When the clock strikes zero in the BCS national championship game Monday, casual college basketball fans will officially join the diehards in a two-month sprint to March Madness. With conference season upon us, it’s time to check in on Indiana, Purdue, Butler and college basketball at large.
Record: 13-1 (1-0 B10)
Next game: Monday, 7 p.m., at Penn State (8-4).
Toughest game left: March 10 at No. 2 Michigan (13-0).
Coachspeak: “There were numerous guys playing their first Big Ten game today in a nationally televised game at a very high level. So, we feel very good about the win. We feel very good about our toughness inside of this game. This was truly one of those fifteen round heavyweight fight games that the Big Ten is full of, where you can’t necessarily land the knockout punch. You just want to make sure it doesn’t get landed on you.” — IU coach Tom Crean after the Hoosiers’ 69-65 win at Iowa Monday.
Skinny: In Iowa, No. 5 Indiana played its first decent opponent since falling to Butler on Dec. 15. The Hawkeyes are a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, but they did beat three ranked conference teams at home last season, including Indiana. Also, the Hoosiers were just 3-6 on the road in 2011-12, so starting off B10 play with a victory away from Assembly Hall — especially with Jordan Hulls going 0-for-10 from the field — was encouraging in the team’s first true road game of the year. Victor Oladipo, not preseason Player of the Year Candidate Cody Zeller, continues to be IU’s best player. In addition to defending opponent’s top guard or wing each game, Oladipo has come through offensively. It was Oladipo’s putback of Zeller’s air ball with 1:04 remaining to put the Hoosiers up 65-60, and his pair of free throws with 26 seconds left made it a two-score game. For the third season in a row, the junior’s scoring, rebounding and assist averages have increased. Oladipo has become a shooting threat, knocking down 67.3 percent of his shots and 45.5 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Indiana isn’t the unbeatable juggernaut some thought they would be at the beginning of the season, but the Hoosiers are still more than capable of being the last team standing come April in New Orleans. Something to keep an eye on as the B10 season progress: Teams with big, physical guards (Michigan, Ohio State) will attack IU’s height-challenged backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls. Crean could see fit to employ more zone defense versus those teams.
Record: 6-6 (1-0 B10)
Next game: Saturday, 12 p.m., at No. 18 Michigan State (11-3).
Toughest game left: Any Big Ten tilt.
Coachspeak: “We just compound our mistakes. Instead of just making one mistake, leaving it alone and moving forward, when we make one mistake, it leads to the next mistake and then the next mistake.” — Purdue coach Matt Painter following the Boilermakers’ 73-66 victory over William & Mary Dec. 19.
Skinny: The Boilermakers opened Big Ten play by hosting No. 11 Illinois (13-1) Wednesday night, a contest that ended after press time. The good news for Purdue — ranked 196th in the NCAA in turnovers (14.4 per game) — is that against William and Mary, the black-and-gold recorded single-digit turnovers for the second consecutive game. Turnovers are an expected byproduct of a team with nine freshman and sophomores on the roster, six of whom are averaging 10 minutes per game. The bad news is if Matt Painter’s crew struggles against the likes of Bucknell and Eastern Michigan, then its chances for sustained success in the Big Ten — listed No. 1 in the Sagarin ratings and sporting six teams in the ranked in the Top 25 — are low. To make matters worse, senior D.J. Byrd is marred in a season-long shooting slump. Byrd, who recently phoned ex-Boilers Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer seeking guidance, is converting 30.7 percent of his 3s and 35 percent of his field goals, down from 43 percent and 42.7 percent, respectively, from last season. Purdue opens its conference slate against three ranked teams (No. 11 Illinois, No. 18 Michigan State and No. 8 Ohio State), so it will get a chance to resurrect its NCAA tournament hopes.
Record: 10-2 (0-0 A10)
Next game: Saturday, 2 p.m., vs. New Orleans (3-8).
Toughest game left: Jan.19 vs. No. 10 Gonzaga (13-1).
Coachspeak: “When we get into the A-10 stretch, especially our early stretch of the league, it’s going to be just as challenging, if not more so.” — Butler coach Brad Stevens after the Bulldogs’ 75-67 triumph over Evansville Dec. 22.
Skinny: No. 17 Butler still has two cupcakes left on its schedule — it faced Penn (2-9) Wednesday — before it begins its first Atlantic 10 campaign with a trip to St. Joe’s (7-4) Jan. 9. The Bulldogs’ seven-game winning streak could come to an end before the end of the month. In addition to St. Joe’s, Butler ventures to Dayton (9-4) Jan. 12. Home games versus Richmond (9-5) and the aforementioned go-around with Gonzaga are also on the docket. Brad Stevens’ bunch grabbed headlines in December for its win over then-No. 1 Indiana, but it has also been in the news for its possible inclusion the so-called Catholic 7’s new basketball league. Seven catholic schools from the Big East (DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. Johns and Villanova) are scheduled to depart the football-poached Big East sooner rather than later to create their own conference. Multiple reports indicate Butler would be among the first schools the conference would seek to add to a potentially attractive basketball-centered conference. Butler president James Danko issued a statement on Dec. 18 that can be summarized by saying this: Butler will do what’s best for Butler, and the school will keep its options open.
Around college basketballAs mentioned above, the Big Ten enjoys six ranked teams and is the top-rated conference in the Sagarin ratings. And though Indiana and Michigan appear to be the only clubs with legitimate national championship aspirations, a team such as No. 9 Minnesota (13-1), which opened B10 play by defeating Michigan State, or No. 11 Illinois (13-1), which beat Gonzaga Dec. 8, could win either the regular season or B10 tournament title. … Besides Butler, a trio of Atlantic 10 squads (Charlotte, La Salle, Temple) have two losses, but none of those three are as tested as Butler, ranked No. 4 in the RPI standings. … No. 1 Duke (12-0) has the player of the year front runner in center Mason Plumee (19.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg), a Warsaw (Ind.) native.
INDIANA HOOSIERS (13-1)
Date Opponent Time TV
Monday, Jan 7 @Penn State 7:00 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Jan 12 Minnesota 12:00 pm Big Ten Network
Tuesday, Jan 15 Wisconsin 9:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Sunday, Jan 20 @Northwestern 1:00 pm Big Ten Network
Wednesday, Jan 23 Penn State 7:00 pm Big Ten Network
Sunday, Jan 27 Michigan State 1:00 pm CBS
Wednesday, Jan 30 @Purdue 8:30 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Feb 2 Michigan 9:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Thursday, Feb 7 @Illinois 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Sunday, Feb 10 @Ohio State 1:00 pm CBS
Wednesday, Feb 13 Nebraska 7:00 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Feb 16 Purdue 2:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Tuesday, Feb 19 @Michigan State 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Tuesday, Feb 26 @Minnesota 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Saturday, Mar 2 Iowa 7:30 pm Big Ten Network
Tuesday, Mar 5 Ohio State 9:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Sunday, Mar 10 @Michigan 6:00 pm CBS
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (6-6)
Date Opponent Time TV
Saturday, Jan 5 @Michigan State 12:00 pm Big Ten Network
Tuesday, Jan 8 Ohio State 9:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Sunday, Jan 13 Penn State TBA Big Ten Network
Wednesday, Jan 16 @Nebraska 9:00 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Jan 19 West Virginia 2:00 pm CBS
Thursday, Jan 24 @Michigan 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Sunday, Jan 27 Iowa 3:30 pm Big Ten Network
Wednesday, Jan 30 Indiana 8:30 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Feb 2 @Northwestern 12:00 pm ESPN2/ESPN 3
Tuesday, Feb 5 @Penn State 7:00 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Feb 9 Michigan State 7:00 pm Big Ten Network
Wednesday, Feb 13 @Illinois 9:00 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Feb 16 @Indiana 2:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Sunday, Feb 24 Northwestern TBA CBS
Wednesday, Feb 27 @Iowa 8:30 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Mar 2 @Wisconsin TBA
Wednesday, Mar 6 Michigan 7:00 pm Big Ten Network
Saturday, Mar 9 Minnesota 12:00 pm Big Ten Network
BUTLER BULLDOGS (10-2)
Date Opponent Time TV
Saturday, Jan 5 New Orleans 2:00 pm
Wednesday, Jan 9 @Saint Joseph’s 7:00 pm
Saturday, Jan 12 @Dayton 2:00 pm NBC Sports Network
Wednesday, Jan 16 Richmond 7:00 pm
Saturday, Jan 19 Gonzaga 9:00 pm ESPN/ESPN 3
Wednesday, Jan 23 @La Salle 7:00 pm
Saturday, Jan 26 Temple 6:00 pm ESPN2/ESPN 3
Thursday, Jan 31 @Saint Louis 9:00 pm CBS Sports Network
Saturday, Feb 2 Rhode Island 4:00 pm CBS Sports Network
Wednesday, Feb 6 St. Bonaventure 7:00 pm
Saturday, Feb 9 @George Washington 2:00 pm
Wednesday, Feb 13 Charlotte 7:00 pm
Saturday, Feb 16 @Fordham 4:00 pm CBS Sports Network
Tuesday, Feb 19 Duquesne 7:00 pm
Friday, Feb 22 Saint Louis 7:00 pm ESPN University
Saturday, Mar 2 @VCU 12:00 pm ESPN2/ESPN 3
Thursday, Mar 7 @Massachusetts 7:00 pm NBC Sports Network
Saturday, Mar 9 Xavier 6:30 pm CBS Sports Network