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Big Ten Takeaways: Michigan State Spartans Legit, Maryland Terrapins Not So Much

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What are some of the key takeaways so far for Big Ten basketball?

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season is just over a week old and though we can't accurately predict everything that is to come, we have seen some interesting developments on the season so far. In particular, the Big Ten has been a mixed bag of emotions. Teams projected at the top of the standings have struggled, others have emerged, and the conference has seen a flurry of upsets that have left many searching for answers.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the biggest takeaways for the Big Ten so far this year.

Michigan State Is Legit.

Realistically, there probably weren't many out there that truly doubted Michigan State. Sure, some people were a bit lower on the Spartans than others, but did anybody actually think that Michigan State wouldn't at least be in the NCAA Tournament and the top 25 picture? Probably not.

However, the start of the season for Michigan State has been pretty remarkable. The team is now 4-0, has scored a win against a top five team in Kansas, and has yet to be challenged otherwise. When you draw up a plan for what a high level team should do to start the season, the Spartans have pretty much met or exceeded those expectations.

Denzel Valentine has been unbelievable, other returners like Matt Costello and Bryn Forbes have stepped up, and newcomers like Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid have also been really good. What's crazy is that this team is actually relatively young too. Overall, KenPom has Michigan State rated as the No. 153 nationally in experience.

In short, Michigan State might actually be able to get even better as the year goes on.

The Spartans still need to add a few more wins to the resume before the team can legitimize itself as a true national contender, but so far, it has every indication that it's going to be here to stay. Plus, with some major non-conference games coming in the next few weeks, it probably won't be long before those wins start coming either.

Maryland Has Underwhelmed.

The Terrapins were pretty easily the preseason Big Ten favorite this season. In fact, many publications had Maryland projected as the No. 1 team in the country heading into the season. It wasn't hard to rationalize either. After all, Maryland's roster was absolutely stacked. It had proven stars, depth, and several very talented additions. Even if the Terps weren't able to win the Big Ten outright, the team would be squarely in the picture.

Unfortunately for Maryland, that just hasn't been the case so far. It's hard to argue with 3-0, but as Wola Odeniran wrote for BTPowerhouse on Monday afternoon, those three wins haven't been all that impressive. Two of the wins came against bad teams in games that were far too competitive and even the Georgetown win was probably too competitive for a Maryland team that was hyped to be a national championship contender.

It's fair to say that Maryland is still a team trying to find its groove. Several of the key players in the rotation like Diamond Stone and Rasheed Suliamon are newcomers and even some of the bigger players like Robert Carter haven't played for the Terps before. Growing pains can be expected.

However, for a team with such high hopes, turning the page and starting to live up to the hype will be the challenge over the next few weeks. This roster is stacked, but if the Terps are going to keep letting teams like Rider stay in the game, that first loss may pop up sooner than Maryland fans are hoping.

Purdue Is Lurking.

Before the season, I had Purdue projected as the sixth team in the Big Ten. I thought the Boilermakers would struggle with shooting and finding a quality option at point guard. I don't bring this up to make myself available to criticism - I'm sure it's coming anyway - but rather to add significance to my next statement.

Purdue may be the best team in the Big Ten.

The Boilermakers have been on fire so far this season. Purdue is 5-0, has already beaten two teams rated in the top 100 by KenPom, and won a non-conference tournament. On top of that, the Boilermakers have yet to have a team even come within 10 points at the final buzzer. Plus, Purdue played the first two games without AJ Hammons.

Just take a look at some of Purdue's notable stats so far.

2015-16 Purdue Boilermaker Stats:

  • No. 9 KenPom Rating
  • No. 11 KenPom Offensive Rating
  • No. 12 KenPom Defensive Rating
  • Average Margin of Victory of 28.2 points
  • Closest Margin of Victory of 15 points
  • Nine Players With 100+ Offensive Rating
  • One of Only Four Big Ten Teams With A Top 50 KenPom Win
  • Only Big Ten Team With Multiple Top 100 KenPom Wins
  • Only Big Ten Team With Three Top 150 KenPom Wins

It's been sheer domination so far for Purdue. Seriously, just consider that Purdue's closest game was a 15 point win over what should be a solid Florida team. Obviously, there's going to be some hesitation until the Boilermakers take on a few more good teams, but while people have been talking about Maryland and Michigan State, Purdue has been lurking. Just look at this insane defensive performance.

11-23-15 purude defense

Middle of the Big Ten Is Wide Open.

As of Monday night, it looks like Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, and Purdue have are at the top of the conference in some order. Nobody can be quite sure how that will shake out yet, but just about every stat and game has indicated that those are the top four teams.

With that said, everything's pretty open after those teams. Iowa went down to a Division II school in an exhibition and Michigan, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Wisconsin have all already lost this year. Michigan and Northwestern's losses aren't quite as bad since they came against ranked teams, but nobody has really separated themselves from the other three teams in this group.

Obviously, the non-conference schedules of these teams vary pretty significantly, but over the next month or so, it seems likely that some sort of pecking order will emerge. All of these teams have challenging games showing up and the resumes will shake themselves out. Most importantly though, the Big Ten needs these teams to trend up.

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Check out BTPowerhouse's latest voter approved Big Ten Power Rankings.