Big Ten

2017-18 Big Ten Postseason Awards and Conference Tournament Preview



Keita Bates-Diop

Player of the Year

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

This should be unanimous. There are some other really talented guys that will join KBD on the first team, but he separated himself early and never really let up. No offense to his teammates, but without KBD they’re an NIT team at best. If you look at individual Top 10 lists for every statistical category, Bates-Diop is on nearly every single one of them. It’s an easy pick.


Defensive Player of the Year

Jaren Jackson, Michigan State

The only real argument against Jackson here is his propensity for fouling. Admittedly, it takes him off the floor too often, but his impact on the defensive end is undeniable. His individual defensive rating for the year was 84.4, three points better than anybody else in the league. Jackson’s an elite shot blocker. There were SIX Big Ten games this year where JJJ had 5 or more blocks and only on three occasions did he not have at least two.


Freshman of the Year

Jaren Jackson, Michigan State

On the offensive end, Jackson scored 12.4 points per game with .563/.429/.781 shooting splits. He’s pretty good.


Sixth Man of the Year

Justin Smith, Indiana

I found this award unbelievably difficult to choose. You could make a case for several guys. Smith started eight Big Ten games this year, but I thought he did his best work late in the season when he was coming off the bench. I’m preferential to Smith over a lot of other guys because I felt like IU was more dependent on him playing well than McQuaid for MSU, Taylor for Nebraska, or Haarms for Purdue. When the Hoosiers lost De’Ron Davis midway through the season, they needed somebody to step up and Smith – along with Freddie McSwain – did that.


Chris Holtmann

Coach of the Year

Chris Holtmann, Ohio State

I was right there with the Big Ten media in voting OSU 11th before the season started. Here’s my take from the preview:

Consensus Outlook: They’ll rely heavily on Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, and Keita Bates-Diop. There’s talent, but maybe not the type of talent that Chris Holtmann would prefer in terms of system fit.

What They’re Not Saying: This program needs a big-time culture change. The good news on that front is that perpetual pouty faces JaQuan Lyle and Marc Loving are now gone. I believe Thad Matta to be a great coach, but he didn’t seem to have the same juice the past couple years due to his poor health. Chris Holtmann should bring a youthful passion to that position that was probably necessary.

Projection: There’s still quite a bit of talent in Columbus, but clearly there’s been other issues in the program. I think Holtmann will do a great job there, but I’m not sure the results will appear as fast as Buckeye fans would hope.

Turns out Holtmann can win with any type of talent. Having KBD helps, but the defensive improvement the Buckeyes made this year was incredible.


First Team

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Carsen Edwards, Purdue
Tony Carr, Penn State
James Palmer, Nebraska

KBD is obvious.

I think Bridges might be a unanimous selection. He’s the best player on the best team, but his numbers this year aren’t the gaudiest compared to some of the competition.

For me, the younger Edwards should be the Purdue representative and I imagine the tear he’s been on lately will help. A couple of his teammates have a case, but on such a balanced team, Carsen is the only one who’s able to score outside the structure of the offense and it makes him the most important player on their team moving forward.

Tony Carr seems to be a bit polarizing for people who watch a lot of the league. Some identify him as the best guard in the league. Others consider him to be a ball hog whose ball hoggyness is a detriment to Penn State. I think you could make a case Carr is the best guard in the league, but you could probably make a similar case for Edwards, Cassius Winston, and Anthony Cowan. AND sometimes he shoots too much.

If I had to bet, I would guess Palmer doesn’t actually make the first team. I obviously think he should. Tim Miles has never been a very good offensive coach and Palmer is the focal point of his best offense in 13 years of D-1 coaching. He’s a better passing, more efficient Terran Petteway. Nebraska may not make the tournament, but Palmer is still the leading man on a 13-5 Big Ten team.

Second Team

Juwan Morgan, Indiana
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Jaren Jackson, Michigan State
Vincent Edwards, Purdue
Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Morgan was probably the toughest guy for me to leave off the first team. He absolutely carried IU through the middle of the Big Ten schedule when they were playing a lot of tough games.

I’m guessing Happ makes first team. I don’t have a huge problem with that. He certainly has the numbers and his team would be Pittsburgh-level bad without him. But there’s a lot of deserving guys and at some point winning has to be a factor.

Jackson might actually be the best player in the league. He’s ultra-efficient, an elite defender, and there’s not much he can’t do. But due to the overall talent on MSU, Jackson didn’t always need to do much and most guys mentioned here didn’t have the same luxury.

Put simply, Edwards does pretty much everything for Purdue.

I swear Cassius Winston hits every big shot he takes. And if he’s not hitting them, he’s likely assisting. Winston doesn’t garner the media attention that Bridges and Jackson do, but he might be the most important player on the team. He’s the best traditional point guard the league has seen in a while and his ability to set the table – while also being a scoring threat – is what makes them so dangerous offensively.

Third Team

Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State
Mike Watkins, Penn State
Anthony Cowan, Maryland
Isaac Haas, Purdue
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan

I’ve always been a big fan of Tate, which mainly started out because his effort and appearance to actually enjoy playing basketball stuck out like a sore thumb around some of his teammates the past couple years.

Watkins’ value will always largely be found on the defensive end, but a league-leading 70% EFG percentage doesn’t hurt either. In terms of importance to his team, Penn State was trending way up until the last three games when he was only able to play a combined 14 minutes and the Nittany Lions dropped all three.

In the best guard conversation, Cowan can claim the consistency crown. He’s about as steady as they come and he’s improved almost every part of his game from a year ago.

No one affects a gameplan quite like Haas. He doesn’t always produce, but his presence alone makes all of his teammates better.

MAAR probably won’t make it, but as soon as he took more control of the Michigan offense, they took off as a team. It’s made the Wolverines as dangerous as anybody else in the league.

Toughest guys to leave off: CJ Jackson, Isaac Copeland, Mo Wagner, Josh Reaves, Lamar Stevens, Dakota Mathias, Kevin Huerter, Jordan Murphy, Leron Black

Defensive Team

Jaren Jackson, Michigan State
Mike Watkins, Penn State
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Josh Reaves, Penn State
DeShawn Freeman, Rutgers

For my money, Reaves is the best on-ball defender in the league and might be as important as Watkins defensively for the Nittany Lions.

Freeman’s unlikely to get any attention because of the team he plays for and the fact it’s so difficult to quantify individual defensive numbers. But there are some measures out there and here’s where Freeman ranks in the Big Ten: 5th in steals per game, 4th in steal %, 7th in defensive rebounding %, 3rd in defensive rating, 5th in defensive win shares (on a team that doesn’t win a lot), and he’s just outside the Top 10 in defensive box plus/minus. He’s constantly deflecting passes. If you actually subject yourself to Rutgers games, his constant effort and activity is noticeable.

There are a lot of guys that could make this list, buy you can only pick five out of a big pool.

Freshman Team

Jaren Jackson, Michigan State
Luka Garza, Iowa
Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State
Brad Davison, Wisconsin
Trent Frazier, Illinois

I made the list before Sunday’s games. I amended the list after watching Brad Davison light up Michigan State. He was the last cut until that happened, but now that distinction belongs to Bruno Fernando. I’m sorry, Bruno. It wasn’t a star-studded year for freshmen, but there are quite a few guys who will likely be around for four years. So that’s something.



Michigan State (1 seed; +225)

They’ve played close games on the road with both Wisconsin and Maryland, but I’m not sure you worry much about their first game on Friday now that it’s a neutral floor. But I’ve pretty much been on the “MSU is overvalued” train for a while now. They’re good obviously, but based on their head-to-head matchups with these other Top 4 teams, would you really say they should have considerably lower odds than the rest? They’re also on the same side of scorching hot Michigan and the Wolverines already rolled them once in East Lansing.

With that said, Izzo squads have won three of the last six.


Probable Runner-Up

Purdue (3 seed; +400)

It appears as though Purdue has found their way out of a recent slump and they’ve started to shoot well again. I thought their side of the bracket broke pretty well for them in terms of matchup advantages. That’s not to say (probably) IU and (probably) Ohio State are a walk in the park by any means, but it could’ve been worse for them.

On the flip side, this event hasn’t always been the kindest to them. Painter won the championship in 2009 and the upperclassmen on this team made the title game a couple of years ago, but otherwise it’s been a lot of quick exits.

Best Value Bet

Michigan (5 seed; +800)

Who’s playing better right now? They’ve maintained their level of play defensively and now the offense is starting to take off with MAAR in more of a leading role. The problem for the Wolverines is that they’ve got the toughest road of the four teams with the lowest odds.

I don’t hate IU at +2000 either. They’ve competed with the best the league has to offer, but those have all occurred at home. Still, they’ve kept steadily improving all year. I’m not sure the Hoosiers at 20-1 is exactly “value”, but it’s a darkhorse option.

I should point out for both that a non-Top 3 seed has only won this tournament three times. Of course one of those was Michigan a year ago as an 8 seed.





Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 9


Five Six Stars From the Past Week:

Cassius Winston, Michigan State – averaged 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in two wins

Tony Carr, Penn State – averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in two games

Robert Johnson, Indiana – averaged 21.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in two games

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 steals in win over Purdue

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan – averaged 17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in two wins

Carsen Edwards, Purdue – averaged 24.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in two games

Five Six Games to Watch This Week:

Indiana at Nebraska, Tuesday, 9:00 PM EST, BTN

Michigan at Penn State, Wednesday, 7:00 PM EST, BTN

Ohio State at Indiana, Friday, 8:00 PM EST, FS1

Michigan at Maryland, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN

Michigan State at Wisconsin, Sunday, 1:00 PM EST, CBS

Penn State at Nebraska, Sunday, 5:15 PM EST, BTN

Power Rankings

Tournament Locks

1.Michigan State (BracketMatrix: 2 seed; 50/50 brackets)

The Spartans will be your outright champions of the league. The schedule was favorable thanks once again to unbalanced schedules and conference expansion, but you have to give them credit. They’ve avoided the slip-ups against lesser competition. Others did not.

In order to do so, the Spartans had to overcome a 27-point deficit on the road. It helped that they had more fans at the arena in Rosemont, but no one else in the league could do that. Their defense against Northwestern in the second half was incredible. The Wildcats literally could not get one open shot.

But it still begs the question: why are you down 27 to a Northwestern team without their point guard? Sure, the Wildcats were hitting some tough shots, but that doesn’t explain Sparty only scoring 16 points in the first 16 minutes. That’s an effort that won’t fly in their quest to win a national title.


This Week: home for Illinois, at Wisconsin

2. Ohio State (BracketMatrix: 4 seed; 50/50 brackets)

February was always a bit of a cloud looming over the feel-good story of the Buckeyes’ chase for a Big Ten title. They survived the first big hurdle of winning at Purdue, but they ran into a buzzsaw in Happy Valley this week and obviously Ann Arbor wasn’t much easier.

Here’s a blazing take: maybe they’re better off without Kam Williams. Williams is a great shooter, but he provides little else and he clearly has some issues off the court. He scored 6 points on 9 shots this week and had 7 fouls. Fouled out in 12 minutes against Michigan. Basically every time he’s had a big game in his career, it’s been against bad competition. Musa Jallow and Andre Wesson aren’t world beaters, but they played pretty well in his absence. I just convinced myself that was actually a pretty good take.

Probably a bigger issue for the Buckeyes heading into the postseason is their over-reliance on Keita Bates-Diop. The red line one the chart below is the offensive efficiency numbers for OSU as a team, in order from best to worst. The gray line is KBD’s personal offensive rating in those games.


As you can see, the team numbers are basically a trend line for KBD’s personal numbers. You also might notice that the teams on the right-hand side are most of the tournament teams OSU has played this year.

Those teams are basically making KBD an inefficient high-volume shooter. Not quite Trae Young levels, but still. Below you can see the number of points relative to his field goal attempts in those ten games.


It’s not rocket science to know that it helps OSU when KBD plays well, but these charts are basically telling you it’s a necessity. Of their seven least efficient games as a team, they’ve lost six with the only win coming on KBD’s tip-in with three seconds to go at Purdue. If the Buckeyes are going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to be on KBD’s back. No pressure.

This Week: home for Rutgers, at Indiana

3. Purdue (BracketMatrix: 2 seed; 50/50 brackets)

As Sunday night showed, it helps when you play with energy. Shooting will come and go, but Purdue’s biggest problem lately was the appearance that it didn’t seem to think playing hard was still necessary. I don’t know if they got full of themselves with all the national attention they were getting or it was February blues, but they finally played with a sense of urgency against Penn State.

Make no mistake, beating the scorching hot Nittany Lions without Vince Edwards was a big deal for this team.

Losing to Wisconsin was bad from a perception standpoint and a conference championship race standpoint, but it really probably only knocks them from a shaky 1 seed down to a 2. And I don’t think that’s the worst thing for this team, for a number of reasons.

Worth noting: Carsen Edwards is carrying this team right now. When Purdue was playing so well in December and January, it relied upon balance. The motto of the offense was “the go-to guy was the open guy.” That is not currently the case.

This Week: at Illinois, home for Minnesota

4. Michigan (BracketMatrix: 9 seed; 50/50 brackets)

Sunday was big for the Wolverines. I don’t think their tournament status would’ve been in grave danger (is there another kind?) if they lost, but a loss there with their tough schedule this week and things might’ve got a little dicey.

But Michigan was largely in control from start to finish against Ohio State. They made life difficult for basically every Buckeye except for Jae’Sean Tate.

There is something interesting going on with the offense, though. For most of the season they were in need of more consistency outside of Charles Matthews. They’ve gotten that from MAAR and Wagner. But now Matthews hasn’t scored 20 points in a game since December 21st. It’s been 15 games. Matthews scored 20+ six times in the first 14 games of the season. I’m not saying Michigan needs him to put up 20 every game, but they definitely need more than he’s giving them right now.

This Week: at Penn State and Maryland

Hanging On The Bubble

5. Penn State (BracketMatrix: “Others Receiving Votes”; 3/50 brackets)

It was almost a home run week for the Lions. They not only took care of business at home against Ohio State, they murdered the Buckeyes from the jump. Usually when Tony Carr is going for 30, it’s on 20+ shots and the Nittany Lions tend to lose those games. Not this time. He was 9-15 from the field and only turned the ball over once. I’d say it’s the best game of his career, but his game against the Buckeyes was equally exceptional.

The Purdue loss hurts. It’s obviously not a bad loss, but the Boilers were vulnerable with the way they were playing and with the absence of Vince Edwards.

The good news for PSU is that they still have two more opportunities for big wins this week and they’re still playing really well. The OSU win put them firmly in the conversation for one of the last NCAA bids. Their rankings in analytical measures like KenPom are a plus. They just need to strike while the iron’s hot this week.

This Week: home for Michigan, at Nebraska

6. Nebraska (BracketMatrix: “First Four Out”; 5/50 brackets)

The BracketMatrix data was gathered before the loss to Illinois. I don’t know how much that affects things for them, but I know it’s not good.

The Huskers put themselves in a difficult situation where they had almost no room for error and they erred. All the positivity around them is still true despite the loss, but now they absolutely have to win two games against teams that are also playing their best basketball right now. And after they do that, they’ll probably need to beat at least one of the Top 4 in the BTT.

This Week: home for Indiana and Penn State


7. Indiana (BracketMatrix: N/A; 0/50 brackets)

The resume isn’t there at all for the Hoosiers. They’re 0-8 in Quad 1 and they’ve got 3 bad losses.

But I feel like you have to include them just for the way that they’re playing and their potential to get big wins down the stretch. They have two opportunities for big wins this week and obviously the Big Ten Tournament as well.

IU hasn’t exactly been beating a murderer’s row during their current four-game win streak, but they were playing well against top competition before that. They’ve largely done it on the backs of their defense, but they found themselves in a shootout on Saturday in Iowa City. The Hoosiers won that too via 14-24 three-point shooting. Shooting has been a burden for them all year, but they’ve made 47% of their attempts from distance over this four game stretch.

This Week: at Nebraska, home for Ohio State

8. Maryland (BracketMatrix: “Others Receiving Votes”; 1/50 brackets)

Well the one guy who has the Terps appears to be a little misguided. It appears to be some formulaic apparatus he’s using that not only has Maryland in the field, but comfortably as a 9 seed. He also has Nevada as a 3 seed, so yeah.

The Terps essentially have the perfectly average NIT resume. They’re not a bad team, but they’re 0-9 in Quad 1 games and 1-2 in Quad 2. They’re a title contender next year.

This Week: at Northwestern, home for Michigan

Perhaps Next Year

9. Wisconsin

I thought there had been a lot of reasons for the Badgers to feel encouraged heading into next year with everybody in line to come back. That feeling is a little more tangible now with how they’ve played the past couple weeks.

This Week: home for Minnesota, at Northwestern, home for Michigan State

10. Northwestern

This Week: home for Maryland and Wisconsin, at Iowa

11. Illinois

This Week: at Michigan State, home for Purdue, at Rutgers

12. Iowa

This Week: at Minnesota, home for Northwestern

13. Minnesota

This Week: at Wisconsin, home for Iowa, at Purdue

14. Rutgers

This Week: at Ohio State, home for Illinois

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Miles Bridges, Michigan State – averaged 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in two wins

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaged 16.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in two wins

Lamar Stevens, Penn State – averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in two wins

Juwan Morgan, Indiana – averaged 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals in two wins

James Palmer, Nebraska – averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in two wins

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland at Nebraska, Tuesday, 7:00 PM, BTN

Ohio State at Penn State, Thursday, 8:00 PM, BTN

Michigan State at Northwestern, Saturday, 2:00 PM, FOX

Ohio State at Michigan, Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS

Penn State at Purdue, Sunday, 8:00 PM, BTN

Power Rankings

1.Ohio State (KenPom: 11 / BracketMatrix: 4 seed)

The Buckeyes rightfully take the crown, as they’ll finish 2-0 against Purdue and Michigan State. I thought they were outstanding defensively, disrupting a lot of the free-flowing motion offense that Purdue likes to run.

The offense didn’t come easy, but the Buckeyes got some key contributions from unlikely places. I pointed out last week that Andre Wesson and Musa Jallow would be getting increased minutes with Kam Williams’ suspension and that would hurt the perimeter shooting. Wesson and Jallow were a combined 5-23 from three-point range  in Big Ten play heading into the contest at Purdue.

In a sick and twisted turn of fate given my Boilermaker fandom, those two went 6-9 against the Boilermakers for 18 very important points. The rest of the Buckeyes went 0-9. Of course Wesson and Jallow went 1-5 against Iowa on Saturday.

But it’s a recurring theme for Ohio State. They seem to get big contributions from at least one of their smaller role players every game. Andrew Dakich has had his big moments, including a couple very important plays late in that Purdue game. Micah Potter is due for double figures once a month. It’s something Purdue’s not getting right now and it may ultimately be the deciding factor when the Big Ten championship is settled.

This week: at Penn State and Michigan

2. Purdue (KenPom: 4 / BracketMatrix: 1 seed)

We’ll start with that bench for Purdue. It’s the thing that stood out to me most this week in two games that were decided in the final minute.

It was not a good week for Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, and PJ Thompson, at least in scoring production. But that’s going to happen. They’ve certainly earned their share of the victories this year.

That’s when you need the bench. And they did not show up this week. Ryan Cline, Nojel Eastern, and Matt Haarms are the three guys Purdue relies on every game and the three of them combined for S-E-V-E-N (7) points all week. And all seven of those points were scored by Haarms against Michigan State. That’s hard to fathom.

The result of those six guys largely playing like garbage was Carsen Edwards and Isaac Haas scoring 85 of their 129 points scored as a team. That’s never going to be a winning formula for this team.

With all that said, Purdue still led for more than 80% of the two games this week and the committee still put them as a #1 seed in their early bracket preview. They’ll be fine, but there’s still improvement to be made.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn State

3. Michigan State (KenPom: 6 / BracketMatrix: 3 seed)

You saw two different versions of the Spartans this week. The star power was on full display at Iowa, scoring 96 points in a fast-paced game. I thought the Purdue game was more a reflection of their depth. Miles Bridges led the way, but Kenny Goins, Matt McQuaid, and Gavin Schilling all played starter-like minutes and each gave them key contributions in the process.

I do think this week you saw what can happen if teams are able to spread the Spartans out. Iowa was able to rack up 93 points. Purdue was less successful, but it was really just due to them missing shots. MSU had similar problems earlier in the year against Michigan and Duke. In less publicized games, Stony Brook and Oakland were able to do the same thing. The Spartans pulled away from both late, but they were much closer games in the second half than you would hope for.

This week: at Minnesota and Northwestern

4. Nebraska (KenPom: 54 / BracketMatrix: Second Four Out)

For much of the year, the Big Ten was labeled as having four good teams. Not an unfair label, by the way. At some point you figured one of those interchangeable teams from 5-14 would distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. That’s been Nebraska.

The Huskers haven’t done anything flashy – aside from the 20-point romp over Michigan – but they’ve just kept beating all of the teams that they should. They have an established eight-man rotation. They know their roles. They play defense collectively.

They’re just a really consistent group. So consistent that I think they’ve passed Michigan at this point. They’ve got four semi-challenging games coming up, but with three of them coming at home, I’d be kind of stunned if they lost any of them.

This week: home for Maryland, at Illinois

5. Michigan (KenPom: 26 / BracketMatrix: 9 seed)

I feel like we’ve seen Michigan’s ceiling. It’s good, not great. They just fluctuate so much offensively. I can’t really add more than what I’ve already said a thousand times. They’ll go as far as their defense takes them.

This week: home for Iowa and Ohio State

6. Penn State (KenPom: 41 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

All eyes are on Nebraska right now, but Penn State has put themselves in a position to make a push for the tournament. I’m not a bracketologist, so I don’t have a great frame of reference for the competition they’re up against for those last couple spots. I know the Wisconsin and Minnesota home losses aren’t great. I know the non-con SOS is also not great.

But I also know that Penn State is playing as well as they have all season right now and their next four games are all resume-building opportunities. They’ve been playing great offense lately and it’s coming from everybody on the court.

Thursday is a huge opportunity and kind of feels like the season for the Nittany Lions.

This week: home for Ohio State, at Purdue

7. Indiana (KenPom: 75 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

After losing five of six – including four against the Top 3 – the Hoosiers took out their frustrations this week with annihilations of Rutgers and Minnesota. The team has made huge strides defensively over the course of the season and if you’re a Hoosier fan you have to feel pretty encouraged with the progress Archie Miller is making on that end. After some embarrassing performances against smaller in-state schools during non-conference play, they’ve been the second most efficient defense in Big Ten play.

This week: home for Illinois, at Iowa

8. Maryland (KenPom: 39 / BracketMatrix: Others Receiving Votes)

They’re still hanging around the NCAA Tournament conversation, but it feels like they almost have to win at Nebraska to be seriously considered. Not only would it be a big win for the Terps, but the Huskers are also one of the teams they’re competing with to get one of the last bids.

This week: at Nebraska, home for Rutgers

9. Northwestern (KenPom: 77 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

They get a big win over Michigan and then basically no-show the first ten minutes of their game at Maryland. I’ve had enough Northwestern basketball this season.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Michigan State

10. Wisconsin (KenPom: 93 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Happ’s putting up some numbers. That’s all I got.

This week: home for Purdue and Minnesota

11. Illinois (KenPom: 112 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

I think I’m ready for the Big Ten season to be over.

This week: at Indiana, home for Nebraska

12. Iowa (KenPom: 98 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

This week: at Michigan, home for Indiana

13. Minnesota (KenPom: 97 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

This week: home for Michigan State

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 154 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

This week: home for Northwestern, at Maryland

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 7


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaged 24.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 blocks in two wins

James Palmer, Nebraska – 28 points and 8 rebounds in a win over Wisconsin

Vincent Edwards, Purdue – averaged 13.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in two wins

Charles Matthews, Michigan – averaged 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in two wins

Bruno Fernando, Maryland – averaged 13.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Nebraska at Minnesota, Tuesday, 9:00 PM EST, BTN

Maryland at Penn State, Wednesday, 6:30 PM EST, BTN

Ohio State at Purdue, Wednesday, 8:30 PM EST, BTN

Purdue at Michigan State, Saturday, 4:00 PM EST, ESPN

Michigan an Wisconsin, Sunday, 1:00 PM EST, CBS

Power Rankings

1. Purdue (KenPom: 3 / BracketMatrix: 1 seed)

Not the prettiest week of basketball, but the streak lives on for the Boilermakers. They’ve now won 19 in a row.

But they’ve certainly come back down to Earth a bit the past couple of weeks. And I think it’s fair to have some questions. Was most of January just a product of some unsustainable shooting against vulnerable competition? Did they peak too soon? Are they wearing down after basically starting the season in August with their trip to the World University Games?

Let me answer my own questions. First of all, there was a five game stretch in there where Purdue was hitting 55% of its threes and they were shooting a lot of them. They’re a great shooting team, but not even the Warriors could keep that going.

I don’t know that peaking too soon is a real thing. There are peaks and valleys in every season, for every team, everywhere.

It’s possible that they are wearing down. It’s also possible that they’re one of many teams that have been struck by the flu bug and it’s temporarily hindering their play.

Maybe it’s a team adjusting to playing with a target on its back the size of Texas. I don’t know

It’s all tough to figure out, but we’ll all get some answers this week.

This week: home for Ohio State, at Michigan State

2. Ohio State (KenPom: 14 / BracketMatrix: 5 seed)

The scheduling gods (the Big Ten office) set up Indiana like a fat hog waiting to be slaughtered by the Buckeyes, but credit to OSU for taking a commanding early lead and never letting up. They took advantage of the Hoosiers lack of a frontcourt and held a parade around the rim.

Sunday was not as businesslike. First of all, it was announced a couple hours prior to the game that Kam Williams had been suspended for a violation of team rules.

They followed that announcement up with an incredibly sloppy first 10 minutes against Illinois at home, falling behind by as many as 15 points. However, they did go on a 19-0 run to finish off the first half before ultimately pulling away in the second.

But even with the feeling of a win, you have to be concerned about Williams. His shooting is an important piece for an offense that has quite a few players that do a lot of operating 15 feet and in. With Kam’s absence, you now get increased minutes for Andre Wesson and Musa Jallow, who have combined to go 5-23 from three-point range against the Big Ten.

I don’t know what Williams did (although “violation of team rules” isn’t usually hard to figure out), but either way it’s a bad look for a senior. Especially a senior that’s playing on a team in contention for a league title and has a game this week that’s going to go a long way in determining the winner of said league title.

This week: at Purdue, home for Iowa

3. Michigan State (KenPom: 5 / BracketMatrix: 3 seed)

The Spartans notched two wins this week, but much like the two teams ranked above them, it wasn’t always pretty.

Wednesday’s victory over Penn State can only be described as a “Breslin Center Win”. The Nittany Lions thoroughly outplayed the Spartans 25-30 minutes until MSU made a couple of plays. At that point the Spartan faithful took over and created a tsunami of noise that ended with a sudden 15-point lead late in the game for the home squad. Very few teams can withstand such things on the road and the often discomposed Nittany Lions aren’t one of them.

MSU was largely in control for all 40 minutes of their trip to Bloomington, but the outcome of the game was still very much hanging in the balance in the last few seconds. And it really all boiled down to one issue: defensive rebounding. It was the second time this season the Spartans have given up 25 offensive rebounds in a game, with the other being Duke at the start of the season.

As bad as it was on Saturday night, I don’t think it’s a huge issue moving forward. They’ve had a few outlier games like that, but they consistently do it to opponents on the other end.

This week: at Iowa, home for Purdue

4. Michigan (KenPom: 24 / BracketMatrix: 8 seed)

A couple Thursdays ago, Michigan shredded Purdue’s defense in a narrow loss at Mackey Arena. This week, they barely managed a point per possession against the two most disappointing teams of the Big Ten.

But they ultimately won both games, further reinforcing their need for defense to lead the way.

It’s weird. With Jaaron Simmons and Eli Brooks getting less minutes, the Wolverines play with four capable shooters on the floor at all times and five when Jon Teske isn’t on the floor. Yet they’re only a slightly above-average shooting team. They’re just as likely to shoot 20% out there as they are 50%.

John Beilein loves to have the interchangeability 1-5 on his offense. It makes them very difficult to guard, but this group doesn’t seem to have settled into roles offensively, at least in terms of production. Charles Matthews is still the only guy that you know is going to score double figures, but he’s also not quite potent enough to go get 30 when others aren’t performing.

It’s the best defensive team Beilein has had, but it’s still difficult to trust this team. For better or worse, his teams have always been at their best with potent offense. And those teams have always been led by a Trey Burke, or Nik Stauskas, or Derrick Walton, or even a Kevin Pittsnogle. Matthews is a very good player, but he seems at least a year away from that status.

This week: at Northwestern and Wisconsin

5. Nebraska (KenPom: 60 / BracketMatrix: ORV)

The Big Ten’s Great Hope for a fifth tournament team scratched one out in Madison in their only action of the week. The situation was dire midway through the second half, but they responded to a monster dunk by Khalil Iverson in an incredibly mature way for a team without a ton of experience together. The Huskers kept attacking the basket and turned some defense into offense and ended the game +20 in the scoring column over the last 10 minutes of the second half.

It’s easy to feel good about the Huskers right now. The bad news? They almost have to be perfect the rest of the way. I suppose they could afford a slip-up along the way, provided that they compensate with a victory over one of the Top 4 during the conference tournament. While their play warrants consideration for the dance, the lack of quality wins is deservedly under a microscope.

Tuesday is big. Minnesota has been a disaster and it won’t be a quality win for the Huskers, but the Gophers are one of the few teams in the league who can match the Huskers’ quickness and athleticism.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Rutgers

6. Penn State (KenPom: 44 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

After winning at Ohio State, it looked like the Nittany Lions might be in line to knock off another of the Big Ten’s elite when they held a 12-point lead in the second half at Michigan State. But the Lions quickly reverted back to their old ways after the Spartan crowd got going. They were a -27 over the next 14 minutes.

It’s a common theme for Penn State. They often lack the composure they need in late-game situations and it’s ultimately going to be the difference of whether they make the NCAA Tournament or not. Even in their big win against the Buckeyes they let a nine-point lead vanish in the blink of an eye.

They still have a semi-decent chance to make the tournament, by the way. They’ve got home games with Ohio State, Michigan, and Maryland remaining and road games against Purdue and Nebraska. It’s hard to put much faith in the young group, but they’re capable of beating anybody.

This week: home for Maryland, at Illinois

7. Maryland (KenPom: 39 / BracketMatrix: Second Four Out)

Despite the injuries piling up, the Terps gave it a run at Purdue this week, but ultimately fell short. They’re going to have to win a couple road games down the stretch here if they want to hang around in the NCAA Tournament conversation.

This week: at Penn State, home for Northwestern

8. Northwestern (KenPom: 76 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

They’ve won three out of four now, which keeps the season alive. However, it’s far from enough. The lack of scoring punch doesn’t feel like it’s going to change and they haven’t had an identity defensively all year.

This week: home for Michigan, at Maryland

9. Indiana (KenPom: 92 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Jan. 19th to Feb. 3rd was the time frame where Indiana had the chance to change their season. Despite some admirable efforts, it still ended with a 1-5 record. The effort is there. The offensive skill level is not.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Minnesota

10. Illinois (KenPom: 94 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Two solid efforts this week. Still not worthy of discussing.

This week: home for Wisconsin and Penn State

11. Wisconsin (KenPom: 98 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Still playing with a lot of effort. Still losing.

This week: at Illinois, home for Michigan

12. Iowa (KenPom: 103 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Still can’t/won’t guard a soul.

This week: home for Michigan State, at Ohio State

13. Minnesota (KenPom: 90 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Isaiah Washington is getting to play again – and playing well – but Amir Coffey is out again and the Gophers just keep losing games. Only suspense left to the season is if Richie Pitino gets to keep his job when it’s over.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Indiana

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 138 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Great effort from Corey Sanders and Geo Baker on Saturday, but if you lose by 31 to Illinois, you get the cellar.

This week: home for Indiana, at Nebraska

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 6


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards, Purdue – combined to average 49.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in two wins

Tony Carr, Penn State – averaged 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in two wins

James Palmer, Nebraska – averaged 23.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in two wins

Vic Law, Northwestern – 18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a win

Juwan Morgan, Indiana – averaged 25.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals in three games

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Northwestern at Michigan, Monday, 7:00 PM EST, FS1

Indiana at Ohio State, Tuesday, 7:00 PM EST, ESPN2

Penn State at Michigan State, Wednesday, 6:30 PM EST, BTN

Maryland at Purdue, Wednesday, 8:30 PM EST, BTN

Michigan State at Indiana, Saturday, 8:15 PM EST, ESPN

Power Rankings

1.Purdue (KenPom: 3 / BracketMatrix: 1 seed)

Purdue didn’t continue pounding opponents into submission, but they did score two big wins. The home victory over Michigan was quite a display of offense by both sides. The road win at IU was more a product of Isaac Haas low-post domination and key defensive plays down the stretch. It was another week of the Boilers showing that they can win in more ways than anybody else.

With that said, we did get a better glimpse of potential issues down the road for Purdue. Mainly pick-and-roll defense. It’s especially not great when Isaac Haas is on the floor. And it’s hard for them to get much better at it because they still don’t have the quickest backcourt and Haas will always be a plodder.

With that said, they’ve now won 17 games in a row. So still pretty good, IMO.

This week: home for Maryland, at Rutgers

2. Ohio State (KenPom: 15 / BracketMatrix: 4 seed)

Well we’re not going to get our Ohio State/Purdue 12-0 showdown. The perimeter defense for the Buckeyes finally caught up to them. They allow a lot of open looks out there and Penn State hit 11 of 14, including the 40-foot game-winner from Tony Carr.

It doesn’t knock the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten title race, obviously. However, they almost definitely have to win at Purdue now. OSU still has road games with the Boilers, Michigan, Penn State, and IU.

I feel like this got a little lost due to the end result, but it shouldn’t: Keita Bates-Diop hit three huge threes down the stretch. The Buckeyes were dead in the water before he hit those. It would’ve been a sort of defining moment for his POY candidacy had Tony Carr not one-upped him at the buzzer. He ended up with 25 on 13 shots in a game he was questionable for due to illness. He’s still my leader for the award.

This week: home for Indiana and Illinois

3. Michigan State (KenPom: 5 / BracketMatrix: 3 seed)

Quite the week. Quiiiiiiiiiiite the week.

It feels weird to talk about the basketball. I also don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been written 100 times in the last few days, except maybe that I’ve seen one quote from Cassius Winston and it was much more impressive than anything his 62 year old head coach has said in many more opportunities.

This week: home for Penn State, at Indiana

4. Michigan (KenPom: 24 / BracketMatrix: 8 seed)

Only game for Michigan was the narrow loss at Purdue. It at least showed that the Wolverines have the potential to be as lethal offensively as they have in years past. It was their most efficient game against any D-1 opponent they’ve played this year. And it came against a team that was Top 5 nationally in defensive efficiency entering the game.

But as I’ve been saying ad nauseam, this Wolverine team goes as their defense does and they got lit up like a Christmas tree.

It was a missed opportunity, but another positive was the continued high-level play from Zavier Simpson. They’ll need similar performances in late February and all of March if this team is going to reach its ceiling.

This week: home for Northwestern and Minnesota

5. Nebraska (KenPom: 62 / BracketMatrix: ORV)

I’m still proceeding with caution with the Huskers. I can’t help it. I just can’t fully commit. They’re like an ex-girlfriend that’s cheated on you several times. Maybe this time she really has changed as a person, but it’s still in the back of your mind that she slept with that waiter from Chili’s named Chad.

That’s where I’m at with Nebraska. Afraid to get cucked.

But they just keep winning. At this point, I think you’d have to give strong consideration to James Palmer being a All-Big Ten First Team guy. Isaac Copeland’s not far behind. They’re still one of the better defensive teams in the league.

But I still see those two road games up north coming soon and I’m skeptical.

This week: at Wisconsin

6. Maryland (KenPom: 40 / BracketMatrix: Second Four Out)

It feels a little high for a team that’s lost five of seven, 4-6 in the league, and is missing one of their best players and another rotation player. But their six losses have come to Purdue, MSU (2x), OSU, Michigan, and a road game at IU.

Tough to knock them too much. While they’re all excusable losses, they’re also running out of opportunities to get big wins. It feels like the Terps are headed to the NIT.

This week: at Purdue, home for Wisconsin

7. Penn State (KenPom: 54 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Win of the week goes to the Nittany Lions. They were leading for the majority of the game, but it was starting to feel like Groundhog Day when Keita Bates-Diop started raining threes while the Nittany offense went cold. But in fitting fashion, Tony Carr kept the season afloat with the shot of the Big Ten season.

Carr can be Trae Young-like with his shot volume and his body language is sometimes less than ideal, but there are games where he carries PSU to even be in the game. Good for him in finally getting a win in one of those types of efforts. He scored 33 against Minnesota, 28 against IU, 29 against NC State, and 31 against Texas A&M and all four of those games resulted in losses.

Once again, I’m not a bracketologist, but I’d imagine that win at least vaulted them into the conversation for the bubble. And they didn’t ruin it by stubbing their toe against Rutgers.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Iowa

8. Indiana (KenPom: 88 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Tough to summarize the Hoosiers week in a couple of paragraphs. They drop two spots this week, but at the same time I came away more impressed with them than I was a week ago.

It feels like they’re getting a lot better defensively, specifically contesting shooters on the perimeter. The offense is really probably performing about as good as it’s gonna get. They only have two consistent contributors and the shooting is just brutal. After watching the Purdue game, maybe they should just run nothing but pick-and-rolls with Johnson and Morgan. And I mean every single possession.

I’d also like to use some of this space to talk about how dumb Big Ten scheduling has become. I’d imagine it’d be better if they didn’t sacrifice a week out of the season so that they could play the conference tournament a week early in New York City in front of 500 people, but still. That senseless sacrifice was made the same year that they decided to play games on every day of the week.

IU played three games this week. And they capped that week off by playing the conference leader (Purdue). Seems like a good time to give them a bit of a break, right? Nope, gotta go on the road to play at the league’s second place team (OSU) on Tuesday. They then get a few days off, but get to play the league’s third place team (MSU) on Saturday. Which is then immediately followed by a road trip to New Jersey the next day to dual with Rutgers on the following Monday. That’s four games in nine days, including two road trips the day after game day.

But as always, this is about “student”-athletes getting a proper education and not at all about Jim Delany and the Big Ten squeezing every single dollar out of their television contracts.

Anyway, IU is playing pretty well right now, but their schedule is brutal.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Michigan State

9. Northwestern (KenPom: 82 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Props to the Wildcats for kind of staying alive with a win at Minnesota behind a monster Vic Law performance. I barely remember the game. But I do remember watching the documentary made by BTN about their season last year and Bryant McIntosh – clearly in the offseason – mentioning that the Final Four “wasn’t out of the realm” of possibilities this year. That was a little awkward.

This week: at Michigan and Wisconsin

10. Wisconsin (KenPom: 85 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

It’s pretty tough right now. Good news for the Badgers: six of their remaining nine games are at the Kohl Center.

This week: home for Nebraska and Northwestern, at Maryland

11. Minnesota (KenPom: 84 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

What a debacle. They might be the worst right now. I don’t know. I don’t give much thought to the bottom of the league.

This week: at Iowa and Michigan

12. Rutgers (KenPom: 135 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

They still play really hard, but the offensive punch is lacking, to say the least.

This week: at Illinois, home for Purdue

13. Iowa (KenPom: 102 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

They won a game. Then decided to get back to their old ways and get absolutely shredded by Nebraska’s pretty average offense. Oh, and everybody found out it costs 10 figures to fire Fran. Great week in Iowa City.

Tuesday against the Gophers should be a great exercise to see who will quit sooner.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Penn State

14. Illinois (KenPom: 107 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

I feel bad for putting Illinois last because they do play with a lot of effort despite losing a lot, but I also don’t feel bad because every Illinois game is the new worst basketball game I’ve ever seen. It’s 40 minutes of fouls, sloppy play, and garbage buckets. There was like eight minutes of gameplay against IU where neither team made a field goal. It’s terrible.

Congrats on the W, though.

This week: home for Rutgers, at Ohio State

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 5


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Carsen Edwards, Purdue – averaged 21.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.5 steals in two wins

Nick Ward, Michigan State – 18 points, 13 rebounds in win over Indiana

James Palmer, Nebraska – averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in two wins

CJ Jackson, Ohio State – averaged 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals in two wins

Anthony Cowan, Maryland – averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.5 steals in two games

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland at Indiana, Monday, 7:00 PM, FS1

Nebraska at Ohio State, Monday, 8:00 PM, BTN

Michigan at Purdue, Thursday, 7:00 PM, ESPN

Michigan State at Maryland, Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS

Purdue at Indiana, Sunday, 3:30 PM, FOX

Power Rankings

Legitimately Good Teams

1. Purdue (KenPom: 2 / Bracket Matrix: 1 seed)

Last week, this section was dedicated to discussing the multitude of ways that Purdue could win. Isaac Haas was featured in the very prestigious “Five Stars From the Past Week”.

This week Haas scored a grand total of five (5) points and the Boilers won their two games by an average of 25.5 points.

Iowa and Wisconsin are hardly the defensive stalwarts Purdue needs to be able to score against in March, but it’s yet another example of their ability to generate points in a variety of fashions. It helps when you hit 20 three-pointers.

I’m not saying they’re unguardable, but there’s definitely a major “pick your poison and hope they miss” element to them.

And as potent as their offense has appeared lately, they rank higher nationally (3rd) in defensive efficiency than they do offensive (5th). Pretty good team.

This week: home for Michigan, at Indiana

2. Ohio State (KenPom: 11 / Bracket Matrix: 6 seed)

I was still kind of wary of the Buckeyes for one real reason and that was not knowing how they’d play as a team when Keita Bates-Diop wasn’t dominating the game.

I’ve referenced his streak of 11 straight KenPom MVPs in Buckeye games. That ended this week. Heading in, OSU was 3-3 in games KBD didn’t win the MVP. The best win was Stanford. The losses included two blowouts and a choke job against Butler.

This week, KBD didn’t win either MVP and they got a road win over Northwestern and rolled Minnesota (with Amir Coffey) on a neutral site.

That’s a really good sign for a team that already had everything going for them lately.

Also good: their next four games are at home and KP gives them a minimum of 85% of winning each of those games. We’re one week closer to an OSU/Purdue game where they have a combined record of 24-0 in the league.

This week: home for Nebraska and Penn State

3. Michigan (KenPom: 27 / Bracket Matrix: 7 seed)

Not a great week for Michigan. They ended it with a home win over Rutgers, but, ya know.

The Wolverines got run out of the building in Lincoln. The Huskers sliced and diced them by scoring a bunch of points around the rim and at the free throw line.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about this being maybe John Beilein’s best defensive team ever. And that’s a crucial point because it’s not only the best defensive team he’s had, but there has been a direct correlation between defensive performance and winning/losing with this team. Their five least efficient defensive performances have resulted in their five losses.

Conversely, three of their four worst offensive performances have resulted in wins, including the road game at Texas and home games with UCLA and Rutgers.

Also at play in that Nebraska game: the Mo Wagner disappearing act. It’s gotta stop happening at some point, right? Especially after two big performances?

This week: at Purdue

4. Michigan State (KenPom: 5 / Bracket Matrix: 3 seed)

I’m sure a lot of people would/will move MSU up after UM’s week and the Spartans rolling over IU in their only game this week.

I’m gonna leave Sparty here for the time-being. After all, it’s still only been a little over a week since the Wolverines won in East Lansing.

There’s not a lot to say about MSU this week. They played well against the Hoosiers, but IU isn’t really designed to give them problems and especially so if Juwan Morgan isn’t playing, which he didn’t in the second half.

This week: at Illinois, home for Wisconsin, at Maryland

Confirmed Decent

5. Maryland (KenPom: 36 / Bracket Matrix: First Four Out)

On the surface, I guess it was a fine week for the Terps. Avoided a damaging loss and played pretty well.

But for a team that’s likely to be flirting with the bubble until Selection Sunday, the narrowest of losses at Michigan may haunt them. Maryland was up by 14 with less than a minute to go before halftime. They then gave up the entire lead and doubled down by actually trailing by 10 points with six minutes to go.

And they fought through all of that to recapture the lead with 3 seconds to go. Only to lose it by a pair of MAAR free throws because they let him catch it 50 feet down the court.

That’s gut-wrenching and a big missed opportunity for their tournament resume.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’ve got another opportunity against Michigan State this weekend in College Park.

This week: at Indiana, home for Michigan State

6. Nebraska (KenPom: 67 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

Probably the biggest win of the week belongs to the Huskers. I’m not a bracketologist, but I’d have to think Nebraska has at least a bubble-worthy resume at the moment. All of their borderline “bad losses” have come on the road. The problem is the wins. They have the Michigan one now. But it’s also important to point out that they beat Minnesota back in December before the Gophers completely fell apart due to “roster issues”.

Either way, the Huskers need to keep winning, which has been a problem for them in February/March over the last few years.

Last year, they were 9-6, 3-0 in the Big Ten (with several quality wins) before losing 13 of their next 16.

In 2016, they were 12-8, 4-3 in the Big Ten and fresh off a win at Michigan State, who would go on to be a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They finished the regular season by dropping 9 of 11.

In 2015, they were 12-7, 4-3 in the Big Ten and once again fresh off of a win against Michigan State, who would go on to the Final Four. They finished the season by losing 11 of their last 12.

So we’ve been in this spot with the Huskers before. It was a great performance against Michigan and they’ve been trending upward. But recent history suggests that we’re still on a wait-and-see approach.

This week: at Ohio State and Rutgers, home for Iowa

Could Be Decent, Could Be Terrible

7. Indiana (KenPom: 97 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

Not a lot to say this week. They lost big on the road against a very good team, which was not at all helped by losing the one guy they couldn’t afford to lose. That’s a terrible sentence, but, yeah, they need Juwan Morgan. And they need him now.

It’s a big week for IU. The tournament doesn’t seem likely, but it’s still in the realm of possibility. And this week they have home games against Maryland and Purdue. If they can get one of those in the win column and pick up a victory in Champaign, they’ll have some nice momentum going into another big week.

This week: home for Maryland, at Illinois, home for Purdue

8. Wisconsin (KenPom: 79 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

It’s hard to lose a game by 28 points and move up a spot in the rankings, but that’s just the league we’re dealt with. FWIW, the Badgers did play really well against Illinois.

This week: at Iowa and Michigan State

9. Penn State (KenPom: 62 / Bracket Matrix: ORV)

They’re crippled without Josh Reaves and generally still haven’t figured out how to close out games. Won’t be a threat for the postseason until they do. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Rutgers

10. Northwestern (KenPom: 90 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

What a disappointing group. Couldn’t have picked a worse year to be playing games off campus. I don’t really have anything against them, but I really just don’t enjoy watching them. Especially when they’re playing in a dark, empty, lifeless arena. It’s depressing.

This week: at Minnesota

Confirmed Bad

11. Rutgers (KenPom: 119 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

I think for the first time in their Big Ten history, the Scarlet Knights took somebody to the woodshed. And they did it without Mike Williams. Geo Baker is a candidate for the All-Freshman team. More Big Ten-level players coming in next year. Corey Sanders will be completing his unprecedented ninth year of eligibility. Things keep getting better in Piscataway.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State

12. Minnesota (KenPom: 80 / Bracket Matrix: ORV)

Amir Coffey came back. He looked good, but it didn’t help the results for the Gophers. They’re a tire fire. Seems like a good time to get your talented freshman some more minutes. Jamir Harris has found more, but Isaiah Washington has essentially been cut from the rotation. With no inside knowledge, I’d be surprised if Washington came back next year.

This week: home for Northwestern

13. Iowa (KenPom: 100 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

At least pretend to care, fellas. (directed at everyone except Luka)

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Nebraska

14. Illinois (KenPom: 105 / Bracket Matrix: N/A)

They had 18 offensive rebounds in a game, the other team went 5-23 from three, and they still lost. They can’t stop turning the ball over and they apparently haven’t figured out that they can’t shoot yet.

This week: home for Michigan State and Indiana

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaged 23.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in two wins

Isaac Haas, Purdue – averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in two wins

Moritz Wagner, Michigan – 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in win at Michigan State

Juwan Morgan, Indiana – 21 points, 11 rebounds in win over Penn State

Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens, Penn State – 46 points, 22 rebounds in win over Nebraska

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland at Michigan, Monday, 6:30 EST, FS1

Ohio State at Northwestern, Wednesday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Michigan at Nebraska, Thursday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Indiana at Michigan State, Friday, 7:00 EST, FS1

Purdue at Iowa, Saturday, Noon, ESPN

Power Rankings

Legitimately Good Teams

1. Purdue (KenPom: 2)

Pretty hard not to take the team on the 13-game win streak, although I’d say Ohio State’s probably winning a little more impressively lately.

It’s been said before, but Purdue really isn’t missing much as a team. That’s not to say they don’t have weaknesses. Rebounding can be an issue. They struggle with length. They’re very well coached defensively and are often in the right spot, but they don’t force a lot of turnovers.

But they can win in a lot of different ways. This week they hit a parade of threes. They swept their December week of Big Ten games behind 47 Isaac Haas points. They’ve won multiple games with suffocating defense.

The common question around them recently, “Are they national championship contenders?” I don’t see why not. I understand Purdue’s national reputation as a very good program that is often in the mix for a Big Ten title, but never really a threat to win the big one. And reputation is born from results, but I also know Villanova had a similar reputation until a couple of years ago.

You’d like to see them against a Duke or Villanova or somebody similar before crowning them as a contender, but for right now I haven’t seen anybody decidedly better than the Boilers.

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Iowa

2. Ohio State (KenPom: 16)

What a couple of weeks for the Buckeyes. You could make the case that they should be #1 right now, but I’ll defer to the team that had the better non-conference run.

In case you haven’t heard Dan Dakich speak for a 5-minute stretch about any topic under the sun recently, Keita Bates-Diop is currently the Big Ten POY. I made sure to throw “currently” in there because after all, he does have 12 games left to play. But his play this year has been unreal to this point. It’s hard to find a hole in his game. Through six games, he’s currently in the Top 10 of the Big Ten in the following categories:

You know what, I’m not even going to list them out because it’s basically everything but steals per game and he’s 0.1 away.

One week I’ll make some room for CJ Jackson Appreciation, but it’s hard not to fawn over the guy who has now been KenPom MVP of the last eleven (11) Ohio State basketball games.

If you want to root for something, root for both the Buckeyes and Purdue to be undefeated when they meet in Mackey Arena on February 7th. KP gives this about an 11% chance of happening. This league needs a big marquee game desperately.

This week: at Northwestern, Minnesota in NYC

3. Michigan (KenPom: 17)

What an eventful week for the Wolverines. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We’ll start with the lows.

There’s certainly no shame in losing to Purdue, even at home. Purdue played well, shot well, and did some things defensively that John Beilein wasn’t prepared for and caused a slow start for the Wolverine offense. Now obviously the ending was a pretty bitter way to lose and especially when two controversial calls didn’t go your way at the end.

But I think that game combined with the massive win at the Breslin Center showed one thing very clearly: Michigan will go as far as Mo Wagner takes them.

Wagner was largely held in check against Purdue, but then exploded for a highly efficient 27 against Michigan State. Michigan is 8-2 when Wagner scores 20+. And those 8 wins aren’t a bunch of buy games. Only two of them were, in fact. They include MSU and UCLA victories this year and wins over Louisville, Purdue, and Wisconsin last year.

Wagner has always been uniquely efficient for a 6-11 player that spends half his time away from the paint, but if Michigan is going to take it to another level this year, they need a more consistently aggressive Mo.

This week: home for Maryland and Rutgers, at Nebraska

4. Michigan State (KenPom: 6)

At their best, Michigan State is not the fourth best team in the league, obviously. But right now they’re pretty mediocre. It’s only three games, but the last three have resulted in two double-digit losses (one at home) and an overtime dogfight win at home over Rutgers. That’s something you’d expect out of Illinois.

I didn’t find anything particularly troubling about the Ohio State loss last weekend. Sure, they got blown out, but it’s just one game and I thought it had more to do with the Buckeyes, playing on the road, and generally just the random swings of a 40-minute basketball game.

The performance against Rutgers was troubling. Say what you want Big Ten Network studio analyst about “Rutgers having a formula for Michigan State”…it’s Rutgers at home. After a blowout loss. That’s a game you should roll.

Okay, well surely you can get it together for a marquee game at home against your in-state rival, right? Guess not.

With all that said, I don’t think it matters. Michigan State’s chances of winning an outright Big Ten title are on life-support, but that’s not really what the program hangs its hat on. As long as they play well in March, this mid-January swoon will quickly be forgotten.

This week: home for Indiana

Could Be Decent, Could Be Terrible. Who’s To Say?

5. Indiana (KenPom: 89)

Traditionally, this Indiana team wouldn’t sniff the fifth spot, but this is the league we’re dealing with this year. And for their part, the Hoosiers are starting to play pretty well.

The offense is still a bit of a mess, but they’ve turned it up a notch on the other end. It’s nice to see Robert Johnson appear to give a shit.

It’s tough to put IU in the NCAA Tournament conversation at the moment, but they’re at least playing at the level of a bubble team, which is good because they’re going to need to play their best basketball of the season over the next three weeks. For a bad league, it’s tough to have a super-challenging three-week stretch, but the Hoosiers have it. Some think it’s still too early to be talking tournament, but Indiana’s resume is going to be defined by the next six games.

This week: at Michigan State

6. Penn State (KenPom: 46)

Good news: this is still Pat Chambers best team he’s had at Penn State by a fairly wide margin. Bad news: all of these close losses might still keep them from an NCAA berth. They’ve lost six games now by an average of five points, no margin greater than 11. It keeps them at a tournament level in regards to analytics, but doesn’t do much for their traditional resume that depends upon arbitrary things like “winning”. They’re an elite group defensively when healthy and Josh Reaves is a big part of that. They need him back in a hurry.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Northwestern

7. Maryland (KenPom: 41)

Only one game this past week for the Terps and it was a blowout loss at Ohio State. Like everybody else, they struggled with Bates-Diop and they also ran into the rarely seen Andrew Dakich buzzsaw. It’s tough to feel great about Maryland’s chances for the postseason after the injuries and with how poorly they seem to play on the road, but they’re certainly still in the race.

This week: at Michigan, home for Minnesota

8. Nebraska (KenPom: 81)

The Huskers seem to be in a constant “Are they decent or not?” purgatory. I know they’re a pretty good defensive team until somebody misses a shot. If there’s one fatal flaw for this team, it’s that they can’t clean up possessions with rebounds. In all seven of their losses this year, they’ve given up at least 30% of defensive rebounds.

They have guys who can score, but none of them super-efficiently. Their two highest-usage guys are both south of 50% in effective field goal percentage and one of those guys – Glynn Watson – is very far south of 50. For comparison sake, all 12 of Purdue’s players are above 50%. Even the walk-ons.

They’re not a terrible shooting team from the perimeter, but they also only have one good shooter (Anton Gill). Evan Taylor’s shooting 50% for the season, but he’s only taken five in six Big Ten games and he’s made just one of those.

So basically, they’re every Nebraska team Tim Miles has had in his six years. He’s only had one team finish in the Top 100 of offensive efficiency. So once again the defense makes them not terrible, but not necessarily decent.

This week: home for Illinois and Michigan

9. Wisconsin (KenPom: 78)

Well, I think we finally found what’s going to kill “the streak” for the Badgers and it has taken losing four senior starters from the previous year and three scholarship guards due to injury. I’d still think it’d be conceivable they could finish in the Top 5 of the league, but they still have five games against the Top 4 teams.

This week: at Purdue, home for Illinois

10. Northwestern (KenPom: 76)

I don’t know that it was really an up-and-down week for the Wildcats. I think they just got to play the disaster that is currently Minnesota basketball and took advantage like most teams would.

The harsh reality is their offense stinks, their zone stinks, and this year has been a tremendous missed opportunity to build momentum for a program that has never really had any.

There’s still time to save it, but the Wildcats haven’t given any reason for me to believe they will. Beating Ohio State would, though.

This week: Ohio State and Penn State at home

Confirmed Bad

11. Rutgers (KenPom: 121)

One of these days Rutgers is going to bust loose and it is going to be glorious and all of you are going to have to pay for your Rutger jokes.

That day does not appear to be imminent.

This week: home for Iowa, at Michigan

12. Minnesota (KenPom: 69)

I try to remain objective for the most part, but I think the Pitino family has at least two sleaze balls and I’m greatly enjoying both of their basketball programs falling apart at the seams due to their sleaziness, so sue me.

This week: at Penn State and Maryland, Ohio State in NYC

13. Iowa (KenPom: 87)

Somebody had to win Iowa/Illinois and it was Iowa so they were rewarded with the 13th spot. I still think you’re gutless, Iowa. Except for Luka Garza. Luka can play for me any day.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Purdue

14. Illinois (KenPom: 95)


This week: at Nebraska and Wisconsin


Big Ten Basketball Non-Conference Review, Power Rankings, and Week 2 Preview

It’s been two months since our last look at the Big Ten and that’s because of two reasons: 1) I didn’t have time and 2) the league pretty much stinks and it’s futile to try to rank 12 of the teams.

I was one of the league’s biggest defenders last year and it paid off with how the Big Ten performed in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think I can do that this year.

It’s not that teams had a bunch of terrible losses through non-conference play. Conference-wide, there were only six losses to teams outside the KenPom Top 100 and four of those belong to Rutgers and Indiana. But a recurring theme in the recaps that follow is that a lot of teams didn’t beat anybody all that noteworthy.

After a year with a lot of young, talented teams, the expectation was that many in the Big Ten would raise their level of play and it would be a competitive year with a lot of NCAA Tournament teams. It’s now looking like it’ll certainly be competitive, but if the tournament field was selected today the Big Ten would have maybe five teams competing and two of them might be playing in Dayton the first couple days.

But hey, at least they’re not the Pac-12!

Nine Stars from the Past Week Two Months:

Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, Michigan State – averaging 32.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game

Vincent and Carsen Edwards, Purdue – averaging 31.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota – averaging 19.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaging 18.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game

Anthony Cowan, Maryland – averaging 15.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game

Charles Matthews and Moritz Wagner, Michigan – averaging 31.0 points and 12.6 rebounds per game

Six Games to Watch This Week:

Indiana at Wisconsin, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN

Penn State at Maryland, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Nebraska at Northwestern, Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN

Maryland at Michigan State, Thursday, 8:00 pm EST, FS1

Northwestern at Penn State, Friday, 8:00 pm EST, FS1

Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday, 4:30 pm EST, CBS

Power Rankings

1. Michigan State (KenPom: 2 / BracketMatrix: 1 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: It was pretty much all good for the Spartans. That’s why they’re currently #1 in the country. They won their bracket at the PK80 tournament. It wasn’t the toughest road to the title with matchups against DePaul and UConn, but the trip was worth it playing North Carolina in the championship and rolling the Heels behind an incredible defensive performance.

They didn’t have the strongest non-conference schedule, but they did tack on a blowout win over Notre Dame at home and started out 2-0 in conference.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost to Duke in the Champions Classic, but there’s no shame in that. The win at Rutgers certainly wasn’t the prettiest, but every Big Ten champion usually has a couple of those on the road in league play every year. The key is being able to grind them out for wins.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: The biggest takeaway from the first half of the season for the Spartans is how well they’ve shot the ball from the perimeter. It was a concern before the season and they’re currently shooting 41.1%, good for 17th in the country. It’s still far from being the focal point of the offense, but they’ve got four guys shooting above the national average.

They’re likely still in for a dogfight for the conference title, but regardless of how that turns out, they’re looking at probably a 3 seed at the worst. The sheer number of capable players that they can trot out gives Tom Izzo a lot of options. He’s got probably four guys he can feature in the offense with the improvement in Year 2 for Josh Langford and the immediate impact Jaren Jackson has provided.

This week: home for Maryland, at Ohio State

2. Purdue (KenPom: 3 / BracketMatrix: 3 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: The Boilers were able to rack up quite a few quality wins in non-conference play, as many as anybody in the country. That will be important for a program that has seemingly been stuck in 4/5 seed purgatory for eternity. They’ve already picked up two road wins that will likely be “quality” at years end with victories over Marquette and Maryland.

The win that sticks out is the 25-point romp over Arizona in the Bahamas. Talk about playing a team at the right time. Both Purdue and the Cats were staring at rock bottom if they lost that game and Purdue just happened to be more equipped to bounce back sooner. Arizona’s a different team with Rawle Alkins – as we’ve seen since he came back – but his absence in that game is the sort of detail that kind of gets lost in the resume spreadsheets in March.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Western Kentucky. It may not go down as a “bad loss”, but a team as experienced and talented as Purdue had no business losing to the Hilltoppers. WKU beat SMU the next day and will probably be an upper-tier C-USA team, but still not a good look.

Purdue also lost to Tennessee in the Bahamas, but the Vols are pretty good and exactly the type of team that has given the Boilers trouble for what seems like decades.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Purdue appears to be the only team that’s likely to give Michigan State any competition for the league title. The teams only meet once, which is in East Lansing, but the Spartans probably have a tougher schedule otherwise.

Purdue’s pretty much been what I expected them to be, with one big (7’3″) exception: Matt Haarms. Back-up center was a concern heading into the year with the unknown health of Jacquil Taylor and the almost total unknown that was Haarms. But the Dutchman has changed things for Purdue defensively, giving them an elite shot-blocking presence and a more mobile big to defend PNRs when Isaac Haas need a breather.

This week: home for Rutgers and Nebraska

3. Michigan (KenPom: 33 / BracketMatrix: 10 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: The road win at Texas was hopefully a big one. Texas will probably look good analytically all year, but the Big 12 is the best league in the country and, well, somebody’s gonna lose some games and Texas might be one of them.

Wins over UCLA, IU, and VCU are good, but definitely not game-changers.

I guess outside of that, it was important that it turns out that Charles Matthews is the type of lead-guy they need to have some success this year.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: The LSU loss was similar to Purdue losing to WKU. Not a killer, but it certainly wasn’t good.

There were no bad losses for the Wolverines, but I guess you could say the lack of opportunities to get important wins is a “not good thing”. Usually when you have a ticket to the Maui Invitational you’re looking at some quality competition, but due to the loss in the opening round to LSU, Michigan didn’t play anybody inside the Top 80 of KenPom.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Safe money is probably on the Wolverines making the NCAA Tournament, but there’s work to do. This is one of the rare seasons where a John Beilein team is better defensively than offensively. In fact, at this rate, it would be the best defensive team Beilein’s had in the history of KenPom (since 2001-02 season).

Offensively, they still need to get more from guys not named Charles Matthews and Mo Wagner. They’re both shooting on 27% of their possessions with nobody else that plays consistent minutes above 20%. For reference, both MSU and Purdue have four guys above 20%. Obvious candidates for the Wolverines are MAAR and Duncan Robinson. Also, consistent production out of Xavier Simpson would be massive.

This week: at Iowa, home for Illinois

4. Minnesota (KenPom: 43 / BracketMatrix: 11 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: They won whatever tournament they were in of the 10 CBB tournaments that happen at the Barclays Center every year. They also got a nice road win at Providence. They avoided a catastrophic loss.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Well, they did lose to Nebraska. Although it doesn’t appear to be major, Nate Mason does have an ankle injury and I’m sure he’ll be able to play on it soon, but those things linger and will likely hinder a guy like Mason who relies on explosiveness for a while.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: All things considered, it was a pretty disappointing first two months for the Gophers. They’re about as experienced as anybody in the country, they were a 5 seed in the tournament last year, and they’ve maintained status quo so far. Analytically, they’ve regressed as a team. I was a Richard Pitino detractor until I had to eat crow last season, but, buddy, I’m ready to fire up the Little Richie criticism again if need be. There doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of individual improvement from a season ago. Jordan Murphy is playing pretty well, but he’s been putting up double-doubles from the jump and is now just getting more opportunities.

This week: home against Illinois and Indiana

5. Ohio State (KenPom: 48 / BracketMatrix: Next Four Out)

Good Things That Have Happened: They started out 2-0 in conference play with a big road win at Wisconsin and a home victory against rival Michigan. They didn’t have any bad losses, which has been a problem for Ohio State teams in the past couple years. Also, Keita Bates-Diop has become what everyone hoped he would become.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: It’s not a bad loss, but the way in which they lost to Butler was tough to swallow. Obviously that was an emotional game already for Chris Holtmann, but then they blow a big lead in a short amount of time and they leave Portland 1-2 instead of 2-1. Clemson is a good team, but you would’ve expected a much better effort at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, especially defensively.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Still a lot of work left to do for the Bucks, but you’d expect them to keep getting better under Holtmann. The personnel for this team was never ideal for his system, so as the season goes on I think it’s fair to expect him to utilize the roster better. Obviously, they’re going to lean very heavily on Bates-Diop, who has been fantastic, being the KenPom MVP in all seven of the team’s games in December.

This week: at Iowa, home for Michigan State

6. Maryland (KenPom: 30 / BracketMatrix: 11 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: They beat Butler handily at home, they also grinded one out at Illinois. Most importantly, Anthony Cowan has taken over the role as “the man” very nicely.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: In a vacuum, the loss to St. Bonaventure isn’t bad, but the fact it kept the Terps from having a shot at TCU is a bit costly. Instead they had to play New Mexico and that win doesn’t really help them at all.

But the obvious worst thing to happen was losing Justin Jackson for the season. That sucks.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Jackson had been kind of underwhelming this year for his talent level, but he obviously still brought a lot to the table and his absence limits the ceiling of this team quite a bit. With that said, a positive spin would be this: at least it wasn’t Anthony Cowan…or Kevin Huerter. Both those guys have been phenomenal and the real reason Maryland has got off to a pretty good start. The success of the Terps will continue to rely upon their production. I think Maryland is still in a decent spot to push for an NCAA Tournament bid.

This week: home for Penn State and Iowa, at Michigan State

7. Northwestern (KenPom: 53 / BracketMatrix: Others Receiving Votes (1))

Good Things That Have Happened: They held off Illinois at home.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost to Georgia Tech, who has lost to Grambling State, Wright State, and Wofford so far this year. They also struggled to beat Loyola (MD), Saint Peter’s, La Salle, and DePaul.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Now that I’m looking things over, Northwestern probably doesn’t deserve to be this high. But really nobody does beneath them either because that’s how bad it’s been in the league so far. Things would’ve gotten really bad for the Cats if they lost McIntosh, but his injury in the Brown game doesn’t appear to be anything serious.

I expected less from Northwestern than what it appeared many thought, but not even I expected this. Their inability to roll over bad teams has been surprising. It’s largely been a defensive regression, but they suffer from the same issue as Minnesota in the lack of individual offensive development category.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State

8. Penn State (KenPom: 41 / BracketMatrix: Others Receiving Votes (2))

Good Things That Have Happened: Won at Iowa, destroyed in-state rival Pitt, didn’t get embarrassed by Texas A&M.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Lost to Rider and Wisconsin at home.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I don’t know. It kind of feels like a typical Penn State team, but they’re not playing in a typical Big Ten. So maybe they have a good year in the league. They certainly have enough players to do so. It kind of feels like a make or break year for Pat Chambers. Not saying he gets fired if Penn State doesn’t have a good year in the league, but it’s hard to make many excuses this year. He has the players, the competition is down, and they probably need to do something.

This week: at Maryland, home for Northwestern

9. Nebraska (KenPom: 97 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They beat Minnesota at home and nearly beat Kansas. Would’ve been a lot more helpful if they actually beat Kansas, though.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Like a lot of other teams in the league, they didn’t necessarily have any bad losses. They just didn’t beat anybody good outside of the league. The blowout loss at St. John’s was especially problematic.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Nebraska is pretty much always a perpetual rollercoaster under Tim Miles, which always makes them scary as an opponent. Their depth is a concern once again. I have no idea what’s really happened with Jack McVeigh, but his dropoff in production this year is a problem. They’ve got a pretty good crop of players that makes you think “next year will be the year”, but that’s basically every year in Lincoln. I’m sure they’ll be on the bubble for a week or two and then they’ll lose to Rutgers or something.

This week: at Northwestern and Purdue

10. Wisconsin (KenPom: 70 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They won at Penn State.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost seven games. None of them were necessarily bad, but going 2-7 against decent opponents isn’t ideal.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: If things weren’t going poorly enough, D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King both have the dreaded “out indefinitely” with injuries. I don’t really know what to say about this team. Ethan Happ is basically exactly the same as before except now there’s no one around him that can just go score. And there aren’t many shooters. The only reasons their defense is halfway decent is because they rebound well and don’t foul. There’s a shot the Top 4 streak doesn’t end because the conference is so down, but it’s still pretty unlikely.

This week: Indiana at home, Rutgers on the road

11. Indiana (KenPom: 91 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They beat Notre Dame.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Losing to Indiana State and Fort Wayne at home by a combined 41 points.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I have no idea. I thought that they were turning a corner when they rolled Iowa at home, competed at Louisville, and then beat Notre Dame. They followed that up with the egg at home against Fort Wayne. Now, yes there is some “shooting luck” with the ISU and FW games, but the truth is that IU’s guards pretty much stink and the battle on the perimeter isn’t often going to favor them. They can improve the defensive part of it, but it’s really hard to become a better shooting team midseason.

The good news for IU is that there’s a lot of teams in this league they can beat this year and potentially get things kickstarted. The bad news is that they open 2018 with road games at the Kohl Center and the Barn.

This week: at Wisconsin and Minnesota

12. Illinois (KenPom: 87 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They won the Border Battle or whatever they call it against Mizzou.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Mizzou was the only good-ish win that they had. They lost a game in Chicago against NMSU. They also struggled with UT-Martin, Austin Peay, and Grand Canyon at home.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: It’s gonna take a pretty sizable turnaround for them to even be on the bubble, but you can kind of see the path. They’re biggest issue is that scoring is a real problem. Brad Underwood’s strength has never been halfcourt offense, but it’d do wonders for this team if Mark Alstork and Michael Finke just started making shots that they’ve made earlier in their career. Alstork is more capable of getting his own shot, which makes his play a bigger key. I have a theory and that theory is that you can’t depend on Leron Black to carry your offense and at the same time be a good offense. Alstork needs to be better, as does Finke, as does Aaron Jordan, who’s disappeared over the last couple weeks.

This week: at Minnesota and Michigan

13. Iowa (KenPom: 78 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: Well, they did win nine games. Unfortunately none of the teams they beat are in the Top 120 of KenPom.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost two games in the Cayman Islands to mid-major schools. They started out 0-2 in league play. They lost to their in-state rival. They lost in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Now, I wouldn’t consider any of those teams bad, but it’s not a good look when you go 0-6 against the Top 100 and none of those six teams would be in the NCAA Tournament if they selected today.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I predicted Iowa to finish sixth, so obviously I didn’t see this one coming. I still don’t really think they’re that bad, but at some point you actually have to beat somebody and we’re two months in for the Hawks. The offense is fine, but could definitely be better. You’d like to see more consistent production out of the backcourt. For me, the biggest problem once again is that they just play with no edge defensively. They don’t rebound well at that end and they don’t really make any plays. The NCAA Tournament isn’t impossible, but they need to get it going with a couple big wins this week.

This week: Michigan and Ohio State at home, Maryland on the road

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 121 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: THEY BEAT SETON HALL…

Not Good Things That Have Happened: …which they followed up with by losing to Stony Brook and Hartford at home.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I keep waiting for Rutgers to turn the corner, but it’s probably going to take at least another year. And I’m not talking about turning into a tournament team. I’m just talking about them getting out of the “conference doormat” phase. They’re still so much better than they were under Eddie Jordan, but that transition has really only happened defensively. The offense is still really bad.

This week: Purdue on the road, Wisconsin at home


2017-18 Big Ten Basketball Preview


Projected Order of Finish

Clear Cut Contenders Division

1. Michigan State (APR: 7)

Double Plays: MD, Rutgers, IU, Illinois, UW
Singles Home: Nebraska, Michigan, PSU, Purdue
Singles Away: OSU, Iowa, Minny, NW

Consensus Outlook: I haven’t seen one Big Ten preview that doesn’t have the Spartans on top. This is largely due to the fact that Bridges is also widely considered to be the best player in the league and there’s 10 other guys that could contribute in the rotation. Jaren Jackson is the most highly touted freshman, as well. The frontcourt depth issues from last year appear to be solved and Nick Ward might be the best big man in the league. They’ve got a ton of experience and young talent in spades. 3 or 4 of their 5 “double plays” are against teams that are likely to end up in the bottom half of the league. And they have Izzo.

What They’re Not Saying: This will be Tom Izzo’s 23rd year at Michigan State. He’s been to seven Final Fours, won five Big Ten Tournaments, and even won a national championship. But he’s only won two outright Big Ten regular season championships. Yes, they have a ton of talent in East Lansing, but I don’t think it’s nearly as open-and-shut as people are making it out to be. Having 11 capable players is great, but turning that into a rotation is going to be a process. A lot of the bigs on this team are still new to playing with the guards/wings and that will take some time itself. Turnover differential was a problem all of last year and it’s up to Cassius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn to solve that on the offensive end for the Spartans.

Projection: I don’t really expect the Spartans to run away and hide with the league title, but they’re probably the only team in the league where that’s possible. They certainly have the most long-term potential, but I need to see the fantastic parts function as a unit before I’m ready to pen them in to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

2. Purdue (APR: 13)

Double Plays: MD, Rutgers, Michigan, UW, Minnesota
Singles Home: NW, Nebraska, OSU, PSU
Singles Away: MSU, IU, Iowa, Illinois

Consensus Outlook: Purdue has a lot of experience returning, but how good are they without Caleb Swanigan? They’re well balanced and skilled, will probably still be a very good shooting team, but rebounding and perimeter defense are still a concern. Vince Edwards is a Top 8 player in the league and Carsen Edwards is a wildcard. They probably still lack enough dynamic playmakers on the perimeter to make a deep run in March.

What They’re Not Saying: I think the area you’ll notice Swanigan’s absence the most is rebounding, because how could you not? The guy was a monster on the glass. Less noticeable – but also important – will be the loss of Biggie’s passing out of both the high and low post. Isaac Haas just doesn’t compare in that area. With that said, I think Purdue has the potential to be better on both ends of the floor this year. Defense should be easy. Swanigan was the only consistent rotation player lost and he often sacrificed contesting shots around the rim to keep out of foul trouble. I think you’ll see the offense playing more freely this year and it may lead to a higher efficiency. Many times the offense would get bogged down when opponents were able to effectively defend Purdue’s post play, but the Boilers still seemed insistent on making sure Biggie got fed when a different course of action was necessary. That feeling doesn’t carry over to Haas, all due respect. Painter has shown he’s willing to go away from the big oak tree when things grind to a halt.

Projection: Purdue might actually have the highest floor of anybody in the league. You pretty much know what you’re going to get with all they have returning. The problem is, I’m not sure there’s that much difference between that floor and their ceiling. A lot depends on Carsen Edwards’ development as an offensive playmaker/decision maker. Matt Haarms suddenly looks like a significant contributor, which would be found money for a team that really could use a mobile big defensively. The Boilers are a definite tournament team, but it’s to be determined if they can break the Sweet 16 barrier for the first time in the Matt Painter era.

3. Minnesota (APR: 29)

Double Plays: Purdue, Nebraska, IU, NW, Iowa
Singles Home: MSU, Rutgers, Illinois, OSU (NYC)
Singles Away: PSU, MD, Michigan, UW

Consensus Outlook: They return what was probably their five best players from last year and that’s enough reason to expect big things out of the Gophers this year. They’re one of the most athletic teams in the league and likely to be the best defensively. Nate Mason is one of the best guards in the league. Reggie Lynch is a dominant rim protector. Amir Coffey is primed to make a big jump in his sophomore season. A lack of depth and poor perimeter shooting will hold them back.

What They’re Not Saying: It’s always a scary proposition to expect much from a freshman point guard, but the addition of Isaiah Washington alongside Nate Mason has the potential to be a devastating backcourt duo late in the season. It’s been two-and-a-half years since Davonte Fitzgerald has played a game, but his addition to the rotation only increases Minny’s athletic advantage over the rest of the league.

Projection: Minnesota absolutely has a chance to win the league. I don’t think the league did them any favors with only 8 home games and a rough road schedule, but they do only have to play MSU once and it’s in The Barn. They’re a lock for the tournament, but will likely need to find some hot perimeter shooting to make much of an impact once they get there.

4. Northwestern (APR: 26)

Double Plays: Minny, PSU, Michigan, UW, MD
Singles Home: MSU, Illinois, Nebraska, OSU
Singles Away: Purdue, IU, Rutgers, Iowa

Consensus Outlook: All the key pieces from their historic team last year are back. The pressure of never making the NCAA Tournament are gone. Nothing but good times in Evanston.

What They’re Not Saying: While the Wildcat program has reached new heights, it’s important to remember that this team has a ceiling that isn’t all that different from last year. I’m not sure they’re going to be that much more efficient offensively. Their shooting numbers were pretty poor everywhere on the floor. Defensively, they’ll be rock-solid again, but they were unable to make many plays on that end to lead to easy scores the other way. How does that change?

Projection: I put the Wildcats in the contenders category, but I’m not really convinced that’s the case yet. I could see them contending, but I think it’s just as likely that they’re battling the bubble in February and March again.

Respect for the Program Division

5. Wisconsin (APR: 29)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, NW, Nebraska, Illinois
Singles Home: Minny, OSU, IU, Michigan
Singles Away: PSU, Rutgers, Iowa, MD

Consensus Outlook: Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the league, but he’s the only returning starter from last year’s squad. There’s a lot of holes to fill personnel wise and it’s unclear what the rotation will be. Many have the Badgers in the 7-9 range.

What They’re Not Saying: Some mention the fact that the Badgers haven’t finished outside the Top 4 of the Big Ten for the last 16 years, but just kind of gloss over it. I recognize that I’ve got them one slot outside that number, but the program has built up way too much credibility for me to put them in the bottom half. Yes, the personnel is a question mark, but it’s not the first time in the past 17 years that Wisconsin doesn’t look good on paper heading into the season. There’s always a few things that come to my mind with the Badgers: the swing offense, versatile big men, and player development. The last one is the key. There’s a thousand examples of guys dramatically improving in the program. I don’t know who that’s going to be this year, but there’s plenty of talented players for Greg Gard to choose from. I will say there’s a legitimate question if Gard can continue that trend as the head coach. He’s been working with some experienced teams in his first year-and-a-half, guys that played in Final Fours. This year will be his first test of trying to build the majority of the rotation.

Projection: I’d expect the tournament streak to continue, although things might be a little bumpy in the non-conference this year. If they win a game when they get there, I’d be over the moon if I were a Badger fan.

Super Sophs and Michigan Division

6. Iowa (APR: 46)

Double Plays: Minny, PSU, IU, Michigan, OSU
Singles Home: MSU, Purdue, NW, UW
Singles Away: MD, Illinois, Rutgers, Nebraska

Consensus Outlook: The Hawkeyes will have to figure things out without Peter Jok. Jok was the biggest gunner in the league last year. Will the freshmen standouts from a year ago be able to take over lead roles? And of course everyone is curious to see if this year’s version of the Hawkeyes can guard a soul.

What They’re Not Saying: Many mention Tyler Cook, but I think he’s going to be a monster this year now that he’s healthy and has a full season under his belt. There’s less mention of freshman center Luke Garza, but he was dominant on their Europe trip and their two exhibition games. It’s always easier for big guys to pile up statistics against overmatched competition, but it’s still hard to ignore those numbers. I don’t know that they’ll be even an average team defensively. However, there’s not many teams that can match the overwhelming number of scoring options they have.

Projection: As far as conference standings go, I think Iowa has high-end potential with their depth and the schedule. All four of the teams they will only play at home are in my personal projected Top 5. Schedule strength with the unbalanced schedules now play a big factor. With a soft non-conference schedule, I can see this team going on a similar path that Maryland did last year. I’d expect the Hawkeyes to be back in the NCAA Tournament field.

7. Michigan (APR: 30)

Double Plays: Purdue, NW, Iowa, OSU, MD
Singles Home: Minny, IU, Illinois, Rutgers
Singles Away: MSU, UW, Nebraska, PSU

Consensus Outlook: The usual opinion on a John Beilein team. The offense will be good, not so sure about the defense. Everyone’s curious to see how well Jaaron Simmons and Xavier Simpson can replace Derrick Walton. Depth may be an issue again.

What They’re Not Saying: Charles Matthews might end up being one of the top scorers in the league this year. Matthews is known as a slasher, but he’s not an incapable shooter, either. That would obviously be a very positive thing. On the flip side, I’m not sure Moe Wagner is going to be the All-Big Ten player many are projecting him to be this year. He had flashes of brilliance last season and overall a very good year, but there were too many disappearing acts. Part of that was due to his experienced and talented teammates, but it’s a concern nonetheless. Wagner staying out of foul trouble will be a key as well for the Wolverines. He fouled at a high rate last year and Michigan just doesn’t have the frontcourt depth to deal well with it.

Projection: The offensive potential is high with the starting unit and that’s enough to get the Wolverines a bunch of wins, but they’re gonna have to be better defensively to experience the same type of success they did a year ago.

8. Penn State (APR: 61)

Double Plays: NW, Iowa, MD, OSU, Nebraska
Singles Home: Minny, UW, Michigan, Rutgers
Singles Away: MSU, Purdue, IU, Illinois

Consensus Outlook: The Nittany Lions return their talented freshmen trio, along with the other two starters. A poor offense from a year ago will likely improve, but is it enough to take them to the next level? They don’t have much depth. Will anyone actually show up to Bryce Jordan? Will they run an actual offense this year? The non-conference schedule is a who’s who of bad teams.

What They’re Not Saying: While the non-conference schedule is horrendous, I’m not sure it’s the worst thing for what’s still a fairly young team. They lost a lot of close games last year and seemed to be out of gas by the end of the season. If they can rack up a lot of wins early and build some confidence, it may propel them to win enough games to be on the bubble late in the year.

Projection: I like the core of the group, but I’m not sure who Pat Chambers turns to when they need a shot of life off the bench. Obviously the starters are more important, but good teams always have reserves that can make some big plays to win games in the heart of the season. That’s a big question mark for Penn State. I think they’ve got a semi-decent chance to make the tournament, but there’s a few major questions to answer first.

9. Maryland (APR: 40)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, NW, Michigan, PSU
Singles Home: Minny, UW, Iowa, Rutgers
Singles Away: IU, OSU, Illinois, Nebraska

Consensus Outlook: The sophomore class is outstanding, although life without Melo Trimble will be an adjustment. They need Cekovsky and Wiley to stay healthy. Rebounding is still a big question mark, but they should be a very good defensive team.

What They’re Not Saying: I’m not sure how much others look at the schedule when they make these rankings, but I do. It’s a lot of projecting, but the “double plays” for Maryland are pretty rugged. Among this 6-9 (yes, it is nice) group, that’s the reason I put them at the bottom. I love their sophomore class as much as the next person, but I can’t shake how much they relied on Trimble when things were tight last year. The youngsters made some plays, but they no longer have the Melo safety blanket.

Projection: I guess I wouldn’t really be surprised if the Terps made me look like a fool and finished in the Top 4 of the league. They certainly have the talent to do so. But I’m still expecting them to be firmly on the bubble when the calendar turns to March.

New Coaches Division

10. Indiana (APR: 53)

Double Plays: MSU, Minny, Iowa, OSU, Illinois
Singles Home: Purdue, NW, PSU, MD
Singles Away: UW, Michigan, Nebraska, Rutgers

Consensus Outlook: A new-look Hoosiers team in a lot of ways. Obviously Archie Miller is now the coach. Miller has a vastly different style from his predecessor. The personnel suggests that the constant green light in the backcourt will no longer exist outside of Rob Johnson. All eyes turn to De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan.

What They’re Not Saying: While IU may not have a great team on paper, there’s still enough talent to sneak their way in the top half of the league. The Miller hire provides them with an upgrade in coaching and a revitalized fanbase that should keep Assembly Hall (or whatever it’s called now) rocking all year. The defense should be vastly improved and if they find a little more perimeter shooting along the way, they should find themselves in this slot or higher.

Projection: Probably the NIT. High end potential is probably grabbing one of the last at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament.

11. Ohio State (APR: 70)

Double Plays: Iowa, Michigan, PSU, IU, Rutgers
Singles Home: MSU, MD, Illinois, Nebraska
Singles Away: Purdue, Minny (NYC), NW, UW

Consensus Outlook: They’ll rely heavily on Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, and Keita Bates-Diop. There’s talent, but maybe not the type of talent that Chris Holtmann would prefer in terms of system fit.

What They’re Not Saying: This program needs a big-time culture change. The good news on that front is that perpetual pouty faces JaQuan Lyle and Marc Loving are now gone. I believe Thad Matta to be a great coach, but he didn’t seem to have the same juice the past couple years due to his poor health. Chris Holtmann should bring a youthful passion to that position that was probably necessary.

Projection: There’s still quite a bit of talent in Columbus, but clearly there’s been other issues in the program. I think Holtmann will do a great job there, but I’m not sure the results will appear as fast as Buckeye fans would hope.

12. Illinois (APR: 90)

Double Plays: MSU, UW, IU, Rutgers, Nebraska
Singles Home: Purdue, Iowa, PSU, MD
Singles Away: Minny, NW, Michigan, OSU

Consensus Outlook: Brad Underwood was a homerun hire for the Illini. There are some talented pieces coming in and a few left over from the John Groce era. It remains to be seen if Underwood can utilize his system with the current roster.

What They’re Not Saying: It appears some others are a little higher on the Illini this year. They do have some talent, but I think it’s going to take Underwood some time to sort out the jumbled mess that the program’s been the last few years. He was able to succeed right away at Oklahoma State, but that was more of a ready-made situation with Jawun Evans running the show. A lot’s expected of grad transfer Mark Alstork, but early returns are that he’s still finding his way, only scoring four points in a scrimmage loss to Eastern Illinois.

Projection: Underwood is great for the program (assuming he doesn’t get caught up in the FBI mess) and there are some decent players in Champaign. However, there’s not a player on the roster that’s been a part of a successful team at this level. I think the Illini will look more coherent this year, but I’d still say an NIT birth would be considered a win for this team.

Hopefully Better! Division

13. Nebraska (APR: 96)

Double Plays: Minny, UW, PSU, Rutgers, Illinois
Singles Home: Iowa, Michigan, MD, IU
Singles Away: MSU, Purdue, NW, OSU

Consensus Outlook: Quite a bit of roster turnover again for the Huskers. Old talent out, new talent coming in, mostly from the transfer market. The Huskers will be frisky, especially in Lincoln.

What They’re Not Saying: I think it’s going to be more of the same what you’ve seen the past couple of years from Nebraska. At times they’ll look like they should be in the NCAA Tournament and at times they’ll look like they belong in the CBI. The issue remains the same. They have too much roster turnover from one year to the next and they’ll rely on incoming talent to play big roles.

Projection: It’s hard to build a program when you’re constantly losing rotation players early and trying to patchwork the roster with transfer pieces, many of whom probably didn’t work out at their last Power 5 school for a reason. I’m penciling in the Huskers for 14-18 wins.

14. Rutgers (APR: 133)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, OSU, Illinois, Nebraska
Singles Home: NW, UW, Iowa, IU
Singles Away: Minny, Michigan, PSU, MD

Consensus Outlook: Steve Pikiell is great! The roster is not.

What They’re Not Saying: It’s easy to pencil Rutgers in at the bottom because they’ve been here for a few years now. Obviously I’m doing the same, but one of these years Pikiell is going to bounce out of it and win Coach of the Year. They’ve got a strong trio in Sanders, Williams, and Freeman. The problem is, it’s hard to find a single other guy that would crack the rotation at many other Big Ten schools. It appears as though Pikiell might be starting two freshmen who would likely redshirt at much of the competition.

Projection: I’m not sure how much the Big Ten record will really improve this year, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting better in Piscataway.

Player of the Year

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Sometimes things are just really simple. Bridges was outstanding his freshman year when healthy. After somewhat stunningly returning for his sophomore season, he’s the overwhelming favorite to win this award as his team is poised to have a much better year.

Newcomer of the Year

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Saying that the Kentucky transfer is very talented would be redundant, but it’s true. Jaren Jackson is a popular pick for good reason. Jackson is a likely lottery pick next season, but I’ll go with Matthews due to opportunity. MSU has an embarrassment of riches and likely won’t need high productivity from Jackson every game. On the other hand, Matthews may be counted on to carry a big part of the scoring load for the Wolverines all year.

First Team

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Nate Mason, Minnesota

Vincent Edwards, Purdue

Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

Second Team

Nick Ward, Michigan State

Justin Jackson, Maryland

Tony Carr, Penn State

Tyler Cook, Iowa

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

The Big Ten Is Better Than You Thought And It’s Okay To Admit That

I’m wrong. A lot. I was wrong on a lot of different things that happened in the first weekend of the tournament.

I loved SMU. Didn’t make it out of the first round.

It didn’t cross my mind that Duke would lose in the first weekend, regardless of the fact that their second round opponent had a home crowd. They did and it wasn’t all that close.

I doubted Butler. They didn’t trail once in the first two rounds. Not even for a second.

But I was wrong. That’s just a sampling of the things I missed.

And I don’t have any problem saying it. College basketball is maybe the most unpredictable of the American sports. That’s partially why I obsess over it. I write these power ranking blogs trying to hone in on what to expect knowing full well that they’re largely meaningless once the 18-23 year-olds under the most intense pressure of their young lives become involved.

With that said, not much that happened this weekend is all that surprising. The only thing that really stands out is that South Carolina is suddenly awesome at scoring a lot of points. That’s it. That’s the list.

Some might point to Xavier. They beat a Maryland team that’s been scuffling for a while now and a Florida State team that is led by one of college basketball’s greatest underachievers, Leonard Hamilton. The Muskies also have Chris Mack and Trevon Bluiett.

This brings me to the Big Ten, which became a big topic over the weekend due to five of their seven participants winning their first round game and three of those making the Sweet 16.

This led to the inevitable: Big Ten fans puffing their collective chest out and those who trashed the Big Ten basically chalking it up to randomness. The more intelligent, but still stubborn will put it this way:

Also an annual tradition, the “one-off” argument. I won’t even dispute it. It’s actually sensible! A single 40-minute game doesn’t change everything, provided that one or both of the teams in said game played at a level above or below their relatively recent norm.

But a series of these 40-minute results isn’t an accident.

The Big Ten wasn’t all that great in November and December. They didn’t register many groundbreaking wins.

However, the team that ended up finished in a tie for 10th in the league beat two of the #1 seeds this year. One of their NIT teams beat the Big 12 tournament champions…by a lot. Their #13 seed Nebraska team beat Dayton.

But they lost the ACC-Big Ten challenge, tied the Gavitt Games with the Big East, and otherwise had a ho-hum non-conference season.

The Big Ten was not one of the best conferences in November and December.

But what was that built off? One might say a series of “one-off” games in those two rather meaningless months.

I’ve never understood how those series of isolated 40-minute games is somehow deemed more important than the ones that occur at the end of the season.

It’s not as if the Power 6 teams are playing an enormous round-robin early in the year. You’re lucky to see some teams play three other Power 6 teams in non-conference play.

But those early games create a whole narrative for the remaining three months of the season. Everyone just seems to get it in their head because one conference looks stronger than the other before the calendar turns it over that it’s just going to stay that way forever. It dismisses the idea that teams grow and evolve as the season goes on.Which is the whole point of a season, to get better so that you can play at your best in March when it all really counts.

Is the NCAA Tournament the perfect way to prove a conference’s strength? No, far from it. But show me a better way, please. If your argument involves games played around Thanksgiving, but not the ones played now, just stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. I love KenPom, but even that system is a bit flawed when it comes to measuring conferences as a whole.

The way the system is set up now with 68 teams making the field and still a tremendous slant against mid-majors receiving at-large bids, you essentially get half of every major conference’s teams in the dance with some exceptions by a team or two. Point being, you see a lot of teams from each league matched up with the others.

And what I didn’t see last weekend was a lot of accidents happening in regards to the Big Ten. Nobody got scorching hot for one game and produced a fluky result. Wisconsin legitimately beat the #1 overall seed and defending national champion. Michigan legitimately beat the second-place ACC team in front of a pro-Louisville crowd. Purdue legitimately beat the Big 12 tournament champions in front of a pro-Iowa State crowd. Michigan State buried a Miami team that had an equal 10-8 conference record in the ACC. Even Northwestern was maybe a terrible no-call away from knocking off the #1 team overall in KenPom.

Exactly zero of them made more than the national average of 35% of their three-point shots and all five of them shot worst than their respective team averages. Nothing fluky about it.

But hey, Minnesota lost to Middle Tennessee, so we get absolutely outrageous tweets like this that have no shred of supporting evidence:

Would it surprise you to know that Terrence had the Big Ten going 1-7 in the tournament with Michigan State getting the lonely first round win?

They are currently 8-4.

I’m not even trying to tell you the Big Ten was the best league this year. I’ve never said that. I have said all year that it’s a league with no truly great teams, but a few really good teams and a few other decent ones. I wasn’t sure how they’d do as a league in the tournament because they didn’t have favorable seeds (which is largely influenced by those pesky November/December games) and would therefore have a tougher road, but most of them largely played how they have since early February.

While they may not be the best, I don’t think the gap between them and the Big 12 or ACC is quite as significant as it was made out to be either. The only real difference I see is that they don’t have a Kansas or a North Carolina.

It gets extremely tiring to see the same recycled takes over and over and even more exhausting to see that it doesn’t even occur to people that they were maybe, possibly, the slightest bit wrong. And the lengths that people will go to avoid it.


*Deletes entire section on why Mark Titus is a moron*

The real issue at hand is the constant need to power rank the conferences in a year where there’s a whole lot of teams at the top without many discernible differences.


Part of what I do to evaluate how the tournament is going to go is by looking at the tiers through adjusted efficiency margins. The “great” teams are categorized by having a margin of 28+. The “very good” teams are categorized by having a margin between 22 and 28.

Here’s how many teams fit in each category over the years. The numbers for 2017 are current, every other year is post-tourney.

28+ 22-28
2002 4 6
2003 2 8
2004 1 11
2005 2 10
2006 0 9
2007 3 9
2008 4 8
2009 4 11
2010 2 10
2011 2 10
2012 2 9
2013 3 10
2014 3 12
2015 6 8
2016 5 11
2017 3 20

Hmm, what number really jumps out in that list? 21 teams in the “very good” range, an all-time high and not by a little bit.

The breakdown of teams – by conference – in the “very good” range:

Big 12 5
Big East 0
Big Ten 3
Pac 12 3
American 2

It’s a bit of an arbitrary number set, but at the same time the range from 2003 to 2016 was a very consistent five and this year has shown a spike equal to more than double the average. Things could change over the last two weeks, but not enough to skew the numbers in a substantial manner.

My whole point in all of this is to say that every league at the top had some really good teams. And all of them only had one or two really bad teams, except the Pac-12. They had four. There’s not a big difference between the other five.

That isn’t really an opinion. It’s a summation based on cold, hard facts, Jack.