I know for some of you the Big Ten race is already over. Purdue lost a game, so we’re going to lose the Big Ten, our first round NCAA game, and perhaps Mackey Arena will collapse into a black hole of complete and utter despair because Matt Painter, genius of the Notre Dame comeback, revealed he is a terrible coach. He will clearly never win the big one and can’t even get Purdue out of the first round (never mind he has done that six times in eight trips). He needs to be fired immediately, paraded down State Street naked in his shame, and we must bring in a proven coach immediately who can “get us over the hump. All is hopeless until these things are done.
In the meantime, there is Big Ten basketball this week. We at Hammer & Rails are going to move forward as if the season will continue and we have a shot to win the Big Ten title until proven otherwise. Purdue’s job is a little harder after losing to Minnesota, but not impossible. It just means every game in the league now has title stakes, starting tonight:
Wisconsin at Indiana 7pm ESPN
This is the biggest early season game in the conference, even with both teams having played just one game in the conference. It’s two of the three conference favorites meeting, and Indiana is already up against it with a home loss to Nebraska. Nebraska is one of two 2-0 teams and I doubt they will stay in the race, leaving everyone chasing Michigan State.
This game could also be a moment of crisis for the Hoosiers. For a long time they were probably the favorite of favorites. If they drop this, they will be on three straight losses, two of them at home after winning 25 in a row. I am not sure who Indiana fellated to get their first three Big Ten games at home, but its means 9 of their last 15 are on the road where they are not as good.
Indiana might be out of the race after this. They would still have to go to Maryland, Wisconsin, and Purdue as well as Ohio State and Michigan. A Wisconsin win might incite full blown panic in Bloomington.
Rutgers at Michigan State 6:30pm, BTN
So much for Rutgers being greatly improved. They are better, but they still lost by 13 at home to a crappy Penn State team. They only scored 47 points. They are the product of their schedule and winning at Michigan State would be a stunner. The Spartans should easily move to 3-0. After their non-conference season a 3-0 league start puts them fully back in the race.
Penn State at Michigan 8:30pm, BTN
Michigan lost at Iowa after Iowa was completely destroyed by Purdue. The Wolverines now get to come how and face a Penn State team that is bad, but at least not as bad as Rutgers. Normally I would say that Michigan should have little trouble here, but that is before Nebraska won in Bloomington. I still like the Wolverines.
Purdue at Ohio State 7pm, ESPN
It’s not quite a must-win for Purdue, but winning would be a very good idea if the Boilers are going to stay in the race. I think most people would have accepted beating Minnesota and losing at Ohio State. That would have been expected. Now that Purdue lost at home to Minnesota it needs to steal one back on the road and this is a great spot for one. A Purdue win would set up a huge game Sunday against Wisconsin, while a loss invites the danger of a 1-3 start and being out of the race early.
Iowa at Nebraska 9pm, BTN
Can Nebraska start 3-0 to lead the Big Ten? They had two huge road wins to start league play and with a couple more they can claw their way onto the NCAA bubble. Yeah, they are 8-6, but only the Gardner-Webb loss is a bad one. Tai Webster is playing like an all-Big Ten player and if they start 3-0 who knows how far they can go. I don’t see them holding on the entire season, but an NCAA berth out of the ashes? Who knows?
Minnesota at Northwestern 9pm, ESPNU
Minnesota is two poor final possessions against Michigan State from being atop the Big Ten. Northwestern could really use a good home win to keep its NCAA hope alive. This should be a really fun game because of that. The Gophers are legit and a win here likely makes them a top 25 team.
Michigan State at Penn State 1pm, ESPN
The Spartans absolutely should start 4-0 before a rematch with Minnesota next week. Part of it is the schedule. Part of it is their impressive comeback and Minnesota’s home collapse. It would be the most Izzo thing to have people question if they will even make the tournament, then have them start 4-0.
Maryland at Michigan 3:15pm, ESPN2
I have no idea what to think of Maryland after losing to Nebraska. I thought they were ready to compete for the Big Ten title, but that game was another head scratcher. Neither one of these teams plays with any consistency. I guess that means I am picking Michigan here, but Maryland could just as easily win by 20.
Illinois at Indiana 5pm, ESPNU
I think Wisconsin is going to beat Indiana tonight, but there is no way Indiana is going to start 0-3 in the Big Ten with three straight home losses. There would be a freaking riot in Bloomington. Josh Newkirk is not Yogi Ferrell, however, and James Blackmon is starting to make this team worse again. Illinois could benefit from a very nice road win, too.
Northwestern at Nebraska TBA, BTN
Surely we’re not going to get a 4-0 Nebraska as our Big Ten leader, right? This is another opportunity for Northwestern to get a good road win. A 3-1 start would be really nice for them too. A week ago there was no way Northwestern could benefit from losing this game. Now, however…
Rutgers at Iowa 4:30pm, BTN
Iowa, please don’t lose at home to Rutgers. That would be a very bad look. You’re not going to the NCAA Tournament, but don’t lose at home to Rutgers. Have some pride.
Wisconsin at Purdue 4:30pm, CBS
If Purdue can win at Ohio State on Thursday this becomes a huge game for our title hopes. It is the only meeting between Purdue and Wisconsin this season, so a Purdue home win would give the Boilers a critical tiebreaker. This week also serves as a statement to Purdue’s long-term prospects. If the Boilers shake off the home loss and come back to win two tough games it will be very encouraging. If it loses the next two our disappointment rises.
Ohio State at Minnesota 7:30pm, BTN
Okay Gophers. I respect you now. You’re a good team. Now just win at home and don’t mess this up for us. You’re an NCAA-worthy team, but only if you win 10-11 Big Ten games, so go get this one at home.