Back to basketball exclusively this week as my foray into football analysis last time ended badly for all parties involved. We'll leave football to the professionals like Rodger, and I'll stick with breaking down basketball. On to the rankings:
1 (previously 2) Michigan State: A 2-0 week for the Spartans as they won a hard-fought halfcourt game against Wisconsin at home and cruised over Iowa. This ranking may irritate Purdue fans, but I think Michigan State is currently the better team. Their experience on the road in hostile environments during non-conference play is really going to help them during Big Ten play. The conference title race will probably come down to the wire, but I'm giving a very slight edge to Sparty. Draymond Green is becoming a monster inside, keep an eye on him Wednesday night against Minnesota.
2 (1) Purdue: After an impressive performance at home against Minnesota, the Boilers went down on the road to Wisconsin. Poor free throw shooting and uncharacteristically poor defense cost them in the 2nd half. Chris Kramer in particular got abused by Badger guard Jordan Taylor. There's certainly no reason to panic as losing at Wisconsin is far from a bad loss; let's see if they can bounce back at home tomorrow against Ohio State.
3 (3) Wisconsin: The big news out of Madison today is that Jon Leuer broke his wrist during Saturday's win over Purdue. Rumors about this have been all over the internet the last couple days; I'm glad it was confirmed before I started writing this as I was going to be in a tough spot regarding journalistic integrity (note: I am not a journalist and I have no integrity, so I probably would have mentioned it.) Anyways, this is a huge loss for the Badgers as Leuer was having a great season. I'm sure Wisconsin will still be very tough, as the Badgers still beat Purdue despite Leuer playing hurt and shooting 2 for 15 from the field. Also, Bo Ryan is still the best coach in the league and will probably figure something out.
4 (4) Minnesota: The Gophers got a big home win over Ohio State after losing at Purdue. Tubby Smith is doing an excellent job and as usual his team is playing fantastic defense. I am really scared of when Northwestern has to go into the Barn and face their full court pressure.
5 (7) Ohio State: Yes they didn't really do anything too impressive this week in blowing out Indiana at home and losing at Minnesota, but Evan Turner is back and fully healthy, so the Buckeyes are now back to being a top 25 caliber team even though it may take a while for them to crack the rankings. I'd expect a strong effort from them at Purdue on Tuesday.
6 (5) Illinois: The Illini took care of business in beating Iowa and Indiana. A win over Penn State tomorrow gives them a 4-0 start n the Big Ten, which was much needed after their poor showing in non-conference play. Their Big Ten schedule is the opposite of Northwestern's, as it's soft early and gets much tougher later on.
7 (6) Northwestern. I know moving them down after 2 wins doesn't seem logical, but I can't really put them higher than any of the top 6. Illinois is the only team you could make a case against, but since they beat NU I'm putting NU at 7th.
Andy Katz talks in his Weekly Watch about how big a win this was for the 'Cats, and while it was a much needed win, the fact remains that Michigan is a fraud team. So it was more a case of avoiding a bad loss than it was of getting a quality win. NU will have two chances to get marquee wins this week at home against Wisconsin and Purdue.
8 (8) Michigan: The step down from 7th to 8th is huge, as Michigan is a bad team masquerading as a mediocre team. In reading the Tribune's coverage of yesterday's game, I found this disturbing quote from John Beilein:
"When things are going south, the leadership has to come from more than just me," Beilein said. "There has to be positive stuff from people within this team.
"It's tough to change people's personalities sometimes, but we'll work at it."
Yikes. The coach ripping his players like that does not bode well at all for Michigan. This team will be lucky to make the NIT at this point.
9 (9) Indiana: Tom Crean has this team playing hard every night, and they have been at least competitive in every home game, as they probably should have beaten Illinois on Saturday. Don't sleep on the Hoosiers at Michigan on Thursday, that game could be the nail in the Wolverines' coffin.
10 (10) Penn State: If it weren't for Iowa being awful, I'd move Penn State down after that absolutely pathetic 2nd half performance at home against Michigan on Thursday. To lay down like dogs in a must win game on your home court like that is inexcusable. I'm also wondering where Talor Battle disappeared to in the 2nd half, as he didn't score a point and attempted only 4 shots. An all-conference player like him has to step it up in a situation like that and bail out his team, and Battle didn't do that. It's going to be a very long season in Happy Valley.
11 (11) Iowa: Two more blowout losses to Michigan State and Illinois, pretty much par for the course for the Hawkeyes this season. Tomorrow they host Tennessee State, which may be the last time they are favored in a game all season.
So there are the rankings, disagree early and often. And stay tuned in the next couple days for a lot of coverage of Wednesday's game against Wisconsin.