A busy day around the nation in football, but the only Big Ten action comes in basketball, as several teams look to build their NCAA resumes. And we can only hope that no Big Ten coach sucks at their job worse than that buffoon Marvin Lewis, who made Pat Fitzgerald look like a 4th down genius last night. If you missed it, with the Bengals down 26-10 to the Jets with about 4 minutes left, Lewis decided to punt the ball on 4th and 10. Now I recognize that the chances of the Bengals getting two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions in 4 minutes is pretty close to zero, but it's still possible, and by punting their chances went to zero, especially since they had no timeouts left. Perhaps Lewis knows he's getting fired and is somehow trying to speed up the process, that's the only way his decision makes sense.
Onto tonight's action around the conference:
Wisconsin stunk it up yesterday against a terrible Manhattan team, leading just 17-10 at the half (yes, they were playing basketball) before winning 50-35. Meanwhile, BC bounced back from an ugly loss to Yale by getting a nice win over a probable NCAA team in Texas A&M. This is certainly a game the Badgers should win, but Eagles coach Steve Donahue may have another upset in mind (he led Cornell past Wisconsin in the second round of last year's NCAAs).
Miami (OH) Redhawks at Ohio State Buckeyes (-24.5), 3 PM central, BTN
Obvious blowout here, in fact so obvious that we're going to take the Buckeyes and lay the points. Ohio State has been dismantling bad mid-majors, and they should win by 30 plus.
SIU-Edwardsville Cougars at Iowa Hawkeyes, 5:30 PM central, BTN
Northwestern hosts the Cougars later this year, so you could check this one out for scouting purposes, but I'll save you some time: they are awful. Even Iowa should cruise in this one.
Penn St.Nittany Lions at Mississippi Rebels (-6.5), 6 PM central, No TV
Too bad this won't be televised because it will be the first test for Penn State after 4 straight home wins over mid-majors. Shockingly, the Nits' leading scorer is not Talor Battle, as Jeff Brooks has stepped up and averaged 17 points per game thus far. That may simply be a product of going against weak competition though; we'll find out tonight against a solid Ole MIss team.
Indiana is off to a solid 5-0 start, winning all their games by double digits. Now granted, they still haven't played anyone, but they couldn't beat mid-majors at home consistently last year, so it's step in the right direction. Most impressively, they have held all 5 opponents to well under a point per possession, a sign their defense is much improved from last year when they couldn't stop anyone in Big Ten play. Northwestern State hasn't been good since they shocked Steve Alford and Iowa in the NCAAs back in 2006, but they play a super-fast paced style, so this should at least be entertaining.
Can Northwestern get into this tournament next year please? Because I would love an excuse to go to AC and degen it up for a long weekend. Make it happen, Jim Phillips. Anyways, this is the first real test for Michigan after three straight blowout wins over bad mid-majors. Syracuse has looked vulnerable at times, nearly losing to William & Mary last time out, but I like their chances tonight as I don't like this match-up for Michigan. Syracuse is long and athletic and should dominate inside, and while Darius Morris has been lighting it up vs the Gardner Webbs of the world, I expect him to struggle against Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. I'm standing by my assessment of Michigan until proven false, so take the Orange and the points.
I'm still not sure what to make of Purdue. Their inexperienced guards have thus far looked pretty solid (albeit against competition ranging from mediocre to horrendous), but the inexperienced bigs have not and Matt Painter has been going with 4 guards around JaJuan Johnson in crunch time. Once they face a legitimate team, the Boilers could have some trouble on the interior, but Southern Illinois is not a legitimate team so Purdue should cruise. The Salukis are miles removed from the 2007 squad that got a #4 seed and reached the Sweet 16; I saw them vs Illinois earlier this year and they got blown out. Take Purdue and enjoy the E'Twaun Moore show.
Season record against the spread: 2-2