1. Michigan State (6-0) W v Oklahoma 87-76, W v Virgina Tech 96-77
Two more wins, but the #1 team in the nation isn't dominating yet. Not that they need to dominate, but a tweaked ankle there, a bad shooting night here, and this looks like a beatable team. However, Tom Izzo has to be thanking his lucky stars that Adreian Payne returned for one last year of college basketball. Payne looks unstoppable at times. Sophomore Denzel Valentine isn't putting up great stats, but I want to call him out for greasing the Spartan offense. He really helps the offense flow when he's in the game, which is helpful when you want to put a scoring point like Keith Appling off the ball.
2. Wisconsin (6-0) W v North Dakota 103-85, W v Bowling Green State 88-64, W v Oral Roberts 76-67
Just when I'm thinking the Wisconsin front court might not be up to the task this season, Frank Kaminsky drops a school-record 43 points on North Dakota. Also, UW is shooting over 45% from three as a team! The depth can be questioned here, but the starting five look pretty darn good. And if Traevon Jackson keeps his numbers up (11.7ppg/4.5rpg/4.7apg) with reasonable efficiency come conference play, I'll be eating some crow.
3. OSU (4-0) W v American 63-52, W v Wyoming 65-50
Still not that impressed. I think they needed a 20-5 run in the last 10 minutes to separate themselves from Wyoming? And that was the more impressive win. Frankly, LaQuinton Ross is not stepping up to be the new DeShaun Thomas (and I was doubtful that he would do so this year), but Amir Williams and Lenzelle Smith Jr. have become very solid contributors.
4. Iowa (4-0) W v Pennsylvania 86-55
They keep rolling up lesser teams. Yeah, it is what they are supposed to do, but they are showing off their mighty depth. Jarrod Uthoff is going to be fearsome if he sticks around a year or two. What's really interesting here is the balance between players 1-10, in terms of playing time. Roy Devyn Marble of course leads the pack at 23.4mpg, and is followed by Aaron White and Uthoff at 21mpg, and then Mike Gesell at 17.6mpg is #4. Players #9 & #10? Zach McCabe and Gabe Olaseni clock in at 15mpg. We've been marveling over IU's depth here, but players 9 and 10 for the Hoosiers are Luke Fischer (8.7mpg) and Stan Robinson (6.7mpg).
5. Michigan (4-2) W v Long Beach State 85-61, W v Florida State 82-80 (OT), L n. Charlotte 61-63
Why didn’t I drop them further in week 1? Well, their best player was just coming back from an injury. As of now, I'm not sure which direction this Michigan team Is heading: is this all just brief growing pains with the roles and faces on this team, or is this really going to be more of a rebuilding year? We also don't know how good FSU and Charlotte are yet, but I'm also not particularly surprised that the Wolverines might have some early growing pains.
6. Indiana (5-1) W n Washington 102-84 , L n Connecticut 58-59
I’m not dropping them, but the gap between them and the next three teams is now pretty thin. Losing, barely, to a ranked team at what was practically their second home court is no cause for concern. But it will be a lot easier to overcome the future troubles the freshmen front court will face if Will Sheehey and Evan Gordon can start hitting their threes with some regularity. I mean, for their careers, Sheehey is 35.1% and Gordon is 34.5% behind the arc, and yet they are shooting 25% and 12.5% (respectively) for the first six games this season. Expect those numbers to rise soon.
7. Purdue (5-0) W v Eastern Illinois 83-55, W v Siena 81-73
Whenever I'm about to get real impressed by this Purdue team, they post another unimpressive margin of victory over an inferior team. In the case of Siena, it had a lot to do with missed free-throws. And, unless the current 62.3% rate improves, there will be a lot more missed freebies, which will mean that the Boilers will lose some close games they should be winning. Still, frosh Bryson Scott has been pretty impressive, and justly deserves the attention he is getting.
8. Illinois (5-0) W v Chicago State 79-57
We’re still talking transfers with the fightin’ Illini. Jon Ekey is still impressing, and Ray Rice is scoring as expected. However, a number of the pieces that you traditionally need to succeed in the Big Ten (outside shooting, bangers in the lane, depth off the bench) are still pretty much open questions here. Tuesday’s game versus UNLV should be illuminating.
9. Minnesota (5-1) W v Coastal Carolina 82-72, W v Wofford 79-57, L v Syracuse 67-76
The Syracuse game was a bit of a lost opportunity, but Minny just couldn’t pull off the upset. Interestingly, Coach Pitino went for a seven man rotation in that game, with only transfers Joey King and Malik Smith spelling the starters off the bench. Not quite sure what to make of that, this early. But the Gophers aren't dropping gimmes, at least. They generally didn't under Tubby, either, but at least there's no obvious step back yet.
10. Northwestern (3-2) W @ Illinois-Chicago 93-58, W v IUPUI 63-61, W v Gardner-Webb 72-59
A nice blowout on the Flames' home floor was followed by a nail-biter against the Jaguars. The Wildcats took care of business against Gardner-Webb, though. They really aren't getting much (well, any) production outside of David Sobolewski, JerShon Cobb, Drew Crawford, and Alex Olah. I do not expect these Wildcats to stay out of the cellar for the whole season, but Coach Collins' inaugural campaign should be pretty interesting.
11. PSU (4-1) W v LaSalle 79-62, W v Longwood 93-67
The Nittany Lions bounce back from their first loss with a couple of wins. The competition hasn’t been very tough, but I do like that they are scoring a lot, shooting well from three (with the exception of Tim Frazier), and not turning the ball over (again, with the exception of Frazier). And I'm not down on Frazier at all, as I said last week, his numbers are still in the superhero range for this team. The fact that he's surrounded by shooters who don't turn the ball over is a good early sign, but the interior game is still pretty suspect.
12. Nebraska (4-2) L @ UMass 90-96, L v UAB 74-87, W v Georgia 73-65
Now that’s more like the Nebrasketball I expected. Some rough losses early, keyed by problems when opponents attack the hoop. But hey, they put 90 points on a team that's now ranked and they beat Georgia. Juco Leslee Smith is looking better than advertised, and Deverell Biggs is finally eligible and playing. They won’t stay in this spot all season.
This is a quick look at the teams playing for 2014 Big Ten basketball championship, with a review of the results and quick commentary.
1. Michigan State (6-0) W v Oklahoma 87-76, W v Virgina Tech 96-77