By Austin Miller (@austin_james906)
Wisconsin’s basketball team has had a weird year. What began as Bo Ryan’s farewell season started with a whimper with a 69-67 loss to Western Illinois on opening night. The Badgers rebounded with a decent run, winning four of their next five in a stretch that included a win over a decent VCU team but also a loss to an inconsistent Georgetown team. Bo’s bunch next traveled to Oklahoma, where the scary Sooners handed them a beat-down. That loss, however, was followed up by a nice win at Syracuse and a solid home win against an okay Temple team.
Yet, just when we thought the Badgers had it back on track, they lost at home to Milwaukee (not very good) and Marquette (not great either). That was followed up by an ugly win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and the announcement that Bo Ryan was retiring and handing the team over to assistant coach Greg Gard. The 44-year old Gard, who was in his 23rd consecutive season as an assistant to Ryan, will get his chance to show Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez that he’s the right man for the job. The man who grew up on a farm cleaning pig stalls is now Wisconsin’s head coach.
So what does this all mean for the Badgers? As of now, this is a Wisconsin team that is undoubtedly on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble. With the Big Ten shaping up to be nowhere near as good of a conference as in recent years, it could be an uphill climb to the tournament. Wisconsin opens its conference season with a tough six-game stretch: home against Purdue, Rutgers, Maryland and Michigan State with road games at Northwestern and Indiana. In their first six games, the Badgers play the top three teams in the conference, all at home, and get winnable road games (RPI boosters) against the Hoosiers and Wildcats, as well as a gimmie against The Team From the Sixth Borough. If Wisconsin can go 4-2, or even 5-1 in that stretch, the Badgers could be right back in the tournament fray.
One To Be Proud Of: Michigan State 58, Florida 52
It was another slow week for the Big Ten, as schools deal with finals and preparations for the beginning of conference play. That didn’t stop the No. 1 ranked Spartans from staying unbeaten with a hard-fought win against a good Florida team, that currently is No. 5 in the RPI. The Spartans follow this one up with winnable non-conference road games that will serve to boost their already high national standing. Tom Izzo’s squad won’t run the table this season, but with the relative weakness of the Big Ten, it is set up for a run that could potentially include just one or two losses, assuring the Spartans of a top seed come March.
One To Be Ashamed Of: George Washington 83, New York City’s Big Ten Team 49
Representing the biggest city in the best country in the world is sometimes a tough job, and it looks like it’s gotten to the boys from the Sixth Borough lately. The Colonials started this game on a 23-2 run and never looked back. This is a good GW team which is 9-1 and No. 21 in the nation. I’m not knocking Rutgers for losing to George Washington–after all, Penn State did the same thing–but rather for losing in the way that they did.
The Scarlet Knights will need to get their act together, as Monmouth and its Bench Mob make their way to Times Square this weekend for a showdown with Rutgers. You know #BenchMob will have some well-planned theatrics ready for the big stage under the bright lights, so it’ll be all on Rutgers to silence the frenzy and get back to its winning ways.
B1G Power Rankings, One-ish Sentence Style:
1. Michigan State: The Spartans are the best team in the Big Ten and have the best resume in the country. Easy choice for No. 1.
2. Purdue: The Boilermakers stayed unbeaten and now have a big test against Butler in Indianapolis this weekend.
3. Maryland: Just one loss still for the Terps–on the road against North Carolina–but a closer look at the resume reveals that this Maryland team doesn’t really have any great wins yet.
4. Northwestern: The Wildcats beat two very bad teams that each had one very big fan on the old twitter dot com (sorry Ben Goren), and that’s better than not playing (although not the case for NU’s RPI).
5. Iowa: The Hawkeyes haven’t played since the demoralizing loss against the in-state Cyclones, thus no movement. They’ll take on former Northwestern player Kale Abrahamson and Drake this weekend.
6. Indiana: The Hoosiers thumped McNeese State last weekend, and have a great chance to move up with a win against Notre Dame on Saturday.
7. Michigan: Wins over Delaware State and Northern Kentucky. Move along, nothing new here.
8. Nebraska: The Huskers picked up their best win of the season on Sunday, beating potential bubble team Rhode Island 70-67, and their earlier win over Tennessee has the potential to look okay as the season progresses.
9. Wisconsin: Losing to Marquette at home isn’t great, but there’s no way I could live with myself if I put any of the teams currently below the Badgers ahead of them.
10. Ohio State: The Buckeyes aren’t a good basketball team, as evidenced by their 20-point loss to UConn, but they also aren’t as bad as the four teams below them, therefore, no movement.
11. Illinois: It’s becoming a trend! Two weeks in a row with no losses for the Fighting Illini. Next up? Gopher-killers South Dakota.
12. Penn State: The Lions are headed to Vegas this week to play Colorado and then either SMU or Kent State. That’s cool, I guess?
13. Minnesota: The Gophers lost to an okay Oklahoma State team in Sioux Falls (South Dakota just isn’t kind to Minnesota), but are moving up because Joey King can do that crabwalk dribble dribble so hard you’ll cry.
14. Rutgers: Back to the bottom for the boys from the Sixth Borough. Gotta go 1-0 this week to move back up.