Big Ten Basketball Betting: Weekly Notebook
by Matt Severance - 01/13/2009
We should get an idea of whether the University of Illinois is NCAA Tournament worthy when it faces the two Michigan schools in Big Ten action this week.
The Illini, a surprising 14-2 and just outside of the Top 25 in both polls, host No. 24 Michigan on Wednesday and then travel to a place where most teams go to die, Michigan State's Breslin Center. The Spartans are currently No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
That Wolverines game is definitely the overachievers' special of the week as both they and the Illini have already surpassed last season's regular-season win total. UM (13-3) had just nine wins last year, while Bruce Weber's club had 13. It's also a scheduling quirk that these two clubs are playing again already - they met in Ann Arbor on Jan. 4, a 74-64 Michigan victory. One could argue that Illinois has yet to record a quality win. It has faced only two teams that were ranked at the time and beaten only one, a struggling Purdue squad.
But if the Illini can sweep the Michigan teams, that could stamp them as a potential force with which to be reckoned. And they enter this week coming off the largest margin of victory in school history (161 meetings) over Indiana in a 76-45 win Saturday. Illinois probably will be favored to handle Michigan, but good luck winning at Michigan State, as the Spartans have won 27 in a row at home, the third-longest streak in the nation.
With six of 11 teams ranked in the RPI's top 35, the Big Ten is the No. 2 rated conference in the latest RPI, barely behind the ACC.
INDIANA: Frankly, there is little good news for Hoosier backers. There was the record-setting loss to Illinois on Saturday (the Illini's largest-ever against IU), and, to make matters worse, leading scorer Devan Dumes had not one but two issues that day. First, he was late for the team bus and wasn't allowed to start. Then he suffered an ankle injury nearly midway through the first half and didn't return after playing just over two minutes.
It's not clear as of this writing if Dumes will play tonight night against Ohio State.
"It's one of those things where there's no fracture or anything," Indiana coach Tom Crean said to reporters. "It's a matter of his comfort level and what he can do rehabilitation-wise and how much weight he can put on it."
Dumes, a junior guard, averages 12.8 points per game and is the only non-freshman starter for the Hoosiers, who have lost six games in a row as they rebuild from the Kelvin Sampson mess.
"Tom has a tough situation," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
MICHIGAN STATE: As bad as Indiana has been, the polar opposite has been the Spartans, who have won nine in a row since that loss to North Carolina. MSU had a great week, beating Ohio State and defending national champion Kansas to increase their home winning streak to 27 in a row.
Sophomore point guard Kalin Lucas is becoming a big-time player, scoring 20 points against the Buckeyes and 22 against the Jayhawks to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Lucas also leads the nation with a 4.72 assist-to-turnover ratio.
That KU victory was State's final non-conference game of the season. Currently, the Big Ten is 108-25 in non-conference games. Ten of the 11 teams have non-conference winning percentages of 75 percent or higher. Entering Tuesday, the conference has an 81.2 win percentage, the best non-conference effort by the Big Ten since it hit 82.4 percent during the 1988-89 season.
Michigan State has a bit of a trap game Wednesday night at Penn State, with the Nittany Lions having lost just once at home. A win over the Nittany Lions would give coach Tom Izzo the first 4-0 conference start of his career. The last time MSU started 4-0 in the Big Ten, a guy named Earvin Johnson was a freshman for the Spartans.