There were certainly some surprising performances and games (MSU@UW and PUR@PSU come to mind), but there's not really any need for any movement at the top of the rankings. Commentary and review of the teams is below the jump, as usual:1. MSU (3-0) W @ Wisconsin
Michigan State kept the good times rolling with a barn-burner of a finish in Madison. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, to some extent, but even despite the disappointingly minimal contributions from freshmen Brandan Kearney, Russell Byrd, and Alex Gauna, the Spartans are sitting atop of conference. And their in-conference stats show that they are doing literally everything better than their opponents thus far, including a surprising ability to outshoot their foes in every category. Unless they stumble at home against Iowa, or on the road versus Northwestern, they'll probably be here next week, too.
2. OSU (3-1) W @ Iowa, W v. Nebraska
The Buckeyes displayed the proper way to respond to a loss, destroying a resurgent Iowa team in their own building and dismantling poor Nebraska, outscoring both foes by a combined 60 points. This week the Buckeyes have a trip to Illinois and a home rematch to Indiana. They should win both games, but how they do it should be telling. Outside of turnovers (even at 60 apiece) and free-throw shooting (a mere 65.8%), OSU's conference stats are simply dominant over their foes. They look simply unlucky to have a loss this year.
3. Indiana (3-1) W v. Michigan, W @ PSU
LoneStarHoosier pointed out that IU currently has (per-possession) the best offense in the conference and the worst defense. I don't expect either ranking to stick, but it is cause for some concern. The Hoosiers have acquitted themselves well in their victories, but the Hoosier's recent propensity to cough up more turnovers than they cause is starting to worry me (conference foes have 10 more steals than IU through 4 games). Granted, the competition has been pretty tough, and IU has hung with some good teams in terms of rebounding, earning free-throws, overall shooting%, and assists. Statistically, tho, it's pretty cut and dried that IU is competing with the other top teams because they've been shooting threes so well. The single toughest game awaits at OSU, after the Hoosiers host a weak Minnesota team.
4. Michigan (3-1) W v. Wisconsin, L @ Indiana
The way the Wolverines took it to Indiana, and then beat a Wisky team desperate for a win at home, really impressed me. These guys are tough, even without Jon Horford - they're not only outrebounding, but also drawing about four more fouls per game their foes in conference play. And here's a good catch about Zack Novak in the Wisconsin game .... "Michigan was +32 when he was on the court and -14 when he was off of it, which is just insane." I'm also not a fan of the plus/minus stat, but that's a very intriguing outlier.
5. Purdue (3-1) L @ PSU, W @ Minnesota
Purdue salvaged some dignity with a nice win at Minnesota after that much-discussed blowout loss in Happy Valley.
I feel like the Boilers shouldn't be ranked in the top 5 here, but they just made Illinois look so silly that I can't rank Weber's team above them. The positive notes are that DJ Byrd is shooting 60% (12-20) over the last four games, and Travis Carroll looks downright competent so far at center (albeit in only 18 min/game). The negative side here is that the team is shooting 58.6% from the charity stripe and is getting outrebounded pretty handily.
6. Illinois (3-1) W @ NU, W v. Nebraska
Illinois could very easily be 0-4 at this point. They are 3-1 despite shooting worse on threes and free-throws, having more turnovers, less assists, and far fewer steals than their conference opponents. Credit Joe Bertrand for developing into a go-to scorer (14ppg in conf. play) just as Sam Maniscalco's health has hit a downturn. But I really feel that the Illini could very easily go into a tailspin from this point on. Meyers Leonard and Tyler Griffey have become increasingly ineffective in the paint, which is really the only advantage they've had over conference foes.
7. Iowa (2-2) W @ Minnesota, L v. OSU
Just when the Hawkeyes' win at Wisconsin seems like a weird fluke, Iowa goes and wins at Minnesota. And when you're almost ready to accept them as a contender, they go out and get hammered at home against OSU. Statistically, they don't look too good at anything in conference play, and a blowout loss will lower your stats, but their opponents are shooting a mere 23% from behind the arc. Could that possibly continue?
Also, I'm in the mood for this, I suppose, as I just finished watching season 1 of BBC's "Sherlock," but this is pretty brilliant.
8. Wisconsin (1-3) L v. MSU, L @ Michigan
Looks like Hoosierdaddynow was right, last week was not the nadir of UW's season. Surely this is, though. Right? Looking at the stats, the Badgers are certainly giving up a higher offensive rebounding rate than they were, but that's somewhat to be expected. It's being beaten to death, but what's not expected is for your three-point percentage to fall in a hole (28.6% from 40.2%) despite your best player starting to recover his stroke from distance (Jordan Taylor is shooting 36% in conference, up from 32%)
9. Northwestern (1-2) L v. Illinois
NU let a rare win over a shaky Illini team just get away from them. And that homecourt loss may be the first nail in the coffin of their postseason hopes. Interesting statistical anomaly note: Alex Marcotullio is shooting .500 in every category in three conference games (4-8 from three, 1-2 FTs, no 2pt FG attempts, so 4-8 overall FG shooting). Still, despite my distrust of the Wildcat defense, I'll note that they actually have recorded more blocks and steals than their conference opponents!
10. Penn State (1-3) W v. Purdue, L v. Indiana
I said last week that PSU was going to get some wins, and a 20-pt thrashing of the Boilers sure fit the bill. They followed that up with a never-say-die scrappy effort that almost overcame an unconscious three-point shooting effort by the visiting Hoosiers. And two very winnable games are up this week, starting on the road at Nebraska and then a home match versus Minnesota. We could see Penn State over .500 in conference play if they keep this up. Just incredible.
11. Minnesota (0-4) L v. Iowa, L v. Purdue
Back-to-back home losses against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten teams confirms that Minnesota's super-soft schedule hid just how vulnerable this post-Mbakwe unit is right now. On the other hand, they could pretty easily be 3-1, too. Their in-conference stats look relatively decent with good block, steal, and assist/turnover numbers. If they could shoot well anywhere else but the free-throw stripe, the narrative on this squad would be really different. I hate to say it, but these guys look sneaky dangerous coming into Bloomington. I don't think they'll win, but don't look for the Hoosiers to necessarily put them away easily.
12. Nebraska (0-4) L @ OSU, L @ Illinois
The bad news is here is that the Huskers had a chance to win on the road in the Big Ten, and let it get away. The Huskers are able to get some steals and cause some turnovers, but their inability to shoot or rebound in conference play is just killing them. The good news is that Diaz & Talley are starting to play again. If those two are actually getting back, this team could be dangerous again. Could.