Posted by Brendan Brody on December 29th, 2015
The book has officially been closed on the non-conference portion of the Big Ten schedule. As a collective, the league finished with a 130-49 record. This is a tad worse from last season’s 136-44 mark, and even further down from the conference’s 122-32 mark of two seasons ago. And as much as league official would like to do so, this can’t all be blamed on Rutgers’ 6-7 record to start the season. Despite the fact that the conference appears to have fallen off a bit, there are a number of positives and negatives to glean from this season’s opening chapter.
Northwestern finished up non-conference play with a 12-1 record, putting themselves in position to make their first every trip to the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
A three-team pack has emerged as the clear front-runners heading into conference play. Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue have all impressed and can be viewed as potential Final Four teams. The trio has combined to lose only two games on the year, with both of those defeats coming to teams that are currently ranked in the top 10. Sparty has beaten a whopping seven teams among the KenPom top 100, while the Boilermakers have beaten four and the Terps three. All three of these teams are in line for protected seeds come March if they perform well during conference play.
Among other Big Ten teams, Northwestern has done exactly what it needed to do in getting to 12-1 with its sole loss to preseason No. 1 North Carolina. The Wildcats’ schedule wasn’t arduous but they avoided any resume-disrupting losses. They still may not end up in the NCAA Tournament, depending on how conference play goes, but Chris Collins’ team has done a nice job positioning itself for it. Iowa also really can’t complain after getting to conference play at 9-3. The Hawkeyes put together a 3-3 record against teams in the KenPom top 100, and also avoided the bad loss bugaboo.
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