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Purdue had a rough week, picking up a pair of losses, but the Boilers only played one Big Ten game and remain well ahead of the pack in efficiency margin. One close loss at Minnesota was not enough to demean the handful of blowout victories that the Boilers have already picked up in Big Ten play.
Ohio State and Illinois make up the next tier. Ohio State keeps winning close games — 5 points over Iowa, 3 points over Minnesota, 4 points over Michigan, and 3 points over Penn State — but the bottom line is that wins are wins. Ohio State’s defense in conference play could be an issue as it ranks 6th and is behind all of the teams regarded as conference title contenders. Michigan State is 4-1 but the Spartans have posted an efficiency margin of just .04 points per possession. Michigan State is playing its trademark defense but has struggled to score the ball, with the second worst offensive production in the league. Freshman guard Keith Appling could remedy some of the Spartans problems as he appears to be coming into his own.
The picture is glum for Michigan fans. Michigan has the worst defense in the Big Ten and is 10th in efficiency margin, much closer to Iowa at 11th than Indiana at 9th. The Wolverine offense has been mediocre but it’s the defense that is cause for major concern at this point. –Dylan Burkhardt
Surprise of the week: Minnesota beating Purdue at home on Thursday 70-67. Not entirely “surprising” given how hard it is to play anyone on the road, but very impressive nonetheless. A good win for Minnesota after a rough start to the Big Ten season. The Gophers went into the game with a 1-3 record in the conference (the three losses were against Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin). Purdue looked nearly unbeatable in early conference play (partly because of an easy early-conference schedule) and was the only team Michigan played until Indiana that truly blew them out. Minnesota was able to shrug off its early struggles and right the ship against one of the Big Ten’s best teams. Blake Hoffarber was the hero for Minnesota, tallying 26 points. –Joe Stapleton
Disappointment of the week: Michigan’s awful showing against Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday. After taking two of the nation’s top teams down to the wire in consecutive games at Crisler, it felt like Michigan was poised for a good road win. Plus, Indiana had been struggling all year and was on a 6-game losing streak going into the contest. Despite all of that, Michigan came out very flat and Indiana was extremely hot to start the game, making it difficult on the Wolverines. It was a chance for Michigan to make a statement but the final product conveyed a decidedly different message than the Wolverines hoped. –Joe Stapleton
Unsung hero: Keith Appling of Michigan State. The former Doughboy racked up 19 points in Michigan State’s overtime win against Northwestern at home on Saturday, including a go-ahead 3-pointer and two huge free throws down the stretch. Very impressive stat line and a career high for the freshman, who has been looking for his groove all season. Appling has shown flashes this year but this could be considered his coming-out party. The 19 points he scored was 13 more than his season average and with Korie Lucious struggling Appling will be looking at more and more playing time if he con continue to produce like that. You can bet that Tom Izzo has been most impressed with the freshman’s swarming defense, which has been a game changer for Michigan State. –Joe Stapleton
Stat line of the week: JaJuan Johnson put his team on his back in that loss to Minnesota. The senior had 29 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort. Johnson is having a monster and these kinds of numbers are becoming business as usual for him. The loss ended Purdue’s 10-game winning streak, and now the Boilermakers find themselves on a two-game losing streak after dropping a road game to West Virginia. Painter’s comments after the game indicated he wanted to get the ball inside to Johnson even more than he did throughout the game — E’Twaun Moore missed a late jumpshot to tie the game rather than dumping the ball inside. When Johnson is having that kind of night, I’d have to agree with him. –Joe Stapleton
Game of the week: Michigan State’s overtime win against Northwestern. The Wildcats took the Spartans to overtime on their home court for Michigan State’s second OT win in a row, having beaten Wisconsin in overtime the game before. Michigan State looks like it’s getting back on track after a very disappointing start to the season, and that’s bad news for the rest of the conference. The Spartans held John Shurna to just 6 points on 10 shots and Keith Appling provided timely offense for Michigan State. Draymond Green continued to just make plays as he finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, and an impressive game high +14 +/- rating.