Recapping Tuesday Night in College Basketball

Photo via @VisionsByJeff

A lot happened last night for a Tuesday night in December. We had the Jimmy V Classic, which always features great basketball and a greater cause. We had two Top 10 teams fall, and two more teams in the Top 15 suffer losses. Let’s quickly recap what you may have missed last night.

Villanova Pounded Gonzaga

Villanova punished Gonzaga on a night where Jalen Brunson struggled and Donte DiVincenzo was in foul trouble. Granted, Jonathan Williams only played 18 minutes for the Zags, but this game was all Wildcats. Mikael Bridges was sensational, going off for a career high 28 points. Bridges was 5-9 from three point land and came up with big buckets every time Villanova needed one. The win showed both how short Jay Wright’s bench is, but also Nova’s ability to stay in games without a true point guard for stretches.

Tyus Battle Leads Cuse in Rivalry Game

The second game of the Jimmy V Classic featured an old Big East rivalry, as UConn and Syracuse met once again. In front of a terrific MSG crowd, it was the New Jersey product, Tyus Battle, who led ‘Cuse to a win. Battle had 22 and fellow Hoop Group alum Matt Moyer had a career high 18. The unexpected outburst from Moyer was huge, as Frank Howard struggled again for Syracuse. On the other end, the Huskies continue to struggle to pick up a resume building win. Jalen Adams led the way with 22 of his own, but it was not enough.

Arizona Picked up a MUCH Needed Victory

Sean Miller’s seat has been on fire since the Battle 4 Atlantis. Not literally, his job is safe, but Arizona’s struggles have been put under a big microscope this year. The Cats quieted some of that talk last night with a win over #7 Texas A&M. Positively speaking, Arizona had four players score 13 points, and none of them were Allonzo Trier. DeAndre Ayton recorded another double-double, and a bonehead play that almost gave A&M a chance to tie it in the final seconds. With Rawle Alkins cleared for full contact, this could be the win that turns Arizona around.

Notre Dame Upset

In what was by far the upset of the night, the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to Ball State in South Bend. Tayler Persons led Ball State with 24 points, none bigger than the 3 he hit with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Cardinals led by as much as 9 in the second half, surrendered that lead, and held on thanks to Persons’s heroics. The Irish will look to rebound this weekend against Delaware before an in-state battle with Indiana.

West Virginia is Streaking

It was defense vs defense as West Virginia picked up a big non-conference win against the #15 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. After giving up 88 points in a blowout loss on the first night of the season, Bob Huggins’s team has held teams to just 63 points per game and 37% shooting. None of these teams have as potent of an offense as Texas A&M , but it’s clear defense is still the key in West Virginia. In addition, Jevon Carter has been extraordinary. Last night was no different, as he recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Shaka Smart Returns to VCU Victorious

In what was an emotional game in front of a raucous crowd, Shaka Smart returned to Richmond and was victorious against his former team. The Longhorns look like they have a serious three headed attack with Andrew Jones, Dylan Osetkowski and Mo Bamba. This looked like Bamba’s most complete game, recording a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds) and tallying 4 blocks. His defense has been a constant all season, averaging over 3 blocks a game, but his offense appears to be coming around now as well. Oh, and then he also did this…

Big Ten Takes Another Hit

The Big Ten’s struggle as a conference has been mentioned on multiple occasions so far. The early take on the conference has been that it has three definite tournament teams in Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue, and question marks everywhere else. Well one of those teams suffered a bad loss last night, as Minnesota lost on the road to Nebraska. Jordan Murphy was held in check for the Gophers, finishing with 10 points on just 4-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Glynn Watson Jr. went off for the Cornhuskers, recording a game high 29 in the win. The Big Ten looks clearly to be Michigan State, and then everyone else.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Good News or ACC or Bad News For Big Ten

The ACC/Big Ten “Challenge” has been around for 10 years now. A non-conference event that matches up a Big Ten team against an ACC team so see which conference can take home the bragging rights. It’s a bit of a mismatch, as the ACC is typically the deepest conference in college basketball year in and year out. This year however was different. The ACC blew the doors off the Big Ten. This makes us wonder, is the ACC really that good? Or is the Big Ten worse than expected?

The ACC won the challenge 11-3, with the only wins coming from Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan State. Otherwise, it was not close. There were moral victories, sure. Indiana went toe-to-toe with Duke for 35 minutes. It showed us a much different team than the one that gone manhandled by Indiana State at the beginning of the year. However, there were not many other positives to take away from this challenge for the Big Ten.

Minnesota, a favorite in the conference, lost at home, albeit to a good Miami team. Michigan got pounded by a Tar Heel team that was embarrassed by Michigan State a few days prior. Shows the gap between those two rival schools. NCAA Tournament hopeful Northwestern lost to Georgia Tech at the buzzer. Wisconsin managed just 37 points against Virginia’s defense. And the list goes on.

Is the ACC Good? Is the Big Ten Bad?

Such a lopsided result poses the question: Is the ACC that good, or is the Big Ten that bad? We knew the Big Ten was top heavy. Michigan State is a title contender, and Purdue and Minnesota are expected tournament teams. Outside that though, there are major question marks that were not answered. Michigan did not look capable of competing with top teams, Northwestern suffered its third non-conference loss, and Illinois lost to a struggling Wake Forest team. There’s not much to take away.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACC is tough. Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, Miami are VERY good. They will all sit around the top 15 much of the year, as will Lousiville. We learned Syracuse is more real than we thought, thanks to the emergence of Frank Howard. Virginia is Virginia, and their defense will have them dancing again. But outside them, who else is legit? Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech are not locks by any means. Wake Forest has had major struggles and Georgia Tech is still a question mark with their suspensions.

It’s not expected for the Big Ten to win this challenge. I’m not sure any conference can beat the ACC in this challenge. But the Big Ten’s inability to keep it close at all, shows there are major weaknesses in the conference. It’s possible we only see three, maybe four teams make the big dance come Selection Sunday. 

Big Ten Basketball: 2017-18 Season Preview

The Big Ten Conference saw 7 teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament last season. While getting half your conference into the the Tournament is good, they only saw 3 teams make it to the second weekend, and none of them made it to the Elite Eight. This year is expected to be different. Michigan State is predicted by many to be a Final Four team, and a few others could make a run as well. Let’s look at some of the Preseason nods as voted on by Big Ten coaches.

Projected Finishes

  1. Michigan State – An NCAA tournament season last for what was a very young team, Michigan State had lofty expectations before Bridges announced he would come back. His return and the arrival of talented freshman Jaren Jackson make Tom Izzo’s club the no-brainer favorite in the conference.
  2. Purdue – Despite losing Caleb Swanigan, the Boilermakers do return a lot of production from last year’s team. Vincent Edwards will be one of the better guards in the conference and Isaac Haas’s improvement will correlate with how Purdue fairs this year.
  3. Minnesota – I think Minnesota has a chance to finish right behind Michigan State in the conference this year. The Golden Gophers return their top four leading scorers, including Preseason First Teamer, Nate Mason. Richard Pitino also brings in talented freshman Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris to add additional fire power to a team that was a 5 seed in last year’s tournament.
  4. Northwestern – It was a historical year for Northwestern last season. This season won’t be a Cinderella story for NU, as the conference is well aware of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay. Two strong senior seasons from these two could have Northwestern dancing again in March.
  5. Maryland – The Terps have a trio of sophomores that will create a lot of buzz this year. Anthony Cowan will be the primary ball handler, Justin Jackson will lead the team in points and rebounds, and Kevin Huerter will lead them in three pointers made. Any sort of contributions elsewhere and I think the Terps can finish higher than 5.
  6. Michigan – What was a balanced team last season will now not be, as Michigan loses three key pieces. Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will be the one-two punch for John Beilein. I also like freshman Eli Brooks’s game a lot. There’s just not enough after that to compete with the top
  7. Wisconsin – Same story as Michigan. Koening and Hayes are big losses for the Badgers. Ethan Happ is a preseason All-American, but who knows how he will fair without the support he had last season.
  8. Iowa – Iowa has a talented group of sophomores themselves this year. The Hawkeyes will look to Jordan Cook, Jordan Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl to shoulder more of a load with Peter Jok having graduated. The key for Iowa will be their ability to win on the road.
  9. Indiana – The Hoosiers lost a heap of talent and their head coach to a team that did not meet expectations last year. It will be a tough transition year for Archie Miller. Josh Newkirk and Juwan Morgan will get a bulk of the shots. I look for Curtis Jones to have a breakout year after showing glimpses last season.
  10. Penn State – I think Penn State is trending in the right direction, despite being picked by the conference to finish 10. They return their top 3 leading scorers, as well as 5 of their top 6. Tony Carr could end up being one of the best guards in the Big Ten this year. A strong year from him could have them up a couple spots higher.
  11. Ohio State – Jae’Sean Tate returns, who led the team in scoring last season, but not much production returns outside him. A change at the helm also impacted who OSU brought in this year. Rebuilding year to say the least.
  12. Illinois – The Illini struggled last year and lost a strong recruiting class when they fired John Groce. Some Illini fans wanted Groce to stick around and see how he did with the talent he was able to recruit. Brad Underwood does have ESPN Top 100 Da’Monte Williams and Mark Smith, ranked 78 by 247Sports, to start his foundation, so that’s promising.
  13. Nebraska – Isaac Copeland’s transfer appeal was positive news for the Cornhuskers. Unfortunately, they may not have much positive news passed this. Glynn Watson could be the team’s leading scorer, or at least be second depending on how well Copeland adjusts.
  14. Rutgers – It’s been a tough stretch for Rutgers basketball lately. Slowly but surely, Steve Pikiell is changing the program and bringing in recruits that will help change this program. Corey Sanders returns as the team’s leading scorer, and is a good center piece to have for a team that is littered with freshman and sophomores.

Preseason Awards

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon might be a dark horse to win Coach of the Year, but I think Maryland has the most upside in the conference this season

Player of the Year (Voted) – Miles Bridges (Michigan State)

No surprise here. Bridges is NBA talent and a physical freak of nature. He was Freshman of the Year a second-team All Big Ten member last season. Bridges’s stat line last year was 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists a game last year. With Michigan State expected to be much better, a stat line similar to that would be enough to take home POY honors this year.

Coach of the Year (Prediction) – Mark Turgeon (Maryland)

I think Izzo is the easy guess based on the team he is being given. I think Turgeon wins the award similar to how Richard Pitino won it last season. Maryland was voted in the top half of the conference, but there is potential to jump up a spot or two with the team he has. I think Justin Jackson will be a monster this year and Anthony Cowan will look a lot better with Melo Trimble gone. Coaching without huge expectations could allow Maryland to play freely and win a couple games they weren’t expected to.

All Big Ten Teams

First Team (Voted On)

Miles Bridges – Michigan State*

Bryant McIntosh – Northwestern*

Ethan Happ – Wisconsin*

Nate Mason – Minnesota

Moritz Wagner – Michigan

Vincent Edwards – Purdue

Justin Jackson – Maryland

Nick Ward – Michigan State

Amir Coffey – Minnesota

Scottie Lindsay – Northwestern

*unanimous selection