Sorting Out The Big Ten

Dylan Burkhardt

The Big Ten season kicks off tonight with Illinois heading to West Lafayette to take on a tough Boilermaker team. The conference has exceeded preseason expectations in the non conference season and several teams who were expected to settle around the middle of the Big Ten have pulled off surprising marquee wins in the early going. The Big Ten also came closer than it has in years to winning the Big Ten/ACC challenge and probably should have won it. In the end, the non conference season has raised more questions than it’s answered.

This year there are not going to be very many easy wins in the conference. Every night is going to be a battle and there is really only one awful team in the conference this year. Here’s my best attempt at sorting out the conference and predicting the standings, because of all the parity I think 3 through 7 is almost a toss up.

1. Michigan State – I still feel that Michigan State has the most talent from top to bottom of any team in the Big Ten. All jokes aside, Suton is a very good player and helps make MSU a more complete team. They will continue to gel as a team and I think they will benefit from a fresh start.

2. Purdue – The Boilermakers have struggled at times this year but are still in pretty good shape. They have two respectable losses to Oklahoma and Duke but have yet to live up to expectations from last years surprising season. On paper I think the Boilermakers have just as much talent as anyone in the league. Their talent mixed with their tenacity on defense will keep them right near the top of the Big Ten.

3. Minnesota – Minnesota’s record is inflated by a lot of cupcake wins but I think they can be in the tournament tier of the Big Ten. They have a great opportunity to make a statement early on with home games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

4. Michigan – Michigan enters the conference season with the best pair of non conference wins but they have yet to prove they can withstand the grind of the Big Ten season and win on the road. Michigan is weak in the post and any injuries to DeShawn Sims or Manny Harris could be costly. Michigan also has a back loaded schedule and only gets to play Indiana once. It’s important for Michigan to jump out to a great start because wins will be a lot tougher in the second half of the conference schedule.

5. Illinois – Illinois plays great defense but the question is how good can their offense be? They have balanced scoring with Meachum, McCamey, Davis, and Tisdale but I don’t think they have any playmakers to take over a game. The debacle of not getting a shot off in the closing seconds of the Clemson game comes to mind.

6. Wisconsin – The Badgers will probably make me look stupid for putting them this low but they just haven’t proved anything to me. Their best win is a road win against a mediocre Virginia Tech team and they have gone 0-3 in chances for quality wins. In the end though it seems like Wisconsin always finds itself near the top of the conference.

7. Ohio State – Evan Turner looks like an early candidate to win Big Ten Player of the Year and the Buckeyes have some solid wins at Miami, at Notre Dame, and Butler. However I think David Lighty’s injury and Noopy Crater’s transfer will hold the Buckeyes back, and you never want to head into the conference season after getting destroyed on your home floor.

8. Penn State – Talor Battle has been spectacular but I’m taking a wait and see approach. Penn State won’t be a gimmie win for anyone but I don’t think they are contenders either.

9. Northwestern – Same situation as Penn State, Northwestern will be competitive in every game but I don’t see them contending.

10. Iowa – Iowa just hasn’t beaten anyone. The Hawkeyes are 10-3 but all of their wins have been against RPI 100+ teams.

11. Indiana – There is a huge gap between Indiana and everyone else. The Hoosiers are just flat out bad and enter the Big Ten on a three game losing streak (Kentucky, Northeastern, and Lipscomb).

Here are some other takes on how the Big Ten will shakeout:

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  • Wolverine3

    Take Minn and put them below Wisky and I agree with everything else.

    I might put Wisky above Ill but not sure yet.

  • Mith

    I agree with the basic layout, Dylan. I think MSU and Purdue are clearly the top 2 teams, and those next 5 all could contend but will probably settle into the 3 through 7 spots. If I was going to predict, I would drop Minnesota abit, but really its a crapshoot.

    I suspect in the end there will be 6 teams with strong NCAA cases(one of the 7 is bound to disappoint). Hopefully the B10 will merit that many bids this year. With the strong non-conference showing, I bet it will.

    I would be wildly happy with a top 4 finish for the Wolverines. I think its very possible, although certainly no sure thing.

  • ryan

    I don’t know if it has been mentioned, or if anyone has noticed, but Deshawn Sims ranks 3rd in points per game and 1st in rebounds per game.
    Manny Harris ranks 2nd in points per game and also 2nd in rebounds per game.
    This is after last night in big ten stats.

  • Avery Queens

    Losing Lighty will be big and obviously their loss to WVU was horrid but I would expect Mullens to continue improving and Evan Turner has shown that he can single-handedly take over games, so I wouldn’t put the Bucks so low. I do agree with Minnesota though. How good are big ten coaches?

  • Josh
  • Thanks for the link Josh, added it to the bottom of the +/- post.

  • JimC

    Maybe it’s because of M’s resurgence, but this looks like the best Big10 season in at least ten years.

    I’m pulling for anyone but Sparty at the top! ha

  • Bluebufoon

    I love the enthusiasim for Michigan basketball– hell I predicted 23
    rgular season victories for this team, before the season started. I thought we would beat SIU and Maryland and be 10-2 to start and the Big Ten schedule is very favorable for U-M but I digress. I hope we aren’t getting overconfident and making the huge mistake of underestimating our opponents– even though U-M has improved and again our schedule is favorable, Michigan’s margin of error is so small
    I’m afraid if the kids lose their edge this season can quickly spiral out of control.

    Beat Wisconsin !!!!!

  • Based on the Illini’s upset of Purdue on the road last night, I’d say that the conference is a toss-up from 1 to 8. I’m including a surprising Penn State team in the mix. Here’s how I see things shaking out:

    1. MSU – too much frontcourt
    2. Purdue – Illini upset aside, they’ll come around
    3. Wisconsin – Badgers always find a way…
    4. Illinois – I was impressed last night
    5. Michigan – As a long-time season ticket holder, I have healthy skeptism. When Sims came up limping against NCCU, the season flashed before my eyes. A big man away from doing damaging. Where’s Udoh when you need him?
    6. Ohio State – Lots of talent on this team…but Lighty loss hurts
    7. Minnesota – Prove me wrong Tubby!
    8. Penn State – Watched them play…not your father’s PSU cagers
    9. Iowa – Lickliter works magic. Watch out here.
    10. Northwestern – It’s Northwestern
    11. Indiana – Uhhh…no.

    Despite the parity and impressive early non-conference wins, I see only five B-10 teams getting to the dance. Once there, the B-10 will have to shake off the stigma of being historical tourney underachievers. You can calculate the actual wins a coach, team or conference records in the tourney against the projected number of wins based on seeding. It’s called PASE (performance against seed expectations) and you can find out all about it at The Big Ten ranks fourth among the top six Power conferences in PASE. Its 133 teams have fallen short of seed-projected wins by six games, for a PASE of -.045.

    If they tank this year and the Big 12 overachieves against seed expectations, the B-10 could fall to fifth, beating out only the Pac-10. Now here’s the good news: Michigan is the top overachieving B-10 team, with a PASE of +.364. Among teams with at least 10 tourney appearances, that ranks sixth behind Florida, Louisville, UNLV, Duke and Villanova. Not bad company.

    And here’s more encouraging news for Michigan. Among coaches with at least four tourney appearances, John Beilein is the top PASE overachiever, with a whopping PASE of +.865. That means he nearly wins, on average, one more game per tourney than his seeding suggests he should. Beilein barely beats out a familiar face. Steve Fisher is second on the all-time 64-team tourney PASE list at +.853. Rounding out the top five is Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, and Tom Izzo. Lots more where this came from at