Monday, January 22, 2007

Get Gamm – Week Three…
Apparently something happened when I thought I posted this last week! My bad. Recap is coming later, along with this week's picks.

Another big week (when aren’t they huge) in Big Ten basketball. Key contests pit Indiana and Iowa –- each with one loss –- head to head; Purdue at Wisconsin and then Michigan in an effort to stay in the race for third (isn’t it a forgone conclusion that Wisconsin and Ohio State will fight it out for the title?); and two big games for a 1-3 Illinois squad in dire need of some love.

This Week’s Schedule:
Jan. 16 – Iowa at Indiana
Jan. 17 – Illinois at Minnesota
Jan. 17 – Purdue at Wisconsin
Jan. 17 – Penn State at Michigan
Jan. 17 – Northwestern at Ohio State
Jan. 20 – Purdue at Michigan
Jan. 20 – Wisconsin at Illinois
Jan. 20 – Northwestern at Minnesota
Jan. 20 – Michigan State at Penn State
Jan. 20 – Indiana at UConn (TIEBREAKER)
Jan. 20 – Iowa at Ohio State

Indiana is riding a nifty little three game win streak after a tough opening road battle at Ohio State. At this point, the Hoosiers are pretty clearly the third best team in the conference. In order to stay there, they need big wins in tough games. Iowa will need a big night from Huluska to win this game. Home teams are 15-4 and will move to 16-4 with an Indiana win in overtime. Indiana 68 – Iowa 67.

Have I mentioned that winning on the road is no picnic in this league? Illinois gets one of those rare shots as a road team when the struggling Illini travel to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers. Minnesota is the only team in the Big Ten with an overall losing record and currently sits at 1-2 in league play. In reality, the Gophers are just what the doctor ordered for Illinois, who blew an 11-point halftime lead at Michigan State on Sunday and have fought the injury bug all season long. Minnesota beat Purdue soundly at home, but my money is on Illinois in this one. Illinois 74 – Minnesota 63.

Purdue is the yo-yo team in the Big Ten, up then down, up then down. The Boilermakers got hammered to start conference play, held on to beat Penn State, got blasted at rival Indiana and then pasted Michigan at home. Next up, a trip to the Kohl Center. Purdue can stay with Wisconsin but needs to be nearly flawless. Thing is, the Badgers are the team that drives others crazy and wills opponents into mistakes. Wisconsin 70 – Purdue 58.

Penn State is probably the best one win team in the conference, with apologies to Illinois. The Nittany Lions almost stole a win at Purdue and fought tough at home against Indiana. Michigan got beaten up at Purdue and might have just enough doubt to allow Penn State to pull off a rare road win. On second thought… Michigan 81 – Penn State 67.

This may sound funny, but the mid-week Game of the Week occurs in Columbus where the 0-4 Wildcats take on the young and hungry Buckeyes. Northwestern may look like your local pick-up team of marketing managers, doctors and lawyers, but they know how to defend, take care of the ball and frustrate the heck out of you with their Princeton offense. This is actually a nice test for a young Ohio State squad. The Buckeyes learn some patience on the fly and survive an upset bid – Ohio State 66 – Northwestern 61.

In one of those typical Big Ten scheduling quirks, Purdue faces the same team it beat up on a week ago Saturday, but this time away from the friendly confines of Keady Court. Michigan will have payback in mind, but Purdue is a lot better than the past few seasons. In what should be a great game, Michigan returns the favor and holds serve at Crisler. Michigan 72 – Purdue 69.

Do you think the Orange Krush will be worked up to a frenzy with Wisconsin coming to town? It is must win time for the Illini and what better a way to get on track than beating the best team in the conference? Wisconsin isn’t going to run the table and Illinois is going to be one of their tougher remaining road battles (aside from trips to OSU and MSU). Illinois is fighting for its life and wins in a thriller. Illinois 67 – Wisconsin 65.

Northwestern travels from Columbus to Minneapolis in search of a Big Ten win. These teams are evenly matched, which means it comes down to the home court edge. The fans might not be rocking the Barn for this one, but something about that place is creepy. Minnesota keeps NU winless. Minnesota 64 – Northwestern 61.

A much needed week to rest and practice as a full unit should pay off for the Spartans this week. Penn State is no picnic with an ever improving line-up of battlers. The one thing the Nits are missing, however, is a true home court edge. There has never been one in the Bryce Jordan and that might be the thing that is keeping Penn State from pulling out of the cellar and becoming at least a middle tier team in the Big Ten. Nothing will come easy for MSU this season, but this will be a big road win when the Spartans look back in March. Michigan State 60 – Penn State 55.

We go outside of the conference for the Game of the Week in the Big Ten. IU pays a visit to the East Coast in what should be a great game to watch. The Huskies are young and rather up and down of late. Indiana is finally starting to play defense the way Coach Sampson likes it to be played. D.J. White has a huge game and the Hoosiers get a very important RPI win. Indiana 73 – Connecticut 68.

The Saturday night game in the Big Ten often goes overlooked for some reason, but this could be another good test for Ohio State and certainly will be for Iowa. As a player or coach and certainly as a fan, I have to say that the night game on Saturday is a tough one to play. You sit around all day watching ball and itching to play. That gives a huge edge to the home team, in this case the Buckeyes. Ohio State pulls even with Wisconsin thanks to the Illini. Ohio State 74 – Iowa 65.

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