First few Big Ten basketball games demonstrate depth of league, perils of life on the road

In no major sport, pro or college, is winning on the road more difficult than in college basketball in conference play.

That’s every year in every league. This year, in the Big Ten, it’ll be worse than most, likely producing a league champion with a 13-5 record, 14-4 at best.

As Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Monday in Minneapolis, this is as strong as the Big Ten has been in his 18 seasons as MSU’s head coach.

“I don’t even think it’s (close),” Izzo said Monday. Read this story by colleague Joe Rexrode for more of what Izzo said on the Big Ten, which has five teams ranked in the top 11 of this week’s AP poll.

One of those teams won’t be there next week. No. 11 Illinois fell at Purdue, collapsing down the stretch Wednesday night. Like No. 18 MSU, which fell 76-63 at No. 9 Minnesota Monday, the Illini had the upper hand midway through the second half.

Both are examples of the better team falling on the road — Minnesota’s ranking is slightly bloated, unlike the depth of its bench and its girth in the post — struggling against the tension of the moment, a frenzied opponent and the energy of a building rooting against them.

Three of the Big Ten’s four games played have been absolutely brutal for the visitor, mostly because they were the visitor, including 5th-ranked Indiana’s 69-65 survival of Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena.

The other didn’t go well for the visitor because the visitor was Nebraska visiting Ohio State. The Cornhuskers and Penn State are the only two soft road games on the schedule this year, though a Drew Crawford-less Northwestern squad might join them.

Everywhere else, there is potential for defeat, including against the three remaining ranked teams on MSU’s road itinerary, No. 2 Michigan, Indiana and No. 8 Ohio State. The Spartans don’t travel to Illinois this year.

Whichever team emerges is the team that wins a place or two it shouldn’t and treats its home court like it’s protecting its family. And whichever team that is, regardless of the blemishes on its Big Ten record, deserves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

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8 Responses to First few Big Ten basketball games demonstrate depth of league, perils of life on the road

  1. avatar Michael says:

    7 losses a fair projection for MSU in conference play?

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      I would say between 6 and 8 is most likely. 7 figures on Grahams expense account is the over under for road games.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      I could see seven. I think MSU’s ceiling is better than that. Because MSU has considerable talent, I think the Spartans will win a couple difficult road games. MSU’s problem is consistency and making sure it’s not a team that drops home games it shouldn’t. Amended prediction, as of today, about 12-6 in Big Ten play.

  2. avatar A very anti Couch poster says:

    Only a MAC talent level who should be covering that league would type such an asinine headline. Those of us who have been around for more than a nanosecond know that life on the road in the B1G is a minefield. Geez, what a waste of space.

    • avatar dmbtierney says:

      Hey, what do you want the guy to write? Believe it or not, there are people out there who think certain teams should always win–home and away. Except for a rare, special team (Kentucky last year) most great teams will lose a few on the road, and the non-believers out there need to be reminded of it.

      Most sports writing is about the obvious and NOT wasted space. Yes, warm, fuzzy feature stories will pop up on occasion, but most news is the writing of facts.

  3. avatar dmbtierney says:

    Absolutely, positively, it is very difficult to win on the road in college BB. Last night at Purdue, Illinois was badly outrebounded by a nothing Purdue team because they have no inside presence. Living by the three and dying by the three will apply to them all season long.

    Both Illinois and Minnesota have benefitted by a lot of early home cooking. Yes, they did win a preseason tournament each, but the B10 season negates all of that. UM has played three neutral site games against decent, not great, teams and then feasted at home. Indiana, even though ranked #5, still has been terrible on the road the last four years.

    I think when all is said and done, MSU will still be near the top of the B10 standings at seasons end, traditionally the time when they are playing well. I think five losses wins the conference outright.

  4. avatar Trophy says:

    First team to win 4 road games wins the league.

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