Sean Harrington's Illini Insider: Michigan might be team to beat

Sean Harrington's Illini Insider: Michigan might be team to beat

With the Big Ten schedule tipping off Monday, former Illini and Big Ten analyst Sean Harrington handicaps the league race for us:

1. MICHIGAN 15-3
Key Win: At Ohio State
Key Loss: At Michigan State
Postseason: NCAA — No. 1 seed
Comment: The Wolverines have the best backcourt in the league. They rarely have an off shooting night, but when they do, the Wolverines still have plenty of playmakers.

1. INDIANA 15-3
Key Win: Michigan
Key Loss: At Ohio State
Postseason: NCAA — No. 1 seed
Comment: The Hoosiers have the most firepower but struggle with consistency on the road. Expect a few slipups in tough environments.

Key Win: Michigan
Key Loss: At Illinois
Postseason: NCAA — No. 3 seed
Comment: The most surprising team in the nonconference. The Gophers will slip up when they go through their scoring slumps.

3. OHIO STATE 13-5
Key Win: Indiana
Key Loss: Michigan
Postseason: NCAA — No. 4 seed
Comment: This is a very good team. Right now they are not a great team. They will beat who they are supposed to and will struggle against the top teams.

Key Win: Michigan
Key Loss: At Iowa
Postseason: NCAA — No. 5 seed
Comment: Tom Izzo will have the Spartans playing their best ball of the year during the conference season. They will have some scoring issues at times.

6. ILLINOIS 10-8
Key Win: At Iowa
Key Loss: Indiana
Postseason: NCAA — No. 7 seed
Comment: Brandon Paul will have to have some more big games, and the Illini will need to stay hot from three to compete with the top teams.

Key Win: At Iowa
Key Loss: Michigan State
Postseason: NCAA — No. 10 seed
Comment: Bo Ryan’s Badgers have never finished lower than fourth, but there are just not enough weapons this season. They still will be tough at the Kohl Center.

8. IOWA 8-10
Key Win: Michigan State
Key Loss: Illinois
Postseason: NCAA — No. 10 seed
Comment: Scoring and winning will happen at Carver- Hawkeye Arena. Winning on the road may be difficult for this young Hawkeye team.

9. PURDUE 5-13
Key Win: At Northwestern
Key Loss: Iowa
Postseason: Nothing
Comment: The Boilers have some good young talent, but they are still a year away from being competitive in the conference.

Key Win: At Nebraska
Key Loss: Purdue
Postseason: Nothing
Comment: The loss of Drew Crawford is too much for the Wildcats to handle. Their elusive NCAA bid will have to wait another year.

11. PENN STATE 2-16
Key Win: Northwestern
Key Loss: At Nebraska
Postseason: Nothing
Comment: The Nittany Lions don’t have enough to compete in the league after the unfortunate loss of Tim Frazier. They play hard enough to win a couple at home.

12. NEBRASKA 1-17
Key Win: Penn State
Key Loss: Northwestern
Postseason: Nothing
Comment: The Cornhuskers have struggled in their toughest nonconference games. Unfortunately for Nebraska, the teams in the Big Ten are even tougher.

Power rankings

Michigan (12-0)
— The Wolverines are in the middle of a nine-day break. Expect an easy win against Central Michigan on Saturday before they open up the B1G at Northwestern on Thursday.  

Indiana (11-1)
— The Hoosiers will make quick work of Jacksonville on Friday night before a huge road test at Iowa on Monday.

Minnesota (12-1)
— The Gophers looked great in the nonconference. They can prove they belong at the top of the B1G with a win at home on Monday vs. Michigan State.

Illinois (12-1)
— The Illini lost the Braggin’ Rights but should bounce back easily vs. Auburn on Saturday. A very winnable game at Purdue waits for them Wednesday.

Ohio State (9-2)
— The Buckeyes’ two losses came to Top 10 teams. We will have to wait until the B1G starts before we get a read on how good this team really is.

Michigan State (11-2)
— Spartans had a good win against Texas. Conference time is when Tom Izzo shines. Spartans have big opening game Monday at Minnesota.

Iowa (11-2)
— The good news for the Hawkeyes is they have been great at home. The bad news is the Hoosiers are coming to town Monday.  

Wisconsin (8-4)
— The Badgers have an easy one Saturday vs. Samford. Then the Badgers have two winnable games to start the B1G with Penn State at home and a trip to Nebraska.

Northwestern (9-4)
— Wildcats will need every one of these 10 days off to get ready for Wolverines on Thursday.  

Purdue (5-6)
— The Boilers should be 6-6 heading into their B1G home opener vs. Illinois on Wednesday.

Nebraska (8-4)
— The Cornhuskers better enjoy the likely win against Nicholls State on Saturday. After that, they open the B1G with three of the first four games on the road vs. ranked teams.

Penn State (7-4)
— The Nittany Lions would ride a four-game win streak into the B1G with a win against Duquesne on Saturday. Not many wins in sight after that.

Player of the Week

Derrick Nix
Michigan State

Big man scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds against Texas last week. If he can continue to be a factor, the Spartans could find themselves in the top third of the conference.

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sledge wrote on December 28, 2012 at 6:12 am

Nice summary.  The total league losses don't equal the wins, however, so one team has one more win coming.  Let's make the Illini 11-7!