Checking in on the… Big TenPosted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2009
Josh & Mike of Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.
Conference play is underway, and it appears we’re going to be in for a wild one. There were very few blowouts, and two of them involved Minnesota (dishing it out against Ohio State, and taking their lumps against Michigan State). For the most part, the home teams held serve, but there were 3 road victories (2 of them belonging to the Spartans). Even Indiana gave Iowa a scare in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It just isn’t safe to take a night off in this conference.
For our money, Michigan State looks like the early frontrunner. Twelve or thirteen wins might be enough to win this thing, which can be boiled down to the two-step formula of winning at home, and going .500 on the road. MSU stands at 2-0 with both wins being road wins. That means they would need 9 home wins and 4 road victories to seal this up, and assuming they don’t falter at Indiana, they’re very close to winning all the road games they need to.
Illinois’ big road win against Purdue was followed by a letdown at Crisler Arena against the Wolverines. As unforgiving as Illinois’ defense was against the Boilermakers, it was nowhere to be seen against Michigan. And the crazy part was that Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims weren’t having their best games. No, it was the supporting Zack Attack (Gibson and Novak) that led the way. Novak actually had to leave the game for a while after a run-in with Alex Legion’s head:
Tubby’s team rallied after MSU pummeled them at home to defend the court with a bit more vigor against Ohio State, who suddenly looks very vulnerable without David Lighty and Noopy Crater. The glaring weakness has been on defense, which started out the season among the nation’s elite. Now, OSU has let 3 straight opponents average over a point per possession.
If you can only watch four games this week, make it this four, for these reasons:
- Ohio State @ Michigan State – two upper-tier teams in the conference clash. If MSU wins here, they might start out the conference season at 7-0
- Kansas @ Michigan State – perhaps the Big Ten’s last chance for a signature non-conference win (Michigan does battle UConn later)
- Indiana @ Illinois – after Eric Gordon and Kelvin Sampson, this rivalry has gone nuclear. It will be interesting to see how the Orange Krush treat Tom Crean and his squad.
- Wisconsin @ Purdue – a key matchup for both teams. After dropping a home game against Illinois, this almost becomes a “must win” for the Boilermakers. For Wisconsin, a win here puts them squarely in the conference title discussion.
A Look at the Numbers
You think Big Ten, and you probably think of a slow and bruising style of play that emphasizes defense. Slow is right, bruising might be (see Novak’s picture, above, and remember that this kid re-entered the game after receiving six stitches), but defense is not what’s en vogue this season in the best conference between western Pennsylvania and Iowa. In fact, only two teams so far in the non-conference are holding opponents to less than a point per possession. On the other hand, seven teams are averaging a point or more on offense. Sure, it’s only been a couple of games, but as kj’s chart shows, that offensive story was present in the non-conference as well. The Big Ten can score. The elite teams of the conference will be those that can stop the other team from scoring on occasion.