Some Big 10 B-Ball thoughts for the Holiday
Announcing the first HFB Big 10 Power Poll!
1. Wisconsin (4-0)
No real games yet, but they've handled the competition they've been faced with as they're supposed to. 6-7 Joe Krabbenhaft is starting to look like the top-20 recruit the Badgers thought they were getting last year. I think Bo Ryan's team is in a class of its own at the top right now, despite OSU's way-too-high #3 national ranking.
2. Ohio State (5-0)
No Greg Oden, but they're playing well enough. Not much for inside scoring, but they haven't needed it. Othello Hunter is holding down the middle capably, and Ivan Harris is rebounding surprisingly well. Big upside, but not terribly intimidating without Oden.
3. Illinois (5-0)
Lots of injuries/suspensions early, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad news for Bruce Weber. Defense still looks pretty good, but the Illini are not rebounding as well as in the past. But they've basically played an exhibition schedule up to this point. Once they 1) start getting guys back and 2) start playing some real games, we'll see if they're actually this good, or even better.
4. Michigan (5-0)
Not a totally creampuff schedule, but pretty close as Davidson and Wisconsin-Milwaukee aren't the teams they were 2 years ago. Courtney Sims is doing well against inferior competition, but currently owns 1:8 Assist-to-turnover ratio. Ick. Sleeper frosh Ekpe Udoh is showing a nice upside.
5. Michigan State (5-1)
Don't underestimate Izzo! Altho, as I warned in the preseason, don't overestimate Texas. But this aside, this is a relatively thin squad with not much to improve upon from here. Goran Suton showing a touch inside would be welcome, but on the other hand, I wouldn't expect the Sparties' 3-pt. shooting to stay at 45.2% (especially given their shooting performance against Vermont last night). A light pre-conference schedule might ensure a NIT bid, but I'm not sold on this being a NCAA team.
6. Indiana (3-1)
Mixed results against less-than-solid opponents. Butler gunned down both Notre Dame and IU with last-minute threes (the one against IU banked in from 23 feet at the shot clock buzzer), but IU managed to outlast Indiana State (at home) for the first time in a while. The game at Duke, win or lose, should really demonstrate these Hoosiers' true character.
7. Penn State (3-1)
PSU can't be judged fairly until they get star forward Geary Claxton back. But without him, they don't look too great. Bright side in Brandon Hassell finally giving Coach DeChellis some quality minutes inside, even if he fouled out in 22, like against Bucknell yesterday.
8. Purdue (3-1)
Transfer Gordon Watt is giving Carl Landry some help inside, but they're what, a 6-6 front line? That'll be trouble come conference play. Frosh Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer are going to be good, but they're still freshmen. Purdue was just torched by Georgia Tech's pressure, showing almost no ability get rebounds or shoot threes (4-24). They bounced back decently against Oklahoma, 'tho, primarily on the back of Landry, but OU is not expected even to make the NIT.
9. Iowa (2-2)
F/C Kurt Looby has been an eye-opening performer. However, they just aren't very good without Mike Henderson so far, and even his return won't bring them the interior scoring they so desperately need.
10. Minnesota (2-1)
The exhibition loss aside, the Gophers are looking a little better, but still not really looking tough or showing any ability to shoot, for that matter. Not really sure what to make of this team yet, but outside of Lawrence McKenzie, there's not a lot to fear here. The loss last night against Iowa State could fall into the fluke category, but on the other hand, I don't really think that either team will make the NIT.
11. Northwestern (2-2)
How about Tim Doyle? TD leads the Wildcats in every single statistical category (Pts, Rebs, Assts, Blocks, Steals, Fouls, & Turnovers). But shooting is a problem for him (37% overall, 16.7% on 3s) & the whole team (41.1% overall & 31.6% on 3s). If NU can adjust its shooting, it could escape the cellar spot it seems destined for.