The Big Ten has been very successful as a whole during non-conference play so far, however, as expected in college basketball, there has been surprises.
First, dealing with the pressure as the number one team in the nation, the Indiana Hoosiers had their first loss last night against Butler 88-86. This just shows that Indiana can be beaten. In college basketball anything can happen and recently, Butler has played very well in big game situations. There previous tournament runs have proven that. Indiana is still a very good basketball team and I expect them to bounce back and continue their success. They are still a definite contender for the Big Ten Championship as well as the NCAA championship.
The Michigan Wolverines are still undefeated and should be ranked number two after the Indiana loss this week. Their offense has looked incredibly strong this season and their defense is a lot better than many expected. Michigan defeated West Virginia last night pretty handily by a score of 81-66. They finish off their non-conference play against Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan so it is expected that they will begin their conference play undefeated.
Illinois is the only other undefeated team left in the Big Ten and that may come as a surprise to many. Not that there are only two teams undefeated, but that it is Illinois who remains on top. Despite the fact that Illinois hasn’t had the hardest non-conference schedule, they have still defeated Butler (the team who beat number one Indiana), and tenth ranked Gonzaga. The Illini still have to play twelfth ranked Missouri and Auburn before entering conference play. Remaining undefeated will not be easy but the Illini will look to continue their success.
Ohio State and Minnesota are the two remaining one loss teams in the conference. Minnesota is 11-1 and their only loss comes from the Duke Blue Devils who are currently ranked second in the nation. They only have one game remaining until Big Ten play, which should be an easy win for Minnesota. They open up there Big Ten season against the 19th ranked Michigan State Spartans. Ohio State’s only loss also comes from the Duke Blue Devils. They still have three games to play in their non-conference season; one of which is against the 9th ranked Kansas Jayhawks. If they defeated the Jayhawks, they will have a lot of momentum for the start of Big Ten play.
Michigan State is the only remaining ranked team in the Big Ten with two losses. This is largely due to the difficulty of their non-conference schedule. They have a big game this Saturday against the University of Texas. Winning this game will be a definite confidence booster as they look to beat Minnesota in their Big Ten opener.
Overall, the Big Ten has proven to be one of the most dominate conferences throughout non-conference play. Non-conference play is a chance to show your ability to the rest of the nation and the Big Ten has succeeded immensely. Six Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25, more than any other conference. Since the Big Ten has proven to be so good and deep, the conference play should be very exciting. Most of the teams are very good this year so conference play will be very competitive. It will be interesting to see who is the most successful early.