Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Ten Power Poll 2009, Week 4

1. Michigan State (6-1)
The Sparties currently still look like the conference's best team, redeeming a terrible home loss to Northwestern with a crushing road win over Ohio State. It looks like Spartans' Weblog was right: just throw that NU loss out as a statistical aberration until any further evidence of weakness comes in.

2. Illinois (5-2)

The fightin' Illini had a lot to do with other teams bad weeks, as they put the dagger into both Ohio State and Wisconsin. Granted that both games were home games that Illinois should be winning, if you look at the earlier road win at Purdue, Illinois is definitely the second best team in the conference right now. And if comes down to the end of the season for the conference title, they host Michigan State in their last home game.

3. Purdue (4-2)

Slowly climbing back into this thing with a nice road win at Minnesota. If they can follow that up with a road win at Wisconsin, the Boilers are truly back in conference title contention. But they probably need to win at Illinois in a couple of weeks before they move any further up the rankings.

4. Minnesota (5-3)

A loss followed by a narrow win at Indiana. Honestly, if Indiana hits its free-throws, Minnesota's NCAA tourney chances would've taken a serious hit. But for now, they're coasting along despite the home loss to Purdue. And yet, with Wisconsin and Ohio State tanking, they might still lack a solid conference victory at this point.

5. Wisconsin (3-4)
Incredibly, a Bo Ryan team now has four conference straight losses. The Badgers have to rally in a home game against Purdue if they want to stay in the NCAA at-large bid conversation. The road loss to Illinois was perhaps to be expected, but that OT loss at Iowa really stings. I think Joe Krabbenhoft has to step up and ask for the ball a little more.

6. Ohio State (3-4)
OSU started conference play with a not-great week, then had a bad week, followed it with a really good week, and now have had another bad weekin getting both by MSU (at home) and at Illinois. Neither is really a bad loss, but neither was close either. Thad Matta has to get his guys to bounce back and start being competitive, because a good stretch in the schedule is approaching and they could put together a much-needed win streak.

7. Penn State (5-3)

The home wins over Michigan and Iowa don't do anything to move them up the standings. If they sweep their Michigan road trip they'll get a big bump up, but I don't see that happening. Jamelle Cornley is finally starting to play like the senior star he is, but the Nittany Lions' fortunes rise and fall with their three-point shooting.

8. Michigan (4-4)

The Wolverines snapped their losing streak with a nice win over Northwestern. But Michigan also absorbed a loss at PSU and is looking more and more like a NIT team than a NCAA contender. Manny Harris is still filling up the stat sheets, but the UM defense needs a bit of tightening, I think.

9. Northwestern (2-5)

Two straight wins over ranked teams wasn't be translated into any momentum as NU couldn't win at Michigan. But that win at MSU will remain one of the best wins the Wildcats have ever notched. When I watched the first game against the Spartans, I thought to myself "why is Coble shooting so often?" Now I know. Conference opponents have been warned.

10. Iowa (2-5)
Even though the Hawkeyes are stuck between the mediocre (PSU, NU, Michigan) and the really bad (Indiana), they seem to be coming on a little stronger as their finally getting so inside play from former reserves (first David Palmer, and Aaron Fuller vs. PSU). But as Lickliter's still getting little production out of their bench on any given game, and Cyrus Tate remains injured, the season's outlook still isn't bright for this club. The OT over Wisconsin was nice, though, even if the collapse at PSU took a little of the luster off.

11. Indiana (0-6)
Another close loss in the only game of the week, hosting Minnesota. The Hoosiers haven't given up, but they just aren't as good of a team as everyone else in the conference. The next week-and-a-half holds the very best chances for this club to notch a conference win: at Northwestern, home vs. a slumping Ohio State, and on Feb. 4th, a home match vs. Iowa.


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