The Big Ten opened the 2023-’24 season on Monday night, with the majority of the league in action. Most of the teams faced overmatched “buy game” opponents, but a few faced legitimate tests.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-James Madison Ducks 79, No. 4 Michigan State Spartans 76 (OT)
After an offseason of hype and speculation about another Final Four run, Michigan State’s season got off to a rough start on Monday night. The Spartans were heavy favorites, but fell on their faces at home against an upstart James Madison team. The loss dropped Michigan State to 0-1 on the season.
The game itself was highly competitive. James Madison got off to a great start, but the Spartans gradually clawed away at it, thanks to 37 trips to the free throw line and 35 points from Tyson Walker. Unfortunately, Michigan State could get nothing from deep, shooting a horrendous 1-of-20 from three-point range. The team’s rebounding was also underwhelming, as James Madison actually outrebounded the Spartans.
The obvious question after Monday’s loss will be about what it means for the season moving forward. The critics will say this is a sign Michigan State was overrated and fans will excuse it as one bad outing in November. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. This is certainly just one game and the Spartans have plenty of time to recover. However, the team’s perimeter shooting was a major concern entering this fall without Joey Hauser and the team did nothing to alleviate those concerns on Monday night. Michigan State has to find perimeter shooting or things are going to fall apart.
Michigan State will now hope to bounce back at home against Southern Indiana on Thursday night. It should be a win.
-No. 25 Illinois Fighting Illini 80, Eastern Illinois Panthers 52
Illinois had a solid performance in its season opener, cruing to a 28-point win over Eastern Illinois at home. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn had an encouraging night, finishing with 18 points in just 20 minutes of action. Terrence Shannon also contributed significantly with 16 points of his own. The win pushed Illinois to 1-0 on the year. The team will return to action on Friday at home against Oakland for what is expected to be another blowout.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 80, Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 60
The Gophers scored a lopsided win in Monday night thanks to 23 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists from Dawson Garcia. Braeden Carrington also had a nice evening with 13 points and three rebounds. Minnesota will hope to carry this momentum into the team’s game on Friday at home against UTSA.
-Nebraska Cornhuskers 84, Lindenwood Lions 52
Nebraska also opened the season with a convincing win over a terrible opponent. The Huskers knocked off Lindenwood, thanks to 11 points and eight rebounds from Josiah Allick and 13 points from CJ Wilcher. Nebraska will now prepare for another weak opponent in Florida A&M at home on Thursday night.
-Northwestern Wildcats 72, Binghamton Bearcats 61
The Wildcats scored a relatively easy win in this game, though Binghamton came out of the gates roaring. Brooks Barnhizer led the way for Northwestern with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Boo Buie also had 27 points. The win pushed Northwestern to 1-0 on the season as the team now prepares for a tough Dayton squad at home on Friday.
-Ohio State Buckeyes 79, Oakland Grizzlies 73
Buckeye fans had to sweat this one out, as Ohio State limped across the finish line against a pesky Oakland squad. While the Buckeyes produced offensively (1.20 points per possession), the team couldn't’ stop Oakland. Fortunately for Ohio State, the team did just enough in the closing minutes to pull away for the win. Scott Middleton was a standout in the win, finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Ohio State will look to get better quickly with Texas A&M at home on Friday night. Another performance like this and the Buckeyes will fall to the Aggies.
-No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers 98, Samford Bulldogs 45
This was about as dominant of a performance as you’ll see in today’s world of college basketball. Purdue entered the game as a solid favorite, but blew away those margins en route to a 53-point win. Zach Edey led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. Virtually every Boilermaker saw the court. Purdue will now prepare for Morehead State at home on Friday. Expect another blowout.
-Penn State Nittany Lions 79, Delaware State Hornets 45
Mike Rhoades had a great first night with the Penn State program, piloting the Nittany lions to a 79-45 win over Delaware State. Three players finished in double-digits in Kanye Clary, Zach Hicks, and Jameel Brown as Penn State scored 1.04 points per possession. The win pushed Penn State to 1-0 as the team now prepares for Lehigh at home on Friday.
-Princeton Tigers 68, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 61
This was a tough pill for Scarlet Knight fans, as Rutgers entered this game as a solid favorite but couldn’t convert that into a win. The team’s defense faltered, allowing Princeton to score 1.10 points per possession and Matt Allocco to finish with 21 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Rutgers’ offense was largely held in check with three players in the starting lineup finished with offensive ratings of 81 or less. Derek Simpson was downright bad as the young guard only had two points in 18 minutes of action.
Like Michigan State above, fans are naturally going to wonder what this loss means for Rutgers’ season. And in many ways, the same analysis applies. This is a tough one for Rutgers and it’s going to hurt the team’s bubble hopes. However, it’s one game and (unlike Michigan State’s opponent), the loss came against a semi-decent team. The key will be bouncing back on Friday at home against Boston University.
-Wisconsin Badgers 105, Arkansas State Red Wolves 76
The Badgers cruised to an easy win in their opener, thanks to 20 points from Chucky Hepburn and 15 points from AJ Storr. The win pushed Wisconsin to 1-0 on the season as the team prepares for a marquee matchup against Tennessee at home on Friday. It’s expected to be one of the better games of this young season.