Big Ten Power Rankings: January 19th

After another head-scratching, rage-inducing loss by Indiana, I thought I would rub salt in my own wounds by putting out a new set of Big Ten Power Rankings.

1. Ohio State (16-3, 4-2 Big Ten)

Best Win: Duke

Worst Loss: Illinois

Despite being on the receiving end of Brandon Paul’s 43-point explosion, I still think the Buckeyes are the best team in the league.  In conference games, they rank first in adjusted defensive efficiency and are in the top three in each of the four factors.  On offense, they are second in adjusted efficiency thanks to a 55.1 eFG% and a 38.1 OReb%.  However, they are ninth in TO% and 11th in FTR.  The TO% is a bit out of character given their season numbers, but a low FTR has plagued them throughout the year.  Both Deshaun Thomas and William Buford are below 25.0 in that category.

2. Michigan State (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten)

Best Win: Wisconsin

Worst Loss: Northwestern

After winning 15 straight games, the Spartans have now dropped two straight on the road against Northwestern and Michigan.  Winning away from home has proven tough in all leagues this year, but since MSU has played four of their first six conference games on the road, the schedule will even out for them going forward.  While offense was once the biggest knock on this team, they actually lead the league in adjusted efficiency in conference play.  Their three-point shooting has vastly improved, as they are hitting 43.4% from beyond the arc in conference games.  They are also tops in OReb%, which is not a surprise.  Sparty’s defense has dropped off a bit in conference play and currently ranks fifth in adjusted efficiency.  Much of that has to do with a 17.8 defensive TO% in league games, although a 34.1 FTR hasn’t done them any favors either.

3. Illinois (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten)

Best Win: Ohio State

Worst Loss: Purdue

Brandon Paul’s performance against Ohio State was amazing, but even with that, the Illini rank ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency with Paul’s ORtg a meager 97.2.  To some extent I worry that he might be compelled to shoot even more, which is not necessarily something you want a relatively inefficient player to do.  Illinois’ 24.1 TO% in league games ranks last, and their high two-point percentage continues to suggest Meyers Leonard needs more touches.  Defensively, they have done a solid job on the glass, ranking third in DReb%.  Thanks to Leonard, they are also blocking shots at a high rate.  Following Thursday’s game with Penn State, the remaining schedule is challenging to say the least.

4. Michigan (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten)

Best Win: Michigan State

Worst Loss: Iowa

The Wolverines are a tough team to figure out.  They nearly won at Indiana, blew out Wisconsin, allowed Northwestern to take them to overtime at home, got crushed at Iowa, and came home to beat Michigan State.  In conference play, they have taken 44.4% of their shots from beyond the arc, but they have made just 29.5% of those attempts.  They have a terrific 15.5 TO% in league games, but their struggles to get to the line have continued.  Their increased reliance on the three-pointer, as well as a low FTR, have ultimately led to some of their offensive inconsistency.  On defense, they are first in the league in opponents’ FTR but have allowed Big Ten foes to hit 41.9% from deep.

5. Wisconsin (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten)

Best Win: UNLV

Worst Loss: Iowa

Don’t look now, but the Badgers have bounced back from a three-game losing streak to win three in a row, including a key road win at Purdue and a 20-point blowout of Northwestern where they scored 1.31 ppp.  Offensively, they look quite a bit like Michigan in that they take 41.9% of their shots from three-point land, haven’t made a high percentage from there (32.2%), and have a low FTR (32.0).  Defensively, they lead the league with a 42.7 eFG%, although some of the credit there goes to having played Nebraska twice.  They also do a decent job of keeping opponents off of the free throw line, but their 13.9 defensive TO% is last in league play.  The upcoming schedule is relatively challenging, and they need consistent offensive threats to emerge.

6. Indiana (15-4, 3-4 Big Ten)

Best Win: Kentucky

Worst Loss: Nebraska

After being universally considered as one of the biggest surprises in college hoops, the wheels are starting to fall off for the Hoosiers who have now lost three straight following the loss at Nebraska.  You need look no further than their defensive stats to understand why.  They have the surrendered a league-worst 1.11 ppp in conference games.  IU’s defensive eFG% is 53.5% in those games, they are forcing relatively few turnovers, and they have gotten burned on the offensive glass.  Outside of continued strong shooting (particularly from three-point range), the offense hasn’t played too well either.  Poor decision-making has led to an 11th-ranked 21.6 TO% in league play.  The team has lacked the intensity and aggressiveness they displayed in beating the likes of Kentucky and Ohio State, and they look like a team on the brink of complete collapse if the losing attitude of the past few seasons creeps back in.

7. Purdue (14-5, 4-2 Big Ten)

Best Win: Illinois

Worst Loss: Penn State

The Boilers have alternated wins and losses over their last five games and are about to embark on a brutal stretch of their schedule with their next eight games against Michigan State and Northwestern twice, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, and Illinois.  Outside of offensive rebounding and free throw shooting, Purdue is playing well offensively and boasts the third-ranked adjusted offensive efficiency in league play. They rank first in TO% and are getting terrific play from Robbie Hummel on that end of the floor.  Surprisingly, the team’s biggest issues are on defense where they have surrendered 1.03 ppp in conference games.  Opponents are shooting well from long range and have posted a 39.9 FTR in Big Ten games.  The defense has to tighten up given their upcoming schedule, or else the Boilers might find themselves close to – or maybe even on – the bubble.

8. Northwestern (12-6, 2-4 Big Ten)

Best Win: Michigan State

Worst Loss: Illinois

The schedule has been relatively tough for the Wildcats, and if not for last weekend’s win over MSU, they would be on the outside looking in for a tournament bid.  As it stands, that victory has kept them in the discussion.  As has been the case in recent years, the defense and rebounding are flat out ugly.  They rank 11th with 1.10 ppp allowed and are ninth or worse in TO%, FTR, and DReb%.  Conference foes are hitting 40.0% from beyond the arc, and the Wildcats also have the lowest OReb% in the league.  Surprisingly, they rank first in FTR despite ranking 239th nationally for the season.  Led by John Shurna and Drew Crawford, Northwestern is hitting 38.3% of their threes in league play, and they have continued to post a low TO%.  In all, a team that has to rely heavily on its offense is scoring just 1.01 ppp in conference games.  That, coupled with their struggles defensively, doesn’t bode well for earning their first trip to the Big Dance.

9. Minnesota (14-5, 2-4 Big Ten)

Best Win: Indiana

Worst Loss: Iowa

The win over the Hoosiers doesn’t look quite as good now as it did at the time, but for now it has salvaged their tournament hopes.  The Gophers are in the middle of the pack in terms of both offensive and defensive efficiency, allowing 1.05 ppp while scoring 1.02.  Even without Trevor Mbakwe, the team has done a nice job on the offensive boards with Rodney Williams picking up most of the slack.  Still, this isn’t a team full of talented shooters, and they turn the ball over too much.  Defensively, they lead the league in block percentage in conference play but are 11th in both DReb% and FTR.  An at-large bid seems like a tall order, but for now the team is in the discussion.  They have already played four road games and have three of their next five away from home, so some home-cooking awaits down the stretch.

10. Iowa (11-9, 3-4 Big Ten)

Best Win: Wisconsin

Worst Loss: Campbell

The Hawkeyes have been all over the map so far, winning at Wisconsin and Minnesota and blowing out Michigan at home, while losing by a combined 63 points to OSU and MSU and being swept by Purdue.  Overall, they rank 10th in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.  Their greatest strengths are a strong 41.8 FTR and the fact they don’t put their opponents on the line much.  They are also second in the league at defending the three-point line, with conference foes hitting just 28.2% from deep.  However, they are the worst at defending two-pointers and rank 10th or 11th in defensive eFG%, TO%, and DReb%.  Ultimately, there are some talented young players on this roster, but that will also lead to some of the inconsistency they have shown in league play so far.

11. Nebraska (10-8, 2-5 Big Ten)

Best Win: Indiana

Worst Loss: Wake Forest

The Huskers were rewarded with a brutal opening schedule in their first year in the Big Ten, and things don’t get much easier with OSU up next.  Nebraska really struggles offensively, ranking 12th in overall efficiency and 10th or lower in each of the four factors.  Quite simply, their offense is going to make it very difficult for them to win games.  There are more positives on defense, as the Huskers rank first in three-point defense and steal percentage while placing third in TO%.  However, they struggle on the defensive glass and have allowed conference opponents to hit 55.4% of their twos.

12. Penn State (9-10, 1-5 Big Ten)

Best Win: Purdue

Worst Loss: Lafayette

Outside of the play of Tim Frazier, who currently leads the nation in assist rate, there haven’t been many positives for the Nittany Lions.  They rank 11th in offensive efficiency with just 0.98 ppp.  They do a solid job on the offensive glass, but they rank 11th in three-point shooting and 12th in two-point shooting, which creates plenty of opportunities to grab their own misses.  Penn State is 10th in defensive efficiency with 1.09 ppp allowed in conference play.  Interestingly, they are first in DReb% and second in TO%, but their defensive eFG% and FTR both are last.  In fact, their 59.2 FTR against them is staggering.

Follow me on Twitter (@AndyBottoms) for more of my thoughts on college basketball.