January 2, 2008

Big Ten Basketball - FINALLY!

And we have reached 2008 which means we can finally watch some Big Ten Basketball (at least those of you with BTN can watch).

HERE was my Big Ten Preseason Preview. For the most part I'm sticking with my predictions. If I would change anything I'd bump Mich St. from 3rd to 2nd and I'd bump Penn State to 8th ahead of Michigan. But I still have Wisconsin winning it all and Michigan State taking the B10 Tourney.

After a dozen or so non-conference games this is what the conference rankings look like...

Records KenPom Rank RPI SOS AP Poll
Michigan St 12-1 14 12 52 6
Wisconsin 10-2 4 15 27 25
Ohio St 9-3 42 23 19
Indiana 11-1 11
44 195 11
Minnesota 10-2 32 50 198
Illinois 8-5 35
113 96
Penn St 8-4 70 135 173
Purdue 9-4 83 147 227
Michigan 4-8 139 183 35
Northwestern 5-4 176 187 172
Iowa 7-6 153 235 252

I don't think that very many people will argue that the conference breaks down into 3 distinct groups. The likelihood that any teams will move up or down is pretty slim, here is how it breaks down...

NCAA Tourney Teams (Wis, MichSt, Ind, Ohio St)

These teams would really have to screw things up to fall out of the Tourney. Michigan State and Wisconsin are both balanced, well coached, deep and has enough star power that they could make a run deep into March. Indiana has the star power and they could easily ride Air Gordon and shoot their way into the 2nd weekend but I see 2nd round upset written on this team. Ohio State has been inconsistent thus far but I like their young talent with a couple experienced leaders and a scoring post. This team could fall to the bubble or make a deep run, they are just hard to get a handle on at this point.

Bubble Team = NIT (Minn, Pur, Ill)

This is the mediocre middle. If one of these three teams can separate and get a win or two from the first group they might have a happy Selection Sunday. My money is on all 3 heading to the NIT and the Big Ten only taking 4 teams to the Big Dance.

Minnesota has three things going for it. Tubby Smith, 3 experienced & talented seniors and Tubby Smith. Playing well on the road has been a serious issue dating back to last season's 1-10 road record, getting to 10 conference wins will be tough especially if they have to go 9-0 at home. Purdue is talented but young. They beat a ranked Louisville and played ranked Clemson to within 3 on the road. But losses to Wofford and Iowa State, both at home, are resume killers. The Boilermaker defense has been very good but their inability to score will be a problem. Illinois is another team that has been up and down. The Illini took Arizona to OT, beat Missouri and OK St but then lost to Miami(OH) and Tenn State!? From my perspective Illinois is treated like a team destined for the tourney but they aren't playing like they belong. They rebound well and they have played solid defense but they don't shoot well.

If we start looking at resumes now here is my take...

Minnesota - no bad losses, no good wins, needs 10-8 in Big Ten and a B10 Tourney win
Purdue - 2 bad losses (Woff and ISU), 1 good win, 10-8 might get them in, 11-7 would
Illinois - 2-bad losses (Miami(OH) and TennSt), decent win over Missouri, needs 12-6 conference record and would get in

Fighting for .500 and NIT - (Penn St, Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa)

This is the bottom 4 and should remain that way. If anybody moves up it would likely be Penn State. Geary Claxton is REALLY good but the one man show wasn't enough against teams like Rider and Central Florida so I don't expect much different in conference play. Northwestern is getting their best player back on the floor and they are hopeful that will make a difference but not much. One guy can only do so much and he hasn't been playing with his teammates all year there just isn't time for adjusting. Michigan and Iowa are really in their own group. I'd call it the Tim Brewster group. New coach trying to implement a new system that just doesn't jive with the roster. Michigan offers some talent while Iowa is in complete free fall.

Penn St = NIT
the rest = nothing

My deeper thoughts on Minnesota will come in the next couple days.

Early Games to Watch

none: nobody in the top 4 play each other till Jan. 15th (OSU v MSU)

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