Soccer Tuesday 10-6

Soccer Tuesday 10-6

Illini Week in Review

It was a tough week for the Orange and Blue on the pitch, as they lost at Purdue 1-0 on Friday, then tied Indiana 1-1 on Sunday in Bloomington.  The Illini did a much better job of winning posession against the 5-player midfields that the Boilermakers and Hoosiers threw at them than they did the previous week against Minnesota.  However, their finishing in the attacking third appears to have taken a step back from where it was earlier in the season.

Sophomore Marissa Mykines tallied the lone Illini goal for the weekend on Sunday.  She blasted a free kick from about 25 yards out that hit off the crossbar, then deflected off of Indiana goalkeeper Lindsay Campbell and went into the back of the net.  It was Mykines' fourth goal of the season, which is second on the team behind Jordan Hilbrands with six.

Head coach Janet Rayfield combated the Hoosiers wider pitch (80 yards) and five player midfield by switching to a 4-4-2 formation instead of her usual 4-3-3.  The change appeard to help the Illini better repel the Indiana attacks down the flanks of the field, but also took the team out of its comfort zone a bit in the attacking third.  I doubt we'll see much more of the 4-4-2 the rest of the season, but it may return against another five-player midfield.

Around the Big Ten

Friday's results:

Indiana 1 Michigan State 0.  The Spartans were thoroughly dominated on Friday night, being outshot 25-5 in Bloomington.  But the Hoosiers waited until the final minute of regulation to tally the game-winner by Carly Samp.

Purdue 1 Illinois 0

Sunday's results:

Penn State 2 Ohio State 1.  A much-needed victory for the Nittany Lions to get back to the .500 mark both in the conference and overall.

Wisconsin 1 Iowa 0 2OT.  Don't look now, but the Badgers are tied for second place in the Big Ten standings with seven points.  They'll be in Champaign on Sunday to face the Illini.

Michigan 2 Northwestern 2 2OT.  The Wildcats rebounded from a 2-0 deficit early in the second half to salvage a tie in Ann Arbor.  Michigan may have missed out on its best chance for a conference win.

Michigan State 1 Purdue 1.  A nice bounceback game for the Spartans after Friday's debacle at Indiana.  But, like the Illini, a winless weekend for Sparty.

Minnesota 9 South Dakota 0.  This one looks impressive on the scoresheet, but the Coyotes are a far cry from Big Ten competition.

Updated Standings

CONFERENCE
OVERALL

School
W
L
T
Pts
Pct
W
L
T
Pts
Pct
GF
GA

Purdue
2
0
2
8
.750
7
2
3
24
.708
25
12

Minnesota
2
0
1
7
.833
9
2
2
29
.769
31
9

Wisconsin
2
1
1
7
.625
6
5
2
20
.538
12
18

Michigan State
1
1
1
4
.500
7
1
3
24
.773
24
7

Northwestern
1
1
1
4
.500
4
6
2
14
.417
10
17

Indiana
1
2
1
4
.375
9
3
1
28
.731
21
11

Ohio State
1
1
0
3
.500
8
2
1
25
.773
22
6

Penn State
1
1
0
3
.500
5
5
1
16
.500
15
12

Illinois
0
1
2
2
.333
5
4
3
18
.542
20
14

Michigan
0
1
1
1
.250
5
6
1
16
.458
17
21

Iowa
0
2
0
0
.000
8
4
0
24
.667
24
8

Illinois is one of just three teams in the league without a conference victory at the moment.  That makes this Sunday's game against Wisconsin a must-win for the Illini if they are entertaining thoughts of a Big Ten title.

To the Polls

Illinois is no longer receiving votes in the the NSCAA Top 25.  The Illini are now receiving "vote," as in one vote in this week's poll.  Big Ten teams aren't helping each other in the polls by beating each other up in conference games, as they're down to two teams here:

9. Purdue

25. Ohio State

Receiving votes: Indiana, Michigan State.

Top Drawer dropped the Illini out of its Tournament 64 rankings for the first time this season.  The Big Ten fares as follows:

22. Michigan State

25. Ohio State

27. Minnesota

30. Purdue

The Illini are still receiving votes, but dropped out of the Soccer Times poll this week after being at #24 last week.  Big Ten teams:

18. Purdue

21. Ohio State

Receiving votes: Indiana, Penn State

Soccer America features two Big Ten teams in its poll this week:

10. Michigan State (really?)

22. Purdue

RPI

The NCAA has released its first official RPI report of the 2009 season.  Despite an unimpressive 5-4-3 overall record, the Illini still have a solid RPI ranking of 37, which if the season ended today would likely be good enough to warrant an NCAA Tournament berth.  However, the Illini need to start racking up some wins in league play.  To qualify for the tournament, your team must have at least a .500 record and the Illini are dangerously close to not meeting that threshold.  The Big Ten is lacking top teams according to the RPI (and all the other polls), but has a lot of depth with eight teams in the top 49 of the RPI:

24. Penn State

27. Indiana

29. Ohio State

30. Purdue

36. Michigan State

37. Illinois

43. Minnesota

49. Wisconsin

Typically, an RPI in the top 40 is good enough to get into the tournament, with RPI's in the 40's putting teams squarely on the bubble.  The remaining three Big Ten teams (Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan) have RPI's of 80 or higher.

Prediction Time

Here are this week's conference games, my picks to win are in bold.  Last week, I went a very pedestrian 3-2-3 with my picks, and stand at 7-4-5 on the Big Ten season.  Lots of ties so far in league play.  We'll see if that trend continues this week.

Thursday 10/8

Purdue at Indiana.  This should be a very good game in Bloomington.  After seeing both teams last week, I'll give the Hoosiers the slight edge at home.  They have the most dangerous player on the pitch in freshman Orianica Velasquez-Herrera.

Friday 10/9

Northwestern at Penn State.  The Nittany Lions are looking to build some momentum with a couple of home games in league play.

Iowa at Ohio State.  The Buckeyes need this win at home after falling at Penn State on Sunday.

Sunday 10/11

Wisconsin at Illinois.  The Illini always score better on the home pitch.  Look for at three goals this Sunday against an improving, but young Wisconsin squad.

Michigan at Michigan State.  Sparty shouldn't have any trouble getting up for their in-state rival.

Minnesota at Purdue.  The Boilers are fortunate to have an extra day after their battle with Indiana.  The Gophers will be looking to show they're Big Ten title contenders for the second straight year, but very few teams win in West Lafayette.

Iowa at Penn State.  If Penn State and Ohio State (see below) don't each pick up a pair of wins at home, they could be in trouble.

Northwestern at Ohio State.  See above.

It's no coincidence that I'm picking all of the home teams to win this week.  The matchups would favor most of the home teams even if these games were being played at neutral sites.  The Indiana-Purdue game is the best matchup on paper this weekend.  Catch it on TV (BTN) if you can.

Coverage this week

WDWS will carry Sunday's Wisconsin match live at 1pm.  Former Illini Kristy Weeks will join me on the broadcast.  I hope you can join us.  Thanks for reading.

bmoline@wdws.com

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