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The 100 best B1G basketball teams since the B1G stopped winning national championships

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Episode 2 of a VERY SPECIAL OTE SERIES

These teams weren’t quite shredded enough to make the top 100

I realize this is a fool’s errand. Even if I tried to get this list perfect (which I did not), everybody weights things differently. You can allocate weights in advance, run the math, and let the chips fall. But there are already plenty of ratings out there that do that. Heck, you could take several of those, aggregate them together, and do pretty well. Even doing that, though, leaves several problems.

The biggest, of course, is that those ratings tend to treat all games equally. But this is CBB, and all games are not equal. Let’s just call this the “2011 Ohio State” problem for now, knowing that it will come up trying to slot them in much later in the ratings.

For now, today’s list is the honorable mention teams. I’ve grouped them into six different groups, each of which also speaks to a different problem in figuring out how to rank teams. Starting off...

What Do You Do With 2020?

  • 2020 Indiana, 20-12/9-11; likely 10-seed, #34 in KP
  • 2020 Purdue, 16-15/9-11; likely NIT, #24 in KP
  • 2020 Minnesota, 15-16; likely no postseason, #27 in KP

This one’s obvious, and, given the teams above, it should be obvious that I’ve gone ahead and ranked some (a lot, actually) of B1G teams from 2020. That year would be tricky regardless, but it especially is for B1G schools because the conference was so loaded. Could Indiana have made a run? Sure. Was Purdue as good as some B1G schools that made NIT runs? Definitely.

BoilerUp89: This was a Purdue team that could beat anyone (and did) and lose to anyone (and did). As much as I enjoyed watching them play and grow throughout that year, they don’t belong in the top 100.

Kind of...: Minnesota might seem like a stretch, but again: the 12th place team in the conference was #27 in KenPom. There are a lot worse things ruined by Covid, obviously. But that is one of the deepest conferences you’ll ever see, and these three teams deserve at least a quick shout out.

Now, the conference was supposed to be great in 2021, too, but faceplanted in March. I get that. Without a postseason, a lot of the B1G’s 2020 reputation hinges on ratings. But, even beyond 2020, we need to address...

How Much Should Love From Advanced Ratings Matter?

  • 2001 Purdue: #28 in SRS (no KP rankings in 2001)
  • 2017 Indiana: #33 in SRS, #44 in KP
  • 2019 Nebraska: #29 in SRS; #47 in KP
  • 2021 Penn State: #38 in SRS; #40 in KP
  • [2005 Ohio State: #32 SRS; #30 in KP]

Obviously I left some information out here, so you probably understand the point already. Purdue went 6-10 in conference play. Indiana 7-11. Nebraska 6-14. Penn State 7-12. [Ohio State was 8-8, but on probation.]

None sniffed the NCAA tournament. So, no, none really merit much of a look.

But, if the advanced rankings can deviate from overall record this much, what should we do with them in closer calls? Might there be a 24-11 team that deserves to be ranked ahead of a 30-6 teams merely based on what the rankings say about them? Should advanced rankings be considered in breaking ties?

I consulted KP and SRS just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything obvious, but I tend not to rely on them too much. (Though this is in part because they DO tend to align with other indicators relatively well.) And when I look at them at all, I look at the ranking, not the rating. I think it can be helpful in giving a sense of how good/deep the B1G as a whole may have been, which is useful context.

Should We Care About NIT runs?

  • 2004 Michigan, 23-11/8-8, won NIT, #44 KP
  • 2006 Michigan, 22-11/8-8, lost NIT final, #28 KP
  • 2008 Ohio State, 24-13/10-8, won NIT, #31 KP
  • 2009 Penn State, 27-11/10-8, won NIT, #57 KP
  • 2013 Iowa, 25-13/9-9, lost NIT final, #29 KP

An NIT run adds victories and might boost your advanced rating numbers. Should that matter? I definitely took NIT performance into account to some extent. We all know that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee used to be wedded to a very flawed RPI metric, which meant that every year NCAA-caliber teams were passed over. I don’t think that’s true of all five of these teams, and it’s perhaps ironic that the two that look the best to the advanced metrics were the two that lost the NIT final.

Ultimately I don’t think any of these teams merited inclusion in the top 100, but ‘08 OSU and ‘13 Iowa both were especially egregiously screwed over by the committee.

How Much Can You Redeem Your Season in the NCAA Tournament?

  • 2013 Illinois, 23-13/8-10, 7-seed, lost to Miami (FL) in second round, #39 KP
  • 2019 Minnesota, 22-14/9-11, 10-seed, lost to Michigan State in second round, #46 KP
  • 2019 Ohio State, 20-15/8-12, 11-seed, lost to Houston in second round, #44 KP
  • 2021 Maryland, 17-14/9-11, 10-seed, lost to Alabama in second round, #35 KP

You will sometimes hear talking heads opine that “if you don’t have a winning record in your conference, you shouldn’t make the NCAA tournament.” I simply disagree, and these four teams all went sub .500 in B1G play, but went on to win a tournament game. In the case of 2013 Illinois, they damn near made the Sweet 16. Look at the B1G in 2013 (and recall Iowa, above, getting hosed out of an at-large bid despite being 9-9 in conference play). The B1G’s KP rating, as a conference, was 17.54. Second place, the Big East, was 13.81. The 3.73 gap between first and second was more than the gap between second and sixth. It’s not Illinois’ fault they were playing in a stacked league. And, had they knocked off Miami, they’re in the top 100, like every other B1G team that made the Sweet 16 in this period. This includes two teams that wouldn’t have been in the top 100 otherwise, which leads to...

Who Would Be In If I Didn’t Make Any “Accommodations”?

  • 2007 Illinois, 23-12/9-7, 12-seed, lost to Virginia Tech in first round, #36 KP
  • 2012 Purdue, 22-13/10-8, 10-seed, lost to Kansas in second round, #30 KP
  • 2015 Maryland, 28-7/14-4, 4-seed, lost to West Virginia in second round, #33 KP
  • 2017 Minnesota, 23-8/11-7, 5-seed, lost to MTSU in first round, #37 KP
  • 2019 Iowa, 23-12/10-10, 10-seed, lost to Tennessee in second round, #37 KP
  • 2021 Rutgers, 16-12/10-10, 10-seed, lost to Houston in second round, #38 KP

I made the following accommodations: 1) every B1G school got a team in the top 100, 2) every B1G team that won a share of a regular season conference championship made the top 100, 3) every B1G team that won the conference tournament made the top 100, 4) every B1G team that made the Sweet 16 made the top 100.

By my lights, that means there are six teams in the top 100 for one of those four reasons that wouldn’t have made the list otherwise. These six teams most likely would’ve filled those slots.

BoilerUp89: That 2012 Purdue team was my senior year and while not the most talented group I’ve ever seen they were fighters. Oddly enough, they put up one of the better tournament challenges to a 1 or 2 seed than any of Painter’s teams despite entering the tournament short handed once again. But it was a good year for the B1G and for the most part the Boilers couldn’t stick with the top teams in the conference that year. Hummel left it all out on the court in their final game.

Preempting Complaints to come

What follows are the five teams that won an NCAA tournament game, have not yet been mentioned, and are not in the top 100, along with the two highest rated teams per KP that have not yet been mentioned, and that are not in the top 100.

  • 2003 Indiana, 21-13/8-8, 7-seed, lost to Pittsburgh in second round, KP #41
  • 2005 Iowa, 21-12/7-9, 10-seed, lost to Cincinnati in first round, #27 KP
  • 2006 Michigan State, 22-12/8-8, 6-seed, lost to George Mason in first round, KP #27
  • 2006 Indiana, 19-12/9-7, 6-seed, lost to Gonzaga in second round, KP #34
  • 2009 Michigan, 21-14/9-9, 10-seed, lost to Oklahoma in second round, KP #47
  • 2009 Wisconsin, 20-13/10-8, 12-seed, lost to Xavier in second round, KP #29
  • *2016 Michigan, 23-13/10-8, 11-seed, lost to Notre Dame in first round, KP #50
*The NCAA counts the play-in games, so I will too.

Kind of...: This Badger squad overcame a six-game losing streak in B1G play, and the KP ranking suggests a pretty damn good team. That said, there was no win of note away from home, other than knocking off 5-seed Florida State in the first round game. And that FSU team was #39 in KP. Far from a vintage Bo Ryan squad.