By Bryan Mauro
All of the so-called College Basketball experts say the Big Ten is having a down year. They have all said this this weakest and the worst the Big Ten has looked from top to bottom in years. Some have even described it as ‘Hot Garbage’ in terms of play and scheduling.
Seth Greenberg, Seth Davis and Jon Rothstein, I implore you to look at my perspective. The Big Ten is deeper and stronger this year than it has ever been in the past. Per KenPom the Big 10 has 7 schools ranked in the top 50 overall. That is second among major conferences behind the ACC. There are zero easy wins in the league this year, evidenced by the fact that Rutgers has kept most games close and has beaten two teams.
For the last couple of years there was a drastic difference between the teams at the top, the teams in the middle, and the teams bringing up the rear. This year the gap has closed significantly and those bottom tier teams like Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Rutgers are making you earn every single win, competing for all 40 minutes.
The bottom tier teams already have wins over Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, and Purdue. Maryland has played all of their games within 8 points. The league also seems to be beating up on itself, which is a product of the deeper leagues, and the best leagues.
Wisconsin lost to Purdue, Purdue lost to both Minnesota and Nebraska. Purdue beat Maryland, while Maryland also lost to Nebraska at home. Michigan State has done their fair share of losing as well. They got spanked by Penn State, but then have turned around and spanked Northwestern and Michigan. This has been one of the only years I can remember where the Big Ten seems to be this deep.
The Big Ten also boasts three of the top 10 schedules in the country.
Nebraska tested themselves early and often with the number 3 strength-of-schedule in the country. They played Kansas, UCLA, Dayton, Clemson, and Creighton in the Non-Conference portion of the season. The Huskers were able to beat Dayton and played UCLA to a 2-point game late in the second half, before succumbing to the Bruins.
Minnesota boasts the number 9 SOS in the country. They played Florida State, Arkansas, UT Arlington and Vanderbilt in the non-conference winning all of the games except Florida State.
Illinois comes in with the number 6 Strength of Schedule in the nation. Illinois played VCU, West Virginia, Florida State and NC State. They beat NC State and VCU. The Big Ten already boasts some of the best wins in the nation. Indiana beat both Kansas and North Carolina. Nebraska and Northwestern have beaten Dayton. Purdue has beaten Notre Dame. Michigan has beaten Marquette and SMU. Iowa has beaten Iowa State.
KenPom also shows that the Big Ten has two of the youngest teams in the country. Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa is the youngest team in the country. By having two of the youngest teams in the country you can project, if all of those kids stay at the school they currently play for, they will be one of the most experienced teams in the country in two years. Those teams usually win a lot of games and have learned how to all win together. That will only make the league stronger going forward.
The league this year has many high profile players showing their stuff for NBA scouts each and every night. The likes of Biggie Swanigan, Tai Webster, Peter Jok, Corey Sanders. This league has a player for every team and every style. Maybe the records and the standings in the Big 10 this year reflect that it is in fact the deepest it has ever been, as opposed to it being the worst it has been in years. Its some food for thought, and the finish in this league will for sure be one for the history books.
So while the so called “experts” say this is worst year in quite some time for the Big Ten, I say it may in fact be one of the best.
The Big Ten may not get their usual allotment of tourney teams this year, not because they don’t have better deep teams, but these teams have spent so much time beating up on each other all year, that they just have too many losses.