Michigan State is out to a 2-0 start in conference play, but if those two wins are any indication, the Spartans might not be the undisputed favorites that many of us have thought they were. Purdue gave Tom Izzo's team all they could handle in East Lansing on Tuesday night before falling 78-75. The Boilermakers follow in Minnesota's footsteps in nearly stealing a win in the Breslin Center. While both of these teams are solid and well-coached, a team that is anointed as a frontrunner and possible national threat should be taking care of them at home with a little more comfort.
I don't want to overreact to these close wins, because winning in any good league is never as easy as it often looks to those of us in the cheap seats, but nothing has happened in East Lansing that suggests anyone in Madison, and certainly Bloomington need be intimidated. Nonetheless, Anthony Fenech of The Detroit Free Press says Michigan State is going to the Final Four.
After the losses of Mike Conley and Greg Oden were followed by a slow December, Ohio State was quietly crossed off the list of possible title contenders. But the Buckeyes are starting to raise some eyebrows, hanging a 79-48 whipping on Iowa. OSU is 3-0 in the league. While none of the wins are against anyone of note, the consistency they've shown in taking care of business is worth nothing. Michael Arace of The Columbus Dispatch says Ohio State is finding their identity.
Wisconsin let Illinois hang around a little long last night, but finally pulled away for a 70-60 win in the Kohl Center. Had the Illini gotten anything from Shawn Pruitt they might have pulled the stunner, but the big man had just nine points and five boards. Meanwhile, Wisconsin controlled the glass. Earlier in the week, Mark Stewart of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel presciently analyzed that second-chance points would be key and that this Badger team is hanging its hat on rebounding.
When it comes to hanging their hats on rebounding, no one did it better this week then Indiana's D.J. White. The Hoosier forward pulled down 22 boards and added 21 points on top of it, to key his team's easy win in Ann Arbor. And Dan Coleman at Minnesota was similarly aggressive, grabbing 14 off the glass and scoring 19 to lead the Gophers to a rout of Northwestern.
Rashard Mendenhall is going to take his Big Ten MVP and Rose Bowl apperance and head early to the NFL. Rick Telander of The Chicago Sun-Times writes that it's time to put a nice spin on this story.