Someone get me a towel and two aspirins. Whew! That was something last night. Where to begin? How about West Lafayette? Good teams find ways to grind out road victories. And that’s exactly what Michigan did last night in overtime at Purdue, stealing a win to stay atop the Big Ten standings. Sorta makes you think that this is a team of destiny.
You don’t have to tell Purdue’s Rapheal Davis that this has been a disappointing season. He’s living it. And, it’s not much fun. But the sophomore guard is soldiering on as the losses mount and the hope dwindles in West Lafayette.
I officially have given up trying to figure out this Iowa team. One moment, the Hawkeyes can take you breath away. In another, they can leave you gasping for air. Last night was one of those nights, as Iowa allowed 95 points in a loss to a Minnesota team that scored a combined 95 in its previous two games. The defensive lapse in the Barn was exasperating. Iowa has now lost two games in a row for the first time this season. How good is this team?
Talk about night football games continues to churn to the point where Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is soliciting input about playing Friday night games. Hey, it’s all about the almighty TV dollar, in case you didn’t know.
At first glance it’s not a great menu of games this week, but we all know anything can happen. As the Big Ten hits the homestretch of the season, Michigan has a one-game lead in the title chase and the Wolverines should cruise in its two games this week. Michigan State sits one game out and Wisconsin trails by two. Can the Spartans and Badgers keep pace?
Entering 2013, Northwestern was coming off a 10-win season that saw the program win its first bowl game since the 1948 season, ending a nine-game postseason losing skid. But the Wildcats are ready to turn the page on a 2013 season that opened with great promise but morphed into a season to forget.
Brady Hoke is set to begin his fourth spring in Ann Arbor. And, make no mistake about it: There is a sense of urgency.
There isn’t a marquee matchup this week, but there are some interesting subplots to follow as we hit the homestretch of the season. Among them: Iowa. The Hawkeyes will play three games this week, traveling to Minnesota and Indiana while playing host to Purdue. That’s three games in five days. How will the Hawkeyes respond to this grueling run?
The Big Ten is Michigan’s to lose after that big win on Sunday vs. Michigan State. I mean, look at the rest of the Wolverines’ schedule: at Purdue; Minnesota; at Illinois; Indiana. See what I mean? The victory put Michigan is a good spot to at least share the league crown, as long as it wins three of its last four. But I’m sure the Wolverines would like to win out and claim the school’s first out-right league crown since 1986.
There is a movement afoot to unionize Northwestern football players, with on-going hearings taking place on the subject in Chicago.
If it’s Friday, it’s time for my survey. This week, I asked Big Ten media members who is the best dunker in the conference. A guy from Ohio State was a popular choice.
If you haven’t already made an appointment for the psychiatrist’s couch, do so. The craziness that is 2014 Big Ten basketball continues with plenty more to come. Keep that straightjacket handy.
If there is a theme to this Big Ten season, it would be “expect the unexpected.” Down is up … up is down … in is out … out is in. You get the idea. Each week is like a roller-coaster, as upsets seemingly have become the norm. Heck, we even had one last night, with last-place Illinois winning at Minnesota.
Gonna reach into my mailbag. Let’s start with my survey of Big Ten writers from last week in which I asked them what they thought was the most intimidating home-court edge in the Big Ten. The consensus among the writers I polled said Michigan State’s Breslin Center was the most intimidating.
The Big Ten features many dynamic newcomers who have had a profound impact on the conference this season. Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway and Michigan’s Derrick Walton, Jr., among others. Minnesota’s DeAndre Mathieu also belongs in the conversation.
It’s a great debate across the Midwest, stretching from Lincoln over to State College and up to Minneapolis and down to Bloomington: Is the Big Ten the best league in the nation? You can make a case for and against the notion, but the topsy-turvy nature of the season has been crazy. Get this: Since Jan. 25, road teams have won 22 of 40 games. And of the six games played last Saturday or Sunday, the visitor won five.
I long for the days when every Big Ten school played twice every season. It was a symmetrical schedule that crowned a true champ in a neat and tidy 18-game league schedule. The only thing missing was a bow on top.
Despite their missteps on Sunday, Michigan and Michigan State remain atop the Big Ten. But keep an eye on third-place Iowa, which begins a big week tonight with a trip to Indiana. Iowa is just a game behind the front-running Wolverines and Spartans. To have any shot to stake a claim of the crown, the Hawkeyes must win this game vs. the slumbering Hoosiers. That would set up a big visit to Iowa City by Wisconsin over the weekend. This is gonna be a fun ending to the regular-season.
The spotlight this week swings on Ann Arbor, where Michigan will play host to Michigan State in a battle between Big Ten front-runners this weekend. Each squad is 10-3 in league action. Wisconsin and Iowa are right behind the Wolverines and Spartans. And, ironically, the Badgers and Hawkeyes meet in a big game in Iowa City this week.
B.J. Armstrong never did it. Neither did Acie Earl, Ed Horton, Les Jepsen, Dean Oliver, Reggie Evans, Ryan Bowen, Kevin Gamble or Andre Woolridge, among other former Iowa greats over the last 35 years. Not one of those studs won a Big Ten regular-season championship.
By all accounts, this week lacks much pizzazz. The one saving grace: The menu features what looks to be a de facto Big Ten championship game on Sunday, with Michigan State visiting Michigan. Both teams are coming off home losses Sunday – outcomes that have opened up the Big Ten title race. As a result, Iowa is one loss behind the co-leaders and has a big week.
Michigan and Michigan State had been immune to most of the zaniness that has come to define this Big Ten season. But all that ended on Sunday for the league’s first-place teams.