Point/counterpoint: Which team will win the Big Ten regular-season title — Ohio State or Purdue?

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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After a 13-point win on Feb. 20 over Ohio State, the Purdue Boilermakers are poised to claim the Big Ten regular-season crown. The Boilermakers will hold the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes should Ohio State fall to Wisconsin on March 6, the final day of the regular season.

The toughest remaining opponents for the Boilermakers are Illinois and Michigan State. Purdue gets the Fighting Illini at Mackey Arena, in which it has not lost all season. The biggest test comes in East Lansing against the Spartans.

However, the play of seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore should be enough to carry Purdue to a win at the Breslin Center. Purdue’s other two games come at Indiana and at Iowa.

Opposing teams have won regularly on the road against the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes, and the Boilermakers will be no different.

The Buckeyes still have meetings with Wisconsin and Illinois on the horizon, as well as a matchup at Penn State — which Ohio State defeated by only 3 points in Columbus. It is very possible that the Buckeyes will drop one of these three games and collect their third conference loss, tying them with Purdue.

The Boilermakers also have more depth than the Buckeyes, a factor that comes into play at the end of a season. In Sunday’s contest between the two teams, 11 Boilermakers played, while only seven Buckeyes saw the court. Purdue’s depth will allow it to be fresher down the stretch, as opposed to an Ohio State team that could be burned out.

After two huge wins against Wisconsin and Ohio State, the Boilermakers are hitting their stride, and it could not have come at a better time. This Purdue team has the talent and depth to win the Big Ten regular-season championship, as well as make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

— by Ryan Murphy

Ohio State

For the first time all year, Ohio State looked vulnerable in a 13-point loss to Purdue on Sunday. It will be the last time, too.

It’s only a matter of time before the Buckeyes wrap up the regular-season title and No. 1 seed going into the Big Ten Tournament.

Purdue is arguably playing better basketball at the moment, but Ohio State has two factors working in its favor that the Boilermakers don’t.

Both teams have played 14 conference games — 27 overall — and have four left before the Tournament. The difference is Ohio State has earned better overall (25-2 to 22-5) and Big Ten (12-2 to 11-3) records, and therefore owns its own destiny. Purdue has to win out to force the league to begin its ridiculously complicated tiebreaker procedures, and it won’t matter if the Buckeyes also sweep their final four games.

The second point is that Ohio State gets three of its final four games in Columbus, where the team is undefeated. They only travel to face the mediocre Nittany Lions, who shouldn’t put up much of a fight when the Scarlet and Gray roll into town on March 1 (see: Penn State’s hilarious loss at home to Maine on Dec. 21).

Purdue, on the other hand, will be on the road for three of its final games. Two of those away contests are against Indiana and Iowa, but the third is in East Lansing against Michigan State. Tom Izzo’s Spartans have played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament conversation, but I’ll bet a kidney they come to play and beat the Boilermakers.

I hope they do, actually — just as I hope Ohio State wins out. The Big Ten’s tiebreaker rules are a pain. The Boilermakers will win the tournament, but they’ll do it as the No. 2 seed.

— by Seth Roberts

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