We're just about 2/3 of the way through the college basketball season, and I still have no idea which school will win the Big Ten this season. Neither do you. Neither does anyone. Just look at the top 5 teams right now; MSU, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State. That doesn't even include Minnesota! Though admittedly, the Gophers have lost two straight conference matchups, but look who they lost to: #2 Indiana on the road, and #5 Michigan at home. They've beaten quality teams, and have no bad losses. Meanwhile, the sky must be falling in Bloomington for avid Hoosier fans. Wisconsin showed fantastic fight and upset the #2 team in the nation on the road. It was the first time I'd seen Assembly Hall completely silent and empty at the end of a game. Just goes to show you how brilliant of a coach Bo Ryan is. When the Badgers released the news that Josh Gasser would be out for the entire season with an ACL injury, I think most fans around the country counted them out of contending for a Big Ten title. But leadership has arisen in the form of Trey Jackson and Sam Dekker, and it's working. Sort of? After upsetting two ranked teams in a row, the Badgers layed an egg in Iowa City and lost to the sub-.500 Hawkeyes. So are they truly for real? I don't know. If they had beaten Iowa on Saturday, I would be tempted to put them in the elite category. But they didn't, so they're not.
Purdue is weird. The transitive property tells us they're better than Ohio State, they played West Virginia during the conference season, and they're above .500 in the Big Ten. Which is more than Illinois and Iowa can say. The Illini have come to a skidding halt, and are looking more and more like they did last year at this point. Hard to see John Groce's squad getting a respectable number of wins in the Big Ten with the way they're playing right now. Seriously, though. Find me five more wins this year for Illinois; Penn State? Nebraska? Iowa (if they're lucky)? At this point, it's more about pride and dignity for the Illini than it is about making the tournament. And just one week ago they were a 3-seed in the projections...
Michigan State is really turning it on late (as per usual). They got a big win at home Saturday against Ohio State. Hard to find many porous holes on the Spartans' team, with the consistent play of Travis Trice, Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Andre Dawson. Aaron Craft had a chance to win that game in East Lansing, but missed an open look. The Buckeyes could be in the top 5 of the Big Ten by the end of the season, but not if they keep on losing road games.
I feel like Iowa is a lot better than their record indicates; they had the Spartans beat a couple weeks ago if it weren't for the heroic play of Keith Appling. Heck, they were only down two to the Hoosiers in the final moments of that game. If incoming teams aren't careful, the Hawkeyes could upset a lot of them. Is Northwestern a bubble team at this point? I think so, but that's because they went on the road and upset a top 25 team. They also lost at home to Indiana, but that's to be expected, and they put up a good fight. So the Wildcats overall played better than expected this week, which is why they're now a "bubble team at best." Nebraska has a decent chance to upset (will it even be an upset anymore?) Illinois at home this coming Tuesday; we'll see if they can string together back-to-back conference wins. Below are my tiers and rankings, let me know what you think by leaving a comment.
Elite: 1) Michigan
Good but not flawless: 2) Michigan State
Inconsistent: 5) Ohio State
Bubble teams at best: 7) Iowa
Yeah, they suck: 11) Nebraska
12) Penn State
Which team is the best in the Big Ten?
Michigan (17-1, defeated #8 Minnesota on the road) (1 vote)
Michigan State (16-3, defeated #11 Ohio State by three) (0 votes)
Indiana (15-2, lost to unranked Wisconsin at home, only one by several at Northwestern) (1 vote)
Wisconsin (13-5, beat #2 Indiana on the road, lost to unranked Iowa on the road) (0 votes)
Other (Ohio State? Minnesota?) (0 votes)
2 total votes