We are quickly approaching the Big Ten regular season, and with a good number of games in the books I think it is time to make some predictions/answer some questions.
The Big Ten hasn't had a ton of surprises so far. I think most people thought either IU, Purdue or UW would win the Big Ten and none has done much to dispel that notion. The middle of the league is not as good as in recent years, but they aren't terrible. MSU, OSU and MI all look like they will be pretty decent. IL, NW, Maryland, and Minnesota could make a run, and Iowa, Nebraska, PSU, and Rutgers will round out the bottom. Here are some questions and some answers about the league.
1) Who wins it? And what's the record?
2) Which team will be a surprise contender for the championship come March?
3) Is Minnesota for real?
4) Is there a team from the bottom that will make a run to the bubble?
5) Any of the dregs have a chance?
1) I am betting on a split title this year. UW and IU at 14-4. I think Purdue comes up a game short.
2) I'll go with OSU. I don't have much of a reason for this, just a guess. MSU has talent, but as we discussed they seem like a team that ends up on the happy side of the bubble, but not in contention. OSU has a tough 5 games to start the season, but if they make it through with 2-3 wins they are set up for a long winning streak before another tough stretch to close. OSU has only 4 games vs IU, Purdue, and UW with 3 at home, so I think the schedule sets up to give them a chance.
3) T-Rank currently has them at #33 overall, and #5 in the B1G just behind MI, with a predicted 10-8 conference record. I have seen them play parts of games a couple of times, but don't have a great feel for them. Lynch and Curry have given this team enough athletic size that they can compete. I have always liked Mason, and they have enough guards to score, but I doubt they have enough defense to stay this high for much longer. We will find out quickly in the conference season if I am wrong. They have 5 of the first 8 on the road, and home games vs MSU, OSU, and UW. A 6 or 7 win season seems more likely. That's not too bad though, considering where I thought they would be before the season started. Maybe Pitino deserves another year.
4) I think MSU, OSU, and MI will be firmly in the NCAA conversation at seasons end. They may not all make it, but they should all should all at least be on the bubble. Anyone else? NW seems to be a popular pick, but I'm not sold they are there yet. They look better than Minn, but not much better. I don't think Ill is much better either, but they only get IU, UW, Purdue, MSU and OSU once each with 3 at home. Malcolm Hill is a very good player and they have some size. I doubt Ill gets in, but they are my pick to get to .500 or better and make the committee think about it. Maryland is probably the smarter choice here, as they are 11-1, and have a similar schedule playing MSU, PU, IU, UW, and MI only once. I think this is not a very good team and probably ends up 8-10 and off the bubble. I doubt Torvik disagrees, as he is always a Maryland hater.
5) Nope. If I was being forced to pick one, I guess it would be Iowa. They have some young players that are a couple years away from being good, but maybe with lots of early minutes they get better quickly. Jok could go off and win a game or two by himself.
What do you think Torvik?