Big Ten Weekly Review, Week 1 of conference play

What an interesting week! There's a lot that has yet to reveal itself in conference play, but who would've suspected that at this early point:

1) Iowa would beat Wisconsin in Madison

2) The Hoosiers would have beaten #1 and #2 ranked teams in the same month

3) Purdue would have humiliated the 27th-ranked team in the nation in a game where Robbie Hummel was a near non-factor.

4) Michigan State would give up a 38-11 run, but come back from a 9 point deficit with 11 minutes left to win by 15

If you foresaw any of things... well, you didn't, most likely. But brag in the comments if you did. Unsurprisingly, there's been a lot of change in the rankings, this week, with commentary below the jump:

1. Michigan State (13-2, 2-0) W v. Indiana, W@Nebraska
I respect the heck out of the Sparties, but I don't really believe they are going to walk away with the conference crown. Izzo's team is looking like a solid post-season threat again, tho, and took care of business against Indiana at home and avoided the upset fever sweeping the conference by holding off a game Huskers' squad on the road. Before the game, I knew Zeller would have trouble - Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are the toughest twosome at center in the conference. Outside of Nix and frosh point Travis Trice, I still don't see much from the MSU bench, but they sure outscored the Hoosier bench. I know Sheehey is hurt and Elston is recovering, but that worries me. Anyway, congrats to MSU for continuing their winning streak and rocketing up the chart to No.1.

2. Ohio State (13-2, 1-1) W v. Northwestern, L@Indiana
The Buckeyes may have lost, but they battled, and if not for four (4!) rare Aaron Craft turnovers with the clock running down at the end of both halves (in the last minute of each half, he turned ball over twice!), OSU probably would have been walking away with a close call instead only their third conference loss in the last calendar year. Jared Sullinger has a lovely pro career ahead of him, and while we knew he had a good sense of humor about himself (Party in the USA, anyone?), it turns out he's a high-class player too (twittering to take blame for the loss for missing FTs, congratulating IU on being a tough team, and thanking respectful IU fans). Jared, you are a very impressive young man, and I hope you are in the NBA next season.

3. Indiana (13-1, 1-1) L@MSU, W v. OSU
I did not expect the Hoosiers to salvage a split off of that opening tandem of games. The Michigan State game was worrisome to me, as there were long stretches were the Hoosiers just did not have answers. It always fills me with dread when a Hoosier team is feast-or-famine, it makes me worry that a good coach has figured out how to shut IU down (like playing Marco Killingsworth straight up, or double/triple-teaming Eric Gordon on the drive). Still, that Ohio State game... wow. Cody scores 14 points on OSU in a mere 21 minutes, and how about Christian Watford with the game on the line? Defensive rebounding and cool execution at the free-throw line - he's maximizing his strengths at the right time against the best competition the nation has to offer.

4. Purdue (12-3, 2-0) W@Iowa, W v. Illinois
The Boilers are off to a nice start, with that win at Iowa looking pretty solid now, instead of a cause for concern. Embarrassing Illinois with Robbie Hummel contributing precious little is very good news. DJ Byrd is now contributing some toughness and outside shooting, and Travis Carroll is starting to look like an actual contributor at center. Purdue is still not hitting free-throws, and look a little weak on the glass - but they're definitely in better shape than a number of conference foes at this point.

5. Michigan (12-2, 2-0) W v. Penn State, W v. Minnesota
Winning at home against two lower-tier teams hardly demonstrates anything. The Wolverines got one of the easiest opening weeks in the B1G. Still, UW showed it's possible to flub up an easy schedule. Frosh Trey Burke is playing quite well, but I'm probably most impressed with Evan Smotrycz's improvement, who looked last year like the latest Ben Allen model. This year, Smotrycz has added actual defense to his game, which, given the inconsistency (or just mere mediocrity) of Jordan Morgan & Jon Horford, has been a godsend for John Beilien.

6. Wisconsin (12-3, 1-1) W@Nebraska, L v. Iowa
What can be said about the epic collapse of outside shooting against Iowa? After the Bo Ryan machine mowed through Nebraska home court (welcome, Huskers), Wisconsin did everything just a little better than the Hawkeyes, but took 28 threes on a night when they were amazingly off. Some blame is being heaped on reserve guard Ben Brust for going 1-9 beyond the arc, but he's a shooter - what's he gonna do but shoot through a slump? What I can't understand is 7-footer Jared Berggren shooting and missing five threes - especially when Iowa was pretty much playing small the whole night. I don't think we'll see those choices again, and I think that this is the nadir of the Badger season. I think.

7. Iowa (9-6, 1-1) L v. Purdue, W@Wisconsin
The Hawkeyes are frankly red-hot right now after hardly accomplishing anything in the preconference schedule. They put a scare into Purdue, and then shocked B1G observers by winning at Madison. Despite UW shooting themselves out of it with a mere 10% from three (3-28), that's just not done. Melsahn Basabe, Bryce Cartwright, and frosh Aaron White are finally putting up some numbers.

8. Northwestern (11-3, 1-1) L@OSU, W v. PSU
The Wildcats got absolutely handled by the Buckeyes, and sleepwalked through half of the game against Penn State. Still, they have a road win at this early point, which a lot of conference teams do not yet possess. I keep thinking frosh point Dave Sobolewski is going to get exposed at some point, but that's not happening. I still foresee a late-season slide when Shurna's arm gets fatigued from chucking threes.

9. Illinois (12-3, 1-1) W v. Minnesota (2OT), L@Purdue
After Weber's team tried to gift the Gophers a road win a couple of times, Purdue made the Illini look like chumps. I'd like to remind everyone that ESPN's Myron Medcalf just stated last week that Meyers Leonard was better than Cody Zeller. No disrespect to Leonard, but looking at the individual stats and team results, I really wonder what Medcalf is on about.

10. Minnesota (12-3, 0-2) L@Illinois, L@Michigan
The Gophers' super-soft pre-conference schedule hasn't really quite been exposed, as Minny has been competitive in both road losses. Tubby's got to be disappointed as his team twice had a chance to steal a win at Champaign and still fell in double-overtime. The loss at Michigan was more of a 2010-Indiana affair, where the Gophers were behind the whole game and came back to put a scare in the Wolverines. They don't give up, which is a good sign. Interestingly, Ralph Sampson & Rodney Williams' numbers (and efficiency) have jumped back up to pre-Mbakwe levels. It looks like the presence of Trevor Mbakwe in the paint last year shifted Sampson & Williams to doing things they were less skilled at, and now they're able to contribute again.

11. Nebraska (8-5, 0-2) L v.MSU, L v. Wisconsin
Until Talley and/or Diaz get healthy, Doc Sadler just doesn't have the horses. Still, noone is faulting the Huskers' effort, as they gave Michigan State a battle after being humbled by the Badgers. If the injury woes continue, this team will have a dogfight to stay out of the cellar with PSU.

12. Penn State (8-7, 0-2) L@Michigan, L@Northwestern
Two road games is a tough way to open conference play for such an inexperienced team. Penn State will get a couple of scalps yet, but it's gonna be a long winter for Nittany Lions. You have my sympathies, PSU fans, I know your pain.

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