Big Ten Battle

The Big Ten has seen it's fair share of surprises in conference play. John Groce says he saw it coming.

CHAMPAIGN - Were you surprised when Penn State won at Ohio State? How about when Northwestern beat Wisconsin in the Kohl Center by nine?

Or when Nebraska knocked off Minnesota?

OK, so you get the point. One person who wasn't taken back by those final scores was Illinois coach John Groce.

"Honestly, I can basically say to you it's exactly what I said when I was standing up here before any team played a game," Groce said. "I kept saying top to bottom that it was as good or better than last year, top to bottom. I think the true depth of a conference is judged by one through 12. I think right now in our league on any given night, any place, anywhere, if you don't come to play, you don't execute, any of these teams can win. Anybody can win on any night."

Michigan (8-0) and Michigan State (8-1) have pulled away as the favorites to take the top spot in the Big Ten. But every other team has at least three conference losses and none have an overall losing record.

It can look like a mess. It's always a battle. Illinois is currently tied for last with Penn State at 2-6. The Buckeyes, Indiana, Purdue and the Cornhuskers each have three victories. Wisconsin, Minnesota and the upstart Wildcats have four. Iowa(5-3) enters Saturday's matchup with the Illini in sole possession of third place.

Groce credits the usual dregs of the conference for improving last season. There are no easy outs this season.

"I saw that. I saw it coming," he said. I think you're seeing that really play itself out.

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