6 B1G teams with 4 losses in conference play. The Big Ten this year has as much parity as any in recent years. I thought I somewhat had the conference figured out, until the weekend happened. A 3-7 Minnesota team beat a 7-3 Purdue team, Michigan State lost at home to Illinois for the second year in a row, Iowa beat Maryland by 16, and Nebraska lost to Penn State by 13 because they only scored 0.69 points per possession (PPP). As of right now, Kaminsky, Yogi, and Russell are most likely to receive All-B1G honors at the end of the year. I have no idea where the teams are going to end up at the end of the year other than Wisconsin. They have a 2½ game lead over the rest of the conference and show no signs of slowing down.
1. Wisconsin (21-2, 9-1 B1G)
Last Week: Indiana (W, 92-78), Northwestern (W, 65-50)
Did you expect anyone else? Even with Traevon Jackson still out, Wisconsin is absolutely torching teams on offense in B1G play. Their 124.9 Adjusted Offense is the highest in the KenPom era and they’ve somehow increased it all the way to 127.7 in conference. As a reference of how good that is, the 2nd best offensive efficiency in B1G play belongs to the 2005 Illinois team that went 37-2 and was runner-up in the NCAA tournament. They had a measly 120.7. The Badgers trounced Indiana this week scoring 1.42 PPP and led by 32 at one point in the second half. They also handily beat Northwestern in the way you would expect them to. Wisconsin would do well to focus on defense a little more (11th in conference play), but the way they're scoring the ball at the moment, they might not need to.
This Week: at Nebraska (Tues 2/10), Illinois (Sun 2/15)
2. Iowa (15-8, 6-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Michigan (W, 72-54), Maryland (W, 71-55)
Surprised? Maybe you shouldn’t be. Iowa has played the toughest Conference SOS in the B1G and it has still gone 6-4. It has two losses to Wisconsin where the Badgers scored >1.3 PPP in both games, a close road loss to a decent Purdue team when Aaron White got hurt, and a loss to Michigan State where the Spartan shot 70% (12-17) from 3. They’ve also beaten Ohio State twice, Minnesota on the road, and dominated Michigan and Maryland last week. They’re favored in 7 of their last 8 games and have a ton of length/height apart from Mike Gesell. They use their height well by crashing the boards and getting to the line leading the conference in both Offensive Rebounding% and Free Throw Rate. They have a terrible Defensive Efficiency in conference play but much of that has to do with the aforementioned MSU and Wisconsin games. The combination of 6’9" Uthoff and White are usually difficult mismatches for opponents to handle on the wing and you might need to keep one eye on where Woodbury’s hands are at all times.
This Week: Minnesota (Thurs 2/12), at Northwestern (2/15)
3. Ohio State (18-6, 7-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Purdue (L, 60-58), at Rutgers (W, 79-60)
I know, they lost to Purdue on Wednesday night. However, they lost without Marc Loving, their second leading scorer who leads the B1G in 3P% at a scorching 53.2%. They had to start Jae’Sean Tate who’s a grand total of 1-13 on the year from deep (Tate isn’t bad, he just isn’t a shooter). They lost to Iowa twice earlier this year but they’ve also had arguably 2 of the better wins B1G wins when they beat Indiana 82-70 and Maryland 80-56. D’Angelo Russell has been absolutely terrifying in B1G play averaging 21.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 5.5 assists per game with 48.2/42.5/82 shooting splits. He had the first B1G triple-double since Draymond Green when he finished with 23, 11, and 11 against Rutgers on Sunday. He’s going to be right up there with Kaminsky for POY honors (both conference and national) and he’s still only 18. Thankfully he’ll be gone in a year but right now Ohio State is where it is because of this freshman. According to KenPom, they’ll be favored in 5 of their last 7 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up winning 6 of those.
This Week: Penn State (Wed 2/11), at Michigan State (Sat 2/14)
4. Indiana (17-7, 7-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Wisconsin (L, 78-92), Michigan (W, 70-67)
Since Hanner Mosquera-Perea went down with a knee injury, the Hoosiers have gone 4-3 with an impressive 19 point home win over Maryland. The bad news? All four of their B1G losses have come by double digits with an average margin of 15.5. Troy Williams has really come on this year increasing his scoring from 7.3 to 13.3 and shooting a fantastic 57.7% from the field. James Blackmon and Yogi Ferrell combined for 31.7 points with both shooting over 40% from deep and over 82% from the charity stripe. They’re arguably the best backcourt in the B1G but they’re issue lies in the front court. Luke Fischer transferring and Noah Vonleh departure to the NBA really hurt the frontcourt. They use 6’6" Collin Hartman as a stretch 5 and he’s shooting 56% on 3 point attempts thus far in conference play. I know MSU beat them by 20, but that was a day where Williams had 0 points and Blackmon wen 1-14 from the field. That likely won’t happen again. They have a bad defense and give up a league-worst 54.6% on 2 point attempts, but their fast pace and spread offense (and Troy dunks) makes them darn entertaining to watch.
This Week: at Maryland (Wed 2/11), Minnesota (Sun 2/15)
5. Maryland (19-5, 7-4 B1G)
Last Week: Penn State (W, 64-58), at Iowa (L, 55-71)
I might be a little biased about the Terps because of their two wins over MSU but they do have a solid team. Dez Wells scored 23 points on 13 shot equivalents against Penn State and Melo Trimble was the one who had it going in the Iowa loss. Their big 3 of Wells, Melo Trimble, and Jake Layman are the only trio in the Big Ten averaging at least 13.5 points per game. Trimble started off the season extremely hot, but has hit the freshmen wall and is only shooting 35% from the field in conference play. One of the most notable differences is that teams are able to hit their 3’s against Maryland as of late. In their first 6 B1G games, opponents hit 24.8% of their 3s. Since then opponents have hit a remarkable 47.8% resulting in only a 2-3 record over that span. Right now they’re struggling on offense and only converting on 41.1% of their 2PA’s in conference play, which is last in the conference. (Interesting note: in conference play Wisconsin has the slowest tempo & best 2P%, Maryland has the fastest tempo & worst 2P%)
This Week: Indiana (Wed 2/11), at Penn State (Sat 2/14)
6. Purdue (15-9, 7-4 B1G)
Last Week: Ohio State (W, 60-58), at Minnesota (L, 58-62)
Probably the biggest surprise of the season has been the Boilermakers as they currently sit tied for 2nd place. The beat a good OSU (albeit one without Loving) at home and came back to make it close against Minnesota. The bad news is that have a tough schedule for the rest of the season. After looking like the best Purdue center very early in the season, Isaac Haas has become much less efficient in conference play. AJ Hammons isn’t the great pro prospect some expected him to be at this point in his career but he’s still a solid B1G center. He’s leading the league in blocks and is the main reason for the #1 ranked 2P% defense. The issue for them right now is that they can’t make 3’s and they don’t rebound well on the defensive end despite being one of the tallest teams in the country.
This Week: at Rutgers (Thurs 2/12), Nebraska (Sun 2/15)
7. Michigan State (15-8, 6-4 B1G)
Last Week: Michigan (W, 76-66 OT), Illinois (L, 54-59)
Everyone knows this team’s issue: free-throw shooting. Three of MSU’s four losses are to a Maryland, Illinois and Nebraska where MSU lost by a combined nine points. If MSU shoots the national average from the FT line, MSU likely wins those three games. While not as unlucky as another team on this list, MSU does rank 338th in KenPom’s luck metric. Denzel Valentine’s stat line of 25 pts, 7 rebs, and 7 assists in an overtime game against Michigan was arguably the best MSU stat line of the season. Right now an issue with him is that he can be streaky with very poor shooting performances against Rutgers, Indiana, and in the first Maryland game. Branden Dawson is a rebounding machine at the moment averaging 11.3 in conference play. Bryn Forbes and Travis Trice struggled to find their shot against Illinois but MSU will need them down the stretch. They have a chance to finish the season strong as they have at least a 45% chance in winning all of their remaining non-Wisconsin games according to KenPom
This Week: at Northwestern (Tues 2/10), Ohio State (Sat 2/14)
8. Illinois (16-8, 6-5 B1G)
Last Week: Rutgers (W, 66-54), at Michigan State (W, 59-54)
I realize Illinois just beat the team ahead of it. However, I think MSU outplayed them in a game where MSU went 7-18 from the FT line and Nnanna Egwu hit two 3’s. With star player Rayvonte Rice out, Malcolm Hill has been phenomenal for Illini averaging 17.7 points with 47.3/42.2/85.7 shooting splits. Egwu should get a lot of credit for what he does defensively that doesn’t appear on the box scores. Kendrick Nunn has stepped up well this year but freshman Leron Black and transfer Aaron Cosby have been somewhat disappointing. At the moment they’re one of the last 4 teams in according to Joe Lunardi. I have no clue when Rice and Cosby come back from their suspension, but when they do, They really could be a threat for a top 4 seed in the BTT.
This Week: Michigan (Thurs 2/12), at Wisconsin (Sun 2/15)
9. Minnesota (15-9, 4-7 B1G)
Last Week: Nebraska (W, 60-42), Purdue (W, 62-58)
I just feel bad for Minnesota. They’re 342 of 351 in KenPom’s luck metric and they have indeed been very unlucky. They only play Northwestern and Rutgers once and they’ve lost 6 B1G games by a combined 20 points. In conference play their offensive and defensive efficiency are above average ranked 7th and 3rd respectively. Yet somehow they’re still only at 4-7. They beat Purdue in a close win this but led by 15 at one point. Because of their pressure defense that Richard Pitino learned under his father they currently have the top 3 steal leaders in the B1G. However, they give it up a lot ranking 3rd to last in the conference in TO% and are not a good defensive rebounding and are last in that category.
This Week: at Iowa (Thurs 2/12), at Indiana (Sun 2/15)
10. Michigan (13-11, 6-6 B1G)
Last Week: Iowa (L, 72-54), at Indiana (L, 67-70)
Since Caris LeVert went down, the Wolverines have beaten both Rutgers and Nebraska. They’ve also gone into overtime with Wisconsin and on the road at Michigan State. They looked lost against Iowa’s 2-3 zone and couldn’t’ complete the comeback against Indiana but other than that the drop off hasn’t been nearly as severe as most anticipated. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (MAAR) has been a nice surprise averaging 12.7 points in the 3 games with Derrick Walton sidelined with a foot injury and Aubrey Dawkins has looked the kind of player most hoped Kameron Chatman would be. Dawkins is currently 14-28 from 3 in conference play and has looked confident doing so. Irvin looked very good against Indiana in a loss and he really needs to get going for them. One issue that Michigan struggles with is that because Doyle and Bielfeldt are below the rim players, they don’t have any kind of rim protector and they rank dead last in Block%. Derrick Walton is still out for the "foreseeable future" with a foot injury but is expected to be back at some point this year.
This Week: at Illinois (Thurs 2/12)
11. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6 B1G)
Last Week: Northwestern (W, 76-60), at Penn State (L, 43-56)
Nebraska is an odd team. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields combine for 34.6 points a game. The rest of the team? 28.2 points. Similar to last year they play very good defense (14th in KenPom) but their offense has been bad. Many expected them to build off of last year but they probably weren’t as good as many thought last year. Their 2014 conference efficiency margin (Offensive Efficiency minus Defensive Efficieny) was only 0.2 indicating they were pretty average. Other than the MSU win, they haven’t really done anything in conference play and 5 of their 6 losses have been by double digits.
This Week: Wisconsin (Tues 2/10) at Purdue (Sun 2/15)
12. Penn State (15-9, 3-8 B1G)
Last Week: at Maryland (W, 64-58), Nebraska (W, 56-43)
Thank goodness for DJ Newbill. He has been a complete stud averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists for the Nittany Lions. The issue is that the next highest scorer is Brandon Taylor with an inefficient 9.9 points per game. They came into conference play with a weak 12-1 record (320th non-conference SOS) but they’ve been brought back down to earth since then. They beat Rutgers and Minnesota at home and have actually been surprisingly close in a ton of games. Other than the Wisconsin loss, all of their B1G losses were by single digits. However, you play to win the game. Nothing really stands out with their conference stats, they are simply below average in most statistical categories.
This Week: at Ohio State (Wed 2/11), Maryland (Sat 2/14)
13. Northwestern (10-13, 1-9 B1G)
Last Week: at Nebraska (L, 76-60), at Wisconsin (L, 50-65)
Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the year where Northwestern breaks into the tournament for the first time ever. Fortunately they get to enjoy Bryant McIntosh for the next four years. The freshman doesn’t have eye-popping numbers at the moment but he’s been a decent player on a bad team with a usage% of 24.1%. He’s a 6’3" point guard averaging 4.4 assists (good for 7th in B1G) shooting 40% from deep and 84% from the line. The team at this point isn’t exactly strong in athleticism stats as they’re the 9th worst in the country at getting to the FT line and 2nd worst in steal%.
This Week: Michigan State (Tues 2/10), Iowa (Sun 2/15)
14. Rutgers (10-15, 2-10 B1G)
Last Week: at Illinois (L, 54-66), Ohio State (L, 60-79)
Things Rutgers has going for it: the win over a Kaminsky-less Wisconsin. With the way Wisconsin is playing at the moment, that will remain a fluke in my eyes. Losing by double-digits to both Illinois and Ohio State in the past week doesn’t do anything to change my mind about that. They lost to Penn State by 28 and they’re the only team to do so. KenPom doesn’t give them more than a 33% chance of winning in any of their remaining games and it they may very well go 0 for 7. Myles Mack is decent but he’s literally the only player in their rotation with an Offensive Rating greater than 100.
This Week: Purdue (Thurs 2/12)
(Note: As this is my first power rankings there was more of a summary of each team's season than there will be in future editions)