Not so sweet home after all
For the first time this season, playing at home didn’t mean semi-automatic victories. Sure, the usual suspects are caught up in the 5-5 home record for the week (i.e. Penn State and Northwestern losing at home) but Purdue and Michigan State also lost at home and had been previously unscathed, and Michigan blew a 14-point lead in a home loss to Iowa. That leaves home teams 33-15 (.688) heading into the stretch run and oh by the way, the league is breaking into three distinct parts – contenders, position seekers and cellar dwellers.
The contenders… as has been the thought all along, the Big Ten race will come down to Ohio State and Wisconsin. Each sits at 8-1 but you have to say that Ohio State is firmly planted in the driver’s seat. Why? Simple – the remaining schedule. Wisconsin has Michigan State twice and a trip to Columbus in its last seven and also have the surging Hawkeyes at home. Ohio State entertains the meat of its left-over games at home and gets Penn State twice.
The position seekers… Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and Purdue are all duking it out to avoid the dreaded first day match-up in the Big Ten tourney. Indiana is pretty comfy at 6-3 and has a relatively easy go over its last seven (road trips to Purdue and MSU are the toughest remaining contests). Illinois is surging and has arguably the easiest road left. Iowa is also getting hot at the right time but still has to go to Wisconsin and Michigan State in addition to hosting Illinois and Purdue. Michigan is in danger of falling into the cellar with half of its remaining games against Ohio State and Michigan State, a trip to Illinois and a home game with Indiana. Purdue could make some hay but the schedule doesn’t get any easier for them at all.
The cellar dwellers… Minnesota is fighting hard despite being outmanned and may pull off a key upset down the stretch. Northwestern is always known to stymie a key player in the race late in the season and is battling to stay above .500 to get to the NIT. Penn State has a starting five that many coaches in the Big Ten would love to have but doesn’t know how to win. Still, they are also good for an upset yet and have postseason play in sight.
Team of the week…
Ohio State. The Buckeyes went on the road to beat up on Purdue and grind out a second win over Michigan State in seven days. The scarlet and gray have pushed Wisconsin to the middle of the front seat and control their Big Ten title destiny.
On the rise…
Iowa. Down 14 on the road to Michigan, Iowa was looking like an NIT – at best – team this season. Then the defense stiffened, Adam Haluska got hot (again) and Iowa churned out a seven point win. The black and gold followed that up with a sweet little home win over Indiana and now sit in fourth place with the NCAA Tournament within reach.
In need of some “Ws”…
Michigan State. The Spartans were oh so close at Ohio State and turned that moral victory into two more tough losses. First there was the ugly grinder at Illinois and then an equally un-pretty fist fight with OSU. Michigan State needs wins to get to a tenth straight Big Dance, and they won’t come easy…
Player of the Week…
It’s a no-brainer this week. Adam Haluska was as hot from the floor as his fiancé (gives all average looking guys in the world a glimmer of hope!). For the week he averaged 25 points and 7.5 boards, including a 33-point effort in the win over Indiana.
This Week’s Schedule:
Feb. 6 – Michigan at Ohio State
Feb. 7 – Illinois at Northwestern
Feb. 7 – Michigan State at Purdue
Feb. 7 – Iowa at Minnesota
Feb. 7 – Wisconsin at Penn State
Feb. 10 – Purdue at Ohio State
Feb. 10 – Illinois at Indiana (Tiebreaker)
Feb. 10 – Iowa at Wisconsin
Feb. 10 – Penn State at Northwestern
Feb. 10 – Minnesota at Michigan
Get Gamm Basketball Standings
No one over 6-4 for the week. We all were taken out by reliance on the home teams. Buckeye Nation did get the tiebreaker, however, as the only one to pick the Buckeyes over Michigan State in the rematch.
T1 - Gamm: 47-15 (.758) – 2 GG Wins
T1 - Buckeye Nation: 47-15 (.758) – 2 GG Wins
3 - Dan Meyer: 45-17 (.726) - 1 GG Win
4 - phatsdawg: 41-21 (.661)
5 – PUFan*: 40-12 (.769) – 1 GG Win
*PUFan DNP in week five and moves to the bottom slot.