The last two nights have been phenomenal all around college basketball, and it was no different in the Big Ten. Here are some thoughts and observations on what’s been going on around the league.
—In its first game without Rayvonte Rice, Illinois upset No. 11 Maryland 64-57. Technically, it wasn’t much of an upset — the Illini were just a one-point underdog Wednesday— but it surprised the heck out of me.
Rice had been Illinois’ best player on both ends of the floor, and the future looked bleak for the Illini when news broke that he would miss several weeks with a broken hand.
But after a hard-fought first half, the Rice-less Illini opened the second period on a 20-3 to take complete control against the Terrapins. Sophomore guard Malcolm Hill exploded for a career-high 28 points, including 18 in the second half. Illinois will need more performances like that from him while Rice recovers.
—Meanwhile, Wisconsin eked out a win at home against Purdue. The Badgers were heavy favorites, but the Boilermakers stuck within two points into the final five minutes before losing 62-55.
This game says much more about Purdue than it does about Wisconsin. The Badgers are still clearly the best team in the Big Ten.
However, the Boilermakers have been all over the place this season. They had a solid showing in Maui and then beat NC State to start December. The rest of 2014, including home losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb, was brutal up until the Big Ten opener. That was when Purdue defeated Minnesota and followed that up with a win against Michigan.
On the road against the Big Ten favorite, the Boilermakers nearly pulled out a win that would have put them alone in first place for now.
I lost hope on this team after the Gardner Webb loss Dec. 22, but maybe that was premature.
—Also, Sam Dekker scored his 1,000th point during Wisconsin’s win. And he did it in style with a putback dunk.
—Last night, Ohio State survived Minnesota in an overtime thriller, 74-72. D’Angelo Russell scored 25 points in the first half, and Ohio State could do no wrong. Then Russell cooled off in the second half, and the Buckeyes struggled to score.
In overtime, Marc Loving nailed a game-winning floater with 5.6 seconds left.
The Buckeyes now have a respectable road win, although they still have résumé-building left to do.
—Minnesota is better than its record, but 0-3 is a tough hole to start the season. The good news is the Golden Gophers had a tough start to league play and have a much easier stretch coming up.
After traveling to Michigan, they host Iowa and Rutgers.
—Also on Tuesday, Michigan went to Penn State and got a 73-64 victory. After a poor non-conference performance, the Wolverines are now 2-1 in the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, Penn State has fallen to 0-3 in conference play.
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Wisconsin (15-1, 3-0)
2. Maryland (14-2, 2-1)
3. Ohio State (13-3, 2-1)
4. Iowa (11-4, 2-0)
5. Michigan State (10-5, 1-1)
6. Indiana (11-4, 1-1)
7. Illinois (11-5, 1-2)
8. Michigan (9-6, 2-1)
9. Minnesota (11-5, 0-3)
10. Purdue (10-6, 2-1)
11. Nebraska (8-6, 0-2)
12. Northwestern (10-5, 1-1)
13. Penn State (12-4, 0-3)
14. Rutgers (9-6, 1-1)