Right now there are 4 tiers of teams in the Big Ten:
Final Four contenders: Purdue, Michigan State
NCAA tournament hopefuls: Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Northwestern
NIT hopefuls: Indiana, Michigan, Penn State
No hope: Iowa
so let's break it down
1 (1). Purdue: Another impressive week for the Boilers, as they rallied from a 16 point second half deficit to win at Alabama. It was their first road game of the season and they played with a lot of poise down the stretch and completely shut down Alabama's offense, holding them without a field goal in the final 8:45. My least favorite player in the country Chris Kramer was the key for the Purdue defense. Kramer is one of those guys that when he's on your team you love him, but when he plays for a rival you absolutely hate him and wish he'd catch an elbow to the face. He's a terrific defender and energy guy, and Purdue has enough scorers to hide his lack of a jump shot.
2 (2). Michigan State: For some reason they went on the road to the play The Citadel and struggled early before pulling away in the final 10 minutes. This team still isn't playing like the final four contender everyone expected them to be, but I'm sure it will come soon.
3 (3) Wisconsin: I considered moving Wisconsin down because of their loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay, but further research indicated W-GB is a decent team (9-3 record) and the Badgers were on the road, Also Wisconsin bounced back nicely with a win over Marquette on Saturday. Going forward they'll need someone to emerge as a third option to complement Trevon Hughes at the point and Jon Leuer inside. I expected Jason Bohannon to fill that role as a 3-point shooter, as I've always seen him as a Craig Moore clone, but he hasn't been a consistent enough shooter.
4 (5) Illinois: They move up a spot thanks to a convincing home win over #24 Vanderbilt. This is a deep and balanced team with 5 players averaging in double figures. A note on the Illini: I was browsing Illinois' team page on ESPN and found a link to this article ranking the Division 1 teams in Illinois. I really hope the author intentionally ranked the Illini that low to generate traffic, because the implication that they were the 6th best team in Illinois at any point this season is absolutely ridiculous.
5 (4) Minnesota: The Gophers didn't really do anything to deserve being moved down except continuing to schedule cupcake non-conference games. I've previously ripped them for being offensively challenged and while they have scored over 90 points in 3 straight games, those games came against Brown, Morgan State and St. Joseph's, so let's not get carried away. The cupcakes continue for Minnesota until Big Ten play starts.
6 (6) Ohio State: Not surprisingly, they struggled offensively without Evan Turner in a road loss to Butler. Looking through Ohio State's team stats, I discovered the amazing stat line of their center Dallas Lauderdale. In the 8 games he's played this season, Lauderdale is shooting 89% from the field. That's not a typo, he's made 24 of 27 shots. However from the free throw line, he's just 12 of 30 for 40% shooting, so it might be a good idea for teams to put Lauderdale on the line when he catches the ball inside.
The Buckeyes next play Presbyterian, and I wonder if this fan will be showing up, and if he does whether Thad Matta will have him ejected. Pretty weak by Roy Williams I must say, although it's hard to take a school seriously when their nickname is the Blue Hose. While this is apparently a reference to the blue painted Scottish warriors ala Braveheart, I do know that Tiger Woods might have gone there if they were called the White Hose. Heyyyyyooooooooooooo!
Ok moving on...
7 (7) Northwestern: I'll probably take some heat for this again, but I still don't see NU being better than any of the teams above them, despite both new polls disagreeing with me. Given how woefully incompetent this team was just two years ago, it's going to take me a long time to fully jump onto the bandwagon and think the 'Cats have what it takes to make the leap to NCAA tournament team, although Drew Crawford emerging as a legitimate third option is starting to make me a believer. That was a fantastic performance yesterday, now he needs to show he can do that against a non-terrible defensive team.
I'm also eagerly awaiting the day that the Kyle Rowley experiment ends. He might be the worst rebounding 7 footer in the history of Division 1 basketball. Case in point: he has more fouls than rebounds in his career. How is that possible for a 7 footer over a large sample size? You'd almost have to be point-shaving to pull that off. Unfortunately for NU, he's going to get more minutes Wednesday as Davide Curletti has an injured foot.
8 (10) Indiana: The Hoosiers jump two spots thanks to a neutral court win over Pittsburgh. Now while Pittsburgh has as much trouble with scoring points as John "Vacated" Calipari has trouble following NCAA rules, this is still a very impressive win for a young team. Indiana also held their own for 25 minutes against #3 Kentucky before fading in the second half. Indiana could be dangerous in the Big Ten if they keep improving and will be tough to beat at home even for the league's elite.
9 (9) Penn State: This is an NIT team at best. For some reason i subjected myself to the first half of their game against UMBC Tuesday, and Penn State was just awful. UMBC might be the worst team in Division 1, and they hung right with Penn State for a half despite a 4 guard and 1 small forward starting lineup. Seriously it looked like when ESPN showed LeBron James' high school games and he was playing against teams of tiny unathletic guys, that's how bad a team UMBC is and they still kept it close for a half. Penn State also blew a home game against Virginia Tech thanks to Talor Battle's poor free throw shooting. Battle had half of the Nittany Lion points, but the guy can't do it by himself.
10 (8) Michigan: Another bad week for Michigan sees them continue to fall in the rankings. They got blown out in the second half at Utah (a team with wins over Michigan and Illinois but losses to Idaho, Weber State and Seattle, go figure) and even got hit with the "Just like football!" chant from the Utah student section, a reference to Michigan football opening the Rich-Rod era with a home loss to Utah. They did manage to rally from a halftime deficit to beat Detroit, but they still have a terrible supporting cast around Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, as Harris and Sims scored two thirds of their points in that game. On the bright side, they get a break from playing mid-major teams as their next game is at Kansas. Ruh Roh.
11 (11) Iowa: Two more losses for the Hawkeyes, to instate rivals Northern Iowa and Iowa State. Not much to say here that hasn't already been said, this is clearly the worst team in the Big Ten. It was good to hear that their coach Todd Lickliter is out of the hospital after surgery, hopefully he gets well soon.
remember that ripping my rankings leads to wins, so criticize early and often