Month: January 2017

Big Ten Power Rankings: The Midway Point

 


Five Stars of the Past Week:

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – averaged 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.5 steals in two wins

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue – averaged 19.5 points, 15.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in two games

Miles Bridges, Michigan State – averaged 24.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals in two games

Justin Jackson, Maryland – 28 points (5-5 from 3) and 10 rebounds in win at Minnesota

Dererk Pardon, Northwestern – 19 points, 22 rebounds, and 3 blocks in win over Nebraska

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland at Ohio State, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN

Northwestern at Purdue, Wednesday, 8:30 pm EST, BTN

Purdue at Maryland, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN

Ohio State at Michigan, Saturday, 6:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Indiana at Wisconsin, Sunday, 1:00 pm EST, CBS


We’re halfway through the conference slate now and with every game that passes, it feels more and more clear who’s good and who’s not. There’s still quite a bit of parity in the league, but the Top 4 isn’t really debatable, although the order of them is up for discussion.

Rutgers is clearly at the bottom. #5 through #7 seems fairly set to me. Although Indiana is the wildcard. James Blackmon could be back soon, but if he’s not, who knows what happens with that team.

With that said, the power rankings are back.

1. Wisconsin (KenPom: 11)

If the Badgers were going to lose one they shouldn’t, Saturday felt like the time. But for anyone who’s watched a lot of both Wisconsin and Rutgers recently, the end of that game went exactly as expected.

It wasn’t a pretty performance by any means, but the difference between Wisconsin and their group of supposed challengers is that they still win the games they should even when they don’t bring their best. Maryland may be equal with them in terms of record, but their inability to close out Nebraska at home may end up being the difference in who wins the championship.

The Badgers just feel like a robot that’s designed to win games by any means necessary. They have the most “minutes continuity” in the nation from last year to this year and they play like it, especially down the stretch.

This week: at Illinois, home for Indiana

2. Maryland (KenPom: 40)

Ya know, I look at analytics every day. I even dabble in doing a bit of my own and write ridiculously informative and extremely important blogs about them.  I find them to be really useful and they do a good job of supplementing what you think you see when you watch a team.

But at some point intangibles have to count for something. And a big intangible Maryland has is “really good at winning games in adverse environments”.

I know I just talked about them losing a game they shouldn’t have to Nebraska in the Wisconsin section, but they’re also 5-0 in true road games this year with all of those games coming against Top 100 competition.

Melo Trimble is the steady hand every game, but their freshmen make multiple massive plays every single night. None of the Cowan/Jackson/Huerter trio comes up big every single game, but as a group they deliver so consistently that it has to be somewhat embarrassing for some of the older teams that don’t in the conference. *silently stares daggers through Ohio State and Michigan*

This week: at Ohio State, home for Purdue

3. Northwestern (KenPom: 30)

It hasn’t been murderers’ row, but six straight wins is six straight wins.

Bryant McIntosh is starting to get hot. Vic Law consistently impacts every game in at least one positive way. Scottie Lindsey can now score in multiple ways. Dererk Pardon threw up a casual 19 and 22 and 3 blocks this week. Sanjay Lumpkin is now doing this:

Life is good in Evanston.

This week: at Purdue

4. Purdue (KenPom: 12)

*Very long, very exaggerated sigh*

It seemed as though the Boilers had put their road demons behind them when they got a big win in East Lansing on Tuesday. They did a great job of defending everyone except Miles Bridges. They made “winning” plays down the stretch. They looked like a team that was actually formidable.

Then they choked away another game, this time in Lincoln against an Ed Morrow-less Nebraska team.

Purdue is now 6-3 in the Big Ten, 17-5 overall. They have lost precisely one game due to offense this year and even that was against Louisville, one of the best defenses in the country.

The program’s reputation has hung its hat on defense, but not this year. This is the best offense they’ve had under Matt Painter, but they continue to lose these games because they can’t keep it together defensively.

With that said, they could still be winning these games if this wasn’t their end of game offense:

Not great, Bob!

Caleb Swanigan is the best player in the league, but he’s trying to do too much late in the game. Purdue’s offense is awesome 95% of the time because they play inside-out and they have some lethal shooters to go along with their dominant presence in the low-post. It doesn’t work when the guys in the low-post abandon that and try to force things.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Maryland

5. Michigan State (KenPom: 51)

This is when things get messy in the rankings. 1 through 4 is purely performance based and nothing else.

The fact that Michigan State is at the fifth spot probably doesn’t say great things about the league, but at the same time the small gap between #5 and #12 speaks to the depth, I guess.

Miles Bridges gets the nod for the Spartans over the other teams in their tier. He’s so damn good. As unorthodox and somewhat ugly as his shooting stroke is, he’s been consistent from deep all season. Add that on top of his freak athleticism and it makes Bridges one of the most difficult players to defend in the league.

Poor DJ Wilson. Although in true Michigan defensive fashion, it appears no one gave a second thought to providing any helpside defense.

The Spartan offense as a team hasn’t been that bad lately. That side of the ball has started to come around. Unfortunately for them, that’s coincided with the recession of their defense and it’s resulted in MSU still fighting for their tournament life.

This week: at Nebraska

6. Michigan (KenPom: 35)

I don’t know, man. They caught Indiana at the right time and played their best game of the season at the same time.

Then they go on the road against their intrastate rival and one of their senior leaders goes 0-8 with 0 points and 3 turnovers.

They are what they are and that’s a team that probably peaked a week before Thanksgiving. It’s frustrating to watch.

I’m obviously a big proponent of the Big Ten, but at this point I can’t say that Michigan has earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. I’d rather watch whatever mid-major team that inevitably slips in their conference tournament, but won 25+ games. The Wolverines are now 0-6 in true road games. Their best win in two months is either a very depleted Indiana team or Texas.

This week: home for Ohio State

7. Indiana (KenPom: 39)

With 100% sincerity, it sucks what’s happening to IU. My Purdue fan side wishes for (emotional) pain for IU at all times, but as a fan of the Big Ten and college basketball in general, I’m never going to take joy in injuries derailing a season.

The Hoosiers had very real problems before the injury bug hit them, but they still had two months to figure them out.

Now? Now they have to figure out how to win games with Josh Newkirk as their third scorer. That spells doom with their upcoming schedule.

Why does it seem like every team desperate for wins has to go play at the Kohl Center that week?

This week: home for Penn State, at Wisconsin

8. Minnesota (KenPom: 44)

I basically trashed Richie Pitino for a year and a half and then felt like a real dummy when they were 3-1 at the start of Big Ten play with wins at Purdue and Northwestern. I then declared Minnesota a contender for the league championship.

Since that point, the Gophers have lost five straight.

The lesson? Never doubt your belief that Richie Pitino will always find a way to disappoint. The Gophers are now back fighting for their tournament lives.

This week: at Illinois

9. Iowa (KenPom: 91)

Was looking for some hot takes on Iowa being better without Peter Jok, so I did a quick Twitter search on him. Found this instead:

Nothing he said was even remotely controversial, but instead mature and hopeful. But of course, the replies didn’t disappoint.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Nebraska

10. Penn State (KenPom: 93)

The roller coaster season for the Nittany Lions continues. They aren’t terrible, but  they’re not a viable threat to the big boys on the road yet.

This week: at Indiana, home for Rutgers

11. Ohio State (KenPom: 63)

It felt like a big win at home against Minnesota and then they go and lay a defensive egg against a Peter Jok-less Iowa team.

I can’t totally quit them yet, but outside of Tate and Thompson they have little consistency. Lyle has improved in that department, but he’s still not equipped to really run a team.

This week: home for Maryland, at Michigan

12. Nebraska (KenPom: 83)

They snapped the five-game losing skid with a big win over Purdue, but I’m not sure it’s sustainable. Jack McVeigh had a huge game, but he’s been the model of inconsistency. They’ll be a tough out for anybody that comes to Lincoln, but their play elsewhere has slipped back to the mean.

This week: home for Michigan State, at Iowa

13. Illinois (KenPom: 67)

I’ve heard some discussion about “Who’s the 13th team in the Big Ten?” I don’t find it to be that difficult of a question to answer. Illinois is so bad on the road. They ended up making it a four-point game in Happy Valley, but it wasn’t remotely that close. They’re a veteran team without a lot of potential for getting better. They just have no defensive spine. Their Big Ten resume may seem fairly even with the few right above them, but the Illini are the only team that’s seemingly regressed without the excuse of an injury.

This week: home for Wisconsin and Minnesota

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 129)

They had their big chance, but couldn’t finish.

This week: home for Iowa, at Penn State

 

Overvalued, Undervalued, or Properly Valued 2.0: Updating NCAAB Championship Odds

If you missed the original from two weeks ago, you can find it here.

From that original, all but one of the teams that were in one of the “Overvalued” categories has the same or higher odds and vice versa with the “Undervalued” teams, so I feel like we’re on the right track. Apparently Butler’s home loss to Georgetown and needing overtime to beat DePaul really wowed some people and with every Baylor win people somehow believe less in them.

Image result for chris boucher

Properly Valued

1. Kentucky +550 (MLPPR: 3)

Two weeks ago: “Properly Valued” +450 (MLPPR: 4)

Their odds have only gotten slightly worse since we last evaluated two weeks ago. Since then, they’re 2-2 with losses at Tennessee and home against Kansas.

The Wildcats are obviously talented, but at the same time their two best wins are UNC on a neutral floor and South Carolina at home. Outside of that? It’s a toss-up between Arkansas, Michigan State, and Valpo.

And it’s not like they haven’t had plenty of chances. Just something to think about if you’re contemplating taking them to win a tournament where they’ll probably have to win 2-3 games in a row against elite competition.

3. Duke +850 (MLPPR: 6)

Two Weeks Ago: “Properly Valued” +850 (MLPPR: 6)

Despite the fact that the sky is falling in Durham, the Blue Devils have the exact same odds and MLPPR standing that they did two weeks ago.

Obviously the two situations aren’t exactly the same, but the 2015 national champion Duke team went 3-3 over a stretch around this time last year, which included a blowout loss at home to a Miami team that went to the NIT.

I’m not saying you’re getting good odds now, but I’m also saying this team isn’t dead yet. People forget (h/t Pardon My Take) that ’15 team had major defensive questions heading into the tournament.

9. Oregon +2000 (MLPPR: 9)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Undervalued” +2500 (MLPPR: 12)

Still not a lot of value with the Ducks and the offense has settled back down the last three games.

14. Wisconsin +2700 (MLPPR: 11)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Undervalued” +3500 (MLPPR: 8)

The played terribly against Rutgers and yet at no point did I ever actually believe they would lose. They don’t wow you, but they tend to stick around in games when they’re not at their best because they defend and they play a slow game. Combine that with having Bronson Koenig to repeatedly hit dagger threes and they’ll be a tough out for anybody in March.

15. Florida State +3000 (MLPPR: 15)

Two Weeks Ago: “Properly Valued” +2800 (MLPPR: 11)

A really talented team that could beat anybody, but you could also see them losing a 3/14 game in the first round.

16. Purdue +4000 (MLPPR: 16)

Two Weeks Ago: “Properly Valued” +4500 (MLPPR: 18)

They’ve now lost three games they should’ve won because their late-game offense stinks and their late-game defense might be worse.

Which is the same reason they’ve choked away games in the first round the past couple years.

I don’t think you can consider them a viable threat to do anything in March until they prove they can fix that.

19. Notre Dame +5500 (MLPPR: 19)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Undervalued” +5500 (MLPPR: 16)

They’re on a tough stretch right now, but I still really like them. Not enough to win it all, but they can beat anybody.

25. South Carolina +9000 (MLPPR: 29)

Two Weeks Ago: “Properly Valued” +22500 (MLPPR: 30)

Still the best on defense, still really bad on offense. Their odds have dropped dramatically, but they’re still in the longshot range in terms of odds and still in the “no shot” range of winning it all.

Image result for allonzo trier arizona

Somewhat Undervalued

6. Gonzaga +1000 (MLPPR: 2)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Undervalued” +1800 (MLPPR: 2)

Doubt them all you want, but their adjusted efficiency margin would make them the third-best team since ’08.

8. Arizona +1200 (MLPPR: 4)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Undervalued” +2800 (MLPPR: 7)

Not nearly as much value as two weeks ago. If they win at Oregon next weekend, they have a pretty good shot of going 18-0 in the Pac-12. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

12. Louisville +2500 (MLPPR: 8)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Overvalued” +2000 (MLPPR: 14)

The change in odds is kind of bizarre considering they went 3-1 since we checked in on them and that loss was at Florida State and they won the other three games by an average of 37 points. Oh, and their starting point guard didn’t play in any of those games.

40. Northwestern +30000 (MLPPR: 23)

Two Weeks Ago: Not listed

The Wildcats can’t win it all, but who cares? It’s still the greatest year they’ve had in program history.

26. Saint Mary’s +10000 (MLPPR: 21)

Two Weeks Ago: “Properly Valued” +10000 (MLPPR: 20)

At least they seem like they’re going to be a lock for the tournament this year. I’d like to at least see what they can do.

31. Wichita State +15000 (MLPPR: 24)

Two Weeks Ago: “Irrelevant At This Point” +20000 (MLPPR: 28)

Don’t look now, but the Shocker defense is rounding into form and they’re bashing MVC teams over the head every game (well, except for Illinois State).

35. Iowa State +20000 (MLPPR: 20)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Undervalued” +20000 (MLPPR: 17)

They could shock a 1 seed in the second round if they’re firing on all cylinders and Naz Long is hitting the dumb, out of rhythm shots that he takes, but they could also play themselves out of the tournament field if they’re not careful.

36. Kansas State +25000 (MLPPR: 26)

Two Weeks Ago: Not listed

They could beat anyone in Manhattan, but that’s not how the whole NCAA Tournament thing works.

Not Listed. Oklahoma State (MLPPR: 30)

Two Weeks Ago: Not listed

They’re starting to play really well, but the MLP rankings hate West Virginia and this team is West Virginia-lite. Although they do have Jawun Evans, whose KenPom player comps include Chris Paul, TJ Ford, and Trey Burke, which seems to indicate that Evans is pretty special.

Image result for josh hart villanova

Somewhat Overvalued

3. Villanova +850 (MLPPR: 7)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Overvalued” +850 (MLPPR: 9)

Still pretty good, though. Not sure how you can doubt anyone with “The Big Ragu” on their team. Which reminds me: it’s the biggest failure of our society that Gus Johnson hasn’t called an NCAA Tournament game since 2011.

23. Xavier +8000 (MLPPR: 28)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Overvalued” +6500 (MLPPR: 27)

It just seems like something is missing from this team. What might that be…

Image result for matt stainbrook

I think we all miss America’s favorite part-time Uber driver/full-time bucket getter.

Image result for ty jerome virginia

Highly Undervalued

11. Baylor +2200 (MLPPR: 5)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Undervalued” +1800 (MLPPR: 3)

They just keep winning.

12. Virginia +3000 (MLPPR: 1)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Undervalued” +3000 (MLPPR: 1)

Was actually kind of glad that they ultimately ended up losing to Villanova because it keeps the heat off of them. Unfortunately everyone knows about natural born assassin Ty Jerome now.

24. Florida +8500 (MLPPR: 13)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Undervalued” +8500 (MLPPR: 19)

I still have some doubts about the Gators, but they just won back-to-back games on the road against high-major teams by 30+ each.

26. Cincinnati +10000 (MLPPR: 12)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Undervalued” +15000 (MLPPR: 13)

The schedule is weak, but they’ve still won 12 in a row. If Jarron Cumberland keeps playing like he has the past couple games, the Bearcats are gonna be a…bear to get rid of in March.

36. SMU +25000 (MLPPR: 17)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Undervalued” +25000 (MLPPR: 22)

There’s not a lot of great wins to find on the resume, but they’re 18-4 and those four losses have consisted of three true road games and one on a neutral site and none of them have came against anybody outside the Top 100. They’ll be a nightmare for a team that doesn’t want to shoot it from outside.

Image result for nathan adrian west virginia

Highly Overvalued

2. Kansas +650 (MLPPR: 10)

Two Weeks Ago: “Properly Valued” +1000 (MLPPR: 5)

Admittedly, this is kind of a tough sell after they just won at Kentucky. But the front court is getting pretty thin and I mean there’s the whole “there were five members of the team that are witnesses in an alleged rape of a 16 year old” thing. Who knows what’s true with the whole deal, but at the very least it’s a distraction.

3. UCLA +850 (MLPPR: 18)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Overvalued” +600 (MLPPR: 15)

In a shocking turn of events it turns out that defense still matters.

7. North Carolina +1100 (MLPPR: 14)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Overvalued” +900 (MLPPR: 10)

I don’t see it.

9. West Virginia +2000 (MLPPR: 22)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Overvalued” +2000 (MLPPR: 24)

It’s known at this point that the rating system will never like a team like West Virginia. But they have taken it to Virginia (in Charlottesville), Baylor, and Kansas. However, they have also lost to Temple, Oklahoma (at home), and Texas Tech. Which I think speaks exactly to why the ratings don’t like them. They’re really good until a team doesn’t wilt to their pressure.

17. Creighton +5200 (MLPPR: 25)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Overvalued” +3000 (MLPPR: 21)

No Mo, no chance.

17. Maryland +5200 (MLPPR: NR)

Two Weeks Ago: “Irrelevant At This Point” +20000 (MLPPR: NR)

They’re not in the Top 30 of KenPom, but out of curiosity I wanted to see where they’d stack up because they’re still a 19-2 team from the Big Ten after all.

They’d be 28th.

19. Butler +5500 (MLPPR: 27)

Two Weeks Ago: “Somewhat Overvalued” +6500 (MLPPR: 25)

They racked up a lot of good wins in the non-conference, but they’ve played a lot of close games (won some, lost some) against mediocre/bad teams since Big East play has started.

Butler is Butler, but the Bulldogs haven’t reached the second weekend under Chris Holtmann yet.

21. Indiana +6500 (MLPPR: NR)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Overvalued” +4000 (MLPPR: 26)

Their season has gone awry with a flurry of injuries and there were some questions before the injuries started. At this point, the biggest battle for them will just be making the field.

21. Michigan State +6500 (MLPPR: NR)

Two Weeks Ago: “Highly Overvalued” +5000 (MLPPR: NR)

It’s still a no until you see major improvement offensively.

Image result for richard pitino

Irrelevant At This Point

26. Marquette +10000 (MLPPR: NR)

Really good offense, very bad defense.

29. Syracuse +12500 (MLPPR: NR)

Haven’t won more than two in a row since November, so I’d say there’s some questions about them winning six in a row in March. Their max is probably five (in the NIT).

29. USC +12500 (MLPPR: NR)

Hopefully they just give us another compelling 8/9 game this year.

31. Michigan +15000 (MLPPR: NR)

They’re basically Marquette without the Villanova win.

31. Minnesota +15000 (MLPPR: NR)

It was all so promising until they lost five straight. Can’t believe that happened under Richie Pitino.

31. Virginia Tech +15000 (MLPPR: NR)

Meh.

36. NC State +25000 (MLPPR: NR)

They’ll be formidable in the NIT.

39. Miami (FL) +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

Actually not bad.

 

 

 

CBB Picks: 1/28

PENN STATE (-2.5) over Illinois – 2u

I think you have to keep betting against the Illini on the road until they prove they can be remotely competitive. Penn State is coming off a tough three game stretch that saw them lose on a buzzer beater against IU, followed up by road games at Wisconsin and Purdue. They’re the much better defensive team in this game and they’ve got multiple options to throw at Hill. Mike Watkins should be able to neutralize the hot streak Maverick Morgan has been on.

WYOMING (-1) over Boise State

Boise got off to a hot start in MW play, but they’ve faded defensively recently. Wyoming has been a tough out in Laramie all year, only dropping one to Nevada. Both teams might struggle to get open looks outside, but I think you have to like Wyoming’s chances of getting it going more given the home court advantage. Justin James should be able to slow down Hutchison a bit.

MARSHALL (-12.5) over UTEP

Basically everything I said Thursday about Marshall against UTSA on Thursday.

NORTHEASTERN (-2.5) over Towson

Northeastern has to win again at some point. Towson’s offense has been really good the last five games, but they’re reliant on second chance points and free throws, two things the Huskies do a good job of limiting.

UCONN (-11.5) over Tulane

It hasn’t been a good year for the Huskies – to put it mildly – but one thing they’ve done well in AAC play is taking care of the opponents they should and Tulane is trash, soooo. Biggest key for UConn is limiting turnovers, which has been a bit of an issue at times.

Southern Miss (+16) over UAB

Never been so in love with a 6-14 team, but they’re a money making machine right now. I like that UAB is coming off a big win two nights ago over La Tech. No need to get up for little old Southern Miss, they’ll just take their 12 point loss and be on their way.

ULL (-9) over Little Rock

The Cajuns have been slumping, but I like the spot here. They’re coming off an embarrassing outing at Arlington, they’ve had since Monday to get ready, and they get a UALR team that’s struggled on the road and the Cajuns should have a lot of confidence against them considering they already won by 17 at Little Rock. Lis Shoshi has missed the last three for the Trojans. If he can’t go again, that’s a major advantage for ULL on the boards. Even still, I’d hardly expect Shoshi to be 100%.

BYU (-11) over Loyola Marymount – 2u

BYU has played 12 games at home. They are 11-1 in those games. That loss was the only game they haven’t won by at least nine points. They already won this matchup in LA. Ever since Mike Dunlap took over at LMU, Dave Rose has carried him around in his back pocket. Cougs haven’t lost back-to-back WCC games in two years.

 

 

CBB Picks: 1/26

3-3 yesterday. All things considered, a pretty frustrating day.

NORTHEASTERN (-4.5) over Elon

Huskies are another one of those teams coming off a tough stretch on the road and coming back home. Conversely, Elon has played four of five at home and won four of five. Guess which four they won? In a game that could be a three-point shooting contest, I always like the team at home.

Delaware (+12.5) over WILLIAM & MARY

If you made this line based solely on CAA play, this line would probably be about five points less. Not because Delaware has been any good, but W&M has slipped quite a bit. They’ve had a problem with closing teams out lately. They were up 11 this past weekend on Elon and ended up losing by the same margin. So when the Tribe are inevitably up 20 tonight, just know that there’s still hope.

MARSHALL (-14) over UTSA

The Herd are one of those teams that aren’t really good enough to beat good teams, but they’re good at blowing out bad teams. UTSA qualifies as a bad team. Things were actually going well for the Roadrunners in C-USA play. They were 4-1, three of those wins coming against fellow bottom feeders. Then they went to UTEP, scored 39 points, and lost by 20. Lot of pressure on their defense to lock down the Herd because their offense has no chance to keep up in a high-scoring game.

Southern Miss (+22.5) over MTSU

Am I real confident about this one? No. But I’m riding the Southern Miss train until it careens off the tracks. Doc Sadler til I die.

In all seriousness, the Eagles can keep this relatively close if they can get MTSU out of their game and make them a jump shooting team. USM is actually pretty good at cleaning up the glass.

Indiana (+3.5) over MICHIGAN

Michigan is a nice opponent for the Hoosiers to play right now. UM isn’t a team that’s going to expose IU’s defensive frontcourt issues. It’s been two months now since Michigan had even a semi-impressive win. If it comes down to the end, IU has the best player/scorer/crunch-time performer in Blackmon.

UC IRVINE (-11.5) over Cal Poly

The Eaters are just so much better than the rest of the league right now, although Saturday at Davis might get interesting.

 

Season: 86-85-1 (50.3%)

CBB Picks: 1/25

0-4 yesterday. The Pittsburgh pick was so far off, it was hard to get mad about. I was happy to be wrong about Purdue. The other two were lost by a total of 3 points. The Houston one is on me for not sticking with playing the first half lines when I like a big favorite. Cougars were up 15 at half and ended up only winning by 14.

GEORGE MASON (-3) over George Washington

GMU will get out on the GW shooters well. GW has been terrible on the other end and should be a nice antidote for a Patriot offense that has been struggling a little bit. Colonials haven’t been able to get anything started on the road.

GEORGIA TECH (+10) over Florida St.

It all seems a little too easy for FSU and they’ve spent a lot of time in Tallahassee this season. GT is coming back home after three straight road games and they’ve shown more than once that they’re gonna be a tough out for the ACC elite all season.

GEORGETOWN (+2) over Creighton

Tough to trust the Hoyas, but I’m on a run of “Georg-” teams right now. Also, the biggest advantage healthy Creighton would have on the Hoyas is the disparity at point guard. Obviously that doesn’t exist without Mo.

ILLINOIS STATE (-13) over Indiana State
ILLINOIS STATE (-7.5) over Indiana State – 1H

Indiana State stinks and they’ve been gutless their last two times on the road.

FORT WAYNE (-7) over IUPUI

Some revenge at play here after the Jags took two close ones off the better team last year and prevented the Dons from winning the Summit outright. Dons are coming off a rough week and a half playing up in the Dakotas that probably ruined any chances of a repeat (shared) title bid. With all that and a return home against a shaky defense, I’d expect the Dons to hit roughly 1,000 three-pointers.

Season: 83-82-1 (50.3%)

CBB Picks: 1/24

5-4 on Saturday. I think moving forward, I’m just going to stick with the early evening/night games on Saturdays. I’m sorry to those who require getting their fix by noon.

PITTSBURGH (+6) over Louisville

Desperate times for the Panthers. They’re now 1-5 in the ACC and on the borderline of being a tournament team right now. They need to sweep their two games at home this week before they go at UNC and Duke next week.

I picked Louisville last time these two matched up at the Yum Center. The line was Louisville -11. My reasoning:

The Cards have the length to make life difficult on Young and Artis for the Panthers, which was true in both of their meetings last year. On the other end, Donovan Mitchell has been hot lately and Quentin Snider should be able to get things started with dribble penetration against a shaky Panther defense

It was looking great when the Cards were up 26. Then, that length stopped working against Artis. He scored roughly 1,000 points in the second half and Louisville won by 5.

Snider did in fact have a great game. He’s not playing this time around. His absence along with the situation for Pittsburgh makes me lean the Panthers way.

MICHIGAN STATE (+2) over Purdue

Another team that’s not comfortably in the tournament. It’s a great opportunity for the Spartans to pick up a significant victory and they’ve been much better at home, while Purdue has been very shaky on the road. I’d expect the Izzone to come with their best with Caleb Swanigan making his first and probably only trip to East Lansing after he originally committed to MSU. The bigs are obviously the marquee matchup here, but I feel like Purdue might have the hardest time containing Winston and Nairn.

And, yes, in an ideal world I hope Purdue wins by one point.

Duquesne (+13) over DAVIDSON

Davidson still hasn’t reached the level I think a lot of people expected them to get to this season and it’s mainly due to their inconsistency on defense. 13 points is a lot for a team that lost to Fordham at home a couple of weeks ago. Duquesne gets out on shooters fairly well and that’s obviously a big key when you’re facing the Bobcats.

HOUSTON (-16) over Tulane

The Cougars are coming off a tough three-game stretch, in which they lost all three games. No better way to get back on track than getting the tomato can that is Tulane at home. The one good thing the Green Wave do defensively is force turnovers, but nobody is better in the AAC at taking care of the ball than UH. Should be a big day for the Cougar shooters.

Season: 83-78-1 (51.6%)

Big Ten Conference Race: Wisconsin’s To Lose


Five Stars of the Past Week:

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – 28 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals in OT win at Minnesota

Melo Trimble, Maryland – 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in win at Iowa

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue – averaged 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in two wins

James Blackmon, Indiana – averaged 25.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in two wins

Corey Sanders, Rutgers – 25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks in win over Nebraska

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Purdue at Michigan State, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Indiana at Michigan, Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Maryland at Minnesota, Saturday, 2:15 pm EST, BTN

Michigan at Michigan State, Sunday, 1:00 pm EST, CBS

Indiana at Northwestern, Sunday, 6:30 pm EST, BTN


The power rankings for this league are pretty meaningless, so it seemed like an appropriate time to update every team’s chances of winning the regular season title, with a little help from our friend Bart Torvik.

If you’d like to see all the numbers for yourself, you can visit the site here.

Bart uses 50,000 simulations to give the percent chance of each team winning the title – both as the outright winner and sharing it – and also the percent likelihood of number of wins for each team.

The numbers listed here are each team’s percent chance at winning a share of the title and the win range is based on the three most likely outcomes.

In The Hunt

Wisconsin (Chance to Win: 81.0% / Probable Win Range: 14-16)

The Badgers have a 63% chance to win sole possession. Seems high on the surface given that Maryland has the same record and Purdue and Northwestern only trail by a half game, but KenPom gives them a minimum of a 58% chance in every game and at least a 70% chance in 9 of their 12 remaining games.

They’re probably not good enough to actually run the table, but they’re the safest bet at the top to win.

The biggest question nationally around the Badgers is if they can actually beat a great team. They’re 0-3 against Top 20 competition. But nobody seems better at beating teams that they should beat. The other three teams in this category have lost a game they shouldn’t at home already.

Essentially, Wisconsin may not have the highest ceiling in the league, but on the flip side it’s hard to argue anyone else for the highest floor. They’re the perfect team to thrive in a league full of mediocre teams.

This week: Penn State at home, Rutgers at MSG

Maryland (Chance to Win: 6.9% / Probable Win Range: 10-12)

Maryland fans are at war with KenPom. Well, at least their most famous fan (that I know of and follow on Twitter):

You can really sense the bitterness in that tweet. (They rose up four spots btw).

I get it. The Terps are now 17-2, 5-1 in the Big Ten and they’re still only 44th in KP’s rankings. They’re tied for first in the standings and 7th by the metrics. Terp fans want to enjoy the ride without getting analytics thrown in their face.

Buttttttttttt, I also get the other side of the coin. As insufferable as Jeff (BPredict) is, he actually makes good points most of the time. They don’t beat a lot of teams soundly, teams that you’d expect a typical 17-2 Big Ten team to blowout.

That’s why they’re given 74% less chance to win the league then the team they’re currently tied with atop the standings without there being a big gap in strength of schedule the rest of the way.

With all that said, the Terps are getting better and they’re still missing two of their rotation players. I’d be mildly surprised if they didn’t at least go 12-6.

This week: home for Rutgers, at Minnesota

Purdue (Chance to Win: 27.0% / Probable Win Range: 12-14)

The only other team in the league with more than a 7% chance of even getting a share of the league title. Their title hopes really depend upon the next two and a half weeks, when they play four road games and a home game against Northwestern.

Purdue is one of those teams that may have a higher ceiling than Wisconsin, an opinion that’s probably most supported by their meeting with the Badgers.

However, the home loss to Minnesota and the loss at Iowa are why you have a hard time trusting this team over the course of the long Big Ten season. Their good is Final Four good, but their bad is NIT bad.

With their struggles on the road and having to play 7 of their remaining 11 games away from Mackey Arena, it’s hard to feel good about their chances really.

Speaking from a fan perspective quickly, I don’t even care about winning the Big Ten. It’d be nice, obviously. But Purdue fans have experienced plenty of conference titles over the past four decades. The NCAA Tournament is all that really matters. I’d give up a Big Ten championship for a Final Four in a heartbeat. The best part about winning a B1G title would be that it would help out Purdue’s seeding (assuming 13-5 doesn’t win the league).

This week: at Michigan State and Nebraska

Northwestern (Chance to Win: 6.2% / Probable Win Range: 10-12)

Let’s say the current standings hold true, do you know when the last time Northwestern finished as high as 3rd in the Big Ten? 1960. Not only was I not born, but my parents weren’t born either.

They’ve never won it, obviously. And that’s probably not gonna happen this year either. The schedule just isn’t very forgiving. They have to play Purdue and Indiana twice each, at Wisconsin, and Maryland at home. They’d have to hold serve at home in those games, steal one on the road, not have a slip-up anywhere else and hope that Wisconsin loses three more times (less than 50% chance) to just get a share.

While the chances are slim, it’s pretty cool that that’s even a somewhat realistic conversation.

I’m not saying the Wildcats are a lock for the dance, but they could go like 6-5, win a Big Ten Tournament game, and probably still make the field.

Two wins this week and it’s all pretty much playing for seeding the rest of the way, barring a major collapse.

This week: Nebraska and Indiana at home

Still Lingering

Indiana (Chance to Win: 0.9% / Probable Win Range: 9-11)

A great win for the shorthanded Hoosiers over Michigan State on Saturday. I said before the game that they needed Blackmon and Johnson to carry them and those two delivered with an efficient 50 points combined. That win followed up by the buzzer-beater game winner by Blackmon in Happy Valley. It shouldn’t have been that close, but a win is a win is a win.

The issue is that they have such less room for error without OG Anunoby. They already needed a lot from Blackmon when Anunoby was healthy and in the lineup. To expect JBJ to score 25 (somewhat efficiently) every night is probably unrealistic. You’d hope Thomas Bryant would step up, but it’s been three months now and he’s still not playing at the level he did last season.

Oh, and the Hoosiers have played the softest B1G schedule to date and they have the toughest remaining, including 7 of their 11 games on the road.

It’s hard to count this team out, but things are not really working in their favor right now.

This week: at Michigan and Northwestern

Michigan State (Chance to Win: 0.5% / Probable Win Range: 8-10)

I don’t know, maybe that point when all of Izzo’s magic works and this team turns into one of the best in the league just isn’t going to happen. Maybe it’s this week when they play Purdue and Michigan. Even still, they haven’t really showed much at all away from the Breslin Center, which is pretty important in the postseason.

They’re still a team that struggles a lot offensively and I’m not sure how you really fix that. Defenses know they want to get the ball to Bridges anywhere on the floor and Ward, but exclusively on the low block. Harris has been good at times, but he’s just as likely to go for 6 as he is 20.

The rest of their guards just don’t really pose as a consistent threat. Outside of Harris, they have Winston, Nairn, Langford, McQuaid, and Ellis in their guard/wing rotation. Those five have combined for 15 double-digit scoring efforts out of a possible 99. That makes life really difficult for them, especially when it seems like how they play on offense carries over so much in to how they play defense.

This week: Purdue and Michigan at home

Minnesota (Chance to Win: 0.8% / Probable Win Range: 9-11)

The Gophers appeared to be right in the thick of things after their impressive wins in the first two weeks of conference play, but since then they’re 0-3 with a pair of two-point losses.

They’re still firmly in the tournament at this point, but four losses already in the conference means they pretty much have to go perfect the rest of the way to even get a share of the conference title. That’s obviously not very likely, but luckily for them they’re through the toughest part of their schedule and their last 11 games rate as the easiest in the league.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Maryland

No Real Chance

Michigan (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 7-9)

Don’t look now, but Michigan is starting to actually play like they might want to make the tournament!

A win in Madison would’ve been huge, but just the fact they competed was honestly more than I was really expecting from them and then they came back this weekend and took it to Illinois. The Illini have been an easy out away from Champaign, but still, Michigan has played a soft opening schedule and they hadn’t soundly beaten anyone.

It will all be forgotten if they don’t keep it up this week, though.

This week: home for Indiana, at Michigan State

Penn State (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 6-8)

A setback week for Penn State. It looked like they may be able to steal a win they didn’t necessarily deserve in overtime against Indiana, but James Blackmon dashed those hopes in regulation.

I’ve been clear on this blog about my Purdue fandom, but even I was disappointed with their performance in West Lafayette. They stood no chance in that game, one in which I thought they could really compete.

That’s been par for the course for this team, though. They play really well for a week or two and then they take a step back.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Illinois

Nebraska (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 6-8)

Brutal week for the Huskers. They had a great opportunity to keep their tourney hopes alive and they end up on the wrong side of two one-point games. The most crushing part about it is you have to think with Ed Morrow, those games go the other way. They have no one to replace his what he does. With him out and no promise of returning anytime in the immediate future, things only look like they’re going to get worse with their upcoming schedule.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Purdue

Iowa (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 6-8)

They only played one game this week and they lost at home to Maryland. They spotted the Terps a 15-point advantage in the first half before coming all the way back and taking a lead late in the game, but they couldn’t close it out.

But that’s not the real story this week. The real story is that Fran McCaffery is still an asshat.

That actually just shows a little bit of what happened. He kept going down to the other side of the floor.

It’s fine if you occasionally lose your shit once or twice a decade, but Fran just does it over and over. Everyone remembers the chair slam. Of course there was the North Dakota incident earlier this year. He’s prone to the Belichick/Popovich act of being a dick to the media after a tough loss. The difference is, those two guys are extremely successful and extremely successful people pretty much get to do whatever they want and it’s fine. But Fran is in his 21st year of being a head coach at the D-1 level, he’s 57 and he’s got a whopping 4 NCAA Tournament wins to show for it. Give it a rest, dude.

My favorite part is when Hawkeye fans act like it’s okay their head coach is a child because at least he’s not Todd Lickliter. You guys are the worst.

This week: at Illinois, home for Ohio State

Ohio State (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 6-8)

The bad news: they’re 2-5 and KBD is still out for the year.

The good news: they’ve played the most difficult schedule in league play and it’s going to get (slightly) easier.

Their NCAA Tournament hopes are on life-support right now, but a couple of wins this week gets them right back on track. But the guy is just petulant.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Iowa

Illinois (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 6-8)

The final score in Ann Arbor ended up a little prettier than the game actually was. The Illini have now gone on the road four times in B1G play and have been blown out four times.

Illinois is headed for their fourth straight missed NCAA Tournament. You can’t really do that at Illinois and keep your job. I don’t care who is coming in the next recruiting class.

So, an Illinois blogger posed the question:

You have to let Groce coach out the season and maybe he turns it around and they do make the tournament, but the team isn’t close to good enough right now. Between his lack of success there and a new AD in town, the writing is on the wall and it’s fun to talk about.

The responses:

Most popular answers: Gregg Marshall, Cuonzo Martin, Archie Miller, Kevin Keatts

Funniest because they were serious: Tony Bennett, Sean Miller, Brad Stevens

Good luck with Marshall. He’s already making $3.3 million a year. He has no problem getting to the tournament and he’s running the biggest program on campus. There’s no football team to cater to.

Martin obviously would be a great fit for the job, but the timing doesn’t seem ideal there. He just signed a three year extension through 2020-21 in October. He’s also only been at Cal for three years now and you’d think he’d like to actually get through a full four-year cycle at a place. Cal is his third stop and he’s yet to spend four years anywhere.

Archie is up for at least one big job every year, but he doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave. He’d probably at least listen, though.

Keatts would seem like the easy get, provided no other major competition is in the picture for him. But that’s not likely the case. At least Mizzou, LSU, and possibly Clemson will be looking for coaches.

Illini fans need to get it out of their heads that they have any shot at anybody like Bennett, Sean Miller, or the head coach of the team that is currently the #3 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Your last three head coaches have come from Tulsa, Southern Illinois, and Ohio.

Name I’d add: Dan Muller

This week: home for Iowa, at Penn State

Rutgers (Chance to Win: 0.0% / Probable Win Range: 2-4)

The Scarlet Knights are officially off the schnide with their win over Nebraska. It was a great game for Corey Sanders and he topped it off with the game winner, rebounding his own miss and putting it back in. It was great to see a good atmosphere in Piscataway. Despite the Knights being on a seven-game losing streak, they showed out and it was cool to see. Now, the goal for Rutgers is besting last year’s 1-17 mark. Might have to wait until next week.

This week: at Maryland, Wisconsin in MSG

CBB Picks: 1/21

3-0 on Thursday. I don’t want to ruin the good momentum with a bad Saturday. Early games have been atrocious for me on Saturday, so I’m just gonna stay away from them entirely and hope it pays off.

Arizona (+6) over UCLA

I’ve written plenty on why I like Arizona so I don’t need to say much more here. They’re the more well-rounded team and they’ve got the better coach. They’ll get out on UCLA’s shooters as well as anybody has this season. (Hadn’t been on Twitter/watched TV since the announcement Trier was back. It makes me uncomfortable, but it’s different from a guy coming back from injury because he’s been practicing all year. On a side note, Jay Williams picking Trier to score the most points in CBB today and also picking UCLA to win the game is quite the take.)

Northeastern (+2.5) over HOFSTRA

I love the Huskies coming off a bad loss at Delaware. They can pick however they want to score on the worst defense in the CAA. Hofstra’s still been pretty good offensively, but they’ve lost six straight. They’ve fallen in love with three-point shooting, but the increased volume has only hurt their percentages. Jump shooting hasn’t been the way to break down Northeastern.

Michigan State (+5) over INDIANA

Wrote about this game extensively yesterday. Ultimately, I just don’t know how IU defends Ward and Bridges with their front court absences. The Spartans have responded well after losses. I still think Indiana might win on the backs of Blackmon and Johnson and Assembly Hall, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to run away and hide.

SOUTHERN MISS (+11) over Rice

Southern Miss to the bookmakers:

https://i2.wp.com/s2.quickmeme.com/img/03/03ddcf5a30feba4e5ada33064fb371707a32229230c359771b890ff32f27f153.jpg

(It was probably the nine-game losing streak)

MARSHALL (-9) over Western Kentucky

Feels like a “get right” game for Marshall. They’re coming off two road losses, but they had the week off to practice and they now get a home game against WKU’s defense, which has been the worst in the C-USA.

PACIFIC (+8.5) over BYU

There’s a world of difference between BYU at home and BYU on the road. In addition, they’re coming off another blowout win. Every time they’ve done that this year, they’ve followed it up with a mediocre/bad performance. Pacific should have Jack Williams back, which is big because he’s probably their best shooter and one of their best rebounders.

ILLINOIS STATE (-10) over Drake – 1H

Lost/came close to losing a couple of these big spread games due to second half letdowns after breaking out big in the first half, so I’ll just with the first 20 minutes here with ISU. With all their shooters, they should get plenty of looks against a porous Drake defense. The Bulldogs have improved greatly, but their offense hasn’t carried over when they go on the road yet.

DUKE (-9) over Miami (FL)

It’s hard to be totally comfortable with Duke yet, but there are a few things not X and O related that make me think it’s gonna be a blowout. For one, Miami is playing their third game on the road in eight days. I’m also not sure the Canes are any good. They’re 1-5 in games considered to be at an “A” level by KenPom and that one win was at Pittsburgh, the best team they’ve beat all year. Duke’s also coming off two road losses against really good teams. They had the week off and all that practice time seems essential for a team that has so many ridiculously talented parts that haven’t had the proper time to gel. Jefferson probably isn’t playing, but that’s less of a big deal against Miami’s front line than it was against FSU or Louisville’s. And finally, it’s a night game at Cameron after they hosted College GameDay.

UC Irvine (-3.5) over CS NORTHRIDGE

Luke Nelson’s status is still unknown at this point, so only 1u on this one for the Eaters. Even still, he only played 11 minutes in the last game before heading out with an injury and UCI rolled without him.  He’s important, but his presence isn’t the sole reason for UCI’s resurgence. They’ve improved in a lot of ways.

Season: 78-74-1 (51.3%)

CBB Picks: 1/19

4-2 yesterday. Pretty good day overall. Even the losses weren’t so bad. Illinois State stayed hot, so that one wasn’t all that close. It took an all-time poor shooting performance from Florida to lose. 0-17 from three and 15-28 from the free throw line and only lost by four points. From UF’s website:

with that 0-for-17 stat from the 3-point line halting a streak of 850 games (a 25-year run dating to a Jan. 11, 1992 loss at Kentucky) with at least one made 3-ball.

Apparently it was the longest streak in the country. Of course it was.

SMU (-10.5) over UConn

SMU is money at Moody, especially against mediocre opponents, especially especially against teams that can’t shoot against their zone. I also don’t think the Huskies can keep SMU off the glass. The Mustangs are one of the best rebounding teams in the country. Everyone in their rotation contributes in that facet. UConn has two good/great rebounders – Brimah and Facey – and that’s about it. Brimah’s impact is often mitigated by foul trouble, which he’s often in because he’s always trying to block shots. He fouled out in six (6) minutes against Georgetown. That’s just impressive.

SOUTHERN MISS (-2) over North Texas

It’s a weird team to like, but I’ll ride the Golden Eagles one more time. They’ve tightened the screws on their defense and I don’t think the Mean Green can shoot themselves to a win, which is where USM is most vulnerable. NT hasn’t even really come close to sniffing a win away from home.

Arizona (-3) over USC

Arizona’s been one of the steadiest teams in the country, despite the fact that they start three freshmen. There’s not many situations I wouldn’t take them right now. USC is fairly mediocre and their offense has kind of hit the skids in Pac-12 play. You obviously have to wonder if the Wildcats are looking ahead to their showdown with UCLA this weekend, but I would hope they’d realize USC is good enough not to be taken lightly.

 

Season: 75-74-1 (50.3%)