In the Big Ten road wins are precious. Road wins at Wisconsin, where the Badgers had only lost six times in conference home games under Bo Ryan, are even more rare. After tonight, all 12 teams in the Big Ten will be three games through their conference seasons, and already the race is shaping up to be a good one.
Wisconsin, which was expected to contend for the conference title this year, has now lost two in a row at home. Iowa, one of the teams expected to occupy the Big Ten’s basement, is a surprising 2-1 with wins at Minnesota and Wisconsin. Their close home loss to Purdue is the only thing that is preventing them from being in first place at the moment. Indiana has been on a surprising run and has knocked off the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country in Bloomington, but the Hoosiers still need to prove they can win a tough road game after losing by 15 at Michigan State.
So far, only three teams are unbeaten in league play. Michigan State is off tot he best start with a home win over Indiana and a road win at Wisconsin in overtime. That win at the Kohl Center was not without controversy, as the Badgers hit a tying three-pointer as time expired, but the officials ruled the shot did not get off in time.
The other two undefeated teams in conference play play tonight at Michigan heads to Indiana and Purdue travels to Penn State. Penn State should be a relatively easy win as the weakest team in the league, but strange things can always happen on the road. Michigan can make a statement that it is ready to contend for the Big Ten crown tonight if it can end the Hoosiers’ undefeated home run. They will have to overcome Cody Zeller, who has been nothing less than dominant as a freshman so far.
The possibility of eight teams from the conference reaching the NCAA Tournament is very real. Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan look to be locks as long as they don’t completely collapse. Purdue, Illinois, and Wisconsin are still in good position, with northwestern and Minnesota on the bubble. The loss of Trevor Mbakwe is finally starting to affect the Golden Gophers, who are off to an 0-3 start int he conference and face a must-win game Sunday night at home against Purdue.
Finally, the luckiest team in the conference so far has been Illinois. The Fighting Illini were thrashed in the second half last Saturday at Purdue, but they have a double-overtime home win over Minnesota and a one-point victory at Northwestern moving them to 2-1 in the league.