A lot has changed over the course of a month and a half.
When we last looked at the RPI and KenPom ratings on Christmas Eve, Minnesota and Maryland were the talk of the town. Minnesota was buzzing with just one loss, a respectable 8-point defeat at Florida State. Preseason #25 Maryland also had just one loss, to Pittsburgh.
Then, we entered the Big Ten portion of the season.
In what has proved to be a down year for the conference, Minnesota and Maryland began to struggle, along with a majority of the league.
Now, it’s looking like there are two major frontrunners in the conference, Maryland a close third, and the rest are chasing. Let’s see how the league stacks up in the most recent RPI and KenPom ratings.
-Big Ten in 2/16 RPI Rating:
- #17 - Purdue
- #19 - Maryland
- #21 - Minnesota
- #25 - Wisconsin
- #40 - Northwestern
- #41 - Michigan State
- #55 - Michigan
- #63 - Ohio State
- #69 - Illinois
- #75 - Penn State
- #81 - Nebraska
- #88 - Indiana
- #104 - Iowa
- #142 - Rutgers
As mentioned above, the Big Ten is a two-team race right now, as far as tournament contenders go.
Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology has Wisconsin a 5-seed and Purdue a 5-seed. Every other team, right now, stretches from 6 to 10 seeds. Not great for a conference that had six teams a 7-seed or better a year ago.
Maryland is tied with Purdue and Wisconsin in the standings, and a 1-point loss to the Boilers and a win its most recent win at Northwestern have the Terps making a late push.
Purdue scraped out a nice win at Indiana and appears to be rolling. The added buzz around potential National Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan also puts the Boilers in the spotlight. Wisconsin had a bit of a slip at home against Northwestern and needed a Nigel Hayes game-winner against Nebraska, but the Badgers are still holding strong atop the conference standings, and the RPI ratings recognize that.
Although Minnesota and Maryland have dropped since we last looked at the ratings nearly two months ago, they are both still high in the ratings, which should make both teams near locks come selection Sunday. Minnesota has also picked up some steam with four straight wins, albeit against some of the conference’s lower-level squads — Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers and Indiana.
The rest of the ratings are interesting as the final 10 Big Ten teams fail to come in above the #40 mark. Again, we expect Northwestern to make its first tournament appearance, and Michigan State’s strength of schedule should help. Michigan made the biggest jump last week from 73 to 55 with wins over MSU and Indiana, and a win Thursday over Wisconsin could boost the Wolverines into the top 40.
After that, it’s a crap shoot.
No other teams have greatly impressed and their RPI ratings show that they’ll all need to close the season with impressive runs to extend their seasons into late March.
-Big Ten 2/15 KenPom Ratings:
- #11 - Purdue
- #15 - Wisconsin
- #29 - Michigan
- #31 - Northwestern
- #32 - Maryland
- #39 - Minnesota
- #44 - Indiana
- #54 - Michigan State
- #62 - Ohio State
- #72 - Iowa
- #77 - Illinois
- #84 - Penn State
- #83 - Nebraska
- #132 - Rutgers
The Big Ten fares much better in the KenPom ratings, with six teams in the top 40 and Indiana just outside at #44.
While Indiana’s KenPom rating looks much better than its RPI, the Hoosiers are still a team that everyone is paying attention to in the Big Ten right now as they rapidly skid down the ratings.
The Hoosiers have lost four straight in conference, and they fell seven spots in the KenPom ratings after their loss to Michigan on Sunday — the biggest move in any direction of any Big Ten team over the weekend.
The ratings show that losses carry a heavy burden at this point in the season, maybe heavier than wins. Wins are like buckets used to keep the water out of the sinking ship for a bit longer; losses are giant chunks ripped from the hole of the boat.
Indiana closes the year with three of four games on the road, and two of the four games come against teams ahead of the Hoosiers in the KenPom ratings.
Michigan’s massive jump in RPI was matched by a solid 29 KenPom. Both could be huge down the stretch if the Wolverines hope to make the Big Dance. They play four of five on the road to end the regular season, and with Purdue still to come, their close to the year could be more important than any team in the conference.
A final point of intrigue is Ohio State’s fall from grace. Once rated #13 in the KenPom, the Buckeyes’ drop to 62 may be the perfect indicator for the 2016-17 Big Ten season and could show the diminished value the committee puts on conference games on Selection Sunday.
Only Wisconsin (2), Maryland (3), and Purdue (3) have less than five losses in Big Ten play.
Where two wins against Ohio State may have once seemed impressive, they may now be irrelevant arguments for hopeful — or hopeless — Big Ten teams.
The final two weeks of regular season play will be crucial for a handful of teams chasing higher seeds — or seeds at all. As mentioned before, losses seem to far outweigh wins at this point, so teams will need to empty the water from their sinking vessels, and fast.