Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Big Ten Power Poll - 1.12.2011

My Big Ten rankings.  As per usual, you can find the overall poll on Myron Medcalf's blog at startribune.com, usually around mid-day Wednesday.

1.  Ohio State Buckeyes.  I'm still not sure how the Gophers managed to make there matchup with OSU a three-point game, but I'm not going to fault Ohio State for it.  The Buckeyes have a perfect blend of size, athleticism, shooting, ball-handling, and defense.  Their seventh man (DeShaun Thomas) would be a starter on every other Big Ten team, and the best player on more than a handful.  It's hard to envision any circumstance right now where they don't end up a #1 seed in March.

2.  Purdue Boilermakers.  They continue to impress me week after week with their play, but if you look at their schedule it's been kind of weak.  Even their start in the Big Ten (4-0) can partially be attributed to poor competition (vs. Northwestern and Iowa, at Michigan and Penn State).  This is a huge week for the Boilers, with trips to Minneapolis (vs. a upper division Big Ten squad) and Morgantown, WV (vs. an upper division Big East team).  We'll know a lot more about the Boilers come Sunday.

3.  Michigan State Spartans.  Season-changing win?  I'm not quite ready to go that far, but that's what the announcer on ESPN called it last night.  Things certainly weren't going well in Sparty-land, and with 2:39 left in the second half against Wisconsin last night with Michigan State down seven it looked like things were going to continue to get worse.  Maybe this is the win they needed to turn things around.

4.  Wisconsin Badgers.  An uncharacteristic late game collapse by a Bo Ryan team kept them from a huge road win last night at Michigan State, but even with that missed opportunity I think it's time to admit that Wisconsin belongs up with the contenders for the Big Ten crown.  God it kills me to admit that.  Bo Ryan must be some kind of wizard.

5.  Illinois Fighting Illini.  I'm still not quite buying into Illinois, mainly because they seem to turn the ball over at the worst times, they turn it over way too often, and Demetri McCamey is an asset for 38 minutes and then becomes a liability in the final two.  They'll win their home games, lose their road games to good teams, end up a 5 seed, and be upset by Utah State or something.

6.  Minnesota Gophers.  Thursday's home game against Purdue maybe isn't a must win, but it's certainly a must compete.  The Gophers have lost a lot of fans' confidence with lackluster play against poor teams and an understandably slow start.  I think most fans are patient but anxious, and a blow out at home by the Boilers will send a lot of fans metaphorically home for the season.  In any case, Sunday's match with Iowa is definitely a must-win.

7.  Northwestern Wildcats.  If their swiss cheese defense - worst in the conference in both scoring and shooting defense - doesn't keep them out of the NCAA Tournament, the ankle injury to John Shurna might.  Despite scoring 24 points last time out against Indiana something isn't right - he's grabbed a total of zero rebounds in the last two games combined.

8.  Penn State Nittany Lions.  This isn't the first time Talor Battle has put the Nittany Lions on his back and nearly single-handedly won a game for Penn State over his four years there, so last night's win over Illinois isn't a huge shock.  The interesting thing will be to see if it's more of an aberration (like the last 3 years) or if this mean's Penn State is really a contender for an at-large bid in March.  Back-to-back wins over contending teams says they might be for real. 

9.  Michigan Wolverines.  This is the team I'm having the hardest time ranking.  They were looking like the top of the bottom, the kind of team that beats up on the teams below them, but can't quite compete with the top level teams and I was comfortable with that.  Then they go and push one of the three or four best teams in the entire country, Kansas, to overtime.  Add in their near-win over Syracuse earlier this year, and they could be better than we think.  If they can hang with Ohio State when they come to Ann Arbor on Wednesday it may be time to start paying more attention here.

10.  Iowa Hawkeyes.  So far they're looking like a pesky team at home looking to finally grab an upset.  This could be the week with Northwestern in town.  Young guys, particularly freshmen Melsahn Basabe and Zack McCabae and sophomore Eric May, at least give Iowa hope for the future.

11.  Indiana Hoosiers.  I had high hopes for the Hoosiers as a sleeper coming into this year, but Maurice Creek is clearly not all the way healed and the rest of the talent is sub-par outside of Watford.  Cody Zeller can't get to Bloomington fast enough.  They have a rare chance to grab a Big 10 win this week with Michigan coming to town.

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