Tonight Big Ten basketball teams begin playing their conference schedules. Wisconsin takes on Nebraska, and Illinois plays Minnesota. Ohio State kicks off its Big Ten season tomorrow against Northwestern.
It should be a very interesting Big Ten season. By far the most surprising team so far has been Indiana. The Hoosiers, who were woeful the past few years, are undefeated and have a last-second win over mighty Kentucky under their belts. Many people thought Indiana was a year away, but perhaps coach Tom Crean and the young Hoosiers have other ideas. We’ll get a good sense of the Hoosiers’ real strength soon enough — they open at Michigan State and then welcome the Buckeyes to Assembly Hall in what should be a barn burner.
I haven’t seen all of the Big Ten teams play yet, but the conference appears to be strong and deep. Ohio State likely would be the favorite if Jared Sullinger were 100 percent, but he has been hobbled by injuries and his status throws the conference race up for grabs. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Purdue are always tough. Minnesota has been a surprise — although they really haven’t played much of a schedule — Michigan has lots of talent, and Illinois and Northwestern have gotten off to good starts. Northwestern, in particular, is a challenge to play because they run a back-cut offensive scheme that other teams don’t see very often.
Of course, that’s one of the great things about college basketball — coaches can play different schemes and use different looks that can catch opponents off-guard and allow for upsets. This year’s Big Ten conference race should be competitive, and entertaining. Let’s get it started!