We don’t always do power rankings around here, but most of the conference has played about 10 games and there is enough data for some opinions.
The prevailing opinion is that much of the Big Ten sucks.
Really, that’s the best we can think right now. The conference went 7-15 in the combined Gavitt Games and Acc/Big Ten Challenge, with Purdue as the shining team winning both of its games. Michigan State has been the most consistent team, losing to Duke 7 and destroying everyone else. Purdue has a pair of top 25 KenPom wins, but the WKU loss was a bad one (so far). The prospect of getting 7 or more teams into the NCAA tournament seems unlikely, as we have already seen some early conference dogfights.
It’s gonna be an interesting year.
Big Ten Championship Contenders
1. Michigan State (8-1, 1-0) – Sparty looks flat out scary. They only have to play Purdue and Minnesota once each and I am not sure we can beat them. They absolutely crushed North Carolina and Notre Dame, two of the best wins of any Big Ten team this year. They don’t have a seriously challenging game for quite a while. Is it Maryland at home on January 4th? Purdue on February 10th? I think they legitimately could run the table, and Miles Bridges hasn’t really gone off yet.
2. Purdue (8-2, 2-0) – The Boilermakers will certainly return to the rankings this week and they have a nice four-game winning streak over Arizona, Louisville, Maryland, and Northwestern. All four of those teams could be NCAA teams in March, and Purdue has won each differently. It completely dominated Arizona, won a defensive struggle against Louisville, shot the lights out at Maryland, and beat Northwestern in a game where the Wildcats seemed to answer every run. Unfortunately, Michigan State is so good I could see Purdue going 15-3 in Big Ten play and still losing the league.
3. Minnesota (8-1, 1-0) – I am still not sure what to think of the Gophers. The 12 point Gavitt Games win at providence is good, but they couldn’t defend home court against Miami in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It was troubling to see them struggle in the weird 5-on-3 game against Alabama. They handled Rutgers with ease last night though, and the January 13 game in Minneapolis with Purdue could be huge.
NCAA Tournament Teams
4. Michigan (7-2, 1-0) – Michigan doesn’t quite have the horses to keep up with the top 3 all year, but they are good enough to spring an upset. Purdue could (and probably should) be 15-2 when it goes to Ann Arbor on January 9th, but the Crisler Center is one of the only arenas this senior class has not won in (joining Iowa and Illinois). Their losses have been to LSU out in Maui and at North Carolina.
5. Maryland (7-3, 1-1) – The Terps got a split in their first two Big Ten games, but got really lucky with an epic brainfart by Illinois at the end of regulation last night. The Butler win in the Gavitt Games is a nice little win, but this team could have done a lot with a win at Syracuse. They’ll do enough to make the NCAAs by the end of the year. I am glad Purdue already has their game in College Park over with.
Work to Do
6. Northwestern (5-4, 1-1) – I was impressed by the Wildcats yesterday. They have had a slow start and after Purdue jumped out by 12 I thought we were going to run away with it. Their 14-1 run late in the first half took a lot of character, and Dererk Pardon was able to answer seemingly every push Purdue gave them. They really had a shot of pulling off a big road win. What could hurt them are all the missed chances so far. They lost to Creighton, Georgia Tech, and Purdue by a combined 10 points. They need to get a win at Oklahoma on December 22 for a good non-conference win.
7. Ohio State (6-3, 1-0) – The Buckeyes just missed a win over Butler in the PK80, then looked bad in a 14 point home loss to Clemson. They certainly did not look bad Saturday night in blowing out Wisconsin in Madison. A win tonight at home over Michigan would be a strong 2-0 start to league play. They also have a neutral site game against North Carolina coming up that could be a huge boost.
8. Penn State (7-2, 1-0) – Yes, the Penn State Nittany Lions in basketball. After pushing Texas A&M in the Legends Classic and giving NC State a game in the Challenge the Nittany Lions have certainly qualified as “interesting”. Tonight they get Wisconsin at home for a surprise early 2-0 start. There won’t be much there on the non-conference resume (Montana might end up being the best win), but they could win 10-11 conference games and maybe reach March.
Varying Degrees of Trash
9. Indiana (4-4, 0-1) – The Hoosiers have shown a lot of improvement since getting absolutely pantsed by Indiana State in the opener. They gave No. 1 Duke everything they could handle Wednesday night, so the bizarre hex Assembly Hall has over top 5 teams is still in effect. This team will bite someone this year at some point. They’re also probably going to finish around .500 overall.
10. Illinois (6-3, 0-2) – The Illini were the hard luck team of the weekend, losing to Northwestern and Maryland both in overtime. Combined with the Challenge loss at Wake Forest Illinois has now lost three in a row after a 6-0 start. If they can beat New Mexico state and Missouri in neutral site games later this month they have some non-conference strength, but they will regret dropping these two conference games that could be wins.
11. Nebraska (6-3, 0-1) – The Cornhuskers were one of three teams to win their ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, joining Purdue and Michigan State. They were at least 2-1 in the Advocare Invitational down in Orlando, with a loss to Central Florida. They had the roughest opening Big Ten slate with a trip to Michigan State and a home game against Minnesota though. Overall, they haven’t been terrible, but they aren’t great, either.
12. Rutgers (6-2, 0-1) – Credit to the Scarlet Knights for hanging with Florida State in the Challenge. That is more than a lot of the conference did. They had some moment in the loss last night at Minnesota, too. This is a better Rutgers team than the last two years, but that is a low bar to clear. No one expects them to stun Michigan State at home tomorrow night, but a win over Seton Hall on December 16th would be nice.
13. Wisconsin (3-5, 0-1) – I almost had the Badgers last, but at least all five losses can be excused. Xavier, Baylor, UCLA, Virginia, and Ohio State are all good teams, but a 25 point home loss to Ohio State? I think this is finally the year the top 4 streak ends.
14. Iowa (4-4, 0-1) – The Hawkeyes are easily the most disappointing team in the league. Their Cayman Islands trip ended with losses to Louisiana and South Dakota State. They were a no show in the Challenge at Virginia Tech. A home loss to start league play against Penn State is not a good look. This team returned a lot and was supposed to be much better.