Big Ten Basketball Betting: Weekly Notebook
by Matt Severance - 01/05/2009
The Big Ten basketball season is just a week old, but it appears the cream has risen to the top, and that is Michigan State.
The Spartans opened conference play with wins at then-unbeaten Minnesota (fairly impressive) and at usual bottom-feeder Northwestern (fairly expected). That may not sound like a murderer's row, but consider that it's the first time that MSU has opened the Big Ten schedule with two road wins. Ever. Also consider that the Spartans had all of three conference road wins last season.
Hitting the glass has been the difference for Michigan State, as it outrebounded the Gophers, 49-27, and the Wildcats, 47-28.
"We've got guys who are athletes and can jump over the rim," said Spartans junior Raymar Morgan, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week after averaging 16.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in the two wins. "It just depends if we want to go get it or not."
Michigan State has played just four home games this season, with Gonzaga the only other ranked team to have played so few. That balance will begin to switch this week as Michigan State has two home nationally televised tests in Ohio State on Tuesday night and defending national champion Kansas on Saturday.
Nine of the conference's 11 teams lost at least once in their first two Big Ten games, with Wisconsin joining Michigan State as the only 2-0 teams in conference play.
The Badgers had an impressive win at Michigan last week but followed that with a bit of an underwhelming effort against Penn State.
By the way, all 10 conference games so far have been decided by 12 points or less. Five of them have been determined by five points or less.
IOWA: Freshman guard Anthony Tucker, Iowa's leading scorer, has seen very sporadic play since being reinstated from a suspension for an alcohol-related issue. Tucker has not seen the court in two of the past three games and played only one minute on New Year's Eve against Ohio State. Hawkeyes coach Todd Lickliter said the drinking situation is no longer an issue, but Tucker's shape is why he hasn't seen much playing time, including sitting out Iowa's victory over Indiana on Saturday.
OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes, who have been a bit depleted by injuries and one transfer (Anthony Crater to South Florida), will get a reinforcement for Tuesday night's big game at Michigan State in junior college transfer Nikola Kecman. The forward was suspended for 12 games because of an NCAA rule regarding the eligibility of foreign amateurs who play with European professionals before they enroll at NCAA schools. The Buckeyes have some size in the frontcourt, but they must improve their rebounding or they will get dominated by Michigan State. Since David Lighty was injured, OSU is allowing 13.2 offensive rebounds per game. The Buckeyes fell out of the Top 25 this week, the first time one of coach Thad Matta's teams has fallen from the rankings in-season.
PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions just can't win on the road in the Big Ten. Saturday's four-point loss at Wisconsin made PSU 5-37 on the road in conference play since coach Ed DeChellis' arrival in 2003. The Lions didn't win a road conference game in DeChellis' first two seasons as well as in 2006-07. At least they made one improvement at the Badgers' Kohl Center. Despite falling to 0-9 all-time there, the Nittany Lions scored more than 50 in the building (61, actually) for the first time under DeChellis. PSU faces two ranked teams this week in Purdue (in Happy Valley) and at Minnesota.
PURDUE: The Boilermakers could be poised to be upset on Tuesday night at Penn State as Robbie Hummel, the team's second-leading scorer, and Chris Kramer, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, may not play. Hummel, the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year who is averaging 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, aggravated a back injury in last Wednesday's 71-67 home loss to Illinois, and Kramer has been battling a foot injury. The two have not practiced since that game.