Big Ten Analysis: Badgers Soaring, Spartans Sinking

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 17th, 2013

Author’s note: This analysis was performed on Sunday night, December 15, and does not include Monday’s Northwestern game against Mississippi Valley State.

Welcome to the third edition of our Big Ten non-conference analysis.  By now, you should be familiar with how we’re measuring teams’ performances; but if not, please re-read our first post describing the methodology. In short, we’re comparing how Big Ten teams have performed against their preseason expectations according to KenPom. Since our last analysis two weeks ago, the Big Ten/ACC challenge has come and gone, and we’ve had some major interconference match-ups. Unfortunately, Big Ten teams have mostly ended up on the losing side of these games, especially last weekend as Iowa State outlasted Iowa, Arizona beat Michigan, Notre Dame shocked Indiana, and Butler held off Purdue. To see how these losses have shaken things up from the expectations viewpoint, see the updated performance table below.

big ten analysis table dec 16 2013

Here are our two main takeaways:

  • Wisconsin has improved its long-term season outlook the most and has also been the most consistent team in the Big Ten.Things are murky at the top of the league. Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan all have questions surrounding them or outright blemishes on their early season resumes. But the Badgers have been the league’s lone shining star by going undefeated, a record that includes seven wins against the RPI Top 100 (2-0 against the Top 50), more than any other team in the country. Furthermore, according to our analysis, Wisconsin has only underperformed in one game the entire season. Not only have they played well throughout, but they’ve been consistent in their efforts which is shown by their league-low 5.1 standard deviation (basically measuring variability in performances). Finally, Bo Ryan’s team’s long-term outlook has improved as they’re now expected to win seven games more than originally thought, which includes projected wins against Florida, at Indiana, at Minnesota, at Purdue, Ohio State, at Illinois and at Michigan State. As of right now, the Badgers are the class of the league.
  • Michigan State has dropped off since our last analysis and is generally underperforming for the season. What a difference two weeks makes. Back in our last analysis, the Spartans were ranked #1 in the country and looked like legitimate contenders to cut down the nets in March. Since then, Michigan State was soundly defeated by North Carolina in East Lansing, been plagued by key injuries, and had to battle from an eight-point deficit to beat Oakland over the weekend. While they still have only one loss and are ranked #5 in the latest AP poll, they have struggled against inferior teams and have underperformed by an average of 1.6 points per game. Things may be even worse in the long term (only Purdue has a more negative outlook). The Spartans are now expected to lose five more games — all of which they were previously expected to win — at Indiana, Ohio State, at Iowa, at Wisconsin and at Michigan. While things look somewhat shaky now, conventional wisdom suggests that, once they are healthy, Tom Izzo’s Spartans will get things turned around and still be the favorite for the Big Ten title.

In addition to the performance table, we have also updated the long-term outlook graph below. Click on the image to get a larger view.

big ten analysis long term graph dec 16 2013

We added this post as another milestone to illustrate the number of expected wins for each team at each of our analysis posts. From the graph, we can see that Wisconsin has had the biggest improvement since our last post, bettering their record by four wins. On the flip side, Michigan State has had the biggest dip since our last post, declining in expected wins by four games. Additionally, both Illinois’ and Indiana’s win totals have declined by three from where they were two weeks ago.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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