We are nearing the one-third mark in Big Ten play, and as we see every year, teams are having to deal with injury issues. Most notably, Michigan found out yesterday that Caris LeVert will miss the rest of the season after suffering a left foot injury that will require surgery. Traevon Jackson, who had been the starting point guard for Wisconsin, had surgery on his right foot last week; however, the Badgers have not ruled him out for the season. Plus, they just happen to have a seven-foot guy who is pretty good at running the point, so that helps too. Of course, Hanner Mosquera-Perea will be out for about a month for the Hoosiers, which gives us even less frontcourt depth. And yesterday's opponent, Illinois, is missing Rayvonte Rice for at least a month, and lost Tracy Abrams before the season to an ACL tear. Injuries are bound to happen to teams throughout the course of a long and grueling 31-game season, but losing key players to four teams all within a two-week span is a very tough break for a conference that is seemingly in a down year overall. And of course, we all know how much being injured sucks, so we're wishing everyone speedy recoveries.
With that being said, let's get to this week's rankings.
14. Penn State (12-6 overall, 0-5 B1G) (Previous: 14)
It's probably a good thing that the Nittany Lions don't have any more games against teams from the state of Indiana this regular season, as they lost both their games last week against IU and Purdue in dramatic fashion and could have won them both. After a last-second three-pointer came a second too late in Bloomington, Penn State was foiled by a Kendall Stephens three-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation against Purdue, as PSU wasted a 37-point effort from D.J. Newbill. The only team winless in conference play travels to East Lansing tomorrow, and after that, they'll host against a Rutgers team that they lost to earlier this month.
13. Northwestern (10-8, 1-4) (Previous: 13)
Another weekend, another heartbreaking road loss for the Wildcats, as they fell by two in Ann Arbor against Michigan when Bryant McIntosh's last-second shot came up short. On the plus side for Northwestern, 7-0 center Alex Olah has been nearly unstoppable in the past two games, scoring 36 points on 15-for-22 on two-point shooting in losing efforts against Michigan and Illinois.
12. Rutgers (10-9, 2-4) (Previous: 11)
The Scarlet Knights fall back to earth with two road losses to Maryland and Minnesota. An inspiring sign for Rutgers is that they were competitive in both contests, particularly the Maryland game. For Rutgers, it is still seniors Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack who are running the show, and the diminutive Mack has played in over 90 percent of the Scarlet Knights' minutes this season.
11. Illinois (12-7, 2-4) (Previous: 10)
Nnanna Egwu is 6-11. IU had no players taller than 6-8 on the court at any time yesterday. Egwu ended the game with no points, two rebounds, and fouled out with just over two minutes to go. Maybe the size disadvantage isn't as big of a deal for us? Regardless, Without Rice in the lineup, the Illini lack a consistency on offense that might have won the game for them yesterday.
10. Minnesota (12-7, 1-5) (Previous: 12)
THEY WON A BIG TEN GAME! Sure, it was at home against Rutgers, but winning that game must be a nice monkey off the Gophers' back, especially after a close call with Iowa last Tuesday. Minnesota's next four games are against Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State, and Nebraska again, so if this team finally catches a few breaks, they could get back to .500 in conference play in no time.
9. Nebraska (10-7, 2-3) (Previous: 9)
The Huskers only played once this week, losing by 15 to a Wisconsin team that had just gotten Frank Kaminsky back. At one point in the first half of that game, Terran Petteway had 20 of the Huskers' 27 points. That's just not going to work for Nebraska, who ranks 271st in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom.
8. Michigan (11-7, 4-2) (Previous: 8)
Some more details about how losing LeVert could affect the Wolverines. LeVert has played in 89% of Michigan's minutes this season, and has taken 25% of the shots when he's on the court. Thus, he took about 1 in every 4.5 shots for his entire team, so all of his shots will have to go elsewhere. It's a tough blow for a team that already was struggling this year. Props to the Wolverines, however, for being 4-2 in the B1G at this point.
7. Ohio State (14-5, 3-3) (Previous: 6)
What concerns me about the Buckeyes is their lack of quality wins. Right now, their best victory is at Minnesota (ranked 49th on Kenpom), and outside of the conference it was Maruqette (ranked 92nd). In addition, with only one game each against Michigan State, Maryland, and Wisconsin, the Buckeyes may not get many more chances to add to their resume.
6. Purdue (11-7, 3-2) (Previous: 7)
Props to the Boilers for a gutsy overtime victory in State College on Saturday. While Stephens was the hero in this one and A.J. Hammons did work in the paint with another double-double in this game (though he didn't get a bucket in the second half), it was the steady hand of Jon Octeus who helped to guide this team to victory, with his 13 points and 7 assists. In fact, even his two missed free throws near the end of regulation were helpful, as they allowed Stephens to hit the game-tying three. Purdue's only two B1G losses are to the top two teams in the conference, and now will face a three-game stretch against every conference team that begins with the letter I. #analysis
5. Michigan State (12-6, 3-2) (Previous: 3)
I'll leave it up to our commenters to decide whether or not a 16-point loss on the road to Maryland can be described as a "Sparty No." But when you shoot 3-for-17 from three, you aren't winning many games regardless of opponent. It's not all bad news for MSU though - each of their next 10 games is predicted to be a victory.
4. Indiana (14-4, 4-1) (Previous: 5)
Well, that was a crazy one yesterday. I liked the resiliency of our team, especially because we were able to win again without Perea and because we won after suffering through a 21-2 Illini run that led to tweets like these:
I think it's time for some random "Indiana fans want Tom Crean set on fire" retweets— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) January 18, 2015
"hey, tom, you wanna take a timeout here maybe?" pic.twitter.com/zsoDlrmvzB— The Crimson Quarry (@crimsonquarry) January 18, 2015
But still, it was a six-point road win in a venue where we have had a terrible track record in recent years (and where Tom Crean had NEVER won as IU coach), so I feel pretty good about it, especially since we were down going into the final TV timeout. At this time last year, I could never trust an IU team to close out a victory in the final four minutes, but now, I am starting to have a little more faith. Next up is Maryland, and it's a 9pm Thursday night game, so hopefully the students will come fired up for that one.
3. Iowa (13-5, 4-1) (Previous: 4)
It was looking like a familiar story last Tuesday night for the Hawkeyes in the Twin Cities. After racing out to a huge lead over Minnesota, the Golden Gophers had clawed their way back in the second half and taken the lead, just like what had happened to Iowa in multiple games in the past couple years. However, with the game tied at 75 in the closing seconds, Jarrod Uthoff hit the game-winning jumper and Minnesota's last second layup came after the buzzer, as the Hawkeyes escaped in one of the most fun games of the conference season so far. If Iowa keeps closing out games, and they can snag one of two from Wisconsin, they may have to be in contention for a conference title.
2. Wisconsin (16-2, 4-1) (Previous: 1)
WISCONSIN AIN'T PLAYED NO ONE PAWWWLLLL! But seriously, their B1G games so far have consisted of Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, and Nebraska. Not exactly great competition, but that will ramp up because they face Iowa in two of their next three games. Losing Jackson is a tough blow, but this is Wisconsin, where talent is stacked and players rarely even see the court their freshman years, and so of course sophomore Bronson Koenig did well for himself in his first start in place of Jackson last Thursday against the Huskers.
1. Maryland (17-2, 5-1) (Previous: 2)
Fear the Turtle! It's time for a new number one this week for a couple reasons. First of all, we're playing them this week, so I felt like raising the stakes a bit. But more importantly, I've been very impressed with Maryland's quality of wins in the B1G so far. Their only blemish is a road loss to Illinois, and they thoroughly destroyed Michigan State on Saturday, as Melo Trimble and Jake Layman scored 24 and 23 points, respectively. After the IU-Illinois game yesterday, I saw some chatter about Tom Crean as a B1G Coach of the Year candidate. While I think that's valid, I would give it to Turgeon at this point of the season. Unlike Crean, Turgeon had yet to have this much success in College Park, and despite multiple transfers and new arrivals, Maryland has already matched their total number of wins from last season.