Richey: Spartans are the team to beat

Richey: Spartans are the team to beat

Tonight marks the end of Big Ten play.

Until it starts again Jan. 2.

With that in mind, here's how Illinois beat writer Scott Richey views the league a month into the season:


1. Michigan State 7-1

COMMENT: Scary thing for opponents is Miles Bridges sometimes being the third- or fourth-best player on the court for the Spartans.

2. Minnesota 8-1

COMMENT: Who had Jordan Murphy as the early frontrunner for Big Ten POTY? He's been a double-double machine thus far.

3. Purdue 8-2

COMMENT: After losing twice in the Bahamas (bad), Purdue has beaten two ranked teams and two Big Ten teams (good).

4. Maryland 7-3

COMMENT: Turnovers are a serious issue for the Terrapins, but talent like Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson & Co. goes a long way.

5. Ohio State 7-3

COMMENT: The Buckeyes have given up some big leads (see Butler and Clemson losses), but they're 2-0 to start league play.

6. Penn State 7-3

COMMENT: No, this is not a mistake. Tony Carr is a star in the making, and Penn State held its own against Top 25 Texas A&M.

7. Michigan 7-3

COMMENT: Biggest surprise has been Zavier Simpson and Eli Brooks fully supplanting Ohio transfer Jaaron Simmons at the point.

8. Northwestern 5-4

COMMENT: The Wildcats have wilted some under the weight of elevated expectations, but lack of depth might hurt them the most.

9. Illinois 6-3

COMMENT: Wins against Wake Forest, Northwestern and Maryland were there for the taking if the Illini only knew how to close.

10. Indiana 5-4

COMMENT: It might not get bad enough that IU fans start remembering Tom Crean fondly, but more losses than wins are coming.

11. Wisconsin 4-5

COMMENT: Year after year, the Badgers without fail finish in the top four of the conference. This season could change all that.

12. Iowa 4-5

COMMENT: Early losses to Louisiana Lafayette and South Dakota State probably had Fran McCaffery turning purple on the sideline.

13. Nebraska 6-3

COMMENT: Their lone top 100 win (Boston College) might be all the Huskers get unless they pull some Big Ten upsets.

14. Rutgers 6-2

COMMENT: Their offense still leaves quite a bit to be desired, but the Scarlet Knights are forcing turnovers and hitting the boards.