Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Even Without IU, Big Ten Basketball Race Has Intrigue
Forget, for just a second, that Indiana is out of the Big Ten basketball race.
Yes, we know it's hard, but remember, this too shall one day pass.
Instead, focus on the race itself because in the next couple of days it could be over, or could get really, really interesting.
Ohio State remains in control. It is 12-1 in the conference with two less losses than anybody else. It has a top-seven rotation that is scary good. It has great shooters in William Buford, John Diebler and David Lighty. It has the nation’s best freshman big man in Jared Sullinger. It has one of the nation’s best freshman point guards in Aaron Craft. It even has shot-blocking veteran Dallas Lauderdale, who seemingly has been around since Bob Knight played in Columbus.
Yes, the Buckeyes stumbled at Wisconsin, but everybody does that. They bounced back to beat Michigan State Tuesday night and have a chance to knock Purdue out of the race with a win Sunday at Mackey Arena.
And consider Wisconsin. Bo Ryan is one of the top coaches in America. Sure, he wins with good players, but his roster is not dominated by Parade All-Americans. He gets top-100 players to buy into a philosophy of swing offense and keep-the-guy-in-front-of-you defense.
These Badgers are shooting over 80 percent from the line for the season. That’s amazing. Granted, two guys -- Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor -- take most of those free throws, but still, it’s good enough to lead the nation. They also lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Taylor might be the best point guard in the nation. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 4-to-1, the nation’s best. To put that in perspective, if you average 2-to-1, you’re a stud. If you are at 3-to-1, NBA teams want to talk to you. Taylor’s numbers are mind blowing. Plus, he can score and hit big-time shots at big-time moments.
The Badgers play at Purdue tonight. Both teams are 9-3 in the Big Ten. A win keeps Wisconsin within range of Ohio State. A loss pretty much knocks it out of the race.
If Purdue wins tonight and upsets Ohio State on Sunday, it will be a game back with four games remaining.
So here’s what the remaining schedules are like for the three contenders:
Ohio State: at Purdue, host Illinois and Indiana, at Penn State, host Wisconsin.
Wisconsin: at Purdue, host Penn State, at Michigan, host Northwestern, at Indiana, at Ohio State.
Purdue: host Wisconsin, host Ohio State, at Indiana, at Michigan State, host Illinois, at Iowa.
As for the Hoosiers, well, they could be a huge spoiler given they play all three contenders one more time each, with Purdue and Wisconsin at Assembly Hall.
And some day, perhaps as soon as next year, they won’t be spoilers any more. They’ll be contenders.