Big Ten Blog
Player of the Week
Purdue continued its march up the polls and towards a top two seeding in the NCAA tournament this week with a pair of road wins over rivals Indiana and Michigan State. As has been the case all year, the Boilermakers were led by their senior stars. JaJuan Johnson was nothing short of dominant. In their game at Indiana, Johnson helped build a big early lead. He had 11 points to open up a 13-point lead early in the second half. The Hoosiers attempted to mount a run outscoring Purdue 16-6 over the next eight minutes, but before too much damage could be done Johnson hit a jumper and got an and-one on successive possessions to allow Purdue to regain control for good. Against Michigan State, Johnson had a double-double by halftime and finished the game with 20 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks in a 67-47 win. Those 17 rebounds were a career-high. He finished the week averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game.
Michigan to make a play for 4/5 spot
While the Wolverines were not able to pull off the upset of Wisconsin on Wednesday, they were able to get big come from behind win on the road against Minnesota to save face for the week. With one more regular season conference game, Michigan is 8-9 in the league. If they beat 8-8 Michigan State at home, they will likely be tied with Illinois (who is 8-8 with a game at Purdue and one versus Indiana) at 9-9. Penn State is 8-8 with a game against Ohio State and Minnesota left. The Wolverines then would have a .500 record in league play with regular season sweeps over Penn State and Michigan State on their resume. If they could then beat Illinois in the 4/5 game, they would have played themselves into a favorable bubble position. It is still a lot of ifs, but nobody could have imagined Michigan even giving themselves this chance when they were 11-9 overall with a 1-6 mark in the Big Ten.
Minnesota’s slide continues
It was another disappointing week from Minnesota, and a 0-2 week at home sealed its tournament fate. On Tuesday night, they were facing a desperate Michigan State team. In a game where neither team was hitting shots, the Gophers were able to get enough points in the paint to open up a 47-39 lead with 4:33 to go. The Spartans then proceeded to outscore Minnesota 15-1 to end the game with nine of those points coming from the free throw line. Michigan State only hit eleven free throws in the entire game. On Saturday against Michigan, the Gophers led by three with 3:15 to go, only to see the Wolverines close the game out on an 11-1 run. Minnesota has now lost seven of eight and is sitting on a 17-11 record. As discussed in previous blog entries, this collapse is not entirely the team’s fault. The injuries to Al Nolen and Maurice Waller as well as the transfer of Devoe Joseph have left Tubby Smith with a different team than he had in November when they looked like a top ten team. It does not, however, excuse the team of two remarkable collapses at home with a possible tournament spot on the line.
The Big Ten has three teams in the top ten of both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll this week with Ohio State reemerging as the number one team in both polls. Purdue was sixth and Wisconsin placed tenth.
JaJuan Johnson and Jared Sullinger are among the finalists for the 2011 Oscar Robertson Trophy.
Talor Battle became the first player in Big Ten history and just the twelfth in NCAA Division I history with 2,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists.
Demetri McCamey became the second player in Big Ten history, Gary Grant being the first, to record more than 1,600 points and more than 700 assists in his career.
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