Within the week, six of college basketball's seven "big" conferences had a clear favorite to win their league. The exception was the Big Ten, which featured a close run of five teams to win the title in the regular season, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Nr. 17 Illinois was the favorite at +240. But after Illini's double overtime loss to No. 4 Purdue on Monday, things are even more muddy at the top of the Big Ten position. In short, it is the country's most open conference at the top by a wide margin.
Illinois, Purdue, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 14 Michigan State and potentially even No. 19 Ohio State appear to be able to win the title. But it's not easy to get through the league. In addition to the flock of frontrunners is a hunting pack with people like Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Rutgers who are all talented enough to win on any given night.
Penn State and Northwestern are also no pushovers, and Minnesota has also been more competitive than expected under first-year coach Ben Johnson. A Maryland team playing under an interim coach and the low Nebraska are perhaps the only inspirational teams that look like "easy" wins at the moment.
So who is going to come out of the fight as the ten great champions? Our experts give their choices for this week's edition of Dribble Handoff.
There are five Big Ten schools in my recent one- Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois. I could theoretically see any of them win the Big Ten, even though I'm currently higher on the Badgers and Boilermakers than the other three. I like the two a lot. But if I'm forced to pick just one, I'll probably lean a little against Wisconsin, which is 5-1 in Quadrant 1 and 4-1 in Quadrant 3 through the first 16 games this season. The Badgers' nine wins in the first two quadrants are the top in the nation. No one has more Q1 wins. If I were to assemble an NCAA tournament bracket today, I would have Greg Guard's team as the No. 1 seed. And the fact that the Badgers have already won at Purdue suggests that they are built to handle real challenges along the way because there is no greater challenge in Big Ten than playing at Purdue.
Will Wisconsin still be there in the end?
Man, who knows?
But what I do know is that Johnny Davis has gone from a three-star role-playing player to a legitimate candidate for National Player of the Year, Brad Davison has gone from a somewhat controversial figure to a really good college basketball player, and Wisconsin is free. to one of the best starts in the sport. In the preseason, I did not think the Badgers would be the Big Ten challenger. But now I believe they can win it. - Gary Parrish
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Monday's victory in Illinois is the reason I bring Boilers here. That got Matt Painters' team to 4-2 in league games - but also knocked Illinois out of the Big Ten mountain as the conference's last team without a conference loss. There are five viable candidates for what we are talking about here. Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State. One of these five teams will finish at the top of the top ten in the first week of March (and it is reasonable to believe that more will finish on the top record). I go with Purdue because Purdue is the best team with the highest ceiling and the most intimidating offensive. Purdue's offensive efficiency ranks No. 1 at KenPom.com and is No. 4 in 3-point accuracy, No. 9 in 2-point accuracy. No team has a better 1-2 big combo than 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and 6-10 Trevion Williams. Jaden Ivey serves up three to five plays a night that will make you remember that he has a special potential as a professional. Then you take the coach into consideration. Matt Painter is the third-best coach at worst in this conference. Purdue will win this league and become the No. 1 seed. - Matt Norlander
Due to a three-match quarantine for Kofi Cockburn to begin the season, he and Andre Curbelo played only two matches together before Curbelo left the ranks due to injury. With Curbelo finally back after losing longer, Illini has their starting point guard and star star on the floor together to really develop chemistry for the first time this season. The combination was not good enough to bring Illinois to a win on Monday in a double-overtime loss to Purdue. But as Illini gets used to having Curbelo and Cockburn on the floor together, it should only make them better.
Illinois is now 6-1 in league play after Monday's loss to Purdue, while the Boilermakers have 4-2. So even after the dramatic defeat, Illini has a head start in the league. With Alfonso Plummer, Jacob Grandison and Trent Frazier pouring in with 3-pointers, the attack can be fatal from the inside or the outside, and Curbelo's ability to facilitate should ultimately make it even better. The defense has shown promise and has the potential to become big. There will be some bumps in the road, but expect this team to roll down the stretch and win the big ten. - David Cobb