Big Ten Power Rankings: January 26th, 2015

Dylan Burkhardt
on

imageWelcome to our Big Ten Power Rankings where we examine the conference on a weekly basis and attempt to rank the conference and provide some insight about each team.

1. Wisconsin (6-1)

Wisconsin escaped Michigan with an overtime win, but also obliterated Iowa on Tuesday.

Even without Traevon Jackson and with the shock defeat at Rutgers, Wisconsin is the class of the conference by a wide margin.

Graphing the Big Ten Efficiency Margin chart to the right shows just how far ahead of the rest of the field the Badgers are.

Nobody else in the league is outscoring opponents by more than 6.2 points per 100 possessions, meanwhile the Badgers have an efficiency margin of nearly four times that at 23.1 points per 100 possessions.

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2. Indiana (5-2)

Indiana split games against Maryland and Ohio State this week, but nobody shot the ball quite like the Hoosiers from deep. Indiana was 27 of 47 from three-point for the week – a phenomenon that looks something like this:

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Indiana’s conference resume is starting to look very solid with a pair of decent road victories (at Nebraska and Illinois) and two nice home wins over Ohio State and Maryland.

3. Maryland (6-2)

It wasn’t a great week for Maryland, which survived a scare at home against Northwestern and lost at Indiana, but the Terrapins should still be a team that competes for the conference crown. The Terrapins only play Wisconsin (at home) and Ohio State once and already swept Michigan State. The big test for Maryland will be this Thursday when it travels to Ohio State in a game that will feature two of the league’s top freshmen – Melo Trimble against D’Angelo Russell – and should be the game of the week in the conference.

4. Ohio State (5-3)

The Big Ten gets plenty of criticism for being a slow league (a label that tends to stick around when Wisconsin is the signature team of the conference), but Ohio State is the exception to the rule. The Buckeyes push the ball in transition more often than anyone in the conference.

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Given Ohio State’s tendency to get out and push, it was a surprise to see that Sunday’s Ohio State-Indiana game, featuring the two most aggressive transition teams in the league, featured only 62 possessions.

5. Michigan State (4-3)

Michigan State is one of the hardest teams to read in the Big Ten. The Spartans have two solid wins over Indiana and at Iowa, but their resume otherwise lacks a lot of punch. That being said, the schedule sets up nicely for them to make a run over the next several weeks.

The Spartans are shooting 39.5% of threes for the season, good for 20th nationally, but have cooled down in Big Ten play. Other than a torrid 70% three-point shooting game at Iowa, the Spartans have been very average from behind the arc in conference games. The following graph shows Michigan State’s three-point shooting by game along with a three-game rolling average in white.

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6. Purdue (4-3)

Other than Michigan State, Purdue is the only three loss team with a positive efficiency margin. The Boilermakers defend inside the arc better than anyone else in the league, allowing just a 40.1% two-point percentage, but they are surrendering 47 free throws per 100 field goal attempts — worst in the league.

7. Nebraska (4-3)

Nebraska picked up two quality home victories over Minnesota and Michigan State this week, moving up to 4-3 in conference play. The Huskers travel to Michigan on Tuesday in a game that could be decisive to both teams’ conference seasons. Nebraska continues to test just how good defense (.983 points per possession allowed) and awful offense .98 points per possession can take you in the Big Ten. The Huskers are ranked 13th in offensive efficiency and 2nd in defensive efficiency in league play and those numbers aren’t much different than their ranks of 10th and 2nd a year ago.

8. Iowa (4-3)

Sooner or later, playing the worst defense in the league is going to catch up to any team. The Hawkeyes can score the ball as well as anyone in the Big Ten other than Wisconsin, but they just can’t get stops. Iowa has only held one opponent (Nebraska) under a point per possession in league play and has given up an average of 1.2 points per trip over its last five games.

But this week let’s take a look at Adam Woodbury. The 7-foot-1 junior was in the news last week after he poked two different Wisconsin players in the eye, a move which caused a feud between Dan Dakich and Fran McCaffery.

This week, Woodbury’s go-to move during a jump ball, the off arm grab, has garnered attention. Thad Matta pointed this out when the Buckeyes faced the Hawkeyes.

“Iowa does what Wisconsin does. It’s genius,” Matta said on his radio show. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Here’s video of Woodbury pulling the move against Ohio State, followed by a follow up performance against Purdue.

Here's video of the opening tip at Iowa. Notice anything out of the ordinary? #buckbk

A video posted by Bob Baptist (@bobbaptist) on

(H/T: Bop Baptist)

9. Michigan (5-3)

Give Michigan credit, it played about as well as anyone could have expected in its first week without Caris LeVert. A win at Rutgers and a close home loss to Wisconsin probably would have been the expectation with LeVert given how the Wolverines have played this season. That being said, Michigan still doesn’t have a quality win and its schedule is about to get very difficult in a hurry.

Tuesday’s home contest against Nebraska is critical because it’s the only head-to-head meeting between the two teams, which both look like they will be treading water in the middle of the conference this season. According to KenPom.com, it’s also the Wolverines’ highest percentage chance at a victory remaining this year other than the season ending home game against Rutgers.

A 6-3 record is a lot different than 5-4, especially when facing a stretch of at Michigan State, Iowa, at Indiana, at Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, and at Maryland.

10. Illinois (3-5)

After starting 0-2 in league play and then losing Rayvonte Rice, Illinois has been able to play .500 basketball despite being shorthanded. With home games against Penn State and Rutgers up next, Illinois has a chance to play itself back to .500 overall before the schedule gets tougher in February.

11. Minnesota (2-6)

It’s tough to bounce back from a 1-6 start, but Minnesota needs to start soon. The Gophers head to Penn State on Wednesday before hosting Nebraska for a rematch just 11 days after losing in Lincoln.

They key to both Gopher wins? Andre Hollins. The 6-foot-3 guard has scored a combined 59 points in the two victories while shooting 21 of 33 from the floor and making 12 threes.

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12. Northwestern (1-6)

It’s not easy being a Northwestern fan. The Wildcats have now lost six games in a row the last three have all come down to the final possession. Chris Collins’ team is close, but just can’t seem to get over the hump. The Wildcats led 63-52 with under five minutes to play before a furious Maryland comeback finished by a Dez Wells putback off the glass sunk Northwestern.
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13. Penn State (1-6)

Penn State finally picked up a conference victory, beating Rutgers at home. The Nittany Lions have let more than a couple games slip away this year in Big Ten play, but left no doubt in a 29 point trouncing of Rutgers.

14. Rutgers (1-6)

Rutgers couldn’t beat a shorthanded Michigan team at home on Tuesday and then was blown out by 28 points at Penn State. The upset over Wisconsin was only two weeks ago, but it feels like ages ago for a Scarlet Knight team that has now lost four straight games. Offense is the problem for Rutgers, who managed to score just 101 points in 110 possessions this week.

  • Champswest

    Indiana has been a surprise, but they haven’t looked very good away from Assembly Hall.

    I suspect teams will start telling the refs to watch Iowa on the jump balls from now on.

    • They got ran at Michigan State… but they also won at Nebraska and Illinois — not bad wins.

  • Corperryale

    Nebraska isn’t the only team on U-M’s schedule that is treading water in the middle of the conference. Arguably the same could be said of MSU or Iowa at 4-3. It’s just the perception that those teams have more talent than NU or Michigan. But after giving Wisconsin all they could handle, I don’t see why Michigan should not be be favoured to win any given (home) game from here on out. (Obvs the road is a different story.) The notion that U-M would be lucky to win more than just the season-ending Rutgers game doesn’t make much sense to me after Saturday’s effort.

    • That wasn’t the most clear sentence… Meant it was the only time they would play Nebraska, another team battling for the same position as them.

      UPDATE: Revised the Michigan blurb slightly.

    • A2MIKE

      Two things… Where did everyone go, that was saying this team would be lucky to win 7 games in conference? Also, I look at Michigan as more of a toss up at home. The home games against MSU, OSU and Iowa are all in the toss up category. Iowa in particular scares me because of their front line. Win tomorrow, and win 2 of those 3 and the tournament becomes a realistic chance.

      • Probably need six wins to have an argument at making the NCAA tourney… It’s really hard to get to six WITHOUT Nebraska win.

        • A2MIKE

          agreed. I was breaking the schedule down into segments. HAVE TO BEAT NEBRASKA and RUTGERS (2 wins). Need to win 2 of 3 tossup home games (Iowa, MSU, and OSU). Need to win 2 of 5 games as road dog (@MSU, @Illinois, @Indiana, @Maryland & @NW). Little room for error, but I do think at 10-8 with multiple conference tournament wins, we are probably in as well. In the end 19 wins is probably the magic number.

          • Corperryale

            In any other year I would totally agree with this calculus but I would only fear that with the B10 slightly down this year and the NJIT/EMU disasters, they might need 11 wins plus a tourney win or two to even have a shot.

          • I think 11 B1G wins and 1 in the B1G Tourney seems like the target.

          • jakelam2116

            Yep, this is exactly what I’ve been thinking.

          • A2MIKE

            Right. I think 19-14 gets us in, no matter how you get there. If you go 11-7 with 1 tournament win that equals 19-14. If you go 10-8 with 2 tournament wins that equals 19-14. The bottom line is to get to 19 wins we are going to have to pull some upsets and that will bolster our resume, now we might be in the play-in game, but I would feel confident that we are in. In the end we played one of the toughest schedules in the B1G. They usually don’t penalize teams for that, and everyone, even Wisconsin has a head-scratching loss. Plus EMU could very well be in the tourney.

          • EMU 1-5 in the MAC, FWIW. Don’t think they’ll be dancing, but you never know come MAC tourney.

            NJIT has won 7 of 8 (inc. win over top 100 Yale team) and is favored to win out (inc. 3 games vs. non-D1)

          • A2MIKE

            I know they have struggled lately, but in the end anyone can win that conference tournament.

          • A2MIKE

            We have only played 3 teams sub 200 on Kenpom. Only other year was Beilein’s first.

      • Corperryale

        Agree entirely that those games are toss-ups, and that Nebraska is absolutely key. I would also add at Illinois as a toss-up, just because JB is very good in Champaign (as he is in Minneapolis). If only JB could ever win a game in Bloomington.

        • A2MIKE

          I know. I accidentally left Indiana off the post the first time. Freudian slip, as I just assume that is an auto-loss regardless of how good Indiana may be.