Big Ten Power Rankings: February 18th, 2014

Dylan Burkhardt
on
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The 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 (1.10 PPP, .98 Opp. PPP, +.12 EM)

For the second straight Sunday, Michigan State could have grabbed sole possession of first place after a Michigan slip up. For the second straight Sunday, the Spartans lost.

Nebraska pulled off arguably the top upset of the Big Ten season by traveling to the Breslin Center and escaping with a 60-51 win. It was Michigan State’s worst offensive performance of the season at just .875 points per possession, but it was the third weekend in a row that the Spartan offense has sputtered to a loss and scored fewer than .97 points per trip.

2. Michigan (1.15 PPP, 1.07 Opp. PPP, +.08 EM)

Michigan’s inability to play defense continues to cost the Wolverines victories. Michigan is tied for first in the conference, but is just fourth in efficiency margin after a home loss to Wisconsin.

Michigan’s defense has only managed to hold two conference foes below .99 points per possession in league play: Nebraska and Northwestern at home. Michigan’s offense is the best in the conference, but the Wolverines will need to play better defense to make a run at the Big Ten title over the final three weeks.

3. Iowa (1.13 PPP, .99 Opp. PPP, +.13 EM)

Iowa went on the road and won at Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions managed to hang around into the second half, but eventually Iowa’s talent was too much. That game didn’t teach us much about the Hawkeyes, but with another week in the books Iowa finds itself just a game and a half out of first place. After Michigan State’s loss to Nebraska, the Hawkeyes now boast the best efficiency margin in the league.

4. Wisconsin (1.12 PPP, 1.04 Opp. PPP, +.09 EM)

Never count Bo Ryan out. You hear the phrase every year, which is ironic because everyone always counts Wisconsin out. The Badgers lost five of six games in January, but are just two games out of first with the third-best efficiency margin in the league. Wisconsin picked up a huge win at Michigan on Sunday thanks to a monster game from Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky’s 25 points were the most by a big man in a Big Ten game this season (overall Big Ten single game scoring rank in the left column).

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5. Ohio State (1.02 PPP, .97 Opp. PPP, +.05 EM)

Ohio State let one slip away against Michigan on Tuesday, but still has a favorable stretch to close conference play. Ken Pomeroy gives the Buckeyes a 66% chance or better of winning each of their final five games. Ohio State is probably too far out of the conference title race with six losses, but could be fighting for a Big Ten Tournament bye when it hosts Michigan State in the season finale.

6.  Nebraska (.96 PPP, 1.03 Opp. PPP, -.05 EM)

Nebraska should make the NCAA tournament. I realize people weren’t talking about Nebraska as a NCAA tournament team before its win at Michigan State, but take a closer look. The Huskers have played the second hardest schedule in the Big Ten this season and have a golden opportunity to finish strong.

The scatterplot below compares strength of schedule (Ken Pomeroy’s in-conference strength of schedule) to efficiency margin. You can see that Nebraska has played a much harder schedule than the other teams around their mark in the efficiency margin standings.

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Nebraska still hosts Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Huskers, who have lost one game at home all season, only need to win three of those games to reach .500. Road games at Illinois and Indiana are also manageable opportunities to add to the tally.

In last week’s Power Rankings I wrote that Terran Petteway was the second best jumpshooter off the dribble in the conference. His ridiculous performance at the Breslin proved just that as he buried long jumper after long jumper down the stretch.

7. Minnesota (1.06 PPP, 1.07 Opp. PPP, -.01 EM)

Minnesota has hovered around .500 through conference play and the Gophers probably need to reach .500 to the make the NCAA tournament. That will mean taking care of home games against Illinois and Penn State and managing to win one of these three games: at Ohio State, vs. Iowa or at Michigan. Sunday’s win at Northwestern was big to give the Gophers a chance, but they need to improve their defense down the stretch.

8. Northwestern (.88 PPP, 1.02 Opp. PPP, -.14 EM)

Northwestern’s early over achievement appears to be steadily regressing toward the mean. The Wildcats have done a great job of slowing down games and scrapping out victories late, but were blown out by Michigan State and beaten at home by Minnesota.

9. Purdue (.99 PPP, 1.03 Opp. PPP, -.04 EM)

How did Purdue beat Indiana by 18 points? Hot three-point shooting. Purdue had shot better than the Big Ten average (33.6%) just four times before Saturday’s win. Against Indiana, the Boilermakers were 10-of-18 (56%) from long distance. Sterling Carter was Purdue’s hero, going 5-of-6 from long range despite entering the game on a 2-of-16 stretch.

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10. Penn State (1.00 PPP, 1.08 Opp. PPP, -.08 EM)

Penn State is a game out of last place, but is capable of beating anyone. The Nittany Lions are the sort of team that makes the league so difficult. They are pretty good, but sit near the bottom of the conference. Just ask the other Big Ten coaches:

“To me nothing is surprising,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think that makes our league that much more unique. Every other league has bad teams. We don’t have any bad teams.”

“I don’t think it’s any question that top to bottom it’s the best since I’ve been here,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. “The last couple of years it was pretty good, but it’s even better now. That’s because the two or three teams that you thought were at the bottom of the league for a lot of years are not only playing better, they’re playing really well.”

11. Indiana (.97 PPP, 1.01 Opp. PPP, -.04 EM)

With two devastating losses and a 4 a.m. arrest, Indiana had about as bad of a week as anyone could imagine. The Hoosiers were beating Penn State 64-53 with 2:53 to play in the game and managed to lose 66-65. The win probability graph is as ridiculous as you would expect.

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Indiana followed that up with a shellacking on the road at instate rival Purdue and appear to be headed toward rock bottom at warp speed.

12. Illinois (.93 PPP, 1.03 Opp. PPP, -.10 EM)

Offense is coming at a premium in the state of Illinois. While Northwestern has one of the worst offenses in the country, Illinois is giving the Wildcats a run for their money. The Illini have three of the four worst offensive performances in conference play this season including the worst of the season on Saturday against Ohio State.

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  • geoffclarke

    Love this data! After reading McCaffery’s and Izzo’s quotes, I went to check kenpom for more data. According to him, Northwestern is our worst team, but ranked just 115. All the rest of the B1G teams are in the kenpom top 100! For comparison, here are the next top 5 conferences and their teams ranked lower than Northwestern:

    B12 – TCU (219!) (but the other 9 teams are in the top 100 and bunched heavily in the 20s-50s)
    Big East – DePaul (162) (only one other team lower than 100 – Butler @ 110)
    ACC – Georgia Tech (130), Boston College (154), Virginia Tech (188)
    Pac 12 – Washington (116), USC (148), Washington State (189)
    SEC – Auburn (126), South Carolina (129), Texas A&M (152), Miss St (226!)

    • Mattski

      This is kinda fascinating. Would the combined average rank be at all reliable in creating a quick and dirty indicator of conference pre-eminence? Are the B1G, B12 and Big East the real contenders, or is the ACC in the argument, too?

      • rlcBlue

        KenPom’s conference rankings, FWIW:

        Big Ten .8225
        Big 12 .8075
        Big East .7990
        ACC .7906
        Pac 12 .7835
        SEC .7316
        AAC .7226

        • rlcBlue

          And Sagarin:

          BIG 12 84.23
          BIG TEN 83.67
          PAC-12 82.36
          BIG EAST 82.20
          ACC 80.96
          SEC 79.43
          A-10 79.07

          • jakelam2116

            Interesting. I guess the AAC is so low because their bad teams are, well, bad. I mean, the league had five teams ranked last week.

          • rlcBlue

            Yep. If you put Northwestern in a conference with UCF, USF, Temple, Houston, and Rutgers, they’d be looking at 8 or 9 wins.

            Come to think of it, Northwestern will be in a conference with Rutgers next year. That’s not going to be pretty; the Scarlet Knights’ best win so far this year was a home game against Canisius. They haven’t had a winning season since they encouraged Gary Waters to resign in 2006. (Waters moved on to Cleveland State, where he’s had 5 winning seasons and a 1-1 record in the NCAA tournament.) Oof.

          • mikey_mac

            Don’t worry about Rutgers’ level of play … It’s the additional revenue the B1G will accrue that is important here.

          • rlcBlue

            Well, it will be a scheduling issue for bubble teams – if you draw two games with Rutgers, you’ll need a stronger non-conference schedule to balance it out. Of course nobody wants to announce they’re a bubble team going into the season, but I’m thinking Nebraska, Minnesota, Purdue, (and Maryland!) would be advised to pay attention.

          • geoffclarke

            The AAC looks like the epitome of a league where there is a clear line between the haves and have-nots: 5 teams in kenpom’s 6-33 range and 5 teams in the 159-197 range. It’s quite amazing. It’d be like if in the B1G, Northwestern, Penn State, etc., never upset anyone.

    • jakelam2116

      Butler’s 110? Wow, that’s high for a team with two — count ’em — league wins.

  • rlcBlue

    Iowa is a game and a half out of first place. And there they’ll stay for a while, as pieces of the Ass’y Hall roof crashing down around Tom Crean’s haircut have forced the postponement of tonight’s Iowa-Indiana game.

      • rlcBlue

        Wow, you’re quick!

        I wonder if Crean will find a way to blame Jeff Meyer for this…

        • rlcBlue

          But seriously, now – IU had three home games left on their schedule: tonight vs Iowa, 3/2 vs. OSU and 3/5 vs. Nebraska. I can’t imagine a sane lawyer allowing them to play any of those games in Ass’y Hall. Their choices would seem to be 1) Indianapolis, or 2) in Iowa City, Columbus, and Lincoln.

          The Pacers have home games tonight and on the evening of 3/2 and 3/4, and the B1G women’s tournament starts on 3/6. Maybe they could make the OSU game part of a doubleheader on 3/2. Maybe the Iowa game could happen tomorrow night.

          Lots of speculation, but – on the one hand, IU loses some of its big home advantage, making life a little easier for Iowa, OSU and Nebraska. On the other hand, Iowa will be thrown off whatever routine they were in; they have a big home game on Saturday against Wisconsin.

          And of course the B1G tournament will be played in Indianapolis; come tourney time, there might be a tiny advantage for these teams to have recently played games in the building.

          • Seems like February 27th would work for both teams.

          • rlcBlue

            That would give the Hawkeyes 4 games in 8 days; that would be a really tough break on top of the most challenging conference schedule. More luck for us if it happens.

  • Chezaroo

    Great article. Well researched and full of facts. Have to say I agree with your team insights almost to a tee. Keep up the great work, this site spoils us all.

  • Wayman Britt

    Kind of off subject, but here is what UM needs out of Mr. Glenn Robinson on Sunday:
    1. Use your strength and muscles to bang and don’t avoid contact
    2. Get 7 or more rebounds, use your 42 inch vertical
    3. Hold your man under 8 points
    4. Demand the ball on offense, drive aggressively to the rack

    • mikey_mac

      I actually don’t see any of those happening against Payne.