With four clear-cut big-dancers, the Big Ten oozes front-end quality. But with lower-seeded teams providing late season scares to perennial powers – see Michigan State barely escaping Penn State in East Lansing last week - look for some drama to unfold this Thursday thru Sunday in Indianapolis.
It was billed as the college basketball game that would drag people away from college football on New Year's Day, and the matchup between West Virginia and Purdue had the look of a stellar contest on paper. But in the flesh the Boilermakers put together a virtuoso performance in whipping the Mountaineers in West Lafayette 77-62. And to be fair the game really wasn't that close despite WVU going into the locker room down by just five (37-32) at the half.
For the second time this season a Big Ten team had a victory tempered by the loss of their best player. First it was Ohio State's Evan Turner, who broke two vertebra in his lower back in a blowout win over Eastern Michigan. The Buckeyes have been able to navigate the waters following his loss outside of a close defeat to Butler due to the many other options at Thad Matta's disposal. But the loss of Maurice Creek could loom even larger for Indiana, who beat winless Bryant 90-42 at Assembly Hall.
The Jimmy V Classic annually brings together four programs for a night of basketball and a great cause: to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. But one couldn't help but to notice the importance of Tuesday night's game against Butler (and their game against Washington on Saturday in the Wooden Classic) to a Georgetown squad whose biggest test came against Temple.
With six teams in CHN's preseason Top 25, and 3 more teams with NCAA Tournament hopes, no league has more depth than the Big Ten. And an improving Indiana into the mix, and this should be quite a season for Big Ten fans.
Ranking players is more art then science. How do you compare the potential of freshmen with seniors who have already peaked? How much does physical talent come into play versus intangibles and experience? How big a role do numbers play?