The last time we took a look at the Big Ten’s position in the advanced stats, it was right after the 2016 Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Everyone in the conference had played at least one legitimate opponent and we thought we were finally starting to get a picture on how things would shake out in the Big Ten.
Oh, how young we were.
Since that time, the big-three have emerged at the top of the conference (Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin), teams like Maryland, Minnesota, and Rutgers have built impressive records, and Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Nebraska all suffered major upsets at home.
It’s been a wild few weeks.
So, where has that left things in the Big Ten?
Let’s dive into some of the best and most popular statistical metrics to look at how the Big Ten has performed so far.
-Big Ten In 12/23 RPI Rating:
- #12 - Minnesota
- #22 - Maryland
- #32 - Illinois
- #44 - Wisconsin
- #45 - Purdue
- #46 - Northwestern
- #77 - Ohio State
- #79 - Michigan
- #82 - Rutgers
- #87 - Penn State
- #93 - Michigan State
- #95 - Indiana
- #102 - Nebraska
- #167 - Iowa
I said this in the last advanced stats breakdown, but I’ll say it again:
It’s still incredibly early to dive into RPI ratings with any real faith at this point. Not only is there still nearly a month left of non-conference play, but many wins aren’t nearly as valuable as they will be down the line.
For an example, look no further than Michigan State’s win over Wichita State. Despite many considering the Shockers as one of the better teams in the country, Wichita State sits at just No. 94 [now No. 74] nationally in RPI. There’s no way that low rating will hold up, but until it changes, teams like Michigan State will suffer in the RPI ratings.
With the preamble out of the way, let’s dive into these rankings. There are some really interesting ranking that should set the table for the first month or two of Big Ten play.
The most interesting surprising team on this list was Indiana at No. 95. While the Hoosiers still have work to do to overcome that rough loss to Fort Wayne and a relatively soft non-conference slate, it was still surprising to see Indiana that low. After all, this is a team that’s already beaten Kansas and North Carolina.
So, what’s holding Indiana back so much?
Well, that Fort Wayne (No. 89 in RPI) loss hurts, but the biggest factor here is Indiana’s bottom half scheduling. Although Indiana scheduled Butler, Kansas, and North Carolina, its “buy” games were awful this year. Simply put, there just weren’t enough top 100 and top 200 opponents on the slate to boost Indiana’s strength of schedule.
The good news for Indiana is that with Big Ten play and Louisville looming on the slate, its strength of schedule should improve tremendously. Once that happens, Indiana should vault up the RPI rankings thanks to those wins against Kansas and UNC.
Additionally, Iowa was another interesting team on this list. Iowa isn’t receiving much national attention with its 8-5 record, but its RPI deficit was far greater than I would have anticipated. The Hawkeyes will realistically have to jump over 100 spots to have any serious NCAA at-large chance this season. Anything’s possible in college basketball, but that scenario is certainly difficult to imagine on paper.
-Big Ten In 12/24 KenPom Ratings
- #10 - Wisconsin
- #11 - Purdue
- #15 - Indiana
- #29 - Michigan
- #41 - Ohio State
- #46 - Northwestern
- #47 - Minnesota
- #53 - Michigan State
- #63 - Maryland
- #66 - Illinois
- #68 - Iowa
- #96 - Penn State
- #97 - Nebraska
- #115 - Rutgers
During my previous advanced stats review, most of my time was spent on the substantial improvement seen from Minnesota and Rutgers. Seeing teams jump that far in the standings in one offseason is really impressive and warrants discussion.
However, the two teams that interested me the most on these ratings were Maryland and Michigan State. Although most expected both to take a step back this season, few expected them to be outside the top 50. There’s still plenty of time to move up in the ratings, but these fanbases do need to have some concern entering Big Ten play.
And the circumstances look particularly dire for Michigan State.
Writing off Tom Izzo and the Spartans this early is always a risky endeavor, but KenPom’s projections are certainly distressing. The site projects the Spartans to finish at just 16-15 overall, 8-10 in the Big Ten, and favors the team in just nine remaining games. Simply put, Michigan State is going to need to pull off its fair share of upsets, improve substantially, or have a little of both.
The one other ranking that continues to be interesting is Ohio State’s position. The Buckeyes came into the season rated No. 13 on KenPom, which most viewed as overrated at the time, but their drop to No. 41 has certainly been significant. The team has a challenging next few games and will look to reverse the trend then.