Currently the Big Ten stands as follows:
Ohio State 3-0
Penn State 6-1
Michigan State 3-1
Northwestern’s opponents this week come into the week with a record of 14-1. That seems to make for a pretty tough week of basketball. I’ll have reports on that throughout the week, but today I want to focus a little bit on the rest of the Big Ten. A lot of people seem to think the Big Ten will be down this year, but I’m not so sure. A quick look at the standings shows a conference which has for the most part handled its non-conference opposition. Let’s take a look at a few teams:
Illinois: I’m not sure Illinois is really as good as their record shows, but this team is much better than it was last year. They played fantastic at Vanderbilt and won several close games at South Padre Island. The biggest difference I believe between Illinois of this year and last is that they can now make free throws.
Ohio State: Ohio State has only played three games so they are hard to judge. My only comment is that in watching them play Bowling Green I was unimpressed with super-freshman B.J. Mullins. I’m not saying Mullins won’t be a good player, but I don’t think as much an instant impact guy as Oden and Koufus.
Purdue: Purdue is probably my pick to win the league at this point. I believe they are the best team and have the best player in the league in forward Robbie Hummel. Even their one loss, in overtime to # 11 Oklahoma in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship, was impressive. We’ll learn even more about Purdue when they play Duke on Tuesday.
Michigan: Michigan has perhaps the Big Ten’s best win of the year with their victory over UCLA. Of course, they almost had the Big Ten’s worst loss when they just barely beat Savannah State 66-64 in overtime. I am very impressed with DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris who I believe could take John Beilein back to the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State: The Spartans struggled with Wichita State today and got pounded by Maryland on Thanksgiving. Still, they are a very strong team. When they play North Carolina on Wednesday we should get a better sense of the Spartans. The key is for the very talented Raymar Morgan to play much more consistently.
Indiana: The Hoosiers aren’t good right now, but anybody who thinks they’ll stay down is way off. Freshman Nick Williams had a career game against Cornell today and forward Tom Pritchard has the potential to be a regular double-double guy.
I’ll reserve my thoughts on the rest of the league for later, but I will say that it seems Todd Lickliter and Tubby Smith are fast making Iowa and Minnesota dangerous. I sure hope Bill Carmody can keep up.
Set Your Tivos…
The Big Ten Network will not only televise tomorrow’s game against UC-Riverside, but will also air the January 26, 2005 game between Northwestern and Iowa in which Michael Jenkins’s high bouncing buzzer beater propelled the ‘Cats to victory. I’ll have some personal memories of that game up later.