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Michigan State Basketball Weekly Power Rankings #3

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Badgers are good, Scarlet Knights are not so good

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

This was an interesting week in the Big Ten both because rivalry games happened and some of the dust is settling when looking at how the conference race is going to play out. Rutgers somehow got worse and Iowa came back a very bad week. WIthout any further ado here is the current Efficiency Margin for the conference.

(Once again Wisconsin is not on the chart because their offense is still too good)

1. Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #1): at Penn State (W, 55-47), Minnesota (W, 63-53)

Wisconsin has been extremely disappointing recently, winning by only an average of 9 and having their record-setting AdjO drop enough so that they are no longer the best offense in the KenPom era. In all seriousness though they’re still the best team in the B1G by a solid margin and should be in line for a 1 seed if they win out. Traevon Jackson has stated that he plans to be back for the MSU which might create an interesting situation as Bronson Koenig has played extremely well in his absence. Bo is known for playing seniors over underclassmen clearly demonstrated when he played Ryan Evans more than freshman Sam Dekker despite Evans being one of the least efficient players in the B1G his senior year. Also, I’m a big proponent of Kaminsky over Okafor for NPOY and the only reason it seems to be close is because Wisconsin plays at such a slow pace that Kaminsky’s raw numbers aren’t as impressive as his tempo-free numbers are.

Kaminsky is better in almost aspect and his team clearly needs him as 1 of their 2 losses came against Rutgers (!) when Kaminsky was out.

This Week: at Maryland (Tues 2/24), Michigan State (Sun 3/1)

2. Michigan State (19-8, 10-4 B1G)

Last Week (Previously # 2): at Michigan (W, 80-67), at Illinois (W, 60-53)

Michigan State has gone from having a must win game against Ohio State to get into the tournament to wondering how good their record could’ve been if they had made their FTs. They likely would have won 4 more (Texas Southern, Maryland, Nebraska, and Illinois) and possibly the Notre Dame game if they would have just been average at the line. That would give them a record of 23-4 which would be even better than the 22-5 record they had at this point last year when everyone was considering them a national title contender. Something that was pointed out last night was that MSU’s big three of Valentine/Trice/Dawson really came to play as they scored 51 of the 60 points and 32 of 34 in the second half. Excluding any Wisconsin players, I think I would take MSU’s duo of Valentine and Dawson as the best two-way players on one team in the conference. They don’t have any easy games left, but they’re all very winnable with the exception of the road game against Wisconsin.

This Week: Minnesota (Thurs 2/26), at Wisconsin (Sun 3/1)

3. Purdue (18-9, 10-4 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #4): at Indiana (W, 67-63)

Purdue is still (somewhat) quietly tied for second in the standings. Their duo of Hammons and Haas on the inside is a difficult matchup for a number of teams and they don’t get mentioned much because they have no real star. They have 6 players averaging between 8 and 11.5 ppg and aren’t talked about partially because they’re second in the B1G in Defensive Efficiency and defense doesn’t get talked about as much. If you check out the chart in the Iowa section below you’ll see they are the most consistent team in the conference. They haven’t lost by double digits and they’ve only won 1 conference game by more than 15. Right now they’re one of the last four teams in on the Bracket Matrix largely to their losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb. They have a couple very tough games at MSU and at OSU remaining and might need to win one in the BTT to be safely in.

This Week: Rutgers (Thurs 2/26), at Ohio State (Sun 3/1)

4. Maryland (22-5, 10-4 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #5): Nebraska (W, 69-65)

Maryland doesn’t win pretty or big but they keep winning. They won their last 3 games (2 of them at home) by an average of 3 points. Because they have a ton of close wins they are currently 2nd in KenPom’s luck metric. One thing they have going for them is really have a go-to guy in Melo Trimble who has averaged 21 points with 61.5/58.3/90.6 shooting splits in the last 4 games. They’re in a way the opposite of MSU in that they have a great record but aren’t well-liked by advanced statistics as they currently have a negative efficiency margin in conference play and are only #39 on KenPom (MSU is #18). Luckily we’ll have a chance to see how good they are when they matchup against Wisconsin on Tuesday.

This Week: Wisconsin (Tues 2/24), Michigan (Sat 2/28)

5. Iowa (17-10, 8-6 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #7): Rutgers (W, 81-47), at Nebraska (W, 74-46)

So Iowa lost two games a week ago to Minnesota and Northwestern. They bounced back this week fantastically by winning an average of 31. This team is somewhat of an enigma in that way. Below is a chart of the B1G teams’ efficiency margin standard deviation.

Team EM STDEV
Iowa 0.281
Northwestern 0.214
Nebraska 0.205
Indiana 0.194
Michigan St. 0.178
Rutgers 0.177
Michigan 0.176
Ohio St. 0.174
Illinois 0.167
Maryland 0.163
Wisconsin 0.152
Minnesota 0.144
Penn St. 0.136
Purdue 0.130

This shows that when it comes to inconsistency, Iowa stands well above the rest and it’s not even close. Their hardest remaining game will likely be at Indiana and that game could ultimately affect which team gets the double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

6. Ohio State (19-8, 8-6 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #3): at Michigan (L, 57-64)

Ohio State is at its best when it has Russell running the show and Loving in there to help spread the floor. Of the Buckeyes’ primary guys not named D’Angelo Russell, Loving is the only real threat from deep as Sam Thompson, Jae’Sean Tate, and Shannon Scott all shoot worse than 26% from 3. One thing I’ve notice about Russell is that he (rightfully) gets a lot of credit for the success the team has had, but doesn’t get much blame for when the team struggles. Here’s a split of how Russell does in wins vs. losses.

MIN FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% REB Ast BLK STL PF TO PTS
In wins 32.3 7 13 54.1% 3.11 6.1 50.9% 3.16 4 78.9% 5.3 5.9 0.1 1.7 1.6 2.89 20.3
In losses 36.1 5.5 17 32.4% 1.88 7.1 26.3% 3 4.3 70.6% 7.1 4 0.4 1.4 3 2.5 15.9

Obviously he’s going to play worse against better teams, but these are huge discrepancies. Other than OSU’s second loss against Iowa, Russell has never shot better than 40% from the field in a loss. They have a relatively easy 3 games coming up before finishing the season hosting Wisconsin.

This Week: Nebraska (Thurs 2/26), Purdue (Sun 3/1)

7. Indiana (19-9, 9-6 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #6): Purdue (L, 63-67), at Rutgers (W, 84-54)

Indiana really might be my favorite team to watch other than MSU and I don’t think it’s close. They run, shoot a lot of 3’s and don’t really play much defense.The issue with them is that they don’t have post players and that was extremely evident against Purdue and their twin towers who scored a combine 32 points. They have Hanner Mosquera-Perea back but he’s still only 6’9". They’re a solid team this year but honestly might be even better next year. They don’t have a senior on their team and their best players are a little too undersized at their positions for it to be a wise decision to leave early for the NBA. They have really interesting stretch to end their season as KenPom gives them a 56, 56, and 50 percent chance of winning their remaining three games. They’re currently a high 8 seed per Bracket Matrix so they have a little leeway at the moment but will likely need to win at least 1 of those games to be safely in.

This Week: at Northwestern (Wed 2/25)

This Week: Illinois (Wed 2/25), at Penn State (Sat 2/28)

8. Illinois (17-10, 7-7 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #8): Michigan State (L, 53-60)

What a way to fight down the stretch. Illinois trailed by 11 with about 4 minutes to go and were a Kendrick Nunn missed 3 pointer away from tying it up when it was 54-51. It was also one of the ugliest games in that both teams were in the double bonus with 8 minutes to go in the second half. The Illini's starting backcourt struggled big time against MSU shooting a combined 2-16 for 9 points. Macolm Hill and Rayvonte Rice had 32 points and really one of the better 1-2 punches in the Big Ten. The have nice size and are strong players using multiple offensive possessions on post-ups against MSU’s smaller perimeter players. They’re currently an 11 seed in the Bracket Matrix and will likely need to get to 20 wins to get in.

This Week: at Iowa (Wed 2/25), Northwestern (Sat 2/28)

9. Michigan (14-13, 7-8 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #10): Michigan State (L, 80-67), Ohio State (W, 64-57)

In their game of the week the Wolverines got steamrolled in the first half and despite a valiant offensive effort in the second half, couldn’t get a stop against MSU who scored 1.4 PPP for the game. That’s the highest PPP that Michigan has given up defensively in the KenPom era. Again, Beilein used the unpopular (and likely foolish) #autobench strategy when Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman picked up 2 fouls in the first half. In the two games against MSU, Michigan was +12 when MAAR was on the court and -35 when he was off the court. He also isn’t someone who fouls as he only commits 3.1 fouls/40 minutes. Against Ohio State Michigan was legitimately impressive in the first half leading 39-23 at the break. Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht combined for 31 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals and 0 turnovers in the win. They also made it hard on the OSU backcourt who went 7-21 for 18 points and 7 turnovers. I really have no idea how good this team is but a nice win over one of their rivals is a huge boost to their confidence. (Also, I kind of liked the makeup call in the UM-OSU game where it was clearly out of bounds on MAAR but Michigan was given possession because he was fouled beforehand. It won’t be consistent, but I like the game not being decided on missed calls and bad officiating.)

This Week: at Maryland (Sat 2/28)

10. Northwestern (13-14, 4-10 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #13): at Minnesota (W, 72-66), Penn State (W, 60-39)

Northwestern have won 3 straight and frankly dominated Penn State. Freshman Vic Law had by far his best game of the year scoring 17 points, shooting 3-5 from deep and collecting 11 rebounds. Earlier in the week Bryant McIntosh did a great job against Minnesota’s press with 17 points, 6 assists and just 2 turnovers against a Minnesota team that is 3rd nationally in steal%. Alex Olah and Tre Demps will be gone next year. Alex Olah and Tre Demps are apparently juniors and with McIntosh, Law, Demps, and Olah in the mix, they honestly might not be bad next year.

This Week: Indiana (Wed 2/25), at Illinois (Sat 2/28)

11. Minnesota (16-12, 5-10 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #9): Northwestern (L, 72-66), at Wisconsin (L, 53-63)

In the previous 4 games before this week Minnesota forced TO’s on an average of 30.4% possessions and they had a record of 3-1. In the two games against Northwestern and Wisconsin they only forced TO’s on an average of 15.2% of possessions. This team is too reliant on that style of play which frankly doesn’t work against well-coached teams or against teams with very good ball-handlers. While Nate Mason has been a very good as a freshman, they lose arguably their top 3 players in Walker, Hollins, and Mathieu.

This Week: at Michigan State (Thurs 2/26)

12. Nebraska (13-14, 5-10 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #12): at Maryland (L, 69-65), Iowa (L, 46-74)

Nebraska is most likely my least favorite Big Ten team to watch. They have a bad offense, a good defense, and they don’t play very fast making their games not particularly exciting. They lost to Maryland in a very close where the largest lead was 8 in second half and it was tied 54-54 with 5 minutes to go. They also to Iowa where they trailed 42-16 at the half and Terran Petteway played one of his worst games of the year shooting 5-15 from the field to along with his 6 turnovers. He was one of the favorites to be a first team All-B1G selection, but because of Nebraska’s lack of success this year and his dip performance he is most likely not going to get any better than 3rd team. They’re currently on a 5 game losing streak and have lost 7 of their last 8 with the lone win coming against Northwestern at home.

This Week: at Ohio State (Thurs 2/26)

13. Penn State (15-13, 3-12 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #11): Wisconsin (L, 47-55), at Northwestern (L, 39-60)

So the Nittany Lions go from losing by just 8 to Wisconsin to losing by 21 to Northwestern. For some reason I can’t explain, DJ Newbill only had 6 shots while Geno Thorpe had 17. I know Newbill only made 1 of those shots and I can’t say I actually watched this game but you really can’t let your one and only star have such a small part of the offense. Hopes were high for this team when they were 12-1 coming into conference but a lot of that has to do with a very poor non-conference SOS.

This Week: Iowa (Sat 2/28)

14. Rutgers (10-18, 2-13 B1G)

Last Week (Previously #14): at Iowa (L, 47-81), Indiana (L, 54-84)

Rutgers is bad. They lost by an average of 32 points. I think that speaks for itself. I know I said I hate watching Nebrasketball more than any other team and that’s true only because Rutgers at least lets opposing players have good-looking stat lines. They’ve now lost 11 straight and KenPom doesn’t give them any more than a 24% chance of winning any of their remaining games.

This Week: at Purdue (Thurs 2/26)