Every team in the Big Ten now has at least one conference loss. Who do you see as the current favorite to win the conference regular season?
Todd: Wow, am I ever going to be making stuff up in this edition of the roundtable. Assuming Wisconsin gets healthy, I'd say they're still the favorites (in spite of the shocking loss at Rutgers). If not, I think it's kind of a free for all. Maryland, Michigan State, and who knows, maybe Iowa or Indiana all become possible contenders.
Noah: Wisconsin. They have the best player in the conference and they have an experienced, veteran team. Behind them I would put Michigan State. Never count out Tom Izzo.
Pete: I've still got to go with Wisconsin, even with the Rutgers loss. I think the conference has a lot of noise right in the second tier, and the Badgers are clearly enough separated at the top to take it.
Dave: To me, it all comes down to injuries. With Wisconsin losing Traevon Jackson to a fractured foot for several weeks, the Badgers lose a senior point guard right in the middle of conference play. That will be very significant for Wisconsin. And even if Jackson comes back this season, he's not going to be 100% for a while. Meanwhile, Maryland has two players who continue to improve from earlier injuries. Given that fact and that Maryland only plays Wisconsin once, in College Park, I think Maryland has a slight edge right now.
Andrew K.: Despite Wisconsin's "Clemsoning" act on Sunday, I still feel they're the team to beat. They are well-balanced and have the possible B1G POY in Frank Kaminsky (who did not play against Rutgers). Losing their PG is potentially devastating (ostensibly the back-up Bronson Koenig is very capable), and I think that pulls them closer to the next level of teams: Maryland, Indiana, OSU, & MSU. While one of these teams could possible sneak by Wisconsin, that's not the way to bet.
After taking care of business against Rutgers, Maryland will host Michigan State, travel to Indiana, welcome Northwestern, and visit Ohio State to close out the month. With a current record of 4-1, what will Maryland's conference record be to start February?
Todd: You all know how much I enjoy the prediction game so I'll say they will be no worse than 4-5 and no better than 8-1 but Will(I.am) Likely have a record something between those two.
Noah: I think they beat Northwestern, but drop Michigan State and those two road games. 1-3 in that slate and they'll be 5-4 going into February.
Pete: I'll say Maryland goes 2-2 in that slate, entering February with a 6-3 Big Ten record
Dave: I think Maryland goes 3-1 during that span, with the loss coming at Ohio State, giving them a 7-2 conference record.
Andrew K.: There are a few potential losses in those games. Much will depend on whether Dez and Smo can get back to 100%. If Maryland goes 3-1 in those games and enters February 7-2 in conference, 19-3 overall, we're talking about a potential Sweet 16 team. But I think we'll drop two of those games, probably the road games at Indiana & OSU.
The recent addition of Ivan Bender gives the Terps more front court depth in the future. Do you expect Bender to redshirt this season, or do you think he can contribute when healthy?
Todd: To me, this question is like a piece of op-art. In other words, a real mind bender. I have to assume that if there was some rush to get him eligible, the coaches' expectation is that he will contribute sooner rather than later. Change of heart. This just in: I think his injury will keep him from practicing for at least a month!
Noah: Save him for next year.
Pete: Redshirts aren't often used in basketball, but this certainly seems like one of the cases where it would be applicable.
Dave: Bender is still recovering from a knee injury, you're halfway through the season, and you have a pretty solid rotation going. Unless Turgeon thinks he can contribute a lot down the stretch and into March, I can't imagine they don't redshirt him this season.
Andrew K.: Redshirt. The current team's chemistry is excellent, and adding Bender could potentially harm that. With Smo, Wells, and Graham leaving after this year and Cekovsky's potential still TBD, there might be a void that Bender can fill. However, Robert Carter is eligible next year and that excites me way more than Bender.
The Big Ten East now features the defending national champion, and Michigan is looking more dangerous after the addition of Jim Harbaugh. Do the Terps play in the toughest conference in college football?
Todd: My first thought was to ask if the conference/division would be any less tough if Ohio State had lost the championship game. The Big Ten certainly had a better than expected bowl season at 6-5 (counting OSU's two wins) and five of the wins came from the B1G East so I'd have to opine that Maryland appears to be in the tougher of the conference's two divisions. Does this mean I think the B1G as a league has passed the SEC or even the PAC-12? Although there's a chest puffing opportunity to boast about being the home of the national champs, I'm still inclined to say probably not.
Noah: The SEC is still the best top to bottom and the SEC West, which features Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU and Texas A&M, is the strongest division in college football. To say otherwise is blasphemy. And yes, I did grow up in SEC Country.
Pete: Not quite yet. The Big Ten is improving, and that's good for Maryland, but the SEC is still the top league out there in my estimation. Don't sleep on the Big 12, either -- TCU and Baylor look to be excellent again next season, and Texas and Oklahoma should both be better than they were this season.
Dave: I think in a few years, the answer to that question is yes. Next season, Ohio State will start out as the #1 team, but it's going to take a bit for Harbaugh to get Michigan up to speed. As Pete said, I think the SEC maintains that title through next season. Beyond that, you might be able to make the argument that the B1G East is the toughest, especially if Maryland and Rutgers can continue to improve.
Andrew K.: The addition of John Harbaugh's brother (had to get my Ravens' bias in there) will help Michigan, but not necessarily in 2015. The B1G will have its stars and two New Year's Day bowl teams next season. But from first to last the conference is still not close to the SEC.