Maybe it was predictable, but the competitive balance in the Big Ten has been nothing short of remarkable through the first third of the conference season.
There are no easy nights in arguably the toughest conference in the nation, and winning on the road is nearly impossible as visiting teams are just 6-35 this season.
There is one team, however, that has found success on the road as Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team to win twice on the road, beating Ohio State and Penn State. The Badgers will get their next chance when they head to East Lansing to take on No. 15 Michigan State on Friday.
"I think they're playing as good as anybody in the league right now," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo recently told reporters of the Badgers.
It's easy to see why. Wisconsin (11-6, 4-2) has won six of its last seven games, the only setback coming by one point at home to Illinois. The Badgers beat No. 17 Maryland at home on Tuesday, their second straight win over a ranked team, on a last-minute 3-pointer by junior guard Brad Davison.
"Those are the kind of shots that you dream about and you think about," Davison said. "So, to have the opportunity, I'm very thankful for that opportunity to see the ball drop. But most importantly, that's a big win for this team. Whenever you can stack two wins in a row in this league, especially this year, it goes a long ways and it's going to make Friday (at Michigan State) a really fun game."
While Wisconsin is rolling and just one game out of first place in the Big Ten, the team it is chasing -- Michigan State -- limps into the matchup after suffering its first conference loss on Sunday at Purdue. There's no shame in losing at Mackey Arena, but the Spartans (13-4, 5-1) got blitzed by 29 points as senior Cassius Winston played his worst game of the season. He scored 10 points, missing all five of his 3-point attempts, and made nine turnovers.
Getting back on track before two more road games next week will be critical.
"It will be good to see how we respond from a butt-kicking," Izzo said. "We haven't had many of those around here. Although a former manager who's now an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic, Steve Hetzel, texted when I got on the bus coach and said, 'Remember in '05 we got beat by 30 at home by Illinois and we went to a Final Four?' And I said, 'Damn, I don't remember that at all.' So it goes to show that when you do get your butt kicked, it's sort of short-term memory."
Michigan State actually lost by 30 to Illinois in 2003 and lost by 13 at home to Illinois in 2005 when it ended up in the Final Four. But the point remains -- the Spartans need to learn from what took place at Purdue.
"Last year, we lost three in a row," Winston said. "So you don't want to let that linger on. You want to learn from it, and as long as you learn from it you can move forward and get better from it."
--Field Level Media