Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big Ten Power Poll, 12-15-2010

My ballot for the Star Tribune's Big 10 Power Poll.  I took a good long look at each team's overall resume this time instead of just adjusting up and down based on the last week's results.  It didn't make all that much of a difference, actually.  The overall poll is found on Myron Medcalf's blog at this link, and is usually posted by mid-day on Wednesday.

1.  Ohio State Buckeyes.  The only team where I can't find any flaws so far.  They've beaten some very good teams (Florida, Florida State), handled decent teams with ease (Morehead State by 19, IUPUI by 21, Miami-OH by 19), and blown out the bad teams (average margin of victory = 35 vs. sub-200 teams).  Clearly the class of the league with a great balance of scorers.  They're going to be awfully difficult to beat.

2.  Illinois Fighting Illini.  Other than the overtime loss to Texas, the Illini actually have the most impressive overall body of work in the conference.  Wins over North Carolina, Gonzaga, Maryland, and Oakland, and other than playing Toledo they haven't played a sub-200 type team.  If they can beat Missouri next Wednesday it's going to be awfully tough to keep them out of the top spot.

3.  Michigan State Spartans.  The record isn't the best, but that schedule is absolutely brutal.  The do have a great win over Washington and there's no shame in losing to Duke, Syracuse, or UCONN - especially how they were playing at the time.  And, once again, there's no use worrying about Sparty in December.  Izzo always builds for March.

4.  Wisconsin Badgers.  Any of three teams could rank here, but I'm going with Wisconsin on the strength of their recent wins over Marquette and NC State, and the fact that their win over Boston College is starting to look better and better.  Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor are a hell of a 1-2 punch, and, no shocker here, they're currently one of the most efficient offenses in the country right now.

5.  Purdue Boilermakers.  Their only loss is still the neutral court loss to Richmond who is looking like the class of the A-10 right now.  Other than that there are some decent wins (Alabama, Virginia Tech, Oakland) but nothing that truly stands out.  Still wondering who that third scorer might be?  Maybe they don't need one.

6.  Minnesota Gophers.  Even though their win over West Virginia is arguably the best win by any Big Ten team, their defensive struggles keep me from putting them any higher.  If they had been playing anybody but cupcakes these last two weeks there would be a few more losses in that record.  Maybe this is a case of being so close that I see every wart, but they just aren't a very good team right now.  Hurry back Al.

7.  Michigan Wolverines.  Wins over Clemson, Harvard, and Utah along with keeping the game close against Syracuse (closer than Michigan State did) are better than anything the team's below them have accomplished this year.  Plus I can't get over Darius Morris.  Did you know he's second in the country in assist rate?  48% of Wolverine baskets when he's on the court come from his assists?  And he's leading the team in scoring while shooting 55%!  Sleeper candidate for Big Ten POY right here.

8.  Northwestern Wildcats.  Maybe I need to have them above Michigan, but this is the emptiest 6-0 I've ever seen.  The win over Georgia Tech was so-so as was their win over Creighton, but outside of that it's just a bunch of sub-300 creampuffs.  Not the way to get into the NCAA Tournament for the first time.  Next week they play in a tournament that has them looking at a likely matchup with St. John's in Madison Square Garden.  They have to win that one, or they might have already knocked themselves out of at-large consideration with that schedule.

9.  Indiana Hoosiers.  Seven wins and two losses is all well and good, but have you see the quality of competition?  Their best win is against a 5-5 Wright State squad that has two of its wins over non Division I schools, and five of the other six wins are against sub-200 teams.  This might be an ugly B10 season for Indiana.

10.  Penn State Nittany Lions.  The loss to Virginia Tech assures Penn State will come into conference play without a good win on their ledger.  Their win over Duquesne is decent and there are no bad losses so they aren't out of it, but they'll have to go on a nice run in the Big 10 if they want to get Talor Battle to the NCAA Tournament.

11.  Iowa Hawkeyes.  The win over Northern Iowa was nice, but other than the win over Alabama in the Paradise Jam there are no other remotely decent wins here, and there are some very bad losses.  The Hawkeyes are going to be better than I expected, but that really isn't saying much at all.

It's clear to me that Ohio State is the best team in the league with Illinois and Michigan State right there.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Purdue are on the next tier, and it's awfully tough to separate them right now.  I'd put Michigan and Northwestern in the next group, although Northwestern has the potential to move up a tier once they finally play somebody.  Indiana is probably a half-step above Penn State right now, and the Lions are about a half step above Iowa.  Seems pretty clear to me, until conference play starts and we get a better idea of how everybody matches up against each other.

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