I bust the windows out your Hall

What do my right hand and the Big Ten Conference have in common?

I expected more out of each of them.

I got to Gregory Hall at 10 p.m. on Sunday night, ready for two solid hours of Journalism 425 Graphics and Design homework in lab— only I couldn’t get inside, and it was raining. I walked around the building twice, knocked on all doors and checked if any of them were open. They weren’t. I felt like Eeyore.

The best idea I could come up with was to bang continuously on the wooden frame of the northeast (facing Foellinger) door. I banged and banged. Mid-bang, I turned my head to see if anyone was behind me. Only, this time, I missed the frame and my hand went straight through the glass.

I stood there for a few minutes in total shock. Blood was pouring out of my hand and wrist; it looked like a horror movie gone perfectly right. As a sanguine baby pool accumulated at my feet, I wanted someone to come to the door so I could 1) take the blame for the glass, 2) get inside and do my homework and 3) get to a bathroom to clean off my wound. Instead, a nice group of kids called McKinley for me. The blood and shattered pane remained; yet I didn’t.

An ambulance ride, an X-ray, two glued wounds and four hours later, I had become the Gregory Glasshole. My hand cashed a check my brain wasn’t expecting.

My hand under-performed; it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Not unlike the Big Ten.

Aside from my bloody stump of a hand, what reminded me of failed Big Ten predictions is the Illini’s opponent tonight — the Wolverines of Michigan.

There are those conference teams that have met their preseason predictions— Ohio State, Illinois (in a way)— and those that have risen above expectations— Purdue and Wisconsin.

But the list of under-performing squads is longer.

That list looks like this: Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, Northwestern.

Without further ado, let’s break down each of the top eight Big Ten teams, with our apologies to Iowa, Indiana and Penn State.

(You will see four numbers next to the team’s name. In order, they represent these four categories— preseason AP national ranking, peak ranking, current ranking and my predicted national finish.)

Purdue (7, 3, 3, Final Four)— Preseason, I pegged Purdue as the team to beat in the conference. After losing three consecutive games and slipping to 2-3 in conference, the Boilers have made me a man of my word. Since the skid, the Paint Crew has gone on a nine-game tear, including victories at Michigan State, at Ohio State and at Illinois. Purdue will be the first to tell you that a college basketball season is a long one, and it’s far better to peak near its end. That’s what she said.

Ohio State (16, 9, 9, Elite Eight)— You could make a case for the Buckeyes being the hottest team in the country right now. They’re flat out winning games (aside from a home loss last week against, you guessed it, Purdue). I see the Elite Eight as their ceiling because 1) Evan Turner is the best player in college basketball, 2) they don’t have a great inside presence and 3) they have absolutely no depth.

Michigan State (2, 2, 14, Sweet 16)— If you ask me, Sparty is currently benefiting from a “prestige bonus” — by that, I mean the national rankings have allowed them to remain in the top 15 without the team really earning it. Michigan State is, simply, not as good as people expected. The first half of Sparty’s conference schedule was relatively tame, but the most recent six-game stretch has been murder — and they failed, losing four of those six, with the two victories coming against Penn State and Indiana.

Wisconsin (NR, 11, 17, Sweet 16)— Real talk: Bo Ryan is one of the best coaches in college basketball. The Badgers have minimal elite talent and didn’t even receive a preseason vote, yet rose to as high as No. 11 and have maintained an elite Big Ten status all season.

Illinois (23, 20, NR, Round of 32)— Our Illini are far and away the most erratic and least predictable team in the conference. Their highs are high (wins at home against MSU and Vanderbilt, on the road against Clemson and Wisconsin) and their lows are low (neutral-court losses to Bradley and Utah). Illinois isn’t yet guaranteed a spot in the Big Dance; wins at Michigan and at home against Minnesota are a necessity.

Minnesota (25, 22, NR, NIT)— The Golden Gophers were coming off a good season, had a nice incoming recruiting class and naturally, they entered the season with high expectations. Yet consecutive early-season losses to Portland, Texas A&M; and Miami crippled the Gophers, and they never really recovered. A nice home win against Wisconsin last week has to feel pretty sweet, though. As JoJo would say, you know it’s just too little too late.

Michigan (15, 15, NR, NIT) — The worst of the Big Ten underachievers. In the DI’s preseason Big Ten preview, fellow basketball writer Stu Lieberman and I predicted them to finish sixth and wrote: “Everybody’s so high on Michigan … but we don’t quite agree. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are very good players, but where’s the depth? We may be alone in this, but we don’t believe Michigan has the guys necessary to bang night-in and night-out with the elite of this loaded conference.” Checkmate.

Northwestern (NR, NR, NR, NIT)— Poor Cats. They’re included only because of the preseason hype of making their first NCAA Tournament ever, yet they’re going to fall short again. I thought their fate was sealed before the season even started, when their best player (Kevin Coble) went down for the season.

But hey, it could be worse. I could have a hook instead of a hand, and the Big Ten could be the Pac-10.

Rich Mayor is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]