Big Ten Blog
Player of the Week
E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson can be tough guards for anyone in the league, but zoning Purdue as Northwestern with their 1-3-1 leaves open the possibility of Moore putting in five threes in six minutes as he did to open their New Year’s Eve game. He only slowed down slightly as the game went on finishing with 31 points on 11-20 shooting and 5-7 from three. Moore also drew the task of guarding Drew Crawford who entered the game second on the Wildcats with 15.5 points per game. Crawford struggled to get going and finished with 3 points on 1-6 shooting. With John Shurna playing through a sprained ankle, Northwestern needed big games from Crawford, Juice Thompson, JerShon Cobb, and Luka Mirkovic to pull off the upset. The combination of Moore’s scoring and holding down Crawford is a big reason why Purdue was able to win comfortably. This followed a conference opener at Michigan where Purdue’s two-headed monster had a game’s worth of performance crammed into one half. After starting horribly slow in a first half where they combined to shoot 5-17 and clinging to a 30-26 lead, the duo were 9-14 shooting and went for 26 second half points to lead Purdue to an 80-60 road win. One of the more pleasant surprises of the opening week was that the Boilermakers were able to find a third scorer in Ryne Smith. He had 17 points at Michigan and 13 against Northwestern. If he, or anyone else can give Purdue a third legit scoring threat, they will be all the more dangerous a team come March. The team knows what they have in Johnson and Moore, but being so heavily reliant on two players – even two as proven and talented as their seniors – is risky living in a single elimination tournament.
Ohio State’s Shooting
What more can be said about Ohio State that hasn’t been written in the previous blogs? It is hard not to acknowledge the Buckeyes opening Big Ten play in such dominating fashion at Indiana all while not playing their typically stifling defense. While the Hoosiers will be in a struggle to avoid the conference basement, the opponent does not take away from the accomplishment of 13-18 (68 percent) from three and 23-38 overall shooting. The team can win in so many different ways, and the idea of zoning them to slow Jared Sullinger is asking for the three upperclassmen wings to have a shooting performance like that. While Tom Crean could probably have bet one or two of William Buford, David Lighty, and Jon Diebler would take advantage of the zone, he could not have imagined they would combine for 12-16 from distance. This team is so eerily reminiscent to the 1999 Duke team with a dominant post presence inside (Elton Brand/Sullinger), and talented shooters on the wings (Trajan Langdon, Shane Battier, and Chris Carrawell/ Diebler, Lighty, and Buford) great help off the bench (Corey Maggette, Nate James, and Chris Burgess/ Thomas and Craft), and the ability to lock down opponents defensively. They finished 37-2, and it does not appear to be a team on the par of the Kenyon Martin Bearcats or Richard Hamilton Huskies in this year’s NCAA.
nope, let’s start out the New Year on a positive note, double down on
Illinois’ bounce back
With losses to Illinois-Chicago and Missouri, the Illini did not enter Big Ten play on a high note, but the team that showed up this week did not look capable of losing the way they had. Illinois went into Iowa City to open conference play and ended with an odd but almost impressive accomplishment of having more turnovers as a team – 17 - than missed shots – 16. They shot 66.7 percent from the floor and had five players score in double digits. The more impressive showing, however, was their game against Wisconsin. While the Badgers do not always show an ability to shoot the basketball when they leave the Kohl Center, their defense is almost always beyond reproach. On Sunday, though, it appeared as if after having played Wisconsin eight times prior the Illini seniors finally figured them out. Demetri McCamey led the way with 21 points, both Mike Davis and Bill Cole had 11, and Mike Tisdale had 8. They seemed to understand that a team cannot be patient and wait for Wisconsin to make mistakes defensively. Such a strategy tends to result in passing the ball around the perimeter for 30 seconds and then rush to take a bad shot. For the most part, Illinois was successful in attacking using their secondary break and even when settled into their half court offense got McCamey, and to a lesser degree Brandon Paul and Jereme Richmond, the ball in spots where they had the time and spacing to get into the paint and create.
Top 5: Players Exceeding Expectations
1. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota- Everyone knew he was big, active, and athletic, but he has been the best and most consistent player for Minnesota all year. 13.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals per game, 61.7 percent shooting.
2. Darius Morris, Michigan- He was hidden in the shadow of Manny Harris and Courtney Sims as a freshman, but has been a tremendous playmaker this year running the Wolverine offense. 15.3 points, 7.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.
3. Jeff Brooks, Penn State- Last year Penn State struggled to be little more than the Talor Battle show, but the development of the senior big man has made the Nittany Lions a more competitive team this year. 13.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game.
4. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin- Starting with their game against NC State, Taylor has averaged 18.3 points and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 45 percent. He has emerged as the Badgers second major threat along with Jon Leuer. 15.9 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game.
5. Christian Watford, Indiana- The expectations were high for Watford when he debuted in Bloomington as a freshman, but a rough freshman year tempered them a bit. He has taken lead of Indiana as a sophomore and with another year of development (along with the aid of another recruiting class) could be the one to bring the Hoosier back to the NCAA tournament. 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game.
Minnesota dropping their first two league games was not surprising, but the way in which the team lost to Michigan State was. The Gophers made life extremely difficult on Michigan State early on holding them to 8-31 from the field, but in the second half allowed the Spartans to get the ball into the middle of the zone and create from there. The end result was them shooting 61.5 percent in the second half. The 0-2 start makes this week’s home game on Tuesday against Indiana all the more important. With a Sunday date in Columbus, they could be staring down at 0-4 if they cannot pull that one out.
Former Illinois and Kentucky guard Alex Legion has been a journeyman guard having been to three schools in four years, but the senior has finally settled in at Florida International. In two games this week, Legion put in a combined 36 points on 9-18 from three and helped the Golden Panthers win their Sun Belt opener at Louisiana-Monroe.
Sullinger and his father spoke on the subject of the NBA Draft, which was reported by Bob Baptist in a Columbus Dispatch article on January 2. www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2011/01/02/hot-start-a-surp.... Sullinger said, "I don't even listen to that question now because it's about team right now, it's not about me, You don't look into the future, because it's just going to mess up your present." His father Satch said either option is "possible," but "We're staying in the moment." He went on to say "The way he got to Ohio State was by playing for Northland High School, and if the NBA is in his future, he'll get there by playing for The Ohio State University."