Imagine, if you will, a B5Q blog post about a sport where the Badgers have managed to hang on to a coach for more than two years; a sport where the AD is no threat to take over and coach the team's post-season. There is such a sport, and it is college basketball. You are now entering The Friday Facts -- a football-free zone.
The Friday Facts
Last week I lamented that we were unlikely to learn much about the Big Ten in the upcoming week. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, Michigan lost home games to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, Purdue lost at home to North Florida, and Nebraska lost to Incarnate Word.
So what did we learn? At the very least, I think, we can scratch Michigan (and Purdue and especially Nebraska) from the list of potential challengers to Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. As you can see, Michigan has fallen to ninth in the Big Ten standings in terms of T-Rank, and they're even worse in terms of adjusted efficiency margin (that's the EM+/Game column). Michigan's preseason T-Rank is still giving them just enough of a boost to stay ahead of Indiana, but if they continue to perform like they have so far, they'll drop even further.
Is Michigan a bubble team? All I can say is that they've played like one so far. Very few teams that lose multiple home games to teams the caliber of EMU and NJIT will earn an at-large berth to the Dance. If Michigan loses to Arizona and goes 9-9 in Big Ten play, they'll be 17-13 heading into the Big Ten tournament. That's bubblicious. As a result, next week's neutral court game against SMU (another preseason top-25 team that is reeling toward the bubble) could be mandatory win.
Of course, this week will probably bring more surprises that instantly obviate these musings. Speaking of which...
This Week's B1G Games
Here are the top games involving Big Ten teams this week:
|12/12||23 Iowa St. @ 18 Iowa||Iowa, 82-76 (69%)||80|
|12/13||53 Cincinnati @ 88 Nebraska||Nebraska, 61-60 (52%)||71|
|12/14||59 George Washington @ 115 Penn St.||George Washington, 69-68 (56%)||71|
|12/13||28 Purdue @ 94 Vanderbilt||Purdue, 64-61 (66%)||66|
|12/13||72 Oregon @ 26 Illinois||Illinois, 79-69 (82%)||63|
|12/13||44 Michigan @ 12 Arizona||Arizona, 73-62 (85%)||61|
Tonight's game between Iowa and Iowa State figures to be a good one, although Iowa State's suspension of star Bryce Dejean-Jones takes off some of the luster. It's a big chance for Iowa to get a resume-building win -- especially since few will remember that the win came when the Cyclones were shorthanded.
Nebraska has something approaching a must-win game against Cincinnati on Saturday. T-Rank calls it a toss up. Perhaps Nebraska is due for some good fortune. But don't bet on it.
The Michigan/Arizona game comes in a little lower in the Torvik Thrill Quotient than you might expect, mainly because Michigan seems so unlikely to win now that they've fallen into mediocrity. But Arizona has not exactly knocked anyone's socks off yet this year. Are they vulnerable to an upset, given that Michigan will be desperate to prove themselves? I've got a funny feeling that they are. (I should probably see a doctor about that.)
Illinois gets a decent home test against a mediocre Oregon squad. The Illini have continued to do enough to remain plausible darkhorse contenders in the Big Ten, but I'm waiting for their annual collapse. Maybe it starts this week, but probably not.
Penn State has somehow managed to go 9-1 so far, but they remain relegated to the Big Ten's bottom tier according to T-Rank for two reasons. First, none of their nine wins are against T-Rank top 100 teams. (Northwestern is the only other B1G team that has failed to notch a top 100 win. Yep, even Rutgers has one with their win over Vandy.) Second, most of their sub-100 wins have been down-to-the-wire affairs. Look at their current seven-game winning streak, during which they've amassed a total margin of victory of 24 points. Who knows -- maybe Penn State just has moxie. If so, they'll have another chance to show it on Sunday against George Washington, in what figures to be another close game.
Other Games of Note
|12/13||14 Utah @ 13 Kansas||Kansas, 72-67 (66%)||82|
|12/13||8 North Carolina @ 1 Kentucky||Kentucky, 75-61 (91%)||81|
|12/13||7 Gonzaga @ 51 UCLA||Gonzaga, 80-73 (73%)||78|
|12/17||25 San Diego St. @ 53 Cincinnati||San Diego St., 54-53 (51%)||76|
|12/13||45 Oklahoma St. @ 71 Memphis||Memphis, 69-67 (56%)||75|
|12/13||22 Oklahoma @ 75 Tulsa||Oklahoma, 66-63 (64%)||74|
|12/13||33 Northern Iowa @ 38 VCU||VCU, 68-65 (62%)||72|
Utah has been one of the real pleasant surprises out west, and they cemented their status as a team to watch last week with a convincing win at BYU. On Saturday they get another huge test, at Kansas (in Kansas City). Kansas has been pretty impressive -- with wins over Michigan State, Florida, and Georgetown -- since their opening week debacle against Kentucky. Should be a good one.
Speaking of Kentucky, they got some terrible news last night: Alex Poythress is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL. Of course, Kentucky is the deepest team in the country, perhaps in the history of college basketball, so they are uniquely capable of surviving an injury like this. But Poythress was one of their only upperclassmen. The truly scary thing about Kentucky this year was that they had all that raw young talent, plus a fair serving of experience and leadership -- somewhat similar to their last championship team. The Poythress injury takes out a bit of their experience and leadership.
The timing couldn't be much worse for Kentucky, as they now head into the toughest three-game stretch of their season: North Carolina tomorrow, then UCLA and at Louisville prior to the SEC season starting. They should still win the first two games, but I'm hoping they get unlucky and lose all three. Then we'll really get a chance to see how well Calipari can handle all that talent, when the going gets tough.