Big Ten Basketball Betting: Weekly Notebook
by Matt Severance - 01/20/2009
It appears the Northwestern Wildcats actually won't be Big Ten doormats for one season (thank you, Indiana). Behind Craig Moore's 22 points, NU beat No. 18 Minnesota, 74-65, on Sunday. That's a significant win for the program in that it was the Wildcats' first victory over a ranked team since Feb. 8, 2006. And they had dropped 27 of 28 Big Ten games (going 1-17 last season), including their first four this season.
Northwestern had given No. 19 Purdue all it could handle earlier in the week, losing by two. Could this team actually earn an NIT berth?
"We played a game against Purdue which was a heartbreaker for the whole team," Moore said to reporters after Sunday's win. "You start thinking, 'What do we have to do to get one?' There's nothing sweeter than coming back after a game like that."
NU's growth will be tested this week with a two-game road trip at the Michigan schools beginning Wednesday in East Lansing. NU still has just one road win this season. The Wildcats are forcing an average of 16.0 turnovers per game, leading the Big Ten with a +4.33 turnover margin.
For what it's worth, home teams are only 18-11 (.621) this season in Big Ten games. Eight of 11 teams have already picked up a conference loss at home. During the non-conference season, the 11 schools combined for a 79-7 (.919) record. Last week saw the home team win just five times out of 10 games.
ILLINOIS: The Illini have entered the poll at No. 24 (in the coaches' version), their first ranking since the end of the 2005-06 season. And that's despite losing their last game, Saturday at Michigan State. But Illinois preceded that with a nice win against the Wolverines.
The Illini could fall right back out of the poll if they don't step up in another tough week. They host Ohio State on Tuesday and Wisconsin on Saturday.
"It's a huge week for us," Illini coach Bruce Weber said to the Chicago Tribune. "The most important thing after the Michigan State game ... we can't let one loss create two losses."
Ohio State has won five in a row against the Illini, dating back to a 65-64 upset over then-undefeated Illinois on March 6, 2005. The Buckeyes are 3-1 against ranked teams this season after going 3-9 against them last season. OSU did lose Nikola Kecman to a torn ACL early last week. He is eligible to apply for a medical redshirt after the season.
MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans are threatening to run away and hide with the conference at 5-0 - every other team has at least two losses. It's their best start since opening the 1977-78 Big Ten campaign with a 7-0 record. Still, Illinois played even with MSU for a majority of Saturday's game in East Lansing, perhaps giving fellow conference teams some hope. State has won 28 straight home games, the third-longest streak in the country.
The Spartans host Northwestern on Wednesday and are at Ohio State on Sunday. Should MSU beat Northwestern, that would make this the first MSU team to win 12 games in a row since the 2000-01 team started the season 12-0. Michigan State beat NU 77-66 on Jan. 3 and beat the Buckeyes 67-58 on Jan. 6 but has lost two in a row in Columbus.
Junior forward Raymar Morgan, the team's leading scorer, missed Monday's practice due to having the flu. He also missed Sunday's practice. Morgan, who had been feeling flu-like symptoms since before Saturday's win over Illinois, is expected to be ready for Wednesday's game.
INDIANA: The bad news keeps coming for the Hoosiers. They are 0-5 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1943-44 and have lost eight straight games overall for the first time since the 1963-64 season (the school record is 11). Penn State beat the Hoosiers on Saturday; the Nittany Lions had been 0-15 all-time in Bloomington.
The Hoosiers do play three of the next four at home, and they could be a small threat to Minnesota on Sunday as IU will have had a week to prepare for the Gophers, who first play Thursday against Purdue.
"I just want to see our guys get a win so much right now,'' IU coach Tom Crean said to the Indianapolis Star. "We're all coming from winning (programs) and from winning big games. But I just want our guys as a team to feel that thrill of winning. A win would do a lot for our club right now."