Michigan State made its move for the Big Ten title. Now comes the tough part.
The No. 7 Spartans held off Purdue Sunday for a 76-62 road win, moving them one game ahead of Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten standings. All four teams have four games remaining. Here’s a peek:
- Michigan State: Wednesday at Minnesota; Saturday vs. Nebraska; Feb. 28 at Indiana; March 4 vs. Ohio State
- Ohio State: Tuesday vs. Illinois; Saturday vs. Wisconsin; Feb. 29 at Northwestern; March 4 at Michigan State.
- Michigan: Tuesday at Northwestern; Saturday vs. Purdue; March 1 at Illinois; March 4 at Penn State.
The Wolverines (20-7, 10-4 in Big Ten) face the toughest slate: Three road games, two of which are at NCAA tournament bubble teams in Northwestern and Illinois. They should and could win all four, but that seems unlikely. Expect at least one more loss.
Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) might face the four best teams among the title contenders, though. Hosting Illinois and Wisconsin makes for a pair of slow-it-down, slug-it-out games, and trekking to Northwestern and Michigan State represents two games that most teams would love to split.
That leaves the Spartans.
At 22-5 and 11-3, they have that one-game lead and get two more home games, including the all-important season finale vs. the Buckeyes. That leaves winning at Minnesota or Indiana to clinch the crown when Ohio State arrives. If there’s a season where they pull off the improbable, it’s this one. They hadn’t won at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue since 1997-98. Tom Izzo’s team could pull off four more wins and take their first Big Ten title since 2009.
But it’s the Big Ten. Nothing comes easy. Even for those in first.
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Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has the most important decision among any college basketball player who could return next season from the 2017 NBA Draft process. If Swanigan comes back for his junior season, he’s the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. More importantly, Purdue would have a serious chance to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions, especially if Vince Edwards also returns from the same draft process.
Wednesday night is the decision deadline for players to return to college basketball for next season and Swanigan will use two more workouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday to help decide his future. According to multiple reports, Swanigan will workout for the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s workout with the Magic will also reportedly involve Cal big man Ivan Rabb — an important workout for Swanigan since Rabb is listed ahead of Swanigan on a lot of popular mock drafts. The Magic own three picks between No. 25 and No. 35 — which is listed slightly above the No. 40 slot that Draft Express has Swanigan listed. So if Swanigan has a good workout against Rabb for the Magic, then he could get himself some sort of guarantee from a Magic team that desperately needs talent and has a lot of picks in that range.
The Knicks also have Swanigan scheduled for a Wednesday workout as they own the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. Again, the Knicks are a team in win-now mode with current stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis openly feuding with the team’s front-office, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for Swanigan to land some sort of guarantee from New York in the second round.
Of course, guarantees for draft night are nice to have, but things can change quickly on draft night. Swanigan has to consider all of the information he is receiving before he makes his decision on Wednesday. But if Swanigan has two strong workouts and gets the information that he’s looking for this week, then he could easily bolt for a potential guaranteed contract.
Seton Hall got huge news on Monday when Angel Delgado announced that he would be returning to school for his senior season.
“I am coming back to school for my senior year,” Delgado said in a statement on Monday. “It’s very important to my family and me that I finish what I started. This was a difficult decision that took time and patience. Coming back feels just right.”
Delgado, a 6-foot-10 forward from the Dominican Republic, averaged 15.1 points and 13.2 boards last season for the Pirates. He was one of the best big men in the country over the last six weeks of the season.
And his return should bring about one of the best years that Seton Hall basketball has had in a long time.
The Pirates are loaded with talent, tough and, most importantly, old players, from Delgado to Khadeen Carrington to Ishmael Sanogo to Desi Rodriguez. They are going to be a nightmare to run offense against, and they may just be the best team in the Big East not named Villanova. Delgado should end up being a preseason all-american.
Seton Hall is currently ranked No. 17 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.
Texas got another boost on Monday as former five-star recruit Andrew Jones announced that he will be returning to school for his sophomore season.
“I’ve matured and learned a lot through this process,” Jones said in a statement released on twitter. “I enjoyed the experience and opportunity that I had to be able to participate in the combine and team workouts.
“Time to go work out with my teammates. Hungry and Humble.”
This comes on the heels of Texas landing a commitment from a top five prospect in Mo Bamba. With all those pieces in the fold, including a recruiting class that features four more top 100 prospects, the Longhorns look like they are on track to be a borderline preseason top 25 team and heading back to the NCAA tournament.
This could end up being a narrative-changing year for Texas.
West Virginia got some great news on Monday as Jevon Carter announced that he will be returning to the Mountaineers for his senior year.
“I’m excited about coming back to West Virginia and playing with my teammates for my senior season,” he said. “The entire NBA process was a great experience for me and to gain valuable feedback that I can use to prepare for the future.”
This is massive for the Mountaineers. Not only is Carter the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points, but he is a three-time all-Big 12 Defensive Team member and led West Virginia in minutes played last season. He’ll be a favorite to win Big 12 Player of the Year, with Devonte’ Graham of Kansas.
Emmanuel Akot, a five-star wing that has been committed to Arizona for months, announced on Monday that he will be reclassifying to the Class of 2017 and enrolling at Arizona this offseason.
“My family and I have decided to join the 2017 class and become a member of the Arizona Basketball family,” Akot said.
Akot was considered a top 15 prospect in the Class of 2018, a class that many believe to be significantly weaker than the Class of 2017. At 6-foot-7, he’s a versatile defender with quite a bit of potential that can step out and knock down threes, but he’s also far from a finish product and will likely need time to acclimate to the college level.
That said, he should be able to fill a role on the wing nicely, providing a nice bit of defensive reliance alongside more offensive-minded weapons like Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins.
Akot joins a five-man recruiting class headlined by top four prospect Deandre Ayton and four-star recruits Brandon Randolph and Ira Lee.