We learned a few things in just one week of Big Ten play. All of them point back to one conclusion: This is a strong league, nearly from top to bottom.
Michigan beat Duke at home. Wisconsin went into Michigan and won this past week, yet had trouble at home against Penn State. Purdue made Davidson look horrible, yet they lost at home to Illinois. Illinois proceeded to go into Michigan and lose. The one thing we could definitively say is that Michigan State looks like the best team in the conference after winning in Minnesota. Of course, Northwestern hung with the Spartans in East Lansing yesterday.
Dan Shanoff is one of those taking note of the Big Ten resurgence, as he referred to the conference as "Big East Lite" today.
Team to Watch: Penn State
Wisconsin, coming off the aforementioned triumph in Ann Arbor, had trouble with the feisty Nittany Lions in the Kohl Center -- a place in which they have only lost twice in Big Ten play under Bo Ryan. The upset would have been quite a feat for Ed DeChellis' program. They have an outstanding inside-outside duo in Jamelle Cornley -- who plays like a very poor man's Charles Barkley -- and Stanley Pringle. While eventually they'll need much more balance -- the two combined for 46 of Penn State's 61 points in Madison -- they provide an impressive foundation.
Team in Trouble: Ohio State
As I wrote in the wake of the Minnesota loss, they really seem to need David Lighty. He's not the most dynamic player in the Midwest or anything, but he is a leader and high-energy guy. This situation is a good illustration of what losing a "glue-guy" can do to a team. He won't be back for about another month, either. This could seriously handcuff their NCAA Tournament chances.
Game of the upcoming week: We would be looking at Michigan State's battle Saturday, but I'm keeping this strictly to conference games. We'll have to wait all the way until Sunday, but it will be worth the wait when Wisconsin visits Purdue (1:30 EST, CBS). You can rattle Purdue down-low with post scoring, so Marcus Landry is going to be a huge key for the Badgers.
Other good ones: Michigan State hosts Ohio State, immediately followed by Purdue's visit of Penn State tomorrow night. The Spartans and Boilers should both prevail, but you never know.
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Clunker of the week: I hate it when teams play non-conference games during conference season, but usually they are at least worthwhile -- see Kansas at Michigan State this coming Saturday in East Lansing. Friday night in Columbus, however, Ohio State is hosting Houston Baptist. Huh?
Conference Power Rankings After Week 1
1. Michigan State
7. Penn State
8. Ohio State
The tough decisions were numbers three through five, and deciding between Penn State and Ohio State for seven. I believe Michigan State is head and shoulders above everyone else at this point, but the season is young. It was really easy to slot Wisconsin second, and Minnesota slides in nicely at six, due to only handling a crumbling Ohio State team at home. Iowa is not a good team at all, and I now think my Hoosiers can win a game in conference play when they host the Hawkeyes February 4.
Big Ten Roundup: Penn State on the Rise, Ohio State Falling, and Michigan State Up Top originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Mon, 05 Jan 2009 12:34:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.