The Big Ten conference has always been overshadowed by the ACC and SEC, but this year the Big Ten has proven that is one to be reckoned with. This conference has half of its 12 teams in the top 25 and 4 teams are in the top 15. All of the teams in this conference are on the uprise. The Big Ten has the opportunity to dominate in the NCAA men’s basketball as the SEC was dominant in the NCAA men’s football. The Big Ten conference includes 12 schools: Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, Penn State, Northwestern, and Nebraska. The seven that will most likely make the NCAA tournament are Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. These seven teams have all been ranked in the top 25 this year, and all have wins over quality opponents. But all twelve of the teams have potential to be in the tournament and are capable of an upset.
Now let’s talk about the talent in this conference. One of the teams, Iowa, is up and coming with close losses to Michigan State and Indiana. Roy Marble is Iowa’s best player and he is averaging around 15 points a game. This team shoots a lot of three pointers. Another team on the rise is Purdue, with a loss in OT to Villanova and a victory over Illinois. A.J. Hammons is the team’s most consistent player in the paint.Penn State is a team most likely going nowhere, but they had a win over Providence in OT. Tim Frazier was on the preseason All Big-Ten team, but he hasn’t played since November 18 because of an injury. Some people might be surprised by Northwestern; they have a win over Baylor and they are very tough at home. Reggie Hearn is their team’s leading scorer and the heart and soul of this team, but Jared Swopshire is a brute inside, coming from experience at Louisville. Nebraska should stick to football, but they have a win over Wake Forest and Dylan Talley is a very good all-around player.These teams are on the outside looking in but I would recommend keeping an eye on them.
The top seven teams all hope to be the king of the Big Ten.Wisconsin wasn’t in the top 25 rankings, but a victory at Indiana should definitely put them in the top 25. This team plays a very slow tempo and makes the other team beat themselves. Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans are the players that make the Wisconsin clock tick. They play a very tough style and this Wisconsin Badger team proved itself with wins over Illinois and Indiana. If I were about to face them, I would be very scared. Another team that was under everyone’s radar before the season started was Illinois. Brandon Paul is perhaps the best combo guard in all of the NCAA and he is averaging around 18 points a game. Illinois beat Butler by double digits and defeated Ohio State by 20 points too. This team was up to the #12 spot but when Big Ten play started, their streak ended. They are now 1-3 in league play with embarrassing losses to Minnesota, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Illinois has the potential to be very good, but the question is, will they? Michigan State and Tom Izzo are a great combination. Almost every year his team makes the NCAA tournament and does well. This year’s team is no exception. Point guard, Keith Appling, has made some clutch shots to win games for the Spartans. The combination of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix is relentless; they’re both averaging 7.2 rebounds per game. The freshman duo of Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine have improved this team tremendously. Ohio State lost Jared Sullinger and William Buford, the glue on last year’s team, but kept Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Deshaun Thomas is leading the Big Ten in points per game, with 20, and Aaron Craft is perhaps the best defending guard in all of college basketball. Ohio State has gotten a big contribution from Lenzelle Smith Jr., as well as underclassmen Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, and LaQuinton Ross. Big men Evan Ravenel and Amir WIlliams have done enough to keep the Buckeyes afloat in the paint. This year’s Minnesota team was considered an afterthought as to contend in the Big Ten. With Andre and Austin Hollins in their prime and playing better each game, Minnesota is ranked in the top 10. Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams provide spark inside, and Joe Coleman has been steady all year and is capable of a breakout game at any moment. With Tubby Smith as their coach, don’t be surprised if this team makes the Final Four in March. A team that really excites me when I see them play is Michigan. Tre Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. make up the best backcourt in the country. Freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have been a great surprise as they both start. This team is a very talented and high scoring team and a pleasure to watch. Perhaps the best team in this conference is Indiana. Indiana has the consensus #1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft with Cody Zeller, but they also have outstanding role players in Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, and Yogi Ferrell. If this team plays like they are capable of, everyone in the world should watch because they will be hard to stop. The Big Ten is the best conference in NCAA basketball, and it will be a battle to see which team will come out on top.