The Big Ten is one of college basketball's most dominant conferences, but how do Big Ten teams stack up to the pros? NBN Sports links Northwestern and its rivals to NBA counterparts.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Los Angeles Lakers By Luke Srodulski
These are two teams that have struggled mightily as of late. The Illini are led by senior shooting guard Brandon Paul, one of the top scorers in the conference. Like Kobe Bryant, he has the burden of expectations to put up big numbers on a nightly basis.
Illinois senior D.J. Richardson backs him up by locking down the other team’s main perimeter threat in a Metta World Peace-like role. Senior Tyler Griffey plays like LA’s Pau Gasol; he is eager to step out for jumpers but sometimes shies away from contact.
The Lakers have picked up their play over the last couple of games, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Illini will as well.
Indiana Hoosiers: Miami Heat By Steven Goldstein
This one’s a no-brainer.
Both teams excel on offense, with the Heat averaging triple-figure scoring and the Hoosiers ranking second in Division I in points per game. Indiana center Cody Zeller is averaging about 16 points and 8 boards per night, nearly identical to Miami center Chris Bosh’s 17 and 7.5.
The Hoosiers and Heat both clean up the glass and were early favorites to win it all. Indiana junior Victor Oladipo has an efficient shot and plays much bigger than his frame, similar to reigning NBA MVP LeBron James.
Iowa Hawkeyes: Sacramento Kings By Andrew Hudson
The biggest thing the two teams have in common is their ability to control the glass. Behind sophomore forward Aaron White and freshman center Adam Woodbury, Iowa ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounding, while big men DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson have paced the Kings to fifth on the boards in the Association.
However, a lack of offensive chemistry puts both teams toward bottom of the standings in their respective conferences.
Michigan Wolverines: Golden State Warriors By Luke Srodulski
The new No. 1 team in the nation is easily comparable to the NBA’s No. 1 team in three-point percentage.
Like Golden State’s Stephen Curry, sophomore Trey Burke is a do-it-all point guard. He can score in various ways, distribute the ball and get in the passing lanes on defense. Senior Tim Hardaway Jr. is like the Warriors’ Klay Thompson: a tall shooting guard who can get hot from behind the arc. Freshman Glenn Robinson III and junior Jordan Morgan are undersized forwards, but they can run the floor and increase the pace of the Wolverines.
Both teams are fast and explosive on both ends of the floor.
Michigan State: Memphis Grizzlies By Andrew Hudson
Both teams have exceeded preseason expectations. Michigan State is only a half-game back from first place in the Big Ten, while the Grizzlies boast the fifth best record in the NBA.
Junior forward Keith Appling is Michigan State’s Rudy Gay. Even with superstars on their rosters, both teams have done an excellent job of sharing the love. The Spartans have five players who average over nine points per game while the Grizz have four.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: Milwaukee Bucks By Luke Srodulski
Minnesota is one of the most athletic teams in the country, which merits comparisons to the Bucks.
Sophomore Andre Hollins and junior Austin Hollins are threats on the perimeter who can create their own shot, similar to Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Their anchor in the paint is senior Trevor Mbakwe, an ultra-athletic power forward who blocks shots and grabs rebounds like the Bucks’ Larry Sanders. Overall, both teams prefer to get out and run in the open court and are sometimes stagnant in half-court offense.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Charlotte Bobcats By Steven Goldstein
Both the Bobcats and Huskers find themselves struggling to assimilate to new playing ground. Charlotte’s made the NBA playoffs just once since joining the league in 2004, while Nebraska has gone a paltry 6-20 against Big Ten opponents since joining the conference in 2011.
Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker and Nebraska senior Dylan Talley are both volume shooters who struggle with inconsistency, and both the Bobcats and Cornhuskers have been weak on the boards this year. Neither team can expect much come postseason time.
Northwestern Wildcats: Phoenix Suns By Steven Goldstein
Grappling with the loss of a legend, both teams are having down years.
Phoenix saw the face of their franchise, point guard Steve Nash, skip town to join the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, while the Wildcats watched program scoring leader John Shurna graduate in June.
Neither team rebounds well, and both can struggle on defensive transitions.
Under interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, the Suns are building a bit of midseason momentum, while the ‘Cats have knocked off two ranked opponents this month. Both offenses can get hot from the perimeter, and neither organization boasts a particularly impressive history. It’s pretty easy to see the comparison here, except for, well, you know.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Indiana Pacers By Steven Goldstein
Ohio State’s not particularly dominant on the offensive end, ranking 61st in the country in scoring per game. Instead, the Buckeyes have risen to No. 11 behind dominant defense and aggressive play from junior Deshaun Thomas, who averages 20 points a night.
Thomas’ perimeter prowess and ability to create his own shot is similar to Indiana’s Paul George, while both the Pacers and Buckeyes have been top defensive teams this year. Both have also been overshadowed by the other juggernauts of their conferences. Ohio State’s stellar season has been masked by the dominance of the rest of the Big Ten, while Indiana continues to trail the Heat and Knicks in national prominence.
Penn State Nittany Lions: Boston Celtics By Luke Srodulski
The Nittany Lions lost their Rajon Rondo when senior point guard Tim Frazier went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon in November. He was a stat-sheet stuffer, often leading his team in points, assists, rebounds and steals.
Now, sophomore D.J. Newbill and junior Jermaine Marshall are both trying to play Paul Pierce and take over the scoring load. Without their leader, the Nittany Lions have really struggled on both ends of the floor, and they could definitely use an all-star caliber player like the Celts’ Kevin Garnett to provide a force down low.
Purdue Boilermakers: Chicago Bulls By Steven Goldstein
Purdue has been quiet on offense since losing forward Robbie Hummel to graduation last spring, while the Derrick Rose-less Bulls rank 25th in the NBA in points per game. Playing in the Midwest, both play stringent defense and are solid on the boards.
While Chicago’s record looks a little better than Purdue’s, both teams are still in the thick of their respective conference standings. Both offenses are also incredibly balanced, with all five of the Bulls’ starters averaging double-figures and four Boilermakers averaging at least nine points.
Wisconsin Badgers: Utah Jazz By Andrew Hudson
Both teams are having unexpectedly good seasons. The Badgers are fifth in a highly-competitive Big Ten while the Jazz are currently on pace to make the playoffs.
Both teams have thrived because of great frontcourts. Senior forwards Ryan Evans and Jarred Berggren have helped the Badgers beat three Top-25 teams, including No. 2 Indiana. The play of Utah’s Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward has been stellar, too.
However, both teams have inconsistent point guards. Nobody on Wisconsin averages even three assists per game, while the Jazz have been without starter Mo Williams for a large part of the season and have struggled to find somebody else to effectively run their offense.