Big Ten Power Rankings: February 15th, 2016

Dylan Burkhardt

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. Iowa (11-2)

Luke Winn previously pointed out Jarrod Uthoff’s uncanny ability to block three-point shots which caused me to look a little closer at the numbers. Uthoff has blocked 74 shots this season and the average distance of his blocked shots is 9.26 feet from the rim — a far greater difference than any of the other notable shot blockers in the Big Ten.

blocked shots

Iowa now sits alone at the top of the conference and appears to be in great position to win the league.

Due to the unbalanced Big Ten schedules, we put together resume snapshots to help visualize what a Big Ten team has accomplished and what it still has to play. White boxes are games that are remaining on the schedule, tan boxes are games not on the schedule, red for losses and green for wins. The teams on the left side are organized by current efficiency margin. (H/T Aaron Barzilai).

Unsurprisingly, Iowa has one of the conference’s best resumes.

iowa resume

2. Wisconsin (8-4)

Wisconsin has now won seven games in a row and is the hottest team in the Big Ten by a wide margin. Am I overrating the Badgers at No. 2? Probably, but Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland all lost this week. Wisconsin didn’t and was the first Big Ten team to win a conference game in College Park since Maryland joined the Big Ten.

Life is only going to get harder for the Badgers down the stretch. Wisconsin still has to play at Michigan State on Thursday and has trips to Iowa and Purdue left on the schedule.

Wisconsin’s resume shows the work that it still has to accomplish with the three difficult road games, but it also shows a team capable of beating some of the league’s best.

wisc resume

3. Michigan State (8-5)

The efficiency margin statistics say that Michigan State is the best team in the Big Ten despite the fact that five conference teams have fewer losses than the Spartans. When Michigan State wins, it wins big. When it loses, it loses close. The Spartans’ last three losses have been by a combined three points, with one in overtime. Their last five wins have been by an average of 21.8 points per game.

Looking at Michigan State’s schedule, it should be in for a very strong finish with only one game left against the top seven efficiency margin teams.

msu resume fixed

4. Maryland (10-3)

Maryland goes as its defense goes. It’s no coincidence that the Terps’ four worst defensive performances of the season have been in their four losses this season. This is a team built off of its best-in-conference defense and the teams that have cracked it have knocked off Maryland. Now trailing Iowa in the loss column with trips to both Indiana schools left on the schedule, Maryland’s Big Ten title hopes appear to be waning.

maryland resume

5. Indiana (10-3)

It feels like every upper echelon Big Ten team had a great home win and a deflating road loss this week. Indiana, Purdue and Michigan State all fit the bill as the Hoosiers knocked off Iowa at home then watched their defense fall apart in the second half against Michigan State. The Hoosiers played a notoriously easy schedule in the first half of Big Ten play and still have games against Iowa, Maryland and Purdue left on the docket.

iu resume

The biggest concern for Indiana heading down the stretch is that its defensive demons returned. The Hoosiers gave up over 1.2 points per possession in both games this week after building their conference record on the back of stingy defense.

6. Michigan (9-4)

Michigan got the bounce back wins it needed last week, taking care of Minnesota on the road and knocking off Purdue at home. Now Michigan heads to Columbus where it has won just once in the last 11 tries. A win could catapult the Wolverines into contention for a top-four finish, but a loss could have them holding on to make the NCAA tournament over the last few weeks of the season.

michigan reusme

7. Purdue (8-5)

Purdue was out-rebounded and struggled to score inside against a Michigan team that it dominated earlier this season. I’m not sure how to explain Michigan out-rebounding the Boilermakers, but the Wolverines deserve a lot of credit for forcing Purdue’s bigs to shoot further away from the basket. Compare the Boilermakers’ shot charts in both games (via Shot Analytics) and look closely at the number of shots in the paint in both meetings.


8. Ohio State (8-5)

13 games into the conference season, Ohio State’s best win is over Northwestern. There are plenty of hollow conference records in this year’s conference, but the Buckeyes appear to have the least impressive 8-5 of the bunch. But give Thad Matta’s team credit, they’ve at least handled their business against the bottom of the league and have put themselves in a position where a few upsets could go a long way.

osu resume

9. Nebraska (6-7)

This has been a trying year for Nebraska, which actually has better efficiency stats than Michigan and Ohio State despite playing a harder schedule, but Andrew White III is going to be a problem in this conference for the next year and change. White went for 35 points in a 70-54 win over Penn State, knocking down 6-of-10 threes and 5-of-7 twos. Per Shot Analytics, he’s now the second-most productive shooter in the conference compared to the shots he attempts.


10. Northwestern (5-8)

The Wildcats picked up a nice rivalry win over slumping Illinois, but will have to go on the road to Purdue and Michigan for their next two games.

11. Penn State (3-9)

The Nittany Lions were unable to build on the momentum of their home win over Indiana and fell to Nebraska, 70-54.

12. Illinois (3-9)

Illinois lost its in-state battle with Northwestern, but should have a chance at a bounce back victory against Rutgers — one of the three conference teams its beaten this season. The game in New Jersey took three overtimes to settle, but I’d expect the home rematch to be more straightforward.

13. Minnesota (0-12)

Minnesota continues to get close, but just can’t get over the hump. The Gophers suffered single digit losses to Michigan (at home) and Iowa (on the road) this week.

14. Rutgers (0-12)

We’re a week and a half away from a potential 0-14 battle between Rutgers and Minnesota at the Barn. Perhaps scarier than a matchup of two 0-14 conference teams is that one (Minnesota) could be favored by double-digits with KenPom currently setting a 9-point spread.

  • Patrick Wright

    Isn’t MSU’s graph wrong? They lost to Purdue yet are green on chart.

    • I knew I would mess at least one up. Thanks that’s fixed. Let me know if you guys see any other errors.

      • bleedblue

        Michigan is (hail) 9-4…

  • Mattski

    Good stuff; thanks, Dylan. This site continues to be a treasure for UM fans.

  • A2MIKE

    Am I the only one that is selling Maryland? I just don’t think they are very good. I stumbled across something and hesitated posting, but oh well. In 2012, Michigan was 19-7 and 9-4 going into a big game against the buckeyes in which we were underdogs. We won that game finished 4-1 during the regular season and shared the B1G crown when most people didn’t even have it on the radar until the last week of the season. Now, I am not saying this team is in position to do that because frankly I would be surprised if Iowa lost again, but you never know.

    • GTFOmycourt

      Maybe it is just the games that I saw them play but, yeah, Maryland seems overrated to me in general.

    • bobohle

      I was thinking about that also. I was thinking it was 2012 but couldn’t remember for sure. So I didn’t want to post it. Thanks for helping me out. I’m hoping for a repeat like you. If the M defense keeps playing like the Purdue game it is very possible.

    • The other similarity between this team and that team is that this group also has been out-performing their efficiency margin. Not sure that’s a repeatable blue print, curious to see how they play at OSU tomorrow.

      • A2MIKE

        agreed. The 2012 team made a living on beating the teams they should and sprung just enough upsets to get a share of the title. They were vastly overmatched in the BTT against OSU. And we all know the struggles they had against Groce in the NCAA.
        This year, I do think the Indiana game was an aberration on several different levels. If this team had won that game, we would be having a vastly different conversation right now. I am curious to see how they come out tomorrow as well. Ohio State is much like us, very flawed in some major areas of the game. The team that exploits those flaws the best will win the game.

    • MAZS

      Maryland and Purdue are both mysteries. Either could get their act together and make a real run in the tourney—particularly Maryland IMHO. Yet, I think they are both destined for disappointing, unfulfilled finishes—like many during Frieder’s tenure.

      Purdue has balance issues–3 good bigs, but all 3 are really most effective playing the same position. Maryland is loaded–at least starter-wise. But Laymen disappears—or, for some inexplicable reason, gets ignored for long stretches. [ for example, he started both halves against Michigan with strong, easy (almost uncontested) drives to the hoop. And then, not much]. And Trimble looks like he doesn’t even care. Carter is the only one who seems to show up every game. Those must be frustrating teams for their fans to watch.

      • A2MIKE

        I think it’s more complicated with Maryland. To me, they seem like a team of mismatch parts. Trimble is a great point guard with a streaky shot. Sulaimon is a volume shooter much like Hardaway, but not a great creator off the bounce. Layman should really be playing the 4, because that is where his length and shooting adds value. As a 3, he gets a bit lost as you mentioned. Carter is the real deal breaker for me. He shoots under 30% from distance, but keeps on chucking. I just don’t think you can play 2 players in today’s game (college or nba) that can’t shoot. It bogs the offense down too much, unless you have Webber/Howard as your 4/5, but let’s be honest no kids have that type of post game any more. Stone should be the focal point of that offense, but for several different reasons he is not. I guess that is what you get when you have 2 transfers, 1 freshman and a sophomore with a foot out the door in your starting lineup. Call me crazy, but I think they get bounced the first weekend regardless of their seeding.

  • NorthernBlue

    A win at osu and over northwestern this team gets in comfortably. The last 3 games are nearly impossible wins for this team however, unless of course Levert is in early season form. Take care of business the next two games and get your mojo back in first game of big ten tourney and should have atleast an 8 seed in tourney I’d think.

    In regards to Maryland not being very good, a large part in that is that melo Trimble has had a few bad performances, when he is on they are very very good.

  • rlcBlue

    Like the idea of the resume charts, but the tan and white are almost indistinguishable on my monitor. You might want to change one of them to blue or brown.

    • bobohle

      Especially if tan is a color blind color for you.

      • F for usability grade. I’ll try something like black next time for the non-plays.

        • mikey_mac

          Loved the charts!
          Medium gray is a nice choice — would draw less attention than black. I’d also label the cells, especially since red/green is a very common color blindness. Putting the final score in each might be a nice extra touch … e.g. “W (82-80)” in the green boxes.