14. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6)
Yes, Minny is bad at the ol’ basketball this year. They have six losses and all but one were by double digits, while the one that wasn’t by double digits was by 9. So, you know, pretty much all by double digits. Their best win is, I dunno, an OT win over Cal Baptiste? The main objective for Ben Johnson and company is to come up with a cohesive core that is still around next year. That shouldn’t be hard with the lack of seniors on the team, but transfer addiction is real. Just ask Fred Hoiberg.
13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-6)
Nebraska finally gave fans a a reason to cheer here and there, mostly in their big win over Big Bird Creighton and taking Purdue to overtime. Otherwise, more of the same - their other five losses are by double digits and supposed big wins over Florida State and Boston College don’t mean much because those teams are Minnesota level terrible. Keisei Tominaga is fun and Derrick Walker is legit good, so they should give a few punches in league play this year.
12. Michigan Wolverines (7-4)
Michigan is easily the most disappointing team. They have tight losses to good teams in North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky. But they also have tight wins over bad teams in Ohio and Eastern Michigan. They got drilled by Arizona State, and generally have looked pretty rough, especially on defense. Hunter Dickinson has looked a bit out of sorts, and most of the supporting cast has provided little. Jett Howard has been great as a freshman, and is already getting long looks from NBA scouts. That figures to make for an awkward conversation with his dad about what he should do next season.
11. Michigan State Spartans (8-4)
Sparty had the look of being back early in the season with a tight loss to Gonzaga followed by wins over Kentucky and Villanova. Then Malik Hall got hurt, and it became apparent that having ten scholarship players, three of them freshmen, isn’t ideal. Still, the team isn’t garbage and it looks like Malik Hall will be back soon, so Sparty can get back in the mix for the conference.
10. Northwestern Wildcats (9-2)
Northwestern has put together an almost shockingly competent outfit this year. Their two losses are weird - a single point loss to Auburn and a shellacking by Pitt. Otherwise, they already have a win at Sparty and have mostly handled their admittedly light schedule. Defense has carried them - they are currently 4th in defensive efficiency (and, uh, 235th on offense). We’ll see if they can be a tough out day in and day out in conference play.
9. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)
The Badgers may not be first in the Fancystats, or first in our hearts, but they are first in the conference with wins over Iowa and Maryland. While their style is not, ahem, pleasing to watch, they have provided a lot of drama-filled games with three going to overtime, including a one point OT loss to Kansas. Freshman Connor Essegian has been the most pleasant surprise, and is shooting 46% from three. Wiscy’s offense has been poor (134th), so he’ll need to keep it up.
8. Illinois Fighting Illini (8-4)
What a weird ass team. They have wins over UCLA and Texas, but they got drilled by Mizzou and Penn State. They are also 0-2 in the conference already, and Brad Underwood is making fart noises when asked about Terrence Shannon’s leadership. Coming into the season, they had lots of good parts and it was unclear how they would play together. Now, we can confidently say...they are sometimes very good and sometimes very bad and sometimes in the middle.
7. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3)
Penn State is... Penn State is just a very competent team. Jalen Pickett has been phenomenal and may get even better, as he’s currently shooting a career low from three. They have lots of good shooters, and the only real weakness is their lack of big men. Kebba Njie is the only real center and has been just all right as a freshman. They are going to play small, shoot a ton of threes, and if you aren’t guarding you’ll get run out the gym, as Illinois recently experienced.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4)
Who knows what to do with this team. Kris Murray has been great, but is currently injured. Without him, they blitzed Iowa State, lost to Wiscy in overtime, and got Got by Eastern Illinois, one of the worst teams in basketball. They are done with nonconference play, so it’s all B1G from here on out. Kris Murray could possible come back this week against Nebraska, so we’ll see what they look like.
5. Indiana Hoosiers (10-3)
The heavy pick to win the B1G started off great, with wins over Xavier and North Carolina. Then Rutgers stuffed them into a trash can, and they haven’t quite gotten out. They were blown out by Arizona and Kansas, and they lost Xavier Johnson possibly for the season. Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino will likely be the fulltime point guard, but he’s been just all right so far this year, and they will need him to make a jump.
4. Maryland Terrapins (9-3)
Maryland sort of feels like Mario Kart, where you are having fun and power sliding, then all of a sudden get hit by a shell and are facing the wrong way. The Terps started off 8-0 and had a great win over Illinois, then lost three straight, including a butt-whooping by UCLA. They are getting solid contribution from four guys - they could really use a fifth for conference play. Donald Carey has been bad - 16-68 from three is not going to get it done. That’s by far a career low mark, so there is room for growth here if he can get untracked.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-3)
The Buckeyes were another mystery team coming into the season, but the results have been mostly strong. They have some nice wins over Rutgers and Texas Tech, and haven’t been horsewhipped in their losses, all to good teams in SDSU, Duke, and North Carolina. I thought Justice Sueing would have to make that great leap for them to contend. He hasn’t really, but Zed Key did and has turned into a strong post presence. Freshman Brice Sensabaugh has also been good, at least at getting buckets. They are also still adding pieces - Gene Brown looks to return soon from a concussion, which will add another versatile defender to the mix.
2. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-4)
Rutgers wants to come out and stuff teams into a locker and take their lunch money. Mostly, they have done just that. Outside of Cam Spencer, the team doesn’t shoot straight, and spends most of their time trying to generate dunks and layups. Then they play relentless defense, currently third in the land. They will be an extremely tough out every night, and are a couple plays from being 10-2. Thank God the refs weren’t paying close attention to Tanner Holden’s footwork.
1. Purdue Boilermakers (12-0)
The Boilermakers have been the clear cut #1 team in the conference this season, mostly on the back of Zach Edey, who is the frontrunner for POTY. Everyone else has been pleasantly efficient, including the freshman backcourt of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. They have four very strong wins over Duke, Marquette, Gonzaga, and West Virginia, plus, you know, zero losses. They have been pushed recently, with an OT win over Nebraska and a pretty tough test against Davidson. Hard to see anyone stuffing Zach Edey under the bleachers this year, but their freshmen may be cruising for a bruising.