Men’s Basketball Around the Big Ten: Week Nine
Zach Kaplan, Brian McLaughlin, Dylan Huber and Will Desautelle break down this week's basketball matchups around the Big Ten.
While students might have been away for winter break, the athletes certainly weren’t. With the conference schedule in full swing, the contenders and pretenders are beginning to emerge in the Big Ten, with as many as 10 teams competing for the potential to make the NCAA Tournament. In alphabetical order, here’s a look at how each team shapes up.
Illinois (12-5, 2-2 B1G): The Fighting Illini were able rebound from a blowout 16-point loss at Indiana last weekend to take down Michigan at home. The going only gets tougher for John Groce and his team, as they host Maryland on Saturday and travel to Purdue next week.
Indiana (11-6, 1-3 B1G): This team can’t find a way to win right now, as they have slumped through the conference schedule so far, to say the least. Losing four of their last five, they should have an easier week hosting Rutgers, then traveling to Penn State. They’ll need to rebound quickly to get back into the Big Ten race.
Iowa (10-7, 2-2 B1G): The Hawkeyes got a much-needed win, beating Rutgers earlier this week. Fran McCaffery needs his team to show up in spades if they want any shot at beating Purdue. Iowa will travel to Northwestern on Sunday and host Maryland next week. This will be a critical stretch if they want to compete in the Big Ten race.
Maryland (15-2, 3-1 B1G): After a sloppy loss to Nebraska, the Terps were able to beat Michigan and Indiana, and establish themselves as a contender in the Big Ten race. Melo Trimble and company should have a manageable road trip this week, traveling to Illinois and Iowa. Barring no setbacks, Mark Turgeon should have his team back in the top 25 shortly.
Michigan (11-6, 1-3 B1G): The Wolverines were able to pull off a comeback against Penn State, but got blown out on the road by Illinois last week. A win over Nebraska would be a good step in the right direction, but traveling to Wisconsin could provide trouble for John Beilein and his team.
Michigan State (12-6, 4-1 B1G): Any questions about the Spartans after their loss to Penn State at the Palestra were answered with a demolition of Minnesota at home. Tom Izzo publicly apologized for his team’s poor performance in their lack of effort against the Nittany Lions, and showed they can still compete in the Big Ten. They will play in Columbus on Sunday and should not have too much trouble with the Buckeyes.
No. 24 Minnesota (15-3, 3-2 B1G): What had been a tremendous start to the season may have come crashing down in a blowout loss to Michigan State. The Golden Gophers should be able to rally against Penn State on the road this weekend, but an upset loss would raise major questions about the legitimacy of this Minnesota team.
Nebraska (9-7, 3-1 B1G): Even with the paltry overall record Nebraska has, they have shown how important winning your conference games can be. A four-game winning streak was snapped by Northwestern last week, and the Cornhuskers will look to reestablish their winning ways in the Big Ten against Michigan and Ohio State this week.
Northwestern (13-4, 2-2 B1G): The Wildcats snapped a two-game losing streak of their own by beating Nebraska. They should be able to build on their .500 conference with games against Rutgers and Iowa this week. Both are winnable games, and Chris Collins can’t afford for his team to slip up against either.
Ohio State (10-6, 0-3 B1G): It seems the Buckeyes can’t get out of their own way, still looking for their first win in 2017. Three straight losses have made them the doormat of the conference, and things look bleak this week, with a road trip to Wisconsin and a home date with Michigan State on the slate for Thad Matta and his team.
Penn State (10-7, 2-2 B1G): A big win over the Spartans at the Palestra might be the kick start that a young Nittany Lions team needed. Pat Chambers will have to refocus his team however, if they want to beat a ranked Minnesota team at home. Their next three games are critical, hosting Minnesota and Indiana, then traveling to Purdue next weekend.
No. 17 Purdue (14-3, 3-1 B1G): After a tough loss to Minnesota, the Boilermakers have two straight wins as they head into Iowa City this weekend. Provided they get the win over the Hawkeyes, they could further climb the rankings with winnable games at home against Illinois and Penn State next week.
Rutgers (11-6, 0-4 B1G): The Scarlet Knights represent the doormat of the conference at the moment, with five straight losses as they continue to look for their first Big Ten win this season. That first conference win might not come for a little bit as they face Northwestern, Indiana and Nebraska in their next three games.
No. 18 Wisconsin (13-3, 2-1 B1G): The Badgers will need to move on from a bad loss at Purdue earlier this week, as they host Ohio State and Michigan this week. Bo Ryan and his team shouldn’t have too much trouble against either, but a slip-up could prove costly in a packed Big Ten field.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To reach him, send him an email at email@example.com.