Big Ten M5: 02.12.13 EditionPosted by jnowak on February 12th, 2013
- There is no better indication of how tough this conference is than how often we have marquee games that draw major national attention. The latest in line is the significant rivalry game between Michigan and Michigan State tonight in East Lansing. It’s the first time the two teams have met while both ranked in the top 10, and it may very well be a must-win for both squads. The Spartans need it because with two losses already they have to defend home court in the Big Ten, and because the Wolverines’ schedule the rest of the way is more favorable. Michigan needs it because the Wolverines are the only one of the four primary contenders — including Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State, all of which have a minimum of two conference losses — without a road win against another. After Tuesday, the Wolverines have only two games remaining against those contenders (MSU and Indiana), and both are in Ann Arbor. Still, a fourth loss at this point could put their backs up against the wall.
- On the Michigan State side, the Spartans will be short-handed — yet again — as it appears unlikely that backup point guard Travis Trice will be healthy enough to play. Trice, who suffered a head injury for the second time this season when he took a shot on January 31 against Illinois, is one of the Spartans’ best three-point shooters and will be sorely missed on the defensive end against the talented Wolverines’ backcourt. This injury will, again, have a tremendous trickle-down effect — meaning more minutes for reserve players like Russell Byrd, Matt Costello and Alex Gauna, and more pressure on regular guards Denzel Valentine and Keith Appling. For the most part, the Spartans have survived the games in which Trice has missed this season, but none have come against such quality competition.
- For years now, when you think of the best of Big Ten basketball and even the country, Ohio State comes to mind. But are they “elite” this year? Columbus Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter writes that after another loss to a top program, the Buckeyes may just be closer to “good” than “great” this season. OSU is 1-4 against Michigan (with which it split games), Indiana, Duke and Kansas. Those are all quality losses, but at some point, you have to see enough consistency out of the Buckeyes to believe that they are as likely to reach a Final Four as any of those other teams. When it comes to championships, quality losses and “good” but not “great” just doesn’t cut it.
- There’s something to be said for the most challenging times also being the most rewarding. That could very well be the case at Wisconsin this season, where Bo Ryan has once again proven that you can never consider the Badgers out of Big Ten contention no matter what you see on paper. Ryan’s mentor, Ron Rainey, says that this might be Ryan’s best year at Wisconsin, rivaling his debut 2001-02 season when the Badgers were chosen to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten but won a share of the program’s first conference title in 55 years. With the early absence of Mike Bruesewitz and the season-ending injury to point guard Josh Gasser, few thought Wisconsin would find a way to be in such a position. Think again.
- Northwestern will need all the help it can get against Ohio State on Thursday, but it looks like the Wildcats will instead be short-handed. Neil Hayes writes that Bill Carmody is waiting on the final word from the medical staff, but the coach believes the team will be without the services of forward Jared Swopshire (knee) and center Alex Olah (concussion) in Columbus. Both were injured in Sunday’s loss to Iowa, and this will likely mean increased minutes for Kale Abrahamson, James Montgomery III, Mike Turner and Nikola Cerina.