MADISON — The Big Ten has been weird. The Big Ten has been wild. The Big Ten has been inconsistent.
“I’ve likened it to March Madness,” Vitto Brown said. “The way you just don’t know on any given night. The examples go on and on… It’s a testament to how you have to show up every night in this league. There are no games off, there are no freebies anymore. It keeps everyone sharp and in tune.”
Even though teams have only played five or six games in the Big Ten season so far, teams such as Minnesota, Purdue, and even Wisconsin, have faced highs and lows. Every Big Ten team has already lost at least once.
Perennial conference powers haven’t played like conference powers to this point in the season.
Indiana, once presumed to compete for the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and others, has fallen flat on their face already in the Big Ten season. Tom Crean’s squad has a 2-3 record, with two of those three losses coming in Assembly Hall.
Michigan State hasn’t had any wins over good programs all year except for beating Minnesota twice. Minnesota seemed on the cusp after beating Purdue, OSU, and Northwestern, and getting ranked in the top-25, but then they lost two straight games to MSU and Penn State bumping them right back in the middle of the pack.
Even Purdue, who made the Badgers look like they didn’t belong on the same court with the Boilermakers in Mackey Arena, already have dropped two games in the Big Ten, contributes to the unsure feeling of the conference.
Zak Showalter assessed the Big Ten’s inconsistencies, saying, “It’s a little less top heavy, but every year the Big Ten is so tough.”
Even on Sunday, the up and down nature of the Big Ten was evident. Ohio State, a team that received a beat down in complete dominating fashion in their previous game by the Badgers, rebounded and took out Michigan State 72-67. Michigan State was fresh off of a big win over a ranked, hot Minnesota team.
The Badgers have already faced a little adversity themselves. The lackluster Purdue performance is sandwiched in between two of their best games all year in the Badgers wins over Indiana and OSU.
So what is it going to take for the Badgers to avoid the same trap that many Big Ten teams have fell into this year?
“Not losing ourselves if we’re not making shots,” Showalter said.
In all three of the Badgers losses, not that the defense was very good, but the Badgers offense sputtered badly. In the Purdue loss, the Badgers shot 39% from the field and 14% from the three-point line. The Badgers shot around 38% from the field and 36% from the three-point line against North Carolina.
“We let Purdue beat us in hustle plays and the inside,” Vitto Brown said. “We didn’t do a good job of rebounding. If we can do a good job of rebounding, for the most part, we’ve done, and shut off driving lanes, teams are going to have a hard time relying on threes to beat us.”
Maryland sits at the top of the Big Ten conference right now with their only loss coming at the hands of Nebraska. The Badgers are the only other team with only one Big Ten loss.
Wisconsin takes on Michigan on Tuesday at 8:00pm CT at the Kohl Center (ESPN).