Bob Asmussen's Big Ten report: Showdown on tap
It’s Grammy weekend. To celebrate all things music, here’s what they would be if they were on copy editor David Burleson’s iTunes playlist:
TEAM W-L W-L SONG, ARTIST — COMMENT
Michigan State 7-0 18-1 “Cruise,” Florida Georgia Line (featuring Nelly) — Injuries not slowing them down
Michigan 6-0 14-4 “Rise,” Eddie Vedder — Nik Stauskas & Co. stepping up
Iowa 4-2 15-4 “Eruption,” Eddie Van Halen — Team can really put up some points
Minnesota 4-3 15-5 “Hungry,” Winger — Refuse-to-lose mind-set
Wisconsin 3-3 16-3 “I Fall to Pieces,” Jamey Johnson and Merle Haggard — Need to patch up defense
Purdue 3-3 13-6 “The Weight,” Levon Helm — If Hammons gets in shape, he’ll be a beast
Ohio State 3-4 16-4 “Long Way Down,” Goo Goo Dolls — Falling fast in polls
Northwestern 3-4 10-10 “Centerfield,” John Fogerty — I know, wrong sport, but they’re ready to play
Indiana 2-4 12-7 “Unglued,” Stone Temple Pilots — Not a cohesive bunch
Illinois 2-5 13-7 “All Apologies,” Nirvana — Groce sorry for recent outbursts
Nebraska 1-5 9-9 “It Was a Good Day,” Ice Cube — Cornhuskers shocked Buckeyes
Penn State 1-6 10-10 “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” AC/DC — Cellar dwellers
Want to know which of this week’s games are worth your time? Here’s help from Bob Asmussen, who rebounded from a bad start by going 8-4 last week. He needs to finish strong to make the NCAA tournament:
Iowa at Northwestern
11 a.m., BTN
The Hawkeyes are trying to catch the two Michigan schools for the Big Ten lead. The Wildcats are trying to reach .500 in the Big Ten, Which is more of a surprise? Probably the latter.
Asmussen’s pick: Iowa, 77-66
Wisconsin at Purdue
4 p.m., BTN
We think of the Badgers as being tough and sharing the ball. But they rank 260th in the nation in rebounding and 203rd in assists. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you go “Hmmmm.”
Asmussen’s pick: Wisconsin, 65-63
Michigan at Michigan State
6 p.m., ESPN
Based on the way Branden Dawson broke his hand, punching a table, Tom Izzo might want to get some bubble wrap for his guys. Or, at least, remove all tables from the meeting rooms. Bad time to be without your best healthy rebounder. Izzo will try to beat the Wolverines with smoke and mirrors.
Asmussen’s pick: Michigan State, 59-58
Illinois at Indiana
2 p.m., BTN
The upset win against Wisconsin didn’t do the Hoosiers much good. Since that game, they are 0-2, including a home loss to Northwestern. And they were missing Will Sheehey against Michigan State. Hoosiers are already angry at Illinois about the overtime loss at the Farm.
Asmussen’s pick: Illinois, 73-72
Minnesota at Nebraska
5 p.m., BTN
Nebraska coach Tim Miles is famous for his tweeting, even during games. But after blowing what would have been an important road win Thursday at Penn State, Miles might want to consider powering down the cellphone. Or putting it on airplane mode. The team has played well at its fancy new arena.
Asmussen’s pick: Minnesota, 64-59
Michigan State at Iowa
6 p.m., ESPN
Hawkeyes junior Aaron White is making a push for All-Big Ten consideration. He is a steady scorer and rebounder. And he hits 65 percent of his shots from the field. But he should stop venturing outside the arc. White is making 27 percent of his three-pointers. Opponents will give him those shots all day.
Asmussen’s pick: Iowa, 81-78
Penn State at Ohio State
6 p.m., BTN
The Nittany Lions’ dynamic duo of D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier remain the highest-scoring teammates in the Big Ten, averaging 17.2 and 16.5 points, respectively. Unfortunately, it hasn’t translated into more wins, with Penn State at the bottom of the Big Ten.
Asmussen’s pick: Ohio State, 72-66
Northwestern at Wisconsin
8 p.m., BTN
Time to praise Wisconsin star Sam Dekker. He doesn’t put up huge numbers, but the NBA scouts know all about the sophomore. He has added five points to his scoring average this season and rebounds well. While he isn’t perfect at the line (63 percent), he hits half of his shots from the field. Folks in Wisconsin hope he stays forever. Unlikely.
Asmussen’s pick: Wisconsin, 65-51
Indiana at Nebraska
7:15 p.m., BTN
The best thing about freshman Noah Vonleh is that he learns from his mistakes. After a rough game against Northwestern, during which he missed 10 of 15 shots, the Big Ten’s best shooter percentagewise went back to his old ways against Michigan State. He hit 6 of 8 shots from the field in a close loss to the Spartans. Don’t know how long he is going to stay in Bloomington, but Vonleh is going to become a cult hero if he keeps playing like that.
Asmussen’s pick: Indiana, 80-66
Purdue at Michigan
8 p.m., ESPN
Speaking of talented young guys, Wolverines sophomore Nik Stauskas seems to be having a blast. Many thought the Wolverines would fall apart without Mitch McGary. But Stauskas has made sure it wouldn’t happen. He leads the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game. And he helps in other ways, grabbing four rebounds and recording four assists per game. The Canadian is only getting
Asmussen’s pick: Michigan, 70-64
Joseph Bertrand 1
Jon Ekey —
Nnanna Egwu —
Tracy Abrams 3
Kendrick Nunn —
Rayvonte Rice 2
Bob Asmussen’s take: Didn’t see a slump like this coming from Rice. It dates back to the time he missed with a hip injury. Rest might be the best plan for him, but top players never want to sit. The Illini were short on offense before he got hurt. Now they look like some of those scoring-challenged Northwestern teams from back in the day. The rugged schedule doesn’t help any.
BIG TEN MVP
Nik Stauskas, Michigan 3
Gary Harris, Michigan St. 1
Branden Dawson, Mich St. —
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana 2
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa —
Asmussen’s take: How have the Spartans played so well without Adreian Payne? Guards Harris and Keith Appling have come through, of course. But heap a bunch of praise on Dawson, who is second in the Big Ten to Indiana’s Noah Vonleh in rebounds. The bad news is that Dawson is now out at least a month with a broken hand. Tom Izzo might need to suit up.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Noah Vonleh, Indiana 1
Zak Irvin, Michigan —
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin 2
Tai Webster, Nebraska —
Kendall Stephens, Purdue 3
Asmussen’s take: After scoring two points against Wisconsin, Irvin came up big in Wednesday’s win against Iowa. He scored 11 points and added a couple of rebounds for John Beilein’s NCAA tournament-bound team.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Tom Izzo, Michigan State 1
John Beilein, Michigan 4
Richard Pitino, Minnesota 5
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin 2
Chris Collins, Northwestern —
Asmussen’s take: The win at Indiana by Collins’ team was impressive, though it might tell us more about the Hoosiers’ flaws than the Wildcats’ talents. Winning at Northwestern, which has zero tradition in basketball (sorry, Shon Morris) is going to be a chore for Collins. But he learned from the best. And Mike Krzyzewski turned Duke into a power when few thought it was possible. Maybe it happens again, with Durham subbing for Evanston this time. The tuition costs at both schools are in the same range, and the football programs are closer in talent/prestige than a year ago. Like his old boss at Duke and his new one at Northwestern (Jim Phillips), Collins needs to embrace the challenges. Revel in them. It will be that much sweeter if/when the Wildcats actually reach the NCAA tournament.
Teams in the NCAA field, or not
Michigan State Lock
Ohio State Lock
Northwestern Next year
Nebraska Next year
Penn State Next year
Asmussen’s take: Our hero, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, currently has just the top six from the Big Ten in his bracket, leaving out the Hoosiers. The back half of the Indiana schedule is built for a fast finish. It plays Nebraska twice and has critical home games against Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State. A .500 record in the Big Ten, which is far from certain, should be enough to send the Hoosiers back to the big party. And don’t count out either Illinois or Purdue, either. There are enough winnable, high-profile opportunities left for both teams to impress the committee. But both might also need a long stay at the Big Ten tournament.