Big Ten

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Big Ten West

I’m picking every over/under regular season win total for all 130 schools in college football. I’ll try to keep the odds/injuries/suspensions as current as possible, but I’m doing this in pieces, so it is what it is.

1* through 5* based on confidence. I’ll be betting anything 3* and higher. 

Last year was pretty successful, to say the least. Results:
3*: 10-2-3 (+24.1*)
4*: 1-1 (+0.0*)
5*: 1-0 (+5.0*)

I’ll give my best bet for the conference champion based on perceived value.

Big Ten: East


Wisconsin – over 10 (-115) – 1*

The Badgers return nine starters from the most productive offense they’ve had since Melvin Gordon left Madison. And it seems fairly clear that’s a result of getting another stud RB in Jonathan Taylor, a favorite for the Heisman this year. Phil Steele didn’t rank Wisconsin’s QBs among the Top 55 and that’s outrageous. I’m not the biggest Hornibrook guy, but go find me 55 other guys who could’ve hung 258 yards and 4 TDs (0 INTs) on Miami in the freaking Orange Bowl.

Hornibrook loses TE Troy Fumagalli to the NFL, but I’m pretty sure Wisconsin just grows NFL tight ends in some lab up there. They also return all five starting O-Linemen and they’re all monsters and four of them are potential/likely first rounders next year. It’s honestly disgusting.

The defensive backs need to be rebuilt, but there’s really no reason to worry. The Badgers are good defensively every year and will give up somewhere between 14 and 20 points per game.

The schedule is good and bad. The good news for the Badgers: they’ll be favored to win all of their non-conference games by at least 21 points. The bad news: they have road games at Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa, and Purdue. Obviously you don’t count them out of any of those and they’ll probably actually be favorites in those last three.

Iowa – over 7.5 (even) – 3*

There’s definitely some questions that stick out with the Hawkeyes this year. They lose 1,100 yard back Akrum Wadley. They lose AA and Big 10 DPOY Josey Jewell and their other two starting linebackers. They lose Josh Jackson, who had 8 INTs last year. Their offensive line isn’t expected to be very good, a staple position group of Iowa football.

On the other hand, their front and back four on defense are still Top 20-30 in the country. Nathan Stanley is probably the best QB they’ve had since Drew Tate.  Noah Fant is the best TE in the league. And, I might add, K Miguel Recinos is money.

More than anything this play is about track record. The Hawks have some big losses defensively, but history says that they’re still going to be pretty good. History also says that Iowa has one losing regular season since 2000.

The schedule has two elite teams on it (@ PSU, home for UW) and a lot of mediocre. They have four very winnable road games against Minnesota, IU, Purdue, and Illinois. They avoid OSU, MSU, and Michigan out of the East. Their non-con consists of NIU, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa at home.

Northwestern – over 6 (-110) – 2*

Wouldn’t suggest touching this when their still seems to be some uncertainty of how quickly Clayton Thorson will be ready to go. And he needs to be ready to go early. They start at Purdue, followed by home games with Duke and Akron, who won their MAC division last year. With how poorly the Cats have started recently, that’s a concerning stretch. They draw Michigan, @ MSU, @ Rutgers out of the East. And they’re also playing Notre Dame.

They do have a promising defense and Thorson is one of the best QBs in the league and that’s why I’d definitely lean over here. But if Thorson isn’t 100% early, things could get off the rails quickly.

Nebraska – under 6.5 (+110) – 3*

Scott Frost is the savior and he seemed to talk quite a big game at the Big Ten media days, but it’s still just his first year and he’s returning a 4-8 team that has a Top 10 most difficult schedule this year and their wins last year were against Arkansas State, Rutgers, Illinois, and Purdue.

Frost does have quite a duo to work with at WR in his offense with Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman returning. His running backs are decent, but are dependent upon a JUCO (you’ve seen Last Chance U, no?) and Tre Bryant, who was very productive last year, but only lasted two games.

Outside of that…it’s tough. They’re probably going to start a freshman at QB. They’re both very talented, but I wouldn’t have high hopes right away. The defense returns eight starters, but they gave up over 36 points a game last year. Frost and Co. did a lot right at UCF, but I wouldn’t say they built a stellar defense.

Again, the schedule is tough. Maybe it’s dangerous, but I’m just chalking them up to 0-5 on the road this year. Those five road games: Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa. They didn’t play Michigan last year, but they went 0-4 at home against the others and lost by an average of 28 points. Their home schedule: Akron, Colorado, Troy, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan State. It’s not a murderer’s row, but only maybe Akron and Illinois are a walkover in that group. Do you feel confident a team that went 2-5 at home last year is going to run the table this year?

Minnesota – under 6 (-130) – 1*

I think they’re definitely winning two games and I think they’re definitely losing two games and I have no idea what’s happening with the other eight. Their defense will be solid, Rodney Smith will be good, their QB situation appears to be a bit of a disaster, and PJ Fleck will annoy the hell out of me. Really excited to not watch them play a lot of games that are 17-17 in the fourth.

Purdue – over 6 (+110) – 1*

The fact this total is set at six while Phil Steele has them facing the #2 most difficult schedule in the country is a testament to Jeff Brohm. The roster talent is still largely at a slightly above average Mountain West team level.

I would expect Purdue to make a jump offensively with nine starters returning in Brohm’s system and some dynamic playmakers added to the mix. Everything seems primed for Elijah Sindelar to control the QB job, but having David Blough on standby is a nice luxury.

Defensively they only return four starters. On the surface, that’s very problematic for a team that only gave up 20.5 PPG last year and doesn’t have a bunch of highly touted guys waiting in the wings. However, those same guys that gave up 20.5 also gave up 38.3 the year before Nick Holt got there. While I’m sure the defense won’t be quite as good, Holt’s guidance makes you think they’ll keep it respectable.

Illinois – under 4 (-140) – 3*

They went 2-10 last year. They averaged 15.4 PPG on offense and their starting QB this year couldn’t beat out Jeff George Jr. or Chayce Crouch last season. I don’t know what else to say.

According to Bill Connelly’s S&P+’s projections, the Illini’s highest percent chance at winning a game after Week 2 are 37% against Minnesota at home.


Iowa +2700

Wisconsin’s the obvious favorite to come out of the West, but the schedule works well in the Hawkeyes’ favor. Iowa gets the head-to-head at home and they’re at least one team in the West who’s had a modicum of success against the Badgers recently. They also avoid three of the big four from the East, while UW has their five toughest conference opponents all on the road. You can take a stab at somebody out of the East, but there’s four Top 12 teams there and any of them could make the championship. The Badgers are the favorite in the West for a reason, but you can get the Hawkeyes at more than 10x the return.


2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Big Ten East

I’m picking every over/under regular season win total for all 130 schools in college football. I’ll try to keep the odds/injuries/suspensions as current as possible, but I’m doing this in pieces, so it is what it is.

1* through 5* based on confidence. I’ll be betting anything 3* and higher. 

Last year was pretty successful, to say the least. Results:
3*: 10-2-3 (+24.1*)
4*: 1-1 (+0.0*)
5*: 1-0 (+5.0*)

I’ll give my best bet for the conference champion based on perceived value.


Ohio State – over 10.5 (-120) – 1*

There’s a good reason why many are putting the Buckeyes as the top team in the country. They’re loaded everywhere.

The big key for the offense is obviously replacing JT Barrett, but Dwayne Haskins is supremely talented and already beat Michigan once. They might have the best back in the country in JK Dobbins and they return their top six receivers.

The defense has a few more holes to fill, but the Bucks are one of the few teams that it doesn’t seem to matter. They’ll just reload. It helps that Greg Schiano is still the DC.

S&P+ has them favored in every game this year, with a minimum of a 60% chance to win each game. With that said, it’s still the Big Ten East and they have road games at Penn State and Michigan State and Michigan at home. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that they did manage to get their doors blown off by Iowa last year.

Note: This was written before the whole Zach Smith thing. I think Urban will stay and I’m sure they’ll be fine, but, ya know, they might not be if he happens to get fired.

Michigan – over 9 (-115) – 1*

Pretty typical Harbaugh-era Michigan team, although they return more experienced talent than any other. But they’ll be built around what should be a Top 5 defense nationally. And they’ll surely have a very solid running game.

There are a few issues though. For starters, they don’t really have an offensive coordinator. They have three guys who are probably capable of calling the plays, but…no one is really sure which of the three that’s going to be.

Shea Patterson is supposed to finally be the dynamic, playmaking QB that Wolverine fans have been waiting for. He’s capable of doing that and he’s proven he could do it at Ole Miss. However, it seems like they’re running the same archaic system they have been and it’s quite opposite of the more modern offense Patterson was running under Hugh Freeze and Matt Luke in Oxford.

And finally, the schedule is a bear. Road games with OSU, ND, Michigan State, Northwestern and home games with Penn State and Wisconsin. That’s brutal.

With all that said, I still slightly lean over because I think the defense might only give up 12-14 points a game this year.

Penn State – under 9.5 (-115) – 1*

I don’t have a ton of strong feelings on the Nittany Lions. Of these Top 4 teams in the East, they have the least coming back and the most question marks. They only have three starters back on D. They lost Saquon and three of their top four pass catchers. And they lost Joe Moorhead, who turned this offense into what it’s become the past couple of years.

The trump card for them may be Trace McSorley, though. He’s one of the best QBs in the country, if not the best. They’ve also recruited incredibly well recently and could be making the step into the elite program category.

They unfavorably draw Wisconsin and Iowa out of the West, but they do get both of them at home, as well as Michigan State and Ohio State.

Michigan State – over 8.5 (-125) – 3*

19 starters coming back from a 10-3 team is a great place to start. The only super notable loss was C Brian Allen, who was one of the best linemen in the Big Ten for the past three years. Otherwise, you’re pretty much dealing with the same Spartan roster, except they’ve got another year under their belts.

I wouldn’t expect a ton of sizzle from the offense, but Brian Lewerke is capable of actually making plays and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them average 30+ this year. LJ Scott had a down year last year, but is still among the best RBs in the league. Felton Davis might be the best WR in the Big Ten and had the big (and timely) plays to back that up in 2017.

With nine starters back from a defense that only gave up 20 PPG, it’s easy to see how they could return to their form of early in the decade when they were only giving up two touchdowns a game.

The schedule has its ups and downs. Good news: of the above trio, they get Michigan and Ohio State at home. Bad news: they have five road games against teams who will be in the bowl conversation this year.

Maryland – over 5 (-145) – 4*

The Terps went 4-8 last year, but to me, the season ended in the first quarter of their third game. That’s when QB2 Kasim Hill was knocked out for the year, two weeks after QB1 Tyrell Pigrome was knocked out for the year. After that it was all the Max Bortenschlager era and Max Bortenschlager should’ve never been on the roster (his next best offer out of HS was Buffalo).

In the Pigrome/Hill era, the Terps won at Texas, obliterated Towson, and were moving the ball with ease against UCF. Under those two, MD averaged 57.0 PPG. Under Bortenschlager, the Terps averaged 17.5 PPG.

I’m not expecting 57 a game (obviously), but the offense should still improve greatly with an expected healthier season. They do lose stud WR D.J. Moore, but they return their entire offensive line, the two QBs, and a productive RB duo, who will benefit from competent QB play. They will also benefit greatly from new OC Matt Canada. Canada turned Pittsburgh into one of the most explosive offenses in the country a couple of years ago, before he was hired and fired by Ed Orgeron at LSU because Ed Orgeron has no idea how to run a football program. If DJ Durkin just lets Canada do his thing, this offense will flourish in a big way.

The defense only returns five starters, but it can’t get a lot worse after the way they played last year. I do think that the numbers from last year are partially a product of the failures of the offense in more ways than one. They do add a couple of uber-talented transfers in Byron Cowart and Marcus Lewis.

The schedule is pretty difficult overall, but you only need five wins to even get a push. I’m already penciling them in for four wins: @ BGSU, Temple, Rutgers, and Illinois. The next most winnable games: Minnesota and Texas at home. Outside of that they’re capable of beating Michigan State at home and Iowa or Indiana on the road.

Indiana – over 5.5 (-105) – 1*

The Hoosiers don’t have a ton returning from a 5-7 team, but the schedule is easier this year. There’s two games I don’t think they can win, but otherwise they have a lot of opportunity.

They lose QB Richard Lagow, but it’s not a big deal. Lagow was average at best and whoever gets the call between Peyton Ramsey and grad transfer Brandon Dawkins should at the very minimum match his production. The skill guys surrounding the QBs are more of a concern. They lose four of their top six pass catchers last year and they’re going to need Nick Westbrook to be the big play threat he was in ’16, otherwise they don’t really have one. The RBs lacked much production last year. Good news: the O-Line is one of the best in the conference.

The defense is a gigantic question mark. They’ve been much improved as a program after Tom Allen came in initially as the DC, but there’s only three starters coming back and only one is in the front seven. With that said, Nile Sykes and Marcelino Ball are returning from injury and would’ve been starters last year.

Rutgers – over 4 (+120) – 1*

I’m optimistic about the Scarlet Knights this year with 15 starters returning from a 4-8 team. It’s Chris Ash’s third year and three of those wins came in the Big Ten this year.

But I’m not about to bet actual money on this given that I don’t think Rutgers really has a shot in hell at winning a single game in November. The schedule looks like this during the final month: @ Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, @ Michigan State. Fun fact: all four of those programs have shutout the Knights in one of their last two meetings. I like Rutgers so I’m not going to pile on and mention that their Week 2 opponent (Ohio State) has beaten them by a combined score of 114-0 the last two years. It would be uncalled for to mention that.


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