The term “upset” in the Big Ten has a bit of a skewed meaning. Sure, if an unranked team beats a ranked one, that denotes an upset, but in a conference where any team can seemingly win on any given day, does such a term even have a place in the Big Ten?
Take the current situation with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team. The Badgers haven’t been taking care of the ball, they’ve been playing poor team defense and can’t make a shot when it counts.
But even though the team hasn’t been playing up to par over the past several games, it’s not because it isn’t a good team.
Going into the game against Illinois, the Badgers were No. 2 in the nation in strength of schedule. Also, realtimeRPI.com ranked Wisconsin No. 23 in the country in RPI, which proves how tough the Badgers’ schedule has been so far.
Surprised? Just think about it — aside from Iowa, every team the Badgers have lost to has been ranked. That includes Connecticut, Marquette, Texas and three Big Ten teams: Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois.
So, maybe the Badgers aren’t that bad, it might just be the teams they’re playing are really good. Also remember the Badgers beat Michigan and Virginia Tech, a team that just beat top-ranked Wake Forest.
With that said, the Badgers are in the Big Ten — a much tougher conference than it was last year. Teams like Michigan, Northwestern and Minnesota — squads that couldn’t even compete in the Big Ten last year — are now making noise in and out of the conference.
On the same day Iowa upset the Badgers, Northwestern went into East Lansing and knocked off No. 7 Michigan State. A year ago, the Wildcats — who didn’t win a single conference game — would call that a pipe dream.
Simply put, the bad teams have improved, and the good teams have gotten better. In the same conference that only sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, it keeps looking like it will send at least six teams to the big dance this season.
Already this year, seven out of the 11 teams in the Big Ten have been ranked in the top 25, including the Badgers. So don’t think just because Wisconsin is on a four-game losing streak that they’re not good.
But it doesn’t mean their record is going to get any better.
Playing at home against No. 18 Purdue, a team Wisconsin hasn’t beaten since the 2006-07 season, won’t make things any easier for the Badgers.
But it also won’t make things easy for the Boilermakers.
Even though Purdue has a better record than Wisconsin and is ranked in the top 25, you can bet PU head coach Matt Painter is dreading playing a Badger team that hasn’t won since Jan. 7.
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber may have put it best when asked in an interview with The Daily Illini, the University of Illinois’ student newspaper, what he thought about Wisconsin before the two schools met.
“For us, it looks like it’s not a good time to play them,” Weber said.
Surely Painter is thinking the same thing. With a team not accustomed to losing, especially not in streaks, you can bet UW head coach Bo Ryan and the rest of the Badgers will bring their top game on Tuesday.
After being upset by Iowa and losing to Minnesota at the Kohl Center, surely the Badgers and even the Boilermakers could be thinking upset.
But then again, even if the Badgers win, will it really be an upset?
Jonah is a sophomore majoring in journalism and Hebrew and Semitic studies. Have your own opinions on the strength of the Big Ten? Are the Badgers really that bad? Send him your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.