College basketball is starting to round into gear and several Big Ten teams have played in high-profile tournaments, starting in mid-November and running through this holiday weekend.
--Purdue looks to be one of the lead contenders for the conference title, coming off their 15-3 conference record acccomplished with mostly freshmen last year. They made it to the finals of the preseason NIT, beating Boston College in the semis. An overtime loss to Oklahoma prevented them from winning the event.
--Michigan State joins the Boilermakers as co-favorites, but the Spartans did not look good in a bad 80-62 loss against Maryland in the Orlando-based Old Spice Classic. MSU bounced back and knocked off Oklahoma State yesterday. They complete the tournament today. Their loss was played without Goran Suton, and the Terps may be better then everyone expects, so at this point the Spartans would still need to retain their co-favorite status.
--Defending conference champ Wisconsin played in the Paradise Jam Classic. After barely scraping by Iona, they beat San Diego U, a team that made the Big Dance a year ago. They were overmatched against second-ranked UConn in the final. Tough to read too much into any of it, as none of the games were realistic measuring sticks.
Indiana looks to be the basketball version of Michigan football. We all knew they'd be in transition and a rougher ride was in store. But they look even worse then anyone could have imagined. The Hoosiers went to Maui, and were absolutely annihilated by Notre Dame, pounded by St. Joe's, and most alarmingly, they barely got by Chaminade. The school did get good news in that no further sanctions are coming against them for the Kelvin Sampson era. Tom Crean can get the rebuilding going unimpeded by further restrictions.
Earlier in November, Michigan stepped up and made some noise. They played in the 2K Sports Classic and upset UCLA in the semifinals. Though the Wolverines lost to Duke in the final, beating a team who's been to three straight Final Fours provides the Ann Arbor sports community a badly needed shot of good news.
The Big Ten-ACC Challenge beings Monday night when Wisconsin plays Virginia Tech in the lone game of the night. The bulk of Challenge games will be on Tuesday & Wednesday. Duke's visit to Purdue is the top game on Tuesday, and then Wednesday will be the showcase of the entire event. North Carolina and Michigan State will tip it off in Ford Field.