One can debate whether or not Big Ten Conference men's basketball is as good as it's ever been. But has it ever been this unpredictable? Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, in his 19th season, said Monday there is "no question" the league is better top to bottom than he's ever seen. Nebraska's win over Izzo's Spartans in East Lansing on Sunday reinforced that depth. "It makes the league more unique," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said during the conference's weekly coaches teleconference. "Every other league has bad teams. We don't have bad teams. "At the end of this thing, somebody is going to win the league. I don't know who that is right now, because every night you have to bring your 'A' game. You can't bring your 'B' game in this league and expect to win. You're probably going to get embarrassed." Don't believe the 'anyone can win on any night' cliché? Just look at the growing list of head-turning road victories by perennial also-rans. Penn State opened the Big Ten season 0-6 and barely slipped past Nebraska at home. So of course the Nittany Lions went to Columbus and beat Ohio State, which peaked at No. 3 in the Associated Press poll earlier this season. Two weeks later, Penn State also won at Indiana's Assembly Hall. Northwestern also notched a rare road victory at Indiana, then won back-to-back games at then-No. 14 Wisconsin and Minnesota. Nebraska, apparently unsatisfied with its emergence as an unforgiving home court, shocked many with its road victory at Michigan State. Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles called it "a marquee win." Road teams won five of six league games this past weekend (only Purdue, against Indiana, defended its home court). Since January 25, the road team has won 22 of 40 Big Ten games. "It's a little different, because the Big Ten has always been tough," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "We've had some some parity before, but you're seeing some good teams lose at home that you don't normally see. But the same teams are winning on the road also. It's kind of right back at you. It shows the strength of the league." Illinois coach John Groce said he expected this parity before the season. He theorized that transfers such as his own Rayvonte Rice and Nebraska's Terran Petteway would bolster the bottom half of the league. Some speculate the rugged gauntlet of the conference season might lead to underseeded Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament. The conference was not represented in the top 10 of Monday's new AP poll, although Wisconsin (sixth), Ohio State (16), Michigan (17) and Michigan State (19) remain in the top 20 of the Ratings Percentage Index. Shelby Mast, IndyStar's bracketologist, currently projects six Big Ten teams in the tournament, five of which are seeded between third and fifth. One example of the volatility: he's seeded Michigan as high as two and as low as nine. "I don't know if we'll have a good feel for it until Selection Sunday," Mast said.
Big Ten basketball is more unpredictable than ever
USA Today | Feb 19