Monday, January 30, 2006

Monday Morning Point Guard ...

A near perfect week ... Home teams continued to rule the roost in the Big Ten last week. Only cellar-dweller Purdue took one on the chin in their friendly confines - an OT loss to Northwestern. Even winless Minnesota pounded a league leader. That makes the home team 30-10 as we near the halfway point of the season. The top seven teams in the Big Ten are a combined 25-1 at home, the lone loss was OSU's double overtime heartbreaker to the Spartans. Conversely, those same teams are 7-16 on the road. The best road record belongs to Ohio State at 2-2, but with a home loss already, that means the Buckeyes are going to need to go 5-3 on the road and win out at home to get to the 12-4 record that I think wins the conference this winter.

Team of the week ... An argument could be made for either Michigan or Iowa as the team of the week. Both played two ranked teams and won, although there was the luxury of the homecourt, which brings along with it the benefit of good calls or no calls by the officials. Officiating aside, both the Wolverines and Hawkeyes were strong in huge home wins and consequently are tied atop the standings (with Illinois and Wisconsin who play each other on Tuesday).

My Malox moments ... My own alma mater made me raid the medicine cabinet for the Malox this week. First it was the tough loss at Michigan, a rarity these days to feel the same pain I feel every year on the football side of the equation! Then it was the battle with Penn State. Yes, the battle. I wrote a few weeks ago that Penn State isn't the same roll over and play dead squad we've seen in the past. Undersized or not, this team can shoot and play a solid zone defense and mark my words, will pick off a contender at home and on the road this season. Playing without Davis and more or less Ager (who was 3 for 19 shooting) gave MSU fans a glimpse of the growing pains that could occur next year.

Seven in ... I was on the fence about it last week, but make no bones about it, the Big Ten will score seven in the Big Dance this year and will get at least three to the Sweet 16.

Player of the Week ... My vote this week goes to Michigan point guard Daniel Horton. Horton played perhaps the best game of his career in an upset win over Michigan State and then was clutch again from the charity stripe in a big win over the Badgers. Other may have had more gaudy statistics, but without Horton, Michigan would not be 5-2 right now.

This week's Game of the Week ... Three games come to mind this week, one of them an OOC clash. The week starts off with Illinois visiting the Kohl Center. The Illini are the only Big Ten team to defeat a Bo Ryan Badger team at Wisconsin. The second game of note takes place in Iowa City where the other two teams tied atop the standings (Michigan & Iowa) do battle. Finally, the UConn - Indiana game could be a classic.

Where do they rank? I'd put the following teams in my Top 25: Illinois (8), Michigan State (15), Michigan (18), Indiana (19), Ohio State (20), Wisconsin (21) and Iowa (22).

How it will go down ... After this week, the tip-top of the league will get a little leaner. However, there are still seven teams right in the thick of this race. Wisconsin and Iowa will be on top, with Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana one game behind.

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