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Big Ten Basketball Report: Week 7

There are certain truths that come to light around this time, and this year one of them is as easy to see as Bruce Weber’s orange blazers: The Big Ten is extraordinarily weak. Whereas it seemed possible early in the season to expect six and maybe seven teams to creep into the Dance come March, it now seems like the conference will be lucky to send five, and a lot of that might just depend on how much parity will come into play across the country, and how well Big Ten teams play on the road.

We are now finished with the pre-season, and conference play begins Wednesday with three games that will be the start of what looks to be a very sloppy and potentially disappointing Big Ten season.

Here is why:

1. The top team in the conference doesn’t look like a Top Ten team. Michigan State has been impressive — especially the with big road wins versus BYU, Missouri and Bradley — but they squandered their chance to make a statement against UCLA when they dropped the last five minutes of the game off a cliff. If Tom Izzo expects that his team will just waltz into the Final Four again, he will need to make sure that Neitzel starts to not only score big points but consistently command the floor the way that he did in their win versus Texas at home. It’s possible, but it will take work.

2. The bottom four has become the bottom six. Initially it seemed like Iowa, Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern would be the teams to beat up on, but given the state of affairs in Champaign and West Lafayette the past two weeks, you might as well throw them into the mix as well. Purdue loses to Wofford at home, Illinois drops not one but two games to the likes of Tennessee State and Miami (OH) in Assembly Hall and now you have a situation where upper echelon Big Ten teams start smacking their lips at the thought of picking up a road win or two against teams that historically defend their home court like a lion’s den. If the Boilers and Illini don’t make big time runs in the conference, the NIT will become their fate. For Purdue, this would be acceptable given the fact that they start four freshmen and a sophomore, but for the Illini, Bruce Weber and Ron Guenther better fill up a decanter of scotch and start brainstorming soon. Illini Nation is pissed. It wasn’t apparent yet because of the excitement that led up to the football team playing in the Rose Bowl. Now that the parade is over and the royal ass whooping was firmly planted in the record books (literally: Illinois gave up more yards and points than any other team in Pasadena this year), there will be a lot of people calling for Weber’s head, lest he pulls a 12–6 conference season out of his ass.

3. Minnesota isn’t all that good. Their record is deceiving. Against teams that matter, they are 0–2. And the teams that they did play to get them their ten wins are not what one considers to be a tough non-conference schedule. Kennesaw State? Nicholls State? California Riverside? Beating up on community colleges and Div. II schools won’t impress any committee in any year. Tubby Smith will also be opening a decanter of scotch with athletic director Joel Maturi come March to make sure that they start to schedule games against teams that can actually be highlighted and linked up on

4. Indiana will falter down the stretch. Kelvin Sampson is a cheater, sure. And his day of reckoning will come. It’s his inability to coach as a T-E-A-M that makes this apparent. Eric Gordon, as good as he is, doesn’t play like he wants to win. He plays like he wants to pad his statistics. The wins aren’t all that impressive either, and their only real challenge thus far ended up in a spanking by Xavier that handed them their only loss. Watch for a high-seed upset in the tournament come March.

In the end, it will be hard to say where the Big Ten will land come Selection Sunday. I am going to give the conference the benefit of the doubt and say that five teams make it in, with the wild card being Purdue, Illinois or Ohio State snatching up a coveted slot after a deep run in the conference tournament. But I wouldn’t put any money on it, and neither should you.

Let’s see what’s on tap for January 1–6.

Last Week’s Record: 11–5
Season Record: 68–18


Wisconsin 81
Michigan 74

Northwestern 58
Penn State 54

Indiana 67
Iowa 63


Ohio State 76
Illinois 70


Wisconsin 83
Iowa 73

Purdue 77
Michigan 72

Michigan State 89
Minnesota 71


Ohio State 68
Northwestern 60

Illinois 65
Penn State 61

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