December Big Ten Power Poll
Y'know, Northeastern was pretty comparable by the numbers coming in to face the Hoosiers, but I thought if IU could take TCU down at home, they'd handle Northeastern fine. I guess that was overly optimistic. I had a chance to get tickets, but I was already double-booked by the time that opportunity arrived. Just as well.
So, to take my mind off that *unpleasantness* and since I also think enough data has come in, it's time for an early guess at how these teams stack up. I'm not straying too far from my preseason prognostications -with a few exceptions, but here's how the Big Ten is stacking up right now.
1. Ohio State (9-0)
Best Wins: at Miami (Fl.), Notre Dame, Butler
Really, Minnesota probably has the best win (over Louisville), but OSU has not only had more quality wins, the Buckeyes also have a blossoming player of the year candidate in swingman Evan Turner. They'll also get the four-spot guy they've been wanting shortly when the 6-9 juco shooter Nikola Kecman becomes eligible shortly.
2. Minnesota (11-0)
Best Wins: Louisville, at Colorado State, Cornell
Surprisingly good win over Louisville, but like Izzo, Rick Pitino's teams tend to be a lot better in March than December. Still, that one'll keep giving as the Gophers build their Big Dance resume.
Best Wins: UCLA, Duke
Losses: Duke, at Maryland
You could make a case for Michigan at #1, but the home win over Duke is somewhat offset by the neutral-site loss to Duke, and a chance to get a good road win at Maryland slipped out of their fingers as they couldn't solve the Greivis Vasquez question. Still, the Wolverines are in a very strong position to make the NCAA tourney, and transfer point Laval Lucas-Perry isn't even eligible yet.
4. Michigan State (8-2)
Best Wins: at Texas, Oklahoma State
Losses: UNC, Maryland
Earlier, I mentioned how Izzo teams tend to be better in March, but this Sparty club should be better in January once Goran Suton really starts getting back to contributing. For the last two years, Suton has been a mainstay as one of the top per-possession contributors in my efficiency rankings, and getting him back into the offense (and back on the defensive glass) should help a lot. That win at Texas did a lot to reassure me that these guys will climb back up the power rankings.
5. Purdue (9-2)
Best Wins: Davidson, BC
Losses: Duke, Oklahoma
The Boilers looked a little shell-shocked against Duke, but otherwise, they've been taking that next step forward. Painter's club should still be fighting for the top spot of the conference standings. The rebounding is a reason for some concern, but otherwise, they look pretty tough again.
6. Wisconsin (9-3)
Best Wins: at Virginia Tech, San Diego
Losses: Texas, at Marquette, Connecticut
None of their losses are really *bad* losses, and the Badgers actually showed up for the ACC challenge this time, but there's not lot here that suggests we'll see anything like the previous conference dominance that UW's been enjoying under Ryan.
7. Illinois (11-1)
Best Wins: v. Missouri, at Vandy, Kent St.
None of these wins are particularly impressive (or unimpressive), and the loss to Clemson at home should've had Weber pulling his hair out, but they've been winning a lot. Mike Davis took up the most-improved front-runner spot, and they'll be getting shooting wing Alex Legion eligible soon. Right now, the Big Ten could be gunning for 7 NCAA spots, when at the beginning of this year, I had the conference down for maybe four.
8. Northwestern (7-2)
Best Wins: FSU, DePaul
Losses: Butler, Stanford
On one hand, the Mildcats are still near the bottom of the conference and might struggle to get to any postseason (although they do seem to be operating at an NIT/CBI level currently), but on the other, they just seem light-years better than last season. And most of their talent is pretty young. Coach Carmody's seat just may be cooling off.
9. Penn State (10-2)
Best Wins: at Georgia Tech, at Penn
Losses: Temple, URI
I've been surprised at how little the PSU frontcourt is contributing. The undersized Jamelle Cornley is giving it his all, but returning center Andrew Jones and backup Jeff Brooks are not really making any meaningful contributions. 6-10 transfer Andrew Ott might be able to help out more, as in his first two games he's showing the ability to score, rebound, and get the occasional steal/block. Talor Battle has been unbelievable so far, though, putting together incredible per-game averages (19ppg, 5rpg, 5apg, 1.5spg). We'll see how efficient those averages remain in conference play, however. Also, defense has yet again been the Lions' achilles heel: they're not bad, they just don't make plays or force turnovers.
10. Iowa (9-3)
Best Wins: v. Kan. St., Iowa St.
Losses: at Drake, WVU, at BC
The Hawkeyes have actually been quite a bit better than I expected to this point, but everyone else in the conference (outside of Michigan State, Purdue, & Wisconsin) has been too. Post play, particularly on the offensive end, has been a weakness, but the interior play might get a boost now that there's been recent signs of life from forward Jarryd Cole. Frosh wings Gatens has been fine, but Anthony Tucker, as long as he's behaving, has been the real surprise. Sophomore point Jeff Peterson has been okay as well, but more is needed on both ends for Cyrus Tate from the other bigs.
11. Indiana (5-6)
Best Wins: Cornell, TCU
Losses: v. St. Joseph's, v. Notre Dame, at Kentucky, at Wake Forest, v. Gonzaga, Northeastern
Plenty has been said in this space about the Hoosiers being the worst team in the conference this year. I just hope they get a victory early in the conference season to take the heat off about worrying about going defeated in '09.