Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Ten Conference Update

Each team in the Big Ten Conference is now either three or four games into an 18-game league slate and things are really starting to become clear.

The Big Ten is extremely down this year. In past seasons, this league routinely sent six or seven teams to the NCAA Tournament but with new head coaches and young rosters all across the conference, it looks like the Big Ten will get four teams (at most) into the Big Dance.

As almost everyone who knows college basketball predicted, the conference is extremely top-heavy with Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. After that, we've got a bunch of above average and mediocre teams who are all going through their respective struggles right now and a couple of teams who are just downright bad.

Let's take a look at the current standings:

1. Indiana (14-1; 3-0)
2. Wisconsin (13-2; 3-0)
3. Ohio State (12-4; 3-1)
4. Michigan State (14-2; 2-1)
5. Minnesota (12-3; 2-1)
6. Purdue (11-5; 2-1)
7. Penn State (10-5; 2-1)
8. Iowa (8-9; 1-3)
9. Michigan (5-11; 1-3)
10. Illinois (8-9; 0-4)
11. Northwestern (5-8; 0-4)

For me, the most surprising team so far this year has been Illinois and not in a good way. One of their key players, Jamar Smith, has been out for the entire season and won't return until next year, but still, this is a team with two experienced big men and a pretty solid point guard in Chester Frazier, and that's usually the recipe for success in the Big Ten. Perhaps the most disappointing thing is the way they've played at Assembly Hall, usually one of the toughest places to play in the conference, if not the nation. The Fighting Illini have already lost at home to Miami (OH) (a pretty good team in the MAC), Tennessee State (enough said), Ohio State, and Penn State. Two conference losses at home is almost an abomination for Illinois and right now, they're just not playing good enough basketball to win anywhere.

The jury is STILL out on Minnesota as far as I'm concerned. Yes, their overall record looks nice but they didn't beat anyone of note in the non-conference and in their two games against decent opponents, they lost both times. In the conference, it's been much of the same. They won at Penn State but that's a game they should win; it wasn't an upset, they beat Northwestern at home but everyone beats Northwestern, and they lost at Michigan State, the one tough team they've played so far inside the Big Ten.

I'll keep these posts about basketball to about once every week and a half or so, but if you're interested check out the "Useful Basketball Sites" on the left side of the homepage. Those are all great sites for college basketball fans.


Kartik said...

Iowa beating State was a shock and a half. The Hawkeyes have been horrible this year including a close shave win over provisional D1 team FGCU from my neck of the woods.

State at times gets static on offense. Neitzel has to then do everything himself. This is something that Izzo clearly cannot tolerate, and he'll whip them into shape soon IMHO.

Kartik said...

I agree with you on the Gophers. Tubby has them playing with confidence, but the reality of the situation is that they have to prove they belong when the wars of the Big Ten heat up. If he gets them to the dance, he's got to be your coach of the year in the league.