Hello Big Ten hoops fans, have you experienced dizziness from multiple upsets, heartburn after losses and the inevitable morning sickness from your team's performance the night before? Not to mention the strange, late night cravings for more? You are not alone.
Through the first third of the league schedule, only three games separate the Big Ten's first-place team from the two teams sharing the conference cellar. The results have been anything but predictable, but the conference standings are not that far off from preseason predictions. Michigan leads the pack with a 5-2 conference record. Thanks to last place Penn State upsetting Illinois, 54-52, at the Bryce Jordan Center last night, the Illini join a crowd of four teams at 4-2 in second place. Ohio State has avoided bad losses to remain a leader while Wisconsin, a major outlier previously, is knocking on the door as well.
Wisconsin is riding a three-game winning streak of its own to pull the Badgers into sole possession of sixth place. Unfortunately for UW, Illinois' loss means the Illini will be out for blood on Sunday when the Badgers comes to town.
Five games this weekend are a step toward solidifying tiers in the conference, but will not do much to clarify the overall pecking order.
Tomrrow's Purdue at Michigan State tilt is the biggie. The winner will tie the Wolverines atop the league standings at 5-2 because Michigan plays out of conference (at Arkansas) on Saturday. The loser falls to the muddled middle. Ohio State is expected to beat Nebraska in Lincoln in the third Saturday game to cause a three-way tie for first.
On Sunday, Indiana tries to snap its own three-game skid and reassert itself as a conference heavyweight. Tom Crean will be happy to be at home in Bloomington against Penn State. In the late afternoon game, two struggling team put hopes for an NCAA tournament bid on the line when Minnesota hosts Northwestern.
This is what the Big Ten could conceivably look like come Monday morning with all the home teams -- except Nebraska -- holding serve. That would set up a massively important home game for Wisconsin next week with Indiana.
Now let's look at the bizarro world, where road teams all win. Things look much rosier for Bucky.
The difference between the two outcomes is only two spots on the leaderboard, but a world of difference in reality. Winning in Champaign is a tall order (especially with the home team coming off a tough loss), but I hope the Badgers realize what a great opportunity they have to improve their lot in the Big Ten race.
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