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The Big Ten Before the Big Ten

Date: 1/13/98
Author: Rufus Talladega
Rufus Talladega

    First - from a conference perspective ...
    It hasn't been the Big Ten's best season. But it hasn't been that bad of 
    one either. The Big Ten is 91-39 going into Big Ten season making a winning 
    percentage of 70%. And unlike schedules of past decades, most of the Big Ten
    teams pitted themselves against some of the basketball powerhouses of the
    other conferences.
    Big Ten Wins Over	Big Ten Close Losses From (5 pts. or less)
    Duke			North Carolina
    Xavier			Kentucky
    Clemson			UCLA
    Louisville		Louisville
    Fresno State (x 2)	Temple
    Illinois State
    Eastern Michigan
    Please note that there are still two Non-Big Ten games to be played still
    in the regular season (Purdue at Houston and Chicago State at Northwestern)
    and that those games are not counted into the following discussions. 
    However, since there are only two games left- I really don't see the need to
    delay this article two weeks for just a couple of games.
    The Big Ten Versus the other Major Conferences:
    Big Ten vs. ACC  3-1
    Let's start on a happy note. The Big Ten went 3-1 against the ACC this season,
    just like they did last season. The Big Ten beat Duke, Clemson, and N.C. State,
    losing a close one to North Carolina. If the ACC is the best conference in the
    country, then this record speaks well of the Big Ten.
    Big Ten vs. Atlantic 10  3-4
    The Big Ten was just 3-4 this season. Granted, four of those games repre-
    sented the cream of the Atlantic 10 (Xavier and Temple). Temple had a three-
    game sweep in the Big Ten, defeating Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
    Purdue beat Xavier and UMass.
    Big Ten vs. Big East  5-2
    The best win was probably Michigan over Syracuse. The two losses were Illinois
    to St. John's and Northwestern to Boston College.
    Big Ten vs. Big 12  3-3
    Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa respectively defeated Oklahoma, Texas, and 
    Iowa State. Kansas beat Ohio State. Nebraska beat Minnesota. Missouri beat
    Big Ten vs. Conference USA  6-5
    11 games played (one yet to be played) and both conferences played the range
    of the other. There wasn't much I could read out of the results.
    Big Ten vs. PAC-10  1-1
    Illinois lost a close game to UCLA. Ohio State beat Southern Cal.
    Big Ten vs. SEC  0-5
    Once again, the SEC spells disaster for the Big Ten. Last season, Kentucky
    had a 5-0 season record against Big Ten teams. This season, Kentucky gets
    help. Kentucky defeated both Purdue and Indiana. Mississippi State won a
    one-point battle over Penn State. Alabama won a one-point battle over 
    Minnesota and Ohio State lost by ten points to Vanderbilt.
    Big Ten vs. WAC  5-3
    Top-predicted WAC team Fresno State lost to both Wisconsin and Minnesota.
    Other games had Hawaii beating Indiana and Michigan beating UNLV.
    The Big Ten Versus the Minor Conferences:
    Big Ten vs.	America East  2-0
    		Big Sky  4-0
    		Big South  No games.
    		Colonial  1-0
    		Ivy League  No games.
    		MEAC  3-0
    		Mid-Continent  2-0
    		Northeast  4-0
    		Ohio Valley  3-0
    		Patriot League  3-0
    		Southland  3-0
    		SWAC  No games.
    		Trans America  4-0
    Big West  2-3
    Pacific defeats Wisconsin.
    New Mexico State defeats Ohio State.
    Wisconsin defeats Nevada.
    Utah State defeats Minnesota.
    Iowa defeats North Texas.
    Metro Atlantic  2-1
    Penn State beats Loyola, Md.
    Ohio State beats Rider.
    Siena edges out Northwestern.
    Mid-American (MAC)  6-3
    Minnesota defeats Eastern Michigan.
    Eastern Michigan defeats Michigan.
    Ball State defeats Wisconsin.
    Wisconsin defeats Toledo in overtime.
    Ohio State defeats Toledo.
    Indiana defeats Western Michigan.
    Western Michigan defeats Michigan.
    Michigan State defeats Central Michigan.
    Ohio State defeats Kent.
    Midwestern Collegiate  6-2
    Illinois-Chicago defeats Michigan State.
    Illinois defeats Illinois-Chicago.
    Detroit-Mercy defeats Michigan State.
    Michigan defeats Detroit-Mercy.
    Indiana defeats UW-Grn. Bay.
    Michigan State defeats Cleveland State.
    Michigan defeats Cleveland State.
    Michigan State defeats Wright State.
    Missouri Valley  6-2
    Wisconsin defeats Illinois State.
    Indiana defeats SW Missouri State.
    Bradley defeats Michigan.
    Illinois defeats Bradley.
    Indiana defeats Evansville.
    Northern Iowa defeats Iowa.
    Illinois defeats Wichita State.
    Iowa defeats Drake.
    Southern  6-1
    Michigan defeats Tenn.-Chatt.
    Ohio State defeats Tenn.-Chatt.
    Minnesota defeats Western Carolina.
    Virginia Military Institute defeats Penn State.
    Illinois defeats Georgia Southern.
    Michigan State defeats East Tenn. St.
    Northwestern defeats Wofford.
    Sun Belt  2-1
    Indiana beats South Alabama.
    SW Louisiana defeats Ohio State.
    Illinois beats Texas-Pan American.
    West Coast  3-1
    Purdue defeats San Francisco.
    Indiana defeats San Francisco.
    Pepperdine defeats Wisconsin.
    Michigan State defeats Gonzaga.
    Common Big Ten Opponent Results
    Common Opponent		Big Ten Team	Big Ten won?	Score
    Temple			Indiana		No		53-59
    Temple			Michigan State	No		54-56
    Temple			Wisconsin	No		49-59
    Louisville		Illinois	No		57-58
    Louisville		Purdue		Yes		87-69
    UAB			Indiana		Yes		80-64
    UAB			Purdue		Yes		92-64
    South Florida		Michigan State	Yes		68-53
    South Florida		Ohio State	No		49-67
    Kentucky		Indiana		No		72-75
    Kentucky		Purdue		No		75-89
    Fresno State		Minnesota	Yes		92-72
    Fresno State		Wisconsin	Yes		64-60
    BYU			Ohio State	No		65-72
    BYU			Penn State	Yes		80-50
    Eastern Michigan	Michigan	No		83-89
    Eastern Michigan	Minnesota	Yes		65-58
    Toledo			Ohio State	Yes		84-74
    Toledo			Wisconsin	Yes		73-68 OT
    Western Michigan	Indiana		Yes		70-63
    Western Michigan	Michigan	No		63-68
    Illinois-Chicago	Illinois	Yes		71-70
    Illinois-Chicago	Michigan State	No		58-70
    Detroit-Mercy		Michigan	Yes		54-53
    Detroit-Mercy		Michigan State	No		65-68
    Cleveland State		Michigan	Yes		77-59
    Cleveland State		Michigan State	Yes		85-54
    Bradley			Illinois	Yes		69-59
    Bradley			Michigan	No		58-63
    Long Island		Iowa		Yes		101-69
    Long Island		Purdue		Yes		119-95
    Bucknell		Iowa		Yes		91-52
    Bucknell		Penn State	Yes		91-75
    Tenn.-Chatt.		Michigan	Yes		87-53
    Tenn.-Chatt.		Ohio State	Yes		63-54
    NE Louisiana		Indiana		Yes		103-69
    NE Louisiana		Purdue		Yes		107-80
    San Francisco		Indiana		Yes		65-52
    San Francisco		Purdue		Yes		107-82
    Last- from a Big Ten team perspective.
    Note: All records are Pre-Big Ten.
    Team: Illinois
    Record: 8-5
    Losses: Louisville, St. John's, St. Louis, Missouri, UCLA
    Biggest Wins: Clemson, Texas, Bradley, Illinois-Chicago
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Tied for 8th in Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Should do MUCH better than that.
    Illinois beat Clemson by ten points while shooting something like 20% from
    behind the three-point line. Illinois beat Texas by 25 points. Illinois
    played a terrible game against Missouri and only lost by six points. They
    lost to UCLA by five points. They lost to Louisville by one point. Those
    scores are enough for me to re-adjust my opinion on how dangerous the 
    Illini are this season.
    Their defense, hustle, and passing skills on offense make up for the rebounds
    they lose due to the doughnut line-up they have. Turner, Hester, and Gee all
    have the ability to light it up on offense on any given night. Gee's blocking
    and rebounding ability makes him play a lot taller than his 6-8 frame would
    lead one to suspect. Freshmen Storey and McClain are beginning to contribute
    positive minutes in the rotation. The Illini's defense doesn't let up on the
    opposition and both point guard Matt Heldman and forward Brian Johnson
    constantly hustle and fight, refusing to give up the game.
    Illinois should do much better than 8th place in the Big Ten. While I wouldn't
    say they're a favorite to win the Big Ten championship, I would say that
    Illinois are one of the second tier of teams in the Big Ten. 3rd to 5th
    place. And a dark horse for the Big Ten championship.
    Of all the Big Ten teams, I would say I underestimated the Illini the most.
    Team: Indiana
    Record: 10-3
    Losses: Temple, Hawaii, Kentucky
    Biggest Wins: UAB? Notre Dame? South Alabama? Western Michigan? SW Missouri St?
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Tied for 3rd in the Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Lower.
    In my predictions, I decided to bet that the Hoosiers would find that team
    chemistry and team defense that they lacked last year. Perhaps a bad bet
    on my part. Although IU is improving, they seem to be advancing in minute
    increments - punctuated by moments of stupidity.
    Their struggle to improve has been entangled by the sudden departure of 
    sophomore starting center (and McDonald's All-American) Jason Collier. Now,
    Coach Knight and his team hustle to readjust their game to function without
    the use of the multi-talented center.
    Although IU has proven the ability to hang with talented teams (like Kentucky),
    they currently seem to lack whatever it is they need to finish the game. Until
    that happens, their Win-Loss column isn't going to look very appealing in the
    Big Ten conference. Depending on how long it takes IU to find their balance,
    IU might slip out of contention for a NCAA tournament slot.
    I'll split the difference and say IU will finish somewhere from fourth to
    sixth place.
    Team: Iowa
    Record: 11-1
    Losses: Northern Iowa
    Biggest Wins: Long Island? Iowa State? Southern Mississippi? St. Bonaventure?
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: 2nd place.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Uncertain but unchanged.
    Iowa has played no one of any strength in pre-conference play. So it's very
    difficult to tell just how good the Iowa Hawkeyes are. The loss to Northern
    Iowa should be unsettling to Hawkeye fans, but it IS only one game.
    Iowa has depth, rebounding, and a press defense that seems to be doing its
    job. Both of the superstar guard freshmen (Dean Oliver and Ricky Davis)
    are scoring points (though taking a lot of shots to do so). Jess Settles
    is still unable to play due to injury, but Ryan Bowen is having a career
    year and should be a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.
    Iowa will have to prove themselves to me (and everyone else) in Big Ten play.
    Team: Michigan
    Record: 10-3
    Losses: Western Michigan, Bradley, Eastern Michigan
    Biggest Wins: Duke, Syracuse, UNLV, Western Michigan
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Tied for 6th in the Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Hard to tell, but should do (at least) a little better.
    Michigan is tough for me to figure out. The Wolverines lose to Western 
    Michigan, Bradley, and Eastern Michigan (teams that have been respectively 
    beat by Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota). Yet Michigan defeats Duke; the
    envy of every team in the nation. If you listen to the losses, you place
    Michigan at about 6th place in the Big Ten. If you listen to the Duke and
    Syracuse victories, I'd have to put Michigan up there with Purdue and Iowa.
    If Michigan can beat Duke, then I have to believe that Michigan can defeat
    any team in the nation. Yet they've lost games and I ask, how come?
    The answer I come up with is a lack of consistency. Maybe it's because 
    Michigan has a shallow bench and the Michigan players are fatigued at the 
    beginning of some games. Maybe the new coaching staff hasn't adequately 
    prepared the team for all their games, for whatever reason. Maybe Michigan
    plays with more emotion in some games than in others, for whatever reason.
    Or maybe the reason is none of the above. I simply haven't figured it out
    But I do figure that unless Michigan can find some consistency in their 
    game, they aren't going to win the Big Ten championship. The Big Ten teams
    are competitive enough to defeat Michigan if they show up for a game and
    play at a "low" level of intensity. Michigan has the ability to win the
    Big Ten championship and do well in the NCAA, but they're going to have to
    solve that problem first.
    Right now, I would say Michigan will finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th in the
    Big Ten, but the Wolverines are a definite dark horse in the run for the Big
    Ten championship.
    Team: Michigan State
    Record: 7-3
    Losses: Illinois-Chicago, Temple, Detroit-Mercy
    Biggest Wins: South Florida, Gonzaga
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Tied for 6th in Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? The same. Maybe lower.
    Michigan State came close to beating Temple. But their pre-conference play
    seems to indicate to me that they are the same team as they were last 
    year - a dangerous team that almost but not quite has the ability to finish
    the upset. Zone defense and rebounding are their weapons. If the Spartans
    shoot well on a given night, they could upset anybody in the Big Ten.
    But it would take a lot of upsets for them to get into the upper division
    (Top 5) of the Big Ten. I'll leave the Spartans where they are for right
    now. But if they finish in seventh or eighth place, I wouldn't be surprised.
    It's getting crowded in the top half of the Big Ten. Somebody has to be
    in the basement.
    Team: Minnesota
    Record: 7-4
    Losses: Utah State, Alabama, Nebraska, UCinn
    Biggest Wins: Fresno State, Eastern Michigan, Villanova
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: 5th in the Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Maybe a little lower, but not much.
    Bottom line ... the Minnesota centers are not progressing as quickly as I
    had predicted. This is important because Minnesota needs the big men to
    rebound and score in order to keep the opposition's defense honest on
    Jacobson, Harris, and Lewis. In comparison, I feel the Illini are doing a
    much better job getting production out of their frontcourt than Minnesota
    does. And, in the history of the Big Ten, having a productive frontcourt
    is key to success. And nobody knows that better than the Golden Gopher fans,
    unless they happened to be in a coma last season.
    I could see Minnesota finishing in 5th place if their frontcourt picks up.
    If not, I would expect them to slide down to 6th or 7th.
    Team: Northwestern
    Record: 6-3
    Losses: Siena, Boston College, Dayton
    Biggest Wins: None
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Last place (11th) in the Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Unchanged.
    Evan Eschmeyer is a great player. But he needs more help if Northwestern 
    expects to get above 11th place in the Big Ten.
    Team: Ohio State
    Record: 7-6
    Losses: Vanderbilt, South Florida, SW Louisiana, Kansas, New Mexico St., BYU
    Biggest Wins: Tenn-Chatt. (and that's a reach)
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Tied for 8th in the Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? 10th or last place.
    Yes, I picked OSU to finish eighth in the Big Ten. But that was before
    Jermaine Tate and Trent Jackson were dismissed from the team. That was
    before Shaun Stonerook was found academically ineligible to play. That was
    before Damon Stringer was injured. In other words, things have changed. The
    Buckeye roster has been devastated by these losses.
    The good news is that freshman guard Michael Redd leads the Big Ten players
    in scoring, going into Big Ten season. But that's not good enough in the
    Big Ten race. I expect OSU to compete with Northwestern for last place.
    It's a contest that neither new coach O'Brien nor new coach O'Neill wants
    to win.
    Team: Penn State
    Record: 7-3
    Losses: Virginia Military Institute, UTEP, Mississippi State
    Biggest Wins: North Carolina State
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: 10th place.
    Rufus' Opinion now?  9th place.
    Penn State was looking fairly impressive until the LeHigh game, where
    returning senior point guard Danny Earl received a career-ending injury. 
    Since then, the Nittany Lions have lost 3 of their 4 games. Without Earl's 
    calming influence on the floor, I don't expect Penn State to beat any teams
    other than Ohio State and Northwestern.
    Team: Purdue
    Record: 11-3
    Losses: North Carolina, Kentucky
    Biggest Wins: Xavier, Louisville, Providence, UMass, Long Island
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: 1st place.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Same.
    The Purdue team that played Xavier (in December) was much better than the
    Purdue team that beat Long Island in its season opener. I didn't notice
    that same constant rate of improvement in Iowa, so I have to stick with
    Purdue as the favorite to win the Big Ten championship.
    Both Purdue losses were games in which there was no bench production. Purdue
    played North Carolina strong, but didn't even show up to play Kentucky.
    So there's some inconsistency in intensity (particularly on defense) that
    Purdue has to solve.
    Both Austin and Miller have been injured this season and unable to play in
    all the games but the rest of the Purdue players (like Cardinal, Cornell,
    and Robinson) have picked up the slack in scoring in those instances.
    But Purdue has to keep up the intensity and stay healthy (particularly in
    the frontcourt) if they want to win their fourth Big Ten championship in
    five years.
    Team: Wisconsin
    Record: 7-5
    Losses: Marquette, Pepperdine, Pacific, Temple, Ball State
    Biggest Wins: Fresno State, Illinois State, Oklahoma
    Rufus Prediction Pre-season: Tied for 3rd in the Big Ten.
    Rufus' Opinion now? Much lower. Like 8th in the Big Ten.
    Defense FG%. In short, it's too high for Bennett's style of game to be 
    effective. Consistent scoring is going to be a problem with as many freshmen
    as he has on his team.
    Wisconsin has also been plagued with absences and injuries in their roster.
    Senior Point Guard Ty Calderwood has been red-shirted due to an injury
    (though it is NOT a medical red-shirt) and Sam Okey and Duany Duany have
    both missed more than one game due to sickness, injury, and/or team 
    Unless Wisconsin can get that killer D going again, offense-minded teams
    like Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana are going to run right over the
    Badgers. And teams with better defenses (like Michigan State, Illinois, 
    and Minnesota) are going to also edge out the Badgers on rebounding, scoring,
    or both. That adds up to a lot of losses in the Big Ten season.
    It doesn't look good for the Badgers. I may have seriously overestimated
    their impact in Big Ten play this season.
    Until Next Time,
    Rufus Talladega

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