5 takeaways from opening night of the Big Ten basketball season
To borrow a phrase made famous on a previous version of Election Day, stop the count!
Every team in the Big Ten remains unbeaten after opening night. All 13 teams that played Monday began the new season with a win. The only holdout is Purdue, which hosts UW-Milwaukee on Tuesday night with a chance to bring the B1G to a perfect 14-0.
Obviously, it won’t last forever. So enjoy it while it does. Especially if you’re Minnesota, which eked out a 61-60 win over Western Michigan in the PJ Fleck Row The Boat Classic.
Given the modest caliber of the opponents that were faced Monday night, it is foolhardy to read too much into anything we saw. But there were certainly a handful of things that piqued Saturday Tradition’s interest.
Indiana: When’s the better shooting start?
The sky’s the limit for the Hoosiers if they can shoot better from the free-throw line and 3-point range this season. But even in an 88-53 win over Morehead State, there remains some question whether Indiana can reach the sky.
Indiana was 4-for-11 from downtown and 12-of-21 at the charity stripe. If you remove Miller Kopp, who was 2-for-2 in both departments, that moves to 2-of-9 from 3-point range and 10-of-19 at the line.
I would not categorize these as good omens.
Wisconsin: The better shooting starts now?
The Badgers were broke from 3-point range last season. Wisconsin shot 30.6% from outside — the program’s worst 3-point shooting percentage since 1998.
Against South Dakota, Wisconsin scorched the nets. The Badgers were 12-of-26 (46.2%) from 3-point range.
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If the plan is to zone the Badgers this year, that could soon be changing.
Michigan State: Is Good Joey Hauser here to stay?
Joey Hauser has been a maddeningly inconsistent player since transferring from Marquette after his freshman season.
If you don’t understand what this means, observe his final 3 games from last season.
- Purdue (B1G Tourney): 21 minutes, 0 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
- Davidson (NCAA First Round): 34 minutes, 27 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
- Duke (NCAA Second Round): 25 minutes, 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
If the Spartans are going to break out of their recent rut — back-to-back seasons finishing unranked — Hauser will need to show up most nights. The opener against Northern Arizona was highly encouraging in that regard.
Hauser played 31 minutes and recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He was 4-for-8 from 3-point range, which is an especially good sign.
Michigan: Will Jett be the best Howard to play at Michigan?
The surname Howard is a harbinger of success at Michigan.
In football, Desmond Howard won a Heisman Trophy. In basketball, Juwan Howard was 1 of the Fab 5 before returning to his alma mater as head coach.
Now Juwan’s son Jett is a Wolverine, and his debut couldn’t have gone much better. Jett drilled 5 3-pointers and scored 21 points while also dishing out a team-high 5 assists.
A year ago, Michigan had the conference’s most-hyped freshman in Caleb Houstan, who was named to the preseason all-conference team before playing a game. But Houstan’s inconsistency matched Michigan’s as a whole — sometimes brilliant, sometimes a guy obviously a year out of high school.
If Howard is actually the guy most expected Houstan to be as a freshman, it’s Michigan that should be the conference favorite over Indiana.
Illinois: The offense flows smoothly without Kofi
Kofi Cockburn is an Illinois legend. And pretty much any year from 1960-2010, he would have been a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft. Instead, his pro career is beginning in Japan. The game has evolved away from the dominant post player.
It stinks for Cockburn, who most people would root for to become a kajillionaire. But his departure could end up benefitting Illinois’ offense if Monday’s season debut was any indicator.
Instead of backing up in the block, Illini big man Coleman Hawkins was all over the floor against Eastern Illinois. Hawkins used his size to grab a game-high 12 boards, but also drained 5 of 8 3-point attempts on his way to 23 points.
Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr. lived up to his billing, scoring a game-high 24 in his Illinois debut.
But the most encouraging performance may have been that of a Baylor transfer. Not Matthew Mayer, but fellow former Bear Dain Dainja.
Dainja played 9 minutes in his Baylor career. He recorded a double-double in his first game as an Illini, going 8-of-9 from the field for 17 points while grabbing 10 rebounds.
On a perfect night in the Big Ten, every fanbase had something to be happy about. But Illinois fans have the right to be the most giddy.