Around the Big Ten: A key injury, Wisconsin’s chances at 18-0 and more

  • 01/07/2015 11:32 am in

With conference play underway, Around the Big Ten takes you through the conference for the latest news, storylines and injury updates on IU’s conference foes:

· Illinois: An 0-2 start to conference play was tough enough to swallow, particularly with a late lead in the opener at Michigan, but things got worse in Champaign on Tuesday when it was announced that senior Rayvonte Rice is out indefinitely with a broken left hand. The Illini won’t have any time to regroup, either, as No. 11 Maryland comes to the State Farm Center on Wednesday evening.

· Iowa: A pair of shaky performances against Iowa State and Northern Iowa late in the non-conference season left many doubting the Hawkeyes, but the program is on the cusp of entering the Top 25. Junior forward Jarrod Uthoff was the Big Ten player of the week after averaging 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in wins at Ohio State and over Nebraska in Iowa City. With Uthoff, Aaron White and Gabriel Olaseni, the Hawkeyes have one of the most versatile frontcourts anywhere.

· Maryland: Mark Turgeon was on everybody’s preseason “coaches on the hot seat” list, but those press clippings have already been archived as the Terrapins are the surprise of the Big Ten at 14-1 overall. Maryland has a solid mix of experience (Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Richaud Pack, Evan Smotrycz) and youth (Romelo Trimble, Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley) that is producing the nation’s 23rd best defensive and 30th best offense, according to KenPom.com.

· Michigan: The Wolverines are banged up — sophomore point guard Derrick Walton has an injured toe, junior point guard Spike Albrecht has an undisclosed lower body injury and junior Caris LeVert just had a wrap removed from his left hand — but are 2-1 in the league after a Tuesday night win at Penn State. Michigan had one of the nation’s best offenses a season ago, but it’s taken a significant step back this year which may ultimately limit the ceiling for this group.

· Michigan State: The Spartans have again battled injuries this season as Branden Dawson was out for a couple of weeks with a left wrist injury and freshman Javon Bess is slowly working into the rotation after surgery in October to repair the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. However, Tom Izzo said after Monday’s win over Indiana that as his roster returns to full health, he expects significant improvement. The addition of Bess could be pivotal as it could allow Michigan State to go bigger up front and bring a shooter, most likely Bryn Forbes, off the bench to balance out the rotation.

· Minnesota: The computers still like the Gophers — they’re No. 40 in the Pomeroy ratings as of Wednesday morning — but an 0-3 conference start provides little margin for error for a team with NCAA tournament aspirations. As Ameila Rayno of The Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, Minnesota let a major opportunity against Ohio State on Tuesday night slip through its hands and time is running thin for Richard Pitino’s group to break through.

· Nebraska: Tim Miles isn’t hitting the panic button on this Nebraska team, as evidenced by his postgame remarks following a loss at Iowa on Sunday. “I’m not going to divorce them when things are bad and remarry them when things are good. We’ve got to keep working,” he told reporters.  This isn’t an unfamiliar position for the Huskers, who started 0-4 in league play last season before rallying to make the NCAA tournament. With the returns of Moses Abraham and Leslee Smith imminent and home games against Rutgers and Illinois up next, this team could get things going in a hurry.

· Northwestern: Year two for Chris Collins in Evanston has presented a new set of challenges as the Wildcats are going to take some lumps because of youth. But given the limited postseason aspirations for Northwestern, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s giving two key newcomers, Bryant McIntosh and Victor Law, experience that should pay off down the road. As the Big Ten pointed out in its weekly release, McIntosh’s 11.8 points per game are second on the team.

· Ohio State: As freshman D’Angelo Russell goes, so go the Buckeyes. The freshman, who is a Louisville native, is averaging 19.3 points in the team’s 13 wins and just 13.6 points in its three losses. Last night’s game was a perfect example of how good Ohio State can be when he plays well and how much it struggles when he isn’t scoring. In a 74-72 overtime win at Minnesota, Russell’s 25 first half points helped build an 12-point halftime lead. But he scored just two points in the next 25 minutes as Ohio State had to hold off a late surge by the Gophers.

· Penn State: Pat Chambers led the Nittany Lions to a 12-1 non-conference mark, but an 0-3 start in league play (including a loss at Rutgers) has this team once again headed for a finish in the bottom half of the conference. Tuesday’s loss at home to Michigan left Chambers questioning his team’s mindset and also at a loss for words on why the program always starts out slowly in league play.

· Purdue: The Boilermakers entered league play in a similar position to Michigan. Both teams had a pair of head scratching non-conference losses that lowered expectations and now both have started off league play on a positive note. With Wisconsin and Maryland, the league’s two best teams, up next, the 2-0 start for Purdue is huge and if the Boilermakers continue to play through the post first and foremost, there’s not many conference foes who can match the combo of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.

· Rutgers: Many wondered if Rutgers would even win a game in the Big Ten this season, but Saturday’s 50-46 win over Penn State at home squashed that discussion quickly. Through its first two conference games against arguably the league’s two worst teams, Rutgers is scoring just .77 points per possession, which doesn’t bode well once the meat of the schedule arrives.

· Wisconsin: The Badgers have responded to their disappointing loss to Duke in early December as most great teams do. Bo Ryan’s club has reeled off seven straight wins and four have come on the road. As heavy a league favorite as there has been in recent years in the Big Ten, Ken Pomeroy projects a win for the Badgers in each of its remaining 16 conference games with the best chances for a loss coming at Maryland on Feb. 24 (38 percent) and at Ohio State on Mar. 8 (38 percent).

(Photo credit: Michael Arellano/Emerald)

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  • Hoosier Hall

    Maryland and Iowa should give Wisconsin a test. We showed the ability last season to expose them and win but I don’t think we stand a chance at the Kohl center this year. We really need a win against Ohio State this Saturday…

  • Eastwood88_2

    The Rice injury is huge for IU. Winning there on the 18th is completely in the cards now. Bad break.

  • ForeverIU

    I feel bad for Illinois, and don’t count them out.

  • FinEndNow

    They do get the short end of the stick a lot… Quentin Snider changed his pick to UofL(probably should have stuck with Illinois) and Cliff Alexander put on an Illinois hat.. only to take it off and put on a Kansas hat.. then Rice breaks his hand.

  • ForeverIU

    And didn’t lose a guard in the pre-season, or was that a potential recruit?

  • FinEndNow

    They lost Tracy Abrams.

  • Ole Man

    Heard the same thing right before the MSU game. Not believing that stuff anymore…LOL.

  • pcantidote

    The only road game in the next four games just got much more winnable. Would be nice to be sitting at 5-1. Hard to imagine however based on the way we looked on Monday.

  • ForeverIU

    Speaking of overtimes, Kentucky “survives” Ole Miss in OT, at Kentucky. LOL, I told you a mediocre NBA team is beatable. Well, almost.

  • ForeverIU

    I would be careful. Players have a strange way of stepping up when a teammate is injured.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I’m not usually one to blame the refs for a loss because there’s always mistakes that can be pointed to but I saw the last few minutes of regulation and Ole Miss got screwed. UK shot 40 free throws to Ole Miss’ 21…

  • marcusgresham

    …and they still haven’t gotten over Eric Gordon.

  • No wwait a minute.. YOU feel badly for Illinois? Can’t be. How can you like them that much that it makes you feel bad when a key guy goes down? Wow, I guess I just missed that one.. Unless your ‘tongue is planted firmly in your cheek’…

  • Hey Ole Miss had a last shot at the end of regulation and even though they were dribbling around taking time off the clock, they settled for a kind of wild three pointer, which did not go in.. then ended up losing in OT.

  • ForeverIU

    I never feel good about a player going down, especially if I’ve wished it upon them, LOL. No, seriously, let’s not invite bad karma here! Wishing you a good recovery, Rayvonte, but a not too speedy one. And I just realized we only play Illinois once.

  • dwdkc

    I hate that play. Why do teams in tie games and the last shot end up shooting 3s all the time?

  • marcusgresham

    I think the key is to feel bad for Rayvonte Rice, but not one bit for Illannoy.

  • marcusgresham

    They’ll drop at least one semi-turd. “Down” or not, there’s too much talent in this conference to run the table. It’s not the SEC.

  • ForeverIU

    But I did cheer them on against Maryland. Woo hoo.

  • Yes, I never feel good about a player getting injured.. but we’ve had our share of guys dealing with injuries.. over the years.. I doubt that many other teams feel sorry for us. Yes individually, I get your point, but as far as feeling sorry for the team.. I don’t know, I just don’t. As they say, the rest of them have to ‘just step up’.. although we really hope they don’t…lol…

  • Yeah, that’s the point, I was trying to make..

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    Anytime a high school kid who hasn’t even played a minute of college basketball pulls the classless garbage that Alexander did on that whole hat fiasco (his dad sitting right beside him with sunglasses on in the gym), you’re better off without him…..I don’t care what caliber of player he is.

  • FinEndNow

    I think they could drop 3-4. I don’t think Wisconsin is on the same level as Kentucky or Duke(Duke did beat them at Wisconsin). Just don’t see them being as good as people want to think.

  • FinEndNow

    Depends what “talent.” NBA talent or? Because the SEC has more.

  • IUMIKE1

    Exactly what I was thinking while I watched them beat Maryland……without Rice. I think Groce is a good coach as well as being underrated, and it takes a lot for me to give credit to anything that is Illannoy related. lol

  • IULore

    Because do you think a foul would be called on a drive to the basket in that situation? Someone could pull out a baton and kneecap someone and the refs would swallow the whistle.

  • David Macer

    Its because they don’t want to be responsible for the ultimate outcome of the game. I hate calling a foul in the last 15 seconds of a game.

  • IULore

    Understandable, but at some point I wish they would introduce some consistency. The rules are the same for all phases of the game, players commit the fouls, refs are only supposed to call them. The players are still deciding the game.

  • IULore

    I don’t the BIG is down, it trashed the ACC

  • RU4IU2

    Losing Rice may not prove to be as significant as some predicted. I watched what they did against Maryland last night, and every one of their other players stepped up as part of a team to help offset Rice’s loss. Playing them at home is going to be anything but a given. We have NO answer for NNanna Egwu in the paint and Hill, Cosby, Starks and Nunn can be a load for any team…even more so for a team with an inability to keep guards out of the middle. Do not underestimate what John Groce can do w/his guys.

  • RU4IU2

    Ryan has developed a fundamentally sound defensive system in Madison. Their offense may hit a bump in the road, but they ALWAYS show up on the other end of the court. I believe it will take an extraordinary effort by a team to beat them this year. 18-0 is not only possible, I think it’s probable.

  • Eastwood88_2

    Interesting what I saw last night. Rice could have been more of a problem then a benefit. Teams rally with injuries, so next have will be more telling. Who can generate shots if they are not falling. Rice was the man there.

  • RU4IU2

    Last night, Malcolm Hill reminded me of Mike Woodson — he never took a shot he didn’t like.

  • RU4IU2

    Hard to forget Henson and Weber…but Groce has brought a much needed breath of fresh air to Champaign-Urbana.

  • SCHoosier

    Didn’t hurt them much against MD. Egwu and Hill were “possessed” in that game.