Before Michigan State’s loss at Indiana a week ago, I didn’t picture the Spartans as realistic contenders in the Big Ten, not at the level of Michigan or Indiana.
Strangely, after losing at Indiana and playing poorly for a half against Illinois, I do.
And, after Hoosiers wins over Michigan and MSU have Indiana as the likely No. 1-ranked team in the country come Monday, I see Indiana as the third-best team in the Big Ten.
All of this is based solely on the last week of basketball. Not records or Dick Vitale’s skewed view of what’s what.
It’s not as if there’s much of a gap between these three (on the standings or on the floor). And things could change over the next month.
But Indiana won twice at home. You’re supposed to win at home. And I don’t think the Hoosiers win either game if Jordan Morgan is healthy and Keith Appling avoids foul trouble.
Indiana (8-1 Big Ten) is a terrific basketball team, with a couple of studs and a few nice complementary pieces (even if Cody Zeller is over-hyped; Victory Oladipo is the Hoosier’s best player).
But I’d take the collective pieces and difference-making athletes on Michigan or MSU (both 7-2) over what Indiana has. And, with the best player in the Big Ten in Trey Burke, I’d probably still pick the Wolverines over the Spartans, though Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson is a stronger inside trio than Michigan’s crew, even with a healthy Morgan.
What’s nice about this Big Ten schedule is that all three of these teams have to play against each other at home and on the road, so the title will be determined on the court. But Indiana would be smart to build a cushion. It’s hard to see the Hoosiers walking out of Breslin or Crisler with a victory. Indiana is the only one of the three to have a home loss in league play already. That could be the difference.