College Hoops: Best Big 10 Teams

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Jim Feist - 2/9/2015 12:59 PM
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), Michigan State (2009) and Michigan (2013), 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.

Wisconsin: Bo Ryan's club is often about slowing the pace down, but not this season. The Badgers are Top 50 in the country in scoring and Top 20 in field goal shooting because of a powerful frontcourt. Wisconsin has 7-foot junior Frank Kominsky (17 ppg, 8 rpg), 6-8 junior Sam Dekker (12.5 ppg) and 6-7 soph Nigel Hayes up front.
The backcourt lost talented senior guard Traevon Jackson. You have to wonder if this team has really been tested, facing only one Top 10 team....and losing at home 80-70 to Duke. They have tough road games remaining at Maryland and Ohio State.

Maryland: The Terrapins have been a force all season, which included an impressive double overtime win at Michigan State. The Maryland offense revolves around a one-two punch of
6-2 freshman G Melo Trimble (16 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg) and 6-8 junior Jake Layman (14.7 ppg, 7 rpg). Maryland had only allowed one opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the field through the first 18 games in a 76-65 loss to then-No. 7 Virginia on Dec. 3.
However, the last few weeks they've struggled, allowing Northwestern to shoot 54% and Indiana 60%, the latter an 89-70 defeat. They squeaked by Northwestern, 68-67, as -11.5 chalk. Maryland is on a 9-2-1 run under the total on the road.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes have enjoyed a great season with an offense ranked in the Top 20 in scoring and assists, plus one of the best in the nation in shooting over 50%. The offense pours in 80 ppg behind 6-5 freshman D'Angelo Russell (19.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), 6-7 soph Marc Loving (11.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and 6-7 senior Sam Thompson (10 ppg).
Ohio State struggled early in key non-conference games, losing to Louisville (64-55) and to North Carolina (82-74). But they have looked better in Big 10 play, stuffing Indiana (82-70) and Maryland (80-56) in back-to-back showdown contests. The victory over the Hoosiers was a revenge game, losing 69-66 at Indiana last month. They allowed Indiana 52% shooting, including 12-25 from long range (48%), but OSU shot 62%. Ohio State finished with 26 points off of Indiana turnovers running their attacking, pressing defense. The Buckeyes are 1-8-1 ATS in their last 10 road games.

Michigan State: You need frontcourt muscle in the Big 10 and the Spartans have it with 6-6 senior Branden Dawson (12 ppg, 10 rpg) and 6-9 Matt Costello. They were expected to take a step back this season after losing their best backcourt players, but 6-5 junior Denzel Valentine (14 ppg, 6 rpg) has stepped up. They play tough defense for Coach Tom Izzo, losing 61-56 to Kansas allowing 37% shooting and 3-of-14 from long range. Michigan State took No. 12 Maryland to double overtime before losing by a basket and lost in OT at Notre Dame by a point. They are the type of well coached, physical defense you don't want to face in March.

Indiana: Tom Crean's team is running-and-gunning again, Top 20 in points scored while shooting 48% as a group led by 6-4 freshman James Blackmon (16.5 ppg, 5 rpg). Indiana is not a big group up front with 6-7 sophomore Troy Williams (13 ppg) and you have to wonder if the lack of rebounding and defense is taking a toll.
They recently lost 3 of 4, all by double digits, including a 92-78 loss at Wisconsin allowing 60% shooting. The Hoosiers hit 5 of 6 on late 3-pointers to make the score more respectable. The Badgers continually took advantage of Indiana defenders overplaying entry passes, allowing clear paths to the bucket. Can you rely so much on offense when tourney play commences?

Purdue: The Boilermakers have been winning and covering, on a recent 8-2 spread run in Big 10 play. Purdue is doing it with defense behind 7-foot junior A.J. Hammons (11 ppg), 6-5 junior Raphael Davis (11 ppg) and 6-7 freshman Vince Edwards. They held Indiana to 67 points and Iowa to 67 in back to back big wins, then showed no let-down by winning at Northwestern allowing 60 points. That was part of a stretch going 8-2 under the total against Big 10 foes.

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