Big Ten Power Rankings: February 24th, 2015

Dylan Burkhardt
on
imageWelcome to our Big Ten Power Rankings where we examine the conference on a weekly basis and attempt to rank all 14 teams and provide a bit of insight.

1. Wisconsin

Wisconsin continues to roll through the Big Ten without its starting point guard, but it appears that Traevon Jackson could be coming back soon. Jackson told reporters he plans to play versus Michigan State, although Bo Ryan made it clear that he won’t play until the medical staff clears him. That being said, Jackson should be back sooner than later and the Badgers found a pretty good backup without him. Bronson Koenig has done everything you could ask for from a backup point guard and should be a luxury with Wisconsin in March.

2. Michigan State

The Spartans are clicking, winners of four in a row and six of their last seven, but their win at Illinois on Sunday night was among the conference’s ugliest games this season. The Spartans deserve credit for hanging in and picking up a quality road victory, but the game certainly was ugly. There were 46 fouls whistled in the game and at times it felt almost unwatchable as both teams were in the bonus well before the midway point of the second half.

After watching the game I ran the numbers and discovered that the Spartans have played in four of the eight games with the highest combined foul count. Sunday’s slugfest checks in tied for 4th on the list while Michigan State’s double-overtime home loss checks in at No. 1. Purdue and Maryland both aren’t afraid to get in a class Big Ten foul-off either.

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3. Purdue

Purdue has now won 7 out of 8 and just completed the rivalry sweep with a win at Indiana. The Boilermakers have the size to dominate the interior against almost anyone in the league – now they are finally turning that ability into production.

AJ Hammons is putting it all together – averaging 13.1 points per game since Purdue got hot in mid-January – and has finished almost everything at the rim. For Purdue, it should be as simple as feeding the big man and letting him go to work at the rim. Here’s his shot chart over the last eight games from Shot Analytics.

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4. Maryland

Maryland is 22-5 and tied for second in the league, but I just can’t make sense of this team. The Terrapins are just 3-4 away from home and have a negative efficiency margin despite not having played Wisconsin yet this season.

The conference is loaded with competent stretch fours, but Maryland junior Jake Layman doesn’t always get enough credit. His shot chart via ShotAnalytics shows off his ability to knock down the three and finish at the basket when necessary.

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5. Iowa

There’s no team in the Big Ten quite as maddening as Iowa. The Hawkeyes have blown teams out and also just not shown up. The Only Colors ran the numbers and concluded that the Hawkeyes are the league’s most inconsistent team. No surprise there.

Team Eff. Margin STDEV
Iowa 0.281
Northwestern 0.214
Nebraska 0.205
Indiana 0.194
Michigan St. 0.178
Rutgers 0.177
Michigan 0.176
Ohio St. 0.174
Illinois 0.167
Maryland 0.163
Wisconsin 0.152
Minnesota 0.144
Penn St. 0.136
Purdue 0.130

6. Indiana

The best news for Indiana this week: Hanner Mosquera-Perea averaged 11.5 points per game over two games. His rebounding numbers aren’t quite up to speed, but improving health and size in the middle should give Indiana’s frontline a much-needed boost. The bad news is that Collin Hartman, who had filled in admirably up front, is day-to-day with a knee injury.

7. Ohio State

Everything looked to be coming together for a strong close for the Buckeyes, but then they went to Ann Arbor and were blown out of the gym in the first half. Making a second half comeback effort was nice, but losing to your rivals when you blew them out at home — with a full roster — and they’ve lost five consecutive games and are missing their two best players? That’s not a great look.

The talk after the loss was about finishing in the top four and earning a double bye, but that looks like it’ll be difficult given these Big Ten seeding projections from Daniel Borup.

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8. Illinois

Illinois had a horrendous shooting night in Sunday’s home loss to Michigan State which made me wonder: how poorly can you shoot and still win a Big Ten game. Here’s a look at every Big Ten team’s worst shooting performance in a victory this season.

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9. Michigan

It’s no secret that Michigan is shorthanded, but John Beilein has been forced to just throw every player on the bench into the fire. Since Derrick Walton was sidelined indefinitely just two games after LeVert’s season ending injury, the Wolverines have had very little perimeter depth.

The result has been three Wolverines playing over 35 minutes per game and another over 30.

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Irvin is averaging 36.8 minutes per game in Big Ten play overall this season and 38.3 minutes per game over the last seven. Irvin is on pace to play more minutes per game in Big Ten play than any Michigan player over the last four seasons other than Trey Burke as a freshman in 2011 (37.8 mpg).

If you compare the minutes that Wolverine guards have been logging over the last seven games to the Big Ten leaders in minutes per game (B1G games only), Michigan would hold the No. 1, No. 2 and No.7 spots on the list.

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It’s safe to say a week off will suit the Wolverines well.

10. Northwestern

The Wildcats are on a three game winning streak since snapping their 10 game losing streak. Northwestern has knocked off Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State and the win over the Nittany Lions was by an emphatic 21 points. Law averaged 13 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last week while knocking down 6 of 10 three-point attempts.

11. Minnesota

Minnesota has now surrendered 225 points in its last 185 defensive possessions – 1.22 points per possession. Simply put, that’s not good enough to win and it isn’t going to get any easier for the Gophers. Minnesota travels to Michigan State on Thursday before hosting Wisconsin for a rematch next week.

12. Nebraska

When this is what comes out of your coach’s mouth after a 28 point home loss, you drop in the power rankings:

“You never want to throw your players under the bus,’’ Miles said. “But that was beyond disappointing. That’s not what we represent. . . . We quit easily today, and that’s a great disappointment.’’

“There will be chains on the doors locking it from the outside,” Miles said, “until further notice.”

So where will the players dress?

“Good luck,” Miles said, glaring. “They’re creative.”

Good luck getting back into the locker rooms Nebraska, practice time might help.

13. Penn State

It’s hard to remember that this is the same Penn State team that went 12-1 in non-conference play. Sure the schedule was far from challenging — USC, Akron, Cornell, George Washington and Virginia Tech were some of the ‘more difficult’ games — but the Nittany Lions were winning and playing well. Now 3-12 in Big Ten play, Penn State managed just .69 points per possession at Northwestern.

Despite the rough finish, Pat Chambers will still have his job next season according to Sally Barbour.

14. Rutgers

Rutgers suffered two 30-point losses last week and has cemented its position at the very bottom of the conference. The Scarlet Knights have been outscored by more than twice as many points per possession as Nebraska and have shown very few signs of life.

  • Corperryale

    I am surprised that Michigan’s chances at landing a 7-seed in the BTT are so remote. Does this mean a guaranteed matchup with Wisconsin if UM can escape the first game? If so, that sucks. We need that auto bid, man. Would be so much better to be on the other side of the bracket.

    Can anyone who understands numbers (I don’t) tell me which other B10 teams to cheer for to help UM get the best BTT seeding possible? Thanks.

    • Andrew

      Cheer for Illinois to beat Iowa and then cheer against Illinois and Iowa

      • Basically… Michigan would have to leapfrog Illinois and Iowa to get to 7. Or OSU/IU…

        • JVS

          After considering the tiebreaker points, and those who are ahead of us (Iowa would have to be outright behind us, and I’m not sure on ILL tiebreak, but if its margin of victory or overall record we sink), can it be concluded that the most likely scenario in which we don’t have Wisc waiting for us in game #2 is that Wisc loses the big 10?

      • A2MIKE

        Iowa would probably have to lose their next 3 games and Michigan would have to win out, hence the 2%. Iowa’s schedule is Illinois, @PSU, @Indiana, NW. I think they probably go 3-1 in that stretch. I think we actually want Iowa to finish in front, since we don’t hold the tiebreaker with them and don’t want to face them. I actually think OSU is a more realistic option if Michigan can get to 10-8. OSU is 8-6 now, with Nebraska, Purdue, @ PSU, Wisconsin. I don’t see Wisconsin losing again, so you are rooting for a Nebraska, Purdue or PSU upset. Nebraska will probably play their best game of the year after being locked out of the locker room. Purdue is a bad matchup for everyone, save Iowa. PSU will be senior night for Newbill going against the most likely B1G FOY. I still think it is a really long shot for Michigan to get to the 7, but crazier things have happened. I would be thrilled with a 4 game winning streak going in to the BTT.

    • JVS

      If your sole goal is to avoid Wisconsin, the 10 is as good as the 7. Personally I think that Iowa causes a lot more matchup issues.

      • Corperryale

        Ah the 10. Had not considered that. Did not think Nebraska or Minnesota could catch us, not that I wanted them to. If we fall to the 10 line, we are definitely going to be sent to Dayton for the play-in game once we secure the auto bid (don’t burst my dream yet please). Despite the Michigan train wreck against Iowa, I would still take them over Wisconsin. Woodbury is not Kaminsky (though he does like to poke people in the eyes).

        • Michigan wouldn’t be sent to Dayton if it won the Big Ten Tournament. The only auto-bids that go to Dayton are the 16s.

          It’s also almost impossible for Michigan to fall below 9 because of tiebreakers vs NEB, Minnesota via 1 game sweeps.

          • Corperryale

            Thanks for the clarification, Dylan. I didn’t know that about the first round games. I just assumed (without any knowledge of the process) that a 14-loss team that brazenly stole its conference’s auto bid would end up in the 12/12 game as a committee-imposed purgatory due to having the worst RPI/resume among majors in the field. Happy that this is not necessarily the case. I am also reassured that Michigan can’t fall lower than 9th in the BTT.

          • Nope the play-in games are the last four at-larges and the last four autobids. Michigan would still not be a 16 seed, even with 14 losses.

  • Corperryale

    Good on Tim Miles for getting tough with his players. We can certainly relate to losing by double figures to Iowa on our home floor. However, should he not be locking them INSIDE the practice facility rather than out of it?

  • MrLG

    Dylan, after watching Spike carry this team, how can you say that Derrick Walton and Caris are the top two players on the team. If I had to chose one, I would choose Spike over Derrick.

    • Spike has been great… but I still think Walton is the second most important player on the roster. To be honest, the team was never quite the same after he hurt his toe vs. Villanova.

      • jr_ewing93

        Thank you Dylan

      • MrLG

        The team needs a leader and I have never seen Derrick do much in that area.

        • Corperryale

          I see this point. Walton definitely hits big shots and is faster and “more athletic” but sometimes it seems that Spike can do “more” — as in, whatever it takes to lead the team through adversity. And even though Spike needs that gimmicky scoop layup to beat defenders while Walton can finish “at” (or closer to) the rim, Walton rarely makes it all the way there — in this respect, MAAR is closer to the Burkean ideal of finishing through contact than either LeVert or Walton. Not knocking any of them. But I think Spike shows more confidence than Walton on the court at this point in time, probably owing to his extra year. That said, Walton could/should be as effective as Ferrell by his senior year. Anything less would be a disappointment. No pressure.

          • First off, I think we saw a shell of Derrick Walton all season after the foot injury.

            Second, Walton is the best perimeter defender on the roster.

            Spike brings some important things and I think he’s grown as a leader this season, but physically he’s not suited to play 30+ minutes per game as a starting point guard.

            Kind of funny to think how important he is to the program though, considering what was expected of him as a recruit (essentially was supposed to be the Dakich of the Final Four team, just to make sure Trey Burke didn’t play 40 minutes every night) and what turned out.

          • Corperryale

            Totally fair point about Walton’s injury — we have not seen him close to his true potential, hence my Ferrell comment. I envisioned him as a Ferrell/Appling level PG and this would still be my four year expectation. I still think MAAR may end up being the better perimeter defender.

            On Spike, it seems that he will always be the underdog… he can score over Gorgui Deng or Amir Williams and still get picked last on the schoolyard. But add 4 inches and he is basically Steve Nash. Add 10 inches and he is Magic Johnson. I do think (seriously) that Spike is a more skilled player than either Novak or Douglass, pound for pound, minute for minute. Again, not knocking anyone, just applauding Spike’s skill and confidence. I thought the respect he got from Branden Dawson last game said it all. He is a baller’s baller.

          • MrLG

            Sure, Derrick is the superior defender and an insanely good rebounder for a small guy. And Spike needs to be a better, and less cautious, outside shooter.

            But I am really puzzled by “physically he’s not suited to play 30+ minutes per game as a starting point guard”. Spike is playing and Derrick is not. Yet Derrick is more able to play 30+ minutes a game? Spike is not a tall guy, but he’s not a skinny weakling either. He can do it.

    • jr_ewing93

      Did u really just say that u would take spike over Derrick. Are u taking about the injured derrick because u can’t be talking about an healthy sophomore Derrick. You funny

    • Wayman Britt

      Mr.LG: Spike is playing good, but no way is he better than Derrick. I think since it has been so long that Walton has played you forgot how talented he is. Spike is a great story, but not as talented as DW.

  • section13row15

    Walton is a better defender and one of the best rebounding point guards (when healthy) that’s ever played for Michigan. Most teams during our losing streak have been going right at Spike on defense, OSU did not for some reason and lost. I love Spike and think he needs to shoot more, but he’s not as good as Walton as an all-around player.