The Big Ten is the nation’s strongest conference this season. It may also be the nation’s most balanced. Aside from Nebraska and Penn State, every other team in the 12-team league is capable of an upset or two. Among the noteworthy results this weekend: Northwestern beating Michigan State; Iowa blasting Michigan and Ohio State avenging an earlier loss to resurgent Indiana.
There certainly are many Big Ten haters out there. But the league is the nation’s deepest and perhaps most competitive this season. You could be looking at nine teams making the 68-team NCAA tournament this season. That would be 75 percent of the league.
Who’s your favorite in the league? Tough call. But it’s difficult to pick against the Buckeyes if they can find a way to play on the road like they did in their 80-63 rout of the Hoosiers on Sunday.
What else mattered this weekend:
Maryland 61, Georgia Tech 50: Mark Turgeon has done an impressive job thus far in his first season in College Park. Expectations were rightfully low for Turgeon’s team considering the rebuilding job he faced. But the Terrapins have beaten every team they should have beaten — including Georgia Tech at Comcast Center on Sunday -- and they have not lost to a non-NCAA tournament-caliber team yet this season. While they have not beaten what most would consider a quality opponent, they have exceeded expectations.
Georgetown 69, St. John’s 49: Take away Big East-leading Syracuse and it’s a scrum as a handful of teams battle for second place. The Hoyas are in that group of teams despite recent losses to West Virginia and, more surprisingly, to Cincinnati. Hollis Thompson, the league’s leading three-point shooter, missed only one beyond the arc in the second half, when he scored all of his 20 points.
Boston College 61, Virginia Tech 59: One certainty in recent years has been that, someway, somehow Virginia Tech would find itself on the NCAA tournament bubble come March. It will be hard for the Hokies to continue that streak this season. Playing without leading scorer Erick Green (sprained knee), the Hokies lost to arguably the worst team in the ACC. The Hokies are 0-3 in ACC play with games against North Carolina and Virginia on the immediate horizon.
Florida State 90, North Carolina 57: If you slept through the weekend, no, this is not a misprint. North Carolina has some issues to correct in the coming weeks. The defensive and rebounding woes that bugged the Tar Heels earlier in the season returned against the Seminoles, which badly needed an attention-grabbing victory after losing to two Ivy League teams, among others, this season. A team known more for their shooting struggles that three-point proficiency saw Deividas Dulkys make 8 of 10 beyond the arc. “Princeton’s defense must be a hell of a lot better than ours,” UNC Coach Roy Williams said after the game. “They can hold them to 10 points in a half, and we give up 8,000.”
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