Time flies when you are having fun and it’s been an entertaining season in the Big Ten so far. It’s rated the top conference in college basketball per KenPom and top to bottom has proven to be a very competitive league. With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, here is my take on where the conference stands heading down the stretch with how teams are playing currently.
Record: 12-13; 3-11
KenPom Ranking: 69
Outlook: The Wildcats have lost six games in a row, including two at home against Penn State and Rutgers, while having the least efficient offense in Big Ten play by far. They do have four home games in their last six regular season games, but it’s hard to envision more than a couple wins the rest of the way.
13. Penn State
Record: 9-16; 2-12
KenPom Ranking: 58
Outlook: After the Nittany Lions lost 8 conference games in a row, they’ve now won 2 of 4, including a home stunner over Michigan just over a week ago. They even led at Purdue for a time on Saturday before falling, showing there are really no easy games in the Big Ten. Rutgers fans should absolutely not be counting Penn State’s visit on March 6th as a sure win.
Record: 13-12; 4-10
KenPom Ranking: 47
Outlook: The Hoosiers have lost 10 of 11 games with its one victory an improbable overtime win over top ten Michigan State on the road. Their offensive efficiency in Big Ten play is 13th and defense is 11th. They’ve lost four in a row at home and got blown out by 21 points at Minnesota this past weekend. Rival Purdue visits on Tuesday in a game they could please their otherwise irate fan base with a victory, but there isn’t reason to have a lot of confidence they can deliver.
Record: 15-11; 5-10
KenPom Ranking: 33
Outlook: The Cornhuskers have had a disappointing season like the Hoosiers, but after seven straight losses, they won both their games last week. They were both at home, a 1 point victory over Minnesota and 9 point win over Northwestern. Nebraska has a decent chance to make it three in a row with a road game at Penn State on Tuesday.
Record: 12-13; 5-10
KenPom Ranking: 85
Outlook: It feels good to legitimately put Rutgers this high in the power rankings, as they do deserve it. A second road win in Big Ten play at Northwestern followed by a stomach punch loss at home to a ranked Iowa team on one of the most improbable last second shots you’ll ever see, this group is getting better and better as the season progresses. While Wednesday’s road game at Michigan State is a very tall task, the Spartans will be without frontcourt stalwart Nick Ward, in addition to the previous injury to Josh Langford. I expect Rutgers to be ready to play and have a great opportunity at home against Minnesota on Sunday night as well.
The day after one of the toughest losses in a long time, the progress that Rutgers has made can be measured by this: Their KenPom ranking was 125 on January 18th. 30 days later they are 85. RU hasn’t finished inside Top 100 in 8 seasons. 1 month to go & more progress possible.— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) February 17, 2019
9. Ohio State
Record: 16-9; 6-8
KenPom Ranking: 39
Outlook: The Buckeyes need to rack up conference wins down the stretch if they want to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. After winning four of five games, they lost both games last week, at home to a red hot Illinois team and Sunday night at Michigan State. Of its six games remaining, they have a pair against Northwestern, but you figure they’ll need to go 4-2 down the stretch plus win one in the Big Ten Tournament to have a reasonable chance to make the NCAA’s. Certainly possible, but plenty of work to be done.
Record: 17-9; 7-8
KenPom Ranking: 46
Outlook: The Golden Gophers lost four games in a row before blowing out Indiana on Saturday. The losing streak has put their NCAA chances on the ropes but can still produce a postseason worthy resume with a strong finish to the season. Their offensive efficiency in league play is fourth, but just 13th defensively. They have a big week ahead, hosting Michigan on Thursday night before visiting the RAC on Sunday night.
Record: 10-15; 6-8
KenPom Ranking: 66
Outlook: The Illini are winners of four straight and have probably the easiest schedule remaining with a pair of games against Penn State and home games against Northwestern and Indiana. Road games at Wisconsin on Monday night and next week at Purdue will be a true test for how good this young team under head coach Brad Underwood really are.
Record: 17-8; 9-5
KenPom Ranking: 11
Outlook: The Badgers put together a six game winning streak in which they held Big Ten opponents just under 55 points per game, but lost to both Michigan and Michigan State last week. It won’t get easier as they try to shut down the offense of Illinois on Monday night, but follow with winnable games against Northwestern, Indiana, and Penn State.
Record: 19-7; 10-5
KenPom Ranking: 19
Outlook: The Terps had won six Big Ten games in a row back in January, but are just 3-4 since. They did produce an impressive 14 point win over Purdue last week, but lost at Michigan on Saturday by 13 points. They are in great position for an NCAA Tournament berth after missing out last season. After a tough road game at Iowa on Tuesday, they finish the conference slate with three of four at home.
Record: 20-5; 9-5
KenPom Ranking: 25
Outlook: The Hawkeyes broke the hearts of Northwestern and Rutgers fans in the past week with buzzer beating three-pointers to win both games. They’ve now won 9 of its last 11 games and have the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten. A pair of homes games against Maryland and Indiana this week give them a great opportunity to keep rolling down the stretch of the regular season.
3. Michigan State
Record: 21-5; 12-3
KenPom Ranking: 4
Outlook: The Spartans are still right in the thick of the race to win the Big Ten regular season title, but the news of Nick Ward being out for an extended time in addition the previous loss of Josh Langford will be tough to overcome. It will likely come down to two games against Michigan in the final two plus weeks of the season, as the arch rivals are currently tied for first place.
Record: 18-7; 11-3
KenPom Ranking: 10
Outlook: Despite a road loss to Maryland last week, Purdue has still won 9 of its last 10 games. Despite having four road games remaining out of six, no heavyweights are on the schedule as head coach Matt Painter is producing another strong campaign for the Boilermakers.
Another golden sound bite from Matt Painter.— Andrew Pogar (@AndrewPogar) February 17, 2019
Following a win over Penn State, the #Purdue head coach was asked if he feels his team has overachieved this season (the Boilermakers are 18-7 overall and 11-3 in the Big Ten).
Here is Painter's response ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/3zUbj6GksZ
Record: 23-3; 12-3
KenPom Ranking: 6
Outlook: Michigan proved they are mortal after a road loss at Penn State in which head coach Jon Beilein was ejected, but I still think they are the best team in the Big Ten. A pair against the rival Spartans as well as road games at Minnesota and Maryland will give them plenty of tests down the stretch.