Friday, February 17, 2006

Some thoughts on a crazy week in the Big Ten...
After making some eyebrow raising comments to the media early this week, Indiana coach Mike Davis did what we all thought he would do - and what most Hoosier fans wish he had done two or more years ago - he announced his resignation effective at the end of the season. This blogger wonders, isn't Indiana's season already over? The loss to Penn State all but sealed another year sans an NCAA Tournament bid.

But back to the topic at hand. Mike Davis. I feel for the guy. So does ESPN.com's Pat Forde. He was never going to win over the fans in the state of Indiana. Never. So, where does that leave IU? Well, the University was afraid that it would lose too many players by not hiring from within when Knight was fired. It can't worry about that now. The time is right to do it right. Go out and get an "Indiana guy" and get Hoosier basketball back where it belongs. It isn't good for the Big Ten when a program like Indiana is struggling. Just as it is bad for the SEC if Kentucky is sliding or the ACC if Duke or North Carolina hit the skids.

Who is the "Indiana guy" they need? The obvious choice seems to be Steve Alford, but aside from his lofty place within Indiana basketball history, does he really have the coaching credentials to get Indiana back to the top? After all, this is the first year his Iowa team is still very much in the race more than two games into league play. Don't get me wrong, growing up in Indiana when Alford was in high school and then at IU, the guy was my basketball idol. But I wonder, is he right for Indiana? Maybe. Maybe not. And he may not come that easy anyway.

Home teams keep rocking...
Iowa put some serious separation between it's title hopes and the contenders with an impressive win over Michigan State on Tuesday and thanks to Wisconsin's gutsy win over Ohio State the next day. The home squads are 5-0 this week and the top six teams in the conference are 30-4 at home. If that trend continues, Iowa will take home its first title since 1979, and maybe it's first outright title since 1970. I don't know what's crazier though, the fact that the black and gold never won a title under Lute Olsen or Tom Davis or the fact that this is the first time since 1987 they'll even finish within a sniff (4 games) of the league crown?

An updated look at the crazy Big Ten standings…
We're getting more and more clarity at the top - well - sort of. Iowa has a firm one game lead at the top and with a win at pesky Minnesota on Saturday (the Gophers have turned it on at home of late and did take Iowa to triple overtime the last time they met) the Hawkeyes will be firmly planted in the driver's seat. Still, don't put it past someone else to make a late run and try to clog the top with a multi-team tie at 11-5 ...

For a reminder of what I predicted, take a look at one of the previous week's reviews. Here is how the teams stand today (in order, with actual OOC record, current B10 record – including home & away, and total record):

1 - Iowa – 11-3 / 9-3 (1st) / 6-0 at home, 3-3 away / 20-6 overall
2 - Wisconsin – 10-3 / 8-4 (6th) / 6-1 at home, 2-3 away / 18-7 overall
3 - Ohio State – 11-0 / 7-4 (5th) / 4-1 at home, 3-3 away / 18-4 overall
3 - Illinois – 14-0 / 7-4 (T-2nd) / 5-1 at home, 2-3 away / 21-4 overall
5 - Michigan – 10-1 / 7-5 (T-2nd) / 5-1 at home, 2-4 away / 17-6 overall
6 - Michigan State – 12-2 / 6-5 (T-2nd) / 4-0 at home, 2-5 away / 18-7 overall
7 - Indiana – 8-3 / 5-6 (7th) / 5-1 at home, 0-5 away / 13-9 overall
8 - Northwestern – 8-4 / 4-7 (8th) / 2-3 at home, 2-4 away / 12-11 overall
9 - Penn State – 8-3 / 4-8 (9th) / 2-5 at home, 2-3 away / 12-11 overall
10 - Minnesota – 9-2 / 3-8 (10th) / 2-3 at home, 1-5 away / 12-10 overall
11 - Purdue – 6-5 / 3-9 (11th) / 3-3 at home, 0-6 away / 9-14 overall

Things seem to be getting a little more predictable at the top, but then again, Saturday is another day. Every time I say that, we see another shocker. All four bottom feeders have beaten contenders and are still big factors in this race. The bigger mess might be sorting out the seeding for the Big Ten tourney which this year, more than any other, could be won by literally any team in the conference.

Here is what I expect the rest of the way (in order of finish, predicted B10 record - including losses (wins for the bottom teams), total record and postseason action):

1 - Iowa: 12-4 / 23-7 / NCAA berth – 3 seed / Loss at Illinois. Iowa caught Indiana at the right time on the road last week and handled MSU with relative ease. Minnesota is a trap game, but other than that, I see the first outright title for Iowa since before I was alive!

2 - Michigan State: 11-5 / 23-7 / NCAA berth – 4 seed / The Spartans finally get some home cooking and it couldn't possibly come at a better time. Indiana does not look like a scary road game any more, although with the way State plays away from the Breslin, any road game might be a horror show.

2 - Illinois: 11-5 / 25-5 / NCAA berth – 3 seed / Losses at Michigan State. Illinois is playing great defense right now and will be in the race until the bitter end.

2 - Ohio State: 11-5 / 22-5 / NCAA berth – 4 seed / Loss at Michigan State. OSU is a year ahead of schedule (based on what is coming in to C-bus talent-wise next season) and will be two gut-wrenching losses to MSU away from an outright title this season.

5 - Wisconsin: 10-6 / 20-9 / NCAA berth – 6 seed / Losses at Michigan State and Iowa. Wisconsin is trudging forward. Wisconsin will definitely factor into the race with trips to MSU and Iowa remaining.

6 - Michigan: 8-8 / 18-9 / NCAA berth – 9 seed / Losses at Michigan State, to Illinois and at Ohio State. Michigan is dinged up and aside from an amazing 20 minutes against Minnesota, has really struggled of late.

7 - Indiana: 7-9 / 15-12/ NIT berth / Losses at Illinois, to Michigan State and at Michigan. Will it be "win for Coach" or "who cares?" the rest of the way in Bloomington? My money is on the latter.

8 - Northwestern: 6-10 / 14-14 / No Postseason / Wins over Minnesota and at Purdue. Still capable of playing the spoiler role, needs to get to 7-9 to assure an NIT bid.

9 - Penn State: 5-12 (9th) / 13-14 / No Postseason / Win at Purdue. See also Northwestern.

10 - Minnesota: 4-12 / 13-14 / No Postseason / Win over Purdue. Minnesota has already sprung two home upsets, and might bite again.

11 - Purdue: 3-13 / 9-18 / No Postseason. I would not put it past Purdue to win a couple more because they are playing tough, inspired ball.

1 comment:

felix said...

Andy, good work as usual. Like you, I don't know what to expect every weekend, as no team is a certain winner in any game anymore. I also agree the B10 tourney can be almost anybody's.

As for the Illini, they seem to have lost some confidence and look as though they stopped making progress. Like most other teams in the league they either look very good at times or very ordinary. I think that's because they just aren't able to run the motion offense as well as last year.

Without G Luther Head and G Deron Williams, they don't have the combination of relentless runners which opened shoots up and outside shooting touch. G Richard McBride is an adequate shooter but just can't run or pass like either Williams or Head. F/G Brian Randle just isn't a shooter. He isn't in the mold of either former guard although he is a special talent at 6"7". The team seems to play better with him in F Roger Powell's role under the basket and a third guard on the floor (G Jamar Smith), at least offensively.

The team also leans on G Dee Brown too much. At times they seem to stand around waiting for him to do something. Although he has done a very good job, he can't do it all.

Our game Sunday with IU will be interesting as it's the first after Coach Davis' resignation and the annual Paint the Hall Orange game. Which Illini and IU team will show up? The good, the bad or the ugly.