Big Ten’s One Loss Record Supports Early Claim for Best Conference

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 14th, 2013

The start to the Big Ten season has certainly gone well. Granted, there have been a few closer games than expected (we’re looking at you, Indiana and Purdue) and one loss, but nonetheless, the conference now sits at 23-1 going into Thursday morning. (It should be noted this topic was originally written with the assumption Penn State would not lose and the Big Ten would still be undefeated, but alas, we’ll settle for 23-1). It also has two of the biggest signature wins of the young season with Michigan State over Kentucky and Wisconsin downing Florida on Tuesday night. That said, the Big Ten is the only power conference to have only one loss and sits tied with the WCC for best record overall as the only conference with just one loss. The next closest leagues are the Big East and AAC with three losses each. Granted, overall record isn’t the only way to measure conference strength, especially this early in the season with high-major schools playing teams they should beat. Still, it’s an impressive start and worth taking a look at the next few days to see exactly how long the Big Ten can keep it up. This post projects the next four days to determine how likely it is that the Big Ten stays at the one-loss plateau heading into next week.

Gary Harris led Michigan State to No. 1 in the country and the Big Ten sits as the top conference early on, too. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Harris led Michigan State to No. 1 in the country and the Big Ten sits as the top conference early on, too. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Today: Maryland Eastern Shore at Iowa; Northwestern at Stanford

This is a legitimate underdog situation for the Big Ten. Iowa should cruise in its home game against UMES, but the Wildcats are traveling west to play against a good team in its building. Stanford may have given up 112 points against BYU, but the Cougars are no slouch in the WCC.

Loss probability: 80 percent. It’s Northwestern on the road.

Friday: Samford at Indiana; Columbia at Michigan State

If Northwestern pulls off the upset, the Big Ten is looking at 25-1 heading into the weekend. In these two Friday games, Indiana and Michigan State will be heavy favorites. The Hoosiers got their wake-up call against an inferior team on Tuesday night and won’t let that happen again. Michigan State just beat Kentucky, and they aren’t losing to Columbia with a veteran squad coached by Tom Izzo.

Loss probability: 1 percent, leaving open the possibility if the Hoosiers start out shooting 1-of-16 from 3-point range again.

Saturday: Ohio State at Marquette; Wisconsin at Green Bay; Minnesota at Richmond; Penn State at Penn

Here we go with a tricky day for basically all four teams in action. Ohio State and Marquette will be another top-25 match-up for a Big Ten team, and this time with the Buckeyes playing a true road game. The Big Ten microsite crew will provide some more analysis before that game later this week, so be on the lookout for that. Then two teams will play in-state opponents on the road, which can always be tricky regardless of how good they are. The fans will be going nuts in both games in an effort to upset their “big brother” schools. Minnesota takes on a solid Richmond squad that plays good defense and historically is a program known for causing problems.

Loss probability: 80 percent given all these games could result in a loss and are on the road.

Sunday: South Carolina State at Nebraska; Abilene Christian at Iowa; Stony Brook at Indiana; Michigan at Iowa State; Bradley at Illinois; Rider at Purdue; Illinois State at Northwestern

A lot of small-time programs playing big schools here, but Michigan at Iowa State and Bradley at Illinois are tough games. Bradley has started the season 3-0 and is another in-state opponent playing a young Illinois team. Everyone will be waiting for John Groce’s team to stumble early and this could be the game when it happens. Then Michigan travels to Iowa State, a team that got some votes in the USA Today/Coaches poll. The Cyclones will be desperate to get a signature win that will look great on their NCAA resume and prove they can compete with the upper teams in the Big 12.

Loss probability: 60 percent.

Realistically, the Big Ten will have Northwestern lose at Stanford and one or two more from the group of  Michigan at Iowa State, Ohio State at Marquette, Minnesota at Richmond and Penn State at Penn. Let’s play it that the Wildcats lose and two in this group of four go down. That would still put the Big Ten at an impressive 25-4 through the first 10 days of the season. Such a record would definitely put the Big Ten near the top of the conversation of which conference has had the best start to the  young season.

Jonathan Batuello (61 Posts)

Jonathan Batuello is a journalist working out of Indiana and Big Ten correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow his Twitter account (@jcbatuello) for Big Ten basketball, Indiana high school sports and how to cope with losing at fantasy football.

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