Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009

checkinginon

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. 

Standings:

  1. Purdue  7-0
  2. Ohio State  7-1
  3. Northwestern  6-1
  4. Wisconsin  6-1
  5. Illinois  6-2
  6. Michigan State  6-2
  7. Minnesota  5-3
  8. Penn State  5-3
  9. Michigan  4-3
  10. Indiana  3-4
  11. Iowa  3-5

Four things from the past week:  Big Ten beats the ACC (6-5) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for the first time in 11 years.  The second thing is Wisconsin knocking off #5 Duke.  The third thing is Illinois coming from 23 down to beat #19 Clemson.  Last but not least, Evan Turner goes down with a fractured back and will be out for a minimum of eight weeks.  That cost OSU not only a strong leader but over 20 PPG to their stat sheet.  Now four Big Ten teams are in the Top 25:  Purdue #5, Michigan State #12, Ohio State #13, Wisconsin #20.

Top Storylines:

  • Who will lead OSU?  Turner is down for the count with a fractured back, which is really unfortunate, as he was on pace to set a new record for triple-doubles in a season, and continued to put up ridiculous numbers.  With Turner sidelined, who will step up?  Their blowout of Eastern Michigan definitely didn’t test OSU, but their other players should have plenty of opportunity soon to demonstrate leadership.
  • Should we stick a fork in Michigan?  Michigan is near the bottom of the Big 10, losing to average teams.  Will they come back strong, or is this the beginning of a downward spiral that might last all year?
  • Is Minnesota, dare I say, average?  It looks to be that way after losing to Miami to complete their third loss in a row to somewhat average teams.  They blew out Brown, but then again, what decent team doesn’t?  Minnesota also hasn’t demonstrated that they can win on the road, so that will be a challenge all year.

Coming Up:

  • December 8th – Minnesota vs. Morgan State – Yes, this game is a home game for Minnesota, but Morgan State is scrappy and they are putting big numbers on the board.  Could be a huge upset for Morgan State and more disappointment for Minnesota.  7:30 PM, ESPN U
  • December 9th – Wisconsin vs. Wisconsin-Green Bay – Wisconsin is on a high after knocking off Duke and then taking care of Grambling State with ease.  Green Bay is putting up numbers, so this should be an interesting in-state matchup.  8:00 PM
  • December 11th – The Battle for the Hawkeye State – Iowa takes on ISU.  My prediction is that ISU rolls, but don’t count out the Hawkeyes yet.  This game should definitely get the juices flowing for both teams.  8:05 PM, ESPN 360
  • December 12th – OSU vs. Butler – The first true test since Evan Turner went down.  Butler comes in ranked #20 in the country, and even though OSU on paper is #15, you take away Turner and I might even say that OSU is the underdog.  This is the game where a new leader must emerge, or it could mark the start of a long season for OSU fans with Turner watching from the sidelines.  12:00 PM, ESPN

Breaking It Down:

  • Purdue’s success is boring, but that’s OK.  Look for Purdue to continue to run up the score on its opponents until after the new year when they take on West Virginia (AP #6) on New Year’s Day.  That will be the biggest challenge for Purdue since Tennessee.
  • Ohio State’s search for leadership. Will it be Jon DieblerDavid LightyWilliam BufordJeremie Simmons?  All are top scorers for OSU, but who will emerge as the true leader now that they can’t count on Evan Turner’s leadership and numbers?  Someone will emerge, but it must be soon.  Leadership by committee won’t get it done for OSU.
  • Northwestern is getting votes now.  Mikey T (otherwise known as Michael Thompson) continues to pump up the stat sheet with 22 against NC State.  I think John Shurna must have read the last blog because he didn’t duplicate his prior tourney stats and only ended up with an 11/6 game against NC State.  Northwestern is now getting votes for the AP top 25 but I am not sure that wins against North Carolina A&T, North Florida, Stanford, and Central Connecticut State are going to bolster their worthiness before conference play, though.
  • Wisconsin cracks the top 25, but can they stay?  The story around the league last week was Wisconsin felling mighty Duke and giving them their first loss ever in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.  Trevon Hughes was up for the challenge, pouring in a career-high 26 points.  Next up for Wisconsin is not getting upset against Green Bay.  Their challenge is really Marquette, which is a quick and very athletic team that upset Michigan earlier in the year.  After that it is smooth sailing until OSU to start conference play.
  • Illinois:  Don’t call it a comeback.  Illinois stepped up in a big way with their backs to the wall against Clemson.  I called the game a must-win for Clemson, as sustaining four losses in a row this early on for a young team would have been heart-wrenching.  Illinois followed it up with a solid win over Boise State considering the foul trouble problems they had, which is tough to do coming off of such an emotional game as the one they had at Clemson.  Next up is Vanderbilt which has been improving every game.  Vandy lost to Cincinnati by nine earlier in the year, so this game will be tougher than it seems.
  • Michigan State has to step up and get over the UNC game.  UNC was a wakeup call for Michigan State, but they have yet to respond well.  Coach Tom Izzo wasn’t happy with the team at all against Wofford, and he was just lucky to escape the 3-point barrage thrown down by the Citadel.  People need to step up for MSU, and quick.  Unfortunately they are going to have to do it against subpar opponents until the 22nd when they play Texas.
  • Minnesota needs a win against someone.  OK, so Minnesota lost three straight to decent to good teams before pounding Brown.  The main reason they lost to Miami beyond the miserable 7-15 from the line was the fact that they committed three turnovers in crunch time, a sign of an immature and not game tested team.  They now get to sit back and cruise for the rest of the year before taking on Purdue on January 5th.  I won’t be surprised if they lose some of the upcoming games the way they are playing, but they shouldn’t based on their talent level.
  • Michigan needs to get its groove back.  Michigan lost to Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge which capped off three losses in a row.  Then they beat up on Arkansas-Pine Bluff, so hopefully they are back on track.  They don’t get much rest, though, as they take on Utah, a team that earlier in the season beat Illinois by two points.  Michigan is going to need to come to play as a cohesive unit for this game to be able to pull it out. Michigan is still shooting way too many threes in my opinion and they knock down way too few of them.  Against Pine Bluff they shot 24 of them and only knocked down six.
  • Penn State got out-hooted by the Temple Owls.  This game was really lost by Talor Battle who shot dreadfully from the field at 3-15 and 0-5 from three-point range for his eight points.  This game was a high school score at 45-42, which was more due to a lack of offense than great defense.  They shouldn’t be challenged against UMBC who hasn’t won a game this season, but look for a tough matchup against Virginia Tech who is 6-1 on the year.
  • Indiana takes on Pitt and Kentucky.  Oh, my.  Tom Crean better start telling the Hoosiers some fairy tales from years past, because IU is up against the toughest competition this season in those two.  Having gone to the Maryland game, I was pleasantly surprised that they hung with the Terrapins for about ¾ of the game, only to be beaten by 12 based on free throws and superior courage by the Terps in driving to the basket.
  • Iowa is staying stateside.  Iowa finished roughing up Prairie View A&M, a team I hadn’t heard much about before, and now looks to tour the cornfields of Iowa by playing Northern Iowa, Iowa State, and then Drake.  They get a short reprieve against South Carolina State before their rude awakening on December 29th against Purdue.
jstevrtc (547 Posts)


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