Tuesday, January 24, 2006

PICK 'EM

I'm not at all thrilled about the XL show in Detroit this year. If I have to choose, I'll go with the NFC, just so I don't have to hear how great the AFC is by comparison.

So, to divert some attention from this weekend's anti-climatic "let's pretend we're really excited about this one" coverage on TV, here's a quick look at the remaining Big Ten schedule and some predictions. The conference title will come down to the team which can hold serve (which most teams are doing), beat the weak four home and away (Northwestern, Penn St., Minnesota, Purdue) and steal one or two on the road against the top seven, listed below.

* Indicates probable NCAA tourny team . . . Actually, I think they'll all make the tourny.

Teams are listed by current Big Ten record followed by current conference record; ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll ranking; and AP ranking in parenthesis. Only the coaches poll is listed after that.

Illini (5-2; 6; 6)* (8-4 as of 2/20; T-2nd in Big Ten)
Home: Penn St. (L), Northwestern (W), Indiana (21) (W), Iowa
Away: Wisconsin (W), Ohio St. (19) (L), Michigan (20), Minnesota, Michigan St. (12)
Comments: They should win out their home schedule easily, but their road schedule (starting tonight) is a killer. Brutal. Worse yet, they have not proven they can win on the road. Expect two more losses, probably three. A win tonight at Wisconsin is vital for their title hopes which should be decided on 3/4 in East Lansing.
Prediciton: 11-5 (25-5)
Big Ten 2nd place (tie)

Scum-bag Wolverines (5-2; 20; 21)* (7-6 as of 2/20; 4th in Big Ten)
Home: Ohio St. (19) (L), Minnesota (W), Illinois (6), Indiana (21)
Away: Penn St. (W), Iowa (L), Purdue (L), Michigan St. (12) (L), Ohio St. (19)
Comments: They've been hot of late, especially at home (The logical explanation is that they are cheating AGAIN and will be on NCAA probation again very soon.). They need to win out at home (which they won't) and win 3 of 5 on the road (which they might do, depending on the Iowa game). The Illinois game on 2/21 will be huge in the Big Ten standings; they'll win.
Prediction: 11-5 (21-6)
Big Ten 2nd place (tie)

Hawkeyes (5-2; unranked; 23)* (9-4 as of 2/20; 1st in Big Ten)
Home: Michigan (20) (W), Michigan St. (12) (W), Penn St., Wisconsin
Away: Purdue (W), Northwestern (L), Indiana (21) (W), Minnesota (L), Illinois (6)
Comments: They've been good at home, beating Illinois (6), Indiana (21), and Ohio St. (19)--but they're getting a hot Michigan team and Michigan St. might have their number. The stretch from 2/11 -2/25 will determine where they finish (@ Indiana, MSU, @ Minn, @ Ill).
Prediction: 10-6 (20-7)
Big Ten 3rd place (tie)

Badgers (5-2; unranked)* (8-4 as of 2/20; T-2nd in Big Ten)
Home: Illinois (6) (L), Indiana (21) (W), Ohio St. (19) (W), Minnesota
Away: Purdue (L), Penn St. (W), Northwestern, Michigan St. (12), Iowa

Comments: If anyone can win the conference because of their schedule this year, it is the Badgers. They don't have to go to Illinois or Indiana, but will lose at Michigan St. and Iowa. If they can take 3 of 4 at the Kohl/J.C. Penney/Sears Center and all three at the weak sisters' (Purdue, Penn St. N'western), they'd end up 11-5. They won't.
Prediction: 10-6 (20-9)
Big Ten 3rd place (tie)

Buckeyes (4-3; 19; 20)* (8-4 as of 2/20; T-2nd in Big Ten)
Home: Minnesota (W), Illinois (6) (W), N'western (W), Michigan (20), Purdue
Away: Michigan(20) (W), Wisconsin (L), Michigan St. (12), N'western
Comments: From 2/9 to 2/25 they play: @ Mich, Ill, @ Wisc, N'western, @ MSU, and Mich. They'll lose four during this stretch.

Prediction: 9-7 (20-7)
Big Ten 4th place

Hoosiers (4-3; 21; 22)* (5-7 as of 2/20; 5th in Big Ten)
Home: Northwestern (W), Iowa (L), Penn St., Michigan St. (12)
Away: Wisconsin (L), Penn St. (L), Illinois (6) (L), Purdue, Michigan (20)
Comments: They've been bad on the road and good at home. The UConn game will be interesting, but it won't help them when they lose at Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. Illinois will need them to beat MSU on 2/26.
Prediction: 10-6 (18-9)
Big Ten 3rd place (tie)

Spartans (4-3; 12; 12)* (7-5 as of 2/20; 3rd in Big Ten)
Home: Purdue (W), Michigan (20) (W), Ohio St. (19), Wisconsin, Illinois (6)
Away: Northwestern (W), Minnesota (L), Iowa (L), Indiana (21)
Comments: The Spartans have already taken their lumps on the road and actually have an easier schedule on the road than at home. Three consecutive games--Mich, Ohio St., and @ Indiana--will determine the importance of the Illinois game on 3/4 to end the conference regular schedule.

Prediction: 12-4 (24-6)
Big Ten Champs . . . and if you aren't drinking the Green Kool-Aid yet, here's a dose from ESPN which has them in the Final Four . . . again.

Remember, being biased doesn't mean you're wrong, it simply gives you an excuse if you are.