Monday, February 09, 2009

Big Ten Power Poll 2009, Week 6

1. Michigan State (9-2)
On one hand, the Spartans looked pretty good beating down Minnesota and Indiana while not at top strength. On the other, a quite rough stretch of the schedule approaches. IF MSU does not win at Michigan, they must 1) at least split the home-and-home with Purdue, and 2) either win at Illinois or hope OSU beats Illinois while also losing to Purdue, while 3) avoiding any other upsets, in order to claim the regular season Big Ten conference title. But the good news for MSU fans is that Tom Izzo is in the driver's seat, and he knows how to get it done.

2. Illinois (7-4)
Thrashing Purdue at home gives the Illini a nose into second place. They've got the schedule to finish strong, and should be a lock for the NCAA tourney. However, catching Michigan State for the conference title is now probably out of the question.

3. Purdue (6-4)
Robbie Hummel's back issues have got to be terrifying Boiler fans. Without him, Purdue just isn't as good. Jajaun Johnson is doing a nice job inside, but Moore & Grant aren't quite where they were last season, and there's no real back-up for Hummel inside. Getting beat in OT at OSU, and even getting thrashed at Illinois is understandable, but PU has to turn this around before this turns into a streak.

4. Ohio State (7-4)
Nothing like a couple of big home wins to boost your chances. The OT win vs. Purdue was crucial to confirming OSU place in the upper division of the conference. However, they'd really be helped by notching a couple more road wins, which looks quite do-able (last four OSU road games: Wis., NU, Pur, Iowa).

5. Minnesota (6-5)
This Gopher squad is now seemingly in free-fall, with the Illinois win sandwiched by a lot of bad losses and a narrow win at IU. I think they've got to finish with a 10 conference wins to get into the Big Dance, but the schedule from here out looks 50-50. Still, of all the teams in the Big Ten, Tubby's is perhaps the one who could finish at .500 and still get in.

6. Penn State (6-5)
From last week "The next three games (@Mich, v.Wis., @Pur.) should illuminate the bubble question: anything less than 2-1 means PSU are firmly on it." Yep, PSU is back on the bubble, likely now to go 0-3 for the stretch. Looking down the rest of the schedule, it seems quite possible that the Nittany Lions don't go .500 in conference play, which means they're probably out of NCAA berth contention.

7. Michigan (5-6)
Despite a loss at Connecticut, this was actually a great week for Michigan. The way the Wolverines played on the road against one of the nation's top teams reminded everybody of their earlier performances against Duke & UCLA, and it looked good for the Big 10, too. And Michigan absolutely thrashed Penn State in a home conference game.

8. Wisconsin (5-6)
Back-to-back wins! Maybe the Badgers have just been on the wrong side of the dice this year, as the home dismantling of Illinois and the road win over Penn State bring this club back to life. They really need to put a streak together, tho, but they've got a favorable second-half schedule.

9. Northwestern (4-6)
In their only conference game of the week, the Wildcats lost a big one at Iowa. If they can't get the bottom-dwellers on the road like Iowa & Indiana, their NCAA tourney chances sit at zero. As it is, they'll probably have to spring another upset or two on the road and make some noise in the conference tournament to get considered.

10. Iowa (3-8)
A loss to lowly Indiana was followed by a narrow home win over Northwestern. This is pretty clearly the conference's second worst team, at least without Cyrus Tate. Is he ever coming back? What about Anthony Tucker? Is he going to transfer or will he get some PT?

11. Indiana (1-9)

The Hoosier's *r-o-l-a-i-d-s* win over Iowa means that the team won't be going defeated in conference play. However, there wasn't much to build on in the loss at Michigan State. Not because of the margin of victory, MSU seems to beat everyone by that score at home or they lose, but because Dumes finally let his temper, which had been cooking all season long, get the best of him as he threw multiple nasty elbows which eventually got him ejected and suspended. And good for the suspension, coach Crean! Either Dumes learns to play with class or he can find another team to move on to next year.


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