This current Michigan State basketball team is the class of the B1G, and there is a substantial drop-off below the Spartans. The Purdue Boilermakers were able to shake off a couple bad performances in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend, and now they look very solid.
Then, once again, there’s a massive drop-off to the rest of the league. It’s MSU, Purdue and then just a bunch of guys. Some of those guys are better than the others, but there is no squad that is must see other than the Purdue and Michigan State basketball teams.
There has been a lot of media coverage about the B1G having issues in football, as they get left out of the playoff this season, and were shut out during their last two appearances. The league made up for it by putting in a dominant 7-1 showing in the bowl season, including a 4-0 mark against the Pac 12. However, hoops is the area where the true issues are, and that gets overlooked of course, because football is exponentially more popular than basketball.
1. Michigan State basketball (14-1, 2-0)
Ranked #1 in the AP poll, with 43/65 first place votes, State is the class of the league, and college hoops in general. Michigan State basketball has a signature win over North Carolina, to go along with victories over UConn and Notre Dame.
2. Purdue (13-2, 2-0)
The Boilermakers have righted the ship and racked up some quality wins and separated themselves from the rest of the herd, but not quite up to State’s level. The win over Louisville was a really fun night for all involved in Boiler nation, and even the trip to Atlantis is an experience that’s aging better each week.
The Tennessee loss doesn’t look as bad, and the Arizona win keeps getting better. The Boilers are doing it with balance on both ends, hitting the century club early and often this season.
Likely Tournament Teams
3. Michigan (13-3, 2-1)
There is no third team in the B1G to even receive a single vote in the latest AP poll, let alone be ranked in the top 25. Hey, you have to put somebody third though! I’m a big believer in the Wolverines talent level, and I see John Beilein as an underrated mentor who will be able to maximize it. Also, he’s accomplished so much more, with way less hype, than Jim Harbaugh has in Ann Arbor.
Yes, he’s been there much longer, but as Twitter lit up Michigan football for imploding in the second half of their bowl game and ruining the B1G’s perfect postseason, this tweet about Michigan hoops was an insight:
Beilein gets no hype, yet he has done more for Michigan than Harbaugh has..
— ??ichiganUpdates™ (@MichiganUpdates) January 1, 2018
4. Maryland (13-3, 2-1)
Again, hey you have to put somebody fourth. You got to like the Terps’ talent to start the season, but losing sophomore forward Justin Jackson for the entire season really hurts. He was struggling this season, especially when juxtaposed against the impressive rookie year he had, but he’s a NBA early entry level talent. His setback means he’ll most likely return to school next season.
Then a couple days later the Turtles lost role player Ivan Bender. Maryland has had some bad news lately, but they still might be better than most of the league.
5. Ohio State (11-4, 2-0)
You got to love the Chris Holtmann hire, but what he inherited makes for a rough go of it in 2017-18. Or at least most of us thought so entering the season. The Buckeyes have pleasantly surprised, and hey, you got to put somebody fifth. Three of Ohio State’s four losses were to RPI top 20 teams, and the fourth was Gonzaga- not too shabby.
Could Make the Tournament with Some Work and Improvements
6. Minnesota (12-3, 1-1)
I’ve never understood the love for this team the past two years; I just don’t see it. The luster seems to be off them now somewhat, after an underwhelming first couple months. It was ridiculous that they were ranked as high as #14, and oh by the way last year’s #12 over #5 upset in the NCAA Tournament was the most predictable thing ever. They are second in the nation in blocks though.
7. Penn State (11-5, 1-2)
It’s their time to crack the top half of the league. They have the raw talent for it, and there’s no better opening than now, given the weakness of the league. We don’t now how good or how not good they are right now though, cuz that non-conference schedule was pillow top mattress soft.
Oh and hey, they are tied with Purdue for sixth in the nation in blocks.
8. Nebraska (11-5, 2-1)
In the words of Kenny Loggins “this is it, make no mistake where you are, your back’s to the corner” for NU coach Tim Miles. Why did we cite such a cheesy, awful ’80s artist here? For comedic purposes, and Miles is by far the league’s best comedian, so we think he would appreciate it, as now makes a stand to keep his job.
Look Ahead to 2018-19 Already
9. Rutgers (10-5, 0-2)
This is a typo.
No, seriously, don’t laugh, they’re not as bad as you think. Did you watch their home against Michigan State? The Scarlet Knights gave them a much better fight than the Spartans will receive from a lot of teams this season. They also beat a ranked team, which is not something you can say for a lot of B1G teams.
10. Northwestern (10-6, 1-2)
They’re not last year’s team by any stretch and they will fall well short of the lofty preseason expectations bestowed upon them this year. Sanjay Lumpkin was an underrated man and an unsung hero last season, as they haven’t been able to truly replace him. No true home games, difficulty in adjusting to life as the hunted, not the hunters- it all adds up to the disappointment you’re seeing now.
The Cats pre-conference was a familiar script for the most part- they hammered the nobodies, mid-majors and low-majors, but got absolutely thumped by the high-majors.
11. Illinois (10-5, 0-2)
The Braggin’ Rights game was by far the best atmosphere Illinois has played in all season long, as 21,289 showed up for an installment of a series that has been mired in apathy for several years. They saw Illinois put in what was by far the best half of basketball that they have played all season long for the first 20 minutes.
Usually, it’s the second half where the Illini get it together, but nevertheless, they can’t seem to ever put two good halves together in the same game. Yes, they’re very young, but they will have to learn how to do that soon, otherwise this season goes nowhere. The hole that they are in now, it’s going to take a 12-4 finish to safely secure a NCAA Tournament at large berth without having to worry about conference tournament play.
12. Indiana (8-7, 1-2)
Archie Miller was a great get, but it’s going to take awhile; that’s just how it is. We just hope IU fans can be realistic and patient enough to give him a proper chance. At the same time, Hoosier Nation might need to come to grips with the fact that the ’70s and ’80s are probably never coming back.
13. Wisconsin (9-7, 2-1)
It feels extremely odd to see the Badgers outside the top four, and blasphemous to have them in the lower half of the league, let alone double digits in the power ranking, let alone dead last! This is unbelievable as Wisconsin is a traditional league power and Greg Gard knows what he’s doing.
However, the results, the record, the injury situation, well this is where they are right now. However, given their pedigree and the decent start to league play, you do have plenty of reasons for hope that they will get better soon.
14. Iowa (9-7, 0-3)
Yikes! The Hawkeyes have really had an awful run of results so far. Warm up Fran McCaffery’s seat.
I’m sure he’s going to be a joy to be around/deal with down the stretch of the season.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.Follow paulmbanks