Now that the weather is warming up, the snow is beginning to melt and the birds are chirping, it can only mean one thing, March Madness is right around the corner!
March is one of the toughest months for me as a student to stay focused on my studies. The constant distraction of college basketball talk, games, and highlights gives me more than enough of a motive to put the books down.
While keeping up with all the 'madness,' and still managing to get my schoolwork done... I've been observing something happening in the Big Ten specifically.
Heading into the Big Ten Tournament, two of the three top teams in the conference are beginning to lose their stride.
Michigan State began the Big Ten season with an impressive 9-0 record and appeared to be ready to run away with the division title.
A tough second-half schedule and a brief absence of their senior leader, Kalin Lucas, quickly pulled the rising Spartans back down to earth.
Purdue was a gritty team that continued to mark their schedule with one impressive road win after another. Unlike Michigan State, Purdue held serve during the rough patches on their schedule and rose as high as No. 3 in the nation.
Unfortunately, their incredible run and great post-season potential took a hit when one of the team's impact players, junior forward Robbie Hummel, went down with an ACL tear.
Purdue was still in discussion for a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, despite not having Hummel. But, it was unanimous that they would need a win at home against Michigan State and a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan State easily defeated the injury-plagued Boilermakers 53-44.
Michigan State is still competing for a share of the Big Ten title (Ohio State locked up their share this past week) and will need to win out the rest of their season to do so. Michigan State won the first of their last two games, but in a surprisingly close contest.
The Spartans managed to pull off a two-point victory at home over the lowly Penn State Nittany Lions. Michigan State will now need to win their last game at home against Michigan to share the Big Ten title with Ohio State.
Now, to the whole point of this blog...I believe that the Wisconsin Badgers have as good of a chance as any to run the table next week in Indianapolis.
The Wisconsin Badgers seem to be firing on all cylinders over the past two games. Sure, one might argue that the last two games have been against Indiana and Iowa, two 'bottom feeders' of the Big Ten this season.
But, with the return of forward Jon Leuer and strong production from the senior backcourt (Bohannon and Hughes) the '09-'10 Badgers squad has looked as good as ever.
Jon Leuer seems to have officially shaken off his rust from the wrist injury. Leuer had a slow couple games against Minnesota and Northwestern, but looks to be back to his early-season form.
The presence of Leuer back on the court for the Badgers has been seen in many different aspects of his play. Leuer has been a lock for at least 12+ points, 5+ boards, and 3+ blocks.
It'll be interesting this next week to see how things all shake out and what the seeding will look like for the Big Ten Tourney. Regardless of the seeding, I feel Wisconsin and Ohio State may be the hottest teams heading in.
The late struggles of Purdue and Michigan state down the stretch may narrow down the tournament competition.
While I'm not saying to totally count out Purdue or Michigan State, what I am saying is you should expect a possible Wisconsin vs. Ohio State matchup to be the key game in the Big Ten Tournament.
Best case scenario; Wisconsin and Ohio State set on opposite ends of the bracket, getting the chance to work their way to the finals and duke it out for all the marbles!