an extremely dominant performance. Darryl Morsell led the way with 15 points and five rebounds. Again, it wasn’t bad or great. It was just meh. Maryland will follow this up with a home game against a much better Rhode Island team. That figures to be a far more intriguing matchup.
Depending on when you watched this one, your opinion would vary pretty considerably. Michigan jumped out to a massive lead early on, but faded in the second half when the team kept turning over the ball. Things ended up being closer than fans would have liked late, but Michigan was able to score the win. Eli Brooks came up big for the Wolverines and finished with 24 points. Michigan will now be off until next Tuesday when the team hosts a quality Creighton group at home.
Things were close for the first 10 minutes of this game. After that, they most certainly were not. The Gophers were able to cruise to a 35-point victory thanks in big part to 17 points from Payton Willis. Minnesota will now move on toward a matchup against a really good Oklahoma squad on a neutral court on Saturday. It should be a good test for a new look Gophers team.
There’s no sugarcoating this loss. It was really, really bad. Even if Nebraska entered this season with underwhelming expectations, this was a game it should have won. The Highlanders were ranked 285th on KenPom entering this season. Even the worst Rutgers team of the modern era was rated above that. There’s no reasonable explanation for blowing a game like this, other than fielding a bad team and being unprepared.
It’s hard to imagine this Nebraska team accomplishing much this season given Tuesday night’s performance, but teams have lost bad games before and come back from it. We’ll see if the Huskers can do that on Saturday at home against Southern Utah.
-Penn State Nittany Lions 84, Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks 46
Though the Nittany Lions faced off against an overmatched opponent on Tuesday night, the team had a really encouraging performance. The game was never all that competitive and Mike Watkins had a big performance with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Penn State will hope to keep things rolling on Saturday at home against Wagner. It should be another win.
-No. 20 Saint Mary’s Gaels 65, Wisconsin Badgers 63 (OT)
There were some segments of this game that were really ugly, but it ended up going down to the wire with massive swings both ways in the closing minutes. Wisconsin fought well thanks in large part to 22 points from Nate Reuvers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Badgers fell in overtime. It was the program’s first loss in a season opener since falling to Western Illinois to open the 2014-’15 season. That year’s group ended up in the Sweet 16.
Tuesday wasn’t a win for Wisconsin, but there were some encouraging signs. This was a good St. Mary’s team and the Badgers almost won on a neutral court. Wisconsin will now return home to face Eastern Illinois on Friday night.