Monday Morning Point Guard: One Bumpy Road

The one-game suspension to leading scorer Tony Stockman was just the latest illustration that few things have gone right for the OSU men's basketball team this season. We look at that situation as well as a theory on how the Big Ten will still get its usual five (or more) teams in the Big Dance and more.

Welcome to Monday Morning Point Guard!

I still don't know if this column will be a weekly feature or not, but we are back for the second edition of Monday Morning Point Guard. It is patterned after my Sunday Morning Quarterback series. Hopefully, I'll have a quick read on the OSU basketball scene as well as what's happening in the Big Ten and the nation at large.

Without any further adieu, let's get right to it:

* From all accounts, the Tony Stockman situation could be resolved today. OSU coach Jim O‘Brien told reporters Friday before heading to Iowa that he needed to meet with Stockman before practice today and make sure everything was clear.

"I have to feel that this is where he really and truly where he wants to be," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said Stockman had little to say about the one-game suspension.

"He listened to what I had to say," the coach said. "He heard it all and that was kind of it. There was not a whole lot of discussion about it. It's hard to say how he is responding right now."

This suspension is the latest thing O'Brien has tried in an attempt to jump start this team.

"We're trying everything," he said. "Obviously, when we get to this point, this is yet another attempt to try and get through to them and figure this thing out. I think at times Tony does not get the message he has to get. This is not a pleasant thing for him, I suspect, and it's not helping us at all to have to do things like this. But this is just another attempt at trying to make a situation better.

"I'm not doing this to just prove a point to anybody and show I'm the boss and this is my team."

* I watched with amusement Sunday as CBS' Bill Raftery and Seth Brown debated, among other things, whether the Big Ten will get fewer than five teams in the NCAA Tournament.

FYI, since the NCAA went to a 64-team field in 1985, the Big Ten has never had fewer than five teams in the field. The Big Ten has had five teams in the tournament each of the last two years and the only time it has had as few as five teams three years in a row was 1991-93.

Looking at RPI, the Big Ten has Wisconsin at No. 11, followed by Purdue (47), Michigan State (48), Illinois (53), Michigan (54), Indiana (56) and Iowa (81). That is the field of serious NCAA contenders from the league as things stand.

I have a theory on how this may play out. Based on what I've seen, I think Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota are going to be hard pressed to beat any of those seven teams -- either at home or on the road. Northwestern, eh, they've proven they might squeak out a win here or there against a top-seven team.

Let's say this: The teams in the top seven sweep those three at the bottom and simply split the rest of their games. Where does that leave them?

Keep in mind, this is just a theory. I'm not discounting the fact that Ohio State, say, could rise up and beat Wisconsin Wednesday. I'm just saying a result like that would be wholly out of character for both teams.

Well, crunching the numbers, I find that:

Wisconsin would go from 13-3 to 21-6 and easily slide in.

Purdue would move from 14-4 to 21-8 and also easily make the field.

Michigan State would go from 8-8 to 16-11. With a strength of schedule ranking currently at No. 6, I would think MSU would get the benefit of the doubt from the committee. A win at the Big Ten tournament would cinch MSU's bid.

Illinois would go from 12-5 now to 19-8 and would be a lock.

Michigan would move from 11-5 now to 18-9 by season's end. An SOS ranking in the 50s -- and accordingly an RPI rank somewhere in the 40s -- would make UM an interesting bubble pick.

Indiana would go from 10-6 now to 17-10 headed into the Big Ten tournament. I would project an SOS ranking for IU somewhere in the 20s (remember, the Hoosiers played Vandy, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Xavier and Missouri in the nonconf). A win in the Big Ten tourney would certainly be helpful, but they may be in on merit at 17-11 anyway. Besides, you can't have an NCAA tournament without the Hoosiers -- they've been in every one since 1986. It helps that seven of their last 11 games are at home.

Iowa would go from 10-6 now to 17-10 and, with a projected SOS somewhere in the 50s, could be on the outside looking in. Steve Alford has only been to one NCAA in four years at Iowa, so there is no sense of urgency to get a borderline team like this in there.

So, if you asked me today, I'd say Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois are all but in. MSU still needs some wins, but has the pedigree even with an 8-3 finish to make it. Michigan and Indiana are squarely on the bubble, but could each make it if they just win the games they are supposed to win. Iowa needs to probably go 8-3 or better to have a legitimate chance.

It should be noted that the door for a team to play its way into the NCAA by winning the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis should be wide open. Under my scenario, Wisconsin would have the top seed in the tournament for the third year in a row. But the Badgers have dropped their conference tournament opener each of the last three years, including the last two under Bo Ryan.

Ohio State This Week

* The Buckeyes (9-9, 1-4) host No. 19 Wisconsin (13-3, 4-1) at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN-Plus. There probably is not a good time to play the Badgers this season, but this may be the worst. UW comes in after a 75-55 shellacking of Illinois Saturday. The Badgers have won five of their last six -- with all of those wins by double digits -- and 10 of their last 12. OSU and Wisconsin split two games last year with UW winning a 53-52 nail biter in Columbus and OSU knocking off the regular season champion Badgers 58-50 in the Big Ten tournament.

* OSU then visits No. 23 Purdue (14-4, 4-1) at noon Saurday on ESPN-Plus Regional Syndication. Believe it or not, Ohio State has won seven of the last eight meetings with Purdue to close the gap on the Boilers' all-time series lead to 78-71 (yes, they've met 149 times). OSU has won three of its last four trips to Mackey Arena, but fell there 70-65 last year. The Buckeyes rebounded and won 52-44 at home last Feb. 22. Matt Sylvester averaged 12 points in the two games with Purdue a year ago.

Big Ten Notable Games This Week

* Purdue at Indiana, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN) -- Here are two teams playing great basketball right now and this ought to be a great one. Purdue has the look of a champion with a win at Illinois and home victories over Wisconsin and that gutsy performance Sunday against Michigan State on its card. Under Mike Davis, Indiana has been short on toughness. But the Hoosiers certainly have been money of late. After opening Big Ten play with a drubbing at Wisconsin, the Hoosiers have won four straight, including three on the road.

* Iowa at Michigan, Wednesday, 8 p.m. -- This is an important game for both schools. UM needs to hold serve at home. Iowa would love to steal one on the road.

* Michigan at Illinois, Saturday, 1:45 p.m. (CBS) -- Likewise, Illinois needs to start putting it together. The Illini have been so up and down. This matches two of the league's most athletic teams and should be entertaining.

* Indiana at Michigan State, Saturday, 8 p.m. (ESPN) -- The Spartans must start stringing some Big Ten wins together if they hope to make the NCAA. IU already has three road wins in the conference. Ought to be a low scoring thriller.

National Games To Watch This Week

* Texas at Texas Tech, tonight, 7 p.m. (ESPN) -- The Red Raiders appear to be for real, while UT faltered at home last week against Oklahoma State. Should be a great match-up.

* N.C. State at North Carolina, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN) -- Tobacco Road will be buzzing for this ACC showdown.

* South Carolina at Vanderbilt, Wednesday, 8 p.m. -- Gamecocks have quietly built 17-2 mark, while Commodores are ranked for what seems like the first time in my lifetime … or at least the first time since Barry Goheen was raining threes off that stage or whatever that is down there.

* Maryland at Wake Forest, Thursday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2) -- Demon Deacons are ranked seventh, but are just 2-3 to open the ACC.

* Florida State at Duke, Thursday, 9 p.m. (ESPN2) -- Leonard Hamilton getting it done at FSU.

* Kentucky at Vanderbilt, Saturday, noon (ESPN) -- Big game in the SEC.

* Duke at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 5 p.m. (ESPN) -- Yellow Jackets need to stand and deliver on their home court.

My National Top 16

Duke remains in the top spot. Wisconsin and Texas Tech come in and Florida and Texas fall out. My list: Duke, Stanford, St. Joseph's, UConn, Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga.

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