Around the Big Ten
Around The Big Ten
The end of January and beginning of February brings the Super Bowl, lots of pink hearts, and (hopefully) clarity around college basketball. True contenders for the tournament begin to emerge around the country and courts are constantly being stormed.
The Big Ten picture has been far from clear this year. There have been unexpected teams emerging while some typical powerhouses remain among the top of the nation’s finest teams. Ohio State and Purdue continue to rise and dominate within the conference this year despite not being discussed at the beginning of the year. They both boast 8-0 conference records, with the Boilermakers winning 15 straight games.
Tom Izzo has his Michigan State squad playing at a high quality once again, but like the rest of the top tier teams in the country were unable to hold their top spot. The Spartans are sitting at number 6 in the AP top 25 rankings with a 17-3 record with only a loss to Duke in the non-conference, but have not dominated in the same fashion once conference play begins. They currently are third in the Big Ten with just a 5-2 record but rail the red-hot Buckeyes and Boilermakers. They match up with middle of the pack teams in Wisconsin and Maryland this week.
The rest of the Big Ten picture remains unclear, with six teams all with either three or four wins. Nebraska and Michigan have both been able to slightly separate from the pack, and with teams starting to jostle for Big Ten tournament seeds every win is vital.
Within the middle of the Big Ten is a large pack of teams that still have a chance to make a move for postseason bids. As is the case every year in college hoops any team that gets hot late has the ability to make a deep run or play spoiler. Just last year Wisconsin upset top overall seed Villanova in the second round of the tournament. The top of the Big Ten conference is obvious, with a power struggle between the remaining teams ensuing.
As it stands now, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Indiana would likely not make the Big Dance if the season ended today. However, each team has either the talent to improve, such as Penn State and Northwestern; or have put themselves in surprisingly solid position on the bubble in the case of Indiana and Wisconsin. As it is every year in the Big Ten big wins can swing a season and this week brings opportunities for Penn State and Wisconsin for a momentum-changing victory.
The Nittany Lions have a chance to up-end Ohio State in Columbus, not at all easy task especially after an embarrassing defeat against Northwestern for Pat Chambers squad. Wisconsin is riding Ethan Happ until he falls over with exhaustion and is trying to rebuild what was a disastrous non-conference play. They get a chance to go to East Lansing and beat the Spartans and Miles Bridges which could spur a run.
The matchup of the week belongs in West Lafayette where Purdue looks to keep their win streak alive against Mo Wagner and the Michigan Wolverines. Wagner will be tasked with playing physical in the paint against 7-foot monster Isaac Haas. His presence inside opens up the perimeter for a team still undefeated at home. Purdue may be the hottest team in the country right now, and in a year with lots of change at the top may be poised for a jump at the top spot in the country sometime soon.
When football season comes to a conclusion, chaos tends to ensue on the basketball court with fans finally turning their attention away from the pigskin to the hardwood. The Big Ten promises to be as entertaining as ever down the stretch with standings that are never a sure bet.
Brian McLaughlin is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.