Photo Credit: Associated Press
It wasn’t the busiest of weeks in the Big Ten, as most schools were in the middle of final exams. Wisconsin and Penn State both didn’t play, and most teams — all besides Ohio State and Michigan — only played one game.
1) Ohio State (Previously: 2nd / Record: 10-0) I think we can all safely say that John Diebler’s not just a shooter or a role player — he’s much more than that. The senior scored 29 points against Florida Gulf Cost in the course of Ohio State’s 83-55 win over the Eagles on Wednesday. Even given the mediocre competition, Diebler’s nine-3-pointer explosion showed he is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the Big Ten. It seems like Ohio State looks scarier and scarier every day, and this week earned the Bucks the top spot, which many of you thought they deserved last week. The Buckeyes followed up that win on Wednesday with a 79-57 trouncing of South Carolina on Saturday that saw Jared Sullinger score 30 points and 19 rebounds – he’s won six of seven Big Ten freshman of the week awards while teammate Deshaun Thomas won the other.
Next three: 12/21 vs. UNC Asheville, 12/23 vs. Oakland, 12/27 vs. Tennessee-Martin
2) Wisconsin (Previously: 3rd / Record: 8-2) Wisconsin was one team that didn’t play any games this week but the Badgers still move up a spot as Illinois plummets.
Next three: 12/23 vs. Coppin State, 12/28 vs. Minnesota, 1/2 at Illinois
3) Purdue (Previously: 4th / Record: 10-1) The Boilermakers continue to dominate in-state competition. Purdue beat Valparaiso last week and then took care of business at home this week, beating Indiana State 65-52 on Saturday. JaJuan Johnson had an absolutely monster game, scoring 31 points. The Boilermakers have one more warm-up game, against IPFW on Tuesday, before dropping by the friendly confines of Crisler Arena on the 28th to kick off the Big Ten season.
Next three: 12/21 vs. IPFW, 12/28 at Michigan, 12/31 vs. Northwestern
4) Minnesota (Previously: 5th / Record: 10-1) The Gophers followed up their win on the road against St. Joseph’s last week with a 66-58 win at home against the Akron Zips on Wednesday. Before we mock the small margin of victory against a mid-major, Akron may be better than people think. All but one of its losses were on the road against solid teams: Dayton (8-3) and Temple (8-2) were both road losses, and the Owls beat Georgetown earlier in the year. The Zips’ one home loss was to Cleveland State, who has won every game this season before losing by 11 to West Virginia on Saturday. So a solid win for Minnesota in my book that goes toward protecting home court. The Gophers saw balanced scoring as four players scored in double-digits, but Ralph Sampson III was held to just seven points.
Next three: 12/23 vs. South Dakota State, 12/28 at Wisconsin, 12/31 at Michigan State
5) Michigan State (Previously: 6th / Record: 8-3) Despite Tom Izzo’s suspension, his Michigan State team was somehow able to keep their composure without him on the bench and rout Prairie View A&M 90-51 on Saturday. Izzo was suspended for a game for hiring a coach to work one of his summer camps that was associated with a prospect. The Spartans took full advantage of this warm-up game before their last big-time non-conference test of the year against Texas. Durrell Summers scored a season-high 25 points in the blowout.
Next three: 12/22 vs. Texas, 12/31 vs. Minnesota, 1/3 at Northwestern
6) Illinois (Previously: 1st / Record: 10-2) In its only game this week, Illinois lost to the University of Illinois-Chicago in a nail-biter, 57-54. UIC, now 5-7 on the season, was leading most of the game before Illinois took an eight-point lead with about 7:30 to go, but UIC quickly charged back and put the game away. It’s the second loss of the season for the Illini and one that really hurts with just one game left, against Missouri in St. Louis, before kicking off Big Ten play against Iowa. McCamey had 16 points in the loss.
Next three: 12/22 vs. Missouri, 12/29 at Iowa, 1/2 vs. Wisconsin
7) Northwestern (Previously: 7th / Record: 7-0) The Wildcats returned from their lengthy finals layoff with a solid 78-62 win on Thursday against American at home. Michael Thompson and John Shurna both went off, scoring 23 and 28 points, respectively. Shurna’s effort against the Eagles put him over the career 1,000-point mark. American is another team that is probably better than their 6-4 record indicates. The Eagles won their first six games before falling in a nail-biter to Columbia then losing at West Virginia and against Florida on a neutral site. So a good win against a decent mid-major for Northwestern as the Wildcats start the frenzied end of their non-con, playing three games in the next four days as part of the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival.
Next three: 12/20 vs. St. Francis (MSG), 12/21 vs. St. John’s/Davidson (MSG), 12/23 vs. Mount St. Mary’s
8) Michigan (Previously: 8th / Record: 9-2) One extremely ugly 20-point win, one nice-looking 18-point win and Michigan calls it a week. The Wolverines kicked the week off with a Concordia-esque 64-44 win on Tuesday against North Carolina Central but followed that up with a convincing (and relieving) 69-51 victory over the Oakland Grizzlies, who were coming off an impressive win at Tennessee. Michigan looked dominant in the second game, especially in the second half. Jon Horford continued his rapid improvement and Darius Morris looks like one of the better point guards in the Big Ten.
Next three: 12/23 vs. Bryant, 12/28 vs. Purdue, 1/2 vs. Penn State
9) Indiana (Previously: 9th / Record: 9-2) The Hoosiers got two big wins over a couple of cupcakes this week. The first was on Friday against SIUE, who Indiana beat 88-54. Then on Sunday the Hoosiers unleashed over 100 points against South Carolina State, beating the Bulldogs by the score of 102-60. Christian Watford was a force in Indiana’s win over South Carolina State, hanging 22 points on the Bulldogs on an efficient 7-14 shooting and hitting two 3-pointers along the way. These two games, scheduled as part of the IBN Las Vegas Classic, came at the right time in order for the team to get their heads back up after a tough loss to Kentucky in Lexington last week.The Hoosiers will continue the classic with a pair of games in Las Vegas before starting Big Ten play.
Next three: 12/22 vs. Northern Iowa, 12/23 vs. New Mexico/Colorado, 12/27 vs. Penn State
10) Penn State (Previously: 10th / Record: 7-3) Penn State also didn’t play which is enough to hold them steady at the 10 spot.
Next three: 12/21 vs. Maine, 12/27 at Indiana, 1/2 at Michigan
11) Iowa (Previously: 11th / Record: 6-5) After a tough loss last week to Northern Iowa at home in which the Hawkeyes looked particularly bad, they bounced back on Saturday with a 59-52 win over a thoroughly mediocre Drake squad. Iowa looked like it was going to drop another one, but a flurry of 10 late points, all from freshmen, sealed the deal in the back-and-forth contest. Matt Gatens was the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer with 19 points.
Next three: 12/21 vs. Louisiana Tech, 12/29 vs. Illinois, 1/4 vs. Oho State