I can't believe I have made it almost to the end of December without doing a themed Power Rankings. That's just not right, especially since we had the epic works of Keanu on the last rankings done for football. Never fear though. The power rankings have now returned with the Big Ten season officially getting under way. Most teams have wrapped up their non-conference schedules, so it means we have an idea of who is good and who is not. That leads me into the theme.
I think you can agree that the Big Ten as a whole is a little bit off from what we expected. Michigan has underperformed. Iowa and Indiana are worse than we expected. Even Northwestern is off from its usual norms as the Wildcats threaten to get their first ever NCAA bid without their best player. We don't know what to think as we head into conference play, but we do know it will be entertaining. You know who else is a little off, but entertaining as hell? Creed Bratton.
That's right, the lovable, nutty old guy from the office. Creed is probably my favorite character on The Office, simply because he is so out there. Even though he usually only has a handful of lines in each episode, they are often memorable. That is especially true of his talking head interviews. What follows is my ranking of the Big Ten with each team given a great Creed Bratton line to describe its personality.
Michael: Someone complained that the men's room is "whites only." Stanley, you know that's not true.
Stanley: I didn't say that.
Creed: Then why is there a picture of a white man on the door?
- Purdue (11-0) - I've been involved in a number of cults, both as a leader and a follower. You have more fun as a follower. But you make more money as a leader. - I had to give us this quote because we are the leaders of the cult that insists defense is an integral part of the college game and can win you championships. For being such an ugly league last season, it is amazing that we had seven NCAA berths and two more teams (Northwestern and Penn State) that were in the discussion. That's making money as a leader. When you think about it, isn't following the Big Ten in football or basketball like a cult anyway? You dress in certain colors. You all attend the largest gatherings en masse. You fiercely defend your beliefs. You give them money in terms of donations. The question for the conference as a whole is: Are we leaders or followers?
- Ohio State (10-2) - The only difference between me and a homeless man is this job. I will do whatever it takes to survive. Like I did... when I was a homeless man. - This fits Ohio State because they are starting to come along without Evan Turner, thereby doing whatever it takes to survive. I saw them in person against Butler and this is a very good team even without Turner. Losing a close game to North Carolina and at Butler are not bad losses. They have enough talent to stay afloat in what should be a fun race until Turner comes back too. Dallas Lauderdale, if he can ever develop a move aside from the open thunderdunk, is dangerous.
- Michigan State (9-3) - A lot of jazz cats are blind. But they can play the piano like nobody's business. I'd like to put the piano in front of Pam, without her glasses, and see what happens. I'd also like to see her topless. - Okay, Michigan State, I want to see you put it all together. You are the only team with the conference with enough talent to compete with the above two. In fact, you might be better. The fact remains, you are 0-3 in your real tests this season. As Florida drops more and more games that loss looks even worse. Yes, I am aware that the Texas and North Carolina losses were on the road, but you looked good in neither. Michigan State playing like it can play is like seeing Pam topless.
- Northwestern (10-1) - Did one of you tell Stanley that I have asthma. 'Cause I don't. If this gets out, they won't let me scuba. And if I can't scuba, what am I working toward? - That is what Northwestern is saying right now with 10 wins in late December without Kevin Coble. Someone saying they can't win without Kevin Coble is like Creed having asthma and not being able to scuba. The only thing Northwestern is working for this year is that elusive NCAA berth. They won't win the Big Ten or be a Final Four threat and they are fine with that. With 10 wins in conference play (looking more possible, by the way) they can finally scuba. The idea of a nerdy kid with asthma trying to be athletic is also a solid parallel.
- Wisconsin (8-2) - Every week, I'm supposed to take four hours and do a quality spot-check at the paper mill. And of course the one year I blow it off, this happens. - This explains Wisconsin's loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay, which is what keeps them behind Northwestern because it is a worse loss than Butler beating Northwestern. As the flagship institution in the state of Wisconsin, the Badgers have an unspoken responsibility to visit or at least play their in-state teams every now and then. It is like us playing Ball State, Indiana State, etc. Instead of having them come to Madison, they blew it off and went to Green Bay. Bad decision. Wisconsin does get bonus points for having the only other top 10 win for the Big Ten in beating Duke.
Minnesota (8-3) - Michael: This is Creed, and he is in charge of... something... right?
Creed: That is correct. - That is how I feel about Minnesota at the moment, but they do get a slight nod over Illinois because the three losses (Portland, Texas A&M, Miami) aren't as bad as Illinois' (Bradley, Georgia, Utah). Minnesota is kind of blah because they haven't really beaten anyone of note. This is the first of the Big Ten bubble teams right here. They haven't really screwed up, but they haven't asserted themselves. They're in charge of... something...right?
Illinois (8-3) - Michael: Okay. Okay, sold! Have fun, you guys. Well, this next item is sure to spring steam from your ears if you don't win it. It just says "Creed."
Creed: Yeah, that's all-inclusive. - Another vague explanation from Creed for another vague team. They have a better win than Minnesota with the amazing come from behind W at Clemson, but losing at Georgia? Seriously? Bradley is a middling MVC team as well. We don't really know what to think of Illinois yet, either. Still, they are a bubble team with plenty of room to improve.
Michigan (6-5) - Angela: I am proud to announce that there is a new addition to the Martin family. She's hypoallergenic. She doesn't struggle when you try to dress her. She's a third-generation show cat. Her father was in 'Meet the Parents.' Needless to say, she was very, very expensive.
Meredith: How much?
Angela: Seven thousand dollars.
Creed: For a cat? I could get you a kid for that. - That is what Michigan has to feel like with a disappointing beginning to what was supposed to be a promising season. Having a pair of players like DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris is like having $7,000 for something, but getting just 6 wins so far is like getting a cat instead of a kid. Sure, they have played a tough schedule, but they should have at least gotten wins over Utah, Boston College, and Marquette.
- Penn State (8-4) - I'm not offended by homosexuality. In the 60's I made love to many, many women - often outdoors, in the mud and the rain... and it's possible a man slipped in. There'd be no way of knowing. - Was this JoePa in the 60's? Kidding! Seriously though. This is like Penn State bragging about their NIT title and early season conquests. We're not sure if the NIT championship and 8-4 record is good or not, just like Creed doesn't know if he slept with a man. There is no way of knowing. What we do know is they have lost games to UNC Wilmington, Tulane, Virginia Tech, and Temple. Are those good teams? Maybe? They should at least be NIT bound again.
- Indiana (5-6) - I'm a pretty normal guy. I do one weird thing. I like to go in women's room for number 2. I've been caught several times, and I have paid dearly. - Indiana gets a very slight nod, even with the awful loss to Loyola (MD) above Iowa. The reason: most of Indiana's losses have been to (mostly) good teams and they did get one win over a possible tournament team in Pittsburgh. The quote sums them up perfectly because they are paying dearly still for the Mistake of Sampson.
- Iowa (5-7) - What is wrong with this woman? She's asking about stuff that's nobody's business. "What do I do?"... Really, what do I do here? I should've written it down. "Qua" something, uh... qua... quar... quibo, qual... quir-quabity. Quabity assuance! No. No, no, no, no, but I'm getting close. - Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009-10 Iowa Hawkeyes! That is essentially what watching them play basketball is like. I almost went with the quote of "Just pretend like we're talking until the cops leave," because of the Anthony Tucker suspension, but I resisted. Iowa has lost so far to Texas-San Antonio, Wichita State, and in-state games to Northern Iowa and Iowa State for good measure. The Indiana-Iowa games should be relagated to ESPN8, The Ocho.
With that, I wanted to thank everyone for a wonderful first year here at SBNation and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.