Another week closer to March Madness meant another week of surprise in the Big Ten. This might be one of the most exciting leagues to watch, and it has been all season long.
Some notes from the last week of play:
Best team of the week: Michigan. It’s hard not to pick the state’s other team, Sparty, after Michigan State picked up three wins in a week – including two on the road and one against Wisconsin – but the Wolverines take the cake because with a victory over Ohio State in their two-win week, they have firmly (and surprisingly) inserted themselves in the Big Ten title race.
Worst co-teams of the week: Minnesota and Illinois. This is truly a toss-up between two sinking teams. This week was brutal for the Gophers because they looked like they didn’t care against Northwestern and then just collapsed last night against Michigan State. The NCAA tourney dream was in their grasp. But how do you get any worse than a 23-point loss to Nebraska, which Illinois managed on Saturday? Perhaps the Illini’s week/situation is worse because they’ve fallen from a higher place.
Player who impressed: Trey Burke, Michigan. Darius who? The freshman point guard has come in and done everything anticipated and more. His incredible patience paces the offense and most of the time, rookie flusters seem nowhere to be found. He’s up for a big game – against Ohio State, in the most meaningful win of the year, Burke tallied 17 points and five assists.
1. This thing won’t be over until the very end. Ohio State and the rest? Pshaw. This league is showing just how off-base that prediction was. There’s not just one, but SEVERAL teams that can hang with the Buckeyes and it’s making for a very entertaining last-minute title race.
2. Remember when there were ten teams projected to be in the NCAA tourney field? Right now most brackets are calling for seven, but Northwestern is maintaining a very tenuous hold. The problem is while the Big Ten’s upper half has gotten stronger, the lower half is sinking into a big, dark hole.
3. No one will go undefeated from here out. That’s my guess – win streaks are over. Every top team has at least one significant challenge remaining on the schedule, and no one seems to be impenetrable anymore.