What’s up guys, been a little bit since my last blog. I figured I’d get one last post up before the new year. Here’s how things have been going in the Big Ten:
#14 Rutgers (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten)
Being a Rutgers fan, I have to start off with them. The Scarlet Knights are off to a fast start with conference wins over Maryland, Illinois, and Purdue. They got screwed by the refs a bit in their lone loss at Ohio State, but it was a winnable game regardless and easily their worst performance of the young season. Rutgers has also been bitten heavily by the injury bug early on.
Guard Geo Baker missed a few games after hurting his ankle in their season opener. Starting center Cliff Omoruyi is still out after spraining his knee in the Illinois game. Jacob Young missed the end of the Ohio State game after taking a scary fall in the second half, but was able to tough it out and play against Purdue. Leading scorer Ron Harper jr. was held out of the Purdue game with an ankle injury. Finally, junior guard Caleb McConnell has missed the entire season thus far, although he has practiced recently. The Scarlet Knights have persevered, and are once again showing they belong in the Big Ten.
#16 Michigan (7-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
Juwan Howard’s Wolverines are the only remaining unbeaten team in the conference. Michigan has yet to be truly tested, as their wins came over Penn State and Nebraska, two teams currently at the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Regardless, you can’t be better than undefeated, and there’s no reason to believe Michigan isn’t legit. Forward Isaiah Livers is the team’s leading scorer, with freshman center Hunter Dickinson contributing a ton as well.
#19 Northwestern (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten)
Northwestern is no pushover this year. The Wildcats have already matched their total of three conference wins from last season with victories over Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana. Forward Miller Kopp and guards Chase Audige & Boo Buie have shouldered the scoring load for Northwestern. The Big Ten is deeper than ever this year, and the resurgence of Northwestern is a big reason why.
#15 Illinois (7-3, 3-1 Big Ten)
Illinois has been one of my Final Four picks for months now. A team with Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn has the talent to beat anybody. The Illini have been inconsistent in the early going, beating Duke and going 3-1 in conference, while also losing to Missouri & narrowly defending Ohio. Despite an underwhelming start, it’s far from a bad one. I fully expect the Illini to be in the running for the conference title.
#10 Iowa (8-2, 2-1 Big Ten)
For anybody who saw Iowa/Minnesota on Christmas night, you’ll understand why I say Iowa is dead to me.
They were the last leg of a multi-sport, five-team parlay. With a three-point lead and 15 seconds remaining, the Hawkeyes missed both free throws, gave up a game-tying three, and got their doors blown off in overtime. All of that being said, they’re still a great team.
Iowa has the best player in the conference in Luka Garza, and a variety of shooters they surround him with on offense. The Hawkeyes may be dead to me from a betting standpoint, but something tells me that won’t stop them from competing for a Big Ten title.
#6 Wisconsin (8-2, 2-1 Big Ten)
The Badgers are currently the highest ranked team in the conference. It’s a classic Wisconsin team that does all the little things right. They play defense, rebound, take charges, hit open shots, and make their free throws. Is it the sexiest thing in the world? No, but neither am I and I also think I’m pretty good at what I do. Wisconsin beat Nebraska and then Michigan State on Christmas Day, before dropping a game to Maryland a few days later. Expect the Badgers to be near the top of the standings all season.
#21 Minnesota (9-1, 2-1 Big Ten)
The other thing I learned from the Iowa game on Christmas Day besides that I’ll never bet on them again is that Minnesota is for real this year. Sure, they finished 12th in the Big Ten last season, but this team is off to a red hot 9-1 start. After getting blown out by Illinois to open conference play, the Golden Gophers have defeated both Iowa and Michigan State. Marcus Carr is off to an unbelievable start, ranking third in the conference with 24 PPG.
#25 Ohio State (8-2, 2-2 Big Ten)
The Buckeyes are off to a strong start. They have conference wins over Rutgers and Nebraska, with the losses coming at the hands of Purdue and Northwestern. Forward EJ Liddell is the X-Factor for Ohio State. To me, he’s their best player, and they’re a completely different team when he’s on the court. He remarkably missed only two games with mono, and he hasn’t missed a beat since coming back.
Purdue (7-4, 2-2 Big Ten)
The Boilermakers have had a mixed bag start, losing four games already. However, they do have wins over conference foes Maryland and Ohio State. Their bigs play a huge role, as both Trevion Williams and Zach Edey are key factors for Purdue.
Maryland (6-3, 1-2 Big Ten)
The Terrapins started Big Ten play with losses to Rutgers and Purdue, but beat Wisconsin in their most recent matchup on Monday.
Penn State (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten)
Penn State has played a conference-low seven games, and still searching for their first Big Ten win. They’ve lost to Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana.
Nebraska (4-6, 0-3 Big Ten)
To put it simply, Nebraska looks just as dreadful as last season. They’ve lost all three of their Big Ten contests by double digits, including a 90-54 defeat at Ohio State Wednesday night.
#17 Michigan State (6-3, 0-3 Big Ten)
Michigan State is 0-3 in conference play for just the second time under Tom Izzo, and the first time since 2001-02.
Indiana (6-4, 1-2 Big Ten)
The Hoosiers picked up their first conference win against Penn State on Wednesday after dropping their first two Big Ten matchups to Northwestern and Illinois.