Feb. 25, 2013
Just two weeks remain before tipoff at the 2013 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament and teams are trying to position themselves for tournament seeding. Indiana can clinch a share of its first Big Ten Championship since 2002 with two victories this week. The Hoosiers are among five conference teams appearing in the top 20 of both national rankings for the fourth straight week. Five conference teams have reached the 20-wins mark on the season, while three conference standouts were named Academic All-Americans.
Where We Rank
Six Big Ten teams are receiving votes in the latest national rankings, with Indiana appearing at the top of both the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches polls, which were released on Monday. It marks the 10th time this season the Hoosiers have appeared atop of at least one of the standings. Michigan returns to the top five, checking in at No. 4 in both polls, while Michigan State appears at No. 9 in the AP vote and No. 10 in the coaches standings. Ohio State and Wisconsin appear in the top 20 of each poll, giving the Big Ten five top-20 squads for the fourth straight week. The Buckeyes are ranked 15th in the USA Today poll and No. 16 in the writers rankings, while the Badgers check in at No. 16 in the coaches vote and No. 17 in the AP standings. Illinois is also receiving votes in both polls.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Indiana can clinch at least a share of the Big Ten Championship with two victories this week. The Hoosiers are 12-2 in conference play, ahead of second-place Michigan State with an 11-4 record, and can claim a share of their 21st Big Ten Championship in program history and first since 2002. Michigan and Wisconsin are tied for third in the standings at 10-4, but the Badgers hold the head-to-head tiebreak. Ohio State rounds out the standings' top five with a 10-5 conference record.
Five Big Ten teams have reached the 20-wins mark this season, tied for the most of any conference in the nation. Indiana leads all conference teams with 24 victories, Michigan has 23 wins and Michigan State carries 22 triumphs this season, making the Big Ten one of just two conferences with three teams at 22 or more wins this year. Illinois and Ohio State each reached the 20-wins mark last week. The Illini reached the milestone for the fourth time in the last five seasons, while the Buckeyes have reached 20 wins for the ninth consecutive season.
Big Ten Against the Top 25
This season, eight conference squads have recorded multiple wins over top-25 teams, including five programs that have won four or more games against ranked foes. Indiana and Wisconsin are among the national leaders in victories over top-25 squads, as the Hoosiers have a 6-0 mark and the Badgers hold five wins against ranked foes. Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota have each won four games against ranked competition, Michigan has won three contests against the top 25 and Northwestern and Ohio State boast a pair of triumphs against top-25 teams.
Rated by the RPI
The Big Ten continues to lead all conferences in the RPI, according to RPIratings.com. Through Monday's games, seven conference teams are rated among the top 35, the most of any conference. Five Big Ten squads appear among the ratings' top 20, led by No. 6 Michigan. The Wolverines are joined in the top 20 by No. 7 Indiana, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 17 Minnesota and No. 20 Ohio State. Wisconsin appears at No. 25 and Illinois is rated 33rd.
The Big Ten is the nation's top-rated conference in the Sagarin Ratings, as five squads appear in the top 10 and nine appear among the top 65. Through Sunday's games, Indiana is rated first in the nation, followed in the top 10 by No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 10 Wisconsin. Minnesota appears at No. 23 this week, with Illinois and Iowa checking in at Nos. 40 and 41, respectively, and Purdue rounding out the top 65 at No. 65.
Entering the week, seven Big Ten teams are averaging 69 points or more per game this season, including a pair of squads ranked in the top 25. Indiana is ranked second in the country, averaging 82.5 points per game, while Michigan is 22nd at 76.0 points a contest. Five other conference teams are averaging more than 69 points per game, including Iowa (71.8), Illinois (70.8), Ohio State (70.6), Michigan State (69.6) and Minnesota (69.1).
Battling for Stat Champions
Heading into the final stretch of the conference season, Big Ten standouts are looking to finish as the conference's stat leaders among all games and conference games only. Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas looks to give Ohio State the scoring champion for the third time in the last five seasons, leading in points per game at 19.9 in all games and conference games only. Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe is on pace to lead the Big Ten in rebounding for the second time, averaging 8.5 boards in all games and 9.7 in conference play this season, after previously winning the rebounding title in both categories in 2011. Michigan's Trey Burke is on pace to become the first Wolverine to lead the Big Ten in assists in conference games only since Gary Grant in 1988 and the second assist leader in all games from Michigan in the last three years. Burke is averaging 6.5 assists in conference games, and 6.9 helpers in all games.
Three Big Ten coaches are within four games of overall coaching milestones. Iowa's Fran McCaffery and Nebraska's Tim Miles are approaching 300 career victories. McCaffery is just three wins away while Miles needs four triumphs to reach the milestone. Five active conference coaches have won more than 300 games in their careers, including Michigan's John Beilein, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Minnesota's Tubby Smith, Ohio State's Thad Matta and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. Purdue's Matt Painter aims to become the 10th active coach to reach the 200-wins mark, needing two more triumphs to reach the milestone.
Academic All-America of the Year Aaron Craft of Ohio State is one of three Big Ten players selected to the Capital One Academic All-America Men's Basketball Team, as announced by CoSIDA. Craft was named a first-team Academic All-American for the second straight year and is joined on the first team by Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller, making the Big Ten the only conference with multiple first-team standouts. Indiana's Jordan Hulls was also named to the Academic All-America squad, earning a spot on the third team, making the Hoosiers the only program with two selections. The three Big Ten student-athletes honored as Academic All-Americans is tied for the most of any conference in the country.
Packing the United Center
For the first time in the event's history, the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament has sold out all tickets in advance. After the original allotment of general public tickets for the event sold out in January, the conference office made a limited number of additional all-session packages available on Feb. 1, but all tickets have now been sold. The conference tournament averaged 18,882 fans per session when the event was last held at the United Center in 2007. The men's tournament set total and average attendance records while in Chicago in 2001 with 109,769 fans in attendance for an average of 21,954 patrons per session. Last season, the Big Ten sold out three sessions and averaged nearly 18,000 fans per session.