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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  • Tom

    Is this what IU fans are down to now? Guessing what other teams, most which we dislike immensely, will win the Big 10. I refuse to participate.

  • the bus driver

    i think wisconsin will get at least a share of it, hopefully they win it outright. I was really praying for the club trillion guy and ohio state to pull it off almost as like a consolation prize for the hoosiers being so far out of it. i guess i just hope the winner is anyone but purdue, and you could throw illinois in there too (i hate you, bruce webber).

  • IUonetwo

    (As much as I hate to say it) I have trouble seeing Purdue walking out without at least a share of the title.
    My prediction:
    1. Purdue
    2. MSU
    3. Wisconsin
    4. Ohio State
    5. Illinois

  • Well the one thing I love is when Purdue looses. When they lost three straight it was great. Although being a basketball fan I will admit they have a great team and I believe they are the best and deepest team in the conference. I hate to say that. I thought they would loose at michigan state for sure…didn't happen. Last night I was just waiting for Ohio State to make their run…they did…but fell short (thanks to missed free throws by good free throw shooters).

    Now looking at their schedule they have a home court advantage down the stretch. Now that doesn't mean they can run away with it. Illinois did beat Wisconson at home and Michigan State, I'm sure, can and will be looking to return the home court loss. I also like at Minnesota as a potential sleeper loss. The Gophers haven't lived up to expectations and playing at the barn isn't easy.

    I guess the part I hate about it all is Purdue played IU without Creek. They Played wisconson at Mackey without their big man. They played Minnestota without sampson the III. They played Michigan State without Lucas being 100%. They just seemed to have the right team at the right time.

    All in all, there is nothing that would make me happier this season than Purdue not winning the big ten. Loosing in the Sweet 16 and having Moore, Hummel, or Johnson go pro.

  • GFDave

    The more that time passes the more I've come to dislike most of these teams and coaches for a variety of reasons:

    1. What's not to dislike about O$U? Matta can recruit. Coach? Not so much.
    2. Purdue. Well, its Purdue. Pork Chop is a good coach, their kids are from the state. But OMG, it is PUke after all and I can't hope that they win. Its implanted.
    3. Wisconsin. Bo Ryan cries over there on the bench all game while his players mug and knife the other team. Too many alligator tears for me. They always get upset in the NCAA by a team with quicker athletes.
    4. Illinois. What? Under what conditions could an Indiana person cheer for the CryinIllini? I'd take PUke over them. Brucie, Brucie, Brucie!
    5. I don't hate MSU and I do respect Izzo, so I'm going with Sparty.

  • BigRed3588

    I'm with you on this one, MSU is the only other BT team that I can stomach…

  • galenascott

    I am an IU fan; but, I am not trashing Purdue! Go Boilers! Win the Big Ten Conference! I thought Matt out-coached Matta last night.

  • HoosierSmitty

    Look, Purdue has a fantastic team, guys. It sucks that they do and we don't, I know, but that's just a fact of the matter. If you watch them play, they are balanced, tough, and disciplined.

    My respect for them doesn't stop me from rooting against them immensely anytime I watch them play. That will never change. I don't care if it it's the ACC/Big Ten Challenge or the NCAA Tournament – I just can't do it.

    Last night I was begging for Ohio State to complete that run and finish the comeback, but they didn't and Purdue hung on. So give Purdue credit where it's due.

    I'll keep rooting against them, but that doesn't keep me from respecting them.

    If Purdue wins out, I think they take the title outright – and with two home games, there's a pretty good chance that happens. I don't see Ohio State winning at Michigan State. Obviously, if that happens, then the Buckeyes would tie with the Boilers, but as athletic as OSU is, I don't see it happening.

  • I was born and raised in Indiana and I bleed cream and crimson. The Indiana Hoosiers will always be the team I am passionate about. But, I root for the other teams in Indiana as long as they are not playing the Hoosiers. I hope Purdue wins the title this year and brings the trophy back to the Hoosier State. The state of Indiana needs to be back on top of the basketball world where it belongs.

  • Kreigh_Smiths_Short_Shorts

    This is just too painful to deal with.

  • aceman07

    I just go ahead and pull slightly for the in state team even though it is Purdue! I didn't used to do that when I was younger but I guess I've mellowed. I have to admit they are the deepest team and after the win at MSU I think they have it sewed up even though things look pretty good for WISC with just one tough game left. So, I'll say Purdue and I can't root against them to win the Big Ten although I will root against them come tourney time because I like the fact that they've never won the NCAA tournament!