Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's hard to overstate the importance of tonight's game

Let's face it, the 3 best basketball programs in the B10 right now are Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Not Indiana. This season represented the first time in awhile where Indiana, Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan all had teams capable of shaking up the pecking order in the B10. How's it going so far?

Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are ranked #7, #11, and #15 in the latest AP Poll. And Indiana is #13.

MSU lost on the road to Illinois and Wisconsin, like everyone else, but then beat IU at home and OSU on the road to solidify themselves as one of the B10 elite. Wisconsin continues to be Wisconsin - unbeatable at home, and capable of stealing wins on the road (at Minnesota). Illinois might be the most vulnerable. They lost at Iowa and struggled at home against Michigan - but won.

MSU won at OSU - the first team to win a road game at one of the Top 7 B10 teams. This is Illinois' second chance to pull off that feat. If they can win at Indiana, the Big 3 pecking order remains the status quo, and Indiana (like OSU) starts to once again look like a pretender.

If Indiana wins, the Hoosiers hunt to get back to elite B10 status moves another tiny step forward. Taking care of OSU, Michigan, and Illinois at home is expected of elite teams. Purdue and Northwestern are our two other home games in the first half of the B10 season, so a win tonight makes it extremely likely that IU would be undefeated at home at the turn. And the road games at Iowa and Minnesota would be full of opportunity. Hoosier fans will be dreaming of B10 titles - and at least competing for the B10 title will seem assured.

If Indiana loses... well, we'll have a home loss with two tough road games coming up and the high possibility of reaching the turn at 4-4, fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament with the other bubble teams.

Okay, so that's a bit melodramatic. But nonetheless, this game is huge.

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