Before the game in East Lansing, Michigan was 22-39 under John Beilein in regular season Big Ten games. Since then the Wolverines are 40-14. That’s better than Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State, the three teams that are far ahead of the rest of the conference. An arbitrary split? Sure, but there’s little doubt that something about the Michigan program changed after that win.
2. Michigan State (7-1, 1.11 PPP, .96 Opp. PPP, +.15 EM)
Nik Stauskas might be the best offensive player in the Big Ten, but Gary Harris might be the most complete player. The two had their first head-to-head battle of 2014 and while Stauskas got the victory, it was Harris that guarded Stauskas and not the other way around. He negated Stauskas for long stretches of the game – the 6-foot-6 Canadian had four different stretches of four minutes or longer where he didn’t even attempt a field goal – but Harris couldn’t guard Stauskas for the whole night. Stauskas hit three triples in the second half and all of them were against Spartan defenders other than Harris.
The two players look like the runaway favorites for the Big Ten Player of the Year race, but right now Stauskas might have the leg up with one head-to-head victory to his name. Here are their conference-only statistics.
3. Iowa (5-2, 1.12 PPP, .96 Opp. PPP, +.16 EM)
Iowa has already played games at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan. Coming away with a win in one of those three games is an acceptable result. But now the Hawkeyes have another more difficult and important test at hand: Can they defend home court against the league’s elite? Michigan State comes to town on Tuesday and a win would move the Hawkeyes into a second place tie while a loss would leave them three games out of first.
4. Wisconsin (4-3, 1.17 PPP, 1.06 Opp. PPP, +.10 EM)
Did the Badgers finally fix their defensive issues at Purdue? It was definitely a step in the right direction. Wisconsin held Purdue to just .9 points per possession in a decisive 14 point road win. After playing three of its last four games on the road, Wisconsin has four out of the next five at home and a chance to make a push toward the top.
5. Minnesota (4-4, 1.10 PPP, 1.11 Opp. PPP, -.01 EM)
In a league that seems filled with underachieving offenses, the Gophers just can’t play defense. The Gophers have allowed 1.11 points per possession in Big Ten play, by far the worst mark in the league. Minnesota did manage to beat Wisconsin at home this week, but defensive issues caught up to them at Nebraska. The Huskers scored 1.18 points per possession en route to an 82-78 home upset.
Against the Badgers, Austin Hollins put forth his entry for dunk of the year in the conference.
6. Ohio State (3-4, 1.01 PPP, .97 Opp. PPP, +.04 EM)
The Buckeyes suffered their fourth loss in a row at Nebraska on Monday before knocking off Illinois at home. Not a great week by any stretch, but nobody else did much to claim a stake above them. The Buckeyes have bounced back from difficult stretches in the Big Ten before. Last last year they lost three of four games in early February before winning their final five.
7. Northwestern (3-5, .84 PPP, 1.04 Opp. PPP, -.20 EM)
Northwestern has yet to score over a point per possession in the Big Ten, but has won three of its last five games. The Wildcats aren’t the only offensive challenged team in the league, they just happen to be the worst. However, Chris Collins’ group has proven that it can legitimately stop middle-tier Big Ten teams in their tracks. Northwestern continues to slow down games to a brutal pace and is content to play games in the 40s and 50s.
8. Indiana (3-4, .97 PPP, 1.00 Opp. PPP, –.03 EM)
Indiana has always struggled with turnovers, and this year is no exception. The Hoosiers were still able to have the best offense in the Big Ten last season, despite turning the ball over more often than every team other than Minnesota, because they shot the ball so well. This year’s Indiana team doesn’t have that luxury. The Hoosiers are shooting just 41% on twos (11th in the Big Ten) and attempt more twos than anyone in the league other than Iowa.
9. Purdue (3-4, .99 PPP, 1.02 Opp. PPP, -.03 EM)
Purdue lost at Northwestern in two overtimes and was blown out at home by Wisconsin. For a couple weeks, Purdue was staying above the fray by just doing exactly what could be expected of them. Last week’s losses mean that is no longer the case. With three of their next four on the road, including trips to Ann arbor and Columbus, things could start to snowball in West Lafayette.
10. Nebraska (2-5, .97 PPP, 1.06 Opp. PPP, -.09 EM)
Tim Miles and Nebraska have faced a brutal opening stretch of schedule in Big Ten play, but brighter days are ahead. The Huskers picked up a very nice home win over Minnesota on Sunday and have only lost one game within the brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena. Terran Petteway was the hero against Minnesota, tallying 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting against the Gophers – the top scoring performance of the 2014 Big Ten season. Petteway’s 35 were the most points scored in a Big Ten game since Brandon Paul racked up 43 on January 10th, 2012, but Petteway did it with lethal efficiency.
11. Illinois (2-6, .92 PPP, 1.02 Opp. PPP, -.10 EM)
Illinois’ most impressive win in Big Ten play is at home in overtime over Indiana. The Illini offense has just gone dry. On January 7th, I pointed out that Rayvonte Rice had one of the best combined usage rates and offensive ratings in the conference. Big Ten play has been… humbling. Rice has struggled mightily against all of the league except in his two games against Indiana.
His teammates aren’t been much help either, they combined for 26 points on 11-of-43 shooting in Sunday’s loss at Indiana.
12. Penn State (1-6, .97 PPP, 1.08 Opp. PPP, -.11 EM)
The Nittany Lions finally got a league win, at home over Nebraska, but they were lucky to escape with a win after some poor decisions down the stretch doomed the Huskers.