Big Ten Power Rankings: Big Ten Tournament Edition

Dylan Burkhardt

The regular season is in the books and the Big Ten Tournament bracket is set. Here’s our final Big Ten Power Rankings of the 2013-14 season.

1. Michigan (1.17 PPP, 1.06 Opp. PPP, +.11 Eff. Margin)

Michigan wrapped up the outright Big Ten Championship in style last week with wins over Illinois and Indiana. The Wolverines did eventually top the table in efficiency margin, but are still a rare offense-first Big Ten champion. Michigan finished with the fourth most efficient Big Ten offense of the KenPom era (2003+).


But the Wolverines were by far the worst defensive team to win the Big Ten Championship in the KenPom era. Michigan’s 2012 and 2014 teams are two of the three worst defensive teams to earn at least a share of the title since 2003.


The Wolverines managed to beat every Big Ten team at least once and were 7-2 against teams in the top half of the league, but eventually that defense might catch up to John Beilein’s team.

2. Wisconsin (1.13 PPP, 1.05 Opp. PPP, +.08 Eff. Margin)

Frank Kaminsky is perhaps the top performing post player in Big Ten play, Traevon Jackson has made clutch play after clutch play, and Sam Dekker will be an All-Big Ten player, but Josh Gasser is the glue that holds the Badgers together. His offensive glue comes in the form of timely three-pointers and not much else:


Gasser can’t do much at the basket, but most Big Ten fans are probably familiar with his dagger three-pointers. Gasser finished conference play as the league’s top 3-point shooter, making 30-of-61 long range efforts.

3. Michigan State (1.11 PPP, 1.02 Opp. PPP, +.09 Eff. Margin)

Michigan State has allowed more  than 1 point per possession in 10 of its last 12 games. Anyone that’s watched college hoops over the last decade knows that’s not Michigan State defense. It’s the kind of thing that leaves your coach saying stuff like this:

“If any of you guys from Ohio think this is the old smash mouth Michigan State team, you’re kidding yourself,” Izzo said. “We’re not that team, we haven’t been that team for a while. … We’re a little wimpier than we used to be.”

And also yelling at fans and complaining about officials.

4. Nebraska (.99 PPP, .99 Opp. PPP, 0 Eff. Margin)

Nebraska has emerged as one of the great stories in college basketball, coming tantalizingly close to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1998 with a statement win over Wisconsin on Sunday night.

The biggest reason for Nebraska’s turnaround might not be potential All-Big Ten first-teamer Terran Petteway, but 6-foot-7 sophomore Shavon Shields. Shields was a different player in Nebraska’s final nine games of the season.

He averaged 16.4 points per game over Nebraska’s last nine after averaging just nine points per game in the first nine games of the Big Ten season. Nebraska’s record in those last nine games? 8-1.


Shields was simply a more aggressive player. He improved his shooting numbers in the paint from 11-of-36 in the first nine to 33-of-52 in the second nine. He also got to the free throw line nearly twice as often – his free throw rate nearly doubled in the second half of the conference season from 36.5% to 70%.

It was fitting that Shields went out with a big 26 point performance against the Badgers.

5. Ohio State (1.03 PPP, .96 Opp. PPP, +.06 Eff. Margin)

Aaron Craft is a challenged offensive player, but don’t discredit his defensive abilities to hype. Craft graded out as one of the best defenders in the conference once again this season.


Craft made a number of critical defensive plays down the stretch against Michigan State on senior night to close out his final home game with a big victory. The Buckeyes aren’t the best offensive team, but their defense never turns off.

6. Iowa (1.13 PPP, 1.06 Opp. PPP, +.07 Eff. Margin)

Iowa appeared to be a legitimate contender at one point, but its disintegrating defense has cost it dearly down the stretch. The Hawkeyes lost five of their last six, including on senior night to Illinois, and have gone from legitimate contender to afterthought in a month. The Hawkeyes were one of the two best teams in the conference according to the efficiency margin statistics until the calendar turned to March, now they are just fourth best.


7. Minnesota (1.05 PPP, 1.08 Opp. PPP, -.02 Eff .Margin)

Minnesota had a week to prepare for Penn State and annihilated the Nittany Lions, 81-63. Now the Gophers get four days to prepare for… Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament opener on Thursday. If the Gophers want to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive they are probably going to have to beat Penn State and then Wisconsin in the quarterfinal.

8. Indiana (1.00 PPP, 1.04 Opp. PPP, -.03 Eff .Margin)

This was a fitting end to Indiana’s season. The Hoosiers were tied against Nebraska midway through the second half and tied with Michigan with 1:25 to play, but let both games slip away. Indiana has been close this season, but just hasn’t been able to finish games.

9. Illinois (.95 PPP, 1.02 Opp. PPP, -.07 Eff .Margin)

Illinois managed to sandwich the worst loss in Assembly Hall (now the State Farm Center) history to Michigan (84-54) between its two best wins of the season at Michigan State and Iowa. The Illini will open the Big Ten Tournament against Indiana for a chance to avenge that blow out loss to Michigan.

10. Penn State (1.00 PPP, 1.06 Opp. PPP, -.06 Eff. Margin)

Penn State improved on last year’s 2-16 season, but is still a long ways off from contending in the Big Ten. Tim Frazier’s senior year was one of his best statistically, but he never quite seemed to recapture the magic that got Penn State to the NCAA tournament in 2011.

11. Northwestern (.88 PPP, 1.03 Opp. PPP, -.15 Eff. Margin)

Northwestern finished with a victory over Purdue, but the Wildcats also finished with the worst Big Ten offense in the Ken Pomeroy era. Northwestern managed only .88 points per possession in league play, but managed their best Big Ten offensive performance of the season with 1.09 points per trip against the Boilermakers.

12. Purdue (1.00 PPP, 1.08 Opp. PPP, -.07 Eff. Margin)

Purdue finished last in the Big Ten at 5-13 after losing to Northwestern on Sunday afternoon. Matt Painter didn’t hold back in his post-game press conference.

“First of all, it’s my fault. It’s my job to get guys to play together, it’s my job to get guys to play, it’s my job to get guys to play smart, and we don’t do any of those. And so that is my fault. When you start off, people will always give you a break. But when you’re somewhere for nine years, they shouldn’t. They absolutely shouldn’t, because it is my fault we are in this position.”

“We have to a recruit a more unselfish player, we have to recruit a tougher player. We have some of those guys in our program, some guys who don’t.

“And that’s my fault. This isn’t a school district, I recruited these guys.”

  • mistersuits

    I’d be interested in seeing how much the “new rules” had an impact. Are defense efficiencies worse across the board this year compared to the last couple of years?

    • Here are the Big Ten efficiency numbers (conference games only) from 2014 (first) to 2007 (last) from KenPom.

      103.8, 101.3, 103.8, 107.5, 102.8, 102.3, 101.8, 102.1

      Offense is up this year, but no different than two years ago and nothing compared to three years ago.

  • Mith

    I think it’s extremely likely our bad D catches up to us eventually. It happened against Louisville when we simply couldn’t get stops. I suspect it will happen again, but I’d love to be wrong.

    • If catching up to you is a 6 point loss in the National Championship game, there are worse scenarios.

      • Mattski

        Especially given that the greatest defensive play of the game was nullified.

      • geoffclarke

        What Mattski said. Who knows how that would have turned out if they correctly called Burke’s as a blocked shot and not a foul. But I am surprised that people don’t think Robinson is a good defender. If I had to pinpoint his biggest defensive weakness, it’d be his defensive rebounding. I think that along with Hancock’s (1) shooting and (2) clutching and grabbing hurt our chances in the championship. It’s hard to control how an opponent shoots or clutches and grabs (though I think Beilein is figuring it out with the refs this year), but you can easily control how you box out on the defensive glass.

      • Mith

        Well I’m not complaining, I’m just saying I thought we lost that game because of our D.

  • UMHoopsFan

    Great power rankings once again. Michigan was the class of the conference in every way this year. I like that linked latenighthoops chart showing that we had more games against teams finishing in the top 6 than the other top 6 teams (except Iowa, which had the same as us), but our win% was much better – 78%, to Wiscy’s 57%, to OSU – 50%, to nobody else .500 or better.

    Also, interesting to see GRIII rank so highly on that defense chart.

    • Yep. I think it may be because Robinson grades out fairly well on the ball – what Synergy is measuring – but still has a fair number of mental breakdowns which give up baskets — not sure if those are all being recorded.

      • UMHoopsFan

        Interesting, thanks for the insight.

  • kam

    Mr Burkhardt, can you please tell my if this years defense is better or worse than last years. i know this years offense is better

  • kam

    who would you guys rather NOT play in the finals MSU or Wisky?

    • UMHoopsFan

      MSU, because I’d be worried one of our players would get elbowed in the head. Also, it’d be nice to dispatch Wiscy and show them what’s what.

    • guestavo


  • AC1997

    I love all of the hard-core data and charts. Spectacular. I’m wondering if you could pinpoint a change in the offense for Michigan from when they were 6-4 to the 15-3 run. Was it more balance? More ball-screens? The McGary-less offense?
    Unfortunately, I almost immediately discounted that defensive chart when I saw GR3 so close to the top. He’s a lot of things, but a good defender sure doesn’t seem like one of them. Does it?

    • kam

      Glenn isn’t a bad defender but him being THAT High doesn’t seem right.

      • guestavo

        Any chart that would state Nik is a better defender than Walton or LeVert is not credible in my eyes.

        • What the chart shows me about Nik is that he gets picked on a lot. He has more defensive possession per game than everyone except Frazier, Appling, Gasser and Jackson.

          Those guys are all primary defenders guarding the opposition’s best player … Nik isn’t and that says something.

          • guestavo

            I thought this was a possibility but I remember most of the defensive scoresheets illustrating Caris being heavily targeted for a huge portion of the season.

  • Ben Sheler

    We are about to make a good jump in the polls. Looking at a few of the individual ballots that are online and we were 7,7, and 4.

  • guestavo

    I hope we can keep effectively utilizing the zone to improve our defense.

  • BlueRev

    How would our defense grade out if we played a balanced schedule…
    UM played once vs. 12-11th, 9th and 6th rated B1G offenses;
    and twice vs. 2-5th, 7-8th, and 10th rated offense.
    Single plays averaged 58ppg against us, while double plays averaged 69.
    We weren’t strong defensively but maybe not as bad as it looks?

    • Per KenPom, Michigan played the 8th toughest schedule in the conference.

      • BlueRev

        That’s because we don’t play against Michigan.
        But we definitely played the worst offensive teams the least.
        Playing more against NW, Ill, PSU and OSU and less against strong offenses would surely have made our defensive numbers look somewhat better. I just don’t know how to correlate the data to reflect defensive efficiency vs. opponent played.
        Anyway, thanks for sharing both data and personality all season–GREAT site! And another GREAT year for UM (have enjoyed these last 3 years as much as 89-93–I used to feel more entitled, but now have more appreciation).

        • geoffclarke

          I am not familiar with the formulas used for adjusting efficiencies, but I might give it a crack for in-conference games. It doesn’t look like kenpom adjusts the efficiences.

          • BlueRev

            I look fw to seeing what you come up with. I know we’re not a good defensive team, but we might be middling.

          • geoffclarke

            The average Offensive Efficiency of our opponents in just B1G play was 103.89, compared to the average Efficiency of the conference of 103.8 as published by kenpom, which was surprising, because like you said, we played the 4 best offenses besides us twice, while only playing Penn State, Illinois, and Northwestern once, 3 of the 4 worst offensive teams. Ohio State ended up not being as bad as you thought. So I could try to crunch more numbers, but I’m guessing the opponents’ average efficiencies don’t change much from one conference schedule to the next.

          • BlueRev

            88.1, 95.3, 100.1, 102.5 are the numbers listed for our single plays… of course we don’t play our own team’s 117.1.
            I assume the B1G efficiency rating drops from 103.8 to around 102.7 if you take out Michigan (13.3 difference/12)? Probably the only way to get a true reflection is to not include your own team’s offense in the overall defensive efficiency ratio. If that’s the case, and I’m not sure it is, then our defensive rating improves somewhat. Thanks for monkeying around with this.