Homecourt advantage reigned in the five conference games played this weekend, nowhere with more consequence then Purdue's win over Wisconsin in Mackey. In a hard-fought defensive battle, the Boilermakers pulled out a 60-56 win that upsets the nice and tidy analysis of which teams belong on which tiers, that was posted last week.
Does the Wisconsin loss remove the Badgers from frontrunner status along with Indiana and Michigan State? After all, both their rivals went into Minnesota and came out victorious. Presented with their first chance to get a road scalp, UW came up short. And this after two home wins over Northwestern and Michigan that failed to impress.
On the other hand, that could be seen as overly harsh. It implies a direct comparison to winning at Minnesota and winning at Purdue that may not not be valid. At 5-1 in the league, perhaps it's just a case of the Boilers making this a four-team hunt.
We'll know more by the end of this week. Wisconsin hosts Indiana in a nationally televised game on Thursday night, that this blogger will be in attendance for. The Badgers then go to Minnesota on Super Bowl Sunday. Take care of their home floor and get a win in an environment where the Hoosiers and Spartans prevailed, and Wisconsin is back to looking good. Which makes Purdue look better in turn. Dave Washburn at Boiler Station says it was a week to remember.
Though it wasn't a league game and thus pretty inconsequential in the bigger picture, Indiana's loss to UConn at home further complicates assessing the league race. While the Hoosiers don't lose their status over this game, it does at least trigger some warning bells. Despite another 10-rebound game from D.J. White, they were beaten badly on the glass, primarly because Mike White and Lance Stemler were AWOL. Indiana also got a middling game from Eric Gordon. Are the Hoosiers too dependent on their two big stars? We'll see.
Prior to the game, Terry Hutchens at The Indianapolis Star wrote that the easy part of the schedule was over and the testing time would begin. For now, the first results of the exam are an alarming indictment of the Big Ten's ability to compete on the national stage.
Continuing the pattern of threatening to roil the applecart, Ohio State is gathering steam in the middle. The Buckeyes got 27 points from Jamar Butler and good games from Kosta Koufus and Evan Turner to easily beat Minnesota. Bob Baptist of The Columbus Dispatch opines that the bench deserves a lot of credit, even if they aren't putting up the points. Minnesota just needs to survive this week and the coming Wisconsin game and get to a softer part of the schedule. Keeping his team's confidence up in the face of having so many difficult games early (Michigan State twice, Indiana, Wisconsin, at Ohio State) will be Tubby Smith's key challenge.
Rounding things out, last week I speculated that Northwestern might still make an NIT run. Scratch that. A 70-37 loss to an Illinois program in tatters that drops you to 0-7 in the league means you aren't going anywhere. Iowa rolled over Penn State 64-49, with Jeff Peterson dropping in 19 points off the bench.