So, how do you handicap who has the best odds of emerging as the champion in the nation's deepest, most competitive league? You turn to the Las Vegas experts.
For this one, we asked the team at the SuperBook at the LVH (formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton) to set the numbers. Sports book director Jay Kornegay's shop is not taking bets on the race for the Big Ten title, but he and his guys kindly took the time to create fictional odds for The Dagger. We'll simply expand on them.
So, here is who, as of right now, is a real contender, and who's, well, not.
Ohio State (15-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) — 3:5
No surprise here. Indiana tripped the Buckeyes up and took a four-point win in Bloomington on New Year's Eve, but in three wins over teams from the league's bottom half, Ohio State prevailed by an average margin of 31 points. Plus, the team's upcoming schedule sets up nicely over the next three weeks, with an opportunity to build some momentum. If Jared Sullinger stays healthy, Ohio State remains the class of the league.
Michigan State (14-2 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) — 4:1
One of college basketball's best stories, Michigan State hasn't lost since an 0-2 start that included losses to North Carolina and Duke. Plus, having already defeated Indiana despite surrendering a 25-2 run and edged Wisconsin on the road in overtime, the Spartans are proving to be arguably the toughest out in the conference. To beat them, you'll have to bury them.
Wisconsin (12-5 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) — 4:1
OK, take a breath before freaking out at the tight odds on the struggling Badgers. Yes, they've lost two in a row, including a pair of rare home setbacks. But the schedule ahead actually lays out nice for Wisconsin. Bo Ryan's club only has four remaining games against league teams currently in the Top 25. Indiana is the only other league team who has that few left on its slate, and those two will meet … in Madison on Jan. 26. At the end of the day, Wisconsin is still talented and tough, and has the league's best lead guard in Jordan Taylor. The LVH guys are banking on it all coming together for Bucky at some point soon. Pay attention.
Indiana (15-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) — 7:1
In terms of the fictional odds, this is the first team you might look at and think 'value' in terms of their number. But the buyer should beware. With an 88-82 win at Penn State on Sunday, Indiana snapped a 16-game road losing streak in Big Ten play. As mentioned above, the Hoosiers only have four league games left against current Top 25 teams, but three of them — Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan — are on the road. They also play at Purdue and Minnesota still. Yes, Tom Crean's team is one of college basketball's best stories so far, but until it proves it can be consistently strong on the road, it might not be long for this race.Read More »from Handicapping the deep race for the Big Ten title … Vegas style