Monday Afternoon Point Guard...
Not so sweet ... Ouch. Home sweet home wasn't the case in the Big Ten last week. Home teams had their first losing record in recent memory, going 4-5 over the stretch (now 34-15 overall). That included Illinois, yes, the same Illini team riding a 33-game home winning streak, losing to Penn State at home. That same Illinois team beat Wisconsin in Madison earlier in the week, handing the Badgers only their second home conference loss under Bo Ryan. It's been a real rollercoaster ride thus far and it only looks to get more interesting. Case in point? Purdue beat Wisconsin to go with the Nittany Lions' shocker.
Team of the week ... Hands down, the team of the week was Iowa. The Hawkeyes got a cherished road win (albeit at cellar dweller Purdue) and then hammered the Wolverines at home. Since the embarrassing loss at Michigan State, Iowa has rolled to four-straight victories and sole possession of first place at the halfway mark of the season.
What's up with Wisconsin? Hmm, maybe that loss at home to North Dakota State wasn't an aberration. Perhaps that raised the red flag on Wisconsin's season. Since then the Badgers have lost on the road to Michigan (no shame in that), gotten flogged at home by the Illini and the kicker - beaten pretty soundly on the road by the most under-manned, hard-luck team in the league (Purdue). If teams are judged on their last ten games, Bo Ryan needs to inject some life or his Badgers will be hosting an NIT game rather than taking part in the Big Dance.
Fuzzy conference race ... For the past two weeks, I have been taking a look at what's left of the Big Ten season and giving an updated take on who will wind up where. The first shot said Wisconsin would share the title. That's not going to happen. Last week I pegged the Illini for a slot atop the league. Umm, maybe not. Be careful Iowa, you know you'll be my next team to contend for a shot at the top!
This week's Game of the Week ... Every game from here on out is huge as it appears no one is safe, whether at home or on the road. Indiana travels to Madison early in the week for an elimination game (the loser is officially, in my book, out of the race). Iowa has a tricky trip to Evanston where the Wildcats are due to sting someone. Ohio State travels to Michigan on Thursday in another key game in the race. Iowa has to go to Indiana on Saturday. See what I mean? But the game of the week is Illinois at Ohio State. Will the Buckeyes relive the magic of last season's late season upset win over the Illini? Can Illinois get that tough home loss back with a tough road win? Stay tuned.
Where do they rank? I'd put the following teams in my Top 25: Illinois (12), Michigan State (14), Iowa (15), Indiana (19), Ohio State (20), and Michigan (25).
How it will go down ... After this week, there will be another logjam at the top of the conference. Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa will sit at the top, followed by the Illini, Buckeyes, Hoosiers and Badgers one game behind.