Absolutely anyone who cares about Big Ten basketball, no matter the size of their audience, publishes a Big Ten basketball power rankings. It’s the least original endeavor possible, and this year all of these power rankings are created equal.
From the Midwestern paper of record to somebody on Twitter with three followers and no avatar, to the people who make college basketball picks against the spread, they’re all equally valid.
That’s because we have year round March Madness in 2019-20. This season will see the record for different teams ranked #1 smashed. When Kentucky was #1, they lost to Evansville, who started Missouri Valley conference play 0-4. Duke lost to Stephen F. Austin when they were ranked #1.
The “no nights off in this league” is a very tired, shopworn old cliche, but it definitely holds true here.
The Big Ten may not have the greatest concentration of Final Four contenders in the nation, but it certainly has the highest number of likely NCAA Tournament and NIT teams. Overall, it’s likely the best league in the nation, top to bottom, as almost everybody is at least decent, and a lot of sides are really good.
“It’s awesome f0r the fans, but it’s unbelievably excruciating for the coaches,” said Northwestern head coach Chris Collins after his team won their first conference game.
“I enjoy going home and watching games when they don’t affect me. We say it and a lot of leagues say this, but I’d be hard pressed to think of any coach who goes into any game and has a good feeling about it; any game.”
The league beats up on itself, and thus Big Ten basketball teams keep falling down the rankings. The latest AP poll has this for B1G representation: #15 Michigan State, #17 Maryland #19 Michigan and #24 Illinois (who are ranked for the first time since 2014.
Iowa, who come to play at Northwestern tonight, are just outside the top 25, receiving more votes than any non-ranked team in the nation this week. And the Hawkeyes’ league record is better than only two others in the conference. One of the three other teams tied with them at 2-3 in the league is Michigan, who was once as high as #4 in the polls, and received nine first place votes.
“We’re the young team that has been struggling,” continued Collins, but we’ve shown that we can compete, so has every body else. What I try to tell our guys is that everybody is going to play 20 games and you’re going to see teams go through stretches where they win four of five or three in a row, and then you’re going to see some teams go through a little losing, because of the schedule.”
He’s absolutely right! With such a large sample size, eventually things will even out and correct itself. His Wildcats are tied for the bottom, at 1-4, with the #21 Buckeyes. Ohio State rolled off nine straight wins to start the year, including a 76-51 win over Villanova (then #10). They rose up to #2 in the nation and received nine first place votes.
They’ve gone 2-5 ever since and are now in danger of falling out of the Top 25 entirely.
Of course, where you are in the table right now has a lot to do with what your early schedule was.
“We played three of first four (Big Ten games) on the road, and our home game was against Michigan State. Thanks a lot!” Collins added, before pointing out how his team’s 0-4 start easily conceivable.
They had to play at Purdue, the winningest team in the league at home the past six years, at Indiana, one of the toughest places to play and at Minnesota.
“What are there four road wins in the entire league? We didn’t win the Michigan State game, other than that we’ve hold serve,” Collins continued.
It all comes down to this- you have got to win at home, almost every single game, and then try to steal a few on the road. The winner of the league will likely have at least five losses, but they’ll need to get about four or five league road wins in order to achieve the crown.
Take a look at what occurred in West Lafayette, Indiana on Sunday where Purdue crushed Michigan State 71-42. Now MSU has a 75 point transitive win over themselves. They lost by 29 to Purdue, who lost to Illinois by 26, who lost to MSU by 20. Crazy isn’t it?
Sometimes, it’s just about match-ups. Matt Painter is now 11-15 all-time against Tom Izzo. The rest of the active Big Ten basketball coaches are 14-69 against Izzo.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.