The Big Ten conference is undoubtedly the strongest one in America, but this week's games raise a question in my mind: is this conference an elite conference, or just a parity-stricken one? Think about it... Every team has at least one loss. 10 of the 12 teams have at least one win. 9 teams have picked up a road win. 8 teams have lost a home game. Half of the teams are ranked. There have already been big upsets. The Big Ten is the powerhouse of college basketball, but I think that's because there are so many good teams that could make the tournament, not because there are two or three elite teams competing for a title. Every week there are bound to be a couple great games, but that's because there are 7 or 8 decent teams in the conference! There is a giant mess in the middle, and unless the smoke clears soon, March will be quite the month for Big Ten basketball fans.
Indiana is clearly the top team right now, because they picked up a big win against a top 10 team despite allowing the Gophers to score 80+ points. They can compete in and win any game they play if they play like they did against Minnesota Saturday. Michigan drops from "elite" to "good" this week, because they were basically manhandled by the Buckeyes until the last five minutes of the game. 29-6 is quite the deficit to face in the first half (as I'm sure Illini fans are aware of). The Wolverines were great against lowly Northwestern and awful Nebraska, but their first real test of, well, the entire season came against Ohio State Sunday, and they failed miserably for 35 minutes of the game. We'll see how they rebound with more stiff tests coming this week. Minny is still third, because scoring 52 points in a half against #5 Indiana on the road is impressive, even though they lost. The fight they showed in that comeback was superb, and they will challenge every team in the conference this season. I wanted to put the Bucks higher up on this list, but they're still a big question mark in my mind; they can lay an egg and lose by 20 on the road, but they can spring an upset and win by 20 at home too. So while OSU did beat Michigan on Sunday, that just adds to their inconsistency this conference season. Wisconsin is 3-0, but they're also still a tier 3 team in my mind. Was their surprising blowout of #12 Illinois a fluke? They almost lost on the road to Nebraska... They'll get a real test on Tuesday when they travel to Indiana to face the Hoosiers, but right now they're another question mark. Speaking of question marks and laying eggs, that brings me to the Fighting Illini. When everything is clicking, they can beat Ohio State. When the players don't run Groce's system and don't execute, Nebraska can beat them. Illinois is an enigma to be sure, and I wouldn't be surprised if they drop out of the top 25 completely this week. At the bubble tier we have Iowa and Northwestern. Iowa is just plain weird this year. I feel like they should be at least 2-2 right now in the standings... The Hawkeyes had a chance to beat Indiana and Michigan State at home, but lost by a total of 7 points in those two games combined. Northwestern will beat the incredibly suck-ish teams, but will lose to the incredibly good teams, so they're also in the fourth tier. I can't really say much about Purdue and Penn State, seeing as I wasn't one of the 50 people watching that game Sunday morning. I'm tempted to move Nebraska up a spot despite their 0-4 start, because they show fight in every game. They'll win some games in the Big Ten this year, but not enough yet to be a bubble team. Maybe next year. Yes, I'm a Cubs fan. Below are my weekly rankings, and as you can see, tiers two and three are just about as unclear and messy as they could possibly be...
Elite: 1) Indiana
Good but not flawless: 2) Michigan
4) Michigan State
Still unproven: 5) Ohio State
Bubble teams at best: 8) Iowa
Yeah, they suck: 10) Purdue
12) Penn State