Who are the Leading Big Ten Contenders? Chicago Legends Size it Up


Today saw Gonzaga become the sixth different team to be ranked #1 in the AP poll. The all time record, for an entire season is seven, and today is just Christmas Eve Eve/Festivus. In other words, that record will inevitably be shattered to pieces and this fact conveys just how much chaos there really is, nationally, in college basketball this season.

Not just nationally, but on a local level too! When you’re making free college basketball picks against the spread, in the Big Ten, anything can happen! Upsets are occurring all the time and now that everyone in the Big 10 has played two conference games, 12 of the 14 teams in the league are 1-1. Michigan State is 2-0 while Northwestern is 0-2. Until MSU’s 77-72 win at Northwestern on Wednesday night, the home team had won every single Big Ten league team. So up until midweek, we had perfect symmetry in the Midwestern league.

So how do you size up this race, when no one is really that good? But everyone is good? Or everyone is terrible or mediocre? Where do we go from here?

Our good friends at Hammer and Rails on SB Nation did a Big Ten Power Rankings that you can check out at this link. Travis Miller made a Mandalorian themed B10 PR that is a lot more creative and interesting than your typical B1G listing.

On Saturday night, the Chicago Legends Classic returned to the United Center, and one of the four participants was Iowa, who beat Cincinnati in the night cap and entered the poll this week, grabbing the final spot of #25. Ohio State, which received nine first place votes, moved up to #2.

Michigan is #11 this week while Maryland is #13 and Michigan State is #14. All three of these teams have spent a vast stretch of the season in which they were severely overrated. There is one more Big Ten team ranked in this week’s poll, Penn State, who are now #20.

So will be the major players in the conference league race? The Chicago Legends had a press conference Friday night and we asked Ronnie Lester, the Iowa Hawkeyes representative, his thoughts on the race.

“I keep up with Iowa, I keep up with the Big Ten through Iowa,” said the man who led the Hawkeyes to the 1980 NCAA Final Four.

“Michigan State’s always good, looks like Maryland’s pretty good this year. I would say those two teams probably have the best chance of winning the league.”

Donnie Boyce, Colorado’s all-time leading scorer chime in: “Yeah, Michigan too.” Boyce and Lester then went back and forth.

Lester: Yeah, I think Michigan is going to be pretty good, but I would put them behind those two teams. I think Ohio State’s pretty good too, forgot about Ohio State. The Big-10’s always a tough league, it’s always a tough league. And they will get a lot of teams in the tournament, they will get a lot of teams in the tournament.

Boyce: “The one thing I find interesting about the Big-10 and we’re talking about the evolution of the game, it was known as the bump and grind type of league and it’s starting to move more now into the pick and pop, spread four league.”

“You look at a school like Wisconsin where they put four shooters out there, five shooters out there at all times and to spread you out and run the motion offense.”

“And they have been successful with their style, but I’m used to the bump and grind, it’s going to be a dog fight every night, kind of wish the Big-10 was still that way, but the evolution of the game has kind of changed the Big-10 outlook overall.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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