Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A quick look around the Big Ten

Purdue, Northwestern, and Penn State all look really bad, so I'm not going to discuss them. Suffice to say that any game they win against the other 8 teams will constitute a big upset, even at home.

Seven of the other eight teams are ranked in the top 26 of the latest coaches poll (Michigan was the last team out of the Top 25). That's the rankings I use below.

#8 Illinois (10-0)

Best Wins: @ North Carolina (68-64), Wichita State (55-54)
Losses: None
Analysis: Illinois has played 8 home games against mostly suspect competition, along with two road games at UNC (a win that looks better as time goes on) and Oregon (the Purdue of the Pac10). They've had a couple single-digit home victories against Wichita State and Xavier. Dee Brown has struggled shooting and running the point, but seems to be improving over time. I think Illinois is obviously not the 8th best team in the nation, but they're probably good enough to be in the hunt for the B10 title... but not win it.

#12 Michigan State (7-2)

Best Wins: Arizona (74-71), Boston College (77-70)
Losses: Hawaii (84-62), Gonzaga (109-106)
Analysis: MSU probably has the best two wins of any conference team against Arizona and BC, but they also lost to Hawaii by 22. I tend to discount that game due to first-game-itis and cramps. The only other loss was to Gonzaga in a thriller. On the other hand, they also struggled to beat IPFW, Arkansas-Little Rock, and IPFW. Hard team to get a handle on. Their defense seems sub-par for MSU, but they've clearly got talent and some nice wins. I think they're still the team to beat in the B10, but they have plenty of flaws too.

#18 Indiana (5-2)

Best Wins: Kentucky (79-53)
Losses: Duke (75-67), @Indiana State (72-67)
Analysis: We all know about Indiana. Close loss to Duke. Lost to ISU. Thrashed Kentucky. DJ White out. Who knows?

#23 Iowa (7-3)

Best Wins: Kentucky (67-63), NC State (45-42)
Losses: Texas (68-59), Northern Iowa (67-63), Iowa State (72-60)
Analysis: As usual, Iowa seems to be getting worse as the season progresses. After a strong start, they've lost consecutive games to Northern Iowa and Iowa State. Jeff Horner is out temporarily, and Iowa will likely struggle without him. By rights, Iowa should contend for the B10 title, but given Alford's B10 coaching history, I doubt it'll happen.

#24 Wisconsin (7-1)

Best Wins: Old Dominion (84-81)
Losses: @Wake Forest (91-88)
Analysis: No particularly good wins for UW yet. In fact, their loss at Wake Forest might be the best positive indicator for the team. At this point, it's probably safe to say that Wisconsin is not going to crash and burn this season as some preseason mags seemed to think, but there also doesn't seem to be much indication that they'll seriously challenge for the B10 title either. I expect a 3rd-5th finish for the Badgers.

#25 Ohio State (4-0)

Best Wins: Virginia Tech (69-56)
Losses: None
Analysis: Four games?! That's it? Well, they haven't lost any games, but there's not much to go on. They won at St. Joe's (a down year for them) and beat Butler at home by 10. Too few games to gauge, but nothing so far to get overly excited about.

#26 Michigan (7-0)

Best Wins: @Notre Dame (71-67)
Losses: None
Analysis: Michigan has been fairly workmanlike so far (an unusual term for Michigan). it's hard for me to evaluate Michigan, because I dislike them so much, but to their credit they've avoided upsets so far... which is unusual for Michigan. Michigan looks improved this season, but they haven't done anything noteworthy either.

Minnesota (5-2)

Best Wins: @Arizona State (85-79), UNLV (72-67)
Losses: Maryland (83-66), Gardner-Webb (73-72)
Analysis: With Grier out for most of the season (he played against UNLV and scored 19 points a couple nights ago), it's hard to know how good Minnesota is. Losing to Gardner-Webb at home is embarrassing, obviously, but they're a different team with Grier. They don't look like a challenger for the B10 title, but I suspect they'll play plenty of team tough in the barn.

Based on results so far, it looks to me like Indiana and MSU are going to duke it out for the B10 title, with Illinois and Iowa making things interesting.

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