Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Big Ten Power Poll

So, the Indiana Men's team slaughtered West Carolina, 100-52, despite still not having Armon Bassett or AJ Ratliff, and now Eli Holman's looking at a possible medical redshirt. On the upside, the Hoosiers are rolling, but on the downside, Southern Illinois and Kentucky are taking nosedives, so it's looking more like there's only been one tough test (Xavier) that the non-conference schedule has provided. And we know how that turned out. Not to downplay this Hoosier team, it's clearly a club on the rise, and the guards are looking for DJ early now, Mike White's return has given the frontcourt some depth and versatility, and when Ratliff & Bassett come back this club will finally have backcourt depth as well. Offensively, this club is a juggernaut. Defensively... I'm not sure. So, right now, I'd place the smart money on Michigan State, but just barely. Looking at the records, strength of schedule, and my own tempo-free stat crunching, here's my Pre-Conference Power Poll:

1. Michigan State (9-1)
I think this is the more senior, tested team, but I really haven't seen good things from them when Raymar Morgan gets in foul trouble.

2. Indiana (9-1)
Strength of schedule is a concern, but really, all the pieces are here for a Big Ten Championship. But will the talented newcomers be tough enough to win the big conference road games? That's still the question.

3. Wisconsin (8-2)
This may be the most awkward squad that Bo Ryan has coached since he came in, but there's still a lot to like here. Trevon Hughes is having a bust-out year, and the front-line is formidable, even if they did get out-rebounded by Marquette.

4. Ohio State (7-3)
Kosta Koufos is amazing, much better than I thought he'd be, and if Othello Hunter scored just a little bit more, people would be making a lot of noise about him, too. However, the perimeter's a concern as the rest of the frosh class has been a little disappointing and Jamar Butler is being asked to do too much.

5. Minnesota (7-1)
Honestly, in tempo-free terms, I should rank the Gophers third, but they flunked the only real test they've had (at Florida State) and the win at Iowa State doesn't look that impressive now. They'll be good enough for a postseason, but the NCAA's? I don't know.

6. Purdue (7-2)
The Boilers got a big win over Louisville, and that (to me) puts them back in the hunt for an at-large bid. Losses at Clemson and Missouri are nothing to be ashamed of, but I think overall the freshmen are going to have problems in conference road games. If this team were a stock I'd say to sell now, while it's high.

7. Illinois (6-3)
So, the Illini are not a top 25 squad, but the defense should keep them hanging in the at-large picture for a NCAA bid. The next two games, at home vs. Miami-OH and at Missouri, will tell us a lot about what we should expect in conference play.

8. Penn State (6-4)
The non-conference schedule hasn't been a disaster, and certainly this Nittany Lion club has more depth and is more dangerous than last year's, but I've yet to see them make a stop when they really, really needed it. I think PSU is locked into a tier all of its own, between the NCAA contenders and really bad teams.

9. Northwestern (4-4)
I would've put them last, as I think what they've shown against a pretty soft schedule hasn't been great. But the Wildcats went and won a road game against Western Michigan, who isn't as bad a club as their record might indicate. And they haven't even gotten Kevin Coble back yet. This club could be the "best of the worst."

10. Michigan (4-7)
It's not like Michigan will go defeated in conference play, but John Beilien has his hands full this year. It'd probably help if last year's starting point guard (Jerret Smith) could get his life on track, and get out of the coach's doghouse.

11. Iowa (6-6)
To be fair to Iowa, they've been without their best player (Tony Freeman) for almost the entire non-conference schedule, and he's the point guard so he should be making the other players better. But in tempo-free and hppg/hpps efficiency terms, this is the worst team in the conference. You have to go all the way down to Cyrus Tate (the #9 scorer) to find a player who shoots above .400 in FG%, AND above .500 in FT%. They also are averaging about 5 more turnovers a game than assists, the worst ratio in the conference. I don't see them winning many games, even at home.


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