USA TODAY Sports
Ranking the Big Ten after the first two weeks of conference play.
For the record I plan to have these rankings done by Mondays around lunchtime, but since this was my first week back at Purdue I took last Sunday to prepare myself for my upcoming classes, and got pretty busy throughout the week in general. So expect these rankings to go up at the beginning of each week.
The first two weeks are in the books and here's what I took away from them:
- Michigan is the titties. This team consists of great athletes, roll-players, smart, team-oriented basketball, a couple stars, and promising, young players.
- IU is great, but they are beatable. They whooped up on a bad PSU team, but struggled against a solid Iowa team, while giving up a huge lead at home against Minnesota.
- Ohio State was way overrated coming into the season.
- Minnesota was definitely underrated coming into the season and are a fun bunch of ball players to watch.
- The bad teams in the Big Ten are really bad.
- There will be a lot of NBA talent coming out of the Big Ten over the next few seasons.
- Whoever has the best away record will most likely win the conference.
- Tubby Smith's mustache is great. Hands down one of the best things in the Big Ten. Why, you ask? Because it makes him look like a gopher, and I'm a huge fan of coaches looking like their mascots (See Bo Ryan). If schools can start hiring coaches that look like their mascots, then maybe there is hope for the NCAA after all.
Now, let us begin this week's rankings.
1. Michigan Wolverines (16-1, 3-1 Week 1: 1)
Trey Burke is clicking on all cylinders right now and has only turned the ball over seven teams during conference play while dishing out eighteen assists. This Michigan team is hands down one of the most efficient offenses in the country right now and has multiple guys on the team that can shoot the ball. They were getting blasted in the beginning of the Ohio State game on Sunday, but mounted an enormous comeback to almost get the win. They are one of the best rebounding, passing, and scoring teams in the nation. I see them losing two more games this season: at IU, and at Minnesota. For a while, this team looked unbeatable. The Wolverines are most certainly not an easy team for anyone, and will most likely not lose at home. But OSU showed that they can be beaten.
2. Indiana Hoosiers (15-1, 3-0, Week 1: 2)
Tom Crean's bunch is doing what we all knew they would do at the beginning of the season: dominating. This high-powered offense led by Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo is one of the best in the nation, if not the best. However, their defense at times can be questionable. They escaped with a four point win at Iowa in their season opener, and allowed Minnesota to overcome a huge deficit at Assembly Hall to bring the game within nine points. IU has the perfect combination of shooters, smart players, athletes, and a good home schedule. However, the Hoosiers have shown playing on the road or neutral courts isn't their strong suit. They will be perfect at home, but playing at Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Illinois won't be a walk in the park for them. They still have a strong chance to win the Big Ten, but learning to play away from Assembly Hall will have to be a big step for this team.
3. Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-2, 3-1, Week 1: 6)
These next few spots were really tough for me because each team is extremely good, but I have to give the edge to Minnesota. The Gophers are a tough, blue collar team that showed IU they won't roll over and die, even when they are outscored 52-29 going into half. Tubby Smith's team fought hard and brought the game within 9, yet fell short. Trevor Mbakwe is playing out of his mind during conference play; he has three double-doubles and is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. The starting five of Mbakwe, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman, and Rodney Williams have been huge scorers for this team, but outside of them this team takes a huge drop. Minnesota is not very deep, which makes me wonder how far they will go in any postseason play. This team is darn good, but the starters carry them and could easily start to burn out towards the end of the season.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (13-3, 3-1, Week 1: 4)
With an impressive win over Michigan, the Buckeyes will stay exactly where they were last week. Like I said, these next few spots are tough for me to rank, but I'm giving the edge to Minnesota because OSU got spanked by Illinois on the road. Regardless, Thad Matta has a damn good ball team that relies on Deshaun Thomas' scoring abilities and good team defense. Thomas has brought his scoring average to 20.3 points per-game while shooting at 40% behind the arc while also playing good defense and rebounding well. Lenzelle Smith Jr. has really picked things up during B1G play as well; averaging 10 ppg and has back to back double digit rebounding games while only being a 6'4" guard. Sam Thompson continues to have at least one posterizing dunk per-game.
5. Michigan State Spartans (14-3, 3-1, Week 1: 3)
After losing in their conference opener to Minnesota, MSU has bounced back and is currently riding a three game win streak. Tom Izzo's team is carried by the young talent of Gary Harris, Keith and Branden Dawson and Junior leader Keith Appling. Although they've got some solid players, MSU has a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents (see Nebraska game), which won't work on the road in this conference. They also go through stretches where they struggle to score. If Izzo can figure out how to overcome these things, Sparty will be a scary team come post season time. Knowing Izzo, this team will keep getting better and better as the season goes. Fun fact about MSU: Tom Izzo leads the nation in making stupid, bitchy faces to the refs when he thinks something isn't going their way. MSU travels to Penn State on Wednesday where Izzo will most likely not get all the calls he wants and continue to pile up his stats in that category. Something to look out for when watching that game.
6. Wisconsin Badgers (12-4, 3-0, Week 1: 8)
Bo Ryan always has a solid group of players, and the Kohl's Center is one of the toughest venues in the Big Ten. Illinois found both of these things to be true after getting spanked on Saturday when they went to Madison. Senior Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans are leading this squad of blue collar players and having success so far in the conference. There is nothing flashy about this Wisconsin team, but they have heart, hustle, and will fight tooth and nail till the final buzzer goes off. I think they've got a couple more upsets left in them at home, but they will face their toughest opponent when they travel to Assembly Hall in Bloomington to play the Hoosiers on the 15th.
7. Illinois Fighting Illini (14-4, 1-3, Week 1: 5)
I don't get you, Illini. You make Ohio State look foolish when they came to Assembly Hall, yet you absolutely got blasted on the road by an unranked Wisconsin and beat up pretty badly by Minnesota at home. So what's up with this team? They live and die by the three. Watching Brandon Paul and this team is like watching a game of NBA Jam being played in front of you; it's either "HE'S ON FIRE! BOOMSHAKALAKA!" or they get dominated. This team is lethal behind the arc when they're hot, but the lack of post presence and average defense won't get them too far in the Big Ten. John Groce is showing that he is a good coach, but he'll have to help guide his team to other means of scoring besides the 3-ball.
8. Purdue Boilermakers (8-8, 2-2, Week 1: 12)
Here is my reasoning for why Purdue is placed above teams that have better overall records than them: This is a B1G ranking, not overall ranking; none of the remaining teams have beaten a ranked team; I'm biased and love Purdue. So there's that. But in reality, Purdue has played up to earn the 8th spot in these rankings. After beating Illinois in the conference opener, this team has looked completely different from how they started at the beginning of the season. A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson are looking to be the stars of the future, and Raphael Davis may start getting the playing time he deserves. It's still going to be a rocky season, but after bouncing back with a win against Penn State after a losing to OSU, Purdue has a chance to win three games in a row, which would be huge for Coach Matt Painter and his ball club. Purdue has to take better shots and hit their free throws if they want to stay competitive in the Big Ten. The shot selection looks like it's improving, not so much for the free throws.
9. Iowa Hawkeyes (12-5, 1-3, Week 1: 7)
Iowa easily has one of the toughest schedules in the conference, but this team can hang at home and showed that when IU and MSU came to town. The Hawkeyes picked up their first win in the B1G after winning on the road against a lesser North Western team. After a rough three games, this team should pat themselves on the back for their first conference win. However, things don't get any easier for them as they host Wisconsin and travel to Purdue and Ohio State in their next three games. Iowa has some talent, but the strength of their schedule will not play into their favor this season.
10. Northwestern Wildcats (10-7, 1-3, Week 1: 9)
Like Iowa, Northwestern has a rough opener in conference play; five of their first seven opponents are ranked. Northwestern likes offensive firepower this season, but they do a great job of passing and sharing the ball. It looks like this will be a long season for this team and it's fans with the only winnable games look to be against Penn State and Nebraska. But this is the Big Ten, and everyone plays hard at home.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-8, 0-4, Week 1: 10)
Lets face it, these next two teams are not known for their basketball programs. After watching Big Ten's "The Journey" last night, which everyone should watch this show, I gained a new-found respect for head coach Tim Miles and where he is taking this program. Miles touched on how they take things one game at a time and don't focus on the future, they focus more on the now. They don't worry about who they are playing or what the teams record is, each game is part of a journey to get his players to play to their potential and beyond. A coach that has a philosophy like that is a great role model, and Nebraska has my support. However, my support will literally do nothing for this team going forward.
12. Penn State Nittany Lion (8-8, 0-4, Week 1: 11)
Just how bad is this PSU team? Tim Frazier is still their leading scorer, is tied for leading the team in assists, and is their third best rebounder, yet he hasn't played since November 18th. This team doesn't really do anything well and, as shown when they played against Purdue, this team can play extremely ugly basketball at times. Penn State will also have an incredibly long season and will constantly be fighting to stay out of last place against Nebraska. The good news for PSU is that Brandon Taylor is the national leader in "Hitting Meaningless Half-Time Buzzer Beater" shots. So there's that.