Big Ten Roundup: January 21st, 2013

Team W L Tempo Off. PPP Def. PPP Eff Margin
Michigan 4 1 64 1.22 0.98 0.24
Wisconsin 4 1 60 1.04 0.91 0.13
Indiana 4 1 66 1.09 0.97 0.11
Minnesota 3 2 66 1.16 1.06 0.10
Michigan State 5 1 67 1.04 0.95 0.09
Ohio State 3 2 65 0.96 0.91 0.05
Purdue 3 2 65 0.98 0.98 0.00
Iowa 2 3 68 0.97 1.00 -0.03
Northwestern 2 4 61 0.99 1.11 -0.12
Illinois 1 4 66 0.93 1.06 -0.13
Nebraska 1 5 62 0.85 1.01 -0.17
Penn State 0 6 64 0.87 1.07 -0.21

A third of the way through Big Ten play, one team stands far above the others: Michigan. The Wolverines have outscored their opponents by nearly a quarter point per possession thanks to an offense that just keeps getting better. A week ago Michigan was licking its wounds after a disappointing loss at Ohio State but is obviously back on track after a big win at Minnesota.

And what a week for Wisconsin, the Badgers were the conference’s lone remaining undefeated after a win at Indiana but turned around and lost at Iowa. The Badgers have played well but are definite benefactors of the 2nd easiest league schedule to date. Next up is a pair of home games against league contenders Michigan State and Minnesota. The Badgers are tough to beat at home but this could be a defining week for Bo Ryan’s team going forward.

Speaking of Michigan State, the Spartans have rebounded well from a conference opening loss at Minnesota with five consecutive victories. The Spartans are getting it done with defense – forcing turnovers and controlling the defensive glass – but have given up an uncharacteristic 51% two point shooting in league games. Barring the Ohio State home victory, the Spartans last five games haven’t been the most robust on their conference slate but that will change this week with trips to Wisconsin and Indiana. – Dylan Burkhardt

Game of the week: Michigan State 59, Ohio State 56

The match-up between the Spartans and Buckeyes at the Breslin Center was a classic Big Ten slugfest. Both teams play terrific defense — Michigan State and Ohio State rank 31st and 25th, respectively, in effective field goal percentage allowed — and feature two of the game’s best perimeter defenders in Aaron Craft and Keith Appling. Pair that with the offensive struggles both teams have been experiencing this season, and you have what occurred on Saturday: an exciting game that nonetheless featured two teams scoring under 60 points. Both teams went through scoring droughts and failed to surpass a point per possession offensively but it was Michigan State who ended up pulling out the victory. The Spartans found timely production from Appling and Adreian Payne. Meanwhile Ohio State just couldn’t find any offensive production other than Deshaun Thomas, who scored 28 of the Buckeyes’ 56 points.  - Joe Stapleton

Disappointment of the week: Illinois losing to Northwestern at home

After placing Illinois in this same spot in last week’s roundup, it must be said: I swear we aren’t just dumping on the Illini. It’s just that they clearly experienced the most disappointing loss of the week…again. Northwestern entered the match-up at Assembly Hall with their only Big Ten win coming against Penn State. The Wildcats had just been blown out at home by Iowa, a good team but certainly no conference powerhouse. The reason why Illinois has lost its last three Big Ten games is simple: it doesn’t play defense. The Illini surrendered 1.1 points per possession to Northwestern, with five different Wildcats reaching double figures. Meanwhile, Illinois continues to struggle finding offense outside of Brandon Paul. Paul scored 21 in the loss, but just one other Illini reached double-digits, Tracy Abrams with10 points. In late December, Illinois looked like a sure thing for the NCAA tournament. A month late and the Illini have lost five of their last seven and sit at 1-4 in the Big Ten.- Joe Stapleton

Stat line of the week: Shavon Shields

29 points on 10-of-11 shooting, 8-of-8 FT, 6 rebounds, 3 steals

Nebraska finally achieved its first Big Ten victory over Penn State in Happy Valley, and it was thanks largely to the torrid shooting of the freshman Shavon Shields. Shields could be making an entrance as a dangerous offensive weapon in the conference — the Olathe, Kansas native scored 18 against Purdue on Wednesday before going off against Penn State on Saturday to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Shields was absolutely lethal off the dribble and scored most of his points off of pull-up jumpers and drives to the hoop; the freshman took (and made) only one 3-pointer. Perhaps the main reason Nebraska was able to pull out the game was its free throw shooting. The Huskers sank all 16 of their free throws, including two big ones from Shields with 1:19 left that would give Nebraska a 66-60 advantage, one it didn’t end up surrendering. - Joe Stapleton

Surprise of the week: Wisconsin beating Indiana at Assembly Hall

Wisconsin rolled into Bloomington after a relatively light start to the Big Ten season — the Badgers had only played Penn State (home), Nebraska (away) and Illinois (home). At 3-0, Wisconsin had started well, but hardly seemed positioned to knock off Indiana on its home turf. However, Indiana hadn’t exactly started off the conference slate with a bang, edging out a close win against Iowa on the road and almost surrendering a loss to Minnesota at home. The Badgers beat the Hoosiers by slowing the game down and playing suffocating defense and then coming up with some borderline miraculous shots down the stretch. Indiana likes to play at around 70 possessions per game — against Wisconsin, they logged only 61. The Badgers also held the vaunted Hoosier offense in check, forcing them into a sub-par effective field goal percentage of 40, well below their average of 56. Wisconsin also saw balanced production across the board — four players reached double digits, and Ben Brust added a nine-point effort. - Joe Stapleton

Unsung hero of the week: Mitch McGary, Michigan

Against Minnesota, Mitch McGary continued his steady, season-long improvement. He was very efficient, shooting 4-of-5 from the field, and showed off a wide array of offensive ability. McGary hit a 10-foot jumper at the free-throw line, showed off a nice hook in the lane, and otherwise finished strong on fast breaks — some of which he himself started. But while his offense was impressive, it’s the defensive side of the ball and his presence in the paint that made his performance especially memorable. McGary came in against sixth-year senior and future NBA lottery pick Trevor Mbakwe and held his own when Michigan’s starters weren’t doing the job in the first half. McGary grabbed two offensive rebounds, forced three steals and notched a block and an assist in 2o minutes. His stats don’t necessarily wow you, but his impact on the game was undeniable. - Joe Stapleton

Upcoming game of the week: Michigan State at Wisconsin (Tuesday, 6 p.m.)

This one is almost guaranteed to be a close game. It’s also guaranteed to be ugly. The Spartans and Badgers have had some epic defensive showdowns in the past, and with both teams playing defense the way they have been, this one should be no different. Michigan State will be coming off an uplifting home victory over Ohio State, while Wisconsin will be limping home after a tough loss to Iowa on the road. Despite those circumstances, Wisconsin is nearly impossible to beat at the Kohl Center and this team is built to weather this Big Ten season. Look for the Badgers to hold off the Spartans, but it will be close. - Joe Stapleton

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