Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/2/13
  The first Big Ten basketball games launched last Monday as Michigan State played Minnesota and Iowa faced Indiana.  As many Big Ten basketball fans and players were anxious to begin conference play, both games were extremely competitive and exciting. The 9th ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the 18th ranked Michigan State Spartans 76-63.  The Spartans led 61- 60 with 6:30 left to play.  The Gophers proceeded to go on a huge run in a big moment, with the team going 18-2 run to finish off the game.  This game proved that Minnesota deserves to be so highly ranked and that they are a definite contender in the Big Ten this season.  Andre Hollins had 22 points and six assists to lead the Gophers.  Trevor Mbakwe also had a big game.  He had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.  Not only was he good statistically, his presence down low didn’t go unnoticed.  Michigan State’s big man Derrick Nix was basically silenced as he only had 10 points and five rebounds.  Minnesota needs to continue with this intensity throughout the entire season to remain successful. For Michigan State, their big men need to get more involved.  The Big Ten is known for being an extremely tough conference.  Michigan State’s guard play was their strength against Minnesota as guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris were their leading scorers.  Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Alex Gauna, combined for only 14 points.  Payne had only four points despite playing 24 minutes.  He will definitely need to become a much bigger contributor if Michigan State hopes to have any success this season in the Big Ten. The second game of the day was a lot closer. The 5th ranked Indiana Hoosiers escaped Iowa city with a win over the unranked Iowa Hawkeyes 69-65.  Cody Zeller had a big night as 15 of his 19 points came in the second half.  Despite barely beating the unranked Hawkeyes, it is still a big win for the Hoosiers.  Winning an away game for any team in the Big Ten this season will be difficult, considering the strength of the conference. Aaron White led Iowa in points with 15.  Devyn Marble, Iowa’s leading scorer this season, had a terrible game shooting only 1 of 14 from the field.  Despite the loss, there are some positives that can be taken away from the game. First, Iowa shot poorly from the field and still only lost by four. If the Hawkeyes improve their shooting 0r even shoot at the percentage that they have been averaging this season, they will win games in the Big Ten. Second, Devyn Marble has been great for the Hawkeyes this season and he had a bad game.  This happens in basketball and look for him to rebound with a big performance.  Indiana is a great team and Iowa stuck with them.  This just shows how close and competitive the conference really is.  Home court advantage is really going to be  a factor this season. Four more teams begin conference play tonight.  At 6 pm, the 8th ranked Buckeyes (10-2) will play Nebraska (9-4) in Columbus. The Buckeyes shouldn’t have to much trouble with this one, however, it is Big Ten basketball so anything can happen.  Look for Deshaun Thomas to have a big game as he averages 19.8 points per game this season. At 8:30 pm, 11th ranked Illinois (13-1) will take on Purdue (6-6) in West Lafayette.  The Illini should win this game as Purdue has struggled so far this season.  Purdue will need to defend the perimeter well as the Illini loves to take 3 point shots.  The Boilermakers are off to a rough start this season, however, they give up the fewest 3-pointers in the conference.  If Illinois struggles from 3-point range, Purdue will have a chance in this game.  
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