Big Ten Power Rankings: A Three Team Race?


Five Stars of the Past Week:

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue – averaged 17.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in two wins

Amir Coffey, Minnesota – averaged 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in two wins

Glynn Watson, Nebraska – 34 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in OT win over Iowa

Peter Jok, Iowa – averaged 26.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – averaged 18.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 3.5 steals in two games

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Indiana at Maryland, Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN

Minnesota at Michigan State, Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Minnesota at Penn State, Saturday, 12:00 pm EST, ESPNU

Nebraska at Michigan, Saturday, 2:00 pm EST, BTN

Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday, 1:30 pm EST, CBS


I have no idea who Bart Torvik is, but he has a website that power ranks college basketball teams in a variety of ways (maybe too many varieties, Bart) using numbers and shit. Anyway I saw this tweet, which projects the number of wins/chance of winning the B1G, and thought it would be useful for the power rankings this week. I think it’s stupid to rank each team individually right now because there’s not a big difference right now between the 3 and 11.

On the surface, the graphic looks pretty good to me. I can’t claim to know everything that goes into it, though. The first thing that pops to mind is future schedule because that seems to favor the Gophers.

It also generally fits with my opinions on teams, so I’m using it. Also, it says they ran 50,000 simulations and that seems like a lot.

Contenders

Purdue (KenPom: 12)

It was a crucial week for Purdue early in the conference season and they came out of it with two big wins. The victory at OSU wasn’t finished with perfection, but you’ll take a road win anyway you can get them, especially when Swanigan and Haas didn’t play particularly well. The length and athleticism of OSU presents problems for the Boilers as well, so a win in any form was big in Columbus.

On Sunday, Purdue pretty much cruised over Wisconsin, despite the fact they had 18 turnovers to the Badgers’ nine. UW is a good matchup for Purdue because the Badgers can’t kill them with dribble penetration and that showed. I thought it was the best defensive performance the Boilers have played all season.

This week: at Iowa

Wisconsin (KenPom: 11)

About as tough of a scheduling week as you can ask for. The Badgers had to play at both IU and Purdue. Wisky got off to a great start in Bloomington before they found themselves trailing in the second half. It felt like it was going to be a typical home win for IU, but the Badgers were much sharper down the stretch and ultimately doubled up the Hoosiers from three-point land.

In terms of the Big Ten title race, the loss at Purdue hurt because it’s the only time the two teams will meet in the regular season. It’s an early advantage for Purdue, but obviously a lot of season left.

This week: home for Ohio State

Minnesota (KenPom: 31)

With their schedule so far, I feel like the Gophers would have definitely signed up for 3-1 through the first four games if you asked them before it all started. However, that MSU loss at home feels like it’s definitely going to be a big deal as the conference race rolls on. They were up 13 at halftime and should’ve finished it off.

Focusing on the positive, the Gophers got another big road win at Northwestern this week and then led the entire way over OSU.

They have so many guys that are threats. Their offense still isn’t the most efficient, but they’re still a really tough guard when they move the ball and probe the defense. They’re playing like a mature team and they’ll need to continue that as they go on the road twice this week.

This week: at Michigan State and Penn State

Winning(ish), But Probably Pretenders

Maryland (KenPom: 55)

I thought about throwing the Terps in the top group. The fact they basically led the entire game at Michigan despite Melo going 5-15 for 13 points is a testament to how much the rest of the team has developed. Not to mention, Cekovsky has been out for the first three B1G games.

They may have just caught Nebraska at the wrong time. It happens. Last year, the time frame in which you played Iowa and Wisconsin made a big difference.

In some ways, I like this Terps team more than last year. They don’t have the overall talent level or experience, but I feel like they’re only getting better and they grind out games better.

This week: home for Indiana, at Illinois

Michigan State (KenPom: 47)

*reminds self not to let gambling losses affect overall assessment of teams*

The Spartans handled their recent success with a lot of maturity Wednesday when they boatraced Rutgers at home. An excellent showing.

Then, Saturday at the Palestra happened and MSU played exactly like the young team they are. They came out providing little resistance to PSU’s offensive attack and got down early. Any time they got themselves within striking distance, they lost their minds. They’d start launching deep threes early in the shot clock or not within the natural flow of the offense. There was this stretch:

It was like Ward suddenly thought he had LeBron’s skill set for a minute. It was just one example of a stretch where the Spartans crushed themselves. The thing is, Ward is by far the most consistent of MSU’s four freshmen.

That’s the main reason you have to doubt the Spartans. They have moments of brilliance, but they’ll still lay an egg once every few games.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Ohio State

Nebraska (KenPom: 88)

Watson and Webster helped the Huskers grind out a win over Iowa at home. It was a big win for Nebrasketball, but at the same time, if you need two OTs to beat Iowa at home, it doesn’t exactly scream conference title contender.

Losing to Northwestern at home didn’t help. Just when I was starting to think maybe Watson could be an All-B1G player, he goes for 6 points on 2-11 shooting at home against NW. He’s made as much growth as almost anybody in the league from last year to this year, but he’s still inconsistent. Which would actually be fine if he was on a better team, but Webster is the only other consistent scorer on the team.

That’s the thing about Nebraska. Those two could go off for 50 on any night and wreck your bid for a title, but they could also go for 25 and lose in a blowout. They’re dangerous every game, but players 3 through 8 in their rotation don’t make them any type of contender.

This week: at Michigan

Iowa (KenPom: 78)

We head into the group of 2-2 teams. They’re equally winning and losing and they’ll probably end up anywhere from 6 to 13.

Iowa lost a heartbreaker in Lincoln and then had to grind out a win over Rutgers at home.

I have two insane takes to present to you this week from Twitter. This is the first one:

Peter Jok does in fact take a lot of shots. He’s not the most efficient player on the planet, but he’s not, ya know, inefficient. It’s absolutely bizarre to say that Jok is the reason Iowa’s offense is “mediocre”. Even with his volume, Jok is the 2nd-most efficient player on the Hawkeyes, following only Cordell Pemsl. Pemsl just makes shots around the bucket and has a pretty low usage.

If you’re going to say this about Jok, then you should’ve said it about Jarrod Uthoff last year, but nobody did. He was considered a frontrunner for B1G POTY. Jok was more efficient than Uthoff last year and even more efficient this year. If you’re comparing him to Uthoff last year, Jok’s biggest problem is that…he doesn’t have a Peter Jok by his side. Iowa’s roster is significantly less experienced/talented this year and they count on Jok to carry them. His assist rate is third on the team. He shoots the highest percentage on the team from mid-range and three-point range. If you think he’s the problem offensively, you’re just wrong.

Now if you want to criticize his leadership on defense…that’s an actual thought.

This week: home for Purdue, at Northwestern

Northwestern (KenPom: 40)

You’ve gotta walk before you can run. The Wildcats have to just make the tournament before they can ever be considered to be a real conference contender. They won at Nebraska, but you still wonder if they can actually win against high-level teams. We’ve still got a couple weeks to figure out if they can do that.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Iowa

Penn State (KenPom: 85)

This was the week I envisioned seeing from the Nittany Lions when I predicted them finishing ninth in the league, well above where most were putting them. That’s not me bragging. I also picked Ohio State to finish second. Plus, they could very well still end up 13th.

They couldn’t hold on in the second half in Ann Arbor. They were 14 with less than 13 minutes to go and it seemed like that lead evaporated in a hurry. Turnovers were a problem and it just got away from them.

But nonetheless, it was still an impressive performance for a young team. And they followed it up by handling the Spartans in Philly. It ended up being a nine-point win, but it never felt like MSU was totally in it. The Nittany Lions played harder and smarter in the battle between two of the younger teams in the conference.

Their next two games are big-time opportunities to keep building.

This week: home for Minnesota

Losing, But Could Get Back In The Mix

Indiana (KenPom: 27)

The Badger loss stretched the losing streak to three, but nothing like Illinois at home to bust a slump. The second half defense against the Illini left a little to be desired, but it didn’t really matter. They had that game won in five minutes.

I really just want to get to these tweets from IU’s SB Nation blog:

Turnovers are a hot topic around IU, especially with some of their fans. I wouldn’t disagree with the second tweet here. Of course defense is the other half of the equation.

But if your argument is that making shots is all that matters, wouldn’t you want to, ya know, take as many shots as you could? I think that’s reasonable. Now how do you do that? Well the best two ways are to get offensive rebounds and…not turn the ball over. What also helps in terms of winning? Taking away those same opportunities for your opponent.

Indiana is a very good rebounding team and they’re especially exceptional on the offensive glass. This negates some of their turnover issue, but acting like it doesn’t matter is just wrong.

Looking at these two profiles from KenPom, I think it’s fair to say these two teams are very similar. The percentages on both sides of the floor are wildly similar. EFG on offense favor the one on the left and they rely more on the three and less so on free throws. Defensively, their percentages are once again pretty similar, only they left is better at rebounding, but a little weaker in 2P%.

But what really stands out when you look at that? Turnovers! The team on the right is fairly average, but the one on the left is one of the worst in the country both ways.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the team on the left is 2016-17 Indiana. The team on the right? 2012-13 Indiana aka Big Ten outright champions aka a #1 seed in the tournament aka a team that was never out of KenPom’s Top 4 that year.

Admittedly, the numbers for the 2013 team include their whole schedule, which was obviously more difficult than this year’s team’s schedule to date. But still.

Turnovers matter. That’s why it’s a better predictor of tournament success than say, ohhhh, offensive three-point percentage.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it would really help Indiana out if they stopped turning the ball over. Maybe stop playing Josh Newkirk so much.

This week: at Maryland, home for Rutgers

Michigan (KenPom: 39)

The Wolverines are headed down a dangerous path. Coming into the year, they seemed like a shoo-in for the tournament. But they really just haven’t gotten any better from last year. Individual guys – Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson, specifically – have stepped up their game, but MAAR has taken a step back and while Duncan Robinson’s still shooting it well, he’s playing dramatically less minutes.

I guess maybe what they lost in the offseason was a little undervalued. Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht both left, but they didn’t play in the second half of last season. Aubrey Dawkins and Kam Chatman both transferred. Neither were major contributors, but Dawkins provided the occasional hot shooting hand off the bench. Chatman hit the biggest shot of the season.

The other problem is their freshman class has essentially given them nothing this year. Austin Davis is redshirting. Jon Teske hasn’t proven able to play at this level yet. Ibi Watson couldn’t break into the rotation. Xavier Simpson is the only one really playing and he has a total of 24 points and 21 assists on the season. I don’t think that’s necessarily what they envisioned for this class.

This week: at Illinois, home for Nebraska

Just Losing

Illinois (KenPom: 72)

The decision not to have a true road game before conference play doesn’t appear to have been a good one. They’ve now gotten blown out in their first two road games.

Maybe that hasn’t really mattered. The Illini have a lot of experience, which really speaks more to John Groce’s ineffectiveness in molding this team together over the last few years.

They need to get two wins this week if they want to stay in the tourney hunt.

This week: home for Michigan and Maryland

Ohio State (KenPom: 48)

Disastrous start for the Buckeyes to start conference play. They’ve been in every game, but they haven’t been able to close any of them. And now Keita Bates-Diop is out for the year, which is major salt in the wound. KBD’s loss makes an already short rotation even shorter.

If it doesn’t feel like things couldn’t be worse, now they get to go play at the Kohl Center!

Oh, and then there’s this:

Loving tweeted that out after the Buckeyes lost a close one at home to Purdue.

I empathize with Loving and I’m sure many of his teammates who share the same sentiment. The crowds in Columbus have been embarrassing this year. Not showing up for NC Central is one thing, but when it’s 60% full at most while you’re hosting a Top 20 team in your conference? Shameful.

I’ve criticized Loving and some of his other teammates for their own lack of energy and passion before, but you know what would help them out? 19,000 people screaming in support.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Michigan State

Rutgers (KenPom: 137)

They almost had one at Iowa. Almost. They’ve got a couple winnable games coming up at home and I’d expect the Knights to at least get one of them. If they don’t, they’ll probably start off 0-9 in conference and nobody wants that.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Indiana

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