One week is complete in the men’s college basketball season and it was a disaster for the Big Ten. The Big Ten played 30 games - all home or neutral site games as the conference was too cowardly to hit the road in week 1. While there were some ugly performances, not all of them showed up in the loss column.
First the good news. In 24 buy games (games that the opponents are paid to come and play at your arena), the Big Ten went 23-1. Unfortunately there is not a single Quad 1 or Quad 2 victory for the resume in those 23 wins. The one loss was to a top 100 team in James Madison so at least that’s not awful. Very little to be proud of here, but the Big Ten avoided picking up ugly losses.
The bad news however is two-fold. In the 6 non-buy games, the Big Ten went 1-5. Only Northwestern picked up a good victory for the conference in their home win against Dayton. Home losses to Texas A&M and Tennessee by Ohio State and Wisconsin are understandable but missed opportunities. Neutral site losses against Davidson, UAB, and Princeton are games that hurt the national perception of the conference and make it less likely that Big Ten teams go dancing in March. Sure those losses hurt Maryland and Rutgers in particular, but they also hurt every Big Ten team’s schedule strength.
Beyond the losses, the Big Ten looked awful. There were a number of extremely close games against less than stellar competition during buy games. It’s one thing to start a game slow, it’s another to allow overmatched opponents to stick around into the final minutes of a game. Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers were all culprits.
Bart Torvik’s website has a neat function where you can see how many NCAA tournament bids a conference is projected to get. Based on preseason rankings the Big Ten was projected to get 7.8. In a sign of how poorly the week 1 performance was, that number now stands at 6.8.
Big Ten Team of the Week: Michigan
Michigan had the best week of any Big Ten team blowing out UNC Asheville and Youngstown State by 25 and 30 points. The Bulldogs won the Big South regular season and tournament last year while the Penguins won the Horizon regular season last year so these are teams used to winning. Michigan handled both with ease. The Wolverines shot extremely well, are limiting turnovers, and have been solid with rebounding and defense. Newcomer Olivier Nkamhoua has been fantastic while Dug McDaniel, Tarris Reed, and Terrance Williams have taken their games to new levels.
Honorable mention: Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue
Best Win: Northwestern over Dayton
Northwestern grabbed the only win for the conference over a team that has a reasonable chance of getting an at-large bid. It is the only win the Big Ten currently has against a top 100 team and should be a quad 2 victory at the end of the season. Ryan Langborg provided much needed shooting ability for the Wildcats to get the win.
Honorable mention: N/A
Player of the Week: Olivier Nkamhoua
Nkamhoua had 25 points and 7 rebounds against Asheville and then followed that up with a 17 point, 10 rebound game against Youngstown. He’s been extremely efficient from the field, missing very few shots. The performance of Nkamhoua is a major reason why Michigan is one of the very few Big Ten teams that look better than their preseason expectations.
Honorable mention: Tyson Walker, Kel’el Ware, Dawson Garcia, Bruce Thornton
- I don’t want to read too much into one week, but Illinois looks a lot like the Illini of last year. Talented but inconsistent. It may be as simple as their three point shooting. On good shooting nights, Illinois can beat anyone. On bad shooting nights, they are going to struggle.
- Indiana has the talent to be better. Most of their issues appear to be effort related. They’ve been a poor rebounding team despite running with three big, athletic players in their starting lineup. They turn the ball over a lot. Off ball defenders are slow to rotate and out of position. The good news is these problems are fixable.
- Iowa can still score at a high clip. We find out Tuesday whether they have improved their defense at all.
- Maryland finished in 4th place out of the 4 teams at the Asheville championship. The lost their two games by a combined 6 points. The whole Asheville tournament saw four games separated by a grand total of 10 points, so Maryland wasn’t too far off from the champion Clemson. However, I don’t think Terrapin fans were expecting to be in the same realm as Davidson, UAB, and Clemson coming into the year though.
- Michigan has moved to 5-2 under Phil Martelli (Martelli went 3-2 during Juwan Howard’s 2022 suspension). Martelli is still a good coach, he just isn’t interested in recruiting anymore. Having him on the staff is a major boon for Juwan Howard while Howard recovers from his offseason heart surgery.
- Michigan State is shooting 6.5% from three, last among all Division 1 teams in games against fellow Division 1 competition. That’s really all you need to know about the Spartans performance so far.
- Minnesota beat two consecutive opponents by 20+ points. In his first two seasons, head coach Ben Johnson led the team to just one victory by twenty or more. I don’t think any of us are suddenly projecting Minnesota to make the NIT, but its an encouraging improvement.
- Over half of Nebraska’s field goal attempts are coming from behind the three point line. That’s not necessarily bad, the Cornhuskers are making their shots and sharing the basketball to get open looks.
- Northwestern is 2-0 and has the best win in the conference. Ryan Langborg looks like a more than capable partner for Boo Buie.
- Ohio State has let opponents be a little too comfortable on the offensive end of the court. Oakland had just 9 turnovers while Texas A&M only committed 6. Both teams had a ton of offensive rebounds as well. The Buckeyes offense can compete, but the defense still needs some work.
- Through two games, the Nittany Lions are tied with their opponents in rebounding 79-79. Neither Delaware State nor Lehigh are known for being prolific rebounding teams.
- Purdue has 48 assists on 59 made field goals. The team is sharing the basketball and finding the open shot.
- Rutgers doesn’t have a player they can count on for offense. They are getting inconsistent scoring from all of their options.
- Wisconsin has the second fastest tempo among Big Ten teams so far this season. If you thought that would be the case, please also share the next Powerball numbers in the comments.
- The final edition of the Gavitt Games against the Big East kicks off tonight and finishes on Friday. This is a prime opportunity for the Big Ten to repair some of the damage of week 1.
- Champions Classic watches Michigan State face off against an angry Duke squad on Tuesday.
- Nebraska begins something called a Cornhusker Classic. When I complained about Nebraska competing in this instead of a typical MTE, my concern was that a decent Nebraska team wouldn’t be able to rely on the Big Ten to boost their tournament profile. That concern is heightened after week 1.
- Minnesota plays their lone high major opponent in Missouri.
- The weekend sees the start of the four MTEs: Northwestern in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Indiana in the Empire Classic, and on campus games of the Acrisure Invitational (Michigan State) and Emerald Coast Classic (Ohio State).
- Elsewhere buy games continue.
How bad was week 1 for the Big Ten?
This poll is closed
It’s a long season, let’s not overreact
Plenty of opportunities remain, but things look bad
They will be lucky to get 5 teams in the NCAA tournament