Rankings

2019-20 Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 5

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

1. Michigan State (BM: 3 seed)

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

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

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

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

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

This week: at Indiana and Minnesota

2. Maryland (BM: 4 seed)

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

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

Jalen Smith is also still very good at basketball.

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

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

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

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

This week: at Northwestern and Indiana

5. Iowa (BM: 5 seed)

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

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Rutgers

4. Ohio State (BM: 6 seed)

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

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

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

This week: home for Minnesota, at Northwestern

5. Michigan (BM: 6 seed)

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

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

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

This week: home for Penn State and Illinois

6. Wisconsin (BM: 7 seed)

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Nebraska, at Purdue

7. Rutgers (BM: 7 seed)

YOUR NATIONALLY RANKED RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

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

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

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

This week: at Iowa, home for Nebraska

8. Penn State (BM: 8 seed)

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

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

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

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

This week: at Michigan

9. Illinois (BM: 9 seed)

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

This week: at Purdue and Michigan

10. Indiana (BM: 9 seed)

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

This week: Michigan State and Maryland at home

11. Purdue (BM: 11 seed)

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

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

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

This week: home for Illinois and Wisconsin

12. Minnesota (BM: 11 seed)

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

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

Great opportunity this week to prove something.

This week: at Ohio State and home for Michigan State

13. Nebraska (BM: N/A)

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

This week: at Wisconsin at Rutgers

14. Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Same.

This week: home for Maryland and Ohio State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Properly Valued

T2. Duke +1000 (FFI: 2)

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

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

T2. Kansas +1000 (FFI: 1)

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

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

T5. Baylor +1500 (FFI: 6)

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

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

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

T5. Michigan State +1500 (FFI: 3)

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

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

T9. Butler +2000 (FFI: 12)

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

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

13. Auburn +2500 (FFI: 11)

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

T15. Arizona +3000 (FFI: 15)

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

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

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

T21. Florida State +4000 (FFI: 17)

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

23. Penn State +4500 (FFI: 27)

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

T26. Colorado +6000 (FFI: 22)

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

T26. LSU +6000 (FFI: 28)

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

T26. Marquette +6000 (FFI: 32)

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

T26. Purdue +6000 (FFI: 31)

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

T39. Indiana +8000 (FFI: 44)

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

T39. VCU +8000 (FFI: 40)

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

T46. Oklahoma +10000 (FFI: 46)

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

T61. Georgetown +12500 (FFI: 43)

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

T61. Virginia Tech +12500 (FFI: 45)

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

Slightly Overvalued

1. Gonzaga +900 (FFI: 5)

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

T5. Ohio State +1500 (FFI: 10)

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

T24. Florida +5000 (FFI: 39)

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

T24. Texas Tech +5000 (FFI: 37)

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

T26. Creighton +6000 (FFI: 36)

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

T26. Houston +6000 (FFI: 35)

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

T26. Wichita State +6000 (FFI: 38)

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

T26. Xavier +6000 (FFI: 41)

They’re not very good right now.

Slightly Undervalued

T26. Iowa +6000 (FFI: 18)

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

T39. Saint Mary’s +8000 (FFI: 25)

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

T39. Wisconsin +8000 (FFI: 26)

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

T46. Stanford +10000 (FFI: 33)

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

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

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

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

T61. BYU +12500 (FFI: 21)

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

T69. Illinois +15000 (FFI: 34)

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

Highly Overvalued

T2. Louisville +1000 (FFI: 13)

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

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

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

8. Oregon +1600 (FFI: 16)

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

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

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

T9. Maryland +2000 (FFI: 19)

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

T11. Kentucky +2200 (FFI: 23)

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

T11. Villanova +2200 (FFI: 24)

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

14. Virginia +2800 (FFI: 42)

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

T15. Memphis +3000 (FFI: 30)

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

Highly Undervalued

T15. Michigan +3000 (FFI: 4)

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

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

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

T18. Dayton +3300 (FFI: 8)

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

T18. West Virginia +3300 (FFI: 9)

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

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

T36. Arkansas +7000 (FFI: 14)

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

Irrelevant

T21. North Carolina +4000 (FFI: NR)

LMAO

T26. Texas +6000 (FFI: NR)

Why is Texas overrated in every sport?

T36. Tennessee +7000 (FFI: NR)

Not even remotely a threat without Lamonte Turner.

T36. Washington +7000 (FFI: NR)

They were a bubble team before Quade Green was out.

T39. St. John’s +8000 (FFI: NR)

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

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

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

T39. Utah State +8000 (FFI: NR)

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

T39. Liberty +8000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Cincinnati +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. UConn +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Davidson +10000 (FFI: NR)

Low-key one of the biggest disappointments in CBB.

T46. Mississippi State +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Missouri +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. NC State +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Notre Dame +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Oklahoma State +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Utah +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Drake +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

T46. Northern Iowa +10000 (FFI: NR)

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

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

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

T59. USC +12000 (FFI: NR)

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

T61. Arizona State +12500 (FFI: NR)

Another Hurley that loses his mind without tangible improvement.

T61. Harvard +12500 (FFI: NR)

This should be Yale.

T61. Syracuse +12500 (FFI: NR)

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

T61. UCLA +12500 (FFI: NR)

They’re 8-9.

T61. DePaul +12500 (FFI: NR)

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

T69. Alabama +15000 (FFI: NR)

Getting better pretty quietly underneath Nate Oats.

T69. Georgia +15000 (FFI: NR)

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

T69. Minnesota +15000 (FFI: NR)

Not horrendous.

T69. Ole Miss +15000 (FFI: NR)

Tyree is good.

T69. Penn +15000 (FFI: NR)

This should be Yale.

T69. Rhode Island +15000 (FFI: NR)

They can’t throw it in the ocean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Michigan State (KP: 5)

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

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Wisconsin

2. Ohio State (KP: 8)

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State

3. Maryland (KP: 12)

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

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

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

This week: at Wisconsin and home for Purdue

4. Purdue (KP: 17)

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

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

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

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

This week: at Maryland

5. Iowa (KP: 19)

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

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

This week: at Northwestern, home for Michigan

6. Michigan (KP: 21)

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

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

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

This week: at Iowa

7. Wisconsin (KP: 22)

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Maryland, at Michigan State

8. Illinois (KP: 29)

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

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

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

This week: home vs. Northwestern 

9. Rutgers (KP: 32)

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

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Indiana and Minnesota

10. Indiana (KP: 33)

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

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

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

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

This week: at Rutgers and Nebraska

11. Penn State (KP: 36)

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

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

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

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

This week: at Minnesota, home for Nebraska

12. Minnesota (KP: 38)

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

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

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

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

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

This week: home for Penn State, at Rutgers

13. Northwestern (KP: 104)

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

This week: home for Iowa, at Illinois

14. Nebraska (KP: 131)

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

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

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

This week: at Ohio State, home for Indiana

2019-20 CFB Bowl Rankings: Watchability

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yeah, probably not betting it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Followed by:

Followed by:

longhorns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Power Ratings By Region: South

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

South

Rankings are in order of the FFI. We’re going speed round on this one.

16. Gardner Webb (16 seed / 45.2)

I’m not calling another upset, but the Bulldogs are the best 16 seed and won a couple road games at ACC schools this year.

15. Old Dominion (14 seed / 55.6)

Ahmad Caver and BJ Stith make a nice 1-2 punch in the backcourt for the Monarchs. They’re not the most efficient team, but those two specifically could get in a rhythm against a loose Purdue perimeter defense and make things interesting. With that said, they hang their hat on the defensive end.

14. Colgate (15 seed / 57.7)

I don’t think Colgate can match the physicality of Tennessee, but they’re fairly long in the frontcourt for a Patriot League team. Jordan Burns showed how terrifying he can be when he gets hot in the Patriot League championship. He went for 35 on 16 shots, added 6 assists and 3 steals and also ripped my heart out and spit on my Bucknell future.

13. UC Irvine (13 seed / 66.3)

The Anteaters seem to be a trendy upset pick and for good reason, I might add. 30 wins regardless of what conference you’re in is pretty impressive. Russell Turner is a great coach and his program always defends. They’ve got a talented backcourt, but they’ll have their hands full trying to score on Kansas State.

12. Oregon (12 seed / 70.8)

The big flaw in the FFI is that it measures a whole season and misses a bit on how teams have been trending lately and I think Oregon is a perfect example. Plainly, they sucked for a while early in the year, but they’ve been great at both ends of the floor the last month or so. Payton Pritchard is playing like a star and he’s surrounded by a factory line of 6’9″ athletes that bring a variety of skills.

11. Cincinnati (7 seed / 76.3)

The Cats had their best win of the season in the last game of the season, but I’m not totally buying it. Houston had some foul trouble and Corey Davis was close to not even playing. Otherwise, I wasn’t overwhelmed with their season and they were just okay in the other two AAC Tournament games. Jarron Cumberland is a stud, but the rest of the crew is a little too streaky for me to totally believe that they can make the second weekend.

10. Ole Miss (8 seed / 78.8)

The Rebels are a little streaky as a team, but it’s hard to bet against Kermit Davis and their guards can make plays. They didn’t have any particularly bad losses this year and they were able to score wins at Auburn and Mississippi State. If they get through Oklahoma, they could make things interesting against Virginia.

9. Saint Mary’s (11 seed / 80.2)

Villanova isn’t the best matchup for the Gaels because the Wildcats have the personnel to switch all of their screens. But the Gaels still have Jordan Ford and several viable weapons around him.

8. Iowa (10 seed / 80.2)

They don’t play any defense.

7. Kansas State (4 seed / 80.5)

The Wildcats have had so many of their top guys in-and-out the last month or two that they almost seem uniquely equipped to handle Dean Wade being out, especially since they played the tournament without him last year. They play a lot of rock fights, but I still believe in their guards late in games even though they don’t shoot great percentages.

6. Villanova (6 seed / 81.2)

I don’t know what to think of the Cats because even though they won both Big East titles this year, there’s not really any good teams in the Big East so what does that really mean? They lost their last five road games. Yes, they won the conference tournament, but none of those wins are over Top 50 teams and they were all close games. They just don’t rebound well and you can shoot on them. They can make the second weekend, but it’s hard to envision them beating a team like Tennessee.

5. Oklahoma (9 seed / 82.6)

Uh, I’ll just say I disagree with the numbers here. They get a big boost from their schedule, but it doesn’t really mean much if you can’t beat the best teams on their schedule.

4. Purdue (3 seed / 94.8)

They can be really good when Carsen Edwards isn’t in hero ball mode, but as soon as they get down like, five points he starts to go to hero ball mode. And Edwards has the rare trait of shooting more when he’s missing. It’s kind of amazing they’re still Top 5 in offensive efficiency with as many games as he’s submarined lately.

3. Wisconsin (5 seed / 100.8)

I disagree. Wisconsin can defend, but I think they have a terrible matchup with Oregon in the first round. With all of the length that the Ducks have, I think the Badgers are going to have to win with their perimeter players and they’re a little hard to trust.

2. Tennessee (2 seed / 104.7)

The Vol defense might be the most confusing aspect of this whole college basketball season. They were elite last year, brought all of the important pieces back this year, and have just been good, not great. Their defensive performances have been A LOT better at home this year than anywhere else, which is pretty concerning going into a neutral court tournament. But they have a ton of experience, a bunch of weapons offensively, and can score in basically every way possible.

1. Virginia (1 seed / 118.7)

There’s a big difference in the Cav offense from a year ago and this year. There’s also a big difference in De’Andre Hunter playing and not playing, which he did not against UMBC last year. As good as they are, I do think there’s something to their methodical style lending itself to more upsets. It’s kind of like a sample size. The larger the sample size, the closer it is to the truth. UVA games give you the smallest sample size possible in college basketball with the amount of possessions they have in a game and it gives them less of a chance to prove how much better they are than the opponent. They can still blow teams out, but it’s like they put a restrictor plate on themselves.

2019 Power Ratings By Region: Midwest

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

Midwest.jpg

Ranked in order of the FFI.

16. Iona (16 seed / 36.0)

I’m not going to make fun of Jordan Cornette again for saying the Gaels had the look of a second weekend team just because they rolled 14-21 Monmouth in the MAAC Championship because I like Iona.

They’re a fun team, but every year they get matched up with a super athletic team in the NCAAT. It stinks because I think they could make things interesting if they ever got matched up with some team that isn’t very athletic and wants to slow the game down. But instead they get UNC, who will gladly play at Iona’s fast pace and run them into submission.

15. Abilene Christian (15 seed / 46.0)

Abilene prides themselves on defense and it’s worked well for them thus far, but they also pride themselves on discipline off the floor apparently and it means they had to kick two of their best players off the team.

14. Georgia State (14 seed / 57.4)

I’m a Georgia State guy. They defend, they’ve got a lead guard – D’Marcus Simonds – that can fill it up, and they’re just tough. I’d auto-bet them to cover against Houston, but I still remember the horrific beat they suffered against Cincinnati last year (look it up) and I also love Houston this year.

13. New Mexico State (12 seed / 61.3)

Well, the Aggies have won 19 games in a row. They have a deep rotation. They rebound everything. They took Kansas to the wire in Kansas City. I want to believe in them, but I’m a little gun shy after they haven’t come close in the last couple years.

12. Northeastern (13 seed / 66.3)

Vasa is great, they’ve got guys all over the floor that can shoot it, and Shawn Occeus is back in the lineup and he looks good. It’s hard not to bet the farm on the Huskies against Kansas. The only games they’ve lost recently have come on the road and they’ve been by a very small margin.

11. Seton Hall (10 seed / 72.5)

I seem to like the Pirates more than the efficiency numbers do, but they’ve beaten Marquette twice this month, beat Villanova, and lost to Villanova in a nailbiter at the Big East Tournament. I believe that Myles Powell is going to hit every big shot he takes. I hate that I have to cheer against them in the first round. If they get past Wofford, they get Kentucky again, who they beat in MSG back in December.

10. Washington (9 seed / 76.3)

I don’t hate the Huskies, but there aren’t many big wins to hang your hat on. I think they’re capable if they play offense like they were in the middle of the season, but Jaylen Nowell is the only consistent scorer they have. Their defensive numbers look good, but they’ve only played three Top 20 offenses all year and those defensive numbers did not look good.

9. Utah State (8 seed / 76.8)

Well first things first, Sam Merrill is awesome. That’s understood. But the Aggies have a few other shooters around him that can get hot and a few guys down low to give them second chances. Freshman Justin Bean has helped a lot in the latter department the past month or so. Washington is no walk over, but they’ll need those hot shooters and busy rebounders if they’re gonna have a chance to pull the upset over UNC.

8. Ohio State (11 seed / 78.3)

The Buckeyes just don’t really have any great wins to make you believe in them and they had plenty of chances. They’re good enough to cover the spread, though.

7. Wofford (7 seed / 81.0)

Let’s be clear about something: Wofford did not get “killed” every time they played high major teams. I know some national media can be unrelentingly ignorant and arrogant, simply look at a final score, and form an opinion, but it’s not true. The Terriers were up 12 in the second half against Mississippi State. The 11-point result was the most they were down all game. They were down one at Oklahoma with 10 minutes to go. They were down 3 to UNC with 10 minutes to go. They were down 5 with 10 minutes to go at Kansas. They beat the 4 seed in the SEC – South Carolina – by 20 on the road.

All of those games – except UNC – were on the road against high-major teams in buy games. Do you think they were catching many calls late in those games?

Nothing personal against Seton Hall, but I have to pull for Wofford out of principle.

6. Houston (3 seed / 85.4)

I’m higher on the Cougars than the ratings here. All we ever talk about is how guards win games in March and Houston has them in spades. They don’t have a ton of size in terms of height, but Kelvin Sampson is willing to throw out four guys at the five and it keeps them fresh. They can all rebound and Brison Gresham is a decent shotblocker. Remember they were a Jordan Poole miracle away from beating Michigan in the first round last year.

5. Auburn (5 seed / 88.0)

Auburn’s on a tear right now, winning their last eight, obviously concluding with the SEC Tournament championship. Maybe the most impressive part of that Tennessee game was the fact they did it mostly without the usual services of Jared Harper, who was sidelined with foul trouble.

The Tigers like to run and gun, and that championship game was basically peak Auburn basketball. But we haven’t seen that a ton this season. Outside of beating Tennessee twice in a 9 day span, the Tigers really haven’t won any of their other games against the best teams on their schedule. Just something to consider if you’re thinking about taking them to beat UNC.

4. Kansas (4 seed / 88.9)

It’s Kansas and it’s Bill Self, but I wouldn’t expect a typical run for the Jayhawks. The losses from the roster have been too great. I think it’d be a bit of a surprise if they made it to the second weekend.

3. Iowa State (6 seed / 98.6)

I’m not sure what to believe with the Cyclones. Obviously their efficiency numbers are pretty good and they just won the Big 12 Tournament. However, they lost 6 of 8 to end the regular season and things broke pretty nicely for them with Baylor being banged up, Dean Wade out for Kansas State, and Kansas with its issues.

I like a lot of their players, but I don’t see how they overcome a glaring rebounding issue when they might have to go through Kentucky and UNC, who crush people on the glass.

2. Kentucky (2 seed / 101.0)

Kentucky fits the “Top 20 on offense and defense” profile that everybody’s looking for, but I’m a little skeptical because I just don’t know if they can make enough shots from the perimeter. I’d be surprised if they lost before the Elite 8, but once they start to play other elite teams that can keep them off the offensive glass a little bit, I’m not sure they can make enough from the outside to compensate.

1. North Carolina (1 seed / 103.3)

Their streakiness shooting the ball scares me a little bit, but I love the Heels. I love Coby White. I love Cam Johnson. I love the way they rebound, a consistent staple of Roy Williams teams. And I love that somehow Ol’ Roy still doesn’t get enough respect as a coach. Back to the shooting, part of that is Luke Maye and Kenny Williams have both shot 29% this season. Obviously that’s a season’s worth of data to go on, but they were also above 40% last year, so you know they’re still capable of getting hot. I wish they were a little deeper, but everyone outside of Garrison Brooks has done a pretty good job of staying out of trouble most of the time.

2019 Power Ratings By Region: West

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

West

Rankings in order of their FFI.

18. Prairie View (16 seed / 22.9)

The Panthers come in to their First Four game having won 21 of their last 22. Of course, the SWAC isn’t exactly the pinnacle of basketball and none of those wins came against anyone in the Top 200 of KenPom. Most Prairie View games involve a ton of free throws, a fast pace, and a lot of turnovers. It’s a wild ride.

17. Fairleigh Dickinson (16 seed / 44.0)

FDU started 1-4 in the NEC, but won 14 of their last 16 games. They’re down a starter right now, but the Knights have shooters all over the floor. Lead guard Jahlil Jenkins has been on a tear lately and big man Mike Holloway is capable of some monster games.

16. Montana (15 seed / 53.8)

I don’t think this Grizzly team is as good as the one a year ago due to the loss of Jamar Akoh, but they’re still a fun offense and one of the most experienced teams in the country. They draw Michigan again. The Wolverines beat them by 14 last year in a 3/14 matchup.

15. Vermont (13 seed / 54.5)

Anthony Lamb is the real deal and I’m excited to see what he can do against the never-ending length of Florida State. Lamb can do it all, but he’ll need a lot of help from their guards knocking down shots from the perimeter. The Mounts competed for a half against full-strength Kansas and half of a half against Louisville earlier this year.

14. Northern Kentucky (14 seed / 57.8)

The Norse have a pleasing offense to watch and it served them well in the Horizon League this year, but they drew the most disruptive defense in the country. If they’re able to pull off the upset, it’ll be because they were able to handle the Red Raider pressure and find the open shooters. NKU oftentimes has five of them on the floor at the same time.

13. Arizona State (11 seed / 59.8)

I’m not sure the Sun Devils are really any good or if they even deserve to be here, but they’re at least entertaining to watch sometimes.

12. St. John’s (11 seed / 64.8)

Ditto.

11. Syracuse (8 seed / 73.7)

The good news is that Tyus Battle is expected to be back for the Baylor game. The bad news is that even with Battle, the Orange still have some trouble scoring. They have a tendency to chuck and pray from the perimeter, which is a tough thing to rely on when you don’t have even one consistently great shooter. Oh, and they play a zone defense, in case you hadn’t heard.

10. Baylor (9 seed / 74.8)

The Bears somehow ended up being the most efficient offense in the Big 12. The formula was pretty simple: shoot threes at a high rate and if you miss ’em, just rebound it and try to put it back in. Makai Mason is the star of the show, but he’s been in and out of the lineup and it’d be a little surprising if he was able to repeat his tourney performance from a few years ago at Yale.

9. Murray State (12 seed / 75.5)

The Racers aren’t all Ja Morant because it’s impossible to rack up all of his assists without somebody on the receiving end, converting the play, but Morant still carries a heavy majority of the offense. Morant prefers to drive most of the time and he’ll be challenged by a big-time rim protector in Theo John for Marquette. The Racers chances greatly improve if John picks up a couple fouls early. Murray also has a chance to pull the upset because of how much pressure they put on shooters. If they can get into a Marquette team that can be a little soft, they can disrupt the Eagle offense.

8. Nevada (7 seed / 80.7)

I liked Nevada to go on a run last year because I thought their offense was great and they were in a region with a lot of defensive-minded teams. I don’t like them as much this year because I don’t think they have the same level of perimeter shooting they did a year ago, but they are trending up in that department. Cody Martin shot 44% in MW play after shooting just 26% in the non-con. And once again, they’re in the defensive grinder portion of the bracket, so maybe they do repeat last year’s Sweet 16 run.

7. Florida (10 seed / 82.8)

I don’t know if the Gators can score enough to do that much damage, but they pretty much always have a chance to win games because they give such a good effort defensively. They’ll have to get Nevada out of their comfort zone in the opening round because the Wolfpack are typically incredibly careful with the ball.

6. Marquette (5 seed / 84.9)

The season ended with a resounding thud, but the Big East Tournament wasn’t all bad. They destroyed St. John’s and dropped a close one in a wild affair against Seton Hall. As an aside, not sure I’ve ever seen somebody go 1-15 and score 21 points like Markus Howard did against the Pirates.

Anyway, if you get mid-season Marquette that was scoring on everybody, they can go on a run. If you get end-of-season Marquette with a hurt Markus Howard, they’ll probably lose in the opening round.

5. Buffalo (6 seed / 86.9)

They’re old. They’re tough. They’re legitimately talented. They’ve won a game in the tournament before. The one flaw that may stick out if you look at their efficiency stats is the three-point shooting numbers. It looks bad, but it’s really not. They have plenty of guys that can shoot. Their team number is dragged down by Jeremy Harris continuing to chuck every game and shooting 25.6% in the process. He attempts 6.4 a game and is shooting 25%. It’s understandable why Harris is under the belief he can shoot. After all, he was the best shooter in the MAC a year ago, but he’s been incredibly streaky this year. When Harris is on, they’re close to a Top 10 team in the country.

4. Florida State (4 seed / 87.0)

The Noles seem to be flying under the radar a little bit. They started off 1-4 in ACC play, but won 14 of their last 16, including that win over Virginia in the ACCT. Their 26-man rotation makes me a little nervous, but clearly it’s worked for them and it worked last year when they got to the Elite 8. And there was nothing cheap about that run.

Shooting can be a great equalizer in basketball, but so can length and athleticism and FSU has that in spades. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take their run a weekend further this time around.

3. Texas Tech (3 seed / 97.5)

I’m sure you’ve all seen the stat by now about every national champ being Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. It’s true, but the fine print on that is those numbers are AFTER the tournament has concluded. 2015 Duke was 37th on defense, but played a lot better in the dance and ended up 11th by the end of it.

I say that because Texas Tech has the #1 defense. The red flag has always been the offense. At one point I think they were in the 140s. (Just fact checked myself: they were 141 at one point, great job by me.) They are now up to 35th less than two months later and have one of the best scoring guards in the country with Jarrett Culver. Just something to think about.

2. Michigan (2 seed / 113.3)

At this point the Wolverines are on a regularly scheduled loss every third game so congratulations to who(m?)ever their opponent is in the Sweet 16.

The offense is trending in the right direction for Michigan, but I think at this point we can say definitively that they’re just not a very good shooting team. Their defense is outstanding, but I think with that you have to mention that the Big Ten as a whole was a much better defensive league than offensive. The average OE ranking of the league is 60.4 and the average DE ranking of the league is 38.2 nationally. MSU is one of the few great offenses in the league and the Spartans went 3-0 against them. All those games were close heading into the last 5 minutes of the game, but Michigan wasn’t able to make many plays late and the Spartans did. That trend has to be a concern as the Wolverines start to play better teams in the tournament.

With that said, John Beilein is one of the best coaches in CBB and it’s hard to bet against him.

1. Gonzaga (1 seed / 119.1)

I’m not overly concerned with the WCC championship game. It’s just one game and was such an outlier from every other conference game they played, but it does show what can happen if they have a poor shooting night against a team that can keep them off the glass.

I do think they need Killian Tillie to be good if they’re going to make the Final Four. Zach Norvell is a big-time shooter, but Corey Kispert has been a lot less productive in the second half of the season and Josh Perkins hasn’t really shot it that well consistently for the past couple of months. I think they need Tillie to make some shots if they’re going to make it to Minneapolis.

Defensively, we’ll see. They were dominant in the WCC, but there’s not any other great teams in the league this year. In the non-con, they gave up 103 to UNC in 84 possessions, 87 to Duke in 72 possessions, 79 to Washington in 67 possessions, 92 to Creighton in 76 possessions, and 76 to Tennessee in 68 possessions.

What I’m trying to say is the defense was not great when they were playing tournament-level teams.

2019 Power Ratings By Region: East

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

East

Ranked in order of the FFI.

18. NC Central (16 seed / 23.6)

The Eagles have become a regular in the bracket, unfortunately they get stuck in a First Four game every year and haven’t been able to find their way out. NCCU was the best rebounding team in the MEAC on both ends of the floor. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’ll matter if they make it to Duke.

17. North Dakota State (16 seed / 41.1)

The Bison were the surprise winner of the Summit after South Dakota State got bounced early. They shoot a ton of threes and they don’t play much defense, so they can make for an entertaining game. Their 42-point loss to Gonzaga earlier this year doesn’t inspire much confidence for their chances against the Blue Devils.

16. Bradley (15 seed / 46.7)

The Braves have been hot, winning 9 of their last 11 games. There’s nothing flashy about the way they win, as they only eclipsed 80 points on four occasions this year. PG Darrell Brown is probably the only player you’d consider exciting on the team, but he’s as streaky as they come.

15. Saint Louis (13 seed / 55.3)

The Billies have more talent than your typical 13 seed, although it doesn’t usually show itself on the offensive end of the floor. In his three years, Travis Ford has been able to recruit more talent than you’d expect from a program of their stature and he’s brought in a few high-major transfers. They defend at a high enough level that things could get uncomfortable for Virginia Tech.

14. Liberty (12 seed / 64.3)

Ritchie McKay’s group is pretty solid all-around. They’ve got guards that can shoot it and a pair of guys down low in Scottie James and Caleb Homesley that – while undersized – have been really productive players. James has been surging at the end of the season and also might be the best actor in the tournament.

13. Temple (11 seed / 65.6)

You’re going to hear a lot about this being Fran Dunphy’s last season on Tuesday night. Fran’s a legend and a great coach, but he hasn’t made it to the second weekend of the dance in 16 tries. Shizz Alston can go and they’ve got some decent pieces around him, but they take a lot of dumb shots, if you ask me.

12. Yale (14 seed / 70.5)

I’m sure Yale will surprise some people on Thursday if they’re expecting your stereotypical Ivy League roster and playing style. Miye Oni is an NBA Draft prospect and the Bulldogs love to get up and down the floor. They’re more likely to play a game in the 90s than they are the 60s.

11. VCU (8 seed / 73.9)

I guess Marcus Evans is supposed to play for the Rams, but I don’t know for sure. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a very short stay for VCU. If Evans does play, they have a decent chance to get a win. They’re ridiculously good defensively, but their best offensive performance of the year will be needed to beat Duke.

10. Belmont (11 seed / 76.5)

It’s been nothing but great news for the Bruins over the last 36 hours. They were granted one of the last four bids in the field and they got big man Nick Muszynski back from injury. Dylan Windler is one of the best mid-major players in the country and is super efficient. You’d probably hate him if he was on Duke, but he’s on scrappy Belmont, so everybody will love him.

9. UCF (9 seed / 77.3)

The best and worst thing about March Madness is the unique stories that the media latches on to with teams. The Knights have two obvious ones: Aubrey Dawkins transferring in to play for his father and “TACKO IS SO TALL!” But BJ Taylor is really the one that makes UCF go. If he doesn’t play well, neither will they.

8. Minnesota (10 seed / 82.0)

Sometimes the Gophers are awesome and sometimes they look like they should be in the CBI. There’s really nothing that consistent about them besides Jordan Murphy being an animal out there. Amir Coffey can give you 30 and be the best player on the floor or he can give you 5 and you hardly notice he was out there. They have guys that can make shots, but a lot of times they don’t hit any at all.

7. LSU (3 seed / 84.2)

The ratings don’t seem to like the Bayou Bengals very much and they don’t even know that LSU doesn’t have their head coach and there’s a cheating scandal hanging over their head. It’s hard to picture this team losing early with how much talent they have, but there’s a lot of things working against them right now.

6. Louisville (7 seed / 87.6)

The Cardinals really haven’t gotten much accomplished since the beginning of February, but Chris Mack has pulled an upset or five in this tournament. Louisville wasn’t supposed to be as good as they looked for the first few months of the season, so maybe the late season slide was a little predictable. Outside of Jordan Nwora, the roster lacks a lot of punch.

5. Maryland (6 seed / 90.3)

The Terps have a lot of young talent and a great point guard to lead the show. All of their efficiency numbers look pretty good, but then you notice that they just weren’t very good against the best teams on their schedule. I could see them making the Elite 8 and I can also see them getting bounced in the first round. I know that’s helpful.

4. Virginia Tech (4 seed / 91.3)

There’s a lot of reasons to be interested in the Hokies. First off, they get Justin Robinson back at PG, which is huge. I think he’s their most important player and the straw that stirs the drink, to be cliche. Hopefully he’s able to fit seamlessly back into the rotation. They also have a possible Sweet 16 matchup with Duke. They beat the Blue Devils when Zion was out – so was Robinson – so I’d think they’d be pretty confident they can win again. Confidence has never been an issue with the Hokies. Oh, and there’s the little side story that Buzz Williams is likely to take the Texas A&M job after the year.

3. Mississippi State (5 seed / 92.5)

Similar to Maryland, the Bulldogs had a nice season and have nice players, but they didn’t really beat the best teams on their schedule. The best team they beat away from home was probably Clemson on a neutral floor. They’re also down a Weatherspoon.

2. Duke (1 seed / 115.9)

There’s a big asterisk next to the Duke number here. They were the head-and-shoulders number one team in the ratings before Zion missed six games. At the end of the day, the Blue Devils only lost one game when fully healthy and it was on a neutral court to another much more experienced #1 seed back in November.

The obvious red flag is the three-point shooting and I can’t do much to tell you that’s not a big concern for this team. Based on their current 30.2% mark, they’d be the worst three-point shooting team to make the Final 4 since KenPom was started in 2002. Of course, no one has ever had Zion on their team.

1. Michigan State (2 seed / 118.3)

The Spartans just keep taking injury hits and it hasn’t seemed to matter much so far. They lost Josh Langford and still won a share of the Big Ten. Nick Ward was out for the last five games, as well, and played sparingly in the BTT. They still won that, too. Kyle Ahrens has been in-and-out of the lineup, but now appears to be out for good. Can they survive all of it? Maybe. As long as Cassius Winston is on the floor, they still have a chance.

Big Ten Power Rankings: 2/18/19

 


Six Stars From the Past Week:

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

James Palmer, Nebraska

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Geo Baker, Rutgers

Six Best Games to Watch This Week:

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

Maryland at Iowa, Tuesday, 8:00 EST, BTN

Michigan at Minnesota, Thursday, 7:00 EST, ESPN

Ohio State at Maryland, Saturday, 2:00 EST, ESPN

Purdue at Nebraska, Saturday, 4:00 EST, BTN

Michigan State at Michigan, Sunday, 3:45 EST, CBS


 

In parentheses is their current standing in the Bracket Matrix.

1. Michigan (BM: 2 seed)

Highs and lows for the Wolverines this week. They had a good chance to sit alone atop the conference standings after Purdue lost at Maryland, but Michigan played their worst game of the season at Penn State on Tuesday night. Offensively, they were actually pretty good, but they couldn’t slow Myles Dread down on the other end and they were abused on the glass by the Nittany Lions. Of course to make matters worse, they were without John Beilein the entire second half.

They responded with a dominant first half performance on defense against Maryland. They let Aaron Wiggins loose a few times in the second half for some open shots, but otherwise they kept the Terp shooters under wraps. Michigan continues to overcome their own shooting woes by giving opponents even greater shooting woes.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Michigan State

2. Michigan State (BM: 2 seed)

The Spartans scored the biggest win of the conference title race in the last few weeks on Tuesday. Adding in losses for Michigan and Purdue on the same night, it only magnified the importance of MSU’s victory at Wisconsin.

It looked for a minute like MSU was going to give the big win right back with an extended slow start at home against Ohio State. Things were looking a little bleaker after Nick Ward hurt his hand – looks like that may be serious – but they completely locked up the Buckeyes in the second half and won comfortably.

This week: home for Rutgers, at Michigan

3. Purdue (BM: 3 seed)

It looked like Purdue might put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for a championship after they took an eight-point halftime lead at Maryland. That did not hold. The Boilers had their worst shooting half of the season in the second half and it appeared as if the shooting frustrations carried over to the other end of the floor. All of a sudden they started giving up easy buckets to the Maryland bigs on seemingly every possession.

The Boilers were extremely careless with the ball at home against Penn State, but they overcame a slow start and built a big second half lead with some strong bench contributions and Carsen Edwards actually making some good decisions with his shot selection.

This week: at Indiana and Nebraska

4. Wisconsin (BM: 5 seed)

The only game this week for the Badgers was the home loss to Michigan State. Wisconsin had their chances to win, but they didn’t get a good shooting night from anybody besides Nate Reuvers. Ethan Happ was able to score 20, but the Spartans forced him to take 20 shots doing it and Happ had six turnovers, which usually means it’s going to be a long night for the Badgers. They’re just 3-8 in Happ’s career when he has five or more.

We’re also now at six straight games that D’Mitrik Trice has been held to a single-digit scoring total. It only happened four times in the first twenty games. Trice hasn’t seen his shooting percentages drop off a cliff, but his usage rate certainly has gone down. I know Badger fans have their issues with some of Trice’s decision making at times, but the offense has undoubtedly been worse the less it involves Trice.

This week: home for Illinois, at Northwestern

5. Maryland (BM: 6 seed)

The Terps scored a big win over Purdue on the back of an A+ defensive effort in the second half. Purdue simply couldn’t guard Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith on the other end and the freshmen wings knocked down quite a few big shots to get Maryland the lead initially.

Only Aaron Wiggins could repeat his shooting performance on the road at Michigan, however. Everyone else went 3-16 from three in Ann Arbor. The Terps were able to do good work on the offensive glass, but it didn’t matter much with 16 turnovers.

This week: at Iowa, home for Ohio State

6. Iowa (BM: 6 seed)

The Hawkeyes keep flirting with some not so good losses, but they keep dodging them with some very timely shotmaking. I imagine the ends of these games are incredibly fun for Iowa fans, but I’m guessing the constant stress of these games isn’t going to go away with the polarization of Iowa’s offense and defense.

Speaking of polarizing, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone run as hot and cold as Isaiah Moss. He may give you 25 or he might give you 2. You never know and they’re about the same likelihood.

This week: home for Maryland and Indiana

7. Illinois (BM: N/A)

I’m not sure anybody wants to see the Illini right now. They were never going to be fun with the way they attack and try to force turnovers on defense, but now they’re starting to score the ball pretty well, too. They’re not a tournament team unless they win the BTT, but they’re playing a lot better at the moment than some of the Big Ten teams that are still in the NCAA conversation.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn State

8. Ohio State (BM: 9 seed)

I’m not sure what has happened to the Buckeye offense, but it’s been a downhill slide ever since they scored 77 against Michigan State at home back on Jan. 5. That slide was punctuated by the 44 point effort they had against the Spartans on Sunday, with OSU only mustering 13 in the second half. Playing at home is worth something, but it’s not worth 33 points on offense.

They made mention during Sunday’s broadcast that Chris Holtmann had to recruit Keyshawn Woods three times before he finally got him to commit to Holtmann’s program. Holtmann finally got him to say yes to OSU and this has without a doubt been the worst season of Woods’ career. Tough break.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Maryland

9. Minnesota (BM: 10 seed)

The Gophers got their turn with IU and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Minnesota was on a four-game losing streak, fresh off the controversial heartbreaker at Nebraska.

The Gophers are still flirting with the bubble a bit. Going 2-0 this week would relieve a lot of stresses. They’ve proven it’s not likely they repeat their 12-22 three-point shooting effort against the Hoosiers, but Minnesota needs to keep finding different ways to win.

This week: home for Michigan, at Rutgers

10. Rutgers (BM: N/A)

Rutgers was this close to being 6-8 in league play until Joe Wieskamp defied physics with a prayer of a three from the corner. Earlier in the week they won their second Big Ten road game of the year, which has been no small feat for the Scarlet Knights.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Minnesota

11. Penn State (BM: N/A)

If you watch the Big Ten long enough, you know the Nittany Lions are going to be a real, real problem for at least one of the title contenders when they come to the BJC. They nearly took down Purdue and then led to start to finish this week against Michigan.

The Nittany Lions are actually pretty good when they’ve got Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread going at the same time.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Illinois

12. Nebraska (BM: Second Four Out)

This week’s games couldn’t have come at a better time for the Huskers. They desperately needed some winnable games and they took advantage. Neither win is going to be at the top of their NCAA Tournament resume, but more than anything, the Huskers just needed a win of any kind to get some confidence back. They’re still alive.

This week: at Penn State, home for Purdue

13. Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Things are bad. Only thing keeping them out of the cellar is the fact they beat IU fairly easily a few weeks ago.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Wisconsin

14. Indiana (BM: First Four Out)

Despite some of their wins, including the random Michigan State win recently, nobody has been as consistently poor since the start of the new year. I’m sure they’ll beat Purdue Tuesday.

This week: home for Purdue, at Iowa

Big Ten Power Rankings: 2/11/19

 


Seven Stars From the Past Week:

Jon Teske, Michigan

Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Illinois

Andre Wesson, Ohio State

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Matt McQuaid, Michigan State

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Purdue at Maryland, Tuesday, 6:30 EST, BTN

Michigan State at Wisconsin, Tuesday, 7:00 EST, ESPN

Michigan at Penn State, Tuesday, 8:30 EST, BTN

Minnesota at Nebraska, Wednesday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Maryland at Michigan, Saturday, Noon EST, FOX


 

In parenthesis is their current standing in the Bracket Matrix. Obviously, we have a better idea where the Top 4 stand right now.

1. Michigan (BM: 2 seed)

If there were any hope that the strong shooting performance at Rutgers was a sign the tide had turned, that was quickly put to rest with a 4-17 outing against Wisconsin. But the end result of both games were the same because the Michigan defense doesn’t take a game off. The Wolverines won comfortably at a tough place to play and they beat one of the hottest teams in the country at home.

Maybe the most important development of Saturday’s game was Charles Matthews busting out of an extended slump. Matthews has a tendency to go on these slumps and it undoubtedly holds them back as a team. They’ll need the best version of Matthews if they want to win the Big Ten.

This week: at Penn State, home for Maryland

2. Purdue (BM: 3 seed)

If Michigan’s Achilles’ heel is shooting, Purdue’s is stopping shooters, even average or below-average ones. It’s a rare trait for a Matt Painter team to have, but it’s happened enough times now this year that it can no longer be considered a series of flukes.

This has happened several times in games recently, but Purdue has always had a bigger response of their own. It seems like clockwork that there’s a point in the game where they flip the score by 12 points, or even up to 20 points.

I’m not sure I would count on it at Maryland if I were them.

This week: at Maryland, home for Penn State

3. Wisconsin (BM: 4 seed)

The streak of wins is over for the Badgers, but the streak of good play is still alive. The nine-point loss is a misrepresentation of just how close they were to winning at Michigan on Saturday. Obviously it wasn’t a perfect offensive performance. They couldn’t find many openings for shooters and Ethan Happ only having one assist is a telling stat when you consider he hasn’t had less than three in a game since Nov. 21.

It also bears mentioning that they won the game wire-to-wire at Minnesota, completely locking up the Gophers on their home floor.

This week: home for Michigan State

4. Michigan State (BM: 2 seed)

The Spartans looked like the best team in the league again on Saturday, but they were a bit exposed again on Tuesday at Illinois. Twice this year, the Spartans have faced teams that force a lot of turnovers and they’ve really struggled on each occasion. They were able to win at Florida, but not as fortunate against the Illini. It may not matter if MSU doesn’t see a team like that in the postseason, but it’s something to watch for when the brackets come out.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Ohio State

5. Maryland (BM: 6 seed)

The only game of the week was an easy win at Nebraska and they were able to do it without a good offensive performance from Anthony Cowan. Cowan did hold Glynn Watson scoreless and as a team, the Terps only allowed the Huskers to shoot 21% from the field.

This week: home for Purdue, at Michigan

6. Iowa (BM: 6 seed)

Well, it’s safe to say Jordan Bohannon was the MVP this week. He hit roughly 100 big shots down the stretch in two games. It was also another outstanding week for Joe Wieskamp.

Obviously both wins this week were fun and exciting, but the same issues persist for the Hawkeyes and it’s all on one end of the court. You can’t be giving up 79 to the worst offense in the league on your home floor. Northwestern is also one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the Big Ten and they were able to grab 10 in Iowa City.

This week: at Rutgers

7. Ohio State (BM: 8 seed)

Every victory is an important one for the Buckeyes as they try to fight off bubble talk, so the ugliness of this week’s wins doesn’t matter much in the long run. The other good news is that Kyle Young is back. And the further good news is that Andre Wesson had double-digit scoring outings for just the third time in his career. If the elder Wesson can start to consistently produce at the level of his apparent confidence, it’ll be a much needed boost to a frequently stagnant offense.

This week: home for Illinois, at Michigan State

8. Minnesota (BM: 10 seed)

The Gophers looked like they were due for some big wins with the way they were playing, but they missed a big opportunity at home against Wisconsin with an ill-timed terrible shooting performance. I’m not sure anyone would’ve won in East Lansing on Saturday. This is a big week for them.

This weekend: at Nebraska, home for Indiana

9. Illinois (BM: N/A)

It’s been a rough year for the Illini, but it was their week in the sun. The Brad Underwood era has had an incredibly rocky start, but you do have to feel optimistic about how well their young Big 3 have played. Whether they can keep all three in Champaign is another story.

This week: at Ohio State

10. Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Wow, what a tough week. Their offense against Iowa was the best its looked for months and it was all for naught after a few brutal minutes

This week: home for Penn State, at Iowa

11. Rutgers (BM: N/A)

They didn’t get a win, but they did score 94 in a road game and their young guys keep getting better.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Iowa

12. Penn State (BM: N/A)

The Nittany Lions are on the board and have actually played three pretty good games in a row.

This week: home for Michigan, at Purdue

13. Indiana (BM: 11 seed)

They’re a tough watch right now. I actually think they defend pretty well most of the time, but the offense is so bogged down. They’re not dead yet from a tournament perspective because of how good their first two months were, but they’re running out of time and their play doesn’t inspire much confidence they can get the wins they need.

This week: at Minnesota

14. Nebraska (BM: First Four Out)

Not a good situation without Copeland. The offense isn’t very good. The defense isn’t very good. We’ve got Tim Miles nearly in tears during a press conference. It’s been a nightmare lately. But they did look on Saturday like a team that wasn’t ready to quit just yet. If they can scratch out a couple of wins at home this week, they might be able to get things going again.

This week: home for Minnesota and Northwestern