Big Ten Basketball: Weekend Preview

T.R. PetersonCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2009

The beginning of the Big Ten season has produced some very interesting storylines: The ascent of programs at Michigan, Minnesota, and Penn St, the struggles and injuries at Purdue and Ohio St, and the emergence of young players like Manny Harris, Talor Battle, and Kalin Lucas.

One storyline that remains the same is the familiar faces atop the conference. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Michigan St. and Wisconsin have pushed their way to the top again in the competitive Big Ten.

This weekend should produce more excitement with several key Big Ten matchups and an important non—conference test for Michigan St.


Kansas (11—3) at Michigan St (12—2, 3—0) Sat. 1:00 PM CBS

The Spartans host the defending national champions in a game that will have a bearing on seedings come tournament time. Kansas earned some respect with a win over Tennessee last week and looks to continue to impress.

The Jayhawks have been led by speedy guard Sherron Collins and big man Cole Aldrich. They will have to stay out of foul trouble if they want to hang with the Spartans in East Lansing.

Michigan St. has been on a roll since the return of Goran Suton. The senior has averaged 12 points and seven rebounds in his last five games. The play of sophomore point guard Kalin Lucas has garnered the most attention.

Averaging 20 ppg in his last three games, Lucas has lead a Spartan offensive attack that includes Raymar Morgan (15.2) and Chris Allen (10.6).


Indiana (5—9, 0—2) at Illinois (13—2, 1—1) Sat. 3:30 PM Big Ten Network

Indiana has played well in early Big Ten action. The problem is the Hoosiers have nothing to show for it. They lost a tight 65-60 matchup at Iowa over the weekend and then dropped a heart breaker in overtime to Michigan on Wednesday. Consistency has been the problem for Indiana. It will need to improve if the Hoosiers have plans of upsetting Illinois.

Illinois hopes to regain the momentum they had before losing on the road at Michigan last weekend. The young Illini shot poorly in the second half, as the Wolverines pulled away in the end. Bruce Weber needs Trent Meacham to return to form and some of his young players to step up if Illinois is to get back on track.


Iowa (11—5, 1—2) at Michigan (12—3, 2—1) Sun. 11:30 AM Big Ten Network

The Hawkeyes have been flying under the radar this year allowing some of their conference counterparts like Michigan and Penn St. to grab a lot of the attention.

Still, Todd Lickliter has begun the turnaround in Iowa City and the Hawkeyes are not far away form joining the others. Iowa is 1-2 in the Big Ten with tough, down—to—the—wire losses to Ohio St. and Minnesota.

Anthony Tucker needs to return to early season form and Cyrus Tate needs to stay out of foul trouble for Iowa to slide up into the middle of the Big Ten.

After opening the Big Ten season with a disappointing loss to Wisconsin, the Wolverines recovered to post back to back wins over Illinois and Indiana. The win over the Hoosiers was especially rewarding considering Michigan hadn’t won in Bloomington since the 1995 season and they had to rally from a 20 point deficit.

Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims, and Laval Lucas—Perry continue to lead the Wolverines who need a win to stay within reach of Wisconsin and Michigan St.


Wisconsin (12—3, 3—0) at Purdue (11—4, 0—2) Sun. 1:30 PM Big Ten Network

Wisconsin continues to do what it does best: play defense and rebound. The Badgers rely on Marcus Landry, Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon offensively. This will be the Badgers stiffest test in the conference and would be a huge win on the road.

Purdue has had some tough times of late. With injuries to preseason conference player of the year Robbie Hummel and guard Chris Kramer, the Boilermakers don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves. Purdue will have to dig in and find a way to win. A loss would almost end any hopes of a Big Ten championship.


Penn St. (13—3, 2—1) at Minnesota (14—1, 2—1) Sun. 3:30 p.m. Big Ten Network

Penn St. continues to impress people with their play. After a huge win against Purdue, beating Minnesota on the road could be a big help down the road.

Super Sophomore Talor Battle can’t have another night like he did last weekend at Wisconsin if the Nittany Lions hope to remain with the conference elite.

Minnesota may have pulled out its biggest win of the year at Iowa. Down by as many as 13, the Gophers rallied to knock off the Hawkeyes and improve to 2-1 in the Big Ten.

Rebounding should be a determining factor in their matchup against Penn St. After getting out-rebounded by Michigan St. in the Big Ten opener, Minnesota out-rebounded both Ohio St. and Iowa to earn wins and stay near the top of the Big Ten.