Almost everyone seems to assume Purdue will be the B1G Champ. After losses at Nebraska and at Northwestern, with the Boilers showing limitations at times, can retooled Illinois, rising Wisconsin or Nebraska, or anyone else truly challenge the Boilermakers for the regular-season crown? Who do you see as the top contender? – CollegeHoopsTop50 (@CollegeHoopsT50)
There are only two teams who can compete with Purdue for the crown and that is Wisconsin and Illinois. Nebraska has a good shot to finish in the top 4 of the league but they have been getting blown out on the road and that needs to fixed. Until the Huskers can fix that problem they will not legitimately compete for the league crown. Nebraska is still a tournament team but they have to figure out their road woes to fully reach their potential. They have seven more road games this year including one with Illinois on Super Bowl Sunday.
Wisconsin I touched on earlier but they have their most talented team since Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky and if they continue to win and do start at 9-0 in the league then the Big Ten could be looking at 2 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers are deep, run efficient offense, and rarely turn the ball over. Their floor is better than most teams ceilings and they are the only team currently in the Big Ten who is winning road games. They likely will start the league year off at 9-0, and the showdown in Lincoln against Nebraska on February 1st is going to be a game that many are going to circle as an opportunity for the first loss in the league for Wisconsin. The Badgers have a pretty soft schedule in the Big Ten to be honest.
Illinois is the only other team who offers an elite win in the Big Ten outside of Purdue and Wisconsin. The Illini are built for a title: they shoot the ball well from deep, have an elite scorer in Marcus Domask, play elite defense, and run one of the best offenses in the country. They lost on the road as well to Purdue but that isn’t necessarily a surprise given how well the Boilers play at Mackey. Illinois already lost to Purdue so they are already a game behind them when it comes to tiebreakers and I don’t think they are a legitimate threat to Purdue because they already lost to them.
There are some things I need to get off my chest. I know Nebraska shot the lights out against Purdue but they still had a good game plan on the Boilers and Purdue didn’t execute flat out. They turned the ball over far too much and they were way too reliant on shooting the three and didn’t force the ball inside when Nebraska was letting them do that. Every once in a while Purdue will do that and I can’t figure it out. The turnovers were not within the game; there were a lot of bad telegraphed passes and run outs. They fixed themselves on Saturday when they blew out Penn State. It was a good game for Purdue to get right and something tells me the top team in the country is going to make a run and put pressure on everyone at the top of the league the rest of the way.