The college basketball season started on Monday, and we have already seen two big upsets in the Big Ten. Number four Michigan State lost in overtime to James Madison and Rutgers was easily handled by Princeton. What led to these teams dropping their first game of the season?
Big Upsets in the Big Ten
Michigan State Falls to James Madison in Overtime
Michigan State entered the season ranked fourth in the country, and many expected them to compete for the Big Ten title and possibly the national championship. While both of those things can still happen, it is concerning that they lost to James Madison. Although JMU is predicted to win the Sun Belt, this is a game a team like Michigan State should have easily controlled.
The obvious struggle for Michigan State was its three-point shooting. The Spartans went 1-20 from deep and didn’t make a single three-pointer in the second half or overtime. Although the three-point shooting was especially bad, their shooting in general was poor. They shot 36% from the field as a team and 62% from the free-throw line.
The only bright spot for Michigan State was Tyson Walker, who scored 35 points, and freshman Coen Carr, who scored 14. If the Spartans want to right the ship, they will need A.J. Hoggard to step up after his disappointing nine-point performance on Monday.
One of the concerns for Michigan State this season was the frontcourt play, which was evident against JMU. They struggled to contain T.J. Bickerstaff, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds. The Spartans were out-rebounded by the Dukes 51-48. This isn’t a huge difference, but it could be a warning sign of what will come in Big Ten play.
Although it was a bad loss, never count out Tom Izzo and the Spartans. They should bounce back against Southern Indiana before playing Duke next Tuesday in the Champions Classic.
Princeton Handles Rutgers in the Battle for New Jersey
Many people were unsure of what to make of Rutgers coming into this season. They lost many important players in the offseason with little replacement. On Monday, we saw a clearer picture of what Rutgers would be: a good defensive team that will struggle to score. This is what Rutgers has been every year under Steve Pikiell, which is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.
Rutgers did not make any glaring mistakes. They didn’t miss too many shots, foul too much, miss their free throws, or commit too many turnovers. Princeton was just the better team on Monday night. One of the few negatives from Rutgers’ was its three-point defense. Princeton made forty-five percent of three-pointers, typically a recipe for an upset.
The Scarlet Knights are susceptible to upsets due to their play style. They are a defense-oriented team that attempts to slow down the game and limit offensive possessions. This was popularized by Tony Bennett at Virginia. While this playstyle can be very effective, especially when you have less talented players, it can make you an upset candidate if you come up against a hot shooting team. Unfortunately for Rutgers, Princeton shot well on Monday, and Rutgers could not keep up.