Big Ten This Week: Purdue out to change fortunes vs Michigan
A look at the upcoming week around the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Michigan at No. 4 Purdue, Saturday. This is the first of the teams’ two meetings in six days. The Wolverines (11-8, 5-4 Big Ten) have won five straight in the series, but this is not a vintage Michigan team. The Boilermakers (19-3, 8-3) are a game behind first-place Illinois, so this is an important game in the conference race. Purdue is 11-1 at Mackey Arena and comes into the game on a four-game winning streak.
Three losses in four games have put Iowa (14-7, 4-6) on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Hawkeyes’ funk includes road losses to Rutgers and Penn State, and they missed an opportunity to snap out of it when their Thursday game at Ohio State was postponed. Keegan Murray, the national scoring leader two weeks ago, has slipped to fifth at 22.3 points per game. He’s shooting 35% overall and 28% on 3-pointers the last four games.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens is making a strong bid for Big Ten freshman of the year, even though he plays for the worst team in the conference. He’s averaging better than 25 points per game the last two weeks, and his 17-point season average ranks second among Power 5 freshmen. It’s a shame for the Cornhuskers that he probably won’t be part of Fred Hoiberg’s building project for long. He’s a projected first-round NBA pick this year.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Seven Big Ten teams were in the top 30 of Thursday’s NET rankings, with Purdue leading the way at No. 6. ... Kofi Cockburn is leading a surge that’s seen Illinois knock off two ranked opponents during its three-game win streak. Cockburn had 37 points and 12 rebounds against Wisconsin. He was the first player in 25 years to score at least 35 points, shoot 75% and grab at least 10 rebounds against an AP-ranked opponent. ... Northwestern’s Boo Buie has 103 assists the last 20 games, most by a Wildcat since Bryant McIntosh had 113 over 20 games in 2017-18.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE
Best game of the weekend is Sunday in Ann Arbor, where No. 6 Michigan hosts Caitlin Clark and the No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes (14-5, 8-2). The Wolverines (19-2, 10-1) are on a seven-game win streak, tied for longest in program history. Clark is coming off her second career 40-point game, scoring 43 in a loss to Ohio State on Monday. ... Clark was the first NCAA women’s player in 20 years to record 250 points, 50 rebounds and 50 assists in a month. In 10 games last month, Clark had 304 points, 77 rebounds and 92 assists. ... Indiana and Michigan were listed in the first of the three NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee regular-season top-16 seed reveals. Indiana was a No. 6 national seed and Michigan a No. 9. The next top-16 seed reveal is Thursday.
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