Checking in on the… Big Ten

Posted by nvr1983 on January 28th, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

Looking Back
Wow! Northwestern scored a thrilling upset over Michigan State at the Breslin Center this past week  prevailing 70-63. While the Wildcats still face a (very) uphill battle to get to the NCAA Tournament, at least this win made the other teams in the conference take notice. Kevin Coble put on one of the finest performances we have seen all season pouring in 31 points on just 16 shots. He’s not a household name yet, but with a couple performances like that, he will be.

Illinois also separated itself from the pack a bit, scoring home wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin, two teams that now appear to be in free fall. Wisconsin has lost four straight games as of this writing (and tips off against Purdue in a couple of hours) [Ed. Note: Now 5 straight], and Ohio State now sits at 3-4 after dropping a home game against Michigan State. To be fair, that’s the only home loss for the Buckeyes in the conference season, who might go on a run once the schedule eases up a bit.

According to the conference efficiency margins, there appears to be some stratification in the conference.

Title Contenders

  • Illinois (5-2 conference record) (0.13 efficiency margin)
  • Michigan State (6-1) (0.11)
  • Purdue (4-2) (0.10)

Jockeying for Position

  • Wisconsin (3-4) (0.04)
  • Minnesota (5-3) (0.02)
  • Penn State (5-3) (0.01)
  • Michigan (4-4) (-0.02)
  • Ohio State (3-4) (-0.03)

Behind the Pack

  • Northwestern (2-5) (-0.09)
  • Iowa (2-5) (-0.09)

Er, Um, Yeah…

  • Indiana (0-6) (-0.21)

The Big Ten will probably get five or more bids, but likely less than eight. It should be a dogfight for those teams in the middle.

Looking Ahead
Purdue/Wisconsin is probably the best match-up of the week, but Illinois/Minnesota match-up figures to be entertaining as well. The Illini have beaten the Gophers an astonishing 20 straight times. The last time Minnesota won was ten years ago. Seven different head coaches have roamed the sidelines in those games (three for Illinois, four for Minnesota). Tubby Smith has a good team so if the Gophers are going to break the streak, this year is as good a year as any.

A Look at the Numbers
There are a lot of oddities in the conference stats so far this season. The best defensive rebounding team? Conference doormat Indiana (also the second best offensive rebounding team). The most foul-prone team? Wisconsin (so much for the “no foul” defense). What popped out at me though is Purdue’s sudden inability to force turnovers. In the non-conference season, the Boilers were forcing turnovers on about 25% of their opponents’ possessions. But in conference play, that number has dropped 17.3% (just 9th in the conference). The good news is that despite these struggles, Purdue’s defensive efficiency ranks second in the conference. If they can recapture their pressure defense, watch out.

nvr1983 (1397 Posts)

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