The College Basketball Notebook

January 6, 2010 2:19 PM

Big Ten & Pac-10 Openings

Conference has play has started in earnest in three leagues, the Big Ten, Pac-10 & Big East. Over the next two days we’ll take a look at the main stories in their early games and ahead to their key games of this weekend. Today will be the Big Ten & Pac-10, and tomorrow will be the Big East, the league big enough to count twice.

Wisconsin & Purdue have each taken care of business in their first two games, while Michigan State is 1-0 in conference play. The fourth-ranked Boilermakers have not only beaten Iowa & Minnesota, but they’ve got a big non-conference win over West Virginia since we last checked in on them. The inside game was strong throughout, and this team is going to be impossible to stop if both JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummell keep going to the boards the way have early on. Wisconsin has registered easy wins over Ohio State and Penn State, while Michigan State knocked off Northwestern.

All of which sets the stage for a big week ahead centered on the Badgers. Tonight it’s Wisconsin-Michigan State, and then it’s Wisconsin-Purdue on Saturday. Bo Ryan’s team needs a split to remain viable as a contender.

Illinois is 2-0 in Big Ten play, and in the conference overview I alluded to the possibility that the Illini’s strong inside tandem of Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale could make them a surprise contender. But I would not read anything into this start. They had to go to overtime to beat Northwestern and also tacked on a win against woeful Iowa last night in a game so ugly it was painful to read the box score. Hawkeye fans could at least take heart that everyone in the state was watching the Orange Bowl. Illinois’ fans had no such consolation. In between they lost at home in OT to Gonzaga, suggesting that they are a long way from making any kind of serious move.

Ohio State is really struggling and its apparent the loss of Evan Turner is going to do more than just hinder them, it’s having a devastating effect. The Buckeyes are 0-2, including a loss to Michigan, who hasn’t beaten anyone. The season is looking long for Thad Matta.


USC has kept its surprising season going out west, opening Pac-10 play with two wins, albeit rather ugly, over Arizona and Arizona State. They are one of only two teams to start 2-0, with Oregon being the other. The Ducks won up-tempo high-scoring games over Washington & Washington State. In the conference overview, we wondered whether Arizona State’s Herb Sendek could get anything going this year and the early returns are not good. The Sun Devils are 0-2.

Four conference games go tonight, and UCLA (1-1) has a chance to jumpstart its season when they go to Cal (1-0) in a regional FSN telecast. On the weekend, the Golden Bears host the Trojans, completing their own chance to step up into the league’s elite.

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