Monday, January 7, 2008

First weekly Big Ten power poll.

Those of us from the Big Ten Bloggers group who write about basketball are going to introduce a weekly Big Ten poll. I suppose by the end it will resemble the standings.
Before I start, if you have any interest in presidential politics (and if you are reading this you must care about Big Ten basketball) the post by Hawkeye State at Black Heart Gold Pants is a must read.
1. Michigan State (13-1, 1-0). I think the Hoosiers have an excellent chance to move past MSU this year, but at this point, the Spartans have better wins and a less decisive loss. This is a close call.
2. Indiana (12-1, 1-0). It really isn't IU's fault that Kentucky stinks, SIU is disappointing, and the Big Ten/ACC opponent was uninspiring. Still, MSU has accomplished more at this point.
3. Wisconsin (12-2, 2-0). I really thought that this would be the year that the Badgers would drop off, but the renaissance continues for what was for decades the worst non-Northwestern program in the conference. While IU and MSU play twice, Wisconsin does not have to go to East Lansing, so don't be surprised if the Badgers sneak into the #1 seed in the BTT.
4. Ohio State (11-3, 2-0). The Buckeyes have lost to three good teams (Texas A&M, UNC, Butler), but lost convincingly to all three. The Bucks did beat Florida and Syracuse and currently respectable Illinois.
5. Minnesota (10-3, 0-1). Minnesota was solid in the pre-conference, but didn't beat anyone of note. I'm giving the Gophers a slight bump for playing so well against MSU at Breslin, but I reserve the right to drop them soon and fast.
6. Purdue (10-4, 1-0). Purdue looked great in its signature non-conference win against Louisville, but the Boilers' losses to Wofford and Iowa State keep Purdue out of the top half of this poll and may keep Purdue out of the NCAA Tournament. The Boilers have lots of young talent, and they could move either direction.
7. Penn State (10-4, 2-0). This is another team that could move up or down quickly. I thought 5-7 were tough to distinguish. PSU, with the exception of its Big Ten/ACC win over VT, didn't beat anyone of note in the pre-conference, but opened 2-0 in the Big Ten with two on the road. The Lions have a week to get ready for Minnesota at home, and could move up quickly.
8. Illinois (8-7, 0-2). The Illini continue their post-2005 slide. Illinois lost at home to Penn State today, opening with two killer home losses. I'm sure that anguished Illini fans will suggest that two Native Americans who weren't at the game, Kelvin Sampson and Chief Illiniwek, have something to do with today's loss. Illinois still has eight conference road games left and the one-game opponents are Iowa and Northwestern. I-L-L! N-I-T!
9. Iowa (7-8, 0-2). The Hawkeyes play solid defense and if Todd Lickliter can find some offense, they will beat someone good this year, and I'm glad the Hoosiers played them on the road early. Still, the resume is very weak and I can't justify ranking them any higher.
10. Northwestern (5-6, 0-2). Another year, and the Wildcats, who haven't played in the NCAA tournament ever, are 0-2 in the conference. The Wildcats play a couple of non-conference games during the Big Ten season, so the win total won't be as low as it seems now, but losing at home to Penn State suggests that NU won't be making history this year.
11. Michigan (4-10, 0-2). Wow. Until I started working on my preview for Tuesday's game I really didn't realize how bad Michigan is. Purdue probably should be knocked down a couple pegs just for letting the Wolverines compete. They have played a tough schedule, but have lost by double digits to every respectable team they have played. As with Iowa, this team, with a respected new coach, could improve significantly. But right now, they make Northwestern look good.

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