Wrapping up the weekend that was in the Land of 10 …
The Point After
Shame? What shame?
Don’t run from the mediocrity, Jim Delany.
Embrace it. Cuddle it. Make it your March teddy bear.
Purdue can win at Maryland … and lose at Nebraska and Iowa.
Penn State can lose to Rutgers … and then beat Maryland.
Illinois can win at Northwestern …and then lose at home to Penn State.
Northwestern can then turn around … and win at Wisconsin.
Welcome to the Big Ten Tournament 2017: Where Anything — ANYTHING — Can Happen!
No, no. We’re serious. Anything.
So if you’re a fan of the Buckeyes/Hawkeyes/Hoosiers/Illini/Spartans/Wolverines, buck up. We had a feeling that when the Cornhuskers celebrated the start of 2017 by winning at Bloomington and at College Park in the same week, it was probably going to be a bananas year in league play.
We just didn’t expect the whole bushel.
When the NCAA selection committee dropped its “teaser” top 16 on the free world and there was nary a Big Ten team to be found — league-leader Wisconsin (21-4) appeared to be the most notable absentee — you could feel the hands start to wring. But when the Badgers went out 30 hours later and sort of validated that early skepticism with a home loss to the Wildcats (19-6), it became hard for folks to take any huffiness with a straight face.
So maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe we just need to throw up our hands and embrace the Looney Tunes, accept a universe — for now — in which no opponent, save for Rutgers, feels like a gimme, a climate in which 18-12 is the new 23-7.
And if there’s a fortunate side effect of all this unplanned parity, it’s this: A conference tournament at a new venue — the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. — and with a completely new paradigm.
Right now, you couldn’t wedge so much as a saltine between seeds 4 through 13. Or 3 through 13. Or … oh, what the hell: If you’re anybody other than the Scarlet Knights — sorry, Steve Pikiell — you’ve probably got as much chance to take this bad boy as the rest of the pool.
If Big Ten tourney started Monday night, the 12/13 game would pit Illinois (14-12) against Nebraska (10-14). The 11/14 game would feature Ohio State (15-11) or Indiana (15-11) against Rutgers (13-13). Think about that. The Buckeyes or Hoosiers — the same Hoosiers who knocked off No. 3 Kansas to open the season and humbled No. 8 North Carolina in Bloomington — on a play-in Wednesday, forced to try and jump-start a journey to Bracketville from a side door instead of the entrance to the lobby.
So welcome to 2017, when the Big Ten tourney is setting up to kick it old school, back to the event’s first nonsensical steps, when from 1998-2003, at least one seed worse than a 5 appeared in four of six championship matchups and a 6 — Iowa — won the whole shebang in 2001.
If your blueblood of choice spent most of January and February letting you down, take heart. March is coming. And if the last seven weeks are any indication, it figures to be completely, utterly mental.
Who’s dancing in the NCAA tourney this week, according to BracketMatrix.com
As of Sunday:
Wisconsin (21-4) — 4 seed
Purdue (20-5) — 6 seed
Maryland (21-4) — 6 seed
Minnesota (18-7) — 7 seed
Northwestern (19-6) — 8 seed
Michigan State (15-10) — 10 seed
Indiana (15-11) — 11 seed
On the bubble:
Michigan (16-9) — listed on 38 of 87 mock brackets
Noses pressed against the bubble:
Ohio State (15-11) — listed on 2 of 87 mock brackets
One man’s rolling Big Ten Player of the Year ballot
- Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue (19.0 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, 4.8 Win Shares on Sports-Reference.com)
- Ethan Happ, F, Wisconsin (14.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 4.7 Win Shares on Sports-Reference.com)
- Derrick Walton Jr., G, Michigan (14.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 4.1 Win Shares on Sports-Reference.com)
Fake Bo Pelini tweet of the week (OMG, Yes, Do That edition)
— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) February 9, 2017
The Hot Seat
Tom Crean, Indiana
Michigan was 1-17 in its last 18 trips to Assembly Hall before Sunday, and the blogosphere is looking to stick a fork in the Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten), who already have four home conference losses — four! — on the resume.
Tom Crean: “I’m not shirking responsibility one iota. If I’ve learned one thing in 9 years, it all falls on me.”
— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) February 12, 2017
Up next: The Hoosiers play four of their final five league regular-season contests on the road. With trips to Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue and Ohio State looming, things might look a whole lot worse before they start to get better.
3 games coming up we’d absolutely pay to watch
- Ohio State at Michigan State (Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN). Because Thad Matta’s running out of time. And, in some circles, friends.
- Maryland at Northwestern (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET, BTN). Fun fact: Wednesday could well be the first time the Terps and Wildcats have met in Evanston while both were ranked. Then again, it could also be the last.
- Wisconsin at Michigan (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN). Are the Badgers vulnerable, or fixable? If Bronson Koenig takes his funk on the road, the stretch run could be a bumpy ride for coach Greg Gard.
Fake Bo Pelini tweet of the week (Can We Bring The Broken Chair Back? edition)
@Coach_Fleck that reminds me of the story Footprints in the Sand
— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) February 11, 2017
The takeaway number(s)
Despite a stunner of a Sunday setback, Wisconsin has already reached 10 league victories, clinching a winning record in Big Ten play for a 17th straight season. That’s not just a school record, it’s a conference record, too, snapping Purdue’s streak of 16 consecutive winning league years from 1972 through 1988.