Big Ten M5: 02.27.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 27th, 2014

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  1. It’s common to think about Michigan State‘s numerous injury woes this season when discussing Sparty. With a rotation that relies so heavily on its starters, the losses of players throughout the regular season have been critical. Tom Izzo will get a chance to put a full and healthy lineup on the floor, though, with Branden Dawson due back in action soon, and his return will be critical for the Spartans to get back on track defensively. Dawson has been a strong defender for the team when he has played and his ability to limit the need for switching on ball screens will be helpful. Adreian Payne has struggled with that adjustment, so Dawson’s return means fewer issues for him and the whole team on the defensive end of the floor.
  2. There may not be a tougher way for Purdue to lose a game than it did last night against Michigan. The Boilermakers never trailed in regulation but lost in overtime by a single point on  buzzer-beater. Matt Painter’s team was perfect from the free throw line (a huge shock for the league’s worst foul shooting team) until its very last free throw, the front end of a one-and-one that left them ahead by only one. Finally, it was Glenn Robinson III, the son of one of Purdue’s all-time greats, who hit the tough baseline drive that rolled in for the win as the buzzer expired. It can only be described accurately as a “level one” stomach punch for Purdue fans. The ending was certainly troublesome, but maybe worse is that the team blew a 19-point lead in about 20 minutes of action. At home. Purdue now has to find two wins somewhere to make it to .500 on the season, which is no guarantee given its remaining schedule (away games at Iowa and Wisconsin followed by a home game vs. Northwestern).
  3. It has become a familiar trend for Indiana fans this season. The Hoosiers show flashes of brilliance on the road only to have it all come crashing down defensively in the second half. For the third time this season, Indiana held a double-figure lead on a road opponent (Wisconsin) and lost. Most troubling for the Hoosiers was Yogi Ferrell’s admission that nothing changed for the Badgers offensively; rather, the team just simply stopped defending as well in the second half. It is understandable that after a 19-point first half that the Badgers weren’t going to continue to shoot so poorly, but Indiana went from a 10-point halftime lead to an 11-point loss in relatively short order. That’s why Tom Crean’s team is headed to the NIT this season.
  4. Wisconsin has certainly had some big swings this season. It went from undefeated and No. 3 in the national polls to not being ranked at all in a matter of weeks. Now, the Badgers appear to be back in the neighborhood of being considered a Final Four contender. The big reason for this change is that its shooting and scoring have returned from the brief  hiatus. The persuasive number to consider here is that in the Badgers’ recent six-game winning streak they are scoring 1.18 points per possession, up from 1.04 points per possession during its five losses. This observation makes the answer on whether Wisconsin can run to the Final Four pretty simple. If the Badgers are hitting their shots, then their offensive versatility certainly makes it a potential team to see in North Texas.
  5. The bubble is always a scary place for a team. Minnesota certainly helped its NCAA Tournament case by getting a statement win over Iowa on Tuesday. The Golden Gophers aren’t yet off the bubble, but they helped their case tremendously by beating the Hawkeyes. At 18-11 with games against Michigan and Penn State remaining (plus the Big Ten Tournament), it has a good chance to reach the 20-win plateau. If the Golden Gophers win both of these games and their opening conference tournament game, they should be safely in the Dance. But in order to leave nothing up to chance, it wouldn’t be recommended to drop both games and hope for a run through what will be one of the nation’s most competitive conference tournaments.
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Three Thoughts as Michigan State Reamed Purdue

Posted by Walker Carey on February 21st, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Michigan State and Purdue in West Lafayette.

Michigan State entered Thursday night’s game at Purdue in dire need of a victory. The Spartans had lost three of their last five games and were still struggling with the effects of injury bug. Tom Izzo’s squad also had to make sure that they did not fall a game behind Michigan in the loss column in the Big Ten standings before Sunday’s clash in Ann Arbor. The Spartans took the lead from the first possession Thursday night and never looked back. After scoring just 51 points in this past Sunday’s home loss to Nebraska, Michigan State exploded for 49 first half points and cruised to a 94-79 road victory to set up a monumental showdown Sunday at the Crisler Center.

The following are three thoughts from Thursday’s action:

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo watches from the sideline as Michigan States Adreian Payne (5) puts up a three-point shot in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in West Lafayette, Ind. Michigan State defeated Purdue 94-79. Payne scored a game-high 23 points in the game. (AP)

Tom Izzo watches from the sideline as Adreian Payne puts up a three-point shot. Michigan State defeated Purdue 94-79. Payne scored 23 points in the game. (AP)

  1. When Gary Harris And Adreian Payne Are Firing On All Cylinders, Michigan State’s Offense Is Nearly Impossible To Contain. Harris has struggled with inconsistency recently in Big Ten play and Payne missed seven games with a foot injury, but both players displayed their standout ability Thursday. After just a 5-of-15 shooting performance in the loss to Nebraska, Harris was in the zone all evening against Purdue, finishing with 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 from behind the three-point line. When Harris was not lighting up Purdue, it was Payne doing the honors. The senior big man finished with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and displayed his versatility with a 4-of-8 performance from behind the three-point line. Harris and Payne are not only Michigan State’s most talented players, they are two of the most talented players in the Big Ten. Their spectacular outings Thursday in West Lafayette showed just how dominant the Spartans’ offense can be on a given night. Read the rest of this entry »
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Battle for Hoosier State Supremecy: A Preview By the Numbers

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on February 15th, 2014

Heading into Saturday’s game in West Lafayette, Indiana and Purdue both currently sit in the bottom third of the Big Ten standings with matching 4-7 conference records. In addition to playing for state bragging rights in one of the best Big Ten rivalries, both teams are clinging to quickly fading NCAA Tournament hopes. Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso decided to look at some key numbers for the upcoming game in the form of predicting some over/unders to try to figure out who will come away with the win on Saturday afternoon (4:00 PM EST, ESPN).

Yogi Ferrell needs to score and distribute for Indiana to beat their in-state rival. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Yogi Ferrell needs to score and distribute for Indiana to beat their in-state rival. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Yogi Ferrell over/under 25 points+assists

Alex Moscoso: I’m definitely taking the over. Ferrell is a fantastic college player because he comes up big when Indiana needs him the most. When the Hoosiers upset then-undefeated Wisconsin a few weeks ago, the sophomore put up 25 points and four assists. Against Michigan (undefeated at the time in Big Ten play), he put up 27 points and a couple of assists. Now, his team needs him to step up to get to the right side of the bubble, and I think he’ll deliver.

AJ Hammons over/under 10 rebounds

Brendan Brody: Hammons will have fewer than 10 rebounds in this one. Indiana has outrebounded its opponent in each of their last five games. They’ve also only allowed one player (Jordan Morgan) to grab double-figure boards against them in those games. Purdue does do a pretty good job cleaning the glass, especially on the offensive end, but the combination of Indiana’s rebounding prowess and the potential for Hammons to be in foul trouble at some point in the game makes the prediction 10+ boards too risky.

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Big Ten Valentine’s Day Candy Heart Messages

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 14th, 2014

It’s the day celebrating romance and love. It also marks the final home stretch of the regular season. In honor of this day, it felt appropriate (or just fun) to take aim at each Big Ten team and the thing they most want — in the form of a candy heart message. So, in alphabetical order, I give you the simple message each conference team would want most to come on a candy heart. Enjoy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Can Tom Crean's Hoosiers end the Badgers' winning streak? (AP).

Tom Crean and company would love to start winning the games its supposed to. (AP)

Illinois: “Not Last In My Heart” – Oh what once was for the Illini this season. The great non-conference play has fallen apart and Illinois is sitting in last place in the Big Ten. Getting out of the cellar would be great for the team.

Indiana: “Your Love Overcomes a Bad Team” – The Hoosiers are quite the fickle team this year. Beating Wisconsin and Michigan but losing at home to Northwestern and Penn State? This team would love to win the games it should the rest of the way and pull off a few more upsets to find itself back on the NCAA bubble.

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Big Ten Postseason Watch: 02.08.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 8th, 2014

Conference play has hit the midway point. The top of the Big Ten is already a two team contest contained to the state of Michigan, but the middle of the conference is as muddled as ever with 10th place a mere game and a half back of fourth. With that in mind we examine where the conference’s teams are at in terms of postseason play. All teams currently have a shot of playing somewhere after the conference tournament concludes and RTC’s Daniel Evans currently lists six Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament (as does ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who adds Indiana in his first four out). The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in terms of importance along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN. Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media or how your team’s fortunes will change in the final five weeks of the season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

Adreian Payne's return is huge for a Michigan State team wanting to claim a No. 1 seed in March (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne’s return is huge for a Michigan State team wanting to claim a No. 1 seed in March (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

  • Michigan State (KenPom #12, RPI #10): The injuries to Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson have put the Spartans in a bind inside, but it also has let other players develop their games. Payne’s return comes at the perfect time for the team as it makes the final push for a Big Ten championship and a top seed in March. This team can’t afford to lose many more if it hopes to take a top spot, but with everyone back, even a No. 2 or 3 seed would work just fine for a healthy squad that can contend for the national title.
  • Michigan (KenPom #14, RPI #15): This team is far from dead after the injury to Mitch McGary. The development of freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been instrumental to the Wolverines becoming stronger in conference play. The potential for John Beilein’s team to grab a No. 1 seed could be decided this week with two massive tests at Iowa and at Ohio State. Win both and it looks reasonable; lose either and it will be battling for a top four protected seed.

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Big Ten M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 6th, 2014

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  1. Michigan certainly responded well to its first Big Ten loss last night by simply crushing Nebraska. The Wolverines have come back well from adversity in general since conference play started, and a lot of that has to do with Derrick Walton Jr.‘s progression. The freshman point guard started the season slowly, but since Big Ten play began he has seen his scoring rise by nearly three points per game while reducing his turnovers. His jumper and decision-making have also improved dramatically as he has grown more accustomed to the college game. His play down the stretch needs to continue this way, and if it does, Michigan will remain in contention for the Big Ten title against bitter rival Michigan State.
  2. The dark horse status that many gave to Penn State coming into this season didn’t start out so well. The Nittany Lions are now on a three-game winning streak, however, thanks to plenty of impressive numbers. Some of the most notable statistics include that of Brandon Taylor, who in the winning streak has averaged 15 points per game and 46.7 percent from three-point range, and 20.0 PPG for DJ Newbill. With a tough test at Michigan State coming tonight, Penn State will need both players to continue their recent strong play. The Lions are unlikely to win in East Lansing, of course, but if Penn State stays close with Sparty it sends a message to the rest of a muddled Big Ten that this team will compete the rest of the way.
  3. There were multiple reasons for Wisconsin‘s recent skid. One prominent reason was Sam Dekker struggling offensively, but he seems to have came out of his slump after hitting 4-of-7 three-pointers against Illinois. While Wisconsin has plenty of players who can score and take over the game when needed, Dekker’s impact as a versatile forward is extremely important. The Badgers are much more effective when Dekker can exploit the match-up issues he causes by bombing away from the outside. For a team relying so much more on its offense this season, Bo Ryan’s team needs its star to make sure his struggles are completely done.
  4. If you wanted 55 minutes of, well, uninspiring basketball, then Purdue‘s triple-overtime win over Minnesota last night was a real treat. The Boilermakers got the victory despite nearly giving it away with multiple missed free throws in regulation and the first two overtimes. Part of this problem is the Boilermakers’ stark lack of leadership and that its best leader, Travis Carroll, rarely sees action. Carroll does his job well, working against AJ Hammons in practice and playing hard when called upon. But even if Purdue lacks a more productive on-court senior leader, there has been time for some of the underclassmen to mature and take over those duties. Plenty of teams rely on young talent to not only be competitive but win conference and national titles. Matt Painter needs to find his on-court leadership somewhere or there will be more games like last night where the Boilermakers nearly blow what appeared to be an assured win.
  5. Ohio State certainly needed things to start going well again. With a pair of wins against Wisconsin and Iowa this week, it appears the Buckeyes got the morale boost and confidence that they desired. It came at a critical time for Ohio State, too. With a few more losses, what seemed like a team competing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament could have quickly found itself on the bubble. The players’ comments after beating Iowa seems to bear out that they believe they will win the close games coming down the stretch. For a team that relies so heavily on its defense, the confidence to believe it will score late in close games is absolutely crucial.
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College Basketball by the Tweets: #WraggeBombs, South Florida Jersey Fail & More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 28th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Welcome back to College Basketball by the Tweets. We promise that we’re in tune with the latest social media trends and best practices, and are happy to share such sage advice to the Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball announcers, who are still in the beginning stages of understanding hashtags.

White Kid With A Flat Top Alert

This is Utah State’s Sean Harris. He’s living proof that the flat top, which has made a profound comeback since it was popular back in the 1980s, can transcend both hair and skin color.

Our only wish right now is that we could go back and time and tell former Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz to pioneer this movement.

Ethan Wragge Shoots, Does Not Dribble

It was a night were you could say with complete certainty that Creighton would have defeated any college basketball team in America, and perhaps even the Milwaukee Bucks. Against the unbeaten and then No. 4 ranked Villanova Wildcats, the Bluejays nailed 21 three pointers, nine coming from forward Ethan Wragge, who needed only six minutes to knock down his first seven.

Even more eye-popping was Wragge’s made-three-pointers-to-dribbles ratio, which isn’t even remotely close to a real statistic but something that was easy to track for the reasons noted below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 24th, 2014

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  1. The trials and tribulations that have come to mark the 2013-14 Michigan State campaign took another turn on Thursday. Junior forward Branden Dawson broke a bone in his hand and will be out for a month. Dawson hurt his hand when reacting in frustration to a replay of the broadcast of Tuesday’s win against Indiana, and the details of the situation are a little bit hazy. Coach Tom Izzo was quoted as saying about the incident, ” This kid did not rob any stores, he didn’t do any drugs, there’s no alcohol involved.” Obviously Izzo has Dawson’s back despite the questionable timing and intelligence of breaking one’s hand in the middle of the season off the court. It will be interesting to see how long Sparty can survive the latest round of bad luck it’s been hit with this year.
  2. The Spartans will find out pretty quickly how they play without Dawson, as they will face rival Michigan for first place in the conference in East Lansing Saturday night. Last year, the Wolverines got thoroughly whipped in their visit to the Breslin Center, and they realize how intense they need to be right from the jump. Since that game, the core of Michigan’s roster has played in a National Championship game and three high-level road games this year. Look for this year’s group to be a bit better prepared for the scene this time around.
  3. Another significant injury occurred on Wednesday night, when Minnesota’s Andre Hollins sprained his left ankle on the first possession of the game against Wisconsin. He was diagnosed with a severe ankle sprain, and although Richard Pitino hasn’t yet ruled him out, it’s reasonable to presume he’ll probably miss Sunday’s tilt at Nebraska. The Gophers have to feel much better about this development than they would have a month ago, however. This is a considerably deeper team now, with bench players like Malik Smith, Maurice Walker and Joey King all looking much-improved over the last five games. Look for senior Maverick Amanmisi to also get plenty of minutes in Hollins’ absence.
  4. Aside from his seven turnovers against Northwestern, Purdue’s AJ Hammons led the team in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks in the Boilermakers’ loss at Northwestern on Tuesday. That’s why it’s mildly surprising that he took full blame for the setback in Evanston. While his shooting from the field (3-of-10) and turnovers played a role in the defeat, he also played a season-high 44 minutes (double his average of 22 MPG on the season). Hammons is not Purdue’s problem right now, and after a rocky start to the season that resulted in his suspension for the opening game, taking the blame for a tough loss like this is a good sign that great things are still to come from the burly pivot man.
  5. The ghost of Hall of Famer Bob Knight will be around the Indiana program for quite some time, and that is partially why head coach Tom Crean has yet to be fully embraced by all the people who love the program. This is despite the fact that Crean was able to completely clean up the mess of the Kelvin Sampson era after his arrival in Bloomington. He has rebuilt the program from the ashes, but the naysayers aren’t happy with their 12-7 start. While some of his in-game strategy screams that this isn’t the most disciplined team in the country, Crean deserves a pass in large part due to how young his team is. They had to pretty much start over from scratch this year, and time is needed to let the young talent mature before calling for his head.
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Big Ten M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 17th, 2014

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  1. Wisconsin’s Ben Brust hit one of the most memorable shots in Big Ten history last season against Wisconsin. This memory has come into the light once again as the Wolverines head to Madison this Saturday. When asked about his shot, the senior sharp-shooter talked about how he really is only focused on the present. Brust stated that, “I just want to stay focused on the task at hand. Because I know that after these three months, I’ll have the rest of my life to think about how special of a play it was.” With the way the Badgers are playing, there could be many more memorable games for Brust to look back upon if things break right for the team in the next three months.
  2. CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish makes an interesting argument in talking about how the B1G is really more of a basketball league than a football league. This flies in the face of the perceptions of many at the schools in the conference, which despite a recent lack of success on the gridiron, still cling to the notion that the league is a dominant football conference. It can’t be denied that the conference has arguably been the best basketball league for quite some time now. In the era of one-and-dones dotting the landscape, teams in the Big Ten seem to have found a happy medium where they still bring in talent that sticks around for several years. While some may scoff because of the lack of national championships, the B1G once again has the most depth top-to-bottom in the country on almost a yearly basis.
  3. After an 0-4 start in league play, Nebraska coach Tim Miles has decided to shake things up a little bit. This means more playing time for the forgotten David Rivers. Rivers started a little more than half of his team’s games last season, but has hardly played at all over the last 10 contests due to an injury and ineffectiveness. Miles hopes that Rivers, who leads the team in steals at 1.4 per game, will bring more defensive intensity for the Huskers.
  4. With their win over Ohio State, Iowa has climbed in both the national rankings and in the amount of people taking them seriously. Interest in the program is the highest it has been in a while, and the Hawkeyes will have sell-out crowds for the remainder of their home games. This could prove to be crucial, as Iowa will play games against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the next couple of weeks. Protecting your home court is a must every season in a league as deep as the Big Ten, so the support of the crowd will be more than welcomed by Iowa players as they battle the heavyweights in games that could determine who wins the conference.
  5. AJ Hammons gets most of the hype and publicity whenever anyone discusses Purdue, but whether the guards are hitting outside shots can be just as important for the team if it wants to play in the postseason. Ronnie Johnson and Kendall Stephens knocked down some huge triples in their win against Illinois, which ultimately led to the Boilermakers coming away with the win. Terone and Ronnie Johnson also hit 6-of-6 free throws in the final minute, despite both of them shooting poorly from the line for most of their careers. Hammons has been coming along in his own right, but steady guard play might decide how good of a season Purdue has.
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Big Ten M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 16th, 2014

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  1. Rushing the court debates are always fun in college basketball. It’s what the name of this website comes from, after all, so after Indiana rushed the court after knocking off Wisconsin Tuesday night, it sparked some outrage and debate among, well, basically everyone who follows college basketball. The reaction piece linked by ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan may be the best way to look at it, too. Sure, maybe Indiana has too much tradition and the win last night didn’t “deserve” a court rush. But really, of all things to get riled up and worried about, the “rules” of when and when not to do so may be the most silly. Frankly, it’s college students enjoying a big win and carrying their emotions out onto the court. Who cares if it doesn’t fit your “rules,” because as Brennan says it, “They aren’t lisning (sic) to your rules. They’re too busy having fun.”
  2. Here we go again with Illinois. Last season the Illini came out of the gate strong and had everybody wondering if they could squeeze their way into discussion for the Big Ten title race before collapsing. This season, they once again started the year surprsingly well, but after a loss to Purdue last night, it’s a three-game losing streak that has everyone wondering if they will be making a slide just like last season. The key to the loss last night was specifically in the starters not producing enough outside of a slightly hobbled Rayvonte Rice. Nnanna Egwu, Jon Ekey and Joseph Betrand combined for 17 points against the Boilermakers and this is following a total team disaster offensively against Northwestern. For Illinois to get back on track and keep its potential for the NCAA Tournament alive this will have to change quickly.
  3. Northwestern was hopeful it could pull off “deja vu” against Michigan State. Not only did it want to replicate an upset from two years ago, but also the upset it pulled over Illinois this past week. With Michigan State hobbled, the Wildcats hung around before ultimately falling by 14, but it did get some high praise from Tom Izzo after the game. The Spartans head coach said it was the best defense he had seen from a Northwestern team in years, marking that’s the sign of a good coach. That’s pretty high praise for Chris Collins.
  4. On the other side of the Illinois loss was what we have all come to expect from Purdue‘s AJ Hammons. The center has constantly been called a potential lottery pick and dominant player in the conference. Yet, despite all the physical tools he hasn’t put it together and been consistent enough. Last night, though, he reminded everyone why the high praise is there as he helped Purdue to its best win of the season. Hammons final stat line of 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks shows the key to Purdue’s win and potentially it’s NCAA Tournament hopes. If he can play like that every game, the Boilermakers may not be dead and NIT bound just yet.
  5. It wasn’t a good week for Ohio State. Two losses to two of the top teams in the Big Ten certainly isn’t what the Buckeyes had in mind. Still, despite the bad week, Thad Matta realizes there is still plenty of season left to play. This reaction is certainly the best possible one (at least publicly) the head coach can have with his team. It’s a veteran group that will need to respond quickly with its trip to Minnesota tonight, and it should understand two back-to-back losses don’t derail its hopes for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament or even the hopes for competing in the Big Ten. It is unlikely the conference winner will finish with just two losses, so the Buckeyes have plenty of season left to turn it around.
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Big Ten Postseason Watch: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Jonahtan Batuello on January 10th, 2014

Selection Sunday is always on everyone’s minds as conference season gets underway. So, with 10 days of Big Ten play already done, now is a good time to start a weekly look at where conference teams’ postseason chances are currently sitting. Joe Lunardi has released a new Bracketology (as well as RTC’s Daniel Evans) so why shouldn’t we start putting out our own thoughts as well? The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in the next week that’s of importance (along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN (it should be noted these rankings do not include last night’s games even though the commentary does). Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media, but here is your first Big Ten Postseason Watch of the conference season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

  • Michigan State (KenPom #9; RPI #10): The thrilling home win over Ohio State puts the Spartans in line to earn a No. 1 seed. This next week is mainly about getting healthy as Tom Izzo’s team depth is severely lacking. If Sparty is healthy, games versus Minnesota and at Northwestern shouldn’t be too much trouble.
  • Ohio State (KenPom #1; RPI #7): Losing its first game of the conference season certainly hurts the Buckeyes when angling for a top seed. Its best chance for a statement win is now gone but Ohio State doesn’t have much time to relax. Iowa comes to Value City Arena this week and then a trip to The Barn isn’t a guaranteed win with the Golden Gophers needing a marquee win for its NCAA Tournament hopes.
  • Wisconsin (KenPom #3; RPI #1): The Badgers are well on their way to a top seed come March if it can continue to take care of business. Fran McCaffery helped them win at home, and then they easily took care of Illinois. Now, Wisconsin heads to Bloomington where Bo Ryan has owned Tom Crean. With its favorable schedule, Wisconsin looks like the best bet to become a top NCAA seed from the conference.

Playing to improve its seed

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Big Ten M5: 1.09.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 9th, 2014

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  1. A lot of people have questioned exactly how good Ohio State is this season. With a non-conference schedule that ended up being weaker than originally expected with Marquette, Notre Dame and Maryland all looking mediocre, the marquee win hasn’t come yet. After the Buckeyes overtime loss at Michigan State, Aaron Craft wasn’t shy about it either. The senior said “we haven’t really done much this year,” as their first loss came against their best opponent. It’s a good sign Craft and the other Ohio State players are questioning themselves after Tuesday night and not satisfied with an overtime defeat. This team may not have had a daunting non-conference schedule, but losing in that way with minimal contributions from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross shows this team has the talent and ability to be a contender.
  2. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to see games like Tuesday night from Adreian Payne. He has proven to be Michigan State‘s stud on the inside all year, but doing what he did through extreme foot pain? Well, that just adds another layer to the growing lore surrounding the Spartan big man. Payne apparently was in near tears before the Ohio State game while taking shots in the practice gym just an hour before the game. His ability to come out and obviously go through the pain and produce on a high level is something everyone would like to emulate. It also likely adds a nice marquee moment early in the Big Ten season as Payne is taking an early lead for the conference’s Player of the Year.
  3. The beginning of Mitch McGary‘s journey back to the basketball court is done. The Michigan sophomore had surgery Tuesday on his back that has caused him pain since before the season began and started the second semester of classes Wednesday. McGary now starts his rehab, which does not include traveling with the team for most road trips. The stress of sitting in a plane or bus for hours is something John Beilein puts secondary to making sure he recovers quickly.
  4. We’ve all complained (or at least heard someone do so) about the new rules this season. Fouls and free throws are up across the country and for a team like Nebraska this has been an especially big issue. The Cornhuskers committed 51 personal fouls in its first two conference games. For a team that is usually the less talented team on the court, fouling and giving its opponents free throws is something it simply cannot do. While no one expects Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten or to make the NCAA Tournament, a few wins here and there could get them into the CBI or maybe even the NIT, so it is still important they play smart and not help their opponents win the game.
  5. It’s become a familiar thing to hear in West Lafayette. Matt Painter said his team needs to “show maturity” as the Big Ten season progresses while it has the week off before playing Nebraska. For fans of Purdue, this line has become as common as hearing about the team’s youth. It certainly doesn’t lack that, playing three freshmen, one redshirt freshman and only having two seniors on the roster. Still, at this point, everyone on the roster has experienced at least half a college season and the lapses Purdue seems to show in games is perplexing (like the first 30 minutes at Minnesota). Painter never seemed to figure out the issue last year, so if the Boilermakers have any chance of turning the season around and going to the NCAA Tournament he needs to find a way this season. That or Purdue’s looking at the NIT, if not the CBI.
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