Dec. 12, 2011
Tip-Off: As several teams take time off during the week to prepare for finals, this weekend is packed with plenty of Big Ten men's basketball action. No. 18/20 Indiana and Purdue play Notre Dame and Butler, respectively, at the Crossroads Classic, held at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the site of the 2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. No. 19 Illinois also takes to a neutral court on Saturday, facing UNLV at Chicago's United Center, the home of the 2013 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. Northwestern has the busiest week, playing three games after having not played since Dec. 4.
Where We Rank: The Big Ten is tied for the lead among all conferences with six teams ranked in the Associated Press (AP) and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls. Ohio State leads the conference at No. 2 in both polls, followed by No. 14/15 Wisconsin, No. 18/20 Indiana, No. 19/19 Illinois, No. 20/18 Michigan and No. 21/23 Michigan State. Northwestern is receiving votes in both polls, while Purdue is receiving votes outside the coaches' top 25. The Hoosiers and Spartans are making their first appearances of the season in the polls, while Indiana is ranked for the first time since March of 2008. This week's rankings mark the first time since Jan. 17, 2011, that the Big Ten has had six teams ranked in the top 25 of the AP and coaches' polls.
Topping the Charts: The Big Ten continues to lead the nation in RPI, ranking first among all conferences with a rating of .5938 and second with a Division I winning percentage of .7943. The Big Ten leads all conferences with eight top-40 RPI teams, led by Michigan at No. 15. The Wolverines are followed by No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 25 Michigan State, No. 29 Ohio State, No. 31 Indiana, No. 34 Northwestern and No. 38 Illinois. The Big Ten also continues to lead the nation in the Sagarin Ratings this week with an average of 84.10.
And Then There Were Two: The Big Ten lays claim to two of the nation's nine undefeated teams, as Illinois and Indiana boast respective records of 10-0 and 9-0 heading into the sixth week of the season. The Fighting Illini are off to their best start since opening the 2005-06 season 15-0, and the Hoosiers are 9-0 for the first time since 1989-90, when the program jumped out to a 10-0 start. Illinois is one of three teams in Division I with a 10-0 record, joining Syracuse and Murray State. The Big Ten is one of just three conferences (Big 12, Big East) with multiple undefeated teams.
Knocking 'em Down: Big Ten teams beat two more ranked opponents last week, including Indiana's buzzer-beater win over No. 1/1 Kentucky on Saturday. The victory was the Hoosiers' first over a top-ranked team since beating Duke in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, and the Big Ten's first against a top-ranked non-conference opponent since Michigan State defeated Louisville in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. The game marked the Big Ten's first win over a top-ranked non-conference opponent in the regular season since Illinois beat Wake Forest in December of 2004, and the first win by an unranked Big Ten team over a top-ranked non-conference opponent in the regular season since Purdue beat Arizona in 2000. Also on Saturday, Michigan State defeated No. 23/22 Gonzaga on the road, marking the Spartans' first true road win over a ranked opponent since 2002.
Elite Company: With a win over UNLV on Saturday, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan became the 13th coach in conference history to compile 250 wins at a Big Ten institution. Ryan needed just 343 games to reach the milestone, becoming the third-fastest in conference history to reach the marker, behind only Indiana's Bob Knight (327) and Purdue's Ward Lambert (331). Among coaches with 250 or more Big Ten wins, Ryan's .729 winning percentage ranks second, behind only Knight's mark of .734.
Home and Away: Big Ten teams are nearly unbeatable on their home courts, entering the week with a combined 69-8 (.896) home record. Six conference squads are undefeated at home, as Minnesota and Ohio State are both 8-0, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue are 7-0, Michigan State is 6-0, and Michigan is 4-0. Conference teams are also picking up big wins on the road or on neutral courts, entering the week with a .600 winning percentage in those games, which leads all conferences. Northwestern leads the Big Ten with four wins away from home, including three on a neutral court, while Indiana and Michigan State are both 2-0 in true road games. Nebraska is 2-1 on the road, marking the first season since 1998-99 that the Huskers have won multiple non-conference road games.
Tenacious D: Big Ten teams continue to stifle opponents on offense, with five squads holding the opposition to less than 60 points per game. Wisconsin leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 44.9 points on average, while Ohio State (56.0) is 15th, Illinois (56.5) is 20th, Michigan State (57.7) is 30th, and Purdue (59.3) is 40th. In addition, six conference teams are outscoring their opponents by an average of 10 points or more, including Ohio State, which is second in the nation with a scoring margin of 24.8.
Sharing the Wealth: Four Big Ten teams rank in the nation's top 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio, including Northwestern, which leads the nation with a 1.77 mark. Wisconsin is third (1.71), followed by No. 4 Ohio State (1.63) and No. 9 Purdue (1.51). Individually, the Wildcats' Dave Sobolewski ranks second in the country with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.57, followed by Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble (3rd, 4.00) and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (7th, 3.80).
You'd Better Watch Out: Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan State's Draymond Green, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, Northwestern's John Shurna, Ohio State's William Buford, Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger, Purdue's Robbie Hummel and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor were named to the Wooden and Naismith award preseason watch lists. The Big Ten ranked second among all conferences with nine players on the Wooden Award Watch List and tied for second with nine players on the Naismith Award Watch List. Ohio State was one of just three teams in the nation with three or more players on the Wooden list and one of five teams with three or more on the Naismith list. The Big Ten tied for the lead among all conferences with seven different schools represented on the Naismith list.
Stay CLASS-y: Five Big Ten players are candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, more players than any other conference in the country. Michigan's Zack Novak, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Ohio State's William Buford, Purdue's Robbie Hummel and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor are among the 30 student-athletes nominated for the award that recognizes seniors that make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
Stars on the Small Screen: This season, every Big Ten home game will be produced and distributed to a live national audience. The Big Ten Network, which is available in more than 80 million homes in the U.S. and Canada, will broadcast over 100 events on its linear channel or on www.BTN.com. More than 75 games will be broadcast by an ESPN platform - ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3, and CBS Sports will carry 15 games.
March is (Almost) On: The Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament returns to Indianapolis in 2012 for the fifth year of a five-year agreement that puts both the men's and women's events in the Circle City. Every game of the tournament will be broadcast to a national audience with contests appearing on BTN, ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS Sports. Every tournament game since the event's inception in 1998 has reached a live national television audience.
The Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament will return to Conseco Fieldhouse in 2014 and 2016 and will be played at the United Center in Chicago in 2013 and 2015.
All-session tickets for the 2012 Big Ten Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments are on sale now. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.