ESPN’s Jason King recently gave the Big 10 a gushing review stating: “Coaches every season say there are no easy games in conference play, but in this year’s Big Ten, it’s actually true.” King’s point was more than validated Tuesday night when Michigan State – perceived throughout the season as the fourth or fifth-best school in the conference – annihilated archival Michigan, 75-52.
The game should catapult the proud Spartan program into the national conversation. Like they’ve done so many times this season, MSU clamped down defensively, forcing the Wolverines into one of their worst shooting nights of the season – 39% from the floor. Trey Burke finished well (18 points on 7-11 shooting), but every other important player on the squad looked overwhelmed by Tom Izzo and co. Michigan is a team that lives and dies off of its guard play. Their best big, freshman Glen Robinson III, still needs time to develop a low-post game, so whenever Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. have a bad night, so does their team.
All in all, the win validates how incredibly good the Big 10 has been all season. For the time being at least, the Big East and ACC are looking up at another top dog. And with the college basketball world still knee-deep in conference play, look for more noteworthy match-ups on the horizon: Wisconsin at Ohio State (2/17), Michigan State at Indiana (2/19) and an MSU vs. OSU, Illinois vs. Michigan double-header (2/24).
Elsewhere on the hardwood, Kentucky star freshman phenom Nerlens Noel injured his left knee during the Wildcats’ 69-52 loss to Florida. Noel had to be helped off the floor after landing on his leg awkwardly while attempting to block a shot. No word yet on the extent of his injury, but early reports indicate that it could be a while. Kentucky’s a young team that’s seen ups and downs all season. If Noel’s out of the lineup, the team’s fortunes are in jeopardy for the rest of the regular season and March.