With finals exams upon us, the college basketball card is light so I'll be providing conference breakdowns throughout the week.
Big Ten - Even with the loss at Kansas (no Sullinger), Ohio State is unquestionably the class of the league. The one thing I don't like Wisconsin is its current offensive blueprint. In terms of point distribution, 41.4% of their points come from beyond the three-point line while only 11.9% of their points come from the charity stripe. That ratio was 36.1%/18.9% last year. Now on the flip side, Wisconsin defends the three-point line extremely well (24.6%) and doesn't foul but how is this team going to win on a consistent basis if they don't shoot 40% from three – a tough thing to do in Big Ten play. Add in the lack of free throw attempts (12 per game) and you can already sense there are going to be a lot of game scores in the low 100's. Ultimately, defense and good coaching will keep the Badgers at the top of the standings though I think it is going to be more of a struggle this year. Michigan State isn't going to be nearly as bad as the offseason losses suggested. I was really impressed with their win at Gonzaga. Purdue is a notch down with limited offensive options outside of Robbie Hummel. Indiana looked really good in its win over Kentucky. But it was the fact that they won at NC State a few weeks earlier that shows this team will be in the hunt for a double-digit win Big Ten season. Michigan is another team on the rise. Beilein's system is in place but the Wolverines actually have the type of players/experience to score when things break down. The one stat I really like is their 61.6% two-point FGs. That means that when the threes aren’t falling, this team is getting in the paint for high percentage shots. I'm still not solid on Illinois. I saw them settle for way too many outside shots in a narrow overtime victory over St. Bonaventure. With upcoming games against UNLV and Missouri, we'll quickly find out if their 10-0 start is legit. In the long run, not having Trevor Mbakwe will be the death of Minnesota in conference play. Tubby has this team defending well but scoring has and will continue to be extremely difficult. Imagine not having access to six or seven dunks and lay-ups per game? Northwestern was absolutely manhandled by Baylor's length and athleticism the other day and while they won't have trouble scoring vs. the Big Ten, it is defending that I still have concerns about. Last year in conference play, opposing teams averaged 1.14 points per possession and shot 56.5% effective FG. Allowing more than 50% effective FG is for the most part considered below average unless you force a ton of turnovers which the Wildcats don't do. Iowa, Nebraska and Penn State are all bottom feeders who can’t score against better defenses. The Cornhuskers have the most promise out of the trio but injuries and inconsistency have left me on the fence.