Rankings Analysis: Big Ten on the Rise

Joe Robbins

The top of the conference builds momentum in the rankings and metrics with conference play underway.

With the release of the latest human polls the Big Ten has continued its upward trend from the last few weeks. Here is how the conference fared (change in rankings from my 12/23 rankings post in parenthesis):

AP Top 25

  • #3 Ohio State
  • #4 Wisconsin
  • #5 Michigan State
  • #20 Iowa (↑2)
  • #23 Illinois (↑4)
  • "#35" Michigan (↓3)

USA Today Coaches Poll

  • #3 Ohio State
  • #4 Michigan State (↑1)
  • #4 Wisconsin (↑2)
  • #23 Iowa
  • "#32" Illinois (↑3)
  • "#35" Michigan (↓1)

Reaction:

The B1G's top tier has kept consistent positioning in both polls, though Wisconsin and Michigan State have moved up slightly in the Coaches Poll in recent weeks. The biggest boost in both polls belongs to Illinois, who has won its last four games and benefitted from the many losses incurred by the bottom of the Top 25 recently. It'd be nice to see Michigan a little higher here, they have looked improved since they took Arizona to the wire two weeks ago, but the Wolverines have struggled to gain traction in the polls and actually have fallen despite winning four straight.

With those polls in mind, here are some key advanced metrics and how they've changed for each team in the last two weeks:

KenPom RPI BPI Sagarin Average
Ohio State (↑1) 1 (↑1) 7 (↑4) 2 (↑5) 2 (↑2) 3 (↑3)
Wisconsin (↓1) 4 (↑3) 1 3 (↓2) 5 (↑1) 3.25 (↑0.5)
Michigan State 6 (↑5) 12 (↑3) 11 (↑6) 3 (↑5) 8 (↑4.75)
Iowa 11 (↑2) 21 (↑5) 12 (↑1) 8 (↓1) 13 (↑1.75)
Illinois (↑1) 43 (↑8) 11 (↓2) 27 (↑5) 39 (↑5) 30 (↑4)
Michigan (↑1) 20 (↑2) 61 (↑43) 24 (↑9) 20 (↑3) 31.25 (↑14)
Minnesota (↓2) 40 (↓6) 44 (↓19) 37 (↓3) 50 (↓9) 42.75 (↓9.25)
Indiana 63 (↓15) 75 (↑10) 68 (↓1) 61 (↓6) 66.75 (↓3)
Nebraska 94 (↓4) 48 (↑5) 91 (↓15) 96 (↑6) 82.25 (↓5)
Purdue (↑1) 89 (↓3) 78 (↓4) 93 (↑9) 79 (↑5) 84.75 (↑1.25)
Penn State (↓1) 95 (↓12) 84 (↑4) 81 (↓22) 91 (↓11) 87.75 (↓10.25)
Northwestern 150 (↓34) 155 (↓41) 144 (↓19) 161 (↓31) 152.5 (↓31.25)

(Note: These rankings are current through Monday; results of Tuesday night games did not factor in)

Interestingly, the only difference between the rankings here and our own power rankings is the placement of Nebraska (#9 with the computers, #11 with us). Ohio State narrowly jumps Wisconsin thanks to an RPI/BPI boost, and Illinois and Michigan jump Minnesota after the Gophers' home loss to the Wolverines. Michigan's RPI remains noticeably low but is finally approaching the proper stratosphere, and Northwestern is falling further into the abyss.

If you're interested in where teams stand in the race for at-large tourney bids in March, keep in mind that there are 36 at-large bids and a number of conference champions ranked near the top of the curve. With that in mind, if you were to go by these rankings for selection, the Big Ten has six likely tournament teams, along with Minnesota on the bubble and very likely in. Food for thought.

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