Big Ten Middle Tier Stock Watch

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 27th, 2017

Nine of the 14 Big Tens currently have conference records of either 4-4 or 3-5. It was expected to be a wide open year in the middle of the standings and we have gotten exactly that this season. With 10 regular season games remaining for each of these nine squads, let’s review which teams are trending toward a finish in the upper half of the league standings and a corresponding NCAA Tournament bid (Buy), which teams are still difficult to figure (Hold), and which teams are going to falter down the home stretch of the regular season (Sell).

Buy: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State

Michigan State has been inconsistent, but it would be foolish to bet against a Tom Izzo coached team making the NCAA Tournament. (Getty Images).

  • Michigan leads the list in the Buy category for a number of different reasons. Not only do the Wolverines already have three top-100 KenPom wins — two of which are looking better by the day (SMU and Marquette) — but they also have the best record (4-2) against the other middle-tier teams. John Beilien has coached in a National Championship game and two of his starters have played as far as the Elite Eight. Clear buy.
  • Michigan State is only 12-9 to this point in the season but it would be unwise the count this team out. How many times have we seen Michigan State struggle during the regular season only for Tom Izzo to have Sparty firing on all cylinders by mid-March?  Keep a close eye on the progression of Miles Bridges, who is starting to play like a legitimate superstar and can carry the Spartans through rough patches. Sell at your peril.
  • Ohio State started conference play 0-4 but the Buckeyes have won three of their last four to creep back into bubble consideration. Thad Matta does not have a long history of his teams tanking in Big Ten play, while Trevor Thompson has possibly become the best post player in the league not outside of Caleb Swanigan and Ethan Happ. Buy the Bucks.

Hold: Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois

Which Indiana Team Will Show Up Down the Stretch? (USA Today Images)

  • How the rest of Indiana‘s season will go from this point is anybody’s guess. The Hoosiers lost its best defensive player with an injury to OG Anunoby, and there isn’t anyone else on the roster who can impact a game on that end of the floor like the rangy sophomore. Tom Crean‘s squad has top-notch wins over Kansas and North Carolina on its resume, but his team also just gave up 1.53 points per possession in an embarrassing 30-point loss at Michigan. Only four of the Hoosiers’ last 10 games are in Bloomington, but they still have more talent than most of the middle tier of this league. It’s just too early to figure out where Indiana is headed. Hold for another week or two.
  • Minnesota started the season at 15-2, but the Gophers have cooled considerably during the grind of Big Ten play by losing their last four games. Richard Pitino is a young coach with a young team without much experience in playing meaningful late-season games. They have six of their last 10 games at home and their top-10 defense has been consistently good all season long. As of today, Minnesota would be in the NCAA Tournament, but it bears watching whether this unit has already lost their confidence. Hold for another week or two.
  • Illinois is much like Indiana in that it can look great one game and awful the next. The switch to freshman Te’Jon Lucas at the point guard spot may have been the right move to stabilize the offense, but the combination of a solid group of veterans along with some decent non-conference wins over VCU, BYU and NC State makes it too soon to bury the Illini just yet. Hold a little while longer.

Sell: Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State

For the sake of brevity, it’s easier to just categorize the three Sell teams together. None has a good enough non-conference resume to support a mediocre Big Ten showing, and limitations in personnel and experience likely means they are unlikely to make a late-season push. Nebraska would have been in the running for an NCAA bid with its early road wins against Indiana and Maryland, but the loss of Ed Morrow, Jr. to injury has left the team painfully thin on the interior. Iowa and Penn State have bright futures in Iowa City and State College, but both teams are simply too young and inconsistent to be anything other than a spoiler for the rest of the year. The smart money is to sell these three teams now.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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