Purdue basketball

Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic shoots between Michigan State forwards Thomas Kithier, left, and Aaron Henry during the second half of the Boilers’ 71-42 rout of the No. 8 Spartans on Sunday at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.

Through the first quarter of the Big Ten men’s basketball season, parity still reigns, and protecting homecourt remains the overriding goal.

Four unranked Big Ten teams beat ranked conference foes over the weekend, led by Iowa knocking off No. 12 Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena 67-49, Indiana downing No. 11 Ohio State 66-54 at Assembly Hall, Purdue upsetting No. 8 Michigan State 71-42 at Mackey Arena and Minnesota beating No. 19 Michigan 75-67 at Williams Arena.

Last week, Indiana coach Archie Miller described the depth of the league as “scary.” Indiana is 3-0 in home conference games and 0-2 on the road, mirroring the rest of the league. Home teams are 31-5 against road teams in conference play so far, which includes Penn State’s 89-86 win over Iowa in Philadelphia.

“You’re going to lose a couple on the road,” Miller said. “You may lose a few more than a couple. But I don’t think it’s going to be uncharacteristic to see teams lose games in our league. And I think the national media will say what’s wrong or boy they’re on a two-game skid. I just don’t think you can blink. You can’t flinch.

“I think it’s going to be a part of everyone’s deal this year. If somebody runs through this league this year, they are really good. They’re just really good because there’s not very many nights off. The home floors are so tough, coaching is good and players are good.”

The homecourt dominance has resulted in a logjam within the conference standings, with 11 of the 14 teams sitting with either two or three league losses. Michigan State still leads the league with a 5-1 conference record but is coming off its lowest scoring game of the season against Purdue. Senior standout point guard Cassius Winston had almost as many turnovers (nine) as points (10) in the loss to the Boilermakers.

“I still think five losses will win this league,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said following his team’s 74-58 win over Minnesota last Wednesday.

WARREN IN CHARGE

The torch officially passed from outgoing Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to new Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren earlier this month, with Warren taking over full-time duties Jan. 2. The 56-year-old spent from September to January working in tandem with Delany to adapt to the role.

Warren granted his first interview as Big Ten Commissioner to the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein last week and said he plans to watch every Big Ten varsity team compete this year, beginning with the Jan. 26 basketball game between Maryland and Indiana at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Warren intends to make decisions that are in the best interests of student-athletes.

“One of the things always at the top of my mind are the time and training demands on our student-athletes,” Warren told the Tribune. “They’re in college to get an education. So many times we forget these are not professionals. When they’re done with a game, they don’t fly to the next city. They may study for a final exam or do homework. So I look at: What is the length of the season? What is the impact on their body?”

Warren also told the Tribune he won’t be afraid to come to his own decisions if needed rather than simply bow to the will of the 14 conference presidents.

“They pay me to have an opinion,” he said. “And I have no problem with articulating an opinion. But [I’ll be] doing it in the prism [of] what is the right thing to do for our conference, for intercollegiate athletics, for society and ultimately for our student-athletes?”

SUDS AND SEATS

Rutgers, Illinois and Indiana all debuted selling beer in general seating for football games in 2019 in an effort to attract fans and improve the fan experience.

Illinois and Indiana only netted slight increases in average attendance in 2019, while at Rutgers, there was steep decline.

Indiana averaged 41,577 in paid attendance in 2019, up from 40,965 in 2018. Illinois’ average attendance increased to 36,660 in 2019 from 36,151 in 2018.

For Rutgers, average attendance dwindled to 30,082 in 2019 from 37,799 in 2018. The dismal season for the Scarlet Knights played a role, as Rutgers finished 2-10 and wasn’t competitive in the Big Ten. Rutgers went 0-9 in the league and lost in the conference by an average margin of 33.8 points.

Attendance should be back on the upswing for Rutgers in 2019 with the enthusiasm generated by the return of head coach Greg Schiano, who led the Scarlet Knights to six bowl games from 2001-11 before leaving for the NFL.

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