Big Ten Standings
Last week's game of the week
Maryland 75, Michigan State 59
The battle for number one contender to Wisconsin's Big Ten crowd turned into a rout early in College Park as the Terrapins ran Sparty out of the building. Melo Trimble shredded MSU's defense to the tune of 20 points in the first half and Michigan State was never close to making it a game after that.
Thank you once again to Jerry Palm for doing his Bracketology on Mondays, and not Thursdays like the communist villain Joe Lunardi. Anyway, seeds listed below are via Palm and CBS Sports at the above link:
(8) Michigan State
First four out: Ohio State
Man, OSU, that's brutal. But it's not undeserved; the Buckeyes need the big wins, and they just don't have any. Who's the best team Ohio State's beaten up to this point? Illinois? Minnesota? Michigan? I expect those wins to come in the next six weeks or so, this is a good team, but you can't really disagree with the Buckeyes' exclusion here. Also, huh, look at that: Iowa's the third-highest seed in the Big Ten. Hmm hmm hmm.
Iowa 76, Ohio State 67
It wasn't exactly an upset or a court-rushing opportunity or anything, but Iowa's victory over the Buckeyes kept the Hawkeyes in a tie for the Big Ten lead and cemented their first regular-season sweep over OSU in over a decade (2003-04). Iowa's not a tourney lock yet, obviously, but its stock is as high as it's been in weeks (and maybe all season). Iowa needs to elevate its game further before we talk about the Hawkeyes as a Big Ten title contender, but the next three games are perfect opportunities to take that next step.
Michigan 56, Northwestern 54
I don't usually use this space for games the team in question actually won, but Michigan needed a biffed layup in the closing seconds to secure its win over a flatly terrible Northwestern team. Making matters worse, Caris Levert was lost for the year with a foot injury in the contest, and the one weapon Michigan had in its holster is now out of the equation. Unless someone steps up in a big way over the next couple of months, Michigan is probably finishing below .500. That's... that's bad.
Indiana: vs. Maryland, at Ohio State
OK, so are the Hoosiers legit? They're 4-1 in conference play, but still in negative territory in point differential in B1G play thanks to a 70-50 thrashing at the hands of MSU and four tight wins, even against the likes of PSU and Nebraska. Indiana's not lacking for big wins (SMU, Butler and Ohio State) but the consistency hasn't been there yet, especially on the defensive end, and until Indiana puts together a strong performance for 40 minutes, the perception will persist that the Hoosiers are a second- or third-tier Big Ten squad. They won't beat either of these opponents without that complete performance. Are they capable?
Less Important Things
Michigan State: vs. Penn State, at Nebraska
Tom Izzo's guys won't face a likely tourney team for about four more weeks; until then, a relatively easy slate awaits, including this week's easy breathers. Nebraska's got a puncher's chance if Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields are hitting shots, but MSU's effective FG% allowed is a stingy 43.2%, good for 18th-best in the nation. Sparty should take care of business.
Movin' on up!
Maryland's aforementioned whipping was so complete, so dominant, that it is absolutely fair to ask if the Terps are actually the Big Ten front-runner we've been assuming the Badgers have been this entire time.
In fact, let's take a look at the two resumes. You can probably figure out which is which pretty easily, but look at how similar they are. Opponents in wins and losses are listed by KenPom rating:
Team A: 16-2, 4-1, KenPom #6, RPI #9; best wins: #10 (N), #46 (N), #53; losses vs. #9, at #140
Team B: 17-2, 5-1, KenPom #14, RPI #13; best wins: #17 (N), at #23, at #24; losses vs. #2, at #67
You'd probably take Team A (Wisconsin), but KenPom's projecting both teams to finish the regular season at 26-5 and 14-4. The conference race is between these two squads until further notice.
Movin' on out!
Illinois had a prime opportunity to put its season back on track when fellow bubblist Indiana came to the State Farm Center on Sunday. The Hoosiers dropped 80 points on just 67 possessions (1.19 ppp is, ahem, not a strong defensive performance) and the Illini slumped to 2-4 in conference play and 12-7 overall. If Illinois wants to get back on the right side of the bubble, it'll need a massive February—and the opportunities are there, with roadies against MSU, Wisconsin and Iowa and a return date versus MSU all on the slate. But unless Illinois wins at least two of those games and doesn't slip against another lower-tier opponent, the NIT should be the highest of John Groce's ambitions this year.
This week's game of the week
Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN: Maryland at Indiana
We thought about Iowa at Wisconsin here, but next week's date at Carver should be the more interesting of the two meetings. In this matchup between the Terrapins and Hoosiers, we've got two teams both staking out some prime real estate for essentially the first time all year; Maryland's looking to legitimize its Big Ten title dreams, and Indiana's suddenly a Top 25 team. Whose ascension will last longer? Who should Iowa worry about more? This one's very worth watching.