Did anybody think that the Big 10 was going to be the best conference in all of college basketball this season. They started the season with three teams in the top ten but the discussion could be had with the Big 12 adding five of the top nineteen or the ACC having their typical dominance over the country. It is not even a discussion at this point. If you gave me a vote, I would probably put Iowa at #1 right now. Iowa gets to take on Gonzaga this Saturday to try and earn that #1 ranking before entering conference play. It has started now for some of the other teams in the league so we get to separate the men from the boys.
- Iowa (6-0)
Iowa is the deepest and most complete team in the country. Luka Garza is the Wooden Award front runner and Fran McCaffery has done a great job pairing him with a bunch of shooters. Garza is averaging almost 30 points per game but the Hawkeyes are scoring over 100. They have 8 other players on the roster averaging at least 4.0 points per game lead by Joe Wiescamp with 15.2 points per game. Jordan Bohannon and Connor McCaffery have the experience in the backcourt to lead this team on both ends of the floor. Iowa matches up well against Gonzaga for Saturday’s game and I’m interested in seeing how Gonzaga plans on scoring.
2. Michigan State (6-0)
Michigan State already has wins against Duke and Notre Dame this year. But because of Duke’s struggles, they have gone under the radar to a 6-0 record and ranked #4 in the country. We missed out on a matchup with Virginia in the Big 10/ACC Challenge so we’ll have to wait for Christmas for the game against Wisconsin. Their offense runs smoothly, ranking third in the country in assists. The Hauser family has to be proud with Sam leading Virginia and Joey leading Michigan State. Joey is averaging a double double so far with 13.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. It really is a team effort moving the ball to get guys open as six players get at least two assists per game.
3. Illinois (5-2)
This Illinois team is hard to figure out. They have two losses already to Baylor and Missouri and a win over Duke which the jury is still out on whether that is a good win or not. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn lead the way but Cockburn has been susceptible to foul trouble which turns them into a one dimensional team. The role players need to make more of a contribution on a consistant basis to be a great team.
4. Rutgers (5-0)
How fun is it to see Rutgers basketball be in the Top 25? Ron Harper Jr is the hometown kid leading the way with a full stat sheet. He’s averaging 23.2 points, 2.8 assists, and 7.0 rebounds from the guard spot. The most impressive part is how efficient he is. He is shooting 60% from the field and 50% from three. Harper is making it very easy on point guard Jacob Young who is getting 6 assists per game thanks to all the made shots. One area that this team needs to improve on is the free throw line. Only one player that is getting significant minutes is shooting over 64%.
5. Wisconsin (5-1)
Wisconsin has looked good outside of getting pushed around by Marquette. That moves them all the way down to five though because teams in the Big Ten are going to be able to push them around as well. Potter has looked good and Reuvers is impressive on the defensive end with over 2 blocks per game but I need to see more than 4 rebounds from a guy that is 6’11. That may be in part to Greg Gard getting a lot of guys involved early in the season so we’ll see if those numbers improve in conference play or the bench continues to play a big factor. Seven different players are averaging at least 20 minutes per game.
6. Michigan (6-0)
Michigan snuck back in to the Top 25 with their 6-0 record. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A Big Ten team is led by a 7 footer and impressive depth at the forward spots. Franz Wagner still hasn’t reached the level of his brother yet but he still a good contributor.
7. Ohio State (5-1)
As you’ll see later in the rankings, I started this before Ohio State lost to Purdue. I bumped Purdue up a few spots because of it but I think this is the line between the the top tier of teams and the next group so Ohio State doesn’t drop. E.J. Lidell was still out with COVID so I won’t judge them too much until he returns.
8. Indiana (4-2)
Trayce Jackson-Davis is electric to watch but that is where the depth stops for this team. In a loss to Florida State, he carried the team to overtime with 25 points and 17 rebounds. In a loss to Texas, he had 17 of the team’s 44 points. There just isn’t enough scoring on this team to compete.
9. Minnesota (6-1)
Minnesota jumped out to a 6-0 start and suffered their first loss this week against a very good Illinois team. They even held a lead through the first 10 minutes or so of that game but once Illinois got going, there was no stopping them. Marcus Carr is much improved since his freshman year at Pitt and currently sits third in the conference in points per game. They are another team with a lot of depth which comes in handy this year more than any other if players go down with COVID. Areas that this team needs to improve in to make it to the next tier in the league is shooting percentage and assists. They only shot 27.5% against Illinois and had 10 assists compared to Illinois’ 21.
10. Purdue (5-2)
I won’t lie here. I started this earlier in the week and had Purdue much lower before beating Ohio State. I still have not been able to catch one of their games but a big conference win like that is worth a few spots in the rankings.
11. Maryland (4-2)
Maryland had a rough 5 day stretch taking on Clemson and Rutgers, two fiesty teams that both find themselves in the Top 25. They don’t really have a go to scorer down the stretch of games so will they be able to play good enough defense for the whole 40 minutes?
12. Penn State (3-2)
Penn State entered the conversation after a twenty point beat down of ranked Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The area that concerns me with this team is long stretches of not scoring. Even in a game that they put up 92 points, the game swung on a two minute scoreless drought. They allowed Seton Hall to go on an 8-0 in the last two minutes and only scored 6 in overtime to lose 98-92.
13. Northwestern (3-1)
We haven’t seen enough of Northwestern to really know who they are. In the Big 10/ACC Challenge, they lost to Pitt by 1. They had a chance as Boo Buie missed both free throws with 16 seconds to play that gave Pitt a chance to go down and hit the game winning bucket. He also had a turnover on the previous possession that led to a bucket. We’ll learn more about them this weekend when they take on Michigan State.
14. Nebraska (3-3)
Nebraska is the only team with three losses so far so they bring up the rear here. Dalano Banton is a fun player to watch as the season goes along though. He has a full stat sheet with 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals, and leading the team with 1.2 blocks from the guard spot.