Predictions of how the Big Ten will finish based off of the performances of the teams, week to week.
TOP TIER- Teams that will make an big impact and have the best chances of winning the Big Ten title.
1.) Ohio State (3-0, 16-0) [ Last Week: 1 ] - Ohio State remained undefeated this week. One can argue that they were tested for the first time this week. Where they beat Iowa and Minnesota by slim margins. Ohio State will remain here until they prove they don't deserve to be here. An undefeated record proves that they should be here. I do see Ohio State stumbling somewhere along the line in the Big Ten, which could jeopardize their number one spot. So far, the Buckeyes are holding strong. They are sure to be tested at the end of January when they face Illinois and Purdue is back to back games. Who knows, they could even be tested this week at Michigan. Michigan did hang tough and force overtime on a third-ranked Kansas team yesterday. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
(More projections after the jump)
2.) Purdue (4-0, 15-1) [ Last Week: 2 ] - Purdue has continued it's dominance over it's first four Big Ten opponents. They have found a third scorer, Ryne Smith, as well as a few other guys that are threats to score at any time. When John Hart comes back, they have another threat. They are gelling well together right now as a team. They look ready for a tough week ahead. They will face 25-ranked Minnesota and West Virginia on the road this week. These games will stand a true test of what this team is made of. This team knows respect is at stake. Lately, Purdue has been bashed by so many members of the media. To me, win both of these games and your respect in the media should grow strong. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
3.) Illinois (3-0, 13-3) [ Last Week: 3 ] - Illinois in the past couple games is looking dominate. They are scoring like its nothing. They set a school record 70.6% from the field in their Northwestern home game. Illinois is a team that will make the Big Ten race interesting. They will get a huge shot on January 22 to take down a undefeated Buckeye squad at home. If they pull it off, we have ourselves a Big Ten race. Illinois is a threat to everyone in the conference. Their is no denying that. They need to keep their chemistry going. They do not want to fall back down to the level of play they had when they got beat by UIC. They go to Penn State this week, they need to avoid the upset bug there, and then they play at Wisconsin, which is a tough place to win. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
4.) Wisconsin (2-1, 12-3) [ Last Week: 5 ] - Wisconsin proven to be a threat in the Big Ten this year. Other than a close loss at Illinois, they have won at Minnesota and then downed Michigan. They have a real test coming up at Michigan State, but with the way Michigan State is playing right now, I think they can beat the Spartans. After that they have a rematch with Illinois, this time at home. Those games are very winnable for this team. I think they win both games and will finish in front of Michigan State. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
5.) Michigan State (2-1, 10-5) [ Last Week: 4 ] - I thought Michigan State was cured. I don't understand what is going on with this Michigan State team. Tom Izzo said they had a great couple days of practice and then they go to Penn State and completely fall apart. Is this a down year for them? I didn't think so, but it's looking more and more like they lost to many key pieces of the team that used to work. The team that went to two back to back Final Fours. Is Michigan State's reign over? If Tom Izzo doesn't get this team straightened out soon, they could be headed farther south. Only time will tell, we will have to see how they react when they bring in Wisconsin on January 11th. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
6.) Minnesota (1-3, 12-4) [ Last Week: 3 ] - Minnesota wouldn't let Ohio State pull away and only ended up losing by three. That is a very encouraging sign for a team who lost a key piece. They should still be able to compete in the Big Ten. They welcome Purdue to The Barn this week. That should tell us more about what to expect with Minnesota this year in the Big Ten. Overall, I think three loses in the Big Ten already, puts you in a position that will be hard to climb out of. You definitely don't want to start 1-4. That could happen if Minnesota doesn't protect it home floor. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
MIDDLE TIER- Teams that have a chance to stir up the Big Ten race and make it interesting.
NOTE: Northwestern, Michigan and Penn State are all in the middle tier this week because I feel they are all playing at a similar level.
7.) Northwestern (1-3, 10-4) [ Last Week: 7 ] - Northwestern dropped all it's Big Ten games to ranked opponents so far before beating Indiana at home to get it's first Big Ten win. Northwestern looks to be in trouble. With John Shurna's ankle troubles persisting Northwestern more than likely will not make the NCAA Tournament, again, as they fell completely off the bubble this week. I do think Northwestern will make the NIT. They have what it takes to get there and I think they will be invited to it as long as they can squeeze out some good wins and finish above .500. They play at Iowa and at MSU this week. (Postseason Projection: NIT)
8.) Michigan (1-2, 11-5) [ Last Week: 8 ] - Michigan almost beat third-ranked Kansas this week, as they forced overtime. To me, that certified that Michigan is improving some and is sniffing the NIT. They have a good shot at making the NIT at a , so far, 11-5 record. I see them getting a couple good wins at home this season in the Big Ten. They welcome second-ranked Ohio State to Crisler Arena and then take on Indiana on the road. Can Michigan make it a game against rival Ohio State? After all, they gave Kansas a run for their money. (Postseason Projection: NIT)
9.) Penn State (2-2, 9-6) [ Last Week: 9 ] - Penn State beat a troubled Michigan State team this week. A ranked opponent on their home floor. They could get to the NIT, but at this point, I think they will lose to many games to be invited. They caught Michigan State off guard, as they are still searching for an answer. They play Illinois at home this week before traveling to Ohio State. If Penn State can get a win in either of these games then they could be looking at some kind of postseason. It is still to early to tell. (Postseason Projection: No Postseason)
LOWER TIER- Teams that just aren't there yet.
10.) Iowa (0-3, 7-8) [ Last Week: 10 ] - Iowa still looks to be improving. They had a set back at Mackey Arena, but that is normal for a rebuilding team. They play Northwestern at home and then travel to 25-ranked Minnesota. I think they will continue to show signs of improvement as they take on Northwestern. Who knows, with the way they have been playing at home, they could get a win against a struggling Northwestern team. That could be huge for that program right now. (Postseason Projection: No Postseason)
11.) Indiana (0-4, 9-8) [ Last Week: 11 ] - Indiana is struggling, still. I think there is no doubt, they finish at the very bottom of the Big Ten this year. I just don't see them getting enough wins to finish any higher than that. They can still prove me wrong. But it won't be easy, they take on Michigan this week. (Postseason Projection: No Postseason)