Saturday, February 9, 2013

The top 5 road wins in the Big Ten this season

Road games are tough.
Coming into the start of conference play, most of us knew that road wins in the Big Ten would be at a premium, but I honestly didn’t think it would be this bad.
I thought by now that some of the teams would have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. However, that has not happened, and it is largely due to teams being unable to win on the road.
Coming into Sunday the combined record of Big Ten teams on the road is 25-39. When you also consider that 10 of those 25 wins are against Penn State and Nebraska, it is clear to see that the team that is most likely to win the Big Ten is the team that wins the most games on the road.
There haven’t been many “big” road wins in conference play yet. There are a few, which I will get to, but trying to come up with the top 5 road wins in the Big Ten this season wasn’t easy.
Right now, Indiana has the best road record at 4-1. But, their four wins come against four teams in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
Michigan State is next at 4-2, and is one of three teams with a unique win (i.e. a win that no other team has in the conference).
So, as hard as it may be to do, here is my attempt to rank the top 5 road wins in the Big Ten this season.
1. Wisconsin 64-59 at Indiana (Jan. 15) – This is the clear winner on this list. I didn’t expect the Hoosiers to lose at home at all this season, let alone to Wisconsin. The Badgers made Indiana look very human and the Hoosiers have since lost their mystique and are now struggling to win on the road, just like everyone else in the B1G.
2. Michigan State 49-47 at Wisconsin (Jan. 22) – Following the Badgers’ impressive win, Michigan State soon had to walk into the Kohl Center to attempt to get a victory in a place it has often struggled in. The Spartans dealt with the Badgers’ hassling defense and grinded out a win that looks very impressive right now, and is the biggest reason they are in first place in the conference. MSU is the only team to have won at Wisconsin this season.
3. Michigan 83-75 at Minnesota (Jan. 17) – Minnesota has been somewhat disappointing in conference play, but the Wolverines are the only team to beat the Gophers on their home court. With the Wolverines already having three losses in Big Ten play, this win against Minnesota is looking like a lifesaver right now.
4. Indiana 97-60 at Purdue (Jan. 30) – Yeah, it’s getting that tough already. Beating Purdue doesn’t mean much, as Ohio State and Michigan State have already done the same. But, the Hoosiers made an impressive statement in this win, throttling their in-state rival by 37 on their home court. This makes the list because of margin of victory.
5. A 21-way tie between the rest – I could have picked Michigan’s manhandling of Northwestern or Michigan’s/Wisconsin’s/Minnesota’s win over Illinois, but they all don’t have much value. At this point, every other win in the Big Ten on the road came against a team in the bottom half of the conference.
As you can see, it’s been slim pickings on the road for the Big Ten. As much as we thought Indiana and Michigan might be elite, it’s becoming clear that there isn’t an elite team in the Big Ten, or in college basketball in general.
Indiana has a lot of tough road games ahead and Michigan and Michigan State still have to tangle a few times before the champion will emerge. The winner must take care of its home court and manage to sneak out a few wins on the road.

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