Rankings

2019-20 Big Ten Power…Discussion: Week 10

Teams ordered once again by where they fall in the Bracket Matrix because I am a coward.

Maryland (BM: 2 seed)

The Terps lost at Ohio State after beating Northwestern at home, but it’s hard to feel anything but positive about the team in College Park right now. Losing is rarely a good thing and the loss at Columbus didn’t fit the criteria, but Maryland was competitive despite Anthony Cowan only shooting four times and fouling out.

Aaron Wiggins hitting six threes and scoring 20 points may be the biggest takeaway from the game from a Maryland perspective. I feel like I’ve said it a thousand times, but this team’s potential is directly related to the shooting effectiveness of Wiggins and Eric Ayala and to a lesser extent, Darryl Morsell and Donta Scott.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Michigan State

Penn State (BM: 4 seed)

Not a great week for the Nittany Lions as I think you’re starting to see more of an impact of Myreon Jones being out of the lineup. They scored just 116 points total this week and it seemed like they could really use a guy who can score inside and out and shoot threes at a 41% clip. Apparently Jones is due back any day now.

Although they ended up losing at IU, I was impressed with the poise of Penn State in a tough environment. They got down 19 in a raucous Assembly Hall and were able to grind their way back to leading the game, but couldn’t make enough plays late. They need Myreon Jones back, but they could also stand to see others step up when times are tough. Lamar Stevens can’t do it all in those moments.

This week: home for Rutgers, at Iowa

Michigan State (BM: 5 seed)

Not much to report on this week with the only game being a win at Nebraska, who may not even give a damn anymore. The Spartans shot it really well, which they need to do much more often if they want to reach their potential.

This week: home for Iowa, at Maryland

Michigan (BM: 5 seed)

I just love the potential of this team when they’ve got their best eight-man rotation, like they do now with Isaiah Livers back. The Wolverines have now won seven of eight and even broke Rutgers’ perfect home record without Livers. They followed that win up with a dominant performance at Purdue, in a must-win game for the Boilers.

There was a stretch there after Livers got hurt, that this team slipped defensively for a couple of weeks. That’s no longer the case. Michigan has been elite defensively for the better part of the last month or so.

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Ohio State

Iowa (BM: 6 seed)

Thursday night’s Ohio State win was the Hawkeyes in a nutshell. They came out of the gates bombarding the Buckeyes with offense coming from all angles. They also lost focus defensively enough later on to make things a bit more interesting than they needed to be. It never got truly close, but it’s something Iowa needs to be wary of down the road in the postseason when they don’t have the support of their home crowd.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Penn State

Ohio State (BM: 6 seed)

Based on what we’ve seen from Ohio State, the result at Iowa wasn’t very surprising. The Bucks can tend to get into three-point shooting contests and that typically isn’t going to go well when playing a road game against an elite offense.

But OSU responded by beating the likely Big Ten champs despite a tight first half. The Buckeyes resoundingly won the critical end-of-first-half, beginning-of-second-half stanza with a 17-3 run.

This week: at Nebraska, home for Michigan

Wisconsin (BM: 7 seed)

Without a doubt it was a good week, but I don’t know that we’ve learned that much about the Badgers recently. If they shoot it well, they’re really good (duh). They’ve won five of the last six, but four have been at home and one of the road games was at lifeless Nebraska. When it’s all clicking, the Badgers are as good as anyone in this league. But even during this successful run, the only constant offensively is Nate Reuvers.

This week: at Michigan, home for Minnesota

Illinois (BM: 8 seed)

Illinois is an interesting team, man. I don’t know what to make of them. They had a good week this week, but I still feel like there’s things to figure out for Brad Underwood. Defensively, they’ve been solid the whole year, bordering on great. But lineups are hard to sort with this team.

Ayo and Kofi are in every best lineup that they have. I think most would agree before the season that Giorgi is one of their five best players, but he’s best suited in the same spot as Kofi. Giorgi averaged 12.5 PPG last year as a freshman, but has only reached double-figures in two of his last 17 games.

Trent Frazier is the microwave man. Da’Monte Williams and Kipper Nichols don’t care about scoring, but contribute to that great defense. Alan Griffin is the X-Factor and Andres Feliz is the understated constant of the offense.

I honestly can’t tell you what is the best rotation/equation of these eight guys, but I know if Underwood totally figures it out, this team is dangerous.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Indiana

Indiana (BM: 9 seed)

Indiana has turned their season around the past couple of weeks for the better. The Michigan game was ugly, but the other three have been impressive.

They absolutely needed the road win at Minnesota — the Gophers also had to have it — and they went in to Minneapolis and took it.

It looked like the Hoosiers were going to roll PSU in Bloomington and then the Nittany Lions stole the lead. I think last year’s IU team probably would have folded, but this team has refused to do so recently.

A couple of things have changed recently with this team. The first: they’ve fed Trayce Jackson-Davis. TJD got three shots against Michigan and the Hoosiers got blown out. This week he got 32 attempts and it resulted in 40 points to go with his 26 rebounds.

The second reason things have changed: Race Thompson. Thompson just plays hard and makes key plays when it matters most. Play that guy and things seem to go a lot better.

This week: at Purdue and Illinois

Rutgers (BM: 10 seed)

Rutgers has now lost five of seven with those two wins being an OT home win over Northwestern and a home win over Illinois without Ayo Dosunmu. I’m rooting for the Scarlet Knights, but……I have no idea why they seem to be so locked into the tournament. They’ve made road blowouts look close recently by playing the full 40 minutes without ever actually being in the game.

They’ve got three games left and I don’t think I’d consider them the favorite in any. I’m just saying, things might start to get dicey if they don’t play better soon.

This week: at Penn State

Purdue (BM: Second Four Out)

Just a couple of weeks ago I remarked how little Indiana seemed to care that they were playing their rival in front of several Hoosier legends (on Bob Knight day, no less). It looked like IU and Purdue were headed in totally opposite directions.

My how times have changed in the last two weeks. Purdue pulled a similar (lack of) effort on Saturday against Michigan and the season is officially on its last life. They stink out loud right now and it’s unclear if all of the players actually care.

This week: home for Indiana

Minnesota (BM: N/A)

Home losses to Indiana and Iowa feel like near back-breakers to their NCAA Tournament hopes. They looked great in the win at Northwestern and it helps their overall record, but isn’t necessarily a resume builder. The opportunity is still there, but it’s now or never time.

This week: home for Maryland, at Wisconsin 

Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Losers of 11 straight.

This week: home for Illinois, at Nebraska

Nebraska (BM: N/A)

Losers of 12 straight.

This week: home for Ohio State and Northwestern

2019-20 Big Ten Power…Discussion: Week 9

I’m giving up. I’m quitting on the power rankings for the rest of this year. It’s pointless. Maryland and Penn State are clearly at the top, Nebraska and Northwestern are clearly at the bottom, but 3-12 is still a jumbled mess. The difference between third and third-to-last is just 2.5 games. All teams are ordered by the Bracket Matrix.

Maryland (BM: 2 seed)

After playing at home against Nebraska like a team that had just won at Illinois and was already looking forward to playing at Michigan State, the Terps played like Big Ten Champs at East Lansing.

Not that they had it actually won in the first half, but it felt like Maryland had to win that game twice. They were clearly the better team in the first half – getting up by as much as 15 – before finishing the half poorly and ultimately losing the rest of the lead in the second half.

When it got to 60-53 Spartans with less than four minutes and the crowd at full throttle, I’m not sure even the most optimistic Terp fan thought they were going to win. Then the best duo in the league took over. Jalen Smith stuck the first three and grabbed a couple rebounds to feed Anthony Cowan, who hit three straight threes and added two free throws to put a nail in the Spartans’ coffin.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Ohio State

Penn State (BM: 3 seed)

The Nittany Lions have now won eight straight, including four straight on the road. It’s probably not a lasting strategy for them, but they went 25-57 from three this week and Myreon Jones is still out of the lineup.

They completely stole Purdue’s spirit in Mackey Arena Tuesday and were led to victory behind season-best efforts from Mike Watkins, Seth Lundy, and John Harrar.

This isn’t the first time Pat Chambers has had a pretty good team, but it’s by far the most consistent. After every big win there’s some of that old Penn State fear that they’re going to come out flat the next time out and this team keeps showing up every night.

This week: home for Illinois, at Indiana

Michigan State (BM: 5 seed)

I thought for sure after the big road win at Illinois that the Spartans were going to go on one of those patented February runs that leads them into even better play in March. They had Gameday and a Saturday night home game against the conference leader to kick that patented run into overdrive and then the Spartans couldn’t seem to get a stop in the first half of Maryland.

It looked like it was merely going to be a scare when MSU took a seven-point lead late, but then for the second straight game in Breslin, the road team made bigger plays to close the game.

We’re used to growth throughout the season for Tom Izzo teams, but it’s hard to find it right now. Outside of Winston and Tillman, there’s no consistency and shooting remains a struggle. This team still isn’t very good in the half-court.

This week: at Nebraska

Iowa (BM: 6 seed)

After yet another road game where the Hawkeyes got blitzed by the opponent’s outside shooting – this time it was IU – they picked up a huge win at Minnesota on Sunday. Considering CJ Fredrick was out and Joe Wieskamp had his worst scoring night of the year, it was an impressive win in a way we’re not really used to Iowa winning.

It doesn’t sound like Fredrick’s ankle sprain is one that should keep him out for too long, which is a positive all things considered. Also, it should be stated again that Luka Garza is awesome.

This week: home for Ohio State

Ohio State (BM: 6 seed)

The Buckeyes have now won five of six and are starting to make those analytical measures that have believed in them look smart, even through a rough January. That slide was almost solely due to poor offense, but OSU seems to have found its groove again.

They don’t really bombard people with threes, but I can’t imagine there’s many more consistent groups from the outside. They’ve shot under 30% from the perimeter just one time all season, while also going over 50% only twice (the last one was Dec. 7).  That’s remarkably consistent.

This week: at Iowa, home for Maryland

Michigan (BM: 7 seed)

I guess the best way I can describe Isaiah Livers’ impact on Michigan is in gambling terms. In the three games he’s been back – when Vegas spreads are getting tighter by the day – Michigan has covered the spread by 12, 19.5, and 16 points. There was a brief scare in the second half of the Indiana game that he was hurt yet again, but luckily that was put to rest when he checked back in. I’m sure it’s hard for any Michigan fan to feel  comfortable when Livers does anything remotely awkward with his body.

We’ll see just how good the Wolverines are with Livers this week, as they hit the road against a couple of good home teams.

This week: at Rutgers and Purdue

Wisconsin (BM: 8 seed)

Not much to report on this week with the Badgers, as they won their only game at Nebraska. They shot a bunch of threes and made nearly half of them.

This week: home for Purdue and Rutgers

Rutgers (BM: 8 seed)

It was another fine week for the Scarlet Knights. They weren’t very competitive at Ohio State, but they were able to make it look better than it was and only ended up losing by six.

They took advantage of an Illinois team without Ayo Dosunmu and added another notch on their perfect home record belt. Ron Harper Jr. isn’t the most consistent player on the roster, but when he’s on, you expect him to make every shot he takes.

I thought about writing that Rutgers was close to a lock for the tournament even if they lose out because the last five games of the season are so tough for them. But looking at it more, the Scarlet Knights only have two Q1 wins and still just one (1) win away from their home floor. I spent my Sunday researching the last five years of tournament teams and the fewest amount of away/neutral wins for an at-large team that I could find was four (4). That was one team. Everyone else has at least five and a lot of them have at least eight.

I’m not saying Rutgers isn’t going to make the tournament or shouldn’t make it (they’d be comfortably in now according to almost every bracketologist), but they would be an anomaly on that front and may affect their seed more than is being reflected in current projections.

This week: home for Michigan, at Wisconsin

Illinois (BM: 8 seed)

After winning seven straight, the Illini have now lost four straight and Ayo Dosunmu is hurt. The possibilities felt endless a couple of weeks ago and now it’s starting to appear again like Illinois will be aiming to pull an upset if they can even make the second round of the tournament.

Scoring has been all over the board for most of this season, but defensively they’ve seen a dip lately in Champaign. They’ve been getting beat around the rim more often lately and on a related note, Kofi Cockburn only has one block in the last four games.

This week: at Penn State, home for Nebraska

Purdue (BM: 11 seed)

After shooting 27-50 (54.0%) from three last week, Purdue shot just 8-37 (21.6%) from behind the arc this week.

After giving up 13-46 (28.3%) from three last week, the Boilers gave up 23-46 (50.0%) from three this week.

That’s an 87-point swing in a week’s time. Not that much else was different really, at least statistically. I’m not sure there’s much else to say. They are a model of inconsistency.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Michigan

Indiana (BM: 11 seed)

Prior to that home game a few weeks ago with Maryland, the Hoosiers rated 31st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. Just six games later, they now rate 67th and probably had their worst effort of the season on Sunday at Michigan.

The weekday domination of Iowa at least showed some life and that the Hoosiers weren’t going to go on another extended dreadful spell like they did last year over 13 games, but there is work to do. No easy games coming up.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Penn State

Minnesota (BM: Second Four Out)

The Gophers aren’t dead yet, but Sunday’s home loss to Iowa was a killer, setting Minnesota back to 12-12. They still have four Q1 wins and no bad losses, but going .500 overall isn’t going to cut it. An undefeated week is a must this week.

This week: home for Indiana and at Northwestern

Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Losers of nine straight.

This week: at Maryland, home for Minnesota

Nebraska (BM: N/A)

Losers of ten straight.

This week: home for Michigan State, at Illinois

OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED, OR PROPERLY VALUED 2.0: 2020 NCAA TOURNAMENT

Welcome to the second installment of the 2020 Overvalued, Undervalued, or Properly Valued series. Here’s the first.

These rankings are based on the Final Four Index (FFI). The premise is ranking teams based on their similarities to the most successful tournament teams (those that reach the Final Four). The tournament is a different animal and the FFI measures teams in a tournament context and less so on a game-to-game basis like most analytical measures do.

Full disclosure: all of the data was gathered on Monday night and most teams have played since then. Things change. I only run data on teams that are seeded 1-11 on Bracket Matrix. Those teams were also picked Monday.

The odds were grabbed off of DraftKings on Wednesday.

The ranking on the left is based on where the odds suggest teams are ranked. The ranking in the parentheses are obviously the FFI.

Properly Valued

1. Gonzaga +800 (FFI: 2)

Generally speaking, the last eight seasons for Gonzaga are largely the same with a couple of close games in the non-conference/strength of the WCC largely being the two deciding factors in their seeding. They’re 124-9 in WCC play in that stretch. They’ve been a 1 seed several times, a 2, a 4, an 8, and an 11 in the NCAA Tournament and seeding has seemingly had little factor on how far they go.

My gut feeling is that this team isn’t one of their best in that eight-year stretch. Defensively, they’re just okay and their numbers have looked a lot better since they started beating up on the WCC.

2. Kansas +1000 (FFI: 1)

The Jayhawks have the best defense in the country and that’s been apparent lately. Basically every team in the country has at least one red flag and Kansas is no different. Most of the best teams in the Bill Self era have shot the ball well from the perimeter and this team just does not have it. They’re a threat for the national title, but a team that can’t make shots is a tough horse to ride in this era.

T3. Duke +1100 (FFI: 3)

Duke has a lot of talent, but it’s pretty easy to poke holes in the resume. That Florida State home win was their first in nearly two months against a likely NCAA Tournament team. During that stretch they lost to a bad Clemson team, home game against a Louisville team that hadn’t been playing its best, and they had to fight like hell to win games at BC and UNC, who have no shot at the tournament. Usually the ACC schedule lends plenty of games to make judgments, but this year does not. I’m not sure that serves a young team well going forward.

T5. Dayton +1500 (FFI: 5)

I like Dayton a lot and think they have a chance to contend for the Final Four, but they’re going to enter the tournament likely having beaten zero Top 30 teams in the country. To actually win a title, you usually have to beat four or five in a row on a neutral site.

T5. Seton Hall +1500 (FFI: 7)

Part of me thinks that the Pirates are going to go on a deep run in the tournament and the other part of me thinks they’re also a candidate to lose a 3/14 matchup. They’ve won some of the toughest games on their schedule. They also lay some eggs.

T7. Louisville +2000 (FFI: 11)

I had a silent theory working that Louisville was actually better on the road than at home, but then they lost at Georgia Tech on Wednesday. That’s not a huge deal in the long run, but it was the third instance this year of Jordan Nwora having a clunker and it resulting in a Cardinal loss.

Nwora’s usage rate isn’t outrageous and the Cards have other options, but it does make you wonder if one bad Nwora game in the tournament means a loss for his team. Last year he only scored 17 points on 18 shots in their ACC and NCAA Tournament losses and didn’t shoot a single free throw.

T7. Maryland +2000 (FFI: 9)

The Terps have won seven straight in the best conference in the country and have likely positioned themselves to win said conference. They’re not a dazzling offensive team, but they’ve got more capable shooters than they’ve shown this year.

T16. Arizona +3000 (FFI: 17)

They’ve certainly got talent, but it’s young talent and aside from a couple of blowouts at home against decent teams, I don’t know what you point to suggest this team is a real factor to contend for a national championship. They just scored 52 points in a home loss to UCLA.

T16. West Virginia +3000 (FFI: 18)

The elite defense is back to the level of those ’16 and ’17 teams, but unfortunately the offense is still stuck in ’19. I don’t think this is a team that you can really bet on or against at this time. Matchups will be everything for them in the tournament, so I’d wait for the bracket.

T19. Ohio State +4000 (FFI: 15)

It’s strange to see an Ohio State team be so reliant on making perimeter shots, but that’s a big part of this Buckeyes offense. And since the last blog, the most noteworthy thing about this team is that they lost a 40% three-point shooter in DJ Carton. Carton was playing his best stretch of the season before stepping away and it’s unclear if, or when, he’ll be back.

T24. Houston +5000 (FFI: 28)

Once again, Kelvin Sampson has a really good team in Houston. The schedule hasn’t had a lot of teeth and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for big wins in the AAC this year, but they’ll be a scary second round matchup for a higher seed.

T27. Creighton +6000 (FFI: 23)

Since the numbers were tabulated, the Bluejays scored their biggest win of the season at Seton Hall and they did it with a goose egg from Mitch Ballock. It was a great win and the offense will always be a lot of fun, but the defense is still going to need to be better if they want to make their first Sweet 16 in 46 years.

T27. Iowa +6000 (FFI: 22)

Iowa is essentially Creighton except it’s only been 21 years since they’ve been to the Sweet 16.

T27. Marquette +6000 (FFI: 24)

Markus Howard deservedly gets most of the headlines, but Koby McEwen and Sacar Anim are the reason they have a great backcourt and not just a great player. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if all three of those guys don’t make shots, it’s probably going to be a quick exit in March.

T27. Purdue +6000 (FFI: 31)

Their swings from great to garbage are bad for my health. They can be good enough on a given night to pull an upset, but not consistent enough to put together a run.

T35. Arkansas +7000 (FFI: 32)

They’ve lost six of eight and have beaten zero teams in KenPom’s Top 35. I’m a supporter of the Muss Bus, but in the words of Captain Jack Ross, “These are the facts of the case.”

T37. Rutgers +8000 (FFI: 37)

The job isn’t finished in terms of scoring a tournament bid – look at their remaining schedule – but that would be enough of an achievement for the Scarlet Knights this year. They’ve got the potential to do more, but the shot-making just hasn’t been there. They currently have one guy shooting above 30% from three.

T37. Indiana +8000 (FFI: 45)

Kind of like their in-state rivals, the Hoosiers can be good enough in one game to beat somebody in the tournament, depending on which version of their guards show up. I just can’t foresee a string of wins in March.

T37. Saint Mary’s +8000 (FFI: 34)

I’ll always pull for the non-elites to make/succeed in the NCAA Tournament, but I gotta be honest, I’m kinda sick of the Gaels’ bullshit. They’re always analytically proficient, but haven’t done anything in the dance since the days of Omar Samhan. I was all excited for their game with Gonzaga in Moraga late last Saturday night and they didn’t even remotely compete. They lost at home to Winthrop and Santa Clara already. Why are they in the tournament? I’m over it.

T42. Florida +10000 (FFI: 44)

Been damn near a month since the Gators have beat a team in KenPom’s Top 100. Part of that is the bottom of the SEC sucking, part of that is Florida getting blown out at Ole Miss and losing to Mississippi State at home.

T42. Oklahoma +10000 (FFI: 38)

I’m not saying Oklahoma is going to do anything in March, but I am saying that they’ve played poorly one time in the last month. They’re not terrible.

T42. Rhode Island +10000 (FFI: 39)

Another team that’s a potential “giant” killer in the second round. Good guards, a team that’s played a lot of games together, and they’ve won some tough road games in league play.

T42. Stanford +10000 (FFI: 35)

I once had eyes for the Cardinal when they were playing in that holiday tournament in Kansas City, but I can no longer endorse them. When healthy, they can defend with the best of them, but they’re so sloppy with the ball and second-chance opportunities are rare.

T42. VCU +10000 (FFI: 40)

3-6 in Q1/Q2 games and a bad loss to George Mason at home = an NCAA Tournament resume apparently.

T42. Xavier +10000 (FFI: 41)

I don’t think Xavier is particularly well-coached, but I have a lot of respect for Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones. Paul Scruggs and Quentin Goodin’s talent exceeds their production, so who knows?

T42. Northern Iowa +10000 (FFI: 36)

If I’m going to ride for one mid-major team this year, it’s the Panthers. They won at Colorado. They beat South Carolina on a neutral floor. They were up 15 in the second half against West Virginia before losing a close one. They’ve made easy work of most of their road games this year. Their only losses besides WVU were close road games in league play. I’m not gonna raise hell for Saint Mary’s, VCU, or any of the American teams. If UNI doesn’t get the auto bid, they should still be in the tournament as of today.

Slightly Overvalued

T3. Baylor +1100 (FFI: 6)

It’s hard to knock a team that’s won 21 straight. I don’t really want to do it, but I’ll explain why the analytical features ding them: their offensive 2P% is really low – especially for a team that’s expected to be a 1 seed – and their SOS isn’t that high. The SOS thing is fair, but if you win at Kansas by double-digits, what more can you prove in a single game this year?

T13. Villanova +2200 (FFI: 20)

A few weeks ago it looked like Nova was worthy of national championship talk, but since then they’ve lost three of four and two of those losses were at home. The one win was a one-point home win over Marquette after the Wildcats nearly blew an 18-point second half lead. The perimeter defense has not been very good lately and the offense has been inconsistent.

T19. Butler +4000 (FFI: 26)

After starting 15-1 and looking like a Top 2 seed, the Bulldogs have gone 4-5 over their last nine and find themselves in the middle of the Big East pack. If Butler doesn’t make shots, they don’t really score and the defense has not been very disruptive in league play.

T19. Illinois +4000 (FFI: 25)

The Illini are still a pretty solid team, but I think you’ve seen them regress back to the mean a bit the past couple weeks after they were on a tear in January. When they’re good, they’re really good and they’ve got NBA bodies, which makes them an upset threat if they do end up in that 7/10 game.

Slightly Undervalued

T7. Michigan State +2000 (FFI: 4)

The Spartans went on a three-game skid recently, but played an excellent first 28 minutes against Illinois and it was enough for them to secure a much needed victory. They’re not a bad shooting team, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a consistent strength either. The Big Ten has made them a fairly average rebounding team.

It’s not out of the ordinary for an Izzo team to go through some struggles in January/early February. It’s also not out of the ordinary for them to start going on a run starting now.

T13. San Diego State +2200 (FFI: 10)

They’ve won all 25 of their games, but only eight of them have come in Q1/Q2 opportunities and five of those were in 2019. So how much do we really know? Obviously the analytical numbers look great, but I’m guessing every non-1 seed would like to end up in SDSU’s bracket, right or wrong.

T16. Penn State +3000 (FFI: 12)

The Nittany Lions are the flavor of the week right now in the Big Ten and are now in position to likely get a Top 4 seed if they made the bracket today. They’re not necessarily a good shooting team, but you saw what they’re capable of Tuesday at Purdue (without their best shooter, btw).

T42. Wisconsin +10000 (FFI: 29)

This is the first time under Greg Gard that the Badgers have been so perimeter shooting oriented, which is especially true now that Kobe King is gone. That’s a tough way to live-and-die when you don’t give yourself many second chances.

T66. USC +20000 (FFI: 42)

No shot they win the title, but you can get the Trojans at a lot better odds than a bunch of teams that probably won’t even make the tournament, which is nice.

Highly Overvalued

T7. Florida State +2000 (FFI: 19)

The last blog came out on January 19 and the Seminoles were +4000. Since then, they’ve gone 4-2 with their best win being a toss-up between @VT or home against Notre Dame and dropped two spots in KenPom, yet you’ll get half the return if you bet them today.

T7. Kentucky +2000 (FFI: 21)

Coach Cal has missed the second weekend just twice in his 10 years in Lexington and made the Final Four on four occasions. But defensively, this is the worst they’ve been since that team that lost to Robert Morris in the NIT. I wouldn’t say they’re bad defensively, but if you’re looking for the weak spot in the FFI rating, that’s the one.

T7. Oregon +2000 (FFI: 27)

I’m not gonna call the Ducks total frauds because I think there’s something to consistently being better than opponents down the stretch, but they play a ton of close games. That’s a dangerous game to play when you’re likely gonna be in one of those pesky 4/13 or 5/12 games.

15. Auburn +2800 (FFI: 30)

The Tigers have won seven straight, yet dropped four spots in KenPom during that time frame. Why? Four of those were in OT or 2OT and a fifth was a narrow win over Iowa State at home. They made 18 threes at home against LSU and still needed OT to finish them off, although Danjel Purifoy was out for that one.

T19. LSU +4000 (FFI: 33)

The Tigers have nearly the worst defense in the SEC, yet find themselves in a three-way tie for first place. That’s how good the offense is, despite the fact that they have one good shooter. Like the two teams above them, this results in a lot of close games.

T27. Virginia +6000 (FFI: 43)

Virginia is essentially the exact opposite of LSU.

T27. Wichita State +6000 (FFI: 46)

I’d probably buy stock on the Shockers next season, but the scoring just isn’t there yet. Best win on the season is probably at home against Oklahoma.

Highly Undervalued

T19. Michigan +4000 (FFI: 8)

I know most of you reading this probably don’t read the Big Ten blogs, but I think I’ve mentioned Isaiah Livers in all of them despite him missing eight of nine straight Big Ten games. Looking at the two games he’s played in his return, you can see the importance of his presence. Seeding may be their biggest hurdle when tournament time comes, based on the hit their resume has taken without Livers.

T24. Texas Tech +5000 (FFI: 14)

Defense is the first thing you think of with a Chris Beard team, but they’re quietly the most efficient offense in Big 12 play. Freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey has been excellent lately and Chris Clarke is probably the best passing “big man” in the country. I trust Chris Beard in March about as much as anybody.

T27. Colorado +6000 (FFI: 16)

I love the Buffs and will be pulling for them in March, but last night’s Oregon game is a good example of why it’s hard to trust them. It’s a really experienced group, but how many games have they played that have had much riding on the line? They turned into a puddle when things got hairy in Eugene.

T37. BYU +8000 (FFI: 13)

I’m not here to encourage that you bet on BYU to win it all, but based on their likely seed (7-10 range), a Sweet 16 bet when the bracket comes out should be under consideration. They can score with the best of them. They’ve hit double-digit threes in six straight games at a 49% clip.

Irrelevant

T24. Memphis +5000 (FFI: N/A)

There’s still time to make the tournament, but a missed opportunity to get a win at Cincinnati on Thursday night was a killer.

34. North Carolina +6600 (FFI: N/A)

Cole Anthony coming back was supposed to be the spark, but they’re 0-4 since his return and two of the opponents were BC and Wake Forest.

T35. Tennessee +7000 (FFI: N/A)

A full-strength Vols team probably makes the cut, but that hasn’t been the case for a long time.

T37. Harvard +8000 (FFI: N/A)

I’m always perplexed by Ivy League teams that aren’t very good being up here. The Crimson have lost to Brown, Princeton, and Penn in three of their last four games.

T42. Cincinnati +10000 (FFI: N/A)

Even if all the conference tournaments went the right way, Cinci would still be a maybe on making it as an at-large team right now. They’re not bad, but losses to Tulane, Colgate, and Bowling Green are not a good look.

T42. UConn +10000 (FFI: N/A)

UConn’s been highly competitive regardless of opponent or venue in AAC play, but they haven’t been able to pull off enough wins.

T42. Minnesota +10000 (FFI: N/A)

No bubble team will have more opportunities to change their fortune than the Gophers.

T42. Mississippi State +10000 (FFI: N/A)

The win at Florida was big, but the Bulldogs probably need to keep winning on the road to get back into serious contention to make the field.

T42. NC State +10000 (FFI: N/A)

Two straight road wins for the Wolfpack have inched them back into the conversation, but it feels like they need a signature victory to get in the field. On a related note, they have home games with Duke and Florida State next week.

T42. Penn +10000 (FFI: N/A)

Not even a lock to make the Ivy League Tournament, so.

T42. Utah State +10000 (FFI: N/A)

They’re starting to come on lately. A team to watch during conference tournament season. If they steal the MWCT from San Diego State, that’s bad news for the other bubble teams.

T42. Liberty +10000 (FFI: N/A)

The A-Sun tournament is looking tougher for them to win every day.

 

2019-20 Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8

 

1. Maryland (KP: 8 / BM: 2 seed)

I tweeted on Friday night after Maryland won at Illinois that it felt like they had just won the Big Ten. That was probably an early declaration with eight games left on their schedule and the way this league has consistently flipped in a week’s time, but the Terps have been the one team in the league where you feel like you know what you’re going to get.

I don’t think this is probably the most talented team of the Mark Turgeon era in College Park, but it’s inarguable that its his best team at not beating itself. All of the focus is on the win at Illinois, but this point was most apparent at home against Rutgers. They struggled to score, but they didn’t turn the ball over too much, made free throws, didn’t send Rutgers to the line, and rebounded well enough.

Really good teams win even when they don’t have much going for them offensively and that was what Maryland showed Tuesday. Friday in Champaign showed what Maryland can be at its best, which is a great team.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Michigan State

2. Penn State (KP: 14 / BM: 4 seed)

I thought it was criminal that Penn State wasn’t even mentioned among the Top 19 teams that the selection committee revealed on Saturday. The one knock on Penn State’s resume is a two-point neutral site loss to Ole Miss back in November. The final score was the only lead Ole Miss had all game and Penn State was dominating for most of the game. They Nittany Lions are essentially being punished for six bad minutes in November and the fact that they’re Penn State basketball, which carries way less weight than some teams seeded above them.

Anyway, Penn State basketball won at Michigan State – who was seeded above them – this week and as I was watching them, I didn’t even feel like the Nittany Lions played that well in the second half. Penn State played smarter and tougher than MSU in the Breslin Center and that is quite the sentence to write.

Almost more impressive than the win in East Lansing was that they showed no letdown over the weekend against Minnesota, even without Myreon Jones in the lineup.

This week: at Purdue, home for Northwestern

3. Illinois (KP: 27 / BM: 7 seed)

It’s been a tough couple of games for the Illini, but it’s worth noting that a team like Maryland is a less than ideal matchup for Illinois. To score on Maryland, you pretty much have to be able to shoot efficiently outside because their interior defense is so good. That’s not Illinois. Maryland’s also one of the few teams in the league that has the driving ability and shooting ability to break down the Illinois defense, especially on the road.

So while the Illini stock appears to be declining, they’ve got a great chance to get back on track this week with another marquee win over Michigan State in Champaign and can double up by pulling out yet another road win against a Rutgers team that seems to be trending down.

This week: Michigan State at home and Illinois on the road

4. Purdue (KP: 13 / BM: 9 seed)

Call it a homer pick to have them this high, but they’ve now beaten the #5 and #6 teams in the rankings by a combined 65 points in their two meetings. Yes, both were in Mackey. But the biggest knock on Purdue has been that they have been bipolar in their home/road splits, but that’s slowly been changing and now the Boilers have pulled two straight out on the road.

Not only have they won two straight on the road, but the one this weekend at IU involved winning at one of the toughest environments in the league, winning a rivalry game, winning a rivalry game when both teams really needed it, and winning a rivalry game when the rival brings back their legendary coach for the first time in 20 years and so many legends that he coached. And they did it with relative ease.

The blowout of Iowa was impressive, but it’s the third or fourth time we’ve seen that from Purdue at home. The fact that they continued a similar level of offensive balance and steady shooting on the road a few days after the blowout indicates a potential outlook change for the rest of the season. We’ll see. It doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way.

This week: home for Penn State, at Ohio State

5. Michigan State (KP: 10 / BM: 5 seed)

The Spartans had a similar three-game losing streak at almost the exact same time last year and they responded by winning 14 of their next 15, winning a share of the regular season Big Ten championship, winning the Big Ten Tournament, and making the Final Four.

That’s the positive spin. The negative spin is that there weren’t many holes in the Spartans’ resume before that losing streak last year. This is not the first time there have been some doubts about this year’s Spartans.

I’ve said it multiple times now, but it just feels like a really top-heavy team right now. That Big Ten-winning, Final Four-making team last year had Aaron Henry as like the fifth option offensively. This year he’s the third option and I’m not sure that Henry has improved all that much. It’s also worth noting that even though he’s still a great player, Cassius Winston hasn’t been quite as effective this year for whatever the reason, and there are many legitimate ones, both on the court and off.

This week: at Illinois, home for Maryland

6. Iowa (KP: 18 / BM: 6 seed)

Credit to the Hawkeyes for responding to the midweek humiliation at Purdue by blowing the doors off of Nebraska. But with that said, the question remains: are we anywhere different than where we’ve always been with Iowa basketball under Fran McCaffery?

The superb offense remains, but so does the lackluster defense and so does the antics surrounding the head coach. The offense is elite, but if you can’t figure out a way to guard a guy like Evan Boudreaux – all due respect – you have some real problems when the games start to mean more.

Wednesday was a reminder of why McCaffery teams have never made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament and of why this team unfortunately may not be any different. This is a big week.

This week: at Indiana and Minnesota

7. Rutgers (KP: 33 / BM: 7 seed)

The Rutgers bandwagon is starting to lose quite a bit of steam, but I’m not ready to jump off yet. They played Maryland close in College Park, but it still resulted in a loss and still maintained a run of the Rutgers offense struggling away from Piscataway. It should also be noted that five of their seven worst defensive showings have been away from home.

That’s not surprising with a team that’s still pretty young, but after two losses and one of the two worst teams in the league coming to town, you’d expect them to respond in a big way. That didn’t happen. The Scarlet Knights were trailing for double digits most of the way Sunday night at home against Northwestern. Credit to them for rallying, but it wouldn’t have happened without the raucous RAC crowd and the Wildcats’ respectable commitment to melting down in the final minutes of a game.

Rutgers is still firmly in the tournament at this point, but they need to quit playing with fire or things will start to get anxious.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Illinois

8. Wisconsin (KP: 32 / BM: 8 seed)

Over the last six games or so, the Badgers have increased their reliance on perimeter shooting. For the first 18 games, their 3PA/Poss rate was 36%. Over the last six games, it’s been 44%. This is largely a result of losing Kobe King’s driving and mid-range game.

You saw the mixed results of this new “philosophy” this week. They went 7-29 from three at Minnesota and never had a chance at winning the game. They went 12-32 at home against Ohio State and never really had a chance at losing the game.

I don’t know how to feel about Wisconsin. After winning at Ohio State and Penn State early in the Big Ten season, they have the look of a team that’s going to have some severe home/road splits with the increased reliance on making perimeter shots.

This week: at Nebraska

9. Ohio State (KP: 11 / BM: 7 seed)

The Buckeyes got their best win in nearly a month-and-a-half with the victory in Ann Arbor, even though it wasn’t pretty. Kaleb Wesson, Duane Washington, and Kyle Young combined for 52 points and the rest of the team could only muster nine. But OSU also held Michigan to only 58 points on their home floor. It was reminiscent to the start of the year when they were dominating every opponent on that end of the court.

But it didn’t last long, as they gave up 1.15 points per possession to Wisconsin, which is a hell of a lot to give up to the defense-first Badgers.

This week: home for Rutgers and Purdue

10. Michigan (KP: 24 / BM: 8 seed)

The Wolverines went 1-1 in home games against their rival schools, but the win over MSU illustrated how much better they can be with Isaiah Livers back in the lineup.

Livers had played just over a half of basketball in the past 11 games, a stretch in which his team was just 5-6 without him.

Juwan Howard put Livers in the starting lineup and the junior responded with 14 points on 5-10 shooting, 4 rebounds, a couple of blocks, and a steal.

Livers wasn’t the only one that played well. In fact, nearly every Wolverine played well. Guys like Jon Teske and Eli Brooks struggled to shoot the ball, but combined for 17 rebounds. Zavier Simpson was excellent offensively and played a huge part in making Cassius Winston an inefficient, high-volume shooter. The list goes on and on.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Indiana

11. Minnesota (KP: 31 / BM: First Four Out)

The home blowout of Wisconsin made for a good day for the Gophers, but if they’re going to get an NCAA Tournament bid, Minnesota really needs to string a few wins together. They’ve only won three games in a row once this season and are sitting at an overall record of 12-11.

Now’s a good time to start.

This week: home for Iowa

12. Indiana (KP: 45 / BM: 11 seed)

The only game this week was the aforementioned State of Indiana basketball reunion in Bloomington on Saturday. The way the current Hoosiers played, it was almost as if no one told them that it was a big deal and they should at least pretend to care.

Just a couple of weeks ago, IU was rolling against Maryland and looking like they might contend for the top of the conference. Since they blew that lead against the Terps, it’s been all downhill. They need to turn things around quickly because four of the next six are on the road.

13. Northwestern (KP: 117 / BM: N/A)

They almost won again, so they move up in the highly competitive 13/14 debate.

This week: home for Michigan, at Penn State

14. Nebraska (KP: 138 / BM: N/A)

Losers of eight straight.

This week: at Maryland, home for Wisconsin

2019-20 Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 7

Contenders

1. Illinois (KP: 24 / BM: 6 seed)

It wasn’t a pretty week for the Illini, but they remain on top due to their road wins so far this year. They grinded out the win over Minnesota, but it showed once again that physical, more athletic teams can cause some issues for the Illini offense. Luckily, they can do the same to those opponents at the other end.

While they had a better showing against Iowa, defensively they couldn’t match up. The Hawkeyes were able to spread them out and beat them inside and out with all of their skill.

But we’ve gone way too long now without mentioning the greatest streak going in basketball right now. Da’Monte Williams has started nine straight games, averaged 19 minutes a game, and has scored a grand total of zero (0) points. He’s only attempted 12 shots in that time frame. Talk about commitment to your role.

This week: home for Maryland

2. Maryland (KP: 10 / BM: 3 seed)

You could reasonably make an argument for any of the Top 3 teams to be #1 and Maryland’s might be that they’ve been the steadiest team from the beginning of the year until now and they’ve got the most rock-solid resume in the league.

The 82 points obviously stood out in their bout with Iowa this week and Anthony Cowan played probably his best game of the season, perhaps his career.

But he may not have even been the best player on the floor for the Terps as Jalen Smith decidedly won the matchup with POY favorite Luka Garza (who won the matchup in Iowa City).

Smith had 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks in 38 minutes, while helping to get Garza in foul trouble and keeping him off the floor for 16 minutes. Garza still got 21 points (still below his average), but only had 4 rebounds.

This week: home for Rutgers, at Illinois

3. Michigan State (KP: 9 / BM: 4 seed)

The Spartans did what you’d expect to Northwestern in East Lansing, but they once again came out flatfooted on the road. Tom Izzo’s group fell behind by 19 at Wisconsin before rallying to nearly win in Madison, but ultimately falling short.

There’s no shame in losing at the Kohl Center, but…there’s a little shame in going down 19 when Brad Davison was suspended and Kobe King had just quit the team.

There were some odd things about that game, however. I’m fairly confident that Xavier Tillman won’t miss that many bunnies around the rim again in a game. Also, apparently Gabe Brown was ill and was limited to just 3 minutes.

But still, Aaron Henry still seems to be in a bit of a funk and the bench – outside Rocket Watts – still isn’t giving them much.

The team who proves itself the most on the road is going to win the league and MSU has failed to prove they’re going to be that team this year.

This week: home for Penn State, at Michigan

4. Iowa (KP: 13 / BM: 5 seed)

The Hawkeyes lost at Maryland, but still were in it nearly the whole way despite Luka Garza struggling with foul trouble. Sunday showed that a physical force in the middle like Kofi Cockburn doesn’t mean Luka Garza still isn’t going to get his. Luka hit a career-high four threes and still led the Hawks with 25 points.

It wasn’t Joe Toussaint’s best week, but Iowa’s backcourt is pretty solid evidence that you can win with young guards, even when they don’t have the flashiest recruiting rankings. Toussaint is a true freshman and was ranked 293rd in 247’s composite rankings with Iowa being his only high-major offer.

His backcourt mate – CJ Fredrick – was 242nd in the rankings a couple of years ago. Fredrick is third on the team in scoring with 11.6 PPG and proof that maybe you can in fact improve by redshirting and not playing in games for a full year.

This week: at Purdue, home for Nebraska

Sleepers

5. Penn State (KP: 16 / BM: 6 seed)

Pretty damn good week for the Nittany Lions. They were in complete control at home against IU despite a somewhat underwhelming scoring night. Maybe the most important stat of the game was that Penn State only allowed IU to shoot 10 free throws, a place the Hoosiers live.

There was no sign of a letdown/look-ahead spot for the Lions when they went to Nebraska, as they blew the doors off the Huskers in Lincoln.

Penn State isn’t the sexiest team in the league – it’d help if they got more fan support – but they’re a Micah Potter white-hot performance away from being a half game out of first place.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Minnesota

6. Rutgers (KP: 29 / BM: 7 seed)

Despite a poor rebounding performance and an out-of-left-field 19 points from Jahaad Proctor, the Scarlet Knights were able to hold off Purdue’s rally during the week.

For someone who’s a diehard Purdue fan and also a huge fan of Steve Pikiell, this was a poignant moment. Four years ago in the last year of the dreadful, sobering, downright pathetic era of Eddie Jordan coaching Rutgers basketball, Purdue won at the RAC by FIFTY (50) points. Their 11th man had a double-double. Their not-good point guard had 7 offensive rebounds, 7 of the 27 they had as a team.

Flash forward four years and I entered the same game between the same two programs and I just assumed Purdue was going to lose and was somewhat surprised they had a chance at the end.

This Boiler team isn’t as good as that one a few years ago, but they’re still a bubble team. It’s much more of a credit to just how far Rutgers has come as a program in Pikiell’s four years.

No, they didn’t play well Saturday against Michigan, but the fact it only mildly impacted Rutgers’ solid NCAA Tournament resume is why Pikiell will have my nonexistent Coach of the Year vote in March.

This week: at Maryland, home for Northwestern

A Jumbled Mess of Sometimes Good, Sometimes Terrible, Often Mediocre Teams

I’ve decided there’s no way you can differentiate between these six teams, so I’ve decided to be a coward and put them all in a tie and order them alphabetically. If you just rank them by recent performances, you’re almost guaranteed to look stupid in a week’s time.

T7. Indiana (KP: 41 / BM: 10 seed)

Indiana looks bad right now because they just played two road games against two good teams, but they’re about to play two home games and there’s a decent chance they win both.

The fabric of IU this year has basically been getting a ton of rebounds and shooting a bunch of free throws. They didn’t get the free throws at Penn State and didn’t win the rebounding battle at Ohio State and they both resulted in a loss.

The concerning thing for the Hoosiers is that both of those things can carry over to the road, but they haven’t really translated consistently.

This week: home for Purdue

T7. Michigan (KP: 25 / BM: 8 seed)

Things were looking a little bleak heading into last week, but suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly things are looking like they might be turning around.

The unexpected part was due to the Wolverines playing both games away from Ann Arbor, Isaiah Livers still being out, and Zavier Simpson still facing suspension.

The Wolverines ended the week with two wins, one on the road and one “neutral” game that was considered a “home” game for UM despite them playing a New Jersey team in NYC.

Simpson is also now back. I always love to see the reactions when an indefinite suspension lasts only one game. It exposes those who don’t have great control of the English language, specifically the difference in the terms “indefinite” and “infinite.” Couple key letters in there.

In more good, less condescending news, Brandon Johns has now scored 14+ in three of the last four games. He didn’t reach that mark in his first 44 career games.

This week: home for Ohio State and Michigan State

T7. Minnesota (KP: 38 / BM: First Four Out)

The Gophers were within one with less than two minutes to go at Illinois, but couldn’t finish the deal. It’s far from time to panic for Minnesota, but every close road loss feels like a major missed opportunity to score a resume win in this league. That one might’ve been at the top of the page at season’s end.

They need Marcus Carr to get out of this mini-slump he’s been in and really need Payton Willis to get healthy. I’ve written before about the needed growth from players not named Oturu and Carr. Willis is one of the most important on the team. He started the season as one of the most productive players, but lost time due to injury has kind of derailed his season.

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Penn State

T7. Ohio State (KP: 12 / BM: 7 seed)

The Buckeyes played their best game of 2020 with a rather easy win over IU at home, despite DJ Carton taking some time off for his mental health.

Winning two games in a row is great, but the best part might be how well Justin Ahrens has played in those two games, with back-to-back double-figure scoring efforts.

Which brings us to our next fun stat of the week: it’s only the second and third time Ahrens has scored in double figures in his career. The only other time?

*checks notes*

*checks notes again*

*checks multiple box scores to confirm this is actually true*

It’s true. The only other time in the previous 39 games of his career that Justin Ahrens had scored in double figures was against Iowa last year…who went to the NCAA Tournament…and Ahrens scored TWENTY-NINE (29) points. He scored 85 in the other 38 games.

This week: at Michigan and Wisconsin

T7. Purdue (KP: 28 / BM: 11 seed)

Purdue has now at least reached the stage where they play well in at least some stretch of their road games. They made it a game late in Piscataway, but were down 17 at one point. They really didn’t play well for nearly 37 minutes in Evanston, but were able to pull things out with a great 3.5 minutes to finish.

I don’t know, man. The same team doesn’t show up twice in a row. Jahaad Proctor came out of nowhere with 19 at Rutgers, then stunk again at NW before hitting one of the biggest shots of the game. Eric Hunter was the steadiest guy all year, hit a slump, got benched, and played well on Saturday. Isaiah Thompson has scored in double figures many times this year, but never even close to twice in a row.

I could go on. It’s the whole team.

This week: home for Iowa, at Indiana

T7. Wisconsin (KP: 30 / BM: 8 seed)

Drop three of four, have Kobe King quit, have Brad Davison get suspended, beat Michigan State. The natural order of things, obviously.

You got to see both sides of the Badgers offensively. The first half displayed the team that looks pretty damn good when everybody’s making shots, even without two of their best shot-makers, previously.

The second half displayed a team that goes nearly seven minutes without scoring, stops making shots, can’t get run-outs, and can’t get any second chance opportunities.

But the entire game showed that the Badgers can hold one of the league’s best offenses to just 63 points, which is why they’re comfortably in the tournament at the moment.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Ohio State

The Cellar

13. Nebraska (KP: 136 / BM: N/A)

This was always going to be a rough season for Nebraska, but it’d be nice if the bright spots at least stayed bright. Cam Mack shines, but unfortunately he seems to have a punctuality problem. Mack had 19 points and 9 assists against Michigan, but was late again for a team function and didn’t start against PSU. He responded with his worst game of the season: 0 points and 3 turnovers.

This week: at Iowa

14. Northwestern (KP: 120 / BM: N/A)

The Wildcats deserved the win on Saturday against Purdue, but folded in the last 3.5 minutes and let another one slip away.

In better news, Jared Jones appears to be getting better, another good sign for the youth movement in Evanston.

This week: at Rutgers

 

2019-20 Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 6

I finally decided to actually rank the teams myself now that we’re about halfway through and we’re starting to develop a hierarchy. KenPom ranking and current Bracket Matrix projections in parentheses.

1. Illinois (KP:  22 / BM: 6 seed)

It’s obviously somewhat controversial to put the Illini in pole position over Michigan State given that the Spartans beat Illinois by 20 in East Lansing. But since that game, Brad Underwood’s group have rattled off six straight wins and included in that stretch is road wins at Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan. The Illini will get their chance at retribution over the Spartans in a couple of weeks when MSU visits Champaign.

The Illini picked up two of those road wins this week and they did it with Alan Griffin playing all of three minutes. Griffin is one of the best players in the league that comes off the bench and on more than one occasion has been the catalyst for wins.

Once thought to be a lottery pick last year, Ayo Dosunmu had fallen off so much that it was a question of whether he would even be drafted were he to leave after this year. The consistency concerns are fair enough and the outside shooting hasn’t been ideal. But when Ayo is good, he’s one of the best. His last five games: 19.2 PPG, 54% FG, 40% 3FG, 95% FT, 5.0 RPG, and 5.4 APG.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Iowa

2. Michigan State (KP:  7 / BM: 3 seed)

Long thought to be the favorite in the conference, the questions were starting to mount on whether the Spartans were just like everybody else with their road struggles. They were beaten on the glass in Bloomington and were fortunate that the game was winnable late due to IU’s struggles from the free throw line.

But the Spartans showed a champion’s mindset by bouncing back with one of their best performances of the season on Sunday at Minnesota.

Tom Izzo sent a message to his team by giving freshmen Rocket Watts and Malik Hall the start in Minneapolis. Watts played his third straight game without a turnover and added 10 points. Hall went 3-3 from the field, 1-1 from the free throw line, and added six rebounds, three of them offensive. Aaron Henry didn’t get the start for the first time in 35 games and Marcus Bingham didn’t get his start for the first time in 15 games and only played five minutes.

We’ll see how all four guys respond going forward because you would think the lineup stays the same after the way they played Sunday.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Wisconsin

3. Maryland (KP:  10 / BM: 4 seed)

A potentially disastrous week turned in to a great one for the Terps. Maryland was down 15 at one point to Northwestern and down six with less than a minute-and-a-half to Indiana. They won both. On the road.

This is obviously a big coup for the Terps, but fantastic finishes are often necessary because of deficiencies elsewhere. For starters, you should probably never be down 15 to Northwestern if you want to be a real contender for the Big Ten title and you also don’t want to squander a 14-point lead at Indiana – one of the toughest venues to win in the league – and nearly blow the best road game Maryland has played this year.

But all the credit goes to Maryland for making the plays they had to and they scored two road wins and are now just one game outside of the conference lead about halfway through.

Jalen Smith kind of finished ugly with the postgame antics at IU, but it seemed out of character for him and it doesn’t take away that he was PHENOMENAL this week. He averaged 27 and 11 on 63/55/88 shooting and added three blocks and three steals.

This week: home for Iowa

4. Iowa (KP:  14 / BM: 5 seed)

Iowa held home court this week and – no surprise – it was on the back of Luka Garza, who had 49 points, 31 rebounds, and seven blocks in the two games this week.

That last figure – the blocks – is probably the biggest difference in Garza this year. In 22 Big Ten games played last year, Garza registered a block in only seven (7) of them. He’s now recorded a block in his last eight Big Ten games and averaged 2.0 in that stretch. He also hasn’t been charged for more than three fouls in the same stretch.

It was two home wins this week for the Hawkeyes and it wasn’t the prettiest, but they also came against two of the more defensive-minded teams in the league.

This week: at Maryland and home for Illinois

5. Rutgers (KP:  26 / BM: 7 seed)

Even though they lost at Iowa, the competitiveness of the Scarlet Knights once again showed that they’re not just a good team at the RAC. The middle of the second half was less than ideal at home against Nebraska, but Rutgers pulled it out late.

I guess in hindsight, the lull at home was fairly predictable on Saturday. Rutgers was ranked for the first time in forever, they played well Wednesday at Iowa and lost, and they were coming home – where they’ve dominated – and they were expected to roll, a position this program hasn’t been in very often. They got out to a sizable lead and relaxed a bit.

But even in the struggle to put Nebraska away, I came away impressed with Rutgers. Ron Harper scored 29 at Iowa and then could only muster two on Saturday. But Akwasi Yeboah – the Stony Brook transfer – stepped up with a season-high 20 points. Also, Geo Baker, who’s still trying to get right after his injury, hit the game-winner.

I’ve said it but I’ll say it again, Rutgers…RUTGERS…is one of the deepest teams in the league.

This week: home for Purdue, Michigan in NYC

6. Penn State (KP:  24 / BM: 6 seed)

Well, the only game of the week was a road win at Michigan in which they pretty much owned the game, so consider it a big success for the Nittany Lions.

Curtis Jones is far from a consistent player, but when he’s on, he wins games for Penn State and he did that up in Ann Arbor.

I don’t know how to evaluate Penn State offensively. Lamar Stevens and Myreon Jones are the consistent players in the rotation. Outside of that you just have a collection of guys that might score zero, might score 18, and not a lot of guys who give you a consistent 10.

They’re a hard read. Dangerous enough to beat anybody in the league and vulnerable enough to lose to anybody in the league, no matter the location.

This week: home for Indiana, at Nebraska

7. Indiana (KP:  38 / BM: 8 seed)

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell you what really happened at the end of that Maryland game that caused IU to let the lead slip away. News was just breaking that Kobe died and focus drifted away from the game. I’m sure whatever transpired was less than ideal.

What I do know is that the first 18.5 minutes of the second half were stellar for the Hoosiers after a lackluster first half. They also played a great game on Thursday at home against MSU.

It has to continue on the road, but you’ve started to see a bit of a transformation in the IU offense. After six straight games of not scoring a point per possession, they’ve now done it for three straight games. Obviously, freshman Jerome Hunter had his most productive game of the season against the Terps and it was a big boost. Armaan Franklin has also started to assert himself a bit after barely getting any minutes against OSU and Rutgers.

This week: at Penn State and Ohio State

8. Minnesota (KP:  39 / BM: 11 seed)

High peaks and low valleys for the Gophers this past week. On Thursday they scored a huge road win at Ohio State, who somehow still maintains high status in the NET rankings.

Unfortunately, Minnesota followed that up with a fairly non-competitive loss at home to Michigan State. It’s not a bad loss, but it’s certainly a missed opportunity for a team firmly on the bubble to pick up a Quad 1 win while in the friendly confines of Williams Arena.

The good thing for Minnesota is that they have two great players in Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr. The bad thing for Minnesota is that those two are now responsible for nearly 60% of the team’s scoring in league play. Obviously, they’ve shown they can win some games like that, but you also saw Sunday what can happen when one of those guys doesn’t play well. Carr went 3-14 and only scored 11 points. Gabe Kalscheur stepped up with 15, but outside of Carr, Kalscheur, and Oturu the Gophers only got seven points from the rest of the roster.

This week: at Illinois

9. Purdue (KP:  23 / BM: 11 seed)

Purdue does this cool thing where they only play in 2OT games or participate in a blowout, where they’ve been on each end of the blowout on multiple occasions recently.

True to form, they were blown out early this week (again by Illinois) and then blew out Wisconsin at home Friday. It’s hard to know what to expect with them.

This week dealt two surprises. The negative: apparently simply playing in Mackey Arena no longer means Purdue is going to win the game, as was thoroughly proven by Illinois, who bullied the Boilers in their own building.

Friday’s positive surprise: maybe Evan Boudreaux is back? The Dartmouth transfer started his Purdue career off with double-figure scoring efforts in six of his first eight games. That quickly faded and Boudreaux registered 11 DNPs last year, most of them healthy scratches.

This year hasn’t gone much better for him until he was a spark against MSU, knocking down three three-pointers. And after the blowout to Illinois, Matt Painter rewarded Boudreaux for his practice effort with a start against Wisconsin. Boudreaux responded with his first double-double as a Boilermaker.

This week: at Rutgers and Northwestern

10. Wisconsin (KP:  32 / BM: 8 seed)

Hard to imagine a worse week for the Badgers. Here’s a recap:

  • Lost by 19 at Purdue, a game in which they trailed by as many as 28
  • Kobe King surprisingly didn’t make the trip to Iowa because of “personal reasons”
  • Those “personal reasons” sound like his personal issues with the team
  • Micah Potter may have a serious injury
  • Brad Davison may be addicted to nut punches and will probably be reviewed for a possible suspension
  • The latest Davison cup check came at the worst possible time in the game
  • The Badgers blew a 12-point lead with 7 minutes left and lost at Iowa

Not an ideal time to play the conference leader.

This week: home for Michigan State

11. Ohio State (KP:  13 / BM: 8 seed)

I’m still dumbfounded by the steep decline in the Buckeyes’ season, but at least they were able to pull things out at Northwestern thanks to Justin Ahrens and DJ Carton making some big plays off the bench, while some of the more experienced guys continue to struggle with inconsistency.

I’m still not convinced the ship is turned back around just yet. In their last eight games, the only victories are against the two bottom teams in these rankings.

This week: home for Indiana

12. Michigan (KP:  30 / BM: 9 seed)

Michigan might’ve had a worse week than Wisconsin. To recap:

  • They kind of got blown out at home by Penn State
  • They got Isaiah Livers back for the Illinois game!
  • Livers re-aggravated his groin injury against Illinois
  • Ayo Dosunmu hit a contested game-winner for Illinois
  • The Wolverines have lost four straight
  • Team captain and point guard Zavier Simpson is now suspended indefinitely
  • UM is 0-5 in true road games and now have to try to win their most winnable road game left without Simpson and probably Livers

This week: at Nebraska, Rutgers in NYC

13. Nebraska (KP:  131 / BM: N/A)

After four of their last five were on the road, the Huskers head back home to play potential spoiler.

This week: home for Michigan and Penn State

14. Northwestern (KP:  113 / BM: N/A)

I don’t have much to say on the Cats. They’re not terrible, but pretty young and inexperienced. If you’re a Northwestern fan, you’re hoping this group of freshmen and sophomores grow together like the McIntosh/Law/Lindsay/Skelly/Pardon group did.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Purdue

2019-20 Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 5

This week’s cop out for ranking teams comes to you via the Bracket Matrix, which currently has TWELVE (12) Big Ten teams in it. That seems kind of unrealistic to maintain, but you never know. If everyone keeps beating Nebraska and Northwestern and wins their home games, all 12 will end up with a lot of quality wins.

1. Michigan State (BM: 3 seed)

In rather predictable fashion, the Spartans jumped all over Wisconsin on Friday night after four days off following last weekend’s blowout loss.

Maybe the most noteworthy aspect of the game is that Gabe Brown, Aaron Henry, and Rocket Watts all had efficient games and all three scored in double digits. It was made necessary due to the second straight poor outing from Cassius Winston offensively.

To me, that trio is the difference in determining just how far the Spartans are going to go this year. Winston will be fine. Xavier Tillman pretty much always gives them production. Besides Watts, the rest of the bench (and Marcus Bingham) aren’t ready to give them much in terms of scoring besides the occasional outburst.

If Brown, Henry, and Watts keep scoring like they did on Friday, they can contend for a national championship.

The Spartans currently hold the sole lead of the conference, but things are about to get a lot tougher for them. Eight of their remaining 13 games are on the road.

This week: at Indiana and Minnesota

2. Maryland (BM: 4 seed)

A pretty solid week for the Terps, but it could’ve been a great week if not for a very unfortunate set of back-to-back BLOB plays.

Even though the Terps couldn’t finish the job up in Madison, there were some positives. For starters, Anthony Cowan played his best road game in quite some time. Also, Aaron Wiggins went 3-6 from deep and carried the hot shooting over to the Purdue game at home.

Jalen Smith is also still very good at basketball.

Saturday was a good win for Maryland, but it did reaffirm a concerning trend with the offense. Before that first pair of Big Ten games in December, they were 7th in offensive efficiency. A month later before Big Ten play started up again, they were 22nd. As I write this a little over two weeks later, they’re 44th.

They started out on fire Saturday from three, scoring 28 points the first 12 minutes. But Purdue was able to make it a three-point game late because the Terps only managed 29 points over the remaining 28 minutes.

In Madison, they got 47 points from three guys. The rest of the team scored only seven on 14 shots.

An elite defense will allow Maryland to still win a lot of games, but if the offensive trend doesn’t flip, their ceiling is limited.

This week: at Northwestern and Indiana

5. Iowa (BM: 5 seed)

The Hawks were the big winner of the week with a relatively easy road win at Northwestern and the exciting victory at home Friday night over Michigan.

What an absolutely dominant year for Luka Garza. He scored 60 points this week on 20-32 shooting, 4-6 from three. He put up 77 points in two meetings with the Wolverines this year. He’s currently #1 in KenPom’s NPOY rankings.

I’ve always been a fan of Garza’s. He was good when he set foot on campus, but his toughness and intensity stood out that first year on a team that lacked both of those things. He has to be leading the country the last few years in number of bloody noses/lips/ears.

Garza isn’t necessarily doing anything different this year or been more efficient, other than I guess be a bit more aggressive – and most importantly – stayed on the floor. He’s playing more than 30 minutes per game. He’s also improved as a defender while at the same time stayed out of major foul trouble for the most part.

Speaking of defense, the Hawkeye team has quietly improved a decent amount lately. They’re not as consistent as they need to be, but they’ve moved up 54 spots in defensive efficiency rankings since they gave up 103 to Michigan in Ann Arbor. While you’d like them to be more consistent on that end of the floor, it’s a lot better than consistently sucking all the time like recent years.

This week: home for Rutgers

4. Ohio State (BM: 6 seed)

If there were any thoughts that the Nebraska game was a “get right” game, all those feelings were probably gone by halftime on Saturday. The Bucks were blown out by a Penn State squad that they had previously beaten by 32 a month-and-a-half ago.

I’m not sure what to say about the Buckeyes right now. Offense had been their issue, now they finally start scoring again – although they did most of their damage in Happy Valley after they were already down big – and then they give up 90 to the Nittany Lions.

The good news is they’ve got two very winnable games this week and they absolutely need them before this rough patch starts to define their season.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Northwestern

5. Michigan (BM: 6 seed)

The Wolverines lost their only game of the week at Iowa, but the offense continues to shine even with Isaiah Livers out. Livers is expected to return soon.

The 83 they scored in Iowa City was thanks in large part to the 25-piece Eli Brooks put up. Brooks has been the biggest revelation of the season for the Wolverines. He played in a lot of the games the last couple of years, but always just seemed to kinda be running around without ever doing much. This year Brooks has scored at least 24 on four different occasions. Consistency is the next step. He’s also only scored two points in three outings.

Besides, ya know, losing, the negative side is that the defense hasn’t been traveling very well for Juwan Howard’s team. Shooting comes and goes on the road, but the consistent lack of defense by Michigan on the road indicates that maybe they’re just not a good defensive team.

This week: home for Penn State and Illinois

6. Wisconsin (BM: 7 seed)

Brad Davison saved the week with two outstanding plays late to put Maryland away.  Davison is not a favorite of opposing fans, but even Minnesota fans had to tip the cap on the way he finished out that game.

It’s probably best not to put too much stock in the Friday night game in East Lansing. It’s hard enough to play Michigan State at the Breslin Center. Throw in four days of prep for Tom Izzo after they got their brains beat in the last game and it’s nearly impossible to win that game.

The big question right now: Can Greg Gard figure out a way to play Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter at the same time? The question exists because those two are undoubtedly among the five best players on the team and ideally you’d like to play your five best players at the same time.

It doesn’t seem very possible right now. Potter has been a big help offensively, but he just got benched at the end of the Maryland game because he was such a liability defensively. The offense would probably improve a little bit with both him and Reuvers on the floor, but a lot of teams in the league are going to exploit the hell out of a defense with the two of them together. Fours are way too versatile now.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Purdue

7. Rutgers (BM: 7 seed)

YOUR NATIONALLY RANKED RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

I have never been bashful about my love for the Steve Pikiell era at Rutgers and I feel nothing now but complete vindication. I love this team.

Geo Baker was back this week, but clearly not fully 100% and they still got two wins at the RAC.

A road trip to Iowa this week is a good test. It’s an elite offense on the road and we’ll see how elite the Scarlet Knight defense is away from the RAC.

This week: at Iowa, home for Nebraska

8. Penn State (BM: 8 seed)

It was an important week for Penn State and they responded in a big way. They didn’t end up pulling out the win at Minnesota, but it was a strong showing. They followed it up by running Ohio State out of the BJC.

Lamar Stevens gets all of the headlines for the Nittany Lions. He’s a good player, but flawed, and has essentially been the same guy for four years.

Myreon Jones is the best example of why Penn State is on pace to make the tournament for the first time in a while. Jones got spotty minutes as a freshman and didn’t exactly make the most of them. He shot less than 30%.

As a sophomore, Jones is the best offensive player on the team and the biggest reason why the Nittany Lions have made the jump from NIT bubble team to damn near tournament lock.

This week: at Michigan

9. Illinois (BM: 9 seed)

I always want to believe that this Illinois team is good, a dangerous threat to the best teams in the country and then they give up 1.16 points per possession at home to a Northwestern team that doesn’t even have one of their best offensive players. We’ll see how good they are this week.

This week: at Purdue and Michigan

10. Indiana (BM: 9 seed)

Any road win is a good win in this league and IU got one at Nebraska after the offense looked kind of dreadful at Rutgers. The win at Nebraska was huge because KenPom has them favored in only one of the next eight games they play. This week might set the tone for the rest of the season.

This week: Michigan State and Maryland at home

11. Purdue (BM: 11 seed)

I don’t know if Purdue is the most volatile home/road team or if it’s just because I watch every second of every Purdue game, but I feel like they are. No player epitomizes this better than Sasha Stefanovic. Here’s his home/non-home splits:

3PM 3PA 3P% PPG
Home 30 57 0.526316 13.8
Road/Neutral 10 42 0.238095 5.9

That’s a pretty staggering difference. This is not meant as a blaming of Stefanovic for Purdue’s struggles on the road. At least he’s good somewhere. Most of the team is inconsistent regardless of location or bad everywhere. Their only real hope as an offense is that SS figures it out away from Mackey Arena. I don’t think they can count on Nojel Eastern scoring 14 points everywhere, like he did at Maryland.

This week: home for Illinois and Wisconsin

12. Minnesota (BM: 11 seed)

I really want to believe in the Gophers, but it’s now mid-to-late January and their only win away from Williams Arenas is a neutral/pseudo road game with Oklahoma State, who has lost 8 of their last 10.

They honestly played a pretty good game at Rutgers for the most part with one big exception: you can’t give up 20 offensive rebounds.

Great opportunity this week to prove something.

This week: at Ohio State and home for Michigan State

13. Nebraska (BM: N/A)

Their only job is to not screw things up for the rest of the conference by stealing victories.

This week: at Wisconsin at Rutgers

14. Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Same.

This week: home for Maryland and Ohio State

OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED, OR PROPERLY VALUED 1.0: 2020 NCAA TOURNAMENT

Welcome to the first installment of the 2020 Overvalued, Undervalued, or Properly Valued series.

These rankings are based on the Final Four Index (FFI). The premise is ranking teams based on their similarities to the most successful tournament teams (those that reach the Final Four). The tournament is a different animal and the FFI measures teams in a tournament context and less so on a game-to-game basis like most analytical measures do.

This is an interesting year and may provide some opportunity where a darkhorse or longshot actually has a chance to win it all. The analytics match the narrative that there really aren’t any great teams this year. If you look at KenPom, this year’s best team (Kansas) would’ve ranked sixth last year. In the FFI, there are only two teams with a rating over 100 this year (although that will go up as teams’ SOS go up). There were nine last year.

Also, something worth noting this year: the national average for offensive efficiency is 101.2, the lowest in the history of KenPom’s website (est. 2002). It’s been at least 104 for the last six years.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but it seems that a lot of the reduction in offense can be attributed to the deeper three-point line. Teams are still taking a ton of them, but they made percentage is down over a full percent from last year and nearly two percent from 2018.

I say this because I adjusted the rankings last year to account for the three-point renaissance of 2014-2019 that resulted in quite a few teams bucking historical trends and riding threes to the Final Four.

Is that over now? Are three-heavy teams back to being stay-aways? I have no idea. Here’s the rankings.


Full disclosure: all of the data was gathered on Wednesday night and some teams have played twice since then. Things change. I only run data on teams that are seeded 1-11 on Bracket Matrix. Those teams were also picked Wednesday.

The odds were grabbed off of DraftKings on Thursday. What I didn’t know at the time is that DK doesn’t offer any odds on teams from New Jersey, so I grabbed those from Sportsbook.ag for Seton Hall and Rutgers.

The ranking on the left is based on where the odds suggest teams are ranked. The ranking in the parentheses are obviously the FFI.

Properly Valued

T2. Duke +1000 (FFI: 2)

The Blue Devils are the only current team that is Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Kansas is the only other team that is Top 20 in both.

Vernon Carey might be the National POTY, but riding a freshman big isn’t the easiest way to win a national title. They’ve got other talent, but they need their backcourt to be healthier than they have been lately.

T2. Kansas +1000 (FFI: 1)

As mentioned, the Jayhawks are the only other team to be Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency so far this season. They were able to survive the road trip to Oklahoma without Devon Dotson, but we’ve seen recently that they struggle when Dotson does. He’s struggled offensively a few times lately and it’s led to a 1-2 record and 55, 55, and 60 points scored as a team.

The good news is that this might be the best defensive team that Bill Self has ever had in Lawrence.

T5. Baylor +1500 (FFI: 6)

Resume-wise, the Bears might be the best team in the country. The lack of fanfare probably has a lot to do with several of their best players being low-profile transfers.

But it’s hard not to notice a team that rolled through Allen Fieldhouse about as easily as they rolled through a road game at Coastal Carolina.

In typical Scott Drew fashion, the Bears are almost over-reliant on second-chance opportunities on offense. But on the flip-side, this is the best defensive group he’s had.

T5. Michigan State +1500 (FFI: 3)

The flaws for the Spartans were clear to see a week ago at Purdue: this team really needs transition points to succeed and it’s also one of Tom Izzo’s worst shooting teams in a while.

But it’s still an Izzo team, which means they’ll be a tough out no matter what when it matters. They also have one of the best guards in the country in Cassius Winston.

T9. Butler +2000 (FFI: 12)

The Bulldogs have one of the most underrated backcourts in the country. Kamar Baldwin is one of the best guards in his own right, Aaron Thompson gives them another ball handler/driver/passer, and Sean McDermott is an elite shooter.

Defensively they’re very good, but a lack of a legitimate rim protector is noticeable and probably not a fixable problem. Derrik Smits will help some, though.

13. Auburn +2500 (FFI: 11)

A rather weak schedule the first two months revealed itself a bit with the back-to-back blowout road losses, but the Tigers are still a Final Four contender again. Last year’s offensive DNA – shooting threes whenever possible – hasn’t quite left this team, but if this team stopped settling so much, they’d be better off.

T15. Arizona +3000 (FFI: 15)

Not surprisingly, the young, talented Wildcats are a nightmare to deal with in Tuscon and pretty beatable anywhere else. It’s hard to take them too seriously until that trend starts to change.

T18. San Diego State +3300 (FFI: 20)

The Aztecs are the only unbeaten left and although the SOS isn’t very high, you can’t write them off as a mid-major pretender, especially this year. They already have three wins over teams who are likely (as of now) to earn at-large bids to the tournament and all three of those wins were away from their home floor.

T21. Florida State +4000 (FFI: 17)

It’s a pretty typical Florida State team. They’ve kinda quietly only lost two games and played the majority of their toughest opponents away from Tallahassee.

23. Penn State +4500 (FFI: 27)

The Nittany Lions are like a lite version of a Final Four team. They’re decent on each end of the floor, but aren’t great at either. They haven’t shown much away from home since November. They’ll have plenty of opportunities though in the Big Ten.

T26. Colorado +6000 (FFI: 22)

I love the Buffs and they’ve started to improve on two of their biggest offensive flaws: turnovers and scoring inside.

T26. LSU +6000 (FFI: 28)

Our first half-team of the blog. An elite offense, but one of the worst defenses you’ll see in this list. Not the most impressive resume at the time right now.

T26. Marquette +6000 (FFI: 32)

We go from a half-team to a largely one-man offense in Markus Howard. He’s enough to scare a 1 seed in a second round matchup, but it’s been proven over his career that the best teams usually find a way to overcome Howard’s prowess on a neutral floor.

T26. Purdue +6000 (FFI: 31)

One of the best defenses in the nation, but a frequently miserable offense away from Mackey Arena. Realistically, the first weekend is probably their ceiling, if they make the tournament at all.

T39. Indiana +8000 (FFI: 44)

Same conference, same state, and the same issues scoring away from their home floor.

T39. VCU +8000 (FFI: 40)

I don’t go through every team sheet, but I’m having a hard time figuring out why VCU would even be in the tournament right now. That’s a lot of weight on narrowly beating a pretty mediocre LSU team at home two months ago.

T46. Oklahoma +10000 (FFI: 46)

Just lost by 14 at home against Kansas without Devon Dotson, so I’m having a hard time picturing it.

T61. Georgetown +12500 (FFI: 43)

Just making the tournament would be an accomplishment for the Hoyas.

T61. Virginia Tech +12500 (FFI: 45)

Would probably be a pleasant surprise just to make the dance in Mike Young’s first year after they lost just about everything off last year’s rotation.

Slightly Overvalued

1. Gonzaga +900 (FFI: 5)

No surprise the Zags are one of the best teams in the country again, but putting them as the slight “favorite” over the rest of the country is probably a bit too far. Most years, they wouldn’t be good enough defensively yet, but who knows this year? They’ve got a really diverse offense, length, and a really solid eight-man rotation. But the annual question remains: can Killian Tillie stay healthy?

T5. Ohio State +1500 (FFI: 10)

The offense is slowly melting off the map and it’s resulted in losing five of six. That blowout road win at UNC put them on the national map in early December, but obviously that’s lost a lot of luster in 45 days.

T24. Florida +5000 (FFI: 39)

Florida does seem to be trending up. The offense has been good for six straight games and it’s not just one guy. They’re getting contributions everywhere and it seems to be a different guy starring every night. Worth keeping an eye on.

T24. Texas Tech +5000 (FFI: 37)

Last year this time they were in the “Highly Overvalued” category because their offense was pretty awful. It got a lot better and they nearly won a national title. They need a similar transformation.

T26. Creighton +6000 (FFI: 36)

Creighton can score, but can’t defend. The story of the Greg McDermott era. It’s a fun era, for the record.

T26. Houston +6000 (FFI: 35)

This is a bit of a rebuilding year for Kelvin Sampson. Last year’s team was a legitimate contender to make the Final Four. This year’s team probably isn’t because they have too many defensive lapses, but they’re an exceptional rebounding team when you consider they don’t start a single guy over 6’7″. I’d buy stock in the 2021 Cougars.

T26. Wichita State +6000 (FFI: 38)

I write this as I watch them complete a 25-point first half at home against Houston. A half that kind of summarizes what their issues are going forward. Right now the Shockers need defense to create offense for them and it’s tough sledding if they don’t get out in transition.

T26. Xavier +6000 (FFI: 41)

They’re not very good right now.

Slightly Undervalued

T26. Iowa +6000 (FFI: 18)

Defense does not live in Iowa, but the Hawkeyes can score any way you want it. They don’t seem to miss Jordan Bohannon much, which isn’t all that surprising, given that he was a sieve defensively and they’ve got enough skill to score a ton. It also helps that Luka Garza has turned into one of the favorites to win Big Ten POTY.

T39. Saint Mary’s +8000 (FFI: 25)

Hard disagree with the rankings, but whatever. They’ve recently lost to Pacific and Santa Clara.

T39. Wisconsin +8000 (FFI: 26)

Adding Micah Potter a month ago may be a difference maker for the Badgers. Scoring was a big issue and adding a guy that can make threes, free throws, and buckets down low is a shot in the arm. Another team worth tracking.

T46. Stanford +10000 (FFI: 33)

The Cardinal are quite an interesting case study in analytics. They’re 15-3, but they’ve played a horrible schedule. Their offensive EFG% is 4th in the country, but somehow only have the 97th best adjusted offense. Usually there’s a pretty strong correlation between the two. The disparity is partly due to the schedule, partly due to the lack of second chances they give themselves, and partly due to their frequency of never giving themselves a first chance (they turn it over a lot).

On the flip side – in spite of the bad schedule – Stanford still ranks 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

60-ish. Rutgers +12500 (FFI: 29)

Laugh if you want, but Rutgers is probably going to comfortably make the tournament this year and they’re bringing their elite defense with them. The Scarlet Knights are clearly much better at home, but they’ve got enough guard talent to make things scary for a high seed in a potential second round matchup.

T61. BYU +12500 (FFI: 21)

They really need Yoeli Childs back to really be a factor, but we champion any team that launches threes and makes 40% of them.

T69. Illinois +15000 (FFI: 34)

As soon as I start to think Illinois might actually be pretty good, they struggle to put away Northwestern and Rutgers in back-to-back home games.

Highly Overvalued

T2. Louisville +1000 (FFI: 13)

As I begin to write this, they’re up six at Duke with four minutes to go, but whatever. Things are always fluid. They have just recently struggled with Notre Dame and Pitt in addition to getting semi-blown out by Florida State and Texas Tech.

Some people love them, but aside from a home win over Michigan, their best win is probably that road trip to Notre Dame.

Update: The just won at Duke, which makes the timing of this blog very unfortunate. In defense of the rankings, David Johnson was averaging 3.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.2 BPG, and 0.1 SPG heading into the game and he put up 19, 4, 7, 2, and 3. That helps.

8. Oregon +1600 (FFI: 16)

And the numbers were compiled before they lost by double digits to Wazzu and snuck out a minor miracle against shorthanded Washington after trailing by 16.

I don’t have a lot of trust in the Ducks. They’ve been down big – or at least double digits -and come back to make it a tight game or led big and had to hold on for dear life in almost every notable game they’ve played. Plus, they’ve lost to Wazzu and UNC.

They have talent, but it doesn’t feel like a national championship team to me.

T9. Maryland +2000 (FFI: 19)

The Terps have talent, but they haven’t done anything on the road yet and the only semi-impressive neutral site win was Marquette. Anthony Cowan is a great guard and he’s had a fantastic career, but it’s been a while since he’s played six really good games in a row.

T11. Kentucky +2200 (FFI: 23)

The Cats are good, but they have one very obvious limitation that’s pretty important in modern basketball: shooting. Cal’s teams are usually growers and not showers, so I’ll hold much judgement for at least another month.

T11. Villanova +2200 (FFI: 24)

The personnel has changed, but the analytical breakdown is nearly a carbon copy of last year. Nobody likes being overrated, but I think Villanova fans can sleep fine at night knowing it’s because they won two titles in three years recently.

14. Virginia +2800 (FFI: 42)

This is the epitome of the natty boost because the Cavalier offense is A-T-R-O-C-I-O-U-S. ATROCIOUS.

T15. Memphis +3000 (FFI: 30)

The Memphis odds were really inflated before the season when they still had James Wiseman and they’re still not at an adequate level. They still haven’t beat anyone noteworthy this year.

Highly Undervalued

T15. Michigan +3000 (FFI: 4)

This isn’t a hill I particularly want to die on, but all six of their losses will likely end up in the Quad 1 variety and they beat the odds-on favorite by 18, so they’re not as bad as it may seem lately. A big reason for that is they’ve played the last six games without Isaiah Livers who’s their second-leading scorer and a 50% three-point shooter. Kind of a big piece.

15-ish. Seton Hall +3500 (FFI: 7)

The Pirates still don’t have Sandro Mamukelashvili and they’re still 6-0 in the Big East with the toughest Big East schedule so far, according to KenPom. Also, they have one of the best – the best? – players in the country in Myles Powell, one of those all-important guards people are always talking about in March. Romaro Gill was already one of the best defensive presences in the game and now he’s scored in double figures for five straight games. A team to watch, for sure.

T18. Dayton +3300 (FFI: 8)

Dayton is way too good to be anybody’s mid-major darling, but it’s still been 17 years since they’ve been above a 7 seed, which means you should still root for them. Obi Toppin gets all the headlines, but this is far from a one man team. The best of their resume is behind them, but you can still score some great wins on the road in the A-10.

T18. West Virginia +3300 (FFI: 9)

Good news, bad news on the Mountaineers. Bad news: you could’ve gotten a way better price before the season. Good news: The price is still too low and it may get better after they played like garbage at Kansas State on Saturday.

Fundamentally, the offense isn’t very good right now, but it’ll improve strides if they can just start taking care of the ball. Among major offensive problems, it’s probably the easiest fix. It really doesn’t take talent to change.

T36. Arkansas +7000 (FFI: 14)

I’m not all-in on the Hogs, but I also don’t want any part of betting against Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe. Two dudes that can go off at anytime. Joe attempts 11 threes a game, which is just the most preposterous stat I’ve come across this year.

Irrelevant

T21. North Carolina +4000 (FFI: NR)

LMAO

T26. Texas +6000 (FFI: NR)

Why is Texas overrated in every sport?

T36. Tennessee +7000 (FFI: NR)

Not even remotely a threat without Lamonte Turner.

T36. Washington +7000 (FFI: NR)

They were a bubble team before Quade Green was out.

T39. St. John’s +8000 (FFI: NR)

Worth noting: three of the four best St. John’s teams in this century were coached by Steve Lavin. They fired him after five years.

Also worth noting: the Red Storm have made the tournament three times since Mike Jarvis was fired. They’ve fired coaches after two of those appearances.

St. John’s is not made fun of enough for their incompetence.

T39. Utah State +8000 (FFI: NR)

Compared to some other bubble teams, I feel like the Aggies should be getting more attention.

T39. Liberty +8000 (FFI: NR)

I think Liberty is good again, but they’ve played a horrific schedule. They’re putting all their eggs in the A-Sun Tournament, I guess.

T46. Cincinnati +10000 (FFI: NR)

Gonna have to do a lot of damage this next month-and-a-half to get any at-large consideration.

T46. UConn +10000 (FFI: NR)

If “Coaches Yelling/Complaining/Completely Melting Down” was a requirement, the Huskies would be a lock for the tourney.

T46. Davidson +10000 (FFI: NR)

Low-key one of the biggest disappointments in CBB.

T46. Mississippi State +10000 (FFI: NR)

Not much to show on the resume so far, but Nick Weatherspoon might turn things around.

T46. Missouri +10000 (FFI: NR)

Between the Porters and Jeremiah Tilmon, it’s just been a series of very unfortunate injury situations for Cuonzo Martin since he started.

T46. NC State +10000 (FFI: NR)

There hasn’t been a good defensive team in Raleigh since Herb Sendek left.

T46. Notre Dame +10000 (FFI: NR)

Haven’t beat a team in KenPom’s Top 50 and they’ve lost to two outside of it.

T46. Oklahoma State +10000 (FFI: NR)

Good think Mike Boynton signed Cade Cunningham or this might be his last year.

T46. Utah +10000 (FFI: NR)

It’s a debate on whether they’re the third or fourth best team in the basketball hotbead of the state of Utah.

T46. Drake +10000 (FFI: NR)

They have to beat UNI for the MVC, which seems unlikely.

T46. Northern Iowa +10000 (FFI: NR)

The Panthers are legitimately good. The schedule hasn’t been very good, but they’re 16-2 and they were up 15 in both of their losses, including a neutral-site affair with WVU. Watch out for UNI.

T59. Texas A&M +12000 (FFI: NR)

This would’ve been a lot funnier a couple of weeks ago, but the Aggies are halfway decent now.

T59. USC +12000 (FFI: NR)

The new Big O is the only thing that keeps them respectable.

T61. Arizona State +12500 (FFI: NR)

Another Hurley that loses his mind without tangible improvement.

T61. Harvard +12500 (FFI: NR)

This should be Yale.

T61. Syracuse +12500 (FFI: NR)

A Syracuse team that can’t defend? Hard pass.

T61. UCLA +12500 (FFI: NR)

They’re 8-9.

T61. DePaul +12500 (FFI: NR)

Actually a team with some teeth on here. They’ve beaten four at-large teams already.

T69. Alabama +15000 (FFI: NR)

Getting better pretty quietly underneath Nate Oats.

T69. Georgia +15000 (FFI: NR)

Anthony Edwards is your only hope, but he’s shown he’s not nearly enough.

T69. Minnesota +15000 (FFI: NR)

Not horrendous.

T69. Ole Miss +15000 (FFI: NR)

Tyree is good.

T69. Penn +15000 (FFI: NR)

This should be Yale.

T69. Rhode Island +15000 (FFI: NR)

They can’t throw it in the ocean.

2019-20 Big Ten Power Rankings (Kinda): Week 4

I’m throwing in the towel. I have no idea how to possibly rank these teams this year and it’s for a good reason. Nearly all of them are good!

If I were to put together rankings – based on results, eye test, or a combination of both – anyone could easily poke holes in the order because at this point so much is uncertain and we have so much more to learn. A simple game using the transitive property leaves any set of rankings open to get bludgeoned.

In recent years, there’s been fairly clear tiers to the conference. There’s usually four of five tiers and the top tier has three or four teams, and a lot of times, the winner of the conference is just the one team in that top tier who plays the easiest schedule.

This year? Best of luck finding the tiers. 12 of the 14 teams are legitimately good and would either be in the NCAA Tournament today or would be one of the first few cut.

So I’m waving the white flag. I don’t really have a rankings. I’ll just let KenPom do it for me and I’ll provide the commentary.

Nothing better to show off the craziness of the league than pointing out KP ranks OSU second in the league (eighth in the country) and the Buckeyes are currently 1-4 in Big Ten play, tied for dead last. Also, all five teams who were ranked going into the weekend lost.

I know I used to have a segment in here about the five best games to watch this week. At times it was pretty difficult to find five games worthy of your time. Now? Just watch all of the games.

1. Michigan State (KP: 5)

It looked like the Spartans may have been separating themselves from the pack a bit, as they were on a three-game winning streak, winning each game by at least 16.

But it may have been a bit of fool’s gold. Home court advantage has never been more apparent in the league and MSU had played four of their first five at home, with the lone road game being a fairly tight game at last place Northwestern.

MSU is probably still the best team in the league, but Sunday showed that they’re not just going to waltz their way to another conference title. They’ve got eight more road games to go.

Tom Izzo teams have always been elite at getting out in transition, even after made buckets by an opponent. This team has done that more than ever, playing at the fastest pace by far of any Izzo team.

It’s worked well. They entered the game at Purdue as the most efficient offense in the country. But Sunday’s game showed what can happen if they aren’t able to get in transition and are forced to play in the half court. Purdue turned it over just six times and only a few were of the live-ball variety. It resulted in just four fast break points for the Spartans and a total of 42, 20 points below their previous season low.

This week: home for Wisconsin

2. Ohio State (KP: 8)

The Buckeyes might be the toughest team to pin down this year. The analytics love them and so did everybody else up until about two weeks ago.

The defense has been pretty great wherever they go, but offensively they’ve hit a slump. They’ve shown enough this year to make you think they can get out of it, but four straight games of poor outings does make you start to wonder.

For 12 games, they shot 41% from three and they were shooting a lot of them. The last four? Just 29% from distance. Turnovers have always been a bit of an issue, but that’s only amplified recently. Maybe the most telling statistic is that OSU is shooting just 37.6% from two-point range in these four straight losses. Obviously it’s just four games, but for context, the worst season-long two-point percentage in the country is 39.1%. Shout out to Alcorn State.

Working in OSU’s favor is that they’re about to hit probably the softest part of their conference schedule. Nothing is easy this year in the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes need to get right in these next five games.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State

3. Maryland (KP: 12)

The Terps have clearly solidified themselves as a great team in College Park, but the book is still out on them away from the Xfinity Center. They’re 0-3 in true road games, looking listless at Iowa, after trailing at Penn State nearly the whole way and losing at Seton Hall without the Pirates’ best two players earlier in the year.

A big part of that is Anthony Cowan really struggling to be efficient on the road the past couple of years. If that doesn’t change, it’s unlikely for the Terps to get a Top 2 or 3 seed in the tournament. But we’ve seen him do it before when he was an underclassmen.

Probably the bigger question is whether Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins can emerge from their shooting slumps and get closer to last year’s numbers when they were freshmen. The two of them shot a combined 41% from three-point range last year – at a high clip –  and are now shooting just 27%. Those guys are essentially shooting 1.4 more threes per game and making 14 percent less. Not ideal for efficiency.

This week: at Wisconsin and home for Purdue

4. Purdue (KP: 17)

What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, Purdue lost 63-37 to Illinois. The 37 points were the lowest total in 71 years for a Purdue team. Cut to a week later and Purdue wins 71-42 over Michigan State.

It goes without saying that the Boilers are neither as bad as they looked at Illinois or as good as they looked at home against MSU. The discrepancy between the two does loudly illustrate how different they can be depending on where they’re playing.

But it’s worth noting that Purdue did play a pretty good game start-to-finish at Michigan and probably should’ve won if they make just one more play in multiple key situations. But the asterisk on that one is that the Boilers got 36 points and 20 rebounds from Trevion Williams, which is not exactly something you can count on every night. The jury is still out on Road Purdue.

This will never be a great offensive team, but if the Boilers just start to get something from their role players on the road like they did against MSU, they can be a good one.

This week: at Maryland

5. Iowa (KP: 19)

Quite an interesting week for the Hawkeyes. It started with a dreadful outside shooting performance at Nebraska, which resulted in a loss against the Jervay Green-less Huskers. Iowa had incredible success inside, but still opted to shoot 33 three-pointers and only managed to make four (12%). It was the most efficient game from two-point range all season, yet they also set a new high for three-point attempts at the same time. Not ideal.

But the bounceback game in the form of a 67-49 win at home against Maryland was an impressive response. And they did it with defense. The Hawkeyes only shot 38% from the floor and had 18 turnovers, but they were responsible for the Terps worst offensive performance of the year. Add in the 44-32 advantage Iowa enjoyed on the glass and it was a rather gritty win, the type of win that there hasn’t been enough of in recent years in Iowa City.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Michigan

6. Michigan (KP: 21)

It’s hard to evaluate Michigan based on their recent results because they’re missing what might be the most important part of their offense in Isaiah Livers, who has taken nearly five three-pointers a game and hit half of them. Zavier Simpson makes the whole offense go, but Livers brings a different element.

It’s too early still to make judgments on Juwan Howard, but the Wolverines are clearly different than years past. Luke Yaklich’s presence helped make UM an elite defensive team after years of lackluster defense. The D has reverted back to its old ways without Yaklich and John Beilein, but there is a brisker pace in Ann Arbor under Howard and the offense has a ton of upside if they get back to full strength.

Their November isn’t what we thought it was when it was happening, but this is still a really good team that needs to get healthy. They’ve got upperclassmen leadership and underclassmen with a lot of skill.

This week: at Iowa

7. Wisconsin (KP: 22)

Around Thanksgiving time, the Badgers were horrible. They lost neutral-site games against Richmond and New Mexico, two teams unlikely to compete in their mid-major conferences. They also got blown out by NC State, who will likely miss the tournament.

That seems like a really long time ago now because Wisconsin has been great the past couple of weeks. They let a late lead slip away against Illinois, but they’re responsible for two of the five road wins in league play this year. They also added in a blowout at Tennessee. They’ve moved up 30 spots in KP’s rankings the last five games.

The shift has largely came defensively. This is never going to be a great offensive team and they already had a good defense, but they’ve been playing at an elite level the past couple of weeks.

Another factor is obviously the presence of Micah Potter, who was forced to sit out the first semester. Potter played his most minutes of the season (28) on Saturday at Penn State and here’s guessing he sees even more minutes soon. Potter thanked Greg Gard fot the additional PT by scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

This week: home for Maryland, at Michigan State

8. Illinois (KP: 29)

Somewhat under the radar, but the Illini picked up one of the biggest wins of the week when they snuck out a victory up in Madison. Illinois is not a good shooting team consistently, but they had an efficient night at Wisconsin and took care of the ball again, which is a big area of improvement recently.

It’s hard to overstate the impact Kofi Cockburn has had on this team as just a freshman. He’s helped them become an elite offensive rebounding team and kicked up both the interior offense and defense. His presence as a rim protector has helped them at all levels. Every guard on the team is fouling less this year and now opponents are shooting way less free throws per game than they were the past couple years. The guards aren’t gambling as much now for steals because they don’t have to. Credit to Brad Underwood for adapting his philosophy.

Shooting is holding them back from going up another level, but that can change. Both Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier have been reliable threats in the past couple of years. If those two get going from outside, this is a really dangerous team.

This week: home vs. Northwestern 

9. Rutgers (KP: 32)

I don’t know the entire history of Rutgers basketball, but this is by far the best team I’ve ever seen from the program. They’re legitimately good and I’m not even sure they’ve hit their peak yet. It physically pains me to think about how good they could’ve been if Eugene Omoruyi stuck around.

Rutgers has really struggled to shoot the ball (are you picking up this is a common thread in Big Ten basketball?), but best of luck trying to score on them in the half court, especially at the RAC. Myles Johnson has turned into a pretty damn good anchor to the back of the defense and is doing a much better job this year of staying out of foul trouble. It doesn’t hurt that he’s shooting 71% at the other end.

Keep in mind that since Big Ten play started up again, Geo Baker’s been out and they’re still playing this well. Ron Harper Jr. was really starting to figure things out at the end of last season and that’s carried over into this season.

And with Baker out, Texas transfer Jacob Young has really started to turn it on. Caleb McConnell has shown more than a handful of times that he can make a big impact on a game and Akwasi Yeboah has been a steady contributor as a grad transfer.

Rutgers has had one or two stars over the past few years, but not big enough of stars to make them truly competitive in the league. Steve Pikiell now has one of the deeper rotations in the league and it’s really starting to show up in the win column.

This week: home for Indiana and Minnesota

10. Indiana (KP: 33)

The Hoosiers narrowly avoided a bad loss against a shorthanded Northwestern team during the week, but responded nicely by putting away Ohio State late in the second half on Saturday and picked up a quality win in the process.

I feel like we still have a lot to learn about IU because they’ve spent so much time at home so far this season. The good news is we get to find out because the schedule the rest of the way is pretty unrelenting.

I do know that they’re one of the best rebounding teams in the league and their best form of offense so far is shooting a shitload of free throws. I also know that Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the youngest guys on the team and is the most consistent, steadiest guy on the team and might have the most mature game.

On the negative side, we also know that the Hoosiers don’t shoot it very well and given that most of the data is from home games, it’s not likely to improve with more than half of their remaining games due to come away from Assembly Hall.

This week: at Rutgers and Nebraska

11. Penn State (KP: 36)

Tough week for the Nittany Lions. They got off to a good start at Rutgers, but couldn’t manage enough offense and missed out on a golden opportunity to pick up a road win when the Scarlet Knights were without Geo Baker.

The shooting woes continued against Wisconsin and they trailed at home for the entire game.

This feels like an important time for Penn State. The fans who actually care about the basketball team have been dying to get back to the tournament for the first time in nearly a decade. They put themselves in a great position with a 12-2 start and multiple quality wins and they avoided bad losses, although the Ole Miss loss is trending that way.

They just lost a couple of games that were winnable/they should’ve won. Now they have to go to the Barn and play an OSU team at home that’s desperate to get back on a winning streak. They can’t let things spiral.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Nebraska

12. Minnesota (KP: 38)

The Gophers might be just as good as about anybody in this league, but they’ve probably got the toughest road in order to reaching the NCAA Tournament. The reason: they didn’t start this good and did themselves no favors in the non-conference.

The good news of course is that they will have ample opportunities to rack up some quality wins that they didn’t get in November and December. Also good news: they just got another big win on Sunday.

The early season struggles were fairly predictable after losing Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer, and Isaiah Washington from last year’s team and losing Eric Curry to injury.

But things have flipped for this team and it’s for two big reasons: Marcus Carr and Daniel Oturu are awesome. Oturu’s the more consistent of the two, but he’s got the ability to dominate the inside of any game and Carr can take over from the perimeter.

If they can get Gabe Kalscheur and Payton Willis heated back up again, they’ll be able to beat just about anyone.

This week: home for Penn State, at Rutgers

13. Northwestern (KP: 104)

Well, Northwestern got a win, but it was against the only team below them and it was at home, which doesn’t get you very far. They need to get Boo Buie back and they need him to be as good offensively as he was right before he got injured.

This week: home for Iowa, at Illinois

14. Nebraska (KP: 131)

Nebraska continues on the path of “occasionally great, otherwise shit” that they’ve been on for a while now. The inconsistency makes sense when you consider they only have one guy back from last year and he was a role player.

They have enough talent to be better than they are, but they fail to do some simple aspects of the game like “rebound” and “make free throws.”

Jokes aside, the Huskers have shown themselves to be a viable threat when any team makes a trip to Lincoln and that still makes them very relevant in the discourse of the league.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Indiana

2019-20 CFB Bowl Rankings: Watchability

 

39.Ohio vs. Nevada
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Boise, Idaho
Jan. 3, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

There’s not much to like about this game. Ohio is a 6-6 MAC team and Nevada is maybe the worst 7-5 team in recent memory. It’s on the Friday after the new year when things really start to settle in that if you live anywhere it gets cold, you’ve got a couple months of winter hell to look forward to and the only thing ahead is fairly meaningless basketball games and the NFL playoffs. It’s on a Friday afternoon, but it’s on the blue turf where it could also be snowing and it’s not an exciting game at all.

38. Georgia State vs. Wyoming
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Tucson, Arizona
Dec. 31, 4:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Georgia State was a lot more fun before Dan Ellington started playing on a torn ACL. Wyoming has never been fun really, but any fun was lost when Sean Chambers went out and Tyler Vander Waal took over at QB. At least it’s on NYE, but you’ll prefer watching the Navy/Kansas State game that starts 45 minutes prior.

37. Georgia Southern vs. Liberty
Cure Bowl
Orlando, Florida
Dec. 21, 2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

It’s a contrast of styles and I like both teams, but it doesn’t really appeal to the masses. But it is the first full day of bowls and I’m sure the bets will be flying.

36. Pitt vs. Eastern Michigan
Quick Lane Bowl
Detroit
Dec. 26, 8 p.m., ESPN

This should probably be the worst game, but at least there’s the potential of a MAC team beating an ACC team. Given Pat Narduzzi’s penchant for mangling key situations and EMU’s uncanny knack for playing close games, it could be a recipe for chaos.

35. Buffalo vs. Charlotte
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
Nassau
Dec. 20, 2 p.m., ESPN

It’s the first bowl game of the season and it’s in the Bahamas. Charlotte is playing in their first ever bowl game. Could be worse.

34. Kent State vs. Utah State
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
Frisco, Texas
Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

The second bowl game of the season and there’s some potential for points on a Friday night heading into Christmas week. The Twitter NFL Draft experts will be providing some “expertise” on Jordan Love’s performance.

33. San Diego State vs. Central Michigan
New Mexico Bowl
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Dec. 21, 2 p.m., ESPN

CMU at least provides the potential for points, but SDSU is dedicated to playing games with a total under 35. It’s the opener for the first full Saturday of bowl games.

32. Louisiana vs. Miami (OH)
LendingTree Bowl
Mobile, Alabama
Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

This is the last bowl before the national championship. It occurs on a Monday night and it’s in Mobile. There are pros and cons to this game, but I’m intrigued to watch the Louisiana running game matched up with the best defense from the MAC. When you think about it, it’s really the ultimate for a #MACtion and #FunBelt matchup on a random Monday night.

31. FIU vs. Arkansas State
Camellia Bowl
Montgomery, Alabama
Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m., ESPN

I don’t know, this might be too high, but I feel like there’s a pretty good chance this goes over the total of 62.5.

30. Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Dallas
Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

This is an ultimate “avoid the scaries” type of game. It falls on a Monday afternoon between the post-Christmas weekend and right before the new year celebration. Think of it as a mimosa at Sunday brunch after you just went on a two-day bender and you aren’t ready to fully embrace that real life is about to resume.

29. Tulane vs. Southern Miss
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Fort Worth, Texas
Jan. 4, 11:30 a.m., ESPN

It’s a late bowl. A contrast of styles on a Saturday morning after New Year’s Day. It’s a pregame for a couple of NFL playoff games of which I’m sure will feature the Texans and/or the Bills and it might be more entertaining.

28. App State vs. UAB
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans
Dec. 21, 9 p.m., ESPN

It’ll probably be a blowout because the UAB offense has gone to hell, but it’s fun to watch App State and this will be a solid TV2 option as the Rams and 49ers play.

27. Illinois vs. Cal
Redbox Bowl
Santa Clara, California
Dec. 30, 4 p.m., FOX

This is a competitive bowl pretty much every year and I wouldn’t expect this to be any different. The amount of scoring is always a variable and unfortunately this might be close to last year’s 7-6 affair between Oregon and Michigan State. But it’s still kinda fun. Illinois is thrilled to be in a bowl and Cal was part of the classic Cheez-It Bowl last year (10-7, a million interceptions).

26. Boston College vs. Cincinnati
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
Birmingham, Alabama
Jan. 2, 3 p.m., ESPN

Your post-New Year’s Day hangover game. You’re probably working and looking for a game to stream while you just try to idle until the weekend. Cinci vs. a Power 5 team and that P5 team has AJ Dillon on it.

25. UNC vs. Temple
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Annapolis, Maryland
Dec. 27, Noon, ESPN

Sam Howell is the main draw here. He’s a true freshman stud QB and may be the most exciting thing in the ACC outside of Clemson going forward. Add in Mack Brown and Rod Carey trying to overcome his abysmal 0-6 bowl record and it’s fairly interesting.

24. UCF vs. Marshall
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Tampa, Florida
Dec. 23, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

The masses have rejoiced in UCF losing three games this year, but they were all on the road by a combined 7 points. Marshall isn’t terrible and it’s an intriguing game for storylines. It’s a decent afternoon game when many people will be taking the day off before Christmas.

23. Mississippi State vs. Louisville
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Nashville, Tennessee
Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN

This was better when Tennessee was supposed to be playing Louisville, but this is what we’ve got. I swear if Joe Moorhead plays Tommy Stevens over Garrett Shrader again, he should be fired.

22. Miami (FL) vs. Louisiana Tech
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Shreveport, Louisiana
Dec. 26, 4 p.m., ESPN

There is big-time upset potential here. La Tech is undervalued because they played two of their biggest game of the season without their starting QB and best WR. I don’t know how much Miami cares and the game is in Louisiana.

21. Wake Forest vs. Michigan State
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
New York
Dec. 27, 3:20 p.m., ESPN

There were rumors of Pitt playing MSU in this one, which would’ve only been intriguing because of the Narduzzi vs. Mentor matchup. Luckily Wake provides some scoring punch and now we’ve got good offense vs. good defense as the hook for this game.

20. Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech
Belk Bowl
Charlotte, North Carolina
Dec. 31, Noon, ESPN

The Twitter account is usually better than the game, but there are worse ways to kick off your NYE. It’s probably our last chance to watch Lynn Bowden play QB.

19. Navy vs. Kansas State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Memphis, Tennessee
Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m., ESPN

Malcolm Perry has turned in to one of the most exciting players in the country. If you’re working NYE, still young enough to be willing to participate in the most overpriced, overrated holiday of the calendar year, the second half will be the start of your pregame. Everything feels more fun during a pregame. Including a football game in Memphis that’s gonna have a lot of running plays.

18. SMU vs. FAU
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
Boca Raton, Florida
Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Probably too low for a game that’s gonna feature one of the highest totals on the board, but unfortunately many won’t care about the game because it’s two Group of 5 teams. Buffalo and New England will also be playing at a similar time. Also, I’m assuming Joey Freshwater won’t be attending.

17. Florida State vs. Arizona State
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
El Paso, Texas
Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS

Actually should be a pretty entertaining game, but it gets downgraded because I’m assuming Gary Danielson will be on the call and he’ll probably spend half the time fellating the SEC and/or laughing at student photographers who get knocked out cold on the sidelines.

16. Tennessee vs. Indiana
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Jacksonville, Florida
Jan. 2, 7 p.m., ESPN

This may be a personal bias, but I’m excited for this game. It’s IU’s best team in decades and their offense was pretty fun with Kalen DeBoer calling the shots. They’ll get a Tennessee team that finished the year strong and a potential Vols win will be a great spark for the “Tennessee is back” hype train.

15. Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Houston
Dec. 27, 6:45 p.m., ESPN

Will be much more interesting if Spencer Sanders plays and we get a Sanders-Kellen Mond showdown, but Dru Brown is a decent replacement if Sanders can’t go. Of course, this would be 10x better if we would’ve gotten Texas-Texas A&M in this game. Mike Gundy’s mullet still keeps the world turning and Chuba Hubbard is always fun.

14. Florida vs. Virginia
Capital One Orange Bowl
Miami Gardens, Florida
Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN

I know there’s some stupid rule that allows Virginia to be in this game, but it’s unjust. They don’t deserve it. I don’t hate the Hoos, but this would be much more intriguing if it was Boise or App State against the SEC. Florida and Dan Mullen have a special place in my heart, but their average game has 48 points in it and that doesn’t put asses in the seats.

13. USC vs. Iowa
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
San Diego
Dec. 27, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1

It’s worth watching just to see the USC receivers go up against a pretty good Iowa defense. It feels like a game I’d typically bet on, but I refuse to wager on another Iowa game this year. I haven’t added it up, but I’m pretty sure the difference between me being in the red and the black on games this year is the amount I’ve lost on Iowa games.

I know he’s a college kid, but I legitimately hate Nate Stanley. He’s my mortal enemy. Every time I bet on Nate Stanley, he sucks and vice versa when I bet against him. Every time I’m watching another ticket go up in flames and they show him on the sideline taking his helmet off, with that horrendous haircut, over those 80s era-sized pads he wears, I get enraged.

So yeah, probably not betting it.

12. Air Force vs. Washington State
Cheez-It Bowl
Phoenix
Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m., ESPN

Triple option vs. the Air Raid. Mike Leach. An academy. Cheez-It Bowl. Friday night. Late. This game has so much potential.

11. Hawaii vs. BYU
SoFi Hawai’i Bowl
Honolulu
Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN

I love the playoffs, I love Pasadena, but it’s hard to replicate the happiness tornado that Christmas Eve, family, and kickoff in Honolulu (and maybe a slight buzz) creates for a man. We had to endure a Dec. 22 game day last year because the NFL insists on ruining everything, but we’re back to peak-Hawaii Bowl this year. Not to mention, it’s gonna be a damn good football game. Let the inexplicable amount of debris fly across the field, get out your leis and puka shells, and enjoy the hell out of this Christmas Eve treat.

10. Washington vs. Boise State
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Las Vegas
Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Chris Petersen in his last game as UW’s coach vs. his old team. It’s an easy sell.

9. Notre Dame vs. Iowa State
Camping World Bowl
Orlando, Florida
Dec. 28, Noon, ABC

Pound-for-pound, this begins our best day of the bowl slate. Say what you want, Notre Dame’s presence just makes everything more interesting. Iowa State might be one of the best 7-5 teams in a while. Their five losses were by a combined 21 points.

8. Auburn vs. Minnesota
Outback Bowl
Tampa, Florida
Jan. 1, 1 p.m., ESPN

The SEC vs. the Big Ten is always entertaining. I’m not sure if Auburn’s offense has turned a corner after the big game against Alabama, but they still have a great defense. It’ll be an intriguing matchup between them and Minnesota’s stud WRs and a pretty decent running game to go with it.

7. Georgia vs. Baylor
Allstate Sugar Bowl
New Orleans
Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN

Personally…….I kind of don’t care about this game and it probably won’t be that fun to watch, but it feels like it matters and it’s the nightcap to New Year’s Day.

6. Utah vs. Texas
Valero Alamo Bowl
San Antonio
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

I say it every year, but I love the Alamo Bowl. There have been some great games in recent years and there’s something about that dome. It should be electric with Texas involved in San Antonio and Utah is still a really good football team.

Also, here’s what I wrote heading into Texas’ appearance in the Sugar Bowl last year:

This game could end up being a blowout, but if it doesn’t, we’ve got some real strong “TEXAS IS BACK, FOLKS” potential.

Followed by:

Followed by:

longhorns

5. Memphis vs. Penn State
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Arlington, Texas
Dec. 28, Noon, ESPN

Kicking off at the same time as ND-ISU and those games will lead into the playoffs. I can’t tell if Mike Norvell is actually coaching Memphis or not in the bowl game, but it’s probably all semantics anyway, as I’m sure most of his focus in the lead-up will be on FSU.

Memphis has a real chance to win the game. We’ll see what PSU’s motivation is after missing out on playing in the Big Ten championship, walking through the Rutgers game, and then getting upset that they weren’t picked for the Rose Bowl.

4. Alabama vs. Michigan
Vrbo Citrus Bowl
Orlando, Florida
Jan. 1, 1 p.m., ABC

This will be so much better if like 20 guys don’t sit out, but it’s a possibility. At the end of the day, it’s still Alabama and Michigan and still Saban vs. Harbaugh.

3. Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
Pasadena, California
Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN

There is not a more stimulating visual setting in sports than the Rose Bowl and the color clash of these two only helps that cause. Not to mention, you’re gonna get some great takes on Justin Herbert as a draft prospect (he’s probably gonna suck in the NFL) and apparently Jonathan Taylor is planning on playing for the Badgers.

2. LSU vs. Oklahoma
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Atlanta
Dec. 28, 4 p.m., ESPN

There’s a lot of potential here for yet another semifinal blowout, but at least there will most likely be a lot of points.

1. Ohio State vs. Clemson
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Arizona
Dec. 28, 8 p.m., ESPN

This is about as good as college football can get. It’s going to be a delight.