14. Rutgers (6-13, 0-6 B1G)
Last Week: at Ohio State (L, 68-94); Purdue (L, 57-107)
This past week, Rutgers lost its fourth and fifth straight conference games by 20-plus points, so, thanks to some inspiration from Twitter friend Craig Barker, it's time to play what will be our new favorite game: "The Ruins of Rutgers." Each week in these power rankings, The Ruins of Rutgers will evaluate where in the pantheon of terrible Big Ten basketball teams the Scarlet Knights stand. I will do this two ways. First, I will rank the worst Big Ten-only efficiency margins in the KenPom era. Second, because the KenPom era dates back to only the 2001-02 season, I also will see how Rutgers compares to all other Big Ten basketball teams that were winless in conference play. On that note:
|Rank||Team||KenPom Rank||Big Ten Record||Big Ten Efficiency Margin (Per 100 Possessions)|
|2||2005 Penn State||215||1-15||-24.4|
|4||2004 Penn State||218||3-13||-22.2|
|10||2003 Penn State||212||2-14||-18.4|
At this point, Rutgers clearly is on pace to be the worst Big Ten team of the KenPom era.
As for all-time, I looked back to when Michigan State began Big Ten competition in 1950-51. Since then, there have been only two teams that were winless in Big Ten play: 1991 Northwestern (0-18) and 2000 Northwestern (0-16). There are no per-possession stats available for those teams, but the 1991 Wildcats lost their 18 games by an average of 16.7 points and the 2000 Wildcats lost their 16 games by an average of 19.5 points. This Rutgers team? It has lost its six Big Ten games by an average of 27.3 points. Again, these aren't adjusted for pace, so they're not a true measurement of each team's terribleness. But Rutgers is set to be the Big Ten's worst team since at least the start of the Cold War.
13. Minnesota (6-12, 0-6 B1G)
Last Week: at Nebraska (L, 59-84); Indiana (L, 63-70)
Along with Rutgers, Minnesota has been one of the Big Ten's worst rebounding teams:
This trend popped up in both of its games last week. On Tuesday, the Gophers were out-rebounded by Nebraska, 40-22, as the Huskers grabbed 51.6 percent of their misses. On Saturday, Indiana won the battle on the glass, 39-31, as the Hoosiers more than doubled Minnesota's offensive rebounding rate (31.6 pct. to 15.6 pct.). This ultimately didn't burn Minnesota because neither opponent converted many of these second chances into points. Nonetheless, it's yet another problem dragging the Gophers down in the Big Ten.
12. Penn State (11-8, 2-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Purdue (L, 57-74); at Northwestern (W, 71-62)
Senior forward Brandon Taylor fires at will -- he's second in shot rate in Big Ten play -- and it usually doesn't go as well as he or the Penn State coaches would like because Taylor's eFG% is below 50. However, he shook that off and had one of his better weeks. In two games against Purdue and Northwestern, Taylor averaged 20.0 PPG -- tied for the second-most last week -- and connected on 15-of-28 shots. His eFG%? 62.5. If the Nittany Lions can get more efficient weeks like this from Taylor, they have much better odds of earning road wins like the one they got against Northwestern in Evanston last weekend.
11. Illinois (9-9, 1-4 B1G)
Last Week: Nebraska (L, 67-78)
A week after stunning Purdue at home, Illinois used up all of the goodwill it'd earned and then some by losing to Nebraska by double digits in Champaign. One thing that Illinois did so well against Purdue was attack the rim. The Illini were aggressive, attempting 31 twos to 17 threes and shooting a whopping 28 free throws. So what did the Illini do against Nebraska? They hung around the perimeter and jacked up threes. Thirty-seven of their 59 field-goal attempts were threes (62.7 pct.) despite that they made 54.5 percent of their twos and only 29.7 percent of their shots behind the arc. What a smart strategy!
10. Nebraska (11-8, 3-3 B1G)
Last Week: Minnesota (W, 84-59); at Illinois (W, 78-67)
After dropping its first three Big Ten games, Nebraska has won its last three. Whom the Huskers have beaten isn't impressive whatsoever. Their three victims were Rutgers, Minnesota, and Illinois -- three schools below them in these power rankings. However, what has been impressive is how they have beaten their victims. In its three Big Ten wins, two of which were on the road, Nebraska's average margin of victory was 23.3 points. These have been comfortable wins, and KenPom recognizes that. As a result, Nebraska skied up KenPom's rankings from #143 to #89 in the span of a week. We'll see how the Huskers handle the Big Ten's best teams, but they don't look to be a pushover.
9. Northwestern (15-4, 3-3 B1G)
Last Week: Wisconsin (W, 70-65); Penn State (L, 62-71)
Northwestern's home loss to Penn State did more damage than any good the Wisconsin win did. Due to their lackluster non-conference schedule, it's widely believed that the Wildcats need 11 Big Ten wins to dance in March, and a home game against lowly Penn State wasn't one they could afford to lose. But they lost it, and now their NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support. So why did Northwestern falter in this game? NU couldn't buy a bucket from the outside, missing its first 17 threes before finishing with a 3-of-26 mark. Not only is this one of the 10 worst three-point shooting performances by a Big Ten team since 2010, it's not even Northwestern's worst this year:
|1||November 11, 2010||Penn State||St. Joseph's||1-21||4.8|
|t-2||February 13, 2011||Northwestern||Penn State||2-21||9.5|
|March 11, 2011||Wisconsin||Penn State||2-21||9.5|
|t-4||November 11, 2011||Michigan State||North Carolina||2-20||10.0|
|February 5, 2013||Penn State||Purdue||2-20||10.0|
|February 7, 2015||Nebraska||Penn State||2-20||10.0|
|January 2, 2016||Northwestern||Maryland||2-20||10.0|
|8||December 31, 2011||Wisconsin||Iowa||3-28||10.7|
|9||December 1, 2010||Penn State||Maryland||3-27||11.1|
|10||January 16, 2016||Northwestern||Penn State||3-26||11.5|
Side note: how strange is it that Penn State was involved in seven (!!) of these games?
8. Wisconsin (10-9, 2-4 B1G)
Last Week: at Northwestern (L, 65-70); Michigan State (W, 77-76)
Wisconsin fans must have been singing "Hallelujah!" after the Badgers eked out a 77-76 win against Michigan State. Wisconsin found itself in a predicament it had seen far too often this season: it was in a tight game in the final minute. These had not gone well as the Badgers were 1-7 in games decided by six points or fewer and lost their four conference games by a grand total of 15 points. And, with less than a minute remaining, Wisconsin trailed by four points and was on the verge of dropping to 1-8 in close games. However, the Badgers finally caught a break. Bronson Koenig drilled a three to cut the deficit to one point, Eron Harris stepped out of bounds on the sideline for a turnover even though the shot clock was turned off, Ethan Happ muscled in a layup to give Wisconsin the lead, and Denzel Valentine bricked a three in the final seconds to seal it.
7. Ohio State (12-7, 4-2 B1G)
Last Week: Rutgers (W, 94-68); at Maryland (L, 65-100)
Good news: JaQuan Lyle became the fourth Big Ten player to record a triple-double this year, tallying 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in Ohio State's 94-68 win vs. Rutgers.
Bad news: OSU's 35-point loss at Maryland was the second-largest margin of defeat in a Big Ten game in the past six years. First? Purdue's 97-60 home loss to Indiana in 2013.*
*This was written before Rutgers dropped dead against Purdue, 107-57.
6. Michigan (13-5, 3-2 B1G)
Last Week: Maryland (W, 70-67); at Iowa (L, 71-82)
Michigan is on pace to break the Big Ten record for most made threes in a single season. The record is held by the 2004-05 Illinois team that finished as the national runner-ups to North Carolina. That Illini outfit drilled 344 threes in 39 games, averaging 8.82 threes per game. However, that's not the highest per-game average by a Big Ten team. Both 2010-11 Northwestern and 2014-15 Indiana posted 9.38 threes per game but didn't have the benefit of playing as many games as 2004-05 Illinois. Nonetheless, this Michigan team could break both records. Through 18 games, the Wolverines made 196 threes for an average of 10.89 threes per game. If they maintain that pace, they will make 359 threes even if they lose their first Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament or NIT games.
5. Indiana (15-3, 5-0 B1G)
Last Week: at Minnesota (W, 70-63)
Which of these high-major players has had the better season?
It seems pretty clear to me: Player A.
Yet, when the Wooden Award's Midseason Top 25 was released last week, Player B was on the list, not Player A. Player B is Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray, while Player A is Indiana senior Yogi Ferrell. It surprised me that Ferrell was not included on this list, joining the four other Big Ten candidates -- Michigan's Caris LeVert, Maryland's Melo Trimble, Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff, and Michigan State's Denzel Valentine. Ferrell has been fantastic for Indiana, who is 15-3 and riding a 10-game winning streak. No, the Hoosiers haven't played the toughest schedule, which is why they're #5 on this list, but Ferrell shouldn't be blamed for that. Instead, he should be honored as one of the nation's best.
4. Purdue (16-3, 4-2 B1G)
Last Week: Penn State (W, 74-57); at Rutgers (W, 107-57)
This section needed to be rewritten after the atomic bomb that Purdue dropped on Piscataway on Monday night. The Boilermakers demolished the Scarlet Knights, 107-57, and there are so many insane stats that I don't even know where to begin. How about that Purdue scored more points in the first half (59) than Rutgers did in the entire game (57)? How about that Purdue's bench scored as many points (57) as Rutgers' entire team (57)? How about that Purdue grabbed four more offensive rebounds (27) than Rutgers grabbed total rebounds (23)? How about that the 107 points that Purdue notched were the most ever by a team in a Big Ten game in the KenPom era (since 2001-02)? Seriously.
3. Michigan State (16-3, 3-3 B1G)
Last Week: Iowa (L, 59-76); at Wisconsin (L, 76-77)
There was much conversation about officiating after Michigan State was whistled for 28 fouls in its 77-76 last-second loss to Wisconsin. The fouls sent Wisconsin to the free-throw line 36 times, and Wisconsin made 29 of them -- 17 more than the Spartans -- which became significant in a one-point game. The game was called very tight, and, though I thought some fouls were ticky-tacky, I thought it mostly was called correctly by the letter of the law. But that's not what I'm here to discuss. What I'm here to discuss is a trend that I have discovered: Michigan State's seven worst defensive free-throw rates this season have been on a neutral site or on the road. Here's the list of those games:
|Rank||Date||Opponent||Site||MSU Fouls||Opponent FTM-FTA||Opponent FTA/FGA|
|1||January 17, 2016||Wisconsin||Away||28||29-36||76.6%|
|2||December 22, 2015||Oakland||Neutral||31||39-48||73.8%|
|3||December 29, 2015||Iowa||Away||27||23-31||55.4%|
|4||January 10, 2016||Penn State||Away||25||20-28||54.9%,|
|5||November 27, 2015||Boise State||Neutral||23||18-25||51.0%|
|6||November 17, 2015||Kansas||Neutral||25||24-30||45.5%|
|7||December 19, 2015||Northeastern||Away||21||12-23||39.0%|
On the other hand, nine of MSU's 12 lowest defensive free-throw rates were at home.
Does this mean that Michigan State is getting an unfair whistle outside of East Lansing? Maybe, maybe not. It's possible that Michigan State is getting a friendly whistle at home. It's possible that Michigan State has faced more aggressive teams on the road. It's possible that Michigan State has played better competition on the road, which means the Spartans are more inclined to foul those athletes. There are numerous potential explanations for this trend. Either way, it's clear MSU needs to keep its hands off the opponent away from the Breslin Center, even if that means tying those hands up:
Izzo is "400 percent" serious that he will have players' hands tied behind their backs today.— Mike Wilson (@MikeWilson247) January 18, 2016
2. Maryland (16-2, 5-1 B1G)
Last Week: at Michigan (L, 67-70); Ohio State (W, 100-65)
One game after Maryland couldn't knock down an outside shot against Michigan (6-of-24 3P), Maryland couldn't miss from anywhere. The Terrapins sunk 26-of-38 twos (68.4 pct.) and 11-of-21 threes (52.4 pct.), which propelled them to a lead as large as 44 points before they had to settle for a 100-65 win against Ohio State. This was a milestone win as it was the first time that a Big Ten team had scored 100 points against a fellow Big Ten school since Indiana took down Iowa, 103-89, on January 29, 2012. It's a rare treat.*
*So, of course, two days later, Purdue dropped 107 points on Rutgers.
1. Iowa (14-3, 5-0 B1G)
Last Week: at Michigan State (W, 76-59); Michigan (W, 82-71)
This is the third straight week that Iowa has been atop of these power rankings, and, after this past week, everyone has learned why. The Hawkeyes are 5-0 in the Big Ten despite facing what most metrics consider to be the toughest five-game opening stretch in Big Ten play, and they won four of them by double digits and all five by at least seven points. In fact, not only did they sweep Michigan State, who was the nation's #1 team for much of the non-conference season, they became just the second team to beat the Spartans by at least 15 points at the Breslin Center since the 2003-04 season. The only other time it has happened: Purdue's 67-47 win over Michigan State on February 27, 2011.