1) Michigan State 11-0
Quality Wins: Kansas; Providence; Louisville; Florida; Boston College
Upcoming: Northeastern; Oakland; Iowa
Denzel Valentine is one of the favorites for conference player of the year and is averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists a game. He currently ranks second in scoring, second in rebounding and first in assists per game in the Big Ten. The Spartans are scoring an average of 80 points a game and are shooting 49% from the field and 38% from three-point range. They have been one of the best teams in the country all season.
2) Purdue 11-0
Quality Wins: Florida; Pitt
Upcoming: Butler; Vanderbilt; Wisconsin
The Boilermakers are just bludgeoning teams, with their closest win margin all season being 12 points against New Mexico. They have six players scoring 9 or more points a game, leading to a team scoring average of 83 points a game. Freshman star Caleb Swanigan is off to a promising start, averaging 10 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists a game. Purdue has played like a top ten team in the country so far!
3) Maryland 9-1
Quality Wins: Georgetown; Rhode Island; UConn
Loss: North Carolina
Upcoming: Princeton; Marshall; Penn State
Maryland may be the best team in the conference and were preseason favorites, but haven't played to their full potential yet. They are still gelling as a team, with new players like Rasheed Sulaimon and Diamond Stone learning how to play with Melo Trimble and Jake Layman. I think once conference play begins, they will move it into high gear. Regardless, they are shooting a sick 53% from the field as a team. It will be a great battle at the top of the conference between Sparty, Purdue and the Terps!
4) Iowa 7-3
Quality Wins: Marquette, Wichita State, Florida State
Losses: Dayton; Notre Dame; Iowa State
Upcoming: Drake; Tennessee Tech; Michigan State
Jarrod Uthoff is having one of the best individual seasons in the conference so far, leading the conference with 20 points a game on 52% from the field. The senior forward can do it all, connecting on 25 of 49 three-point attempts while also averaging 7 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. Senior guard Mike Gesell is second in the Big Ten with 7 assists per game and fourth with 1.5 steals per game. This team has a shot to be better than last season.
5) Northwestern 8-1
Quality Wins: Missouri, Virginia Tech
Loss: North Carolina
Upcoming: Chicago State; Mississippi Valley State; DePaul
Northwestern has one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the Big Ten, and they are taking advantage of it. Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh has improved on his strong freshman debut and is second in the conference with over 6 assists per game, in addition to scoring 16 points a game on 50% shooting from the field. We won't know if this team is for real until they play Maryland on January 2nd. They are trying to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
6) Michigan 7-3
Quality Wins: Texas; NC State
Losses: Xavier; UConn; SMU
Upcoming: Northern Kentucky; Youngstown State; Bryant
Michigan has been beaten by double figures in all three losses this season, losing the battle in the paint each time. They do look improved this season with Caris Lavert back healthy. However, they suffered a big blow with senior leader Spike Albrecht forced to retire last week due to injuries. His experience and leadership on the court will be sorely missed. Derrick Walton Jr. has improved and stepped up in his absence. They should win out the rest of their non-conference games before starting Big Ten play at Illinois on December 30th.
7) Indiana 8-3
Quality Wins: Creighton; St. John's
Losses: Wake Forest; UNLV; Duke
Upcoming: Notre Dame; Kennesaw State; Rutgers
Indiana was hyped up quite a bit heading into this season but have been a mild disappointment so far. They take on 7-2 Notre Dame on Saturday, who have already beaten Iowa and Illinois this season. Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. have led the way as expected, with both averaging over 16 points a game. They come to Piscataway to open conference play against Rutgers on December 30th.
8) Nebraska 7-4
Quality Wins: Tennessee; Rhode Island
Losses: Villanova; Cincinnati; Miami (FL); Creighton
Upcoming: Samford; Prairie View A&M; Northwestern
Nebraska was blown out by two Big East teams, Villanova and Creighton, while playing Cincinnati and Miami tough despite losing. Andrew White is their best player, a transfer from Kansas, and put up 28 points and 10 rebounds in their recent loss to Creighton. Nebraska opens up conference play against Northwestern, which will be a good measuring stick for both teams.
9) Wisconsin 6-5
Quality Wins: VCU; Syracuse; Temple
Losses: Western Illinois; Georgetown; Oklahoma; Milwaukee; Marquette
Upcoming: Texas A&M-CC; Green Bay; Purdue
Last year's national championship finalist has struggled mightily out of the gate and suffered back to back one possession losses to fellow Wisconsin schools, Milwaukee and Marquette. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, two key contributors from last year's team, have led as expected. The issue has been getting consistent play from everyone else, with five rotation players contributing for the first time in their careers. Head coach Bo Ryan is only using a seven man rotation, so this team will have to stay healthy once conference play begins to have a chance at making the NCAA tournament.
10) Penn State 7-3
Quality Wins: DePaul; Boston College
Losses: Duquense; Radford; George Washington
Upcoming: Drexel; Colorado; Maryland
Penn State has suffered two bad losses in non-conference play, falling to Duquense by 26 points and Radford by 12 points. They could be in for a rude awakening once conference play begins. Sophomore guard Shep Garner and senior forward Brandon Taylor are their best players and need to continue to build chemistry with a talented but inexperienced group of freshman.
11) Minnesota 5-5
Quality Wins: Clemson
Losses: Temple; Texas Tech; South Dakota; South Dakota State; Oklahoma State
Upcoming: Chicago State; Milwaukee; Ohio State
Head coach Richard Pitino must be having nightmares regarding the state of South Dakota, losing to both schools recently. Senior forward Joey King has stepped up, increasing his scoring average 5 points more than last season, averaging 15 points per game while shooting 49% from three-point range. However, when he struggles, so do the Gophers. He scored just 11 points combined in their last two games, both losses.
12) Ohio State 4-5
Quality Wins: None
Losses: Texas-Arlington; Lousiana Tech; Memphis; Virginia; UConn
Upcoming: Northern Illinois; Kentucky; Mercer
The Buckeyes are a very young team that has struggled against average or better competition. Their best win is over 6-4 Air Force, who just lost to Army. Hyped newcomer JaQuan Lyle has played inconsistent so far, shooting a disappointing 37% from the field. Junior forward Marc Loving leads the Buckeyes in both scoring and rebounding with 17 points and 7 boards per game. They need to come together quickly once conference play begins to have any shot at the postseason.
13) Illinois 6-5
Quality Wins: None
Losses: North Florida; Providence; Chattanooga; Iowa State; Notre Dame
Upcoming: South Dakota; Missouri; Michigan
Eleven different players average over 12 minutes a game for the Illiini, as they have battled numerous injuries already this season. Junior guard Kendrick Nunn missed the first five games of the season and has been a welcomed addition, averaging 20 points a game and shooting lights out from long range, making 20 of 43 three-point attempts. They have struggles to find consistency and finish their non-conference schedule with two difficult games.
14) Rutgers 4-6
Quality Wins: None
Losses: St. John's; Creighton; Clemson; Wake Forest; Seton Hall; George Washington
Upcoming: Monmouth; Fairleigh Dickinson; UMass-Lowell
I've written enough about the struggles of this team the past few days. To be positive, Corey Sanders has played up to expectations and fellow freshman Jonathan Laurent has shown flashes. Losing leading scorer Deshawn Freeman has been devastating and he is out indefinitely. With only nine scholarship players currently available, it's looking like another very long season.