UNC-Charlotte 106, Penn State 97 2OT
North Florida 73, Purdue 70
Eastern Washington 88, Indiana 86
NJIT 72, Michigan 70
Eastern Michigan 45, Michigan 42
Incarnate Word 74, Nebraska 73
Northern Iowa 61, Northwestern 42
St. Peter's 68, Rutgers 50
In the past few weeks the Big Ten has taken it on the chin in the college basketball world. Directionals and schools that people have never heard of have walked into Big Ten arenas and won games that normally they should have no business winning. Rutgers and Northwestern dropping games is not a huge surprise, but Michigan has been a rock the last two seasons. Purdue and Indiana, despite recent struggles, are virtual locks to win at home in non-conference play (Painter has only lost six times in 10 years of non-conference games at home). Last night's loss by Nebraska was equally stunning when you consider how tough the Cornhuskers' new home court has been.
The perception that the Big Ten is the best basketball conference in the country has taken a bit of a black eye because of all these upsets. Yeah, losing sucks, but it is hardly a reason to panic. Almost every team in America drops a game or two over the course of a 32 game season that it has no business losing. Even all-powerful Kentucky struggled last night with lowly Columbia. Here are some reasons why the Big Ten shouldn't flip out.
The Conference RPI is still ridiculously strong:
Out of 33 conferences the Big Ten is third in terms of overall conference RPI. The Big East and the Big 12 are still ahead of the Big Ten, but the Big Ten has 14 members compared to 10 in the Big 12 and 10 in the Big East. With four more teams the Big Ten is significantly more likely to rack up an ugly loss here and there.
The Big Ten is performing well against major conferences
There is a lot of evidence for this. The Big Ten won the Big Ten/ACC challenge with the lower echelon of Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State all winning their respective games. The top of the conference struggled, but it was the bottom, the depth that carried the league.
There are also plenty of other wins over major conference teams. Purdue beat Missouri and has a good win over BYU. Indiana beat SMU. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin beat Marquette. Michigan beat Oregon. Illinois beat Baylor. Maryland beat Iowa State and Arizona State. Minnesota beat Georgia. The league, by and large, is still playing some good basketball against major conference teams.
There are still lots of big games left before conference season
Just this weekend you have Purdue-Vanderbilt, Michigan-Arizona, Cincinnati-Nebraska, Oregon-Illinois, and Iowa-Iowa State. Even as bad as Michigan has been playing of late it is not impossible for the league to win all of those games. That would certainly boost the conference's perception.
Many of the losses have come with really, really young teams
One of the downsides of having a young, but talented team is that they can have a game or two where everything kind of goes haywire. Both Purdue and Indiana are extremely young and got bitten by decent teams who played really well. When you have a team that plays one of its best games of the season it can make anyone struggle. When you combine that with a favorite that doesn't play well because of inconsistent youth (Nebraska completely blowing the end of last night's game is an example) you have a recipe for an upset.
Smaller conference teams are just getting better
While the three-pointer can often be a great equalizer, smaller conference teams are just getting better and better every year. There are tons of talented players that fall through the cracks and excel at smaller schools. You're telling me that Dallas Moore, after what he did to keep North Florida in the game, is not a good player? What about Kyle Hittle, who hit one of the toughest game-winners I have ever seen last night? You're starting to see fewer and fewer teams like a Grambling State that are truly awful basketball teams. What makes college basketball so great is the upset factor.
It is not like other conferences are immune to upsets
Let's look at some other notable upsets sustained by major conference teams:
Northeastern over Florida State
Gardner Webb over Clemson
Brown over Providence
Yale over Connecticut
Appalachian State over Virginia Tech
Delaware State over Wake Forest
South Carolina-Upstate over Georgia Tech
So see, it happens. The ACC seems especially susceptible to that this year and we all know that the ACC is OMG TOTALLY AWESOME DUKE NORTH CAROLINA!!!!!!
There is plenty of time to panic later
No one's season is over yet. In fact, we should be grateful that Penn State has only a single loss right now. There are plenty of chances coming up for everyone in the league to rack up wins both inside and outside of conference play. For Purdue, if the Boilers go 10-3 in non-conference play they will still be comfortably in the NCAA discussion with a .500 record in the No. 3 RPI conference. The same is true for Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, and pretty much everyone else. All you need to do is get to 20 wins overall and be .500 int he Big Ten and you're going to be in the discussion on Selection Sunday.
Once we're in league play everyone is going to lift everyone else up, and only a loss to Rutgers, who is tanking pretty badly, will drag someone down.