It’s that time of year in college basketball, particularly in a conference like the Big Ten. I like to call it grind time. To use a golf analogy, it’s like playing in tournaments six straight weeks. Sometimes in that stretch, you’ll have you “A” game. At other times, you’ll need to work and “grind” to stay afloat. That’s where we are with conference play in the Big Ten.
True, Wisconsin and Ohio State are starting to pull away a bit, as expected, but don’t discount Indiana or even Michigan State from having a major say in where this race goes. The Hoosiers get the Badgers this week; Michigan State gets Wisconsin twice and another shot at the Buckeyes. When push comes to shove, the Badgers will come out on top followed by Ohio State but how they fare in the grind will determine the next two or three teams, and who goes dancing versus who stays home.
Speaking of dancing, it gets earlier every year, but ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi is producing a weekly bracket now. His latest has four Big Ten teams in. Wisconsin and Ohio State are locks, playing for the conference title and a possible number one seed. Indiana and Michigan State are firmly in right now, barring any catastrophes. The teams that can play their way off the bubble are Illinois, Purdue and Michigan. Most likely to do so is Illinois. Purdue may, but hasn’t won on the road in an age and needs to do that to get serious consideration. And Michigan is as up and down in conference play as a Cedar Point thrill ride.
Check out where Joe has the Big Ten pegged: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/bracketology
It should be another interesting week in league play. Home teams are now 28-10 (.737) after an 8-2 week. Michigan State gets another shot at the scarlet and gray, but not before another brutal road trip – this time to Champaign. Wisconsin has a big test in Bloomington. Michigan finally gets to go home to the friendly confines of Crisler Arena…
Team of the week…
As I’ve been saying for the last few weeks, it’s tough to pick against Wisconsin until they lose. But I have to give some well deserved credit to Purdue this go around. The Boilers had a week to stew over a big loss at Michigan and used it to dismantle the Illini. Purdue put such a first half blitz on Illinois that the Fighting Illini had no chance to come back.
On the rise…
Indiana and Michigan State are still right in that second tier of teams. Both went 1-1 last week with tough road losses, but in particular, MSU showed me something with the near miraculous come back over Ohio State in Columbus.
In need of some “Ws”…
Penn State. This team has the offense, the horses and even the coach to be closer to a .500 team in the Big Ten. Why it can’t play defense worth a you-know-what is the question. The Nits are 1-6 in conference play and 10-10 overall and are in jeopardy of missing the postseason all together.
Player of the Week…
BigTen.org gave its honors to Greg Oden and Alando Tucker for the week, something that I have a hard time arguing against. However, I wonder, Spartan bias aside, why Drew Neitzel doesn’t also get thrown in the mix? He only single-handedly brought Michigan State back from a 20-point halftime deficit with an amazing 29-point (24 in the second half) effort at Ohio State. So, I’m calling it a three-way honor this time around.
This Week’s Schedule:
Jan. 30 – Michigan State at Illinois
Jan. 31 – Ohio State at Purdue
Jan. 31 – Wisconsin at Indiana
Jan. 31 – Minnesota at Northwestern
Jan. 31 – Iowa at Michigan
Feb. 3 – Purdue at Penn State
Feb. 3 – Indiana at Iowa
Feb. 3 – Northwestern at Wisconsin
Feb. 3 – Ohio State at Michigan State (Tiebreaker)
Feb. 3 – Minnesota at Illinois
Get Gamm Basketball Standings
PUFan edged out Buckeye Nation and Dan Meyer on the tiebreaker this week for top honors in the contest. PUFan, get me your thoughts by Tuesday at noon for inclusion on the home page.
T1 - Gamm: 41-11 (.788) – 2 GG Wins
T1 - Buckeye Nation: 41-11 (.788) – 1 GG Win
3 - PUFan: 40-12 (.769) – 1 GG Win
4 - Dan Meyer: 39-13 (.750) - 1 GG Win
5 - phatsdawg: 37-15 (.712)