At this point, I feel comfortable in saying that five Big Ten teams (Indiana,
Here’s a quick look at those four squads as we head into the final few weeks of the season.
To say the Illini are in serious trouble is an understatement. After losing at home to Purdue on Wednesday night, they have now lost seven of their last eight games. Their last two wins have come when Brandon Paul scored 43 points and in a 42-41 abomination versus
The offense has been poor throughout conference play and ranks 10th in efficiency. The Illini rank in the bottom half of the league in all four factors, and while they are first in two-pointing shooting at 52.5%, they are 10th in both free throw and three-point shooting.
Unfortunately, that uptick in offense has been accompanied by a decline on defense, as the Illini have surrendered 1.05 ppp or more in four straight games. As a frame of reference, they allowed just five of their first 22 opponents to break that mark.
The remaining schedule doesn’t work in
The Gophers have lost two straight and four of their last six to fall to 5-8 in league play after they had bounced back nicely from a 0-4 start. If you’re looking for a silver lining, they are 2-2 against the other three bubble teams in the conference.
The Gophers have easily the most challenging schedule of the group. This weekend they travel to Northwestern for a huge bubble game before a three-game stretch when they host
Northwestern (15-10, 5-8 Big Ten, RPI: 44)
The Wildcats missed a golden opportunity at
Northwestern has the best offense of this group but also the worst defense. They rank fourth in offensive efficiency, powered by the top-ranked eFG%. The Wildcats are second in three-point shooting at 39.8% and rank third in FTR and fourth in TO%. They take 41.6% of their shots from beyond the arc and score a league-high 36.8% of their points on three-pointers. On the negative side, they are dead last in both OReb% and free throw shooting. Still, they have scored at least 1.04 ppp in their last six games, including four of the last five contests where they have posted 1.17 ppp or more.
Unless you give them credit for the fact that their opponents have a poor free throw shooting percentage, there isn’t much good to say about the Northwestern defense. They rank last in overall efficiency, 11th in eFG%, 10th in TO%, and seventh in FTR. The Wildcats have allowed their last nine opponents to score at least 1.07 ppp, and they have held just two league foes below 1.03 ppp. Consequently, they have no choice but to simply outscore people.
Of the first three teams listed here, the Wildcats have the best shot to get to 9-9 in the league. That assumes they win at
Purdue (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten, RPI: 46)
Following Wednesday’s win at
While many of Matt Painter’s recent teams have relied on a stingy defense, this incarnation of the Boilers is far more reliant on its offense. They rank fifth in overall efficiency, due in large part to an outstanding 12.5 TO% in league play. Outside of that, they are in the bottom half of the league in the other three factors. Purdue ranks fourth in three-pointing shooting but have much less success inside the arc, ranking 10th on two-point shooting and 11th from the stripe. They have scored at least 1.05 ppp in 10 of 13 Big Ten games, but they have been held to 0.91 or less in the other three.
Purdue has really struggled defensively and ranks 10th in efficiency during conference play. They are eighth or worse in all four factors and are 11th in three-point defense. The Boilers have allowed at least 1.01 ppp in 10 league games, with two of the other three coming against an offensively challenged
The Boilers have home games remaining against
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