It was a pretty good week for the Big Ten, as long as you aren't a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes opened the Fran McCaffery era at home with a resounding thud of a loss to South Dakota State, 79-69, forcing just 10 turnovers and allowing the Jackrabbits to knock down 10 three-pointers. SDSU is not really supposed to contend in the Summit League, so this isn't a loss to a sneaky mid-major contender; this is a loss to a bad team by a really bad team. Suddenly my prediction of five total wins this year for Iowa is looking downright optimistic.
As far as the other teams go it was pretty much cupcake city. The best win definitely goes to our Minnesota Gophers, beating up the favorite to win the SoCon in Wofford, 69-55. Because of the mini-vacation that Mrs. W and I took (a vacation that ended up with us getting propositioned by swingers) I haven't had a chance to watch the game yet, but I have it on Tivo and will put some thoughts up on it soon, probably Tuesday to go along with any thoughts I have after the Siena game tonight. In any case, it was a nice win for the Gophers, and a good way to start the season. Particularly with the Devoe Joseph suspension it was important to start the year strong and they certainly did.
The other team worth highlighting here is the Illinois Fighting Illini. After struggling in their two exhibition games, the Illini seem to have hit their stride beating UC-Irvine by 14, Toledo by 39, and Southern Illinois by 18 to jump out to a 3-0 start. I still think Illinois is being overrated by a lot of people, but they are starting to look like a Big Ten contender.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
The Gophers take on Siena (previewed here) on Monday, and that kicks off a pretty good week of Big Ten hoops. On Tuesday Ohio State travels to #11 Florida in what should be a hell of a game, and then on Thursday a couple of tournaments get started: Minnesota goes to Puerto Rico to open against Sun Belt favorite Western Kentucky, hoping to get a second round matchup against North Carolina, while Illinois gets Texas (and then either Maryland or Pitt) in New York in the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney. Iowa travels to Xavier to get killed on Friday, while Penn State welcomes a sneaky Fairfield team that might end up walking away with an upset. Finally, the good games wrap up on Saturday with Wisconsin traveling to UNLV, and then the final Puerto Rico Tip-Off game for the Gophers, which will hopefully be the championship.
AROUND THE NATION
Not much in the way of marquee games or big upsets this past week, but Georgetown went into Old Dominion and won a battle of a game, while Temple knocked off Seton Hall in a game that way loom large when it comes time to talk bubbles at the end of the year. Other than that, the best win of the week (outside the Gopher win over Wofford) would probably go to Syracuse, who used a huge second half to beat a decent Northern Iowa team by 22. The Panthers aren't the class of Missouri Valley this year, but they'll be one of the better teams in the conference so beating them by over 20 is a nice win for the Orange.
Meanwhile, along with Iowa two other teams lost games they certainly shouldn't have: Siena getting beat by Vermont and Wake Forest losing to Stetson. While Wake was pretty much known this was going to be a rough year, I don't think anybody would have expected them to lose to a team like Stetson - a team that was legitimately one of the worst in the country last year and is usually right around that tier. The Siena loss is more puzzling because despite losing some key players they were still expected to be one of the better mid-major teams. Vermont isn't really supposed to contend in the American East, so this loss is a huge hit for Siena's at-large hopes already, and by extension will make a Gopher win over the Saints less impressive on paper.