Monday, January 28, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll Week 4

A theme... gotta come up with a theme... in-depth analysis? No, too much. Smacks of effort.
Half-assed analysis and near-arbitrary rankings?
That's just crazy enough to work!

1. Wisconsin (6-1)

How do the Badgers go to Purdue, drop a half-game back from IU in the standings, and still stay on top? Well, this ranking has less to do with UW's road loss to a middling-to-good Big Ten team than with Indiana's home loss to a middling Big East team or Michigan State's loss to a mediocre-at-best Iowa squad. The Badgers were in it right to the end at Purdue, and were nearly the first team to win at Mackey. That said, all of the top three teams are flawed, and I think picking any of three is defensible.

2. Indiana (6-0)
The only undefeated conference team doesn't look to stay that way for long as the Badgers will be coming off a close loss and looking to stay in the conference race. If the Hoosiers win at Wisconsin, it means two things: 1) IU's the best team in Big Ten, and 2) The Big Ten ain't so great this year.

3. Michigan State (6-1)
The Sparties are tough, and I could see making an argument that they're now the best team in the conference. However, they're in the midst of a rather easy stretch of conference games, and until they win all of these games AND beat Wisconsin or Indiana (or win them all and get a road win at Ohio State or Purdue) to redeem that ugly Iowa road loss, I've got real trouble thinking of these guys as a legit #1.

4. Ohio State (5-2)

It might seem unfair that I'm ranking OSU ahead of Purdue here, but this is a ranking of who I think the best teams are, and how they're likely to stand at the end of the season. If it were the Big Ten Regurgitation of Conference Standings Poll, then sure, Purdue should be fourth. But I think Ohio State's better, and if these two are matching up in the 4-5 Big Ten Tourney game, I'd put money on the Buckeyes and game-changer Jamar Butler.

5. Purdue (6-1)
Purdue got a nice win over Wisconsin, in the most fairly-refereed contest I've seen yet at Mackey. The fact that Purdue players were incredulous over the body-checking fouls called on the perimeter should tell you what kind of kid-gloves treatment they've come to expect. But seriously, Matt Painter has given this program a bright future come back in two weeks and see how these two teams look.

6. Minnesota (2-4)
The Gophers are entering a crucial stretch. If they succeed and win the next four games (at Mich., v. Wis., at NU, v. Iowa) they could start to make an argument for an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney. Lose three of the four, and the NIT might be a long-shot. Tubby Smith has this club looking dangerous, but so far the Gophers don't haven't gotten any good wins.

7. Iowa (3-5)
Enjoy it, Hawkeye fans. This may be the high point of your season. The next four games all look like probable losses, except for perhaps the home game against Ohio State. While Iowa should be feeling good about its win over Penn State, it should recognize that Jeff Peterson and Seth Gorney aren't always going to make 7 of 7 from the field and 13 of 13 from the stripe. But this is better than I thought they'd be.

8. Illinois (2-6)
A tune-up against Northwestern will help anyone's confidence, but scoring 70 points and still winning by 33? Yeeowza! The game at Michigan State might bring them down a peg, but then they host Purdue and Indiana. Winning two of the next three could be what's needed to save the season for the Illini.

9. Penn State (2-5)
The Nittany Lions shouldn't have used up all of their threes against Indiana. How is this team going to look without Geary Claxton? Much like it looked with him... last year. That's not pretty.

10. Michigan (1-7)

Losing by 15 at MSU is nothing to hang one's head about, even if the Sparties are your conference rival. There are occasional signs of life here, and Anthony Wright's three-point touch may have come too late for this season, but it's another reason to think that the Wolverines aren't going to reside in the basement forever under John Beilien.

11. Northwestern (0-7)

Oh, man. Why did Kevin Coble even come back this season? He maybe should've just taken a redshirt. Bill Carmody's a stand-up guy by all accounts, but is he the coach for the future of this young-and-not-at-all good team? Show some life, please!


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