Checking In On… the Big TenPosted by Brian Goodman on November 21st, 2011
Reader’s Take – How Many Big Ten teams will make the NCAA tournament?
The Week That Was
This is the first Conference Check-In for the 2011-2012 season, so this is less a review of the past week than it is a review of the season to date. It is far too early to be passing judgment on surprise teams but there are three Big Ten teams who have impressed us enough in the first couple of weeks to warrant mention right away.
Indiana, Northwestern, and Nebraska were each picked by most to finish in the lower half of the Big Ten, but they produced some of the Big Ten’s most impressive wins this week. Indiana won a true road game at Evansville, a good MVC program, in dominant fashion. Nebraska, went on the road and beat USC in overtime before coming home and dominating a pretty good A-10 foe in Rhode Island. Finally, Northwestern took out an SEC team in LSU and a Big East team in Seton Hall, along with one of the better C-USA programs in Tulsa on the way to winning the Charleston Classic.
These three teams have started the season in fine fashion and they are worthy of our attention.
- Ohio State (3-0) Thad Matta’s Buckeyes looked good against a Florida Gators team that some believe is a contender for the national title. One of the interesting things to watch in Columbus is to see if Matta will look to play a big lineup using either Amir Williams or Evan Ravenal along with Jared Sullinger or if Matta will be content to surround the big man with wings and a PG again.
- Wisconsin (3-0) Wisconsin is thoroughly dominating overmatched competition from an efficiency standpoint. It is early, but this Wisconsin team looks poised to live up to its preseason ranking and more.
- Indiana (4-0) If things play out as expected this year in the Big Ten, this third position behind OSU and Wisconsin will be a revolving door. IU gets first crack at the spot based on their dominant 4-0 start to the season.
- Michigan (3-0) Michigan has looked mediocre in its early games due to some cold outside shooting. It steps up in class in a big way as it kicks off the Maui Invitational with Memphis.
- Michigan State (2-2) Tom Izzo’s team got beaten up pretty bad on the boat and then again in NYC during the Coach K coronation ceremony in The Garden. They pull in the 5th spot because they look like they could be a very good team on defense and in particular on the boards with those strengths are outweighing some of the questions.
- Illinois (3-0) Illinois is still a mystery team, but they have looked very good on the defensive end of the court. If Bruce Weber can find a way to score the ball efficiently this team could be a tough out come March.
- Northwestern (4-0) The Wildcats have gotten off to an auspicious start in 2011-2012 as they look to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. As expected, the Wildcats are playing excellent offense, and there have been some early signs of a defensive improvement as well. Definite reasons for optimism in Evanston.
- Purdue (4-1) A very uneven start to the Boilermakers season. There are some questions on how Purdue will replace JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, but so far this season the issues look to be on the defensive end of the floor.
- Nebraska (3-0) Doc Sadler’s Cornhusker team has continued to play excellent defense to start the season. As the offense continues to develop, look for the Huskers to be a much bigger factor in the Big Ten this year than many anticipated.
- Minnesota (3-0) I like this Gopher team, but the questions they have in the back court will have to be resolved before Tubby Smith’s Gophers move up the ladder here. Too many turnovers and not enough scoring from the young backcourt so far.
- Iowa (3-1) There is no shame in losing to Creighton, but the margin should raise some eyebrows. The Hawkeyes just were not able to slow down the Blue Jays on the offensive end and it resulted in a lopsided margin.
- Penn State (4-1) Despite the difficult offensive first half against Kentucky, I would expect most Penn State fans are happy with the 4-1 start, which includes a win over a Big East foe. New coach Patrick Chambers appears to have the Lions playing much better on the defensive end of the floor.
The Michigan great was enshrined Sunday into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday night. Playing from 1964-66, Russell led the Wolverines to a pair of Final Fours and a trip to the 1965 national championship game, which it lost to John Wooden’s Bruins. Russell’s stature and meaning to the program led Crisler Arena, which opened a year after he left, to be dubbed “The House That Cazzie Built.”
- #14 Michigan vs. #13 Memphis on a neutral floor should tell us a lot more about Beilein’s Wolverines than we have learned so far to date.
- Oregon @ Nebraska is another opportunity for Doc Sadler’s team to notch a win against a Pac-12 foe.
- Butler @ Indiana – Butler lost in overtime while IU dominated a common foe in Evansville. This is a statement game for Tom Crean as well, since many folks have penciled in Butler head coach Brad Stevens as Crean’s eventual replacement.