The 2019 Gavitt Tipoff Games came to a close on Thursday night with the Big Ten beating out the Big East 5-3.
The annual series between the two conferences, honoring the late Dave Gavitt who founded the Big East and contributed much more beyond that to the game of basketball, provides an excellent early season look at where these two conferences are in relation to each other, and where the respective teams might end up within their own conferences.
The Huskers did not participate this year, but there were still some interesting results from the fifth iteration of the event. The two conferences split the games 4-4 in the first three years before the Big Ten won it 5-3 last season.
DePaul got the party started by thoroughly embarrassing the Iowa Hawkeyes on Tuesday. The Blue Demons have a stud in big man Paul Reed, a 4-star freshman in Romeo Weems starting and a few transfers in their lineup, but they were still projected at the bottom of the Big East heading into the season.
For the Hawkeyes, redshirt freshman CJ Fredrick and back-up big man Ryan Kriener combined for 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting. The rest of the Hawkeyes shot 14-of-44 (31.8%) from the field, so that’s not great. Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp have to give them more, and Jack Nuge has to give them anything at all (zero points in 10 minutes) coming off a redshirt season. But more importantly, they gave up 93 points to DePaul. Ninety-three. Yikes.
The conferences split the two games on Tuesday with Michigan beating Creighton 79-69 in Ann Arbor and Butler taking down Minnesota 64-56.
The Bluejays (Nebraska faces them on Dec. 7) led at halftime, but the Wolverines locked them down and held them to 28 points in the second half. Zavier Simpson was awesome on both ends, but Jon Teske was the biggest difference in the game in my opinion, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He was plus-12 in 32 minutes. Creighton shot 9-15 from the field (three of the misses were from 3), drew its only shooting foul of the game and grabbed four offensive rebounds with Teske on the bench. With his size at 7-foot-1, he shut down Creighton’s pick-and-roll looks at the rim on one end (with an assist to the ball pressure of Simpson and others) and made Michigan’s pick-and-rolls almost impossible for Creighton to defend on the other.
It’s probably worth noting that Isaiah Livers led the Wolverines in scoring with 22 points. He shot well from the perimeter (which isn’t new) and also knocked down a few jumpers off the dribble (which is). If he’s able to create for himself more than he did last year, the Wolverines have a chance to be pretty good.
Creighton is short-handed and didn’t make enough shots to keep up with the Wolverines. Perhaps senior combo-guard Davion Mintz will be back on the court by the time the Huskers visit Omaha, but transfer Denzel Mahoney, who will likely play a big role once he’s eligible after the semester ends, won’t join the lineup until after Creighton and Nebraska square off.
As for Minnesota and Butler, I think both teams are pretty meh. Sophomore center Daniel Oturu is a beast for the Gophers and had 24 and 10 in that game, but they didn’t get nearly enough from their transfers and got nothing a all from their bench (zero points in 35 minutes).
Perhaps the most impressive showing of the event for the Big Ten was Ohio State’s dominant 76-51 victory over perennial power Villanova in Columbus on Wednesday night. Ohio State had five plays score in double figures led by sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr.’s 14. Kaleb Wesson had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards while the trio of highly-touted Buckeye freshmen combined for 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists off the bench. Chris Holzmann is a phenomenal coach and he proved that again with the way Ohio State completely shut down Villanova, holding the Wildcats to 30.6% from the field.
Purdue is clearly still adjusting to life after Carsen Edwards as the Boilermakers mustered just 55 points while shooting 33,9% from the field including 35% from 3 in a 10-point loss to Marquette. After scoring 26 points on 17 shots in Purdue’s season-opener against Green Bay, High Point grad transfer Jahaad Proctor has totaled just 25 points on 23 shots in Purdue’s last two games to Texas and Marquette, both of which were losses. Matt Haarms, the team’s 7-foot-3 center, has been solid but guys like Nojel Eastern, Aaron Wheeler and Trevion Williams have failed to show any sort of significant offensive improvement.
After losing to Merrimack in its season-opener, Northwestern bounced back to beat Providence 72-63 on Wednesday night. That is a baaaaaaaaaad look for the Friars. All five starters scored nine or more points for the Wildcats led by redshirt freshman center Ryan Young with 16.
Just like Providence, Georgetown fell flat on its face, losing to Penn State 81-66 on Thursday. The Nittany Lions are now 3-0, though their first two games were against two bad low-major teams. The most surprising part to me is how the supporting cast has looked. Lamar Stevens hans’t even been all that great yet guys like Myreon Jones and Myles Dread have taken a big step froward from last season while transfer Izaiah Brockington has provided a solid punch off the bench.
With Ohio State-Villanova turning into a dud, the headline matchup of this year’s Gavitt Games was clearly Michigan State at Seton Hall, and that game did like up to the hype. Hall coach Kevin Willard said last week that his star guard Myles Powell was going to be out for a while after injuring his ankle against Stony Brook last Saturday.
Powell, however, had other plans. Not only did he play, he put up 37 points, the second-highest total of his stellar career. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give The Hall a 71-66 lead with less than three minutes to play. However, Michigan State battled back and took the lead for a good on a layup by freshman forward Malik Hall with 26 seconds to play.
Hall hadn’t scored a point this season yet erupted for 17 on 7-of-7 shooting on Thursday, all of which came in the second half. Cassius Winston, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, scored 17 of his team-high 21 in the second half as well after dealing with foul trouble in the first.
Big man Xavier Tillman hit just one of his nine shots and finished with three points. Outside of Winston, Hall was the only Spartan in double figures. Freshman Rocket Watts, a highly-touted recruit, doesn’t seem quite ready for the role he needs to play for Michigan State with Josh Langford out until at least January. He’s scored zero, five and eight points in his first three games while shooting 5-of-21 from the field, though he did knock down a pair of triples against Seton Hall.
Michigan State is going to be a tough out all season, but the Spartans are going to need a little bit more offensive punch from the starters outside of Winston the next time they run into a top-15 opponent. They can’t count on that kind of performance from Hall every game.
Through the first five years, Nebraska is 1-2 in the Gavitt Games while sitting out two of the seasons. The Huskers dropped their first two games in the series as they got smacked at Villanova in 2015 and at St. John’s in 2017. However, they ran Seton Hall off the floor at Pinnacle Bank Arena last year.
Considering the Huskers are 0-2 against the likes of UC Riverside and Southern Utah, this was probably a great year for Nebraska to skip out on the Gavitt Games. The Huskers will look to get their first win of the season against a tough Summit League team in South Dakota State on Friday.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.