No. 12 Michigan visit to No. 14 Spartans tops Big 10 weekend
Highlights for the upcoming Big Ten schedule:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 12 Michigan at No. 14 Michigan State, Sunday. Juwan Howard will coach his first game against the rival Spartans at the Breslin Center. Michigan should be up to the challenge. The Wolverines (10-3, 1-1) already have played four top-10 opponents, splitting the games, and they handed No. 1 Gonzaga its only loss. The Wolverines’ 30-win team last season lost three times to the Spartans, all in a span of three weeks. They are expected to be without forward Isaiah Livers (groin) for a second straight game. The Spartans (11-3, 3-0) have won six straight since losing at home to then-No. 10 Duke. MSU star point guard Cassius Winston (knee bruise) returned for a 76-56 win over Illinois on Thursday night after missing one game.
LOOKING AHEAD: Rutgers (10-3, 1-1) is 10-0 at home but 0-3 in games away from campus. The Scarlet Knights have a good chance to pick up their first road win on Friday night at Nebraska. Coach Steve Pikiell is looking for a breakthrough with one of the youngest teams in the nation. The Scarlet Knights have their highest NET ranking, at No. 31, and they’re looking to to 2-1 in conference play for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 2014-15. Myles Johnson is shooting a Big Ten-best 72.2% from the field, Geo Baker leads the league with 1.8 steals per game and Akwasi Yeboah is shooting 45.7% on 3-pointers.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Illinois freshman Kofi Cockburn has been mostly dominant, though he managed only five points on 2-of-10 shooting against Illinois on Thursday. The 7-foot, 290-pound center from Jamaica already has tied the Illinois record for double-doubles by a freshman, with six in the first 10 games. He has been named Big Ten freshman of the week five times in eight weeks. His 26 points against North Carolina A&T on Sunday was the top scoring performance of the season by a newcomer in the conference.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The Big Ten started the week with 11 teams listed in the top 50 of the NET rankings. No other conference had more than eight. ... Wisconsin’s 68-48 win over Tennessee last Saturday was its largest nonconference, true road win over a major conference team. The previous record was an 18-point win over LSU in 1953. ... Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu had 21 points and 20 rebounds against Florida International last Saturday, the Gophers’ first 20-20 double-double performance since Tom Kondla had 33 points and 23 rebounds at Kansas State in 1966.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Northwestern (12-1, 2-0) goes into its Sunday home game against Iowa on a seven-game win streak after posting an attention-grabbing 81-58 upset of then-No. 12 Maryland on Tuesday. It was the Terrapins’ most lopsided loss since they joined the Big Ten in 2014-15. The Wildcats are allowing a Big Ten-low 51.2 points per game, lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and have the second-leading scorer in Lindsey Pulliam (19.1 ppg). The Wildcats are on a good trajectory under 11th-year coach Joe McKeown. They won only 12 games two years ago, won 21 and reached the WNIT title game last season, and are aiming higher this season with four of five starters and 83 percent of their scoring back.