Big Ten Power Rankings: February 10th, 2014

imageThe Big Ten Roundup has been replaced with Big Ten Power Rankings this year at UM Hoops. We’ll take a look across the conference on a weekly basis, rank all 12 teams and attempt to provide some insight about each team.

1. Michigan State (9-2, 1.09 PPP, 0.96 Opp. PPP, +.13 EM)

Adreian Payne is back, but now Keith Appling is out. Tom Izzo told reporters after the Wisconsin loss that Appling could be sidelined for a “couple weeks” with his wrist injury. The Spartans play at Michigan in 13 days. With three manageable games against Northwestern, Nebraska and at Purdue, perhaps Appling will get some extended rest before the rematch

Twitter exploded when Tom Izzo called a timeout late in the Spartans’ loss at Wisconsin despite the fact that they had a 5-on-4 break with Nigel Hayes taken out of the play. Izzo obviously has confidence in his ability to draw up a set play out of a timeout and he ran two terrific sets after timeouts late in the loss to Wisconsin.

That late game execution inspired me to research out of timeout offensive efficiency across the Big Ten. Michigan State is only the fifth most efficient team in the conference out of timeouts, per Synergy. Michigan is the only team to score over a point per possession, while Iowa is the least efficient despite the second best offense in the conference.

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2. Michigan (9-2, 1.16 PPP, 1.06 Opp. PPP, +.10 EM)

Michigan crushed Nebraska and then was crushed by Iowa, but a Wisconsin win over Michigan State on Sunday means the Wolverines are still tied at the top of the conference.

Sticking with deadball situations theme we touched on in the Michigan State write-up, here’s a look at baseline out-of-bounds efficiency. Michigan is the most efficient team in the country in baseline out-of-bounds sets and scores 1.196 points per play, per Synergy.

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3. Iowa (7-4, 1.12 PPP, 0.99 Opp. PPP, +.13 EM)

Iowa shoots fewer threes than any team in the Big Ten, but the long range shot made the difference for the Hawkeyes last week. In a mid-week loss to Ohio State, Iowa shot just 15% from 3-point range – the fourth worst 3-point shooting game of the Big Ten season. Against Michigan, the Hawkeyes shot 59% – the second best 3-point shooting game of the Big Ten season.

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Life is a bit easier when the 3-point shot is falling. The Hawkeyes are nearly tied with Michigan State in efficiency margin and are very much in the Big Ten race despite sitting two games back.

4. Ohio State (6-5, 1.04 PPP, .98 Opp. PPP, +.06 EM)

February has been a much better month for the Buckeyes. After losing five of six games to close January, the Buckeyes have reeled off three straight victories including wins at Wisconsin and Iowa. Road wins over top-five teams in the conference are rare and there have only been eight this season. No team has won more than two: Ohio State and Michigan.

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5.  Wisconsin (6-5, 1.11 PPP, 1.03 Opp. PPP, +.07 EM)

Wisconsin’s defense does a masterful job of forcing opposing guards into difficult jump shots. Gary Harris knows all about that after his 3-of-20 performance in Madison on Sunday afternoon. Harris made only one shot away from the basket and it came with less than a minute to play. His other two made field goals were uncontested fast break dunks.

Gary Harris Shots vs. Wisconsin

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Harris joins a long list of guards that missed a bunch of shots against the Badgers. Harris missed more field goals in a single game than any Big Ten player this year. The more interesting nugget? Four of the five players to miss the most shots in a Big Ten game this season did it against Wisconsin. image

6. Minnesota (5-6, 1.07 PPP, 1.08 Opp. PPP, –.01 EM)

Minnesota had every opportunity to win at Purdue before falling short, but bounced back with a win over Indiana at home.

Richard Pitino was offended that Gopher beat writer Amelia Rayno called the Gopher defense ‘atrocious’, but she’s right. While Pitino is correct that an improved defensive effort helped Minnesota beat Indiana, he has to admit that the Gopher defense has been terrible this season.

“Where is she? There she is. Well that defense was far from atrocious, I’d say. And I’m not letting it go … Defensively, I thought we were tremendous and I thought that’s what won us the game. We turned them over, not just in the press but in the halfcourt. I have to give credit to my staff, they did a great job in scouting and we sniffed out a lot of their actions.”

The Indiana win was the first time that Minnesota held an opponent below a point per possession since January 16th against Ohio State.

7.  Indiana (4-6, .98 PPP, 1.00 Opp. PPP, –.02 EM)

Indiana is close, but not there yet. The Hoosiers lost another close road game on Saturday night at Minnesota and are now 1-4 in Big Ten road games. Our friends at Inside the Hall point out that those four losses have been by a combined 19 points and the Hoosiers have held a lead in the second half in all four games.

8. Nebraska (4-6, .94 PPP, 1.04 Opp. PPP, –.10 EM)

Nebraska has played the hardest league schedule to date, but five of its last eight conference games are at home. The Huskers are 10-1 at home this season and still have very winnable home dates with Illinois, Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern.

Terran Petteway had a rough week, going 7-of-26 from the floor in his two least efficient games of the Big Ten season, but he’s one of the more versatile talents in the conference. We’ve discussed his ball screen ability in the past, but he’s also one of the best jumpshooters off the dribble.

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9. Northwestern (5-6, .86 PPP, 1.00 Opp. PPP, –.14 EM)

Northwestern still has the worst efficiency margin in the conference by a wide margin and a home loss to Nebraska could be the first sign of regression toward the mean. Points have come at such a premium for the Wildcats – they are scoring just .86 points per possession – that maximizing productivity on sideline out-of-bounds sets has been critical. Northwestern leads the conference in sideline out of bounds efficiency, per Synergy.

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10. Purdue (4-7, .98 PPP, 1.05 Opp. PPP, –.07 EM)

Purdue managed to beat Minnesota at home despite seemingly inept play. The Boilers shot just 9-of-23 from the line (39%) and even allowed Austin Hollins to tie the game after a missed with four seconds to play.

11. Illinois (3-8, .96 PPP, 1.04 Opp. PPP, –.09 EM)

Illinois snapped its eight game losing streak with a win at Penn State – the same team the Illini last beat on January 4th. John Groce called on his freshmen and they delivered. Groce inserted Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn into the starting lineup and they combined to score 30 points.

12. Penn St. (3-8, .99 PPP, 1.08 Opp. PPP, –.08 EM)

John Beilein raved about Penn State’s ‘Philly guards’ when the Wolverines faced Penn State earlier this season. While Tim Frazier is actually from Houston, the Nittany Lion guards play with toughness and know how to get to the rack. In fact, they are the best isolation players in the conference.

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