Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades


  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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Checking in on… the Big 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten bubble picture is so muddled that it’s not worth even trying to sort through it at this point. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota have all thought they were assured of dancing this season before some difficult events transpired. Right now, the Fighting Illini look to be at the top of the heap, but it’s almost guaranteed that some middling Big Ten team will end up on the outside looking in.
  • Thankfully, the conference will have three heavyweights waiting to defend it in the NCAA Tournament. Purdue vs. Wisconsin and Purdue vs. Ohio State showcased the quality of the upper tier teams in this league. They’re built for March and all three have contributors that can have a big night.

Team of the Week: Purdue – You can’t have a better week than Purdue had last week. The Boilermakers beat Wisconsin on Wednesday and then followed it up with a victory over Ohio State on national television. Lewis Jackson had a big game against the Badgers with 18 points and five assists and JaJuan Johnson had 20 points and ten boards. Sunday, though, belonged to the guy named Player of the Week.

Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue: Moore scored 19 points against Wisconsin, but with his team playing the #2 team in the country on Sunday, he really delivered. He scored 38 points. He did it efficiently too, shooting 13-18 from the field, 7-10 from three-point range and committing three turnovers. The senior shooting guard also had five assists and two steals.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: After an off night against Michigan State – during which he had 11 points, Sullinger went out and dominated the Purdue front line on the way to 25 points on 9-14 shooting. His rebounding totals have slipped a bit lately, but he’s still averaging almost a double-double at 18 points and 9.9 boards per game on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (25-2, 12-2) – Thad Matta keeps shortening his rotation, but if he does it much more, he won’t be able to put five players on the court. In the victory over Michigan State, DeShaun Thomas played three minutes. While he logged 12 against the Boilermakers, a lot of that was due to foul trouble from Dallas Lauderdale. Can the Buckeyes make a deep tournament run with only six players?

2. Purdue (22-5, 11-3) – Purdue beat the team above it and the team below it in the Power Rankings this week. So why are the Boilermakers ranked below Ohio State? Through a full season of work, the Buckeyes have been slightly more consistent and both of Purdue’s victories came at home. Maybe Matt Painter’s team will get a chance to even the score in the Big Ten Tournament final?

3. Wisconsin (20-6, 10-4) – Purdue showed that Jon Leuer can get his points and Wisconsin can still lose. He scored 23 against the Boilermakers, but it wasn’t enough. At home versus, Penn State Keaton Nankivil went 5-5 from three and scored 22 points and Josh Gasser added 11 in a much more balanced effort that ended in a 10-point victory. The Badgers are going to need to have players step up on the road moving forward.

4. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – If Illinois follows its up-and-down pattern, the Illini are in for a huge victory at Ohio State on Tuesday. Their last seven games have evenly alternated between wins and losses. The latest, a loss at Michigan State, may have helped the Spartans jump back onto the NCAA bubble.

5. Michigan (17-11, 7-8) – The Wolverines needed overtime and 30 points from freshman guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., to beat Iowa. Still, they got the win and that’s all that matters right now. Darius Morris had 20 points and nine assists in the victory and Jordan Morgan continued to build on his strong play of late with 18 points and eight boards.

6. Michigan State (15-11, 7-7) – The chances just keep on coming for Michigan State to prove it deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans played well but faded down the stretch against Ohio State on the road before beating Illinois at home. Kalin Lucas has been playing great basketball as of late. He scored 25 points against the Illini and was the only Michigan State player in double-figures.

7. Penn State (14-12, 7-8) – Talor Battle is always going to get his points. The senior guard scored 28 against Minnesota to keep the Nittany Lions in the NCAA discussion. A tough schedule makes their overall record a bit deceiving, but a loss to Maine and zero road wins are pretty tough sells. Penn State gets another chance for a road victory when it goes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday.

8. Minnesota (17-9, 6-8) – In-season strife has hit the Gophers harder than any other team in the Big Ten. Minnesota will now essentially play four straight bubble elimination games down the stretch of the regular season. Three of them are home games, though, which should give the Gophers a leg up on the competition.

9. Northwestern (16-10, 6-9) – After beating Iowa and winning at Indiana, the Wildcats’ record looks somewhat respectable. Now comes the hard part. Northwestern has to win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin to have any chance of finishing .500 in league play, but before that comes a tough test against a Penn State team that just seems to have Bill Carmody’s number.

10. Iowa (10-17, 3-12) – Two close losses against Michigan and Northwestern don’t help the Hawkeyes. They want victories. Melsahn Basabe and Jarryd Cole both scored in double-figures in both games this week. Cole’s 17 points against Northwestern tied a season-high that he set in the very first game against South Dakota State.

11. Indiana (12-15, 3-11) – The Hoosiers allowed Northwestern to come into Assembly Hall and win for just the second time ever even with a week to prepare and the Wildcats coming off a two-day turnaround. The Wildcats shot 21-25 from the free throw line compared to 14-19 for the Hoosiers in the six-point game. With four really tough games to end the season, Tom Crean could be looking at some angry fans come March.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/22 – Illinois at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/22 – Michigan State at Minnesota, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/23 – Wisconsin at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/24 – Penn State at Northwestern, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/26 – Michigan at Minnesota, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/27 – Purdue at Michigan State, 1 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/27 – Indiana at Ohio State, 4 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom:

  • Ohio State is no longer the #1 team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Duke passed the Buckeyes after their loss to Purdue. The game against the Boilermakers was Ohio State’s worst per possession offensive output in conference play this season.
  • The Wisconsin-Penn State game featured some spectacular offense, and not much defense. 76-66 on 55 possessions is one high-scoring affair. It was Penn State’s second best showing of the conference season, just behind its opener against Indiana.
  • The metrics don’t believe in Michigan or Ohio State at the moment. Both teams have suffered from difficult schedules. It should be noted that the Buckeyes (+0.11) are third in efficiency margin in the conference behind Wisconsin (+0.13) and Purdue (+0.12).
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Spartans in the driver’s seat – Michigan State had a scare from Minnesota on national TV and another from Michigan, but being the experienced and tough-nosed team that they are, closed out the game, while Minnesota and Michigan let them get away. They are two games ahead of Wisconsin now, and even more ahead of Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois. Will the Spartans run the table? They have to get by Purdue twice before the season is over, so I am not betting on it.
  • Superman shut down in the 2nd half Evan Turner was putting up big numbers in the first half against West Virginia, but then couldn’t get it going in the second half. He had 13 at intermission, and ended up with an 18/11/4 asst game. Anyone other than Evan Turner would be happy with those stats. West Virginia had the answer in the second half for Turner though, and his name is Da’Sean Butler, who ended up with a 21/8/5 asst, and won the game for the Mountaineers.
  • Iowa is on a roll – Looks like Iowa is picking off opponents in reverse order these days. First Penn State and now Indiana. Who’s next? Michigan? Northwestern? Who knows. Iowa is hitting the boards well and playing a very physical brand of basketball these days.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #5, Purdue #10, Wisconsin #16, and Ohio State #20.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State                  18-3, 8-0
  2. Purdue                                   16-3, 4-3
  3. Wisconsin                            16-4, 6-2
  4. Ohio State                            15-6, 5-3
  5. Illinois                                   13-8, 5-3
  6. Minnesota                           13-7, 4-4
  7. Northwestern                   14-6, 3-5
  8. Michigan                              10-10, 3-5
  9. Indiana                                  9-10, 3-4
  10. Iowa                                         8-13, 2-6
  11. Penn State                            8-12, 0-8

Coming Up

  • Wisconsin @ Purdue – January 28th – 7:00 ET – ESPN – This game is Purdue’s chance to get back at Wisconsin for starting Purdue’s three game slide. Wisconsin has a huge advantage at the Kohl Center, but given that Wisconsin should still be without Jon Leuer, this one could be all Purdue at Mackey Arena.
  • Michigan State @ Wisconsin – February 2nd – 9:00 ET ESPN – This could be the most likely game for Michigan State to lose prior to the matchup with Purdue. If Jon Leuer is back, it could be a closer game, but even without him, the home court advantage of Kohl’s Center could be the 6th man that Wisconsin needs.

Breaking It Down

  • The Spartans are beatable, but haven’t succumbed yet. Michigan State has won its last two games by a total of two points. Sure, one could say that it is luck, or maybe they are headed for a loss, but at the same time, to me it says that they are a team that has what it takes to close out games. The Spartans are solid across the board when it comes to scoring, even though they are led by Kalin Lucas. Raymar Morgan tore it up against Michigan with a 20/8 effort that is even more impressive because it came on 8-9 from the field and 4-5 from the line. I would give the ball to him all day long when he is shooting like that. I think the Spartans will take care of Northwestern at home as well as Wisconsin on the road, unless the Badgers can summon some big bodies to stop the Spartans in the lane.
  • What about Purdue’s bench play? Purdue has started to turn around its slide in the Big Ten, winning their last two games against Illinois and Michigan. What I find potentially troubling in their last game is their bench play, which was practically nonexistent from a statistical point of view. Last game their bench only contributed five points. Is that a problem? Well, not exactly, but when I looked at their losses, the same trend appears. The bench scored nine in their loss to Wisconsin, two in their loss to Ohio State, and five in their loss to Northwestern. This team needs to find a couple guys to come off the bench to contribute, or else any sign of foul trouble will spell doom for the Boilermakers. Let’s see what happens against Wisconsin at home, though.
  • Wisconsin almost loses to who? That’s right folks, Wisconsin needed a heroic effort by Jordan Taylor to escape an upset by winless Penn State. Credit Taylor for pouring it on with a 20/6 asst game, but still, how far has this Wisconsin team sunk? They escaped a close one at home against Michigan and then a nail-biter against Penn State. I think everyone will see what this team is made of in their next two at Purdue and then Michigan State at home. The results, in my opinion, probably will not be pretty for Wisconsin.
  • Ohio State evens it up for the Big Ten against West Virginia. The momentum had been building for Ohio State the whole week leading up to West Virginia. Each team claimed one of the two halves:  Ohio State won the first half, West Virginia the second. Like their respective teams, one player won the first half and the other won the game. Evan Turner was his usual self in the first half, and then disappeared in the second, whereas Da’Sean Butler was nowhere to be seen in the first, and then puller a superhero down the stretch to put it away. It proved that Ohio State is a tournament team, because West Virginia clearly is as well. The bad news for Ohio State is that they had to travel to Iowa last night to grind out a win against a much-improved Hawkeyes team, and then continue on the road in a tough battle at Michigan State.
  • Minnesota can’t close out the close ones. There are a couple trends that are easy to see with this year’s Minnesota team: they can’t win on the road and they can’t win close games. There are a couple exceptions to that: a win at Iowa and a close win against Penn State and Northwestern. Winning on the road and winning the close ones takes mental toughness and this team doesn’t have it. They have a lot of other things: great upside with Ralph Sampson, great scoring ability and athleticism from Devoe Joseph, and Lawrence Westbrook has had some great moments throughout the year. This team won’t be going to the tournament unless they shock everyone by winning the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Illinois’ scheduling luck has run out. Illinois came out for a quick start in the Big Ten, and looked like they might contend for a Big Ten title, until they started playing teams that were better than them, and they haven’t been able to stop their downhill slide yet. It’s interesting to compare the first Northwestern game with the second. In the first, Illinois won by six in OT; in the second, they lost by five in regulation. Digging deeper reveals what happened. In the first game the big men dominated. Mike Tisdale had a career night with 31 and Mike Davis was good for 20. That’s 51 of the team’s 89 points. Fast-forward to the second game: Tisdale with 14 and Davis with zero. Looks like we have a paint problem, here. Northwestern has gotten more aggressive, and Illinois has gotten less aggressive. There’s the season right there. Illinois beat Penn State on Wednesday, and needs to continue with wins against Indiana and Iowa to salvage this slide.
  • Northwestern bouncing around, but is that enough? Northwestern is definitely much-improved from last year, and is seen as a credible opponent in the Big Ten this year. But is that enough? How will the committee take into account what the Wildcats have done outside of the conference, as well as in it? I think they need to go over .500 in the Big Ten to make the tournament. They stand at 3-5 now, and with ten games left, they are going to have win six or seven of them. I think it might come down to the wire because as I see it, the teams that they have the best shots at beating are Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and Penn State. If they win all of their games against those opponents, they will be 10-8 in the Big Ten.  With a win against Chicago State, that will get them to overall record of 22-9, and definitely good enough to make the tournament. Can they do it? I am not sure, as some of those road games will be tough.
  • Was the UConn game the peak of Michigan’s season? On Tuesday, Michigan lost a tough game against Michigan State at home, one they should have won. This team is erratic, and usually has to rely on the two man show of DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. They continue to shoot too many threes, and miss more than their fair share. The upside is that they are continuing to hang with top teams, and have a nice break in their schedule if they wanted to go for a  big run late in the season. I feel that all of their games left are winnable with the exception of Ohio State and the regular season-ending rematch with Michigan State. Lets see what the Wolverines can do.
  • Indiana has to be the underdog. Indiana has surprised teams all year, in that they can hang around against just about anyone. They beat Pitt, they beat Michigan, Minnesota, etc. The theme with all of those games was the expectation that they shouldn’t have won, but they did. It has been said that Tom Crean is ahead of schedule as far as returning Indiana to its past glory, but the game against Iowa was an exception. Against Iowa, Indiana was actually the favored team. They didn’t play like it. They didn’t have any cockiness or swagger, no real energy at all. Seeing the Hoosiers play right after the Colts’ victory was a huge letdown. There was no fight in the team that time, but fortunately for Indiana, they have a whole week of practice to find some of that fighting ability before traveling to Illinois. They will need it, too, as Illinois is enduring its own freefall, and will look at this game as a must-win. Indiana needs to rebound better, and take both Davis and Tisdale out of the game. Tisdale destroyed Indiana in their past matchup.
  • Iowa has Hawkeyes. Iowa couldn’t buy a win earlier.  Throw in a sprinkle of their second leading scorer getting suspended, and you have the recipe for a disaster of a season. Someone didn’t inform Iowa, though, as they are actually picking it up each game, and had a chance to score a huge upset against Ohio State. Jarryd Cole destroyed Indiana with his 11/10 night, with eight of those rebounds on the offensive end. Aaron Fuller has been solid all year for the Hawkeyes, but the real surprise was Brennan Cougill, especially when the big man stepped out and knocked down two big threes against the Hoosiers. He literally played a perfect 13 minutes of basketball, not missing a field goal or free throw.
  • Penn State is still winless. OK, I haven’t had to change the title here for a while, and plan on keeping it this way until Penn State wins a game. With the exception of their first Wisconsin game, this squad has kept every Big Ten game close…and has still yet to find a W. I hate to say it, but after looking at their remaining schedule, I am not sure this team will win a game this year. Their best bets have already come and passed. Surprise me, Penn State. I will put you in the headlines if you do.
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Checking In On… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009


Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

This past week was like March Madness in November for the Big Ten. The Big Ten is glad it isn’t though, as all but a few would be left standing with upset after upset bringing down the big and mighty. Those who fell this week include: Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. The Big Ten started last week with 6 teams in the AP’s top 25, and only 3 remain in Purdue (#6), Michigan State (#9), and Ohio State (#15). The only unbeaten team in the Big Ten is now Purdue.


  1. Purdue 5-0
  2. Michigan State 5-1
  3. Ohio State 5-1
  4. Northwestern 5-1
  5. Wisconsin 4-1
  6. Penn State 5-2
  7. Illinois 4-2
  8. Minnesota 4-2
  9. Michigan 3-2
  10. Indiana 3-3
  11. Iowa 2-4

Top Storylines

  • Evan Turner, oops he did it again. That’s right folks, Evan Turner from Ohio State pulled off another triple double this week, becoming just 1 of 34 NCAA athletes to pull off multiple triple-double games in a single season.
  • Michigan State falls to Florida, ending their unbeaten streak. Turns out that Florida is legit again this season, moving up to #17 in the AP. Michigan State was sloppy and Florida made them pay, even though the game was a nailbiter.
  • Remember the name: John Shurna. The sophomore forward poured it on in the Chicago Invitational to take down Notre Dame and Iowa State, earning MVP honors over the likes of Craig Brackins and Luke Harangody, both household names.
  • Last but definitely not least, the first signs that Minnesota’s off the court troubles finally affected their on the court performance this week when they lost to Texas A&M after sitting Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen for disciplinary reasons. Westbrook and Nolen combine for over 19 points per game, and they lost by 1 point. That time sitting on the bench was definitely worth more than a point.

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