Big Ten Basketball News and Notes | Wolverines Move Into Top 4

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It’s hard to believe the college basketball season started last week, while most of our minds were on football. However, it is also hard to believe simply because it passed pretty quietly. With Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan all being contenders on the football field, it’s easy to miss the fact that in the most recent AP Poll, the Big Ten had three teams in the top 10. Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois are all top-10 teams at the moment, but they have some big tests in front of them.

Ohio State and Maryland were also ranked 19th and 20th to bring the Big Ten’s total of top-25 teams to five. The Big Ten had a great year last season, but once again went without a National Title. Will the Big Ten basketball finally buck the trend this year and crown a national champion? It’s very possible, but before we dive deeper, let’s take a look at how the Big Ten did in college basketball’s opening week.

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Credit: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Big Ten Basketball Headlines Of The Week

As I stated earlier, it was a great Big Ten basketball season last year. Out of the eight top seeds in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten claimed four of them. However, the conference’s national title drought continued. This year, the top tier of the Big Ten should be very good, but the rest of the field is wide open. In our most college basketball rankings, the Big Ten also has five teams in the top 25, including three in the top 10.

Ohio State Survives Scare Vs Akron

The Buckeyes narrowly avoided a November nightmare versus Akron. Sophomore forward Zed Key made a lay-up with 0.3 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Buckeyes the final 67-66 advantage. This is a troubling start for an Ohio State basketball team that has aspirations of the a Big Ten basketball championship.

Akron, who we picked to finish fourth in the MAC, erased an 11-point halftime deficit to take the lead with only seconds remaining. True freshman Malachi Branham got the inbound pass and found a wide-open Key for the game-winner.

E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Branham, hailing from the same high school as LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent St. Mary, had seven points, six rebounds and three assists on the night.

Later in the week on Friday, the Buckeyes hosted Niagara and were once again in a dog fight. The Purple Eagles trailed 42-41 at half. Ohio State didn’t pull away until the very end, but got the win, 84-74. Liddell had a monster game, finishing with a career-high 29 points. The Buckeyes have been very unimpressive thus far, and will need to change that come conference play. They also host another MAC team on Monday night in Bowling Green.

Purdue & Illinois Dominate Ahead Of Big Games

Somehow, some way, Purdue finds itself in the top 10, along with Illinois. Both teams were very impressive during opening week, with both teams going 2-0. The Boilermakers, led by sophomore guard Jaden Ivey, beat Bellarmine and Indiana State on opening weekend by an average score of 94-67. Sure, Purdue wasn’t exactly facing off against Duke or Kansas, but they still showed how dominant they can be against inferior opponents; something that Ohio State failed to do in the first week. Ivey is averaging 19 points per game, while shooting 58% from the floor. However, the x-factor this year for the Boilermakers might be big man Zach Edey. The 7-4 center from Toronto is averaging 19 points per game as well, but he’s also grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game. Head coach Matt Painter and his guys have a tough test on Saturday versus 18th ranked North Carolina.

It was a dream opening week for the Fighting Illini. They beat Jackson State, 71-47, and Arkansas State, 92-53. They did all this without big man Kofi Cockburn, who was suspended last week by the NCAA for selling apparel and memorabilia. He will miss Illinois’ Monday game versus Marquette. Without Cockburn, guard Jacob Grandison and forward Coleman Hawkins really stood out. Grandison is averaging 17.5 points per game, while Hawkins is grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking nearly three shots per game. Marquette will be a tough test, but it’s safe to say we will really know how good Purdue and Illinois are after this week.

Michigan Leap Frogs Into Top Four

It used to be a funny joke to say that Michigan was a basketball school and not a football school. However, at this point, that may be the truth. The way Juwan Howard has built that program in a short amount of time has been sensational. The Wolverines looked a bit shaky in their season opener versus Buffalo, the team we picked to win the MAC. However, in the end, the Bulls couldn’t contain Hunter Dickinson, who finished with 27 points and six rebounds. Howard’s guys eventually pulled out the 88-76 victory over a good mid-major team in Buffalo.

On Saturday the Wolverines took the court against Prairie View A&M, and showed why they are now in the top five. Michigan won the game 77-49 and freshman win Caleb Houstan scored thirteen points. On Tuesday, the Wolverines will have to take on a much better team than they’ve played thus far in Seton Hall.

3 Big Ten Games to Watch

Here are three games to watch this week involving Big Ten teams

Seton Hall at Michigan

Date: Tuesday, November 16th
Time: 9:00 PM ET
Coverage: FS1

Ohio State at Xavier

Date: Thursday, November 18th
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Coverage: FS1

North Carolina vs Purdue

Date: Saturday, November 20th
Time: 4:00 PM ET
Coverage: ESPN News

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