This year’s Big Ten has got to be the most entertaining basketball conference in years — and, perhaps, the best conference as well.
Over the past few days, the top three teams in the conference — Indiana, Michigan State, and Michigan — all have lost. Ohio State’s victory over Michigan State on Sunday wasn’t that much of an upset, but Minnesota’s win over top-ranked Indiana last night was a real surprise, and Penn State’s victory tonight over Michigan, in a game in which Michigan frittered away a double-digit lead, is an absolute shocker. Before that game, Penn State hadn’t won a conference game all year. As a result of the upsets, Indiana leads the conference race with three losses, Michigan State and steady Wisconsin are right behind with four losses, and Ohio State and stumbling Michigan are one game farther back.
College basketball is a lot of fun because the players are kids, the students watching the game are into it, and emotion can play a significant role. When a conference has have a bunch of very good teams, some good teams, and some teams that can rise to the occasion when their home court advantage comes into play, you get lots of surprises and unexpectedly close games. The last few games of the conference regular season over the next week and a half are likely to be a free-for-all. If a team like Ohio State wants to stay in contention, it had better be ready to play every game against every opponent — starting tomorrow night, when it travels to Evanston to play Northwestern.
After the regular season finally ends, we’ll have the Big Ten Tournament. There’s a reason why this year’s tournament is the first one ever to be sold out: it should be a very good show.