The Big Ten had an absolutely loaded slates on Saturday, with games taking place from noon through the late night hours. The day also included marquee matchups for teams like Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Purdue.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes 71, Kentucky Wildcats 65
The CBS Sports Classic doesn’t get nearly the coverage that the Champions Classic does, but the events aren’t really that dissimilar. Both feature four nationally relevant programs playing on a neutral court on a single day. And this year’s looked particularly interesting with top six Kentucky and Ohio State teams facing off.
This was generally a really good game on both sides throughout. Ohio State was in control for virtually all of the second half, but the Buckeyes were never ahead by enough to make things feel out of reach. And DJ Carton had a big afternoon, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds during the afternoon. Ultimately, that was enough for Ohio State to grab a 71-65 win over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.
Obviously, a win over Kentucky at any place or time is going to be significant. And this was a top 10 Kentucky squad on a neutral court. This was Ohio State’s sixth win over a top 100 opponent already this season and its fourth win over a top 50 opponent this year. The Buckeyes are now 11-1 overall and clearly among the nation’s elite. Ohio State will get the next week off and will get back into action on Sunday against West Virginia on a neutral court.
This is going to be a tough one for Illini fans to stomach. Heading into this game, Illinois seemed like a clear favorite and had momentum. The Illini had won six of the team’s last eight games with the two losses coming by a combined three points. By any measure, this looked like a game Illinois should win.
However, predicting college basketball, let alone rivalry games, is easier said than done. And Illinois got down early against Missouri on Saturday and could never recover. Notably, four players in Illinois’ starting lineup had offensive ratings under 95. That’s not going to win you a lot of games against quality competition.
Illinois now sits at 8-4 overall with one cupcake game remaining heading into the new year next Sunday at home against North Carolina A&T. It’s still early, but this feels like the kind of loss that could weigh heavily on Selection Sunday.
This was probably a bit closer than Hoosier fans were hoping for, but Indiana ended up getting the job done in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday against a decent Notre Dame squad. The win pushed Indiana to 11-1 overall for the program’s best start since the 2012-’13 season, when Indiana went 29-7 overall, won the Big Ten, and made the Sweet 16.
Indiana will now get a week off before wrapping up non-conference play at home next Sunday against a top 40 Arkansas team. If the Hoosiers were able to get the job done in that game, Indiana would certainly be in serious top 25 discussion.
-Iowa Hawkeyes 77, Cincinnati Bearcats 70
For most Big Ten fans, this one snuck a bit under the radar. Nonetheless, it featured two teams with serious postseason hopes facing off in Chicago. Iowa was fortunate to start well out of the gate and didn’t look back. All told, Iowa grabbed a 77-70 win over Cinci. CJ Frederick had a big night with 21 points and three rebounds.
The win pushed Iowa to 9-3 overall heading into its final non-conference game against Kennesaw State at home next Sunday. Assuming Iowa wins that one, the team will be in serious NCAA contention heading into January.
-No. 14 Michigan Wolverines 86, Presbyterian Blue Hose 44
There wasn’t much to take away from this one. Michigan got up big early on and never looked back, easily dispatching with an underwhelming Presbyterian team. The Wolverines sit at 9-3 overall with the win and 13th nationally on KenPom. Michigan will get back into action next Sunday at home against UMass Lowell.
-No. 15 Michigan State Spartans 101, Eastern Michigan Eagles 48
The Spartans were another team that faced an inferior opponent at home on Saturday and were able to cruise to an easy win. The win pushed Michigan State to 9-3 overall. The team will face Western Michigan at home next Sunday to close out non-conference play. The Spartans quietly sit atop the Big Ten standings and fifth nationally on KenPom.
Talk about a followup to that Ohio State upset on Sunday. Many thought Saturday could be a letdown after the Gophers upset the Buckeyes at home last weekend. Well, that wasn’t the case as Minnesota not only beat a top 45 opponent on a neutral court on Saturday, but cruised to a 20-point win over the Cowboys. The win pushed Minnesota to 6-5 overall.
It’s difficult to talk about a 6-5 team as a serious NCAA contender, but Minnesota is certainly playing like one right now. The Gophers are 3-1 over the team’s last four games with three wins against top 100 opponents. And given that the only loss came on the road against a rolling Iowa team and it’s really hard to complain. We’ll see if the team can keep it up.
-North Dakota Fighting Hawks 75, Nebraska Cornhuskers 74
One step forward and another step back. After Sunday’s upset against Purdue, many thought Nebraska might be turning a corner. Instead, Nebraska proceeded to lose at home against a North Dakota team ranked 231st nationally on KenPom. It marked Nebraska’s fifth loss of the season to a team outside the top 100 and we’ve yet to get out of December.
The honest truth here is that Nebraska just isn’t a great team and lacks consistency and depth. That’s why we keep seeing these divergent performances. Nebraska is overly reliant on a few guys. When they play well, the Huskers can make noise. Otherwise, things like this end up happening.
Nebraska will now have a few days off before getting back into action next Sunday at home against Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
Like some of the games described above, this was a pretty good matchup on Saturday. Both teams competed and it swung back-and-forth in the second half. Unfortunately, Northwestern couldn’t get the job done on the road and lost 83-78 to DePaul. The loss dropped the Wildcats to 5-6 overall. Northwestern will get back into action next Sunday at home against Hartford.
-No. 17 Butler Bulldogs 70, Purdue Boilermakers 61
Taken in a vacuum, Saturday’s loss against Butler isn’t anything for Purdue to be ashamed about moving forward. Butler is a really good team, the game was relatively competitive, and it took place on a neutral court. But with that said, this felt like an opportunity for Purdue to score its second marquee win of the season and the Boilermakers fell flat. As a result, Purdue now sits at 7-5 overall heading into next Saturday’s non-conference finale against Central Michigan at home.
-Wisconsin Badgers 83, Milwaukee Panthers 64
The Panthers were able to keep things pretty close early up, but the Badgers took over as the first half continued and ended up scoring a nice 83-64 win. The win pushed Wisconsin to 6-5 overall. The Badgers will now get a week off before making a trip down to Tennessee to play the Volunteers on the road next Saturday. That figures to be a good one.