There weren’t any major waves made in the Big Ten this week.
I guess you could say Nebraska beating Michigan State in East Lansing was pretty major, but the Spartans promptly took care of Maryland at home and the Huskers promptly got run out of their home building by Michigan. The water leveled quickly.
Outside of that game, Iowa continued their run of dominance, Indiana embarrassed two more opponents from the bottom of the conference at home, and Northwestern just did classic Northwestern things. Honestly, the biggest movement might have been Rutgers only losing by 14 at home to Iowa. They actually led 16 minutes into the game!
With the relative lack of electricity this week, I thought it’d be a good time to update where every team currently stands in the bracket projections across the interweb.
Before we dive into that, let’s honor our stars of the week along with looking ahead to the best games this week.
Stars of the Past Week:
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa – averaged 21 points in wins over Purdue and Rutgers
Derrick Walton, Michigan – averaged 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in wins over Minnesota and Nebraska
Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello, Michigan State – combined for 34 points, 26 rebounds, and 10 assists in win over Maryland
P.J. Thompson, Purdue – averaged 14 points off the bench in two games
Shavon Shields, Nebraska – 28 points in win over Michigan State
Troy Williams, Indiana – averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in wins over Illinois and Northwestern
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – 20 points and 11 rebounds in win over Penn State
Five Best Games to Watch This Week:
Indiana at Wisconsin – Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN
Iowa at Maryland – Thursday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN
Michigan State at Northwestern – Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN
Nebraska at Purdue – Saturday, 4:30 pm EST, BTN
Maryland at Ohio State – Sunday, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
To get the best view of the current standing of Big Ten teams as it relates to their tournament projection, I didn’t want to use one or two bracketologists because there aren’t any one or two that are significantly better than the rest. Luckily, our friends at BracketMatrix.com do all of the grunt work and aggregate 59 different bracketologists out there and average out all of them to provide a consistent seed level.
Iowa – 2 seed (1.63 average – 59/59 brackets)
The odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten has a great chance at a being a 1 seed this year. They’re currently projected for the top two seed. I’m writing this on Monday night and one of the teams above them, Kansas, just lost to Iowa State. The Hawkeyes have as many “good” wins as anyone in the country. On top of that, they don’t have any bad losses.
They’ve played one of the toughest schedules by any measure or metric you want to use. And with that schedule, it’s kind of crazy how close they are to still being undefeated. They had late leads in all three of their losses and of course the Iowa State loss was a big-time choke job. If they had won that, it would’ve been one more statement win to add to their resume.
Looking forward: Iowa has the toughest part of its schedule mostly behind it. However, they’ve still got Maryland, Indiana, and Michigan on the road. Indiana will also be coming to Iowa City. Barring a total collapse, Iowa has pretty much set itself up for a top 3 seed. If they continue their current level of play, they’ll likely be a 1 seed for the first time in program history.
This week: Maryland on the road and Northwestern at home
Michigan State – 3 seed (3.31 – 59/59)
As much as I hate the RPI (Dayton and Oregon are top 10 teams right now and Iowa isn’t), it will always come up when the tournament is discussed. It seems many out there are so terrified of advanced analytics and change that they’re still using RPI to formulate opinions when it comes to seeding and selecting tournament teams. I don’t like it, but it’s frequent use makes it relevant to the discussion.
With that said, the Spartans just suffered their first “bad” loss of the season based on the RPI. In this case “bad” means any team outside of top 100 in the RPI. Advanced metrics don’t support that claim, but why use a better statistical model?
Undoubtedly, that loss will come up on Selection Sunday, but luckily for MSU so will their five top-25 wins.
Looking forward: More than anything, Michigan State just needs to start playing better. Beating Maryland at home was a good place to start after their three-game losing streak. If history teaches you anything, seeding doesn’t particularly matter with this program.
For as much flack as IU has gotten for its Big Ten schedule, Michigan State has seemed to fly below the radar. Yes, they had to play Iowa twice, but they play the other four teams pegged for the tournament only once. They’ll play Indiana at home and travel to Michigan and Purdue. Otherwise it should be pretty smooth sailing down the stretch for Izzo and company.
This week: at Northwestern and home for Rutgers
Maryland – 3 seed (3.32 – 59/59)
I’ve been quoted recently (through my own Twitter, @MLParlays) as calling the Terps a “#PaperTiger”. They didn’t do a whole lot to change my mind against Michigan State.
In three chances, they’ve yet to register a “good” win. Granted, all three of those have come in true road games. However, one of those was against a Michigan team that didn’t have their best player.
It’s not just that, though. They’ve had to rally late to beat teams like Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois State, and Rider. If it happens one or two times, I get it. But it shouldn’t happen so consistently with a team that has so much talent.
About that talent: there’s only one guy who seems to consistently relish the moment of a big game. Obviously, I’m talking about Melo Trimble. Sulaimon, Carter, and Stone have all had their moments, but not consistenly. At this point, you can’t really count on Jake Layman to show up when the lights are brightest.
Looking forward: The Terps still host Iowa, Michigan, and Purdue and will travel to Indiana and Purdue. They’re going to need at least a couple of those if they want to maintain a top 4 seed.
This week: Iowa at home and Ohio State on the road
Purdue – 5 seed (4.92 – 59/59)
Every Purdue fan also needs to become an Illinois fan for the rest of the season. The Illini sit at #92 in the RPI and whether they’re above or below that 100 line determines if Purdue will have a bad loss or not.
The Boilers have “good” wins, but not any marquee ones that jump off the page. Blowing a 19-point lead to Iowa certainly didn’t help.
Looking forward: The positive news for Purdue is they have five more opportunities for those good wins. After this week, the last month of the regular season will be an absolute grind. Honestly, how they play in February may be just as important as they play in March. If they don’t perform next month, the road to end the program Final Four drought will become much more difficult.
This week: Minnesota on the road and Nebraska at home
Indiana – 7 seed (6.88 – 59/59)
I’ve been one of those guys that consistently references the Hoosiers schedule. It’s unfair to the team because they can only play who’s on that schedule and, quite frankly, they’ve been burying teams lately. A lot of teams ahead of IU in the rankings and seedings have lost games they shouldn’t. Tom Crean’s squad hasn’t and they’ve been impressive in the process.
BUT…the schedule still matters. At least when it comes to seeding in the tournament.
And there’s one number I found this week that I think best illustrates just how soft their conference schedule has been so far. On KenPom.com, he ranks every team’s overall SOS and their conference SOS. IU’s conference SOS is .5917. I’m sure that means nothing to you, so let me put it into context. The next lowest conference SOS in the B1G is Ohio State with a .7084. In fact, of the top six conferences, the lowest conference SOS of any team is Notre Dame’s with a .7029.
That’s a staggering number. They’ve only played two teams in the RPI top 50 all year, beating Notre Dame in a big second half comeback and getting bludgeoned by Duke. Currently, UNLV is a bad loss, but that may change if the Rebels continue to have success in the Mountain West.
I’m sure Hoosier fans have felt some frustration as they continue to look better and better on the court, rise in the rankings, only to see their seed level remain pretty steady. But it’s pretty clear to see why that’s happened.
Looking forward: Indiana won’t even have a chance at a “good” win in conference until next week when they travel to Ann Arbor. But they also have two shots at Iowa, home games with Purdue and Maryland, and a trip to Michigan State remaining. If they win half of those games without slipping up elsewhere, I think you’ll see a significant rise and a potential 3 or 4 seed in the brackets.
This week: Wisconsin on the road and Minnesota at home
Michigan – 7 seed (7.71 – 59/59)
The Wolverines are 2-4 versus the RPI top 50, but three of those losses are against teams in the top 10. As of now, they don’t have a loss that anyone could consider close to bad. They’ve won most of the games they should and lost against pretty good teams.
I’ve talked about how dangerous I think the Wolverines can be with how explosive they are offensively. I also mentioned how they could lose to a team seeded much lower than them and the game at home against Minnesota was kind of what I was talking about. The Gophers are a really bad team and Michigan allowed them to stick around the entire game. Look no further than the fact they went 9-31 from outside in that game. If they’re not hitting threes, they become a below average team.
Of course they’ve been playing the last six games without Caris LeVert. LeVert is obviously a great player, but it will be interesting to see how his return – whenever that is – affects the team as a whole. The ball tends to stick often times when he catches it, which is not the way they’ve been playing in his absence.
Looking forward: Michigan still has one game to play against each of the five other tournament teams. They’ve also still got road games with Ohio State and Wisconsin. That’s not going to be an easy schedule to manage, especially if they’ll be incorporating their star back into the lineup. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin have raised their level of play in LeVert’s absence. If all three of them are playing at a high level heading into the tournament, this team will be a real problem for their opponents.
This week: home for Rutgers and Penn State at MSG
Ohio State – Others Receiving Votes (11.00 – 2/59)
Right now the Buckeyes are on the very edge of the tournament discussion.
The good news for Thad Matta is that his team competed on the road at Purdue, leading that game at halftime due to some hot shooting from Kam Williams. They followed it up with their second strong effort of the week, blowing out Penn State at home and limiting the Nittany Lions to 46 points in the process.
It was probably the most consistent week they’ve played since B1G play started.
Looking forward: If Ohio State is going to make a run for the bracket, they’ll need to avoid any further bad losses. They’ve already got two of them and UT-Arlington is currently sitting at #97. They’ve only got one good win, Kentucky. They’ve got opportunity ahead of them, though. Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa all still have to make the trip to Columbus. The Buckeyes have to win a couple of those if they want to give themselves a chance.
This week: Illinois on the road and Maryland at home
Rest of the League
The Badgers actually rank higher than the Buckeyes in every advanced metric ranking besides the RPI, where they’re four spots behind. It’s not likely that they’ll sneak their way into any real conversations on Selection Sunday, however.
Why? They have four bad losses and two of them are really bad – teams in the RPI 150+ – when they lost to Milwaukee and Western Illinois. They would’ve overcome those losses had they taken advantage of their opportunities in Big Ten play, but they could only manage one significant win against Michigan State. They had their chances in close games with Purdue, Indiana, and Maryland, but they dropped all three.
Looking forward: They’ve still got chances against Indiana and Michigan at home. Otherwise, most of their opportunities lie on the road. If they manage to win seven of their remaining 11 games, things could get interesting. Especially if VCU and Syracuse finish strong. Those two teams are sitting at 51 and 52 in the RPI and if they jump into the top 50, it’s two more good wins for the Badgers. Gard’s group ain’t dead yet.
This week: Indiana at home and Illinois on the road
I’m afraid that, once again, this just won’t be the year. We’re 21 games in and the Wildcats don’t have a good win. They’ll have their chances, but it felt like the Maryland loss was their big opportunity and they missed it. Losing at home to Penn State was a killer.
This week: Michigan State at home and Iowa on the road
The Huskers had a chance to have a perfect week after they won at Michigan State, but they blew it with their performance at home against Michigan. They still have a chance to host Maryland and Purdue, two teams they’re capable of beating. They’ll need them both if they want to go dancing.
This week: Purdue on the road
Ever since the Illini took down Purdue at home, they haven’t played near that same level once. They lost to Nebraska, got blown out by Indiana, and had to really struggle to beat Minnesota. Mike Thorne was back for that Indiana blowout, only to return back to the sidelines. It’s been a lost season for John Groce’s team.
This week: Ohio State and Wisconsin at home
There’s still time for Penn State to ruin someone’s seed by beating them at a quarter-full Bryce Jordan Center.
This week: Michigan at MSG
Does Richard Pitino just start gameplanning for Rutgers now? They play them twice in the last four games of the season. It’s probably their only two chances at a Big Ten victory.
This week: Purdue at home and Indiana on the road
It’s gonna be another ugly week.
This week: at Michigan and Michigan State