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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Big Ten title up for grabs going into last week of play

With the dominance of Michigan State and Illinois in recent seasons, the tight pack at the top of the Big Ten this year has come as somewhat of a surprise.

Six teams are within two games of first place, and any of them could potentially have a share of the Big Ten regular-season title at week’s end. Ohio State and Indiana (10-4 in conference play) are tied for first with two games to play.

Most years, the Big Ten winner is expected to have only three or four conference losses; this year the number will probably be five.

“I hope it gets to five,” said Illinois head coach Bill Self, whose Illini squad currently has five conference losses.

One of the reasons for the even play is the dominance at home around the conference. Home teams have been dominant throughout conference play, with the top five teams accumulating only five conference home losses among them. The dominance of home teams this year has made almost any upset possible.

“The home team winning isn’t much of an upset in league play this year,” said Self.

The lack of a dominant team in the conference has caused many to say the Big Ten is down this year. No team has been a fixture in the top 10, and no Big Ten player averages 20 points, yet some don’t agree with this claim.

“We have every bit as many good teams as any league across the country,” said Ohio State head coach Jim O’Brien. “Illinois is starting to show everybody what they’re about.”

Conference games played this week could break the division wide open. First-place Ohio State squares off against third-place Michigan State, while Indiana faces Illinois.

Teams that don’t receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will strive to get in by winning the Big Ten Tournament, which will be played in Indianapolis beginning March 7 and ending March 10. Iowa is one team that had high expectations to begin the year and will now rely on the tournament for an NCAA berth.

“Anybody in this league can get hot,” said Alford. “I would feel pretty good going into the Big Ten Tournament if we can play well this Saturday. There is a lot of even play this year that is going to make it very competitive.”

Wisconsin, Northwestern surprise many

Two teams surprisingly praised for their consistent play this year have been Northwestern and Wisconsin. Both teams were predicted to finish toward the bottom of the Big Ten this season but have done the opposite. The Badgers (10-5 conference, 17-11 overall) sit just half a game out of first place.

“They’ve lost a lot of guys but have managed to blend [the new guys] together,” said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody.

Northwestern hasn’t done quite as well (7-7 conference, 16-10 overall), but it has had a solid season in comparison to past seasons. Former Princeton coach Bill Carmody has brought a disciplined brand of basketball that has worked well with NU’s athletic lineup. The turnaround year may be something for next year’s team to build on.

“They are no longer a game that anyone circles for a win on their schedule,” said Self.

Northwestern plays at Minnesota tonight, while the Badgers host Michigan tonight at 8 p.m. at the Kohl Center.

Archibald and Ballinger named co-Players of the Week

Robert Archibald of Illinois and Adam Ballinger of Michigan State were named Big Ten Players of the Week Monday. Archibald had 25 points and 10 rebounds in a Feb. 20 win over Penn State. He contributed seven points and 13 rebounds in a victory over Northwestern. Ballinger led the Spartans to wins over Minnesota and Indiana with 20 points, nine rebounds and 13 points, seven rebounds, respectively.

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