Submitted by Jim Feist on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 12:00 AM
by Jim Feist
A Big 10 representative hasn't won college basketball 's national championship since 2000 (Michigan State), but Indiana got to the title game in 2002, as did Illinois (2005), Ohio State (2007), MSU (2009), Michigan (2013) and Wisconsin (2015), so they've been knocking on the door. Here's a look at some of the best of the Big 10 with the March tournaments on the horizon.
Maryland: The Terrapins have star power behind junior guard Melo Trimble (17 ppg), 6-7 freshman Justin Jackson (11 ppg) and freshman guard Anthony Cowan (11 ppg). They are in the Big 10's Top 5 in scoring offense and defense. They somehow lost to Pitt and a two-point defeat to Nebraska, but otherwise this group is talented enough to be in the hunt for the Big 10 title. This is a big week for Maryland, matched up against Northwestern and Purdue.
Purdue: Who wouldn't want the Boilermakers' frontcourt? 6-9 sophomore Caleb Swanigan (18.5 ppg, 12.7 rpg), 7-2 junior center Isaac Hass (13.4 ppg) and 6-8 junior Vince Edwards pack quite a low post punch. They lead the Big 10 in scoring, three-point shooting and are second in rebounding margin. One weakness is they haven't been dominant on the road, losing at Louisville (71-64), at Iowa and at Nebraska. And they couldn't slow down Villanova in an early season loss, 79-76, at home.
Wisconsin: Bo Ryan may be gone but the Badgers are still a defensive powerhouse, tops in the Big 10 in points allowed. They are also Top 5 in scoring behind 6-20 sophomore Ethan Haap (14.5 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-8 senior Nigel Hays and senior guard Bronson Koenig (14.4 ppg). They haven't excelled when stepping up, however, losing to Creighton (79-67), North Carolina (71-56) and Purdue (66-55). Wisconsin begins a rugged stretch this week playing three of four on the road, including at Ohio State and both Michigan schools.
Northwestern: The Wildcats also like to slow things down with a fierce defense just behind Wisconsin in the Big 10 in points allowed, plus tops in field goal shooting defense (38%). The Wildcats are also outstanding from the free throw line, led by the backcourt of juniors Scott Lindsey (15 ppg) and Bryan Mcintosh, and balanced scoring up front with 6-7 sophomore Vic Law (14 ppg, 6 rpg) and soophomore center Dererk Pardon. They tussle with maryland this week and end the regular season at home against Purdue. And they have that early season wipeout of Texas (77-58) under their belts.
Indiana: The Hoosiers are second in the Big 10 in points with 6-4 junior guards James Blackmon (17.6 ppg) and Robert Johnson (14 ppg) leading in scoring, plus 6-10 sophomore center Thomas Bryant (12 ppg, 7 rpg) pounding the boards. They are tops in the conference in shooting at 49%.
But after a hot star, including a win over North Carolina (76-67), Indiana stumbled losing 7 of 13. That included showdown defeats to Louisville and Wisconsin back to back. Can they right the ship? The schedule down the stretch doesn't help, playing four of their final five on the road before tournament play.
Michigan: The Wolverines are loaded with experience behind 6-6 senior G Zak Irvin (13.7 ppg), senior guard Derrick Walton (13.5 ppg) and 6-10 junior D.J. Wilson (10.5 ppg). They lost at Wisconsin (68-64) as +10 dog and won at home over Nebraska (91-85) in an offensive show. Michigan is tops in the Big 10 in free throw shooting, but not an elite defensive squad, last in field goal defense. That was evident in a non-conference loss to UCLA (102-84). Michigan is 19-7-1 over the total as chalk.
Michigan State: A bit of a down year for the Spartans, losing four of five in January. It's not one of Tom Izzo's better offensive teams but the shortage of defense has been even more apparent, 8th in the Big 10 in points allowed. Freshman 6-7 Miles Bridges (16 ppg, 8.5 rpg) is an emerging star along with 6-8 freshman Nick Warn (13 ppg, 6 rpg). It looks like a team on the rise in the near future, starting 1-5 SU against Top 25 teams this season. They have also been terrible from the free throw line, second to last in the conference.