With all the hype going into the season about the big three in the Big 10, who had Michigan being the only undefeated team come the new year? This conference is very deep and the teams are most likely going to eat each other alive for the next couple months. Just check out the middle of these power rankings. It is a mess to figure out where to put teams. It is going to be fun to see who can come out on top. Will it be one of the powerhouses (Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin) or will a team that we didn’t expect rise to the top (Michigan, Rutgers, Michigan State, Minnesota)?
1. Michigan (9-0)
Michigan has been impressive even though their schedule hasn’t been as tough as the rest of the league. You can still see that they are a good team based on their high shooting percentages. They rank 11th in the country in field goal percentage led by Hunter Dickinson’s 71%! They live by the inside out game, scoring most of their points in the paint. However, don’t be surprised when Eli Brooks pulls up on you and hits a three. They take on a decent Minnesota team this week but I’m really looking forward to next week in the battle with Wisconsin. A towering matchup between Dickinson, Livers, Potter, and Reuvers.
2. Iowa (9-2)
Iowa’s defense looked pretty rough against Gonzaga but that can happen to a lot of teams. It crept back in to play though when they lost to Minnesota, giving up 83 points in regulation. They followed that up by allowing 19 points in the five minute overtime period. Their adjusted defense rating is 94th in the country. If you look down through the KenPom rankings, you don’t find a team anywhere close to that low until 26th ranked LSU. Can Luka Garza and the guards score enough to make up for their poor
3. Illinois (8-3)
I still believe that this is the most talented team in the Big 10 from what I’ve seen so far. Ayo Dosunmu can get a bucket anytime he wants. Kofi Cockburn has done a good job the last couple games staying out of foul trouble which is key for this team. The dynamic of this team with him on the floor is a gamechanger. He is averaging 17 points/game over the last three victories. Da’Monte Williams is a player to watch out for moving forward. There is plenty of talent on this roster but when all the focus is on the stars, he needs to knock down shots .
4. Wisconsin (9-2)
Teams are going to get upset in this league. The concerning part is losing at home to one of the bottom teams. I know home court advantage isn’t quite the same this year but road wins are hard to come by. You have to take advantage of being in your gym. The difference in the loss to Maryland was the poor performance by Micah Potter. For the Badgers to win games, four points from best player won’t be good enough. Maryland did a good job all around shutting down the front court. D’Mitrik Trice did everything he could to keep them in the game. He had back to back 25+ point games against Maryland and the win over Michigan State. They have three wins over top 25 teams so they will be fine.
5. Michigan State (8-3)
Michigan State earned a couple bumps in the rankings last night with their 68-45 win over #15 Rutgers. With 2 minutes left in the first half, it was a two point game that was very back and forth. Both teams had struggled to score with the game sitting at 22-20. The Spartans went on a run to end the half and into the start of the second half that ballooned the lead to 11. The lead hovered around that score with Ron Harper Jr doing everything he could to keep the Scarlet Knights within arms reach. The Spartans slammed the door shut late in the game with an impressive defensive display, holding Rutgers without a point for a seven minute stretch. The lead increased all the way to 25 over that stretch. This is big for the Spartans after a three game losing streak to end 2020.
6. Minnesota (10-2)
Minnesota’s two losses are both respectable ones at Illinois and at Wisconsin. They have wins over Ohio State, Michigan State, and a huge win over Iowa. They proved in that game along with a few others that they can really score the basketball. Marcus Carr is fun to watch and does a great job taking care of the basketball. They could get a big bump in the rankings tonight if they are able to take down undefeated Michigan. Liam Robbins has been impressive on both ends of the court but how will he fair against this difficult front court.
7. Rutgers (7-3)
The offensive display from Rutgers last night was tough to watch. They scored only 45 points with several long scoring droughts. They now have lost three of their last four. However, the losses are to some good ranked teams. Hopefully the bubble hasn’t burst for Rutgers. You won’t win any games shooting in the 30% range from the field but the more concerning part that I’ve mentioned is their inability to shoot free throws. You have to take better advantage of the charity stripe. Even getting to 60% would be a win for this team.
8. Ohio State (8-3)
I don’t know what is is about this Ohio State team but I just can’t get behind anything they’re doing. They’re leading scorer, Duane Washington Jr, is averaging under 15/game and E.J. Liddell is slowly easing back into things after having COVID. This is a team that is going to sit in the middle of the rankings until I can figure them out.
9. Indiana (7-4)
The Hoosiers put up a good fight against Illinois and followed it up with two wins against the bottom of the conference. This is a one man team and as fun as Trayce Jackson-Davis is to watch, I think this is their ceiling this year. If he sticks around next year, they could cause some problems.
10. Northwestern (6-3)
Northwestern has some bad luck with the timing of this post. They started out 6-1 but have lost two straight over the last week to Iowa and Michigan. Things don’t get any easier with Illinois, Ohio State, and Iowa again in their next three so they have some chances to improve their resume. The Wildcats live and die by the three which is exactly the way to play to pull off some upsets. Let’s see if Miller Kopp, Boo Buie, and Chase Audige can get hot from behind the arc.
11. Maryland (6-5)
Maryland gets the slight edge over Purdue here because of the win over Wisconsin. They did a great job shutting down the front court but defense will only carry them so far. I wouldn’t put Indiana up there as an elite defensive team and they were only able to scrape up 55 points.
12. Purdue (7-5)
The Big 10 is typically a slow, defensive minded conference but there are teams that can put up points quick this year. That does not bode well for a team ranked 202nd in the nation in points per game. They’ve kept the last couple games close with Rutgers and Illinois but those teams have go-to scorers at the end of games while the Boilermakers look a little lost.
13. Penn State (3-4)
We’ve reached the bottom dwellers. Penn State is without a victory so far in conference play and have allowed 82 points over the three game losing streak. Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington are still managing to put up points in the backcourt as well Samuel Sessoms off the bench. This league thrives in the front court though and that is the biggest weakness on the defensive end for the Nittany Lions.
14. Nebraska (4-7)
Nebraska beats Penn State out for last place with an extra loss in conference play and the games mostly being blow outs. Being a West Virginia fan, I really hate Pitt. But I would love to find out the reason for Trey McGowens choosing to transfer here for his Junior and Senior season. It just doesn’t make much sense.