Big Ten Conference Basketball Predictions (plus other Week 1 observations)
Since the inception of the Big Ten schedule on New Year’s Eve, the first week’s results show the clear divide between the guaranteed tournament teams that should occupy the top 25 all year and teams fighting for a chance into the back end of the NCAA tournament.
While Michigan has a great team looking to build on the success the program has had recently, it has struggled against top-notch competition (see: @Duke, vs. Arizona). Even more unfortunately for Michigan, its two most hated rivals – Ohio State and Michigan State – are currently ranked #3 and #4(Coaches)/#5(AP) in the country, depending on who you ask.
It doesn’t matter much because in either case, a third Big Ten team rounds out the top five – Wisconsin clocking in at #5/#4.
For anyone keeping track, Michigan is #34 in both “others receiving votes category” right now. For a team with five freshmen and sophomores in a recently-depleted seven-deep rotation (senior Jordan Morgan and junior Jon Horford are the lone upperclassmen), early struggles are expected. By the end of the year, expect this team to be in the top 25. But winning the Big Ten will take a fantastic effort.
Since the schedule will be so important in determining the Big Ten champion in a season with so many talented teams at the top – we’ll keep an updated list of the results of the season here. In addition, we’ll talk about the results of the year compared to the expected outcomes, so we will really know when the tide has shifted in someone’s favor.
It will also make for a great tool to keep track of rooting interests that most favor the Michigan Wolverines later in the season…
Without further ado, since most people in southeast Michigan are covered in snow… here is the forecast for 2014 Big Ten men’s basketball season:
A season sweep by Michigan State over Ohio State will be the difference at the top. Five teams – MSU, Michigan, OSU, Wisconsin, and Iowa – all finish in the top 25, securing tournament bids.
The three bubble teams in Minnesota/Illinois/Indiana suffer to find opportunities to get quality wins against the teams at the top, winning mostly only while playing at home.
The first punches in the battle will be thrown this week when Wisconsin hosts Iowa today, Sunday, at 6:30 and then Illinois on Wednesday. Ohio State visits Michigan State on Tuesday with a chance to make a big statement. If they win, its not only a big resume-building win early in the season – it is a big tiebreaker in the conference race to go along with the confidence they gain beating the Spartans in Breslin.
Look for both Wisconsin and Michigan State to ferociously hold home-court with close wins.
Standings as of January 4th :
Michigan earned an early win on the road over Minnesota last week, causing concerns about Minnesota’s closing ability in-conference yet again. As for Michigan, the win upgrades conference expectations, even amidst questions regarding Glenn Robinson III’s health.
While little information has been put out regarding his long-term or short-term status, Beilein was pressured into giving a statement and cautiously classified Robinson as a “game-time decision.”
Ankle injuries can be especially nagging, and if the injury isn’t given adequate time to fully heal up-front, the injury can be re-aggravated easily and the location can be a reoccurring spot of pain when the player returns to full speed.
I would love to see Robinson III sit for as long as it takes to guarantee he won’t be suffering any symptoms come tournament time in March, when every team needs to be playing its best basketball.
While there were likely unique factors influencing the decisions of the Mitch McGary and the staff, hopefully the staff avoids risking a recurring injury like McGary’s, where his back pain was clearly present in the summer, but only now was the pain severe enough or limiting his play enough to warrant surgery.
Regardless, Michigan’s season is off on the right foot. And it continues noon, Sunday the 5th, at home in Michigan’s only game of the season versus Northwestern.