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Down Year: Ranking the Big Ten’s Biggest Disasters (So Far)

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A countdown of the worst losses suffered by each team

Photo by Andri Tambunan/Getty Images

2017 was a year of disasters. Korean nuclear tests. Massive data breaches. Harvey (both Hurricane and Weinstein). But nothing really quite compares to this Big Ten basketball season.

OK, maybe that’s overselling it a bit. Despite most Big Ten teams getting embarrassed during Feast Week and in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, we need to keep a broader perspective. There is some good in the world, too. The stock market is up. ISIS is in retreat. And the Big Ten went 4-4 in the Gavitt Games.

Still, for most fans of our league, to say the first month-plus of basketball has been disappointing is an understatement. There’s not a team in the league that hasn’t taken at least some lumps, some far worse than others. Here are fourteen disasters, one for every team in the league, ranked in order of tire-fireness.

14. Michigan State Loses to Duke by Seven.

This was a perfectly respectable loss. The only reason it hurts is because had Michigan State won, they’d be the No. 1 team in the country right now. It’s like Peter O’Toole losing the 1962 Best Actor Oscar to Gregory Peck. Yeah, it hurts, but you’ve got enough talent to know you’ll get another shot.

13. Penn State Loses to Texas A&M by 11.

This was like Rocky losing to Apollo Creed. Just watching your boy (or in this case, boys) from Philly go the distance is impressive. Still, it represents another missed opportunity. Win this one and everyone would have the Nittany Lions as an NCAA tournament team. Instead, some people still see them as bums.

12. Illinois Loses to Northwestern by Four.

This didn’t hurt the Big Ten as a whole, but if you’re an Illinois fan, man was this loss painful. An overtime loss against your in-state rival? And a rival that you consider to be inferior? It’s like Kit running over Dottie to win the World Series at the end of A League of Their Own.

11. Michigan Loses to Ohio State by Nine.

This is the first (and mildest) our Spooky Football Karma examples. Michigan fans watched their hated rival come into their football stadium as a favorite and win. They were hoping to do the same to the Buckeyes a little over a week later. That didn’t happen.

10. Ohio State Loses to Clemson by 14.

Here’s the second Spooky Football Karma example. Ohio State lost by a football score to a school that their football team would be playing if the playoff committee actually valued conference championships. What a cruel example of irony.

9. Nebraska Loses to St. John’s by 23.

Nobody really expected Nebraska to go on the road and beat St. John’s, but we did at least expect Nebraska to look like a basketball team. Not so.

8. Iowa Suffers Twin losses to Louisiana Lafayette and South Dakota State.

After losing to Louisiana Lafayette by a score of 80-71, Iowa fans were saying to themselves, “Surely we can play better than this.” And the next night, they were exactly one point better, losing to South Dakota State 80-72. Oh, Fran.

7. Rutgers Announces Their Out-of-Conference Schedule.

Rutgers beat East Carolina, and East Carolina’s coach just resigned mid-year. Rutgers’ five other wins are somehow even worse. They beat Central Connecticut State and dropped 23 spots in KenPom. There is not a single non-conference road game or neutral site game on their schedule. Wtf.

6. Purdue Loses to Western Kentucky by Four.

Right before this game, Purdue lost to Tennessee. While that’s looking more like a respectable loss, there’s no excuse for losing to the Hilltoppers. And Spooky Football Karma rears its head again! If Jeff Brohm had taken the Tennessee job as was rumored last week, the Boilers would have dropped back-to-back games against their football coach’s future and former employers.

5. Minnesota Loses to Nebraska by 10.

The Gophers had solidified themselves among the best three teams in the league. Then this happened. If the Big Ten hadn’t been so awful during the first month, we could have pointed to this game as evidence that everyone in the league is good and that there are no off nights. As it is, it’s looking more like the entire league is bad, and there are only off nights and worse nights. Speaking of which...

4. Maryland Beats Illinois by One.

Am I trolling Maryland fans? I’d argue the universe is trolling Maryland fans. Lose to Purdue, rise in the KenPom rankings. Beat Illinois, fall in the KenPom rankings. Same old, same old.

By the way, I turned this game on with about 2:30 left in regulation, and it was something. No shot attempts went up from the time I turned on the game until the final few seconds because each team insisted on turning it over each trip down the floor. It was horrifying and entertaining all at once. Basically a microcosm of the Big Ten as a whole this year.

3. Northwestern Loses to Texas Tech by 36.

The day before this happened, Clark Kellogg picked the Wildcats as a Final Four team. LOL.

2. Wisconsin Loses at home to Ohio State by 25.

The crowning example of Spooky Football Karma. Michigan might have hated losing to Ohio State in football and basketball in close proximity, but it was nothing compared to the agony of Wisconsin fans losing to the Buckeyes on the same channel on the same day. The Kohl Center used to be an impregnable fortress where no one but the Badgers won. This game feels like it heralds the end of that era.

1. Indiana Loses at home to Indiana State by 21.

This was the first game of the year for a new coach that everyone agreed was a great hire. It was at home, against a lesser in-state school, and a bad one at that. It should have been a blowout. It was, just in the wrong direction. This gets the top spot because Indiana State’s best player, Brenton Scott, is the twin brother of Bryson Scott. Bryson’s Fort Wayne squad upset the Hoosiers last season.

Final Reflection

Well, at least we’re not Florida.