Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Big Ten Power Poll 11.23.2010

Here is my ballot for this week's Big 10 Power Poll, which you can find over on Myron Medcalf's blog on startribune.com each week.  Last week's is here.

1.  Ohio State Buckeyes.  That win over Florida last week is still the best win of any Big Ten team, and the 19-point win over Morehead State is nice as well.  Plus, have you seen these guys play?  Yikes.

2.  Minnesota Gophers.  North Carolina's loss to Vanderbilt took a little of the luster off the Gophers win, but the weekend in Puerto Rico served notice to the Big Ten that Minnesota is a contender with five wins over possible tournament teams already.  Even in the traditionally physical Big Ten, I'm not sure who can deal with the size and skill combination the Gophers can bring.

3.  Illinois Fighting Illini.  Nothing wrong with a third-place finish in the Coaches vs. Cancer classic, especially when your win is over Maryland and your loss was to Texas in OT.  If one of the trio of wings emerges (Brandon Paul, Jereme Richmond, DJ Richardson) they're going to be lethal.

4.  Purdue Boilermakers.   While most of the rest of the Big Ten contenders are playing in high quality tournaments against NCAA Tournament caliber competition, Purdue played Austin Peay in the Chicago Invitational Challenge.  What ever happened to challenging yourself when you think you're a national title contender?  I should knock them down another couple of spots on general principle.

5.  Michigan State Spartans.  Struggling against Chaminade and losing to UCONN in Maui shows that the Spartans aren't bulletproof, particularly since they lost to UCONN in late game meltdown fashion.  Talentwise they're still in the top 2, but results-wise they're closer to the middle; although there's little doubt Izzo will have them back at the top soon enough.

6.  Wisconsin Badgers.  Wisconsin's loss to UNLV over the weekend wasn't necessarily unexpected - on the road against a probably NCAA Tournament team - but it does drop them to the bottom of the contenders list.  They have a great opportunity to build their resume over Thanksgiving at the Old Spice Classic because they should be one of the two best teams in the field (along with Temple).

7.  Michigan Wolverines.  Bumping Michigan to the top of the lower tier this week, because even though they haven't played a quality opponent they have taken care of business with an average margin of victory of 24 points in their three games.  Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris are starting to look like a dynamic back court; it'll be interesting to see how they do against Syracuse on Friday.

8.  Northwestern Wildcats.  Still haven't played anybody, and haven't looked all that impressive in their wins over cupcakes, struggling to a win over Texas-Pan American.  With their horrid non-conference schedule, the Wildcats' margin for error is razor thin.

9.  Indiana Hoosiers.  They're beating up on bad teams, which is an improvement from last year at least.  Maurice Creek hasn't been the same player he was last year before he got hurt, but his 19 point outburst against Evansville is a sign that he may still get back to that level.

10.  Penn State Nittany Lions.  Yet another team that hasn't played anybody, and even with that soft schedule they don't have a 20-point win.  On the bright side, it's looking like Penn State might have a breakout star (and some help for Talor Battle) in forward Jeff Brooks, who's averaging 17 points a game after putting up just 7.4 last year.

11.  Iowa Hawkeyes.  When I saw Iowa beat Alabama, a supposed tournament team this year, I thought I was going to have to move them up.  Then the Tide lost to a terrible terrible terrible St. Peter's team, Iowa lost to Dan Monson and Long Beach, and everything suddenly made sense.  Even with Gatens back, this is a very poor Iowa squad.

Upcoming this week:

Michigan State will play in the third place game at the Maui Invitational against the loser of Washington and Kentucky.  That's still an opportunity to get a high quality win, and for the Spartans to reassert themselves as a final four contender.  A 1-2 trip isn't disastrous, but would be a huge disappointment.

Another tournament goer is Wisconsin, who travels to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic.  There are bunch of middling teams involved this year, and Wisconsin and Temple should end up the class of tournament, but wins over most of the other teams (Cal, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M in particular) are going to be good wins come March.  Big opportunity for the Badgers here.

Basically only three other games of note the rest of the week:  Michigan will play Syracuse in New Jersey, Penn State will play at Ole Miss, and Northwestern welcomes Creighton to Evanston.  For the Wildcats it's their first opponent worth a damn, while Penn State needs wins of that caliber if they want to grab an NCAA bid, and for the Wolverines we get to find out if they're any good. 

I'm gonna say no.

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