Another week, another set of “we didn’t see that coming” results. Welcome to the Big Ten basketball season apparently.
While a few teams appear to be separating themselves at the very top of the conference, 10 teams are within two losses of the top spot in the B1G. That’s how insane the Big Ten has been already.
So, here we are with our second weekly roundup, trying to make sense of the chaos. Enjoy the week that was in Big Ten basketball.
Team of the Week: Northwestern Wildcats
You don’t need to refresh the page…this is not a drill. Northwestern had the best week of any team in the Big Ten this past week. It’s part expectations, part potential amazing story and a whole lot of things that NU needed to do to become an NCAA tournament team.
Northwestern survived a scare in Piscataway, New Jersey, narrowly beating Rutgers 69-60 on the road. Teams that make the NCAA tournament find ways to grind out these types of games. NU
While that wasn’t a great night, Northwestern put the bad moments behind them in a return to Welsh-Ryan arena and proceeded to dismantle Iowa in an 89-54 result. Sure, Iowa isn’t great this season, but that was the biggest ass-kicking in the Big Ten so far this year.
In fact, dare I say it was the most complete performance I have ever seen from Northwestern at any point in the 30-plus years I have been paying attention to Big Ten basketball. NU shot nearly 60 percent from the field, held Iowa to just 35.3 percent shooting and had four of five starters reach double figures (two of which went off for 20-plus points).
Northwestern taking care of business against teams it should be hasn’t been a consistent thing in a long time. If the Wildcats keep winning games they should and find a way to get a bigger win down the road this could well be an NCAA tournament team.
Other Big Ten coaches should also be calling Chris Collins, because the Wildcats have figured out the road win thing…starting off the B1G campaign 3-1 in road contests.
Player of the Week: Scottie Lindsey, G Northwestern
For the second straight week, the team and the player of the week are the same on our end. This was an easy one, as few players in the conference were as clutch as Lindsey was nor were they as vital on both ends of the court as Lindsey was either.
He finished the week averaging 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds against Rutgers and eight against Iowa. Lindsey also shot 48.2 percent from the field this past week. Not too shabby from the junior guard that most people outside of the Northwestern basketball community could’ve picked out of a lineup heading in to the season.
Lindsey’s game against Iowa should’ve been good enough alone — finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and 53.3 percent from the field. Incredible stuff for an incredible game as a team.
We Didn’t See That Coming: Ohio State’s win over Michigan State
Seriously, who saw Michigan State going in to Columbus and dropping that game? Even the most diehard of Ohio State fans likely didn’t see that coming. After all, the Buckeyes just got done get blasted by Wisconsin earlier in the week and Michigan State appeared to be rounding in to form.
Instead, Ohio State played some physical basketball and matched Michigan State’s intensity level from the opening tip-off on. Ohio State even managed to handle a few runs made by Michigan State including a 5-0 run to start the game that had an eerie feeling of deja vu for OSU after Thursday’s game at Wisconsin.
But, the Buckeyes battled hard in this one and came out the other end with a huge win. Will this be a catalyst towards a crazy run in conference play? That remains to be seen, but it was very important for Thad Matta to have his team not let that Wisconsin butt-kicking snowball on them.
Biggest Disappointment: Nebrasketball
What a cute hashtag #Nebrasketball makes. However, it needs to be backed up by quality basketball, and it appears a lot of the early season production was smoke and mirrors for Tim Miles’ crew.
Staring the Big Ten season at 3-0 and becoming the final team to stand undefeated in conference play seems like ages ago now. That’s what happens when you go from undefeated to a two-game losing streak.
It’s not so much that Nebraska has dropped a pair of games, it is that the Huskers have done it at home and on the road and begun to lose the close games they were winning earlier in the Big Ten season.
Nebraska’s three-game winning streak to open conference play came by a combined nine points. Teams like that usually are the ones that not only have luck, but the grit to grind out any and all close games throughout the season.
That has been quickly reversed as soon as the undefeated B1G bubble burst in Lincoln against Northwestern. But, perhaps the most disappointing result came in the lone game the Huskers had this week — giving up over 90 points to Michigan in Crisler Arena.
It was a brutal defensive performance for a team that has a reputation as one of the toughest defensive teams in the Big Ten. Miles has built his program on that defensive reputation.
Hopefully for the Huskers’ sake, that performance over the weekend was a blip on the radar. If it is a symptom of a larger problem afoot, Miles may be in some serious trouble in Lincoln.
Butler did it again…as Buckeyes name Chris Holtmann basketball head coach
Ohio State dips in the Butler pool again, tabbing Chris Holtmann to replace Thad Matta.
The last time the Ohio State Buckeyes dipped in to the pool of coaches from Butler it worked out pretty well. Over a decade ago, former Butler and Xavier head coach Thad Matta was named the Buckeyes’ head coach.
His successor comes from the same tree (sorta), as third-year Butler head coach Chris Holtmann has agreed to replace Matta at the helm of Ohio State’s program. According to reports, Holtmann’s contract is for eight years and will pay him about $3.1 million annually.
It’s a big bump in pay for Holtmann, who had just signed a long-term extension with the Bulldogs a few months ago. That deal was set to pay him $1.2 million per year.
Apparently money talks a lot more than honoring your word and contract in this case. It is hard to turn down an extra couple of million a year to be sure, and the move happened quickly. After reports of Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg sitting atop the wish list and turning down the Buckeyes, things may have worked out for the best.
While Holtmann and Matta both coached at Butler, that’s where the similarities really end. Holtmann isn’t from the Matta coaching tree in the least. He was a previous assistant to John Groce at Ohio and also to Brandon Miller at Butler before getting his shot as a head coach.
It’s worked out well, as he owns a three-year record of 70-31 (.693). His Butler teams finished second, fourth and second respectively during those three years and made the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament this past season.
Holtmann also had a three-year stint as the head coach at Gardner-Webb (2010-2013), where he improved from 11 wins in his first season to 21 wins and a berth in the CollegeInsider.com tournament. After the 2013 season, Holtmann moved on to a position as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs.
Those are all attractive qualities, but Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith also sees his abilities on the recruiting trail and his Midwestern roots as a big deal too.
“Chris is focused on academics, is a high-integrity person, a relentless recruiter with Midwestern ties and a proven winner,” Smith said in a release from the athletic department.
With a lot of issues on the recruiting trail in the past few years, Holtmann will have to hit the ground running in the upcoming July evaluation period to right this ship quickly.
An introductory press conference will take place on Monday morning at 11.a.m. ET at center court at Value City Arena.
Gene Smith’s answer for new direction of OSU basketball…Greg McDermott?
Reports surface that Creighton head coach Greg McDermott is being offered the Ohio State job.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t is supposed to be about a really difficult decision forced upon you. It isn’t supposed to be about a choice you voluntarily made and then went and backed yourself in to a corner over.
Rather, that is the definition of stupidity. Yet, it is exactly what seems to have gone down in the quick search for Thad Matta’s replacement.
According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, Creighton head coach Greg McDermott has been offered the job.
Ohio State has offered its job to Creighton’s Greg McDermott source told ESPN. Story: https://t.co/qWs4bKivNz— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) June 8, 2017
No, this is not fake news at all. Instead, sources are telling respected newsman Jeff Goodman of ESPN that Creighton head coach Greg McDermott has met with the Buckeyes on Wednesday night and was offered the job.
Earlier reports indicated that interest from the Buckeyes was surfacing with two ex-Iowa State coaches — McDermott and now Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg.
Ok, so, as someone who experienced the worst of Greg McDermott at Iowa State, let me just get this out of the way:
There’s seriously no way the Buckeyes are going from Thad Matt to Greg McDermott. If so, and if for some strange reason Gene Smith finds our little corner of the internet…I implore you to stop, take in tape of McDermott’s Iowa State squad from the 2007-08 season and beyond and tell me he’s really a step up.
Sure, McDermott went to Creighton, got it to a powerhouse in the Missouri Valley and kept his program competitive in its switch to the Big East. That is impressive, but we’ve seen this about McDermott in the past.
After all, it was his 90-63 record and three-straight 20-win seasons at Northern Iowa that landed him the Iowa State job in 2006-07. He also has a knack for being able to recruit really well. That was always his calling card, and it happened while he was at Iowa State. He just couldn’t get all the talent he recruited to play together on the court at the same time.
Injuries played a part, off-court issues played a part and flat-out being unable to gel as a team played a part. But, that should be the indictment of all indictments on getting to jump to Ohio State here.
For his part, McDermott has had plenty of time to prove he deserves a second bite of the apple at a bigger program. He also has reflected on what went wrong in Ames, and readily admitted to the biggest issue on that team — culture — before this past season in Omaha.
“We ended up getting some good players, but we never got the chemistry right or the culture we wanted. You live and learn,” McDermott told Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald.
But there’s more to the story, even at his time at Creighton.
Did I also mention McDermott took all the talent he has had at Creighton and never got the team out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? This in an age when plenty of other “mid-major” talent (in the days of the MVC version of Creighton) were getting to the second weekend and beyond.
History has a strange way of repeating itself, and Ohio State would be wise to remember that in its apparent love-affair with McDermott.
On a side note, McDermott is a really good human being and one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the fortune to meet. The time he took to meet with my fraternity and speak with us over the course of a few hours was impressive. He certainly didn’t have to do it, but he took it seriously and I came away knowing more about him as a man than as a figurehead of Iowa State’s marquee program.
It was also part of what bought him at least an extra season in Ames, and likely part of the package that sold him to Gene Smith as well.
But, this seemingly ready-to-happen move begs the question of…is the grass really greener with McDermott at the helm? Or was it better to stick with Matta for one more season and get yourself lined up for the real big targets you wanted all along?
Smith appears to be gambling that McDermott is somehow better than Matta, and as we’ve seen that is a huge gamble with a likely $4 million per year paycheck.
Should this offer be accepted, we’ll hear Smith talk about getting “their guy to lead the Ohio State program forward.” Don’t buy it for one second, because he surely isn’t serious. Otherwise I’ll have what he’s having at the bar, because he’s drunk.
(Now watch McDermott prove us all wrong and take full advantage of his second chances.)
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.
Blowout by Badgers shows why Thad Matta should be done at Ohio State
One game in a 30-game regular season shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of a college basketball season let alone a coaching career. However, there are games that are the perfect snapshot of what is going right or wrong for the future of the program.
Thursday night’s 89-66 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Kohl Center was one such night — and clearly not in a good way. Ohio State was dominated from start, to middle, to end as the Buckeyes moved to 0-4 in Big Ten conference play.
It’s been a slow, steady and painful march to this butt-kicking too. After all, the Buckeyes have gone from losing by a combined six points in the first two games of league play to getting dominated by 10 on the road at Minnesota and today’s 33-point loss at Wisconsin.
There’s rarely shame in losing at the Kohl Center, and Thad Matta is well aware of that, but it is the how this one happened and the how of the decline of the Buckeyes program over the last year-plus that should be troubling.
When was the last time Ohio State was thrashed around inside like they didn’t even matter? It happened against the Badgers, who dominated the post to the tune of 42-22 in points in the paint and 28-9 in second chance points.
When was the last time you remember a Buckeyes team just flat-out giving up physically? It happened against the Badgers, as UW dominated the boards 44-31 and used 12 Buckeyes turnovers to create 16 points on the other end.
When was the last time Ohio State allowed a team to shoot from 50 percent beyond the arc? It has actually only happened just 28 times coming in to this game in the Matta era, with the Buckeyes holding a respectable 12-16 record. On Thursday, Wisconsin, who just got done going ice-cold from three-point range against Purdue, put on a three-point shooting clinic.
UW hit 12 of 22 from beyond the arc for 55 percent on the night, and it wasn’t just Bronson Koenig either. Sure, he was a crazy 5 of 7 (for 21 points in total), but the rest of the team was 7 of 15 (46.6 percent) as well. Meanwhile Ohio State couldn’t respond, going just 5 of 20 from three-point range itself.
So, on Thursday night the Buckeyes couldn’t shoot from beyond the arc, hold an opponent in check down low or compete well on the boards. Got it.
Last time I checked, those were all hallmarks of a successful Thad Matta team at Ohio State. Yet, this team and the last few have seen a steady decline in ability down low and quality on the perimeter.
Some will point to the loss of star Keita Bates-Diop to a season-ending injury as a reason for the issues at hand. It may be the case that they miss him, but all good Ohio State teams under Thad Matta have been more than one player.
If Bates-Diop is that important to OSU’s success, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of what is happening these days under Matta.
We’ll see if the Buckeyes can rebound, but if the lifeless team that came out on Thursday night at the Kohl Center continues to come out the rest of this season it should be time for Gene Smith to say buh-bye to Matta.
Something has to change, and unfortunately, nothing Matta has done in the past two seasons has indicated change is happening in the positive direction. After all, this is a program that hasn’t gotten out of the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament since the 2012-13 season and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last season.
It was a nice run while it lasted, but given Ohio State’s long-term success as a basketball program, this type of play is wholly unacceptable.
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