Thoughts about the week that was ...
Are you kidding me? Lucy, you got some 'splainin to do. From the book of "What in the world just happened?" let's go ask Bucky that question. First I need to set the table. Wisconsin comes into a ho-hum, let me do a new D1 team a favor game with a 67-3 home mark under Coach Bo Ryan - 33-1 in the Big Ten. Those three losses? Wake Forest, Temple and Illinois. Three solid, ranked teams. The Badgers are tied atop the league standings, and have nothing but a glorified scrimmage on tap before getting back into Big Ten play. Uh, well, then again, maybe not. 10-9 North Dakota State marches into the daunting Kohl Center, a place that has Big Ten teams shaking in their high tops, and holds the Badgers to 22-percent shooting and strolls out with an easier than the final score might look 62-55 win. Are you kidding me? The only explanation can be that Wisconsin put this in the books before the game was played. I know I did. That, folks, is what makes college basketball the greatest game on earth.
I'd be remiss if I skipped this one ... As a Spartan alum and die hard fan, I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the way Rick Majerus dogs us every chance he gets. From consistently getting it wrong about Drew Neitzel (he says he never looks to score - yet by my count has eight double digit games this year, including some big ones against Georgia Tech and B.C.) to saying MSU can't be a Final Four team because the team lacks the offensive firepower of the 2000 team (um, hello, get the tacos off your brain Coach, this team is the only one in America with three players averaging at least 17 ppg) , to calling Mo Ager a non athlete (I'm not going to even give that lunacy the time of day) and finally ending the broadcast by saying that the Big Ten will run through Wisconsin and Indiana - this guy needs to stick to A) coaching or B) finding a gig as a taster on the Food Channel. ESPN needs to ship Majerus to the WAC and give us Lavin and Dukie V. as the only color options.
Home teams still dominating ... After a 7-3 week, home teams are now 21-9 in conference play. Ohio State bounced back from a rare home loss to pick off then conference unbeaten Wisconsin. Michigan State hammered Iowa. Indiana held off Illinois and Purdue. No doubt about it, to win this league, you're going to need to hold serve at home and win at least four, maybe five on the road.
No better league... Say what you want about the Big Ten, but I say it is the toughest conference in the land this season. The conference RPIs agree. Yes, the Big East might, might get 10 teams in the dance, but that's 10 of 16 or 62.5% of its teams. The Big Ten will surely get six and might get seven. That's 63.6%. Quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality. Yes, Georgetown did that league proud with a great win over Duke, but only Dukie V. would make that the one reason the Big East is better. Give me the Big Ten come tourney time.
Player of the Week ... BigTen.org named Indiana's Marco Killingsworth its Player of the Week after putting up 20.5 ppg and 11 rpg in two home wins. Tough to disagree, though my vote would have to go to Iowa's Greg Brunner. Yes, Iowa got crushed at Michigan State, but for the week, Brunner averaged 17 points and 16.5 boards, including a 23-rebound performance in a triple overtime win over Minnesota.
This week's Game of the Week ... Four games jump to mind this week - Indiana at Iowa, Michigan State at Michigan, Wisconsin at Michigan, and Ohio State at Iowa. Iowa can keep itself right in the thick of the race with two home wins this week. Remember, to win this thing, you're going to need to hold serve at home. That is what makes these games huge for the Hawkeyes. In between there is a chance for Michigan to prove that it belongs in conversations about March.
Where do they rank? I'd put the following teams in my Top 25: Illinois (8), Michigan State (9), Indiana (12), Ohio State (15), and Wisconsin (22). Honorable mention: Michigan and Iowa.
How it will go down ... After this week, I see a jam at the top. Indiana and Wisconsin will split, Iowa will bounce back for two wins, and Michigan State will continue its streak. Illinois will also win its lone game of the week, for a five team tie at the top.
What do you think? Give your take on the Daily Word anytime - I welcome your comments and will post the best comments the next time I post.