Rankings

2017 Tournament Power Ratings By Region

The power ratings are back and we finally have a bracket to work with. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m absolutely jazzed for noon – 9 am if you’ll be enjoying the dude fest in Vegas – on Thursday.

I feel like if you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the MLPPR by this point. If you’re not, a quick synopsis:

They’re an extension of KenPom’s efficiency ratings. Essentially every efficiency factor is weighted based upon how important it has proven to be with past Final Four teams and the results are added up to provide a rating score for each team.

This year’s field doesn’t contain many (any?) truly great teams, but it is incredibly deep, which should make for a compelling tournament. There’s about 21 teams that fit the mold of a typical Final Four team and 22 if you include teams coached by Tom Izzo.

History

The best three teams over the past 15 years were the ’08 Kansas, ’12 Kentucky, and ’04 UConn. They all had scores over 110.

The worst team to ever win the championship (in the 15 years of data) was ’14 UConn with a 79.27. It’s the only team to ever win the championship in the 70s and ’11 UConn was the only team to win in the 80s. The average and median score of a champion is right around 101.

As far as teams that make the Final Four, the average score is 90, with the median being around 94. Overall, 49 0f the 60 teams have been at least a 79.

If you look at the 11 teams that weren’t at least a 79, it’s pretty interesting (to me, at least) to break each of them down.

  • Five of them were coached by either Tom Izzo or Brad Stevens.
  • Villanova in ’09. They were a 3 seed and went on a run where they smacked two good teams in UCLA and Duke before scratching one out over Pittsburgh. That Duke team won the title the next year. Their score was pretty low because they didn’t do anything exceptionally well, but they also didn’t have any major holes.
  • Louisville in ’12. Their offense was horrible. They are by far the least efficient offense to make the Final Four since 2002. But they were also the most efficient defense that year. Michigan State was the only team that was close in defensive efficiency and the two played each other. The Cards also were on a roll heading into the tournament, winning the Big East Tourney after going 10-8 in the regular season.
  • ’10 West Virginia ramped up their defense on their way to the final weekend. Looking back, a very underrated factor for them was winning the Big East Tournament, which helped bump them up to a 2 seed. They won those three Big East tourney games by a COMBINED seven points. They didn’t play a really good team until the Elite 8, which was Kentucky. The Mounts had their best three-point shooting game in nearly two months and the Cats went 4-32(!) from deep.
  • Last year’s Syracuse team had a surge of offense and beat the 7, 15, and 11 seeds on their way to the Elite 8. And then they came back from 15 down with 9.5 minutes to go to steal the Elite 8 game over Virginia.
  • As for Wichita in 2013, I think that was just them coming together at the right time and playing some mediocre opponents along the way. That team started 35-0 the next year.
  • VCU in 2011 remains the craziest, inexplicable run. They went nuts.

Now that’s a rundown of those that did make it, but do the ratings expose higher seeded teams that fail? Yes, to an extent.

I looked at teams that were 1 or 2 seeds that lost during the first weekend the past six years. There have been 14 of them, with at least two each year and three on a couple of occasions. Nine of them had a rating below the median of 94. Five of them wouldn’t rank in the Top 20 of this year’s field (last year’s Xavier team, ’15 Kansas, ’13 Georgetown, and ’12 Duke and Missouri). The latter three teams all lost in the first round to 15 seeds.

The other five? MSU last year. It was their least efficient game defensively all year. That’s hard to project.

Then there was Nova two years ago. They shot 30% on two-point field goals, which was their worst performance of the year and 23% below their season average.

As for Virginia that same year, they ran in to Izzo and Michigan State, who was significantly better than the 7 seed they were given. They were 17th in KenPom heading into that game.

Gonzaga in 2013 lost to Wichita, who as I said before, were good enough to start 35-0 the next year and good enough to also beat the #2 seed – Ohio State – in their bracket in 2013. The Shockers also were up 12 in the second half against eventual national champion Louisville in their Final Four game.

Pittsburgh in 2011 was a really solid team, but they just didn’t have a lot of NBA-type talent. Teams with pros always seem to do well and the best players on that team were Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. When’s the last time you heard their names? Also, they lost to Butler. Brad Stevens vs. Jamie Dixon in March just isn’t fair.

Sometimes weird things happen in one-game sample sizes. As helpful as a tool as I think this rating system can be, it’ll never be perfect.

Anyway, enough with the past. Let’s get to what to expect the next few weeks.

Rankings By Region

MIDWEST REGION

midwest

17. UC Davis (#16 / -78.6)

The Aggies are the product of a very bad Big West season, maybe the worst offensive team in the field, and unlikely to make it out of Dayton.

16. Jacksonville St. (#15 / -21.7)

The Gamecocks aren’t terrible. They were able to pull the big upset in the OVC tourney by knocking off Belmont. Ray Harper is in his first year there. His Western Kentucky squad gave Kansas a run in a 1/16 game back in 2013. Not sure that’s gonna help them beat a Louisville team that hasn’t lost to anyone outside of the KenPom top 30, but maybe they’ll make it interesting.

15. NC Central (#16 / -15.0)

They’re the highest rated 16 seed by a wide margin and better than a couple of teams seeded higher than them. I don’t think they’ll have a problem in Dayton. Probably can’t beat Kansas, but they’re your best hope at history.

14. Iona (#14 / -10.7)

Iona once again represents the MAAC instead of Monmouth. And once again, the Gaels don’t get a real favorable matchup to pull the upset in round one. Oregon is missing big time shotblocker Chris Boucher, which will help Jordan Washington, but Jordan Bell still exists and I’m not sure Iona has any shot of stopping the Oregon offense.

13. Oklahoma St. (#10 / 17.8)

I’ve discussed several times why the ratings hate the OSU defensive style and it’s made worse that the Cowboys really aren’t great at executing their style just yet. But they have Jawun Evans, which is worth a lot.

12. Vermont (#13 / 36.6)

No big deal, just a 21-game win streak for the Catamounts.

Let’s take a quick look back at the greatest moment in Vermont basketball history:

So many great things about that footage

  1. Gus Johnson
  2. Sorrentine casually pulling from 30 and icing the game.
  3. Len Elmore talking about fundamentals as Sorrentine casually pulls from 30.
  4. Tom Brennan’s offense in the most important few minutes of Vermont basketball history being “Have T.J. dribble for 25 seconds before casually pulling for 30”

Back to 2017 Vermont. They’re pretty good, the best 13 seed by a decent margin on paper. The problem with them is that they didn’t beat a top 100 team. They were 0-4 in attempts. Their best chance was a one-point loss to Houston on a neutral floor.

I don’t think Purdue is a great matchup for them, but Trae Bell-Haynes could cause some issues if he’s aggressive.

11. Nevada (#12 / 45.7)

I love the Wolfpack, but they’re kind of playing a better version of themselves in the first round. The good news for them is if they can get past the Cyclones, they could pose some real problems for either Purdue or Vermont in the second round.

10. Rhode Island (#11 / 57.1)

I also love the Rams, which was evident if you noticed me betting their side every game lately. They’re a mid-major team with some high-major talent and they’re a confident bunch that is gelling. I’d be surprised if they lost to Creighton. Oregon is a tough draw in the second round, but without Boucher they at least stand a better chance.

9. Michigan St. (#9 / 57.6)

It’s gonna take a lot of Izzo magic to get this team on a run, but he at least has Miles Bridges to lean on. I haven’t liked the way the Spartans have played away from the Breslin Center all year, so I have a hard time seeing them winning more than a game, if that.

8. Creighton (#6 / 58.0)

The Bluejays haven’t fallen off as much as I expected with Mo Watson out, but it’s still significant and I don’t see a way for them to make it to the Sweet 16.

7. Michigan (#7 / 59.6)

One of the hottest teams in the country. It wasn’t just a fluke weekend riding off the high of surviving a plane crash, either. The Wolverines have been playing really well for weeks now. Their offense is incredibly difficult to defend, but if anybody can it’s probably the Louisville team they’re likely to meet in the second round if they beat Oklahoma State.

Michigan’s also really improved their defensive presence over the past month and change. They’ll need it against the Cowboys.

6. Miami (#8 / 64.7)

The Canes never seem to get much buzz, but the two times they’ve entered the tournament under Jim Larranaga, they’ve made the Sweet 16. Their guards aren’t as good as last year, but they might be the 8/9 seed most equipped to give Kansas problems, should they get past MSU.

5. Iowa St. (#5 / 76.9)

Winners of 9 of their last 10, the Cyclones enter tournament play as one of the hottest teams in the country. They’re still not very tall, but they can rain 1,000 threes on your head from multiple guys. Any team that can go into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and win shouldn’t have any problem on a neutral floor.

With all that said, I could see the Cyclones making the Final Four. I could also see them losing to Nevada.

4. Purdue (#4 / 84.8)

I think Purdue got a favorable first round draw with Vermont. UVM is good, but they don’t present the problems for the Boilers that have plagued them all year. It really just comes down to whether Purdue can avoid puking all over themselves down the stretch. They were up 14 over UALR with 3 minutes to go last year before Josh Hagins happened.

The second round will provide a lot more issues for Purdue, regardless of which team makes it.

3. Louisville (#2 / 89.4)

I’m high on the Cardinals, but the committee didn’t do them any favors by giving them the winner of Michigan/Oklahoma State.

Their defense is the star of the show, but the offense has made big strides as the year has gone along. They ended up losing, but the fact this team could endure Donovan Mitchell going 3-14 against Duke in the ACC tournament and still have a chance to win was impressive.

They rank third in the region, but not by much. I think they have as good of a shot as anybody to win the region.

2. Kansas (#1 / 89.9)

I feel like I should like the Jayhawks more than I do. They went 28-4, winning a competitive Big 12 by four games. Their backcourt is one of the best in the country. They also have a top 5 pick whose production matches his potential.

They rarely play all that poorly, but they’re also rarely dominant. I just have a bad feeling about them. Maybe it’s the seemingly endless legal issues.

1. Oregon (#3 / 92.5)

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Ducks. They’ll still be really good without Boucher, but it’s hard for me to think it won’t affect their ceiling. I know they still competed with Arizona in the Pac-12 championship, but it’s one game.

WEST REGION

west

16. South Dakota St. (#16 / -56.5)

They have Mike Daum. He’s awesome and a legit threat to go for 40. However, their defense is still trash.

15. North Dakota (#15 / -53.5)

The Fighting Sioux have played one top 100 team all year: Iowa. They lost and Fran McCaffery refused to shake their hands.

14. Florida Gulf Coast (#14 / -9.2)

If there’s such a thing as a trendy 14 over 3 pick, it’ll be Dunk City over FSU. I have a hard time seeing it. I like the Eagles, but FSU’s interior defense is really good and I don’t think FGCU has the size to compete with them.

13. Bucknell (#13 / 14.9)

I’m bitter with Bucknell because they prevented Tim Kempton from being in the field. With that said, Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas are pretty good in their own right. However, it’s up to Stephen Brown and Kimbal Mackenzie to handle West Virginia’s pressure. I’ve got my doubts.

12. Xavier (#11 / 29.9)

Admirable effort from the Muskies in the Big East tournament just to make the field. They’re still reeling without Edmond Sumner. With that said, their pod isn’t exactly loaded. Maryland might be struggling even more right now and FSU might be the weakest 3 seed.

11. Princeton (#12 / 35.4)

I know everyone likes to think of the Ivy League as a bunch of nerds, but the league winner has won a game in three of the last four NCAA tournaments. The lone opening round loss was Harvard a couple of years ago and that was only by two to North Carolina.

The Tigers are pretty solid defensively and they haven’t lost in almost three months. The game against Notre Dame may just come down to who hits more threes and that’s a toss-up.

10. VCU (#10 / 48.9)

I’m not in love with the Rams, but they’ve got dualing point guards and that’s usually pretty helpful this time of year.

The ratings love Saint Mary’s, but matchup wise I think VCU is going to create some problems for the Gaels with those point guards and their ability to run shooters off the three-point line.

They certainly won’t be fazed by the moment.

9. Vanderbilt (#9 / 56.5)

Spare me your SOS arguments, if you lose 15 of your 34 games, you shouldn’t be a 9 seed. Especially if you lose by 20 points to Missouri.

But here the Dores are. As much as I hate that they got a 9 seed, they’re not bad. They’ll chuck a bunch of threes and hope to make some.

8. Maryland (#6 / 58.7)

It was a tough end of the year for the Terps, but they’re still capable of winning a game or two with their pod. Melo Trimble seems to make every big shot he takes. Like VCU, Anthony Cowan provides a dualing point guard aspect for the Terps. It’s a young team, but it’s never really appeared that they get rattled in tight games.

7. Northwestern (#8 / 59.9)

As exhausted as I am by Northwestern alums in the media, this is a likable team. We’ll see how they react, but I think the Wildcats have a good chance to make the second round. They’ll get themselves into trouble if they try and shoot with Vandy, though. They’re at their best when they get themselves in the paint on offense.

6. Notre Dame (#5 / 68.5)

The raw talent never jumps out when you watch the Irish, but they still managed to tie for second in the ACC and nearly win the tournament championship. Their defense on the inside still makes things a little scary, but they’re just so clean offensively. They’re a good shooting team, but not really at an elite level. Their post man – Bonzie Colson – is 6’5″, but he’s really versatile. At the end of the day, they’re not the most lethal team, but they don’t turn the ball over and they have the highest free throw percentage in the country. They’re just not going to beat themselves.

5. West Virginia (#4 / 69.6)

I guess we’ll see if the press works. It’s gonna have to if the Mountaineers are going to go far because that halfcourt offense still isn’t working.

4. Arizona (#2 / 79.7)

I really liked the Cats up until that homestand with the Washington teams and Trier started playing more. Then, I got a little skeptical. Now they’re fresh off winning the Pac-12 tournament and beating UCLA and Oregon in the process. I don’t know how to feel at this point and I don’t think their second round is going to be a walk in the park.

3. Florida St. (#3 / 85.9)

I have no idea what Leonard Hamilton is doing with his rotation and I’m not sure he knows either. They’re still really good, but that just concerns me. You know Dwayne Bacon is going to show up, but it’s tough to know what Rathan-Mayes, Isaac, and Mann are going to bring from game-to-game. Fortunately for them, they’ve got the worst 6/11 matchup in their pod. That’s assuming they get past FGCU, which is kind of a big assumption.

2. Saint Mary’s (#7 / 87.0)

The Gaels are extremely solid, but I don’t know that I like them as much as the ratings tell me I should. For starters, I don’t really like the matchup with VCU or the potential one with Arizona. But at the same rate, they’re such a good shooting team, it’s hard to count them out against anybody and they’ve got a variety of guys who can score.

1. Gonzaga (#1 / 101.6)

What can I say? The ratings love the WCC.

Basically everything I believe in is riding on the Zags. I’m so exhausted with the tired takes with this team. Every jabroni on Twitter acting like he’s breaking new ground by pointing out that the WCC isn’t exactly as strong as the ACC.

The offense has slipped a touch for them lately, but they’re still top 10 in ADJUSTED efficiency on both ends of the court.

No, they haven’t gotten to a Final Four yet, but that basically has nothing to do with this year’s team. If recent history in the tournament is your reasoning for betting against a team, you probably lost a million units on Villanova last year and deserved it.

GO ZAGS.

EAST REGION

east

18. Mount St. Mary’s (#16 / -74.2)

They played six games against other tournament teams. All were on the road sometime before Christmas. They were 0-6 and the closest they came was 13 points at Arkansas.

17. New Orleans (#16 / -63.1)

They were kind of a longshot in the Southland heading into the year and ended up winning both the regular season and conference tournament. That’s nice, but their 0-3 record against the rest of the field with an average margin of -38 doesn’t exactly inspire the confidence that they’ll beat the defending national champions and #1 overall seed.

16. Troy (#15 / -22.3)

The Trojans won the Sun Belt as a 6 seed. They gave USC all they asked for in LA earlier this year and they absolutely wrecked Sun Belt champs UT Arlington when they came to Troy. Two pretty impressive performances. But they have to play Duke.

15. UNC Wilmington (#12 / 0.3)

UNCW is one of my favorites and a highly entertaining team to watch. They’re like the homeless man’s version of UCLA. High scoring, but a suspect defense.

However, they’re the lowest rated 12 seed for me, and not by a small margin. Their defense, specifically on the interior is a real problem and they’re about to play a Virginia team that will really slow down the potent Seahawk offense. Without a doubt, the Cavs were the worst matchup UNCW could’ve drawn from the 5 seed pool.

14. New Mexico St. (#14 / 4.6)

The Aggies are 28-5, but their best win by KenPom standards was probably at Arizona State. Baylor will be their first Tier A game. They’re not likely to win, but Baylor has been slipping lately.

13. Marquette (#10 / 25.9)

The Golden Eagles have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, but the defense still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s basically 50-50 that they get out of round one, but highly unlikely they make it to the second weekend.

12. East Tennessee St. (#13 / 26.3)

The Bucs are pretty formidable as far as 13 seeds go, but they’re playing my highest rated 4 seed in Florida. They still have a shot, but it won’t be easy to pick up the first NCAA Tournament win for the program since 1992.

11. Providence (#11 / 28.3)

The Friars ended the regular season on a six-game win streak, but they’ll have to beat USC for the second straight year just to make the real field. They’re stout defensively, but I don’t see them having enough juice offensively to take down SMU if they get past the Trojans.

10. South Carolina (#7 / 30.3)

Nobody fades at the end of the year better than the Gamecocks. They’re elite defensively and…not offensively, which creates some intrigue in their meeting with offensive-minded Marquette. A trip to the second weekend would require a heroic effort from Sindarius Thornwell.

9. Virginia Tech (#9 / 39.7)

I think the Hokies are a legitimate threat to make it out of their pod. They have the unfortunate draw of having to play Wisconsin in round one, who really doesn’t have any business being in an 8/9 game.

Although I have the Badgers and Villanova – their potential second round opponent – rated much higher, the Hokies will be comfortable with competition coming out of the ACC. They’ve beaten the likes of Duke and Virginia this year and nearly won at Louisville.

8. USC (#11 / 49.1)

I think the Trojans look a lot better coming off the bus than they actually do when you see them play. The record is good, but they didn’t do a whole lot away from Los Angeles.

Their defense creates a lot of big plays, but if they don’t, they’re often getting torched from the perimeter when they go zone.

They’ve got a good chance to beat Providence, but I don’t see much more than that. They’ll have confidence against SMU because they beat the Mustangs at home the day after Thanksgiving. The difference is, it’ll obviously be played on a neutral floor and I think SMU has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on. Not sure you can make that case for the Trojans.

7. Wisconsin (#8 / 81.6)

A lot’s been made of the Badgers’ seed and it still remains a bit baffling.

That stinks for Wisconsin. You know who it really stinks for? Villanova.

The Badgers were often found stubbing their toe on repeated occasion down the stretch, but they’re still a really experienced team with one of the best defenses in the country. They’re an 8 seed, but they’re at a 5 seed level based on my ratings.

Getting past Virginia Tech will be no easy task in its own right, but they’ve got potential upset written all over them if they make the second round.

6. Florida (#4 / 86.2)

As I said, the Gators are the top 4 seed for me, but they still only find themselves in the sixth slot for their own region.

They’re good enough to reach the Final Four, but I also think they’re vulnerable to lose in the first round.

The Gator offense scares me a little. They rely a lot on their defense to generate them points in transition and they’re not very efficient in the halfcourt. If a team is able to turn them over and keep them off the offensive glass, they’ll really struggle.

5. Baylor (#3 / 87.6)

Baylor is kind of a scary team to believe in. They weren’t expected to be much of a contender before the season, they got off to a blazing start, beating good teams on their way to the #1 ranked team in the country. Almost immediately they got buried by 20 points at West Virginia. As soon as February rolled around, they slowly slipped back to the team I think a lot of people expected to see from the jump.

But despite losing 6 of 11, they still find themselves as a 3 seed. The ratings still like them. They still have Johnathan Motley.

BUT they haven’t been playing at a consistent level defensively and I don’t know if you can really trust them at this point.

4. Virginia (#5 / 88.5)

The MLPPR have been a big champion of Virginia’s style and even the MLPPR have regressed on their love for the Cavs. They’re still ranked #9 overall, but that’s quite a drop from where they were in January.

They’re still a threat to a lot of teams, however. Anybody that can hold North Carolina to 43 points has to make you nervous.

The problem with backing the Cavs is that you almost have to count on them putting in a performance like that every game because they just don’t have the scorers to keep up with the best teams around the country.

3. Duke (#2 / 90.0)

I’ve compared their season/progression as a team so much to the 2015 team that I almost feel obligated to pick them to win it all. It helps by the fact that I think there’s almost a 0% chance they lose in the first weekend.

However, that second weekend won’t be any walk in the park.

The Blue Devils still aren’t a great defensive team, but they’re not horrendous and I think they’re as good as anyone offensively. People are skeptical of their lack of a true point guard. It’s a valid point because basically every national champion the past decade has had a good one, but trotting out Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Frank Jackson seems to suffice as a replacement.

2. Villanova (#1 / 90.8)

They’re the defending national champions and the #1 overall seed and I think I’ve heard more about Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and every other title contender than I have the Wildcats.

I think there’s two reasons for that: they’re not the sexiest team in their style of play or their talent and – probably most importantly – they don’t play on ESPN.

I’ve heard the theory that Nova can’t repeat because they can’t repeat their three-point shooting from last year.

It’s probably true that they won’t. They shot at least 46% from beyond the arc in five of their games. It’s also true that they don’t need to. Four of those five games they won by an average of 29 points. The other was the national championship against North Carolina.

The game they didn’t shoot well was against title favorite Kansas and they still won.

It’s not the exact same team, but Nova is still really good on both ends of the floor, they can win in a variety of ways, and they’re 31-3 because of it.

1. SMU (#6 / 94.4)

Yeah, I know. Surprising.

There’s only one glaring hole in the SMU efficiency resume and that’s their schedule. The AAC isn’t exactly a mid-major conference, but I wouldn’t call it a high-major either. The Mustangs and Cincinnati are the only two from the league to make the field.

SMU is just solid across the board. They can really shoot and when they miss, they’re one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They only play six guys and they’re all between 6-5 and 6-8. Their length and their zone gives some reminders of past Syracuse teams.

I’ve liked the Stangs for a while now. Unfortunately they got saddled with a 6 seed and put in the same region as the defending champs and the hottest, possibly most talented team in the country. That may put a ceiling on what they can accomplish, but they’re capable of making it to Glendale.

SOUTH REGION

south

17. Texas Southern (#16 / -66.6)

Third trip to the dance for the Tigers in the Mike Davis era. As if the talent disparity wasn’t enough between them and North Carolina, the Tigers don’t shoot it well and they give up a lot of offensive rebounds, which means they might lose by 50 points.

16. Northern Kentucky (#15 / -30.8)

We get the Norse as a result of the Horizon League bracket getting blown to smithereens and they get the big bad wolf of their state. Stopping Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox is gonna be a real issue.

15. Kent State (#14 / -30.5)

Kent was the survivor of the mediocre MAC tournament. They were okay defensively in conference play, but they don’t have nearly enough juice to take down UCLA in the first round.

14. Winthrop (#13 / -6.6)

While I like some of the other 13 seeds better, Butler has shown a knack for playing down to competition. The Eagles do have Keon Johnson and he’s got the potential to be the guy this year who goes nuclear and wins a game for his team.

13. Wake Forest (#11 / 29.4)

I have no idea if they’ll beat Kansas State or not, but I don’t think either will beat Cincinnati. For the Deacs, they’ll at least have the best player on the floor in both matchups.

12. Seton Hall (#9 / 35.9)

Stop if you’ve heard this before: a Kevin Willard coached team that can defend, but struggles to score. If they’re able to get past Arkansas, we at least get to see Angel Delgado go up against the UNC frontline. For my money, Delgado is the most underappreciated big man in college basketball.

11. Middle Tennessee (#12 / 49.7)

The Blue Raiders beat Michigan State last year, have you heard?

I’m a big fan of MTSU, but people are acting like they’re a shoo-in for at least the second round. Which is ignoring the fact that Minnesota is kind of the perfect foil for MTSU.

I’m not sure who’s going to win the game, but I’d feel a lot more confident in MTSU beating Butler if that meeting happens.

10. Arkansas (#8 / 51.7)

To be totally honest with you, I didn’t watch a lot of Arkansas this year, nor much of the SEC outside of the top 3 teams. In my defense, who really gives a shit about SEC basketball?

Moses Kingsley vs. Delgado should be intriguing in the first round, at least.

9. Butler (#4 / 52.3)

Inconsistency and shaky defense has been the name of the game for the Bulldogs the past couple years. Handing Villanova two of their three losses this year shows how good Butler can be at their best, but they’ve also lost at home to mediocre teams and on the road to bad teams.

It’s hard to believe in a team like that.

8. Dayton (#7 / 56.1)

Congratulations to the Flyers on winning a very competitive A-10 outright! Your reward? A 7 seed facing the most underseeded team in the bracket, a game in which you’ll be projected to lose by 7 points!

Dayton has a wealth of experience and a greatly improved offense from a year ago, but they got the short end of the stick with their draw.

7. Kansas St. (#11 / 60.8)

See the Wake Forest write-up. They rate decently well, but they’ve shown a unique ability to lose when they shouldn’t.

6. Minnesota (#5 / 62.4)

The Gophers had a tough break losing Akeem Springs for the rest of the year just this past weekend. However, while Springs was occasionally explosive offensively, he was streaky and had only scored 9 points in his last three games.

They’re not a great offensive team, but they’ve got quick, athletic guards and a wealth of rim protectors on defense.

If they can get past MTSU, I like them to make the Sweet 16.

5. UCLA (#3 / 83.1)

Sometimes I feel like the only basketball fan in the world who doesn’t fawn all over UCLA. Sure, they’re exciting to watch and they’re potent offensively.

But the offense was made out to be like it was revolutionary and something we had never seen before. It’s very good!

It’s also regressing. The Bruins have played four games in March. Three of their six least efficient games on offense have come in those four games in March.

Oh, and they’re not very good at defense. They’ve been a little better lately, but not exactly championship level.

With all that said, UCLA is obviously still very good and capable of winning the national championship, but history also tells you that the likelihood isn’t as good as their Vegas odds would tell you.

4. Wichita St. (#10 / 84.5)

I’m not sure they’re as good as their #8 KenPom ranking, but they’re definitely better than your typical 10 seed. Beating Dayton’s not a given, but the Shockers will have a good shot of beating Kentucky.

Much like Florida State, I don’t love how they play so many guys, but I trust Gregg Marshall a little more than Leonard Hamilton.

3. North Carolina (#1 / 85.6)

Nothing’s really a given, but I feel like you can pretty much pencil the Tar Heels into the Elite 8.

They don’t really shoot great percentages and their defensive shooting percentages aren’t any better, but their size and rebounding ability really is overwhelming.

And that really is the key with the Heels. A lot of teams are dependent on how well they shoot. Obviously it’s still beneficial for UNC to make shots, but their offensive rebounding numbers have a stronger correlation to their success. Of the six games where the Heels had their lowest offensive rebounding percentage, five of them were losses.

2. Cincinnati (#6 / 86.2)

The ratings are also apparently high on the top 2 of the AAC, although Cincinnati really isn’t that close to SMU.

I’m not quite as high on the Bearcats. They’ve maintained their stifling defense and the offense has upgraded from bad to fairly decent, but the points still take quite a bit of work.

I might be the only one, but I would find a Cincinnati-UCLA second round matchup highly intriguing.

1. Kentucky (#2 / 89.0)

As if the Wildcats needed more guard help, Dom Hawkins has been playing great lately.

If there’s one thing that scares you about betting on Kentucky, it would be their defense around the rim when they’re not blocking shots, but everything else on that side of the ball is pretty solid.

They’re not a great shooting team, but Malik Monk is always capable of going scorched earth himself. Even if they’re not hitting from deep, they can basically get to the rim whenever they want.

Big Ten Bracketology: One Week Left

 


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Nick Ward, Michigan State – averaged 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in two wins

Malcolm Hill, Illinois – averaged 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in two wins

Moe Wagner, Michigan – 24 points (22 in first half), 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in win over Purdue

Jordan Bohannon, Iowa – 24 points (8-10 from three), 3 rebounds, and 5 assists in win at Maryland

The Team, Minnesota – significant contributions from everyone in the rotation on the way to two wins

Five Seven Games to Watch This Week:

Indiana at Purdue, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Michigan at Northwestern, Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Michigan State at Illinois, Wednesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN

Indiana at Ohio State, Saturday, 12:00 pm EST, ESPN

Michigan State at Maryland, 2:00 pm EST, BTN

Purdue at Northwestern, 4:30 pm EST, CBS

Minnesota at Wisconsin, 6:00 pm EST, BTN



 

Locks

Purdue – 4 Seed (4.16 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

The Boilermakers still somehow find themselves in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten, despite not playing particularly well in both games last week.

Let me get out my fire barrel take now: I thought they actually played better at Michigan than they did at Penn State. They didn’t make a lot of smart decisions in Happy Valley, they were careless with the ball even by their own poor standards in that department, and I didn’t think they gave great effort until they realized they just might lose. But they hit 12 threes and the Nittany Lions only hit two, despite getting many open looks.

That’s not to say they were without flaw in Ann Arbor, but that game largely came down to Michigan hitting a lot of shots that they hit on pretty much everyone that walks into Crisler Arena and Purdue missing what seemed like every attempt they had near the rim.

Purdue is very likely going to be a Big Ten champion sometime this week. What form it comes in, we’ll see. Bart Torvik gives them a 66% chance to win it outright and a 96% chance for a share.

I think my favorite outcome of the Big Ten season would be the 0.2% chance (my own calculations) that there’s a four-way tie for first at 12-6.

This week: home for Indiana, at Northwestern

Minnesota – 5 Seed (5.59 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

At one point, Minnesota was 3-6 in the conference. With a week left to go, they now find themselves in that “0.2% chance of happening” spot where they could potentially have a share of the Big Ten title. And that’s probably why Richie Pitino is going to win the COY award for the Big Ten. I’ve been hard on Mini-Slick Rick, but he deserves it.

Remember last week when I made all those graphs showing the volatility of scoring coming from Murphy, McBrayer, Springs, and Curry? Well, this week the former three all scored double figures in both games and Curry scored four in each game.

It turns out having five guys all score a lot of points is really helpful in securing wins.

We also got to see what it looks like for Reggie Lynch not to foul himself out of the game and it looks like eleven (11) blocks.

What we saw this week was Peak Minnesota. Peak Minnesota is a really good team and could go far in March. We’ll see if it lasts.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Wisconsin

Wisconsin – 6 Seed (6.01 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Turns out that second half against Maryland didn’t jumpstart the Badgers to take off. It’s starting to become a little clearer now that was more likely just part of Maryland’s quick descent to mediocrity.

There were a lot of things I was wrong on when I was projecting the Big Ten this year (Minnesota, Ohio State, and Thomas Bryant come to mind), but here’s what I wrote about Wisconsin when I picked them to finish fifth:

I don’t think I’m giving you any new information when I tell you that the Badgers are returning everyone from last year. To me, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors with the second half of their season last year. Their offense still left a lot to be desired. They pulled out a few one or two possession games at home or on neutral courts. They caught Maryland and Iowa at the right times.

I’m not saying they’re not good. They’ll still win a lot of games. But they’re not the team that went to back-to-back Final Fours. They don’t have two lottery picks on the roster. Their highest usage player wasn’t very efficient last year and is now a social advocate!

Call me a skeptic, but I view them more as “typical Wisconsin” and not “peak Wisconsin”, if that makes sense.

The Badgers aren’t going to finish fifth, but there’s a semi-decent chance that they finish 12-6, which in a typical Big Ten season is the record of the #5 seed in the conference tourney. The rest of the league didn’t live up to my personal expectation, but Wisconsin is largely what I thought they would be.

I think this week they hit some unfortunate luck in Columbus with Ohio State being uncharacteristically lethal from outside, but the Badgers aren’t in a position to complain. Before this stretch of five games, they came out on the right side of every close game they played. Sure, experience helps in those situations, but the real analytics guys will tell you the outcomes of those close games are largely luck.

With all that said, the Badgers still have a decent chance to get a share of the Big Ten championship this week, same as every year.

This week: home for Iowa and Minnesota

Maryland – 7 Seed (6.84 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Yikes. There’s been a lot of talk about the freshmen hitting a wall when they saw a dip in their scoring and now it’s on to Melo Trimble’s scoring. But the biggest reason for the drop recently is the Terp defense taking a nosedive.

maryland.png

The strength of schedule is obviously vastly different, but in the first 20 games the Terps only allowed six (30%) of their opponents to score more than a point per possession. In the nine games since, seven (78%) of opponents have eclipsed that mark. Not ideal.

At this point, it looks like Maryland might have to play in one of the dreaded 8/9 or 7/10 games in the tournament.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Michigan State

Almost Locks

Michigan – 9 Seed (9.12 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

The win over Purdue likely locks the Wolverines into the tournament, but they probably need to win one this week to feel truly comfortable and that’s not going to be an easy task.

The good news is that Michigan is playing really well right now. Moe Wagner basically won the Purdue game in the first half with his hot shooting and Derrick Walton put it on ice in the second half of his senior day.

But the most underrated part of that game may be the emergence of Xavier Simpson. He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he got 11 minutes, scored 7 points, and made a couple of really nice plays for his teammates. If he can be another guy in the rotation for John Beilein, that would be huge.

Typically you’re only trying to shorten your rotation at this point, but there’s only six solid in there for the Wolverines right now. Sure, Mark Donnal plays, but it seems like it’s more for the purpose of giving the other bigs a break and not so much that he actually brings any real contribution.

But it’s just one game for Simpson. He had a very similar outing against Michigan State at home and responded by scoring two points over the next four games. Something to keep an eye on this week.

This week: at Northwestern and Nebraska

Northwestern – 9 Seed (9.28 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Ohhhhhhhhh boy.

I guess it’s only fitting that Northwestern would make this harder than it needed to be. The good news is that they’re still in a pretty favorable position and would without a doubt make the field if it were set today. The other good news: if they win either game this week they’ll essentially be a lock.

The bad news: they’re going to have to play a lot better than they have in recent weeks to win this week. Michigan and Purdue, along with Minnesota, have been the three best teams in the Big Ten over the last month.

And both the Wolverines and Boilermakers will have a lot to play for this week. I’d expect Welsh-Ryan to be very fervent this week, but both visiting teams will be equally motivated.

They could use a hot shooting day, something that’s only happened a couple of times in the past month and a half.

This week: Michigan and Purdue at home

Michigan State – 10 Seed (9.42 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Big week for the Spartans. As I pointed out a couple weeks ago, they’re really tough to beat at home. The Breslin Center was like a super power for them this Big Ten season. Don’t believe me? Just look at a few things Matt McQuaid did in that Wisconsin game:

And my personal favorite:

But now they hit the road and they’ll only be in East Lansing for practice the rest of the way. These next two weeks we’ll find out just how dangerous they are when it matters.

This week: at Illinois and Maryland

BACK FROM THE DEAD

Illinois – Next Four Out (11.30 Average| 10/113 Brackets)

Time for an overused GIF:

Image result for undertaker coffin gif

I’ll admit it. I recently declared Illinois as the clear 13th best team in the Big Ten. That appears not to be so. They have lately been doing this thing where they win a lot of games.

How has it happened? Improved three-point shooting and really good defense. That part is not a surprise. That’s the same formula as when they went on a tear from post-Brooklyn trip up until Big Ten play. Also not a surprise because making threes and preventing other teams from scoring is a really good way to win in modern basketball.

Now the Illini get another chance for a Top 50 win with Michigan State coming to town. Given the way the Spartans have played on the road, it’s a really, really good chance.

It would be extremely 2016-17 Illinois basketball to beat Michigan State and then lose at Rutgers over the weekend.

This week: home for Michigan State, at Rutgers

Not Officially Dead

Indiana – Others Receiving Votes (12.00 Average| 1/113 Brackets)

The Hoosiers got a big win over Northwestern, but they still have a lot of work to do. The only bracket that currently has IU in the field also has Kansas as 2, Baylor as a 4, Wichita as a 6, and Princeton as a 12. Point being, it’s a terrible bracket.

But they have a great opportunity this week to partially undo that 1-7 stretch. Winning at Purdue, a rival and a team that’s trying to clinch the championship, would be about as impressive a win as they’ve had all season. It doesn’t look probable on paper, but they do have some matchups that prevent problems for Purdue. Parlay that with a win at Ohio State, get themselves a bye out of the first day of the Big Ten Tournament, and all the sudden they’re in business.

Now what are the chances of that happening? Roughly 7%, according to KenPom. Not great, but the odds were probably similar that Indiana would lose 7 of 8 at any point this year.

This week: at Purdue and Ohio State

Iowa – N/A Seed (0.00 Average| 0/113 Brackets)

Beating IU and Maryland in the same week is bigger in terms of beating brand names than what they’re actually worth in terms of a 2017 NCAA Tournament resume, but it still keeps the Hawkeyes hanging around.

Along with Reggie Lynch’s 11 blocks against Penn State, Peter Jok scoring 35 points on 12 attempts is probably the most bizarre stat line of the week. It would be less bizarre if it was someone like Melo Trimble, but Jok’s a volume guy that doesn’t typically spend a ton of time at the line. He had only had double-digit free throw attempts six times in his career with a high of 12. He had 23 against the Hoosiers.

Now if the Hawks can get a win in Madison, that’ll really get them some momentum heading into the postseason, assuming they take care of business against Penn State on Jok’s senior day.

Their best chance to beat the Badgers is the same way they beat the Terps and that’s by burying 1,000 three-pointers (actually 16). That’s obviously tough to do, but it is the weak spot of the Wisconsin defense.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn State

Ohio State – N/A Seed (0.00 Average| 0/113 Brackets)

Their only game of the week was a big win over Wisconsin. I’m not sure the Buckeyes really played any better than they have been, though. The Badgers are obviously scuffling and the only real noticeable difference for OSU was their 10-16 (63%) three-point shooting and 23-27 (85%) free throw shooting.

I’d like for it to be a sign of things to come, but I don’t think that’s a repeatable formula for them. They did a great job defending down low, but I think they’ve done that well all year. It was impressive that they kept that going despite Trevor Thompson only playing 11 minutes due to foul trouble.

If they manage to win both this week and do a little damage in the Big Ten Tournament, they have to at least be in the conversation for the NCAAs, right? I would have to think so, although that FAU loss has been the albatross around their neck all season.

This week: at Penn State, home for Indiana

Dead

Penn State

They nearly beat Purdue, despite only going 2-18 from three. They’ll be a problem for a lot of teams next year.

This week: home for Ohio State, at Iowa

Nebraska

I backed the wrong horse last week. I went with the Huskers, turns out it should’ve been Illinois.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Michigan

Rutgers

They seem to be on a mission to ruin someone’s tournament resume. They’ve just barely failed to close the deal against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan. This week they get stumbling Maryland and surging Illinois at home. Best of luck to those two.

This week: Maryland and Illinois at home

Comparing This Year’s Final Four Contenders to Recent Participants

Instead of doing another Undervalued, Overvalued, or Properly Valued blog, I figured I’d change it up a bit this time and make some comparisons between this year’s Final Four contenders and past Final Four participants in the KenPom era.

It was a much more time-consuming process than I was expecting. I broke teams down by their four or five attributes that are favorable to their ranking in the MLPPR and the four or five that hurt their ranking.

I then went back and tried to find teams with similar makeups that did make the Final Four. Some were easier than others. None of them are perfect, although some are pretty close. I didn’t want to use any old teams twice, which proved to be a challenge (2013 teams are very comparable to teams this year, apparently).

In a lot of cases, these are versions of this year’s teams as their best selves, which you tend to be when you win at least four games in the NCAA Tournament. I included every team that was in the Top 24 of the seed line, according to the Bracket Matrix. I also included Wichita State and Oklahoma State because the mainstream predictive ranking sites like them and those teams tend to do well in March.

If you don’t know the basis of the MLPPR, you can find out more here.

We’ll be back with a lot more MLPPR-related material in two weeks when the bracket is announced and I’ll be in the middle of a two-week state of euphoria.

1 Seeds

Gonzaga (MLPPR: 1)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, DEFG%, D2P%, O2P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OR%, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’06 Florida

I know Gonzaga sucks now because they lost to a Top 70 team and it completely invalidates them winning 29 games in a row – including five against Top 25 competition – but they still somehow find themselves in the Top 6 of both offensive and defensive efficiency and a similar makeup to the last team to win back-to-back national championships. Weird.

This picture is technically of the ’07 title team, but it was practically the same.

Villanova (MLPPR: 8)

Biggest Additions: OE, OEFG%, O2P%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: OR%, D2P%, DEFG%, D A/FGM

Final Four Comp: ’07 Florida

Seems fitting with Nova going for their repeat this year. Similar to the Gators, the offense has seen a slight uptick for the Wildcats in Year 2, while the defense has regressed slightly.

Neither Villanova or Gonzaga have three lottery picks on the roster, but they both have multiple pros, at least.

Kansas (MLPPR: 2)

Biggest Additions: OE, OEFG%, O3P%, D2P%, OR%

Biggest Subtractions: D3P%, DE, DEFG%, DR%, OSteal%

Final Four Comp: ’05 North Carolina

The Jayhawks aren’t quite at that level just yet and one of the biggest differences is they aren’t as good on the glass. That’s an area that’s actually gotten better for KU in Big 12 play, but Sean May is never walking through that door, so…

North Carolina (MLPPR: 14)

Biggest Additions: OE, OR%, OTO%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: DEFG%, D2P%, Bench, OBlock%

Final Four Comp: ’08 North Carolina

All of Roy’s Final Four teams at UNC are pretty much the same and the good news for Tar Heel fans is that this team is in that realm. This team and the ’08 group that lost to Kansas in the semifinals share their dominance on the glass and strikingly similar shooting and point distribution numbers.

2 Seeds

Louisville (MLPPR: 6)

Biggest Additions: Defense, pretty much all of it

Biggest Subtractions: OEFG%, O2P%, D FTA/FGA, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’02 Oklahoma

I don’t remember a single thing about that Oklahoma team other than Hollis Price getting buckets. And if we’re being honest, I won’t remember anything about this Louisville team in 15 years other than Donovan Mitchell getting buckets.

Baylor (MLPPR: 5)

Biggest Additions: Defense, SOS, Bench

Biggest Subtractions: OTO%, OE, O3P%, D A/FGM

Final Four Comp: ’06 UCLA

Basically the exact same team with the small caveat that Baylor has four less future NBA players than UCLA had. Very minor detail.

Oregon (MLPPR: 4)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, DEFG%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA, D Block%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OTO%, O Block%

Final Four Comp: ’07 Georgetown

Similar makeup, similar early season struggles (even more so for the Hoyas), and the Ducks would probably be closer to the Hoyas in efficiency numbers if they had Healthy Dillon Brooks all year. Brooks is essentially the Jeff Green in this equation and Chris Boucher is a much more athletic, more versatile Roy Hibbert.

Arizona (MLPPR: 20)

Biggest Additions: O3P%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA, Height, O Steal%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, D2P%, DE, O2P%

Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’10 Duke

I was getting pretty desperate for new teams by the time I got to Arizona and this is the result. It’s a weird comparison, but the efficiency numbers are similar. Duke was just better, especially defensively. The thing Arizona has going for it is that they’re actually much more talented, just significantly less experienced. It didn’t help that their best returning player was out until late January.

3 Seeds

Florida (MLPPR: 9)

Biggest Additions: DE, DEFG%, D3P%, D A/FGM

Biggest Subtractions: OEFG%, O2P%, Bench, O A/FGM, D FTA/FGA

Final Four Comp: ’13 Louisville

The tough part about this comp is that Florida would have to go on a run without their Gorgui Dieng, which is John Egbunu. Probably not gonna happen.

Kentucky (MLPPR: 7)

Biggest Additions: Offense, D3P%, D A/FGM

Biggest Subtractions: D2P%, D FTA/FGA, DPoss, DEFG%

Final Four Comp: ’04 Oklahoma State

Last team to win an outright Big 12 title not named Kansas. Oklahoma State didn’t quite have the talent in the backcourt that Kentucky has, but they did have Tony Allen.

UCLA (MLPPR: 17)

Biggest Additions: Offense, D FTA/FGA, D2P%, Height

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, DE, D3P%, OR%

Final Four Comp: ’03 Marquette

I’m just imagining Steve Alford going back to Indiana to replace Crean and telling every recruit that he reminds of him of Lonzo Ball. That joke might be too inside.

Anyway, Marquette also was great at the offense and not so great at the defense with a future Top 5 pick running the show and a couple of other pros around him.

Butler (MLPPR: 30)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, OTO%, O2P%, D A/FGM

Biggest Subtractions: DE, DEFG%, D2P%, OR%

Final Four Comp: ’13 Michigan

This is not your older brother’s Butler basketball. It’s a potent offensive team with some obvious, possibly (probably) fatal flaws. Their numbers look like the Michigan team that damn near rode Spike Albrecht to a national championship, only they have six less NBA players, which is quickly becoming a common theme in this blog.

4 Seeds

West Virginia (MLPPR: 22)

Biggest Additions: OR%, OStl%, DE, DBlock%, DSteal%

Biggest Subtractions: D FTA/FGA, DEFG%, DPoss, SOS, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’94 Arkansas

I had to get inventive here because there’s no team that’s pressed like West Virginia that has made the Final Four in the KenPom era. I was rather young, but if I’m gathering this correctly, Arkansas and its “40 Minutes of Hell” put on a press from time-to-time.

No offense to the Mountaineer crowd, but Nathan Adrian isn’t exactly the equivalent to Big Nasty.

Purdue (MLPPR: 15)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O3P%, D FTA/FGA, DEFG%, D2P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OTO%, OSteal%, DBlock%

Final Four Comp: ’16 Oklahoma

Caleb Swanigan gets all of the national attention, but Purdue’s shooting is really the star of the offense. They’re not quite as reliant as the Sooners were last year, but it’s similar. Outside of Buddy Hield, the one thing the Boilers could use that Oklahoma had was a shot-blocker like Khadeem Lattin. They could also use the weakest bracket in the field, which OU was fortunate enough to get last year.

Florida State (MLPPR: 11)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, OTO%, Height, D Block%

Biggest Subtractions: D FTA/FGA, Bench, DR%, SOS

Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’15 Kentucky

Extremely watered down, I suppose.

The Seminoles do have a lot of talent, although not quite 2015 Kentucky levels, but they do run as deep and they have the height. You could make the argument that the Noles are better offensively, but although still good, they’re nowhere near the lever Kentucky was defensively.

Duke (MLPPR: 10)

Biggest Additions: Offense, D3P%, Height

Biggest Subtractions: DE, DEFG%, D2P%

Final Four Comp: ’15 Duke

I’ve made this comparison like three times now, so might as well keep it consistent. The worry about the Blue Devils this year is their defense. They went from 48th to 38th from Friday to Sunday in DE. The 2015 version was probably in a worse spot defensively than this team was until they turned the corner around at the end of February.

Sure, Duke just lost twice this week. You know what they did at this time two years ago? Went to OT against a Virginia Tech team that was 2-16 in the ACC and 175th in the KenPom rankings.

5 Seeds

Virginia (MLPPR: 3)

Biggest Additions: OTO%, SOS, DE, DEFG%

Biggest Subtractions: OE, OR%, D FTA/FGA, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’04 Georgia Tech

Image result for 2004 georgia tech basketball

I’ve become very uncomfortable with the Virginia ranking now that they’re losing a bunch of games, but Georgia Tech is a good comp in more than just their efficiencies.

The Yellow Jackets also had a rough time in the ACC. This was back when there were only nine teams and you played everybody twice, but it was the highest rated league back then and GT was 6-7 before winning their last three games. They entered the tournament at 23-9 overall and a #3 seed before making the final game.

That’s the good news for Cavs fans. The bad news? That Yellow Jacket team won all five of their games by five points or less or in overtime. Fun!

Minnesota (MLPPR: 27)

Biggest Additions: Defense, OTO%, Height

Biggest Subtractions: OE, OEFG%, 2P%, OR%, SOS

Final Four Comp: ’14 UConn

Image result for shabazz napier uconn

Both really good defensive teams with shot blockers with questionable offenses. Of course the Huskies had Bazz, which was nice. The obvious candidate to be that guy for the Gophers is Nate Mason. He’s not as good as Napier, but he has shown that ability to take over and win games for Minnesota. He did it to both Purdue and Indiana this year.

Cincinnati (MLPPR: 13)

Biggest Additions: DEFG%, D2P%, OTO%, D Block%, O2P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OE, OFT%, D3P%

Final Four Comp: ’13 Wichita State

Image result for 2013 wichita state basketball

Pretty, pretty similar teams. The Bearcats are actually probably a little better and their seed will be more favorable to go on a run. The obvious concern is the offense, especially going against a zone.

Notre Dame (MLPPR: 24)

Biggest Additions: OTO%, OEFG%, O3P%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: Defense, OR%, O Block%

Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’14 Wisconsin

I think most people probably think of defense when they think about Wisconsin basketball, but those back-to-back Final Four teams were actually a couple of the worst defensive teams to make the final weekend in recent years.

Now Notre Dame is still a ways from even reaching Wisconsin’s defensive level, but they’ve been improving on that end lately.

6 Seeds (and Wichita State and Oklahoma State)

Wisconsin (MLPPR: 19)

Biggest Additions: D2P%, OR%, D FTA/FGA, DE

Biggest Subtractions: D3P%, OE, OEFG%, O3P%, SOS

Final Four Comp: ’14 Florida

Image result for 2014 florida basketball

Admittedly kind of a stretch here, especially with how Wisconsin is playing recently, but if Wisconsin is going to succeed in March it’ll be because they grind teams defensively, just like Florida did.

SMU (MLPPR: 12)

Biggest Additions: Defense, OR%, O3P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, O2P%, D A/FGM

Final Four Comp: ’13 Syracuse

Image result for 2013 syracuse basketball

I love this comparison. Syracuse’s zone was better than SMU’s is this year, but the Mustangs score a little easier. It’s hard to tell exactly how good SMU is because they play in the AAC, but they’ve been really consistent this year. Hopefully whoever they play in the first round isn’t gift wrapped a win because of horrendous officiating.

Saint Mary’s (MLPPR: 18)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, DEFG%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, D Block%, D Steal%, DE, O Steal%

Final Four Comp: ’06 UCLA  ’07 UCLA

Image result for russell westbrook ucla

I didn’t realize I doubled up on ’06 UCLA. Instead of finding the next best fit, I took the easy way out and just put ’07 UCLA, so we could get Brodie involved. I don’t think Saint Mary’s will make the Final Four, largely due to an extreme lack of Westbrook.

Let’s watch some very grainy footage:

Creighton (MLPPR: 25)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O3P%, O2P%, OTO%, D Poss, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: OR%, DE, DEFG%, D2P%, SOS

Final Four Comp: ’05 Michigan State

Image result for 2005 michigan state basketball

I was desperate. Creighton isn’t close to rebounding as well as the Spartans, but they shoot a lot better.

The Bluejays are one of like five teams in this blog that matches pretty closely with 2013 Michigan.

Wichita State (MLPPR: 16)

Biggest Additions: DEFG%, D2P%, OEFG%, O3P%, OTO%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, Bench, D FTA/FGA

Final Four Comp: ’05 Louisville

Image result for 2005 louisville final four

Not a good sized picture, but it’s the only one I could find of the Holy Trinity of Rick Pitino, Francisco Garcia, and Reggie Theus.

This was back in the C-USA days for Louisville, so that part fits the Shockers playing a MVC schedule. That’s just one of the many similarities.

Look at the KenPom profiles:

I don’t know if you can really see all the numbers that well, but you can see the green shading, which is all you need.

Oklahoma State (MLPPR: 47)

Biggest Additions: OE, OR%, 3P%, SOS

Biggest Subtractions: DEFENSE

Final Four Comp: ’11 VCU

Image result for 2011 vcu basketball

I’m having PTSD from the Rams scoring 1,000 points against Purdue.

VCU made the Final Four despite having the worst defensive profile you could possibly have almost. They did it with their guards shredding defenses on the other end, which is what the Jawun Evans could do for the Cowboys. The OSU defense is actually worse than VCU because they not only give up so many easy buckets around the rim, but they double down by fouling all the time.

Big Ten Power Rankings

 


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, Purdue – combined to average 39.0 points and 24.0 rebounds in two wins

Melo Trimble, Maryland – averaged 29.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in two games

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – averaged 21.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in two games

Malcolm Hill, Illinois – 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in win at Iowa

Tai Webster and Glynn Watson, Nebraska – combined to average 29.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.5 steals in two wins

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Minnesota at Maryland, Wednesday, 8:30 pm EST, BTN

Wisconsin at Ohio State, Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN

Purdue at Michigan, Saturday, 4:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Northwestern at Indiana, Saturday, 8:00 pm EST, BTN

Wisconsin at Michigan State, Sunday, 4:00 pm EST, CBS


 

Contenders

1. Purdue – 4 Seed (94/94 brackets)

The Boilers rolled over MSU and Rutgers at home, but maybe the biggest news of the week for them was Wisconsin and Maryland both losing. After dropping some questionable games in the first half of the conference season, it’s now up to Purdue whether they grab at least a share of the title.

It’s not going to be an easy road, but if they’re going to do it, it’s going to come down to the old cliché of “defense wins championships”. The inconsistency of the Boilers in January was entirely due to their inconsistency without the ball.

That has changed. Look at their defensive efficiency numbers from January to February.

Best Worst Range Average
January 75.9 119.9 44.0 102.6
February 79.9 97.7 17.8 89.7

As you can see they’ve not only played better defense, but they’ve done it every single game, not allowing any of their five opponents in February to score a point per possession.

And this has coincided with a bit of a shooting slump at the other end. When they get both of those things going at the same time, they’re one of the best teams in college basketball.

As far as the race for the Big Ten title goes, Purdue will have the toughest road despite the fact that they’ve been playing the best of the top 3 over the past couple of weeks. The schedule isn’t favorable at all, but it’s hard to bet against them right now.

This week: at Penn State and Michigan

2. Wisconsin – 5 Seed (94/94 brackets)

I quietly wondered to myself if maybe the Badgers would be better off playing at Michigan without Bronson Koenig. Not because Koenig isn’t really valuable to the team, but as I’ve pointed out the past couple weeks, he hasn’t shot it well and it’s unsurprisingly negatively impacted his team.

Well, D’Mitrik Trice stepped up in his spot and went 2-15 from the field. So much for that. It didn’t help that Nigel Hayes was largely invisible, which is something that happens far too often for a guy that’s played as many minutes in his career as he has.

But the Badgers responded by getting probably their most important victory to date.

Every fanbase seems to have one guy on their team every year that they repeatedly criticize. Sometimes it’ll change from month-to-month. This guy’s play is the difference between mediocrity and greatness, according to the fanbase.

For instance, Purdue’s guy has alternated between Isaac Haas and Vince(nt) Edwards this year. I’m not deep in the Ohio State message boards, but I would assume it’s either JaQuan Lyle or Marc Loving. Seems like James Blackmon, Rob Johnson, and Thomas Bryant have all had their turn for IU this year.

Well, it appears as if Vitto Brown is the guy for Wisconsin. I’ve seen more and more chatter about the best lineups for the Badgers and seemingly none of them feature the senior forward.

I get it. Brown shot 42% from three in Big Ten play last year and shots beyond the arc only accounted for about a third of his total field goal attempts all season. This year? He’s shooting 25% from three in conference games and about 60% of his total attempts are from out there.

That’s a vast difference, especially factoring in that he didn’t attempt a three-pointer his first two seasons on campus.

It doesn’t help that Brevin Pritzl is starting to come on and one of the leaders of the team is saying things like this:

While I understand Badger fans being infatuated with the shiny new toy, I don’t know that I’d be dead set on just telling Vitto to ride pine. I would just point out that from Feb. 28 on last season, Vitto went 19-36 (53%) from three over the final seven games.

In terms of the Badgers wrapping up their bid for a conference championship, it’ll probably be determined this week. If they sweep, it’s hard to imagine them dropping one at the Kohl Center against Iowa or Minnesota. That would give them a great chance of sole possession. 1-1 this week likely means a tie and 0-2 is disastrous.

This week: at Ohio State and Michigan State

3. Maryland – 6 Seed (94/94 brackets)

All things considered, if you were a Terp supporter, I think you’d have to be at least content coming out of last week with a 1-1 record. Especially with the lack of production from anyone not named “Romelo Trimble”.

It’s only two games so it’s not time to panic yet, but that’s a bit of a trend in the wrong direction. Coming into the season a lot of people, including myself, thought Maryland was going to be the Melo show and a rotating cast of contributions from others. It hasn’t gone that way, though. Cowan, Jackson, and Huerter have played large roles all year for a really good team, but this past week they played a lot closer to the expectations and further away from their reality for the past four months.

I’m not expecting that to continue, but the reality is those three can’t go a combined 11-39 over the course of two games and have the Terps succeed at the same time.

I do have to say it was a bit odd of Mark Turgeon to essentially throw in the towel with four minutes to go. I understand that it’s getting close to the end of the season and guys are a little banged up and tired, but the game was far from out of reach. I don’t think a few minutes is going to make the big difference for the team over the next few weeks. Also, getting a technical with less than 10 minutes to go and your team only down four probably wasn’t the brightest move either.

You would expect the Terps to sweep the rest of the way, but Minnesota and MSU won’t be walks in the park, even if they are in College Park. If they take care of business, they’ll just have to hope both Wisconsin and Purdue lose a game.

[NOTE: After I wrote this, I saw Cekovsky was out for the year. I don’t have much to add, but can confirm that it is, in fact, not a good development.]

This week: home for Minnesota and Iowa

Other Tournament Teams

4. Northwestern – 7 Seed (94/94 brackets)

Oh boy. The Wildcats just barely avoided what would have been an unmitigated disaster by pulling one out at the end over Rutgers at home. A loss to the Scarlet Knights wouldn’t have ended their chances at the NCAA Tournament, but it would have put them at risk, especially when you look ahead at what’s remaining on the schedule.

But Northwestern won, Scottie Lindsey is back, and the dream season lives on. Lindsey was expectedly rusty, but the fact that he was still able to play 24 minutes was a good sign. I assume conditioning is the biggest issue for him to get past right now.

Lindsey or no Lindsey, the Wildcats need to tighten back up their defense. They’re getting beat in multiple ways right now on that end. Rutgers stayed in the game because they hammered the offensive glass, Purdue made a parade of threes against them, and Illinois just scored in every way.

Not many teams in the country are better than Rutgers at grabbing their own misses and the same goes for Purdue at making threes, but that’s not going to cut it for Northwestern. A key for any team to succeed in the postseason is limiting other team’s strengths and the Wildcats aren’t doing a good job of that right now.

They’re still likely to make the dance for the first time, and that’s great. But unless they start taking things away from the opposition, the NCAA Tournament is not only going to be a new experience, but a fleeting one also.

This week: at Illinois and Indiana

5. Michigan – 10 Seed (94/94 brackets)

Not surprisingly, the Wolverines went 1-1 this week and the game they won was the one where they played significantly better defense. I hate to sound like a broken record, but that’s what matters for Michigan.

I know they lost, but it’s an encouraging sign for this team that they were in a toss-up game on the road against a quality opponent when Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin went a combined 10-28.

It helped that DJ Wilson decided he was Robert Horry for an evening:

As well as the Wolverines are playing right now, they’re still going to have to keep it up if they want to guarantee the spot they want in March. They have three of their last four on the road and their only home game is against Purdue on Saturday.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Purdue

6. Minnesota – 7 Seed (94/94 brackets)

I know they just beat Michigan and they’re on a five-game win streak, but the game against the Wolverines was a toss-up in the Barn and I don’t think the Gophers have played a great game still since early January.

Where they get their offensive production continues to baffle me. Mason and Coffey are about the only two guys that consistently contribute in a big way.

Jordan Murphy goes on these ridiculous weeks-long spurts. He’s currently on a good one, averaging 18.0 ppg over the last four. Before that, he had been averaging 6.4 over an eight-game stretch, which was preceded by a five-game stretch where he averaged 13.6.

murphy.png

Akeem Springs essentially does the same thing. He hasn’t scored more than 7 points in their last three games. In the five games before that, he didn’t score less than 14.

springs

Dupree McBrayer scored in double figures in 12 of his first 15 games. Since then? 3 out of 12 games.

mcbrayer.png

In Big Ten play, Eric Curry has three games in double figures and three games with a goose egg.

curry.png

Reggie Lynch is fairly consistent in the scoring category. It’s never a ton, but it’s always something. He’s even more consistent with his 5 blocks and 5 fouls in every game.

It’s good that the Gophers have so many options to score, but I think you’d like a little more stability with who it’s coming from every night. It hasn’t happened recently, but a handful of times they’ve had only one or two guys show up.

So mysterious, the Gophers.

This week: at Maryland, home for Penn State

7. Michigan State – 10 Seed (92/94 brackets)

Spartan Nation got in a war of words with a broadcaster this week. It all started with Dan Dakich calling them whiny on Twitter. They responded by…whining about it? Dakich took it a little too far by calling some people stupid, too stupid to get into Michigan (where his son attends). Tom Izzo put on his tough guy jacket and called Dakich out. The Spartans then lost by a bunch to Purdue and Izzo mentioned his displeasure with “displacement” roughly 327 times in his postgame press conference. Some might have called it “whining” about the officiating.

This has been my favorite feud of the year.

Best wishes to Eron Harris in his recovery. That’s a shitty way to end a career.

This week: home for Nebraska and Wisconsin

What Could’ve Been

8. Indiana – Others Receiving Votes (1/94 brackets)

What’s left to say about Indiana? Things are going very poorly, obviously. All of the talk around the program seems to be whether or not Indiana is going to fire Tom Crean or if Tom Crean is going to leave Indiana on his own free will.

Personally, I don’t think either side should be moving on from one another just yet, but I’m also not very close to the situation.

Certain Indiana fans crush Crean because he’s “only” made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Just as a reminder, he’s been there three times in a five-year stretch. They’ve been there one other time since the early 90’s. He’s won two Big Ten titles, which had also happened only once since the early 90’s.

But you’re in a rush to replace him with who? Gregg Marshall? Why? Because he made the Final Four one year? Cool, so did Crean before he got the big job. The Crean haters always point out the Syracuse loss in the Sweet 16 when IU was a #1 seed. Marshall lost in the second round with a team that was a #1 seed and also 35-0.

Marshall’s just one example. Any legitimate candidate you throw out there, I could poke holes in his resume.

Is Tom Crean the best coach in the country? No, but he’s the best of the four that’s been in Bloomington the last 25 years.

This week: at Iowa, home for Northwestern

9. Nebraska – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

One of the best weeks for anybody in the league. The Huskers handled Penn State at home and then went on the road and pulled one out in Columbus.

It’s too little, too late for the Huskers, but if they get on a little roll here at the end and keep it going into the Big Ten Tournament…things could get interesting. Nebraska has multiple really good wins this year and they’ve played the toughest schedule in the country by RPI standards.

The chances are less than 1%, but I don’t think Nebraska has pulled their last upset this season.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Illinois

Likable Young, Mediocre Teams

10. Penn State – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

They only played once and they got run by Nebraska. No result in a Penn State game is surprising. It made sense when they beat Maryland and it made equal sense when they lost to Rutgers. That’s just the story of the season for the Nittany Lions. It’s just growing pains.

This week: home for Purdue, at Minnesota

11. Iowa – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

Not a good couple of weeks for the Hawkeyes after it looked like they might be able to linger in the NCAA Tournament conversation for a while. Just like Penn State, they’re a young team that’s true to form in their inconsistency. Unfortunately it means we don’t get to see Peter Jok in important games in March.

This week: home for Indiana, at Maryland

Largely Irrelevant

12. Ohio State – Others Receiving Votes (1/94 brackets)

To put it lightly, they disgust me.

This week: home for Wisconsin

13. Illinois – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

They play like the young teams, only they’re one of the most experienced teams in the league.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Nebraska

14. Rutgers – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

Imagine if the last minute of the Wisconsin and Northwestern games go a little differently. Their resume might be better than Ohio State’s.

This week: home for Michigan

Big Ten NCAA Tournament Update: They Hate Us

 


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Derrick Walton, Michigan – averaged 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.5 steals in two wins

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota – averaged 21.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in two wins

Lamar Stevens, Penn State – averaged 23.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in two wins

Vince(nt) Edwards, Purdue – 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals in win at Indiana

Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern – averaged 23.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in two games

Five Seven Best Games to Watch This Week:

Ohio State at Michigan State, Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN

Maryland at Northwestern, Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Indiana at Minnesota, Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Wisconsin at Michigan, Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN

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

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

Michigan at Minnesota, Sunday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN


The selection committee gave us an early glance at the Top 16 in their seeding on Saturday and it wasn’t favorable for the boys of the Big Ten.

Wisconsin fans were mad. Purdue fans were mad. All the others in the league on the bubble probably got a little more stressed out.

The B1G’s absence from the proceedings were the biggest takeaway from a largely meaningless process.

My reaction?

Image result for shrug gif

I don’t really know what people were expecting. If they put Wisconsin or Purdue at #16 would it have made you feel that much better? Both teams along with Cincinnati were mentioned by committee chairman Mark Hollis as being considered for that last spot.

Wisconsin’s best win of the year is…Minnesota? Michigan? Syracuse? Purdue lost to Iowa and Nebraska. The only team in the league besides Purdue that did anything noteworthy in non-conference was Indiana and they can’t stop losing now.

So what does anyone in the league hang their hat on at the moment? Leading/winning the Big Ten doesn’t carry the same weight and guarantee what it usually does because the Big Ten isn’t as good this year. That’s not a legitimate argument for being a higher seed.

And as was predictable, the committee still isn’t going to really use rankings like KenPom. Tigers don’t change their stripes. The committee is made up of a bunch of athletic directors. All due respect, I wouldn’t consider that group of people to be the most forward thinking. They all just pretty much copy each other and how successful they are largely depends on two things: who they hire to coach football and who they hire to coach men’s basketball.

Now they’re all going to break the mold that’s been established for decades and rely on some algorithms?

Not likely. It’s more of the same. More of the RPI. You know, a system that doesn’t have a single Big Ten team in the Top 16.

Locks

Wisconsin – 5 Seed (# of Brackets: 103/103)

Well, the Badgers played with fire one too many times and they finally got burned by a Scottie Lindsey-less Northwestern team at home.

Wisconsin just barely avoided another loss earlier in the week when it took overtime to put away Nebraska. It was their third overtime win in conference play. They’ve also played close games with Indiana and Michigan at home and both of those games occurred when those teams were playing some of their worst basketball.

The Northwestern game was really just the conclusion (hopefully for Badger fans) of what’s been a pretty lackluster stretch for this team.

So what happened? Well, let’s first start with something I wrote last week:

Naturally, this has coincided with Bronson Koenig going through a slump. In those three games, Koenig has gone 9-34 (5-20 from three) from the floor for a total of 30 points. This isn’t new. Happ is the steady rock of the offense, but how Bronson shoots is probably the most important aspect of this team when it matters most. Look no further than the program’s last four losses (three this year, plus last year’s season-ender against Notre Dame).

Opponent Date Points FGM/A FG% 3FGM/A 3FG%
Purdue 1/18/2017 9 3/8 37.50% 1/4 25.00%
UNC 11/23/2016 2 1/13 7.69% 0/5 0.00%
Creighton 11/15/2016 21 8/19 42.11% 3/13 23.08%
Notre Dame 3/25/2016 8 3/12 25.00% 1/6 16.67%
Totals/Averages 10 15/52 28.85% 5/28 17.86%

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this team will go as far as Bronson Koenig takes them. No pressure.

In two games this week, Koenig scored 14 points total, going 5-21 from the field, including 2-11 from three. They were also only able to get 17 points on 17 attempts from Ethan Happ this week. The Badgers are never going to win many games with those two producing that little.

But still, it’s just one loss. However, they need to get it together really quick because they’ve got four tough games coming up.

This week: at Michigan, home for Maryland

Purdue – 5 Seed (# of Brackets: 103/103)

Indiana’s season is quickly going in the tank, but winning in Bloomington was still a really big win for the Boilers. Road wins are like gold, especially in a hostile environment playing a team that’s fighting for its life – although they don’t really act like it – right now.

I’d like to take another moment to pat myself on the back. From last week:

What’s becoming evidently clear with this team is that if they’re going to reach their ceiling, it’ll come down to the Edwards Brothers (not actually brothers) – Carsen and Vince(nt).

The Edwardses (just go with it) at Indiana: 39 points (13-22 from the field, 5-10 from three), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 5 steals, 1 turnover

Pretty, pretty good from your third and fourth best players. (P.S. Mathias is second).

This week: Rutgers and Michigan State at home

Maryland – 6 (# of Brackets: 103/103)

You never really know what Penn State team you’re going to get and, unfortunately for the Terps, they got the one that’s pretty good. It’s certainly not a loss you’d like to have on the resume, but nothing catastrophic.

And they responded by leading wire-to-wire and cruising over Ohio State at home. It helped that they shot the ball significantly better in all three phases. It also probably helped that JaQuan Lyle didn’t make the trip to College Park.

This is the week for the Terps if they want to make a real push to be one of those Top 16 seeds. After this week, they won’t have any opportunities before the conference tournament to make real waves. They’ll get Minnesota and MSU at home, but while nice wins, I’m not sure they’re really going to capture the committee’s attention.

This week: at Wisconsin and Northwestern

Northwestern – 7 Seed (# of Brackets: 103/103)

Weird week for the Wildcats. They played without Scottie Lindsey again and they opened the week by losing to Illinois at home. Their offense was terrible outside of McIntosh and Law. I guess it wasn’t all THAT surprising without their top scorer. We had only seen them play at Purdue with that lineup and it was tough to gauge just how big of an impact Lindsey’s absence would be.

After Tuesday it appeared to be a “lose at home to a ‘can’t win on the road'” Illinois team type of impact.

Naturally they’d get smoked against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Might as well not play the game. Don’t need anybody getting injured or spreading some more mono out there.

nw

Oh.

What a wild week. I’m not sure if there’s two more completely different outcomes in the Big Ten than the same team losing at home to Illinois and following that up by winning at Wisconsin.

Okay, okay, it’s definitely losing at home to Rutgers and then winning at Wisconsin.

That win in Madison may have saved the season for the Wildcats. Things could’ve gotten dark quickly in the most Northwestern way possible if they don’t win that game because Lindsey still hasn’t practiced.

This game: home for Maryland and Rutgers

Minnesota – 7 Seed (# of Brackets: 103/103)

The Gophers avoided potential disaster by clawing one out in double overtime over Iowa. You lose that and all of a sudden the conversation is being 4-7 in the league. People start remembering you didn’t beat a surefire NCAA Tournament team in the non-conference and that you played 11 of those 13 games at home.

But, crisis averted. You pulled it out, you won at Rutgers over the weekend, and the RPI still wildly overrates your strength of schedule. Life is good.

This week: Indiana and Michigan at home

Bubble City

Michigan State -10 Seed (# of Brackets: 101/103)

The Spartans started last week getting shellacked by Michigan, a game that was basically over as soon as it started. Say what you want about win probability percentage, but Michigan’s lowest win probability of the game was 65% and that was at tip-off time.

It would’ve been difficult for anybody to stop the Wolverine offense that night, but the trend of the Spartan offense not really showing up away from the Breslin Center continued.

Here’s a list of their games ranked in order of offensive efficiency:

msu.png

They’ve played 25 games this season, 12 of them on road or neutral floors. Nine of those road or neutral games are in the bottom half, including the worst seven. Not surprisingly, when you rank the games based on 3P%, a similar trend is noticeable.

It’s not entirely unique to Michigan State. Naturally, a lot of teams shoot better at a place they shoot most often. But it’s very defined for this team and the gulf between the numbers is pretty wide.

Inconsistency is often a product of young teams, but I don’t know if you would necessarily call this team inconsistent. They often play really well in East Lansing and they often don’t play well at all anywhere else. That’s why it was no surprise that they handled business when Iowa came to town on Saturday.

Could it change? I suppose it could. Nothing is all that shocking in college basketball. But right now it doesn’t create a very promising view for this team when the postseason hits and the Spartans will have to say goodbye to East Lansing.

Well, unless they’re in the NIT.

This week: home for Ohio State, at Purdue

Michigan – 11 Seed (# of Brackets: 81/103)

The Wolverines are your team of the week. Nobody improved their postseason position in the league more than John Beilein’s crew.

Maybe beating MSU and IU aren’t necessarily the strongest wins in terms of the RPI, but I think optics matter, too. And the optics were Michigan destroying a rival and likely tournament participant and following it up with a road win over a national program, a game in which they were in control the whole way. Not to mention, the games occurred on ESPN and CBS, which naturally results in more eyeballs and ultimately leaves more of an impression.

Michigan was great on offense, no doubt, but make no mistake that their improved defensive play was their reason for success this week. Offense has never been a problem for this team. Think about this: the Wolverines carved up MSU on Tuesday for 86 points and a 29-point victory. They were incredibly efficient, but actually slightly less so than when they played UCLA this year, a game that they lost by 18 points.

But two games don’t quite make a trend and that means the Wolverines still have to improve their consistency when they don’t have the ball.

They’ll be tested again this week. Go 0-2 and it’s basically like last week didn’t even happen.

This week: Wisconsin at home, Minnesota on the road

Indiana – First Four Out (# of Brackets: 25/103)

Pretty much sums up the week for the Hoosiers.

Crean can get mad at his players and call them out publicly all he wants, but you recruited all of them, dude.

The obvious bad news for IU is that they’ve lost five of six and they’d probably be out of the tournament today. The good news is that they’ve got a lot of opportunities left in a short time frame to improve their resume.

This week: at Minnesota and Iowa

Ohio State – N/A Seed (# of Brackets: 0/103)

I know Lyle didn’t make the trip to Maryland, but he did play against Rutgers at home and I think one thing is very clear: Ohio State isn’t that good at being a basketball team.

But even still, it doesn’t take as much as you think it should to make the tournament and Ohio State might play themselves into the field with a win at Michigan State and another over Wisconsin at home, along with a Big Ten Tournament win or two.

I have no reason to believe they will, however. I’d love to be wrong.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Nebraska

Irrelevant

Iowa – N/A Seed (# of Brackets: 0/103)

I can sympathize with Hawkeye fans and their frustration with a blown late-game call that may or may not have ruined their best chance to win a road game. It’s very frustrating.

These things tend to even out.

This week: home for Illinois

Penn State – N/A Seed (# of Brackets: 0/103)

The other team of the week. It was a great two games for the Nittany Lions and especially their freshmen. A look into the future, if you will.

I don’t care enough to really put any thought into teams’ NIT chances, but some guy that doesn’t do NCAA Tournament bracketology, but does do NIT bracketology has the Nittany Lions as a 5 seed. That would be cool.

This week: at Nebraska

Nebraska – N/A Seed (# of Brackets: 0/103)

Not being able to quite close out Wisconsin was a missed opportunity for what would have been a massive win for the Huskers. But at least Ed Morrow is back. His presence might be too little, too late, but at least it makes their very slim chances of going on a miracle run in the Big Ten Tournament a little less slim. Guy was out a month, came back, and immediately grabbed 13 rebounds in only 26 minutes.

This week: home for Penn State, at Ohio State

Illinois – N/A Seed (# of Brackets: 0/103)

Even without Lindsey playing, winning at Northwestern was impressive. Very solid defensive effort.

I thought maybe I’d have to reconsider my statement that the Illini were clearly the 13th best team in the Big Ten.

And then:

psu.png

LOL, 1.2 points per possession to Penn State at home.

This week: at Iowa

Rutgers – N/A Seed (# of Brackets: 0/103)

They’ve competed admirable on defense all year, but that offense is still a hot mess unless Corey Sanders scores 25.

This week should be fun.

This week: at Purdue and Northwestern

 

Big Ten Power Rankings: The Midway Point

 


Five Stars of the Past Week:

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

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

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

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

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

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

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

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

Purdue at Maryland, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN

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

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


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

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

With that said, the power rankings are back.

1. Wisconsin (KenPom: 11)

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

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

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

This week: at Illinois, home for Indiana

2. Maryland (KenPom: 40)

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

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

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

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

This week: at Ohio State, home for Purdue

3. Northwestern (KenPom: 30)

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

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

Life is good in Evanston.

This week: at Purdue

4. Purdue (KenPom: 12)

*Very long, very exaggerated sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

Not great, Bob!

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

This week: home for Northwestern, at Maryland

5. Michigan State (KenPom: 51)

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

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

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

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

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

This week: at Nebraska

6. Michigan (KenPom: 35)

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Ohio State

7. Indiana (KenPom: 39)

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Penn State, at Wisconsin

8. Minnesota (KenPom: 44)

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

Since that point, the Gophers have lost five straight.

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

This week: at Illinois

9. Iowa (KenPom: 91)

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

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

This week: at Rutgers, home for Nebraska

10. Penn State (KenPom: 93)

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

This week: at Indiana, home for Rutgers

11. Ohio State (KenPom: 63)

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

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

This week: home for Maryland, at Michigan

12. Nebraska (KenPom: 83)

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

This week: home for Michigan State, at Iowa

13. Illinois (KenPom: 67)

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

This week: home for Wisconsin and Minnesota

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 129)

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

This week: home for Iowa, at Penn State

 

Overvalued, Undervalued, or Properly Valued: Evaluating NCAA CBB Championship Odds

The MLP Power Rankings are back, which means it’s time to dig into some futures.

For those that are new and would like to know the process of building the rankings, you can read this or this.

Anyway, now that conference play has been going for a few weeks and the schedule strengths are starting to balance out a little more, I figured it would be a good time to check out this year’s field and see if you can find value before the prices plummet.

Remember last year Oregon was the discovery from this type of exercise a year(ish) ago. They were 80-1 at the very beginning of February and entered the tourney around 12-1 if memory serves correctly. Obviously they got bounced in the Elite 8, but getting an eventual #1 seed at that number is about as good as you can get and why it’s always best to look early.

I only evaluated teams that were in the Top 30 of KenPom. No one outside of the Top 25 heading into the tournament has won, so I didn’t extend it out much further for the sake of time. I’ve still got everyone featured in here who has lower odds than the #30 team on KenPom, which is Kansas State

Odds were taken from sportsbook.ag. The number to the left of the teams’ name are where they rank in SB’s odds list and the number in parentheses are where they rank in the MLP Power Rankings.


 

Properly Valued

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1. Kentucky +450 (MLPPR: 4)

They do have an obvious flaw with their shooting. It probably won’t matter for a while in the tournament, but the Louisville game is an example of the danger they’re in when Malik Monk isn’t hot against a good team.

3. Duke +850 (MLPPR: 6)

They’re a mess right now, but talent wins out a lot of times in March and nobody has more than the Blue Devils. Gonna have to play better defense than they are right now, though.

6. Kansas +1000 (MLPPR: 5)

Maybe the most polarizing – in terms of the aspects that go into the power rankings – of the top teams in the country. Their offensive shooting efficiency and interior defense are big in the plus category, but their poor free throw shooting, poor three-point defense, and proneness to fouling aren’t great. Essentially the reasons they lost to IU, although they actually shot free throws well that game, mainly due to who was shooting them (not Josh Jackson).

12. Florida State +2800 (MLPPR: 11)

There’s a lot to like about the Seminoles. They’re an athletic team with quite a bit of NBA talent and they’re really deep. Although, to refresh, teams that play their bench a lot haven’t had much success in the tournament. The Noles would be the team with the highest number of bench minutes to make the Final Four since KenPom started tracking that number (since 2007). The average team ranks 246th in the country.

18. Purdue +4500 (MLPPR: 18)

The only member of the MLPPR that ranks perfectly with their slot in the odds.

At times Purdue looks like a team that could make the last weekend of the tournament. At times they look like they’re a candidate again to get upset in the first round. The rankings hate their turnover problems and their lack of any type of shot-blocker and really just their lack of defensive disruption. Offensively, the biggest thing holding them back are those turnovers. They can score in a lot of ways and their EFG% is great. They’re match-up dependent like a lot of teams, however. They’re as bracket dependent as anyone.

24. St. Mary’s +10000 (MLPPR: 20)

Step 1 is making the field this year. They were 27-5 a year ago and analytically deserving of making the field over other at-large choices, but found themselves playing in the NIT instead. They’re capable of beating anybody with their shooting, but the defense remains a bit of a question mark.

36. South Carolina +22500 (MLPPR: 30)

The best defense in basketball held back by their below-average offense that’s only gotten worse in SEC play. Not worthy of a play here until you see some dramatic improvement in the scoring department.

Somewhat Undervalued

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7. Baylor +1800 (MLPPR: 3)

There seems to be some trepidation with the Bears as a legitimate contender. Probably because they weren’t expected to do much this year, they’re not exactly swimming in five-star talent, and probably because people don’t trust Scott Drew.

Personally, I wonder if there’s enough natural scorers when things get tight in March. But they do give themselves a lot of second chance opportunities, they’re great defensively, and at the end of the day they’re 16-1 against the nation’s 12th toughest schedule.

11. Oregon +2500 (MLPPR: 12)

Not gonna get the same type of value on the Ducks this year. Although I guess that kind of depends on how you feel about them. Their overall resume is flawed by Dillon Brooks’ lack of health so far. It may be a blessing in disguise after all. The rest of the team has developed without him, enough to the point they barely needed him to roll in two blowout wins at the Washington schools.

In Pac-12 play they’ve been the most efficient team in the league on both sides of the ball. Yes, even more efficient than UCLA. All signs point to the Ducks only improving as the season goes on and they’ll likely be in heavy consideration for a #1 seed again.

20. Notre Dame +5500 (MLPPR: 16)

I really like Notre Dame. Their offense is awesome, they’ve got a lot of experience in the tournament recently, and Bonzie Colson has played like an All-American. The biggest knock on them is their defense, obviously. It’s still not great, but it’s better than it was the past couple of years when they went to the Elite 8.

23. Florida +8500 (MLPPR: 19)

They have good guards, which is always a plus when it matters, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to go on a real deep run. They’re really dependent on offensive rebounds on offense and steals on defense. If they’re not getting those, they’re fairly mediocre. Not sure they’ve beat a tournament team yet.

39. SMU +25000 (MLPPR: 22)

There’s obviously a wide gap in their odds and their ranking, but the best win they have is TCU at home and they’re just an okay team so far away from Moody.

54. Clemson +40000 (MLPPR: 23)

Tigers have played a really tough schedule and their biggest issue will be making the field after going through the gauntlet that’s still ahead in the ACC.

Not Listed: Kansas State (MLPPR: 29)

Racked up a lot of wins against a baby-poo soft non-con schedule. Still a decent chance of making the field, though, which is strange they don’t even have odds when you consider some of the teams featured later that do.

Somewhat Overvalued

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4. Villanova +850 (MLPPR: 9)

They’re the defending champs, so it makes sense to believe in them a little bit more than the numbers say. It would help if they could get Phil Booth back.

5. UNC +900 (MLPPR: 10)

They don’t shoot great percentages, but they give themselves so many second and third chances that they end up being an efficient team. They’re not really incredible at anything defensively, but they’re good at about everything. For all their length, they don’t block a lot of shots, though.

They’re a very good team, but probably not as good as last year.

9. Louisville +2000 (MLPPR: 14)

The offense leaves a lot to be desired, but it wouldn’t be the first time Rick Pitino got to the Final Four with a suspect O and fantastic defense. This year’s team looks like the Warriors compared to the 2012 Cardinals.

21. Butler +6500 (MLPPR: 25)

The defense is just okay right now. Still worth keeping an eye on, though. They’ve already racked up a few really good wins.

21. Xavier +6500 (MLPPR: 27)

They’re on a tough stretch right now, but Edmond Sumner alone makes this team really dangerous. Myles Davis is now back and has yet to hit a shot in three games. Once he gets going, it’ll help out with their poor perimeter shooting they’ve had so far this year.

Highly Undervalued

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7. Gonzaga +1800 (MLPPR: 2)

I know the rhetoric around Gonzaga, but they’ve also won four games against the KenPom Top 25 (three of them on a neutral floor) and Mark Few has never had a team that was this good on both sides of the ball. Also, Nigel Williams-Goss is probably the best guard they’ve had here since John Stockton. All due respect to Kevin Pangos and Dan Dickau.

12. Arizona +2800 (MLPPR: 7)

They’re really good as they are, but maybe, oh I don’t know, an Allonzo Trier-type player away from being a real contender. They don’t have the strongest ones, but they’re killing people right now.

14. Virginia +3000 (MLPPR: 1)

The rankings loved Virginia last year too, which has a lot to do with their interior defense and their efficiency shooting the ball. In reality, they lost a close game to Syracuse in the Elite 8. Blew a 16-point lead actually. If that goes the other way, they get UNC in the Final 4, a team they had already beat and possibly Villanova in the championship, another team they had already beat.

Probably won’t come as a big surprise that the Cavs at 3o-1 is my favorite bet.

16. Wisconsin +3500 (MLPPR: 8)

They haven’t beaten anybody really good yet, but they’ve got a lot of tournament experience on this team and the Badgers – at least lately – seem to make it further than you think they will in March.

27. Cincinnati +15000 (MLPPR: 13)

Yeah, probably not, but they’re an exceptional defensive team.

31. Iowa St. +20000 (MLPPR: 17)

A lot less buzz around this team than those they’ve had in recent past and they don’t really have a signature win at this point, but Monte Morris is one of those guards that could put the team on his back for a little while.

Highly Overvalued

Image result for lonzo ball

2. UCLA +600 (MLPPR: 15)

A little more sizzle than substance at the moment. The only team worse defensively to make the Final Four in the KenPom era would be 2011 VCU, which was really just the worst team to make the Final Four in general. 2013 Michigan was close, though.

UCLA’s good and could definitely go on a deep run, but you’re betting against history if you take them to win it all right now and you’re getting zero value in return.

9. West Virginia +2000 (MLPPR: 24)

Once again, the ratings hate West Virginia just like last year, although not as much. Basically there’s not a lot of precedent for a pressing team that plays 1,000 dudes.

The difference between last year and this year is that they’re currently turning teams over at a much higher rate, fouling less, and their offense is better.

We’ll see as they go on though. The Mountaineers SOS is still lagging after playing one of the easiest non-con slates in the country.

It’s hard to really say the ratings were correct about the Mountaineers last year, as much as I’d like that to be true. It didn’t really confirm anything because 1) SFA was maybe the greatest 14 seed ever 2) SFA played the same style, so WVU really just got beat at their own game which doesn’t really prove anything about the press not working.

14. Creighton +3000 (MLPPR: 21)

I started putting this all together on Sunday night. As I write this, it’s Monday night and the difference between now and then is Mo Watson potentially had a season-ending knee injury on Monday afternoon.

If the worst comes true, there’s really not much of a point in considering the Jays. Watson is so important to them. They played well in the second half in his absence, but that doesn’t mean it’s sustainable the rest of the year.

Even if he is okay, there’s a lot of question marks for this team. They get killed in the rankings because they’re a really poor rebounding team and their interior defense isn’t good. You’d love to see them get a chance with a backcourt with Watson, Foster, and Thomas. They’re one of the best in the country and those teams always seem to do well.

17. Indiana +4000 (MLPPR: 26)

Fairly straightforward with the Hoosiers. They’re not good enough defensively and they turn the ball over too much. It’d be tough for anybody to win a NC with Josh Newkirk at point guard. He just doesn’t give them much offensively and he has the highest TO rate of the first eight guys in their rotation.

19. Michigan St. +5000 (MLPPR: NR)

You always have to keep your eye on an Izzo team, but this team hasn’t showed close to the consistency they need to string together six straight wins against the best teams in the country.

Didn’t actually run the numbers, but I can tell you they’d grade out poorly based on their offense overall, turnovers, average rebounding, and really poor free throw shooting.

Irrelevant At This Point

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24. Syracuse +10000 (MLPPR: NR)

They’re 11-7 with losses to Boston College, St. John’s, and UConn. I don’t care what happened last year. If you’re betting on this team to win it all, you’re a dummy.

24. Virginia Tech +10000 (MLPPR: NR)

I like the Hokies, but that Duke win is about the only guaranteed plus on their resume right now. Gotta make the tournament to win it.

27. Michigan +15000 (MLPPR: NR)

They’re actually not good. Defense is atrocious.

27. Minnesota +15000 (MLPPR: NR)

Got off to a hot start, but they’re fading a little bit and Richie Pitino doesn’t exactly instill a ton of confidence.

27. USC +15000 (MLPPR: NR)

Best -and only relevant – win is at home against SMU.

31. Maryland +20000 (MLPPR: NR)

Respect to the Terps for grinding out wins, but that doesn’t mean they have any chance of winning it all.

31. NC State +20000 (MLPPR: NR)

I’m pretty sure they’d be the first team to ever lose a game by 50 and then go on to win a national title.

31. Oklahoma St. +20000 (MLPPR: NR)

Being 0-5 in the Big 12 doesn’t scream national title contenders.

31. Wichita St. +20000 (MLPPR: 28)

Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet are not walking through that door.

36. Northwestern +22500 (MLPPR: NR)

Seems like the odds of making the field for the first time in program history and then rattling off six straight wins ought to be higher.

36. Seton Hall +22500 (MLPPR: NR)

They were the “dangerous” 6 seed last year and they lost by 16 in the first round.

39. Auburn +25000 (MLPPR: NR)

They haven’t beaten a team that’s a lock for the tournament and they’re 102nd in KenPom. It’s wild they’re even listed.

39. Miami +25000 (MLPPR: NR)

A common theme with this group: they haven’t beaten anybody good.

39. Rhode Island +25000 (MLPPR: NR)

There’s a lot to like with the Rams when they’re fully healthy. The problem is that they’re never fully healthy and they’re taking losses that’ll hurt their opportunity to even make the field.

39. Texas A&M +25000 (MLPPR: NR)

They’re 9 and freaking 7.

39. Utah +25000 (MLPPR: NR)

No.

45. Arkansas +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

No.

45. California +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

They can’t score.

45. Dayton +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

Neither can they.

45. Ohio State +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

Currently 1-4 in a mediocre Big Ten.

45. Stanford +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

Jesus Christ.

45. Texas Tech +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

Gotta say, no one would be psyched to play the Red Raiders if they make the dance. Unfortunately for TTU, they don’t get to play any postseason games in Lubbock.

45. VCU +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

Chances of winning the title are slim-to-none, but I’d keep an eye on the Rams for bracket/gambling purposes. They’ve started to play pretty well. Five seniors in the rotation.

45. Washington +30000 (MLPPR: NR)

This is so dumb. They’ll be lucky to make the CBI.

 

Big Ten Power Rankings: Everyone Stinks Edition

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We’re now through one week of Big Ten play and 11 teams have already lost at least one game. I thought about actually power ranking everyone and putting Wisconsin at #1, Rutgers at #14 and everyone else at T-2, but there’s a very real chance the Badgers go 0-2 next week and Rutgers will probably do something stupid like win at Michigan State because the Spartans actually looked good this week.

Instead I’m just going to rank them based on their very early conference standings and explain why each of them STINKS.

While the bottom of the league has risen this year from last year, the top has fallen back, which has created one big mess of mediocrity right now.

Heading into the season, the Top 5 teams in the league based on KenPom projections were all in the Top 16 and had an average ranking of 13.2. Now, not even two full months later and the current Top 5 has two teams in the Top 16 and an average ranking of 24.2.

It’s not a good look. Sure, it makes for a more competitive conference season and a sense of unpredictability every night that’s exciting, but it doesn’t bode well for when the conference hits the NCAA Tournament. The lack of wins over other high-major opponents doesn’t help either.


Five Stars of the Past Week:

Nick Ward, Michigan State – averaged 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in two wins

Glynn Watson, Nebraska – averaged 21.5 points and 4.0 steals in two wins

Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern – scored 31 points on 9-14 shooting (5-8 from 3P) and grabbed 5 rebounds in win at Penn State

Nate Mason, Minnesota – averaged 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in two games

DJ Wilson, Michigan – career highs of 28 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 three-pointers made in OT loss to Iowa

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

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

Purdue at Ohio State, Thursday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN

Minnesota at Northwestern, Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPNU

Maryland at Michigan, Saturday, 3:15 pm EST, ESPN2

Wisconsin at Purdue, Sunday, Time TBD, CBS


Conference Standings and Why Everyone Stinks

T-1. Michigan State (KenPom: 47)

The Spartans stink because they’re still really young and they still lack quality frontcourt depth, which isn’t changing. They had a great week this week, but you still have to be skeptical. They had a great run there around Thanksgiving and then ended up playing poorly the next couple weeks against bad teams at home.

This week: Rutgers at home, Penn State on the road

T-1. Nebraska (KenPom: 81)

Nebraska stinks because they’re the team that went 6-6 in the non-conference and lost to Gardner-Webb at home. As much as I like Ed Morrow, him and Michael Jacobson aren’t exactly the most fearsome guys down low. With Anton Gill now out for the season, their bench went from poor to very poor. Horne, Roby, and Tshimanga all show flashes, but not on a consistent enough basis. A nice couple wins for the Huskers this week, but they still stink.

This week: Iowa and Northwestern at home

3. Wisconsin (KenPom: 11)

Wisconsin stinks because they may not have beaten anyone that’s going to make the NCAA Tournament yet. They also still aren’t great at the shooting thing. We’ll see just how much they stink this week.

This week: at Indiana and Purdue

T-4. Purdue (KenPom: 14)

Purdue stinks because they’re always due to lose a game or two they shouldn’t in B1G play and they cost themselves a high seed in the tournament. They also stink because they struggle with athletic guards that drive their nuts off. I’m sure it won’t come up in March at all. Also, Isaac Haas stinks, but BOY DOES HE HAVE SOME BIG SHOES!

This week: at Ohio State and home for Wisconsin

T-4. Minnesota (KenPom: 40)

Minnesota stinks because their halfcourt offense stinks. They did well against Purdue because they could just ball screen them to death, but that didn’t work as well against MSU’s athletic guards and that’s why the Gophers lost. Also helping Minnesota against Purdue: Eric Curry and Jordan Murphy combined to go 4-9 from three. Coming in they were 2-18. So the official ruling on the halfcourt offense is that it still stinks.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Ohio State

T-4. Northwestern (KenPom: 43)

Northwestern stinks because their destiny is to fail and lose some stupid game in heartbreaking fashion. They also stink because they’re fairly mediocre at a lot of things.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Nebraska

T-4. Maryland (KenPom: 60)

Maryland stinks because the schedule is set up so perfectly for them to actually contend for the conference title, but they refuse to win easily. Sunday it cost them when they gave up a 14-0 run to end the game at home against Nebrasketball. They also stink because their best offense is getting fouled. And finally, they stink because Michal Cekovsky can’t stay healthy.

This week: at Michigan

T-4. Illinois (KenPom: 70)

Illinois stinks because they can’t decide if they want to be good or bad. They also stink because they’re basically middle-of-the-road at every single thing. They have no identity. And they really stink because they’re probably not going to make the tournament and they are going to completely waste Malcolm Hill’s career.

This week: at Indiana

T-4. Iowa (KenPom: 75)

Iowa stinks because their defense stinks. Never forget that they gave up 98 points to Nebraska Omaha. They also stink because they make Peter Jok score all the points and everyone else’s stinkiness is going to prevent Jok from making a run at the POTY crown.

This week: at Nebraska, home for Rutgers

T-4. Penn State (KenPom: 97)

Penn State stinks because they’re wildly inconsistent and their offense would be the worst in the conference if Rutgers didn’t exist. Anyone who loses by 19 at home to George Mason just stinks.

This week: at Michigan, home for Michigan State

T-11. Indiana (KenPom: 24)

Indiana stinks because they’ve now lost to Nebraska at home and Fort Wayne. They stink because they can’t stop turning it over and they treat defense as an optional task. They stink because it’s now January and their third best win is still Houston Baptist.

This week: home for Wisconsin and Illinois

T-11. Michigan (KenPom: 32)

Michigan stinks because their defense still stinks and they haven’t shown much improvement, if any, from last year despite returning almost all of their roster from last year. They stink because they couldn’t beat Iowa, even with DJ Wilson playing the game of his life.

This week: home for Penn State and Maryland

T-11. Ohio State (KenPom: 46)

Ohio State stinks because they are who we thought they were and not who we hoped they would be. They stink because they might miss the tournament for the second straight year with some of the best talent in the league.

This week: home for Purdue, at Minnesota

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 135)

Rutgers stinks because – although they are much improved – they’re still Rutgers.

This week: at Michigan State and Iowa

Big Ten Non-Conference Awards and NCAA Tournament Outlook

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Five Stars From the Past Week:

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue – averaged 26.5 points and 20.5 rebounds in two wins

James Blackmon, Indiana – averaged 21.0 points on 70% shooting, including 67% from 3P in two wins

Trevor Thompson, Ohio State – averaged 12.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in two wins

Nick Ward, Michigan State – 25 points and 9 rebounds in win over Oakland

Maverick Morgan, Illinois – 19 points and 11 rebounds in win over Missouri

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Michigan State at Minnesota, Tuesday, 9:oo pm EST, ESPN2

Northwestern at Michigan State, Friday, 6:00 pm EST, BTN

Louisville vs. Indiana (Indy), Saturday, 12:30 pm EST, CBS

Michigan at Iowa, Sunday, 2:15 pm EST, BTN

Ohio State at Illinois, Sunday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN


We begin with our non-conference awards:

Player of the Non-Conference Season

1. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
2. Melo Trimble, Maryland
3. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
4. James Blackmon, Indiana
5. Peter Jok, Iowa

This one feels fairly obvious to me, as much as I like the other guys listed here. Swanigan is fourth in the league in scoring (18.3 ppg) and first in rebounding (12.5 rpg). He averages three more rebounds per game than anyone else in the league. He’s had three 20-20 games already. He leads the league with 10 double-doubles. The next closest guy has six. He’s won Big Ten POTW three of the seven weeks.

The schedule wasn’t the strongest for Maryland, but as much credit goes to Trimble for their 12-1 record as anybody else. Happ is still the MVP of the Badger trio for me and the best two-way player. Blackmon and Jok both still leave a little to be desired defensively, but they both certainly score.

Coach of the Non-Conference Season

1. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers
2. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
3. Mark Turgeon, Maryland
4. Chris Collins, Northwestern
5. John Groce, Illinois

COTY is always tough because coaches are dealing with different standards and play much different schedules in the non-conference. I don’t have any of the Gard, Crean, and Painter trio listed. Their teams are the three current contenders for the league championship, but I don’t think any of them exceeded expectations much. They just kind of did what you expected.

Pikiell gets the nod for making the Scarlet Knights look like a basketball team, which wasn’t the case a year ago. They didn’t exactly build a tournament resume. In fact, they don’t really have one yet. But they went 11-2 – four more wins than all of last year – and their only two losses were competitive ones on the road at Miami (FL) and Seton Hall.

Pitino’s Gopher team has also made great strides. They’ve been great defensively and will be a near lock to make the NCAA Tournament if they go .500 in league play. Turgeon’s squad wasn’t overwhelming, but they’ve battled to a 12-1 record with a highly inexperienced team.

It would’ve been massive to get the one-that-got-away against Notre Dame, but Collins just might do the impossible at Northwestern this year. Thanksgiving week wasn’t kind to John Groce, but his Illini team has been flawless against a challenging schedule since and find themselves back in the tourney conversation.

Defensive Player of the Non-Conference Season

1. Trevor Thompson, Ohio State
2. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
3. Reggie Lynch, Minnesota
4. Glynn Watson, Nebraska
5. Mike Watkins, Penn State

Maybe the toughest one to really decide. I always think coaches have a much better idea of who the best defensive players are. I’m like most people in that I don’t always pay as much attention to the individual defenders.

Thompson gets the nod for me. He’s one of the most underrated players in the league, if you ask me. Defensively, he’s the only rim-protector the Buckeyes have and he does it really well. He’s the league leader in both defensive rebounding percentage and overall defensive rating. Defensive rating can be a flawed individual statistic, but when no one else on your team is close to you and your team is a Top 25 defense, I think it’s fair to say the numbers back up the eye test with Thompson.

Happ doesn’t have the explosiveness to be a big time shot-blocker, but he’s so damn solid and those block numbers will always hold his defense back from getting the respect it deserves.

Lynch and Watkins have insane block numbers so far and are two of the best in the country. Watson is one of the best end-to-end defenders in the league and leads the B1G in steals.

Newcomer of the Non-Conference Season

1. Mike Watkins, Penn State
2. Nick Ward, Michigan State
3. Anthony Cowan, Maryland
4. Amir Coffey, Minnesota
5. Cordell Pemsl, Iowa

I had a list of twenty that are probably all worthy. To narrow it down, I took out both Tyler Cook and Miles Bridges, just because they’ve both missed a large chunk of the season. Also, I made just one guy eligible per team. This was difficult with all five teams that these guys are on.

Watkins and Ward are probably 1a and 1b for me, but Watkins gets the nod because he’s been in the fire from game one this season. Ward didn’t play 20 minutes in a game until the seventh game of the season. Both have been outstanding big men and are potential NBA guys.

Cowan got the Terp nod over Justin Jackson. He’s been a little more efficient and a solid table-setter. Coffey has slowed down the past few weeks, but he’s also a lot younger than Lynch and Akeem Springs and brings a unique skill set to that team. Pemsl has been ultra-efficient and has been really effective without Cook in the lineup.


Not a lot actually happened this week, so it seems like a perfect opportunity to check in on where all the bracket prognosticators have everybody in the NCAA Tournament projections. It’s obviously still very early, but I think it gives you a good idea of what teams need to accomplish in conference play if they want to go dancing.

Nationally, it’s not the prettiest scene for the B1G right now. KenPom’s ratings have them as the fourth-best league in the country and only have four teams in the Top 40. For comparison, the Big 12 has eight teams (out of 10) and the ACC has nine. As a group, they just didn’t have a lot of big wins in the early season.

Barring A Debacle, They’re Playing For Seeding

Purdue – Bracket Matrix: 4 Seed (29/29 brackets, 4.41 average)

The Big East, ACC, and Big 12 all have three teams higher on the seed list than the B1G’s highest team, the Boilermakers.

There was nothing really damaging for Purdue in the non-conference, but there also wasn’t a ton of resume building either. The Notre Dame win is the only one that would currently classify as “quality”, although Auburn could certainly join that list. The Tigers are 10-2 headed into a pretty weak SEC and they’ve already got a few nice wins themselves.

The biggest takeaway in terms of their seeding chances in the early season was really the opportunities they lost out on. Beating Villanova at home would’ve been major and probably worth at least a full seed line. They’d probably like a re-do on that first half in Louisville, as well. Those are two losses that won’t necessarily hurt them, but could’ve helped them get out of that 4/5 seed purgatory where losing in the first game is a very real possibility, which the Boilers are very familiar with after UALR last year.

This week: Iowa and Minnesota at home

Indiana – Bracket Matrix: 4 Seed (28/29 brackets, 4.75 average)

The Hoosiers collected the two best wins in the league during the non-con. Beating UNC and Kansas will be a big boost when it comes time for their final seeding.

So why are they the same seed as a Purdue team that wasn’t able to win those type of games? Well, SOS would probably be the biggest reason. KenPom has them at 348 out of 351. They’ve only played four games against the KenPom top 250. They went 2-2. Their next best win at the moment – behind UNC and Kansas – would be Houston Baptist, who currently has one D-1 win.

The Fort Wayne loss isn’t all that damaging at the moment. I’ve written before about these arbitrary marks we like to make with the RPI. Any loss outside of the Top 100 in the RPI is considered bad and any win inside the Top 50 is considered good. The RPI is already pretty dumb and these meaningless boundaries we set are even dumber. A win over the #1 team and a win over the #50 team are reduced to being the same value when you lump them under “Top 50 RPI wins”.

I digress. The reason Fort Wayne isn’t a bad loss at the moment is because they’re juuuuuust inside the Top 100 in the RPI at 97.

The SOS will go way up for IU after they go through their B1G schedule and they also will play Louisville this week, which will be a big boost to the non-con SOS.

This week: home for Nebraska, Louisville in Indy

Wisconsin – Bracket Matrix: 5 Seed (29/29 brackets, 4.79 average)

Speaking of Top 50 wins, the Badgers may not have gotten one yet. The RPI is even worse at this point of the year than usual, but while Wisconsin won five games over big-name schools, Georgetown is the highest in the RPI right now at 59. While I’ve repeatedly let my disdain for the RPI be known, it may be correct in that Georgetown, Syracuse, Oklahoma, Marquette, and Tennessee are actually not very good.

Beating Creighton or North Carolina would’ve solidified a good win for the Badgers, but they couldn’t close in Omaha and the Tar Heels blew them out in Maui. If they’re going to get up in to one those Top 2 seeds, they’ll probably have to go something like 16-2 in league play or a couple of those big-name teams they beat are going to have to play much better in their leagues.

This week: home for Rutgers

They’d Probably Be In Now, But Some Work Left To Do

Maryland – Bracket Matrix: 7 Seed (26/29 brackets, 7.35 average)

It doesn’t really matter how you get them and the Terps had a trio of potentially good wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Georgetown. How did they get them? They won all three games by one point.

It speaks to the Terps ability to close games, but is also a reason that some are skeptical if they can be a team that wins double-digit games in conference play. But as I mentioned in the season preview, their schedule is very favorable. While that helps them in terms of their ability to have a chance at winning the conference or coming close, it reduces their opportunities to help out their seeding.

This week: Illinois and Nebraska at home

Minnesota – Bracket Matrix: 7 Seed (26/29 brackets, 7.81 average)

The Gophers are in a fairly similar boat with Maryland, they were just a little more convincing in their victories over decent teams. That doesn’t really change anything with the traditional, antiquated way of viewing resumes, but it helps their standing with power rankings like KenPom and Sagarin, which become part of the conversation more and more every year.

They also have a relatively easy road with their B1G schedule. They play each of the Top 3 only once and only Purdue is on the road. I’m not saying they’re going to win the league, but it wouldn’t be the dumbest thing to sprinkle a little action on them to win the league, either.

This week: home for Michigan State and at Purdue

Northwestern – Bracket Matrix: 9 Seed (23/29 brackets, 8.83 average)

They need Dayton, Texas, and Wake Forest to finish the season strong. They’d also probably like to have a time machine and redo the ends of the Butler and Notre Dame games.

I’m not saying it’s a lock that Northwestern makes the tournament if they go 9-9 in league play, but it’d put a lot of pressure on the committee to keep them out.

This week: at Penn State and Michigan State

Michigan – Bracket Matrix: 9 Seed (25/29 brackets, 8.92 average)

I’m not trying to freak any Wolverine fans out, but their non-con resume is very similar to last year, if not a little worse. They went 10-8 in B1G play last year and still had to beat IU in the conference tournament in order to make one of the play-in games in Dayton. Not saying, just saying.

This week: at Iowa

Things Are Pretty Bubbly

Ohio State – Bracket Matrix: 11 Seed (13/29 brackets, 9.54 average)

I had high hopes for the Buckeyes this year. Even higher hopes after their first half at Virginia. Since then, it appears they’re exactly what we thought they were.

You can get away with playing very poorly and winning close games against Fairleigh Dickinson and UNC Asheville at home. It becomes a big deal for 20 minutes on Twitter as everyone waits to see if you lose. But if you win, just about everybody forgets by the next day and it’s never talked about nationally again. More specifically, it never matters with the committee in March.

Unfortunately that overtime loss to Florida Atlantic could be the difference between making the tournament and playing in the NIT again. In addition, they may still not have a good win. Their only real hope is Providence.

They may need to win 11 or 12 B1G games, including a couple of big ones.

This week: at Illinois

Illinois – Bracket Matrix: 11 Seed (13/29 brackets, 10.38 average)

I’m no bracket expert, but I’d say the Illini have a much better resume right now than Ohio State, but what do I know? Yes, they lost to Winthrop, but Winthrop is a lot better than FAU. They’ve also beaten NC State, VCU, and BYU. Three wins that are right about the same level as OSU’s one win over Providence.

Illinois has a chance to rack up a lot of wins in the B1G, but they only have one chance at each of the Top 3, with only Wisconsin at home. They’re going to need to have to avoid bad losses because they won’t have many opportunities to offset them with big wins.

This week: at Maryland, home for Ohio State

Michigan State – Bracket Matrix: Second Four Out (8/29 brackets, 10.50 average)

They really need Wichita State to be dominant in the MVC again this year. The Shockers were their best win and Wichita left non-con with one decent win over Oklahoma.

They also need Northeastern to have a really good run in the CAA to be a Top 100 team.

Most importantly, the Spartans need to start playing significantly better.

MSU will get the benefit of the doubt when it comes down to Selection Sunday and that’s just a fact. There’s a reason Syracuse made the tournament last year, setting the record for being the team with the highest RPI to be selected to make the field. Also, MSU had the worst record ever for a team selected back in 2011 when they were 18-14.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Northwestern

A Lot Of Work To Do, But Possible

Iowa – Bracket Matrix: N/A

They’re not in a great spot right now, but the Iowa State win was a good place to start and the way they’ve been playing the past few weeks suggests that they may be a factor in the conference. Two big games to start off league play.

This week: at Purdue, home for Michigan

Rutgers – Bracket Matrix: N/A

I mentioned it in the COTNCS discussion, but while Rutgers doesn’t have any good wins yet, they also haven’t done any damage to a potential NCAA Tournament resume yet. Having no bad losses (with plenty of opportunities), puts them ahead of Iowa, Illinois, MSU, and OSU in that aspect.

It’s difficult to imagine them as a tournament team because of how bad they were last year, but we’ve only seen them play two good teams. They were both on the road and the Scarlet Knights didn’t look too bad. They don’t play any of the Top 3 at home. That hurts their chances for a massive win, but it also means they’ll have a good opportunity to win every game at home the rest of the way. It’s not likely, but it’s also not inconceivable. KenPom gives Michigan the best chance to win in Piscataway and he only favors them by four points.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn St.

Maybe Next Year

Penn State – Bracket Matrix: N/A

The Nittany Lions will be frisky, but they’re probably not frisky enough to overcome an 8-5 record with losses to George Mason and Albany.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Penn St.

Nebraska – Bracket Matrix: N/A

There was a glimmer of hope until they lost to Gardner-Webb.

This week: at Indiana and Maryland

 

Big Ten Power Rankings: Player Comps


Five Stars of the Past Week:

Caleb Swanigan and Vincent Edwards, Purdue – 46 points, 20 rebounds, 5 blocks in win over Notre Dame

Mike Watkins, Penn State – 15 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal in win over St. John’s

Dupree McBrayer and Nate Mason, Minnesota – 40 points and 12 assists in win over LIU-Brooklyn

Deshawn Freeman, Rutgers – 16 points and 11 rebounds in win over Fordham

Maverick Morgan, Illinois – 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in win over BYU

Five Six Games to Watch This Week:

Charlotte vs. Maryland (Baltimore), Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN2

North Dakota at Iowa, Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN

Missouri vs. Illinois (St. Louis), Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPNU

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

Rutgers at Seton Hall, Thursday, 6:30 pm EST, FS1

Arkansas St. at Minnesota, Thursday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN


I’m gonna keep the team analysis pretty short this week since most teams only played once and a lot of them played trash.

However, KenPom re-released the player comparison feature again and I’ve wasted hours flipping through a ton of them this week. If you’d like to read the formula behind these comps, you can read about it here.

Since there’s not a ton to talk about that happened this past week or what will happen this coming week, I thought it’d be fun to pick one player comp for each of the teams that I think fits the most. I was gonna do full starting lineups, but I did two of them and it took forever and the Bucs just lost and morale is low.

1. Wisconsin (Last Week: 1 / KenPom: 10)

They beat Green Bay, which made them 2-0 against other Wisconsin teams this year. A nice bounceback after going 1-2 last year.


Favorite Player Comp:

Brady Morningstar – Zak Showalter: This is so goddamn spot-on. Showalter and Morningstar are both the fourth or fifth option in lineups where they’re surrounded by big-name players. Morningstar did have a little more talent around him, though. That KU team had the Morris brothers, Thomas Robinson, Tyrel Reed, Tyshawn Taylor, Josh Selby, and Jeff Withey. Not surprisingly, they went 35-3 before getting upset by VCU.

2. Indiana (Last Week: 2 / KenPom: 16)

They lost to Butler, which isn’t really that big of a deal. Kelan Martin was absurdly hot in the first half.


Favorite Player Comp:

OG Anunoby – Chandler Parsons: Needed to break the racial barrier down. They had different backgrounds coming into college. Parsons was a 5-star recruit and was part of a loaded recruiting class that never really accomplished anything. Anunoby was more under the radar, but he’s quickly established himself as an intriguing pro prospect. His rise along with this comp is interesting to me because Parsons ended up playing all four years. Parsons has had a nice career and he was never quite the defensive prospect that OG is right now.

3. Purdue (Last Week: 3 / KenPom: 13)

Big-time comeback win for Purdue. That’s a big monkey off the back in a variety of ways. They needed to get a quality win in non-con, they needed to win a game in that event, and winning playing small ball should give them a lot of confidence that they can play a variety of ways.


Favorite Player Comp:

Caleb Swanigan – Derrick Williams: Williams was the better athlete and a master at getting to the free throw line, but their games are pretty similar. Swanigan’s a better passer and rebounder, but they both primarily live(d) on the inside and supplemented with the occasional perimeter shot. If Swanigan follows a similar career path to Williams (getting to the Elite 8 like Zona did would help), you’d have to call it a success.

4. Northwestern (Last Week: 4 / KenPom: 46)

They nearly blew another one, but the win over Dayton was another massive one. It feels like in order to get to the tournament, it’s going be an absolute grind every night that will cause Wildcat fans stress, but it’s gonna be so damn beautiful when it happens.


Favorite Player Comp:

Vic Law – Trevon Bluiett: It’s admittedly boring since Bluiett is still playing, but that doesn’t make it wrong. They’re both long wings who can do a little bit of everything and play a pretty smooth game. I’m not sure either will ever be NBA guys, but they’re good enough for the scouts to keep an eye on.

5. Michigan (Last Week: 5 / KenPom: 28)

They beat a couple of tomato cans by a lot of points.


Favorite Player Comp:

Mo Wagner – Jon Leuer: A strikingly similar first two seasons, albeit Mo is only halfway through this one. They also have the same essence about them that makes you want to punch them in the nose if your team is playing against them. Mo is destined to also be the token white guy off the bench for a new NBA team every season I guess.

6. Minnesota (Last Week: 6 / KenPom: 48)

They beat LIU-Brooklyn. It wasn’t impressive, but they didn’t have Amir Coffey either.


Favorite Player Comp:

Amir Coffey – Evan Turner: Following Turner’s path is probably the best-case scenario for Coffey, which is a pretty good one, despite Turner’s lack of success in the NBA. While the numbers are similar in their freshman years, Turner developed so much over his three years in Columbus. He improved as a defender, was one of the best passers in the country, and was a great rebounder for his position. That last facet might be the greatest area of need for Coffey over his career. For being 6-8 and playing a ton of minutes, he doesn’t have a lot of boards to show for it. It doesn’t help playing with Windex men like Jordan Murphy, Eric Curry, and Reggie Lynch, but still. Akeem Springs rebounds at a higher rate.

7. Maryland (Last Week: 8 / KenPom: 64)

They beat Jacksonville State.


Favorite Player Comp:

Melo Trimble – JamesOn Curry: I LOVED JamesOn Curry back in the day. Unfortunately for him, his pro career never really panned out, which was probably impacted by some of his off-the-court problems. I’m not sure it’s a great thing for Trimble that they’re comparable, but the similarities are definitely there. Melo is more of a driver, but he also has the ball in his hands more. Curry played off the ball. The very noticeable trend that the two share, though, is over the course of their career as they became a bigger part of the team and their usage rate went up, the team got worse. That’s obviously not all either of their fault, but…it’s something. I’m just saying Melo’s comps as a freshman were Shelvin Mack, Jerryd Bayless, Olivier Hanlan, Josh Perkins, and Kendall Williams and now by far the most flattering comp he has is Curry. Maybe it’ll change as the schedule gets tougher.

8. Ohio State (Last Week: 7 / KenPom: 37)

The Buckeyes hung around with UCLA all game, but at the same time it never really felt like they had a chance to win.


Favorite Player Comp:

JaQuan Lyle – Lance Stephenson: This is without a doubt my favorite. I cheated a bit on this because it was Lyle’s comp for his freshman year, but it’s just too perfect. First off, both of them had these long, twisted recruitments where they were going/looked like they were going to a variety of schools. They both have a ton of talent, but their attitudes seem to hold them back. They both think they can shoot, but they can’t. They’re both gifted passers, but they turn it over too much. I want Lyle’s career to be different than Stephenson’s, but I’m not sure he’ll ever even get there.

9. Illinois (Last Week: 10 / KenPom: 66)

Big win for the Illini over BYU in Chicago. They’ve responded with five straight decent wins since Thanksgiving week.


Favorite Player Comp:

Malcolm Hill – Quenton DeCosey: I’m starting to think maybe Malcolm Hill isn’t as good as I thought.

10. Iowa (Last Week: 13 / KenPom: 68)

Northern Iowa isn’t as good as they have been over the past couple of years, but the Hawkeyes destroyed the Panthers. And they only gave up 46 points!


Favorite Player Comp:

Peter Jok – Nick Faust: Not a perfect comparison. Jok is a more natural shooter while Faust is a more gifted athlete, but they both are capable of going for 40 if they’re feeling it while also capable of going 3-18 and taking the whole team down with them. I love them both.

11. Rutgers (Last Week: 11 / KenPom: 118)

Say what you want about the schedule, but the Knights just keep winning. It’s true that none of their 11 wins would be featured on an NCAA Tournament resume, but they’ve won three of them away from their home floor and they seem to keep winning in more-and-more convincing fashion. The three teams below them can’t say the same thing.


Favorite Player Comp:

Corey Sanders – Shaq Harrison: Big Ten fans may remember Harrison as the guy who almost single-handedly ended Michigan’s season in Dayton last year. Sanders isn’t quite the stat-stuffer that he was last year, but that’s probably for the better. He was asked to do way too much last season. His numbers this year are very similar to Harrison’s as a sophomore. Things Sanders should do to be more like Harrison as a senior: reduce turnovers, stop shooting so many threes, attack the rim and get to the free throw line.

12. Michigan State (Last Week: 9 / KenPom: 56)

It shocks me just as much as you to have the Spartans here, but I’ve got to stay true to ranking teams how they’re playing right now and they pretty much stink right now. Miles Bridges or not, they haven’t consistently put away bad teams at home and Northeastern took advantage and hammered them down the stretch. That’s a team that has lost to Harvard, Cornell, Boston, Stony Brook, and LIU Brooklyn. Is it time to panic? No, but a loss to Oakland and you might want to start thinking about it.


Favorite Player Comp:

Miles Bridges – Carmelo Anthony: Now we’re talkin’. It’s definitely not a perfect comp, but I can’t just see Carmelo’s name and pass it up. For one, Melo was a better, more dynamic scorer and Miles is a more explosive athlete, even at that stage of Melo’s career. But they’re similar in that they can’t really guard wings, but they don’t have the traditional height for an NBA 4 either and that they’re both good rebounders.

13. Penn State (Last Week: 14 / KenPom: 109)

They went to the Garden and shredded St. John’s with their dribble penetration. Another nice win for the Nittany Lions. I’m excited to watch them in B1G competition.


Favorite Player Comp:

Mike Watkins – Andrew Nicholson: Watkins’ top 3 comps – Nicholson, Tarik Black, Tyrus Thomas – were/are all NBA players, btw. The obvious comparisons between these two is thier efficiency around the basket offensively and their shot-blocking ability on the other end. Watkins is a better rebounder than Nicholson was at this stage. Nicholson ended up staying with the Bonnies all four years and developed the threat of a perimeter shot by the time he was a senior, which is something that would obviously be a great addition to Watkins’ game and his pro prospects.

14. Nebraska (Last Week: 12 / KenPom: 88)

They lost to Gardner Webb and now they have to beat Southern just to finish .500 in non-con. Not good. They played a very difficult schedule and they didn’t have anything close to a bad loss up until this weekend, but I think you’d have to end up calling this first half-ish part of the season a failure.


Favorite Player Comp:

Tai Webster – DJ Newbill: This is bittersweet for Webster because it’s a compliment to how well he’s playing this year, but an indictment of his teammates.