Handicapping the race for the Big Ten title

  • 02/18/2010 3:19 pm in

NCAA Final Four Practice - Michigan State SpartansSo I know talking about the Big Ten title race is sort of like rubbing sea salt into an open wound for a lot of you right now.

But seeing as it’s actually pretty compelling right now, I thought it pertinent to get a discussion going here as to just who you all think will take home regular-season honors this season as we hit the stretch run. Just to set the stage:

Five teams are within 1 1/2 games of first place in the league. They are, in order: Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin. There are still games left to play between said contenders:

+ Michigan State: Ohio State, at Purdue.
+ Purdue: Michigan State, Illinois.
+ Ohio State: at Michigan State, Illinois.
+ Illinois: at Purdue, at Ohio State, Wisconsin.
+ Wisconsin: at Illinois.

Given the remaining schedule and the way things stand right now, a couple of things jump out. First, Wisconsin seems to have the easiest run in, with games left against Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa, but the Badgers are also that team 1 1/2 games out.

Purdue has won eight straight, including at Michigan State and at Ohio State. The Boilers look like a team that’s figuring everything out at just the right time, as we cliched sportswriters tend to say, and their lone remaining top-five conference games are at home.

Bruce Weber and Illinois looked hot — and they were, for a time — but now the Illini have to recover from a 19-point beating at home to the Buckeyes, who likewise will need a quick turnaround from a close home loss to Purdue when they head to East Lansing on Sunday.

It should also be fun to watch the Big Ten Player of the Year race develop down this final run of games, with Evan Turner probably in a comfortable lead but Kalin Lucas healthy, perhaps with something to say about it, and E’Twaun Moore playing better and better at Purdue. It will likely be Turner, but I’m just sayin’.

On its face, the Big Ten appears to be Purdue’s to lose right now. The Boilers are the hottest team in the conference, possess impressive balance and have a favorable remaining schedule. Michigan State’s trip to West Lafayette sets up like a potential regular-season title game.

What’s not likely in all this is for Indiana to have much impact. The Hoosiers only have two games remaining against those five teams, a home game against Wisconsin and the March 3 trip to Purdue.

Anyway, wanted to open this up to you guys, see what you thought. Obviously, it’s not directly Indiana-related, but it should still be a heckuva finish, wanted to get your thoughts.

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