|Team||W||L||Tempo||PPP||Opp. PPP||Eff. Margin|
Data from StatSheet.com and KenPom.com.
There aren’t many sports clichés older than “defense wins championships” but the phrase holds true in the Big Ten. The four teams at the top of the Big Ten standings boast the best per-possession defenses in the league and the top three have the best adjusted defensive efficiency ratings in the country. Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern can score the ball as well as anyone in the league but simply haven’t found the results on the other end.
The defense played in the league might not be the most aesthetically pleasing but it goes a long way toward explaining Saturday’s face off between league leaders, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Spartans upset the Buckeyes in Columbus despite scoring just .91 points per possession, an impressive feat that required holding the league’s second best offense to a meager .75 points per trip. Ohio State and Michigan State are now tied for first at 9-3 and remain an arms length away from the pack in the efficiency margin column. However, Michigan and Wisconsin are just a game back in the loss column with five or six big games left on the schedule.
After the jump we take a look at the top four team’s remaining schedules and some highlights from the week that was in the Big Ten.
Big Ten Remaining Schedule by Team
|MICHIGAN ST. (9-3)||OHIO ST. (9-3)||MICHIGAN (9-4)||WISCONSIN (8-4)|
|vs. Wisconsin (8-4)||at Minnesota (5-7)||vs. OSU (9-3)||at MSU (9-3)|
|at Purdue (6-6)||at Michigan (9-4)||at N’Western (5-7)||vs. PSU (3-10)|
|at Minnesota (5-7)||vs. Illinois (5-7)||vs. Purdue (6-6)||at Iowa (5-7)|
|vs. Nebraska (3-10)||vs. Wisconsin (8-4)||at Illinois (5-7)||at OSU (9-3)|
|at Indiana (7-6)||at N’Western (5-7)||at PSU (3-10)||vs. Minnesota (5-7)|
|vs. OSU (9-3)||at MSU (9-3)||vs. Illinois (5-7)|
Michigan State and Ohio State both have their fair share of tough games although Michigan State’s toughest games come at home while Ohio State has significant road hurdles ahead. Michigan and Wisconsin could both play their way back into the conference championship picture this week with games against the league leaders. – Dylan Burkhardt
Surprise of the week: No. 12 Michigan State 58, No. 3 Ohio State 48
It wasn’t a total shock that the Spartans beat the first-place Buckeyes on Saturday, but it was surprising how comfortable the victory was. Michigan State took the lead for the first time with 12:13 to go in the first half and never relinquished it. The Spartans held a comfortable eight to 12 point lead for most of the second half and Ohio State never mounted a serious run. The Buckeyes had won 39 straight games at Value City Arena but Michigan State was the more physical and aggressive team. The Spartans dominated the backboards and continued to play some of the best defense we’ve seen from a Tom Izzo team in quite some time. The win put the Spartans in a tie for first place with the Buckeyes although Ohio State still has a shot for revenge on March 4th when it visits East Lansing for the final game of the regular season. – Kevin Raftery
Stat line of the week: Jared Sullinger’s “triple double”: 17 points, 16 rebounds, 10 turnovers in loss to Michigan State
Sullinger’s 17 points were right on track with his season average, and 16 rebounds is an impressive number, but those are numbers we’ve seen from Sullinger time and again. It was the turnovers that make this stat line so uncommon. Ten turnovers were the most that the consensus player of the year candidate has totaled in his career, and he became the first player in Division I this season to record the not-so-glamorous “triple double” using points, rebounds and turnovers. The Spartans’ ability to play physically against Sullinger in the post took him out of his comfort zone and his frustration became more evident with every missed layup and turnover. – Kevin Raftery
Game of the week: No. 22 Wisconsin 68, Minnesota 61 (OT) Thursday
In Minneapolis, Wisconsin led by as many as 12 in the second half and held a nine-point lead with just over five minutes to go. But the scrappy Golden Gophers wouldn’t go away and tied it up on two free throws by Austin Hollins with a minute to go. Hollins had a chance to be the hero for Minnesota on its final possession but couldn’t get his last-second attempt to drop. Instead, the game went to overtime, and from there, the Badgers regained control and won it from the free throw line. They made just one field goal in the extra frame but made 14-of-16 freebies to seal the victory. It was a big road win for Wisconsin, which has now won seven of its last eight games and remains in the hunt for the conference crown. – Kevin Raftery
Disappointment of the week: Illinois loses twice, continues slide down standings
Losing at Indiana and Michigan isn’t necessarily unexpected but Bruce Weber and his team now find themselves in a desperate situation. Illinois has now lost six of its last seven, with the one ugly 42-41 win over Michigan State. After starting 4-1 in league play, the Illini are very much on the bubble and could be on the outside looking in if they are unable to regain some consistency down the stretch. Wins over Ohio State and Michigan State are a nice feather in the cap but Illinois still has road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin as well as difficult home games against Purdue and Michigan ahead. – Kevin Raftery
Unsung hero of the week: Zack Novak
For his entire career, Zack Novak has been the master of doing the little things — hustling after loose balls, grabbing offensive rebounds, taking charges, making threes and influencing the game in a host of other ways that an average spectator might not notice. Now, Novak has reached a milestone that anybody can respect. In Michigan’s 62-46 win at Nebraska on Wednesday, Novak notched his 1,000th-career point and became just the 28th player in Michigan history to have 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Novak, along with fellow senior Stu Douglass, has been the glue that’s held the Wolverines together throughout his career. In reality, Novak has been one of Michigan’s unsung heroes for the last four years. Not one to relish the spotlight, Novak has done his job on a daily basis and asked nothing for it but the same type of effort from his teammates. Unsung hero may be a great way to describe the senior’s career as a whole. – Kevin Raftery
Upcoming game(s) of the week: No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan State, 7 p.m Thursday; No. 3 Ohio State at No. 25 Michigan, 9 p.m Saturday
It’s difficult to truly pick between a huge primetime Saturday night game between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes, or Thursday’s matchup between No. 22 Wisconsin and No. 12 Michigan State. However, sometimes in life you’ve just got to make difficult decisions… This is not one of those times. Both of these games hold too much importance to choose one over the other. The Buckeyes currently stand tied for first in the conference alongside Michigan State with a 9-3 record. Michigan is nipping at their heels at 9-4, while Wisconsin comes into its matchup against Michigan State at 8-4. A win for either Michigan and/or Wisconsin will greatly shake up the conference standings and will make for a very exciting finish to regular season play. March is now just over two weeks away. It’s time for the cream of the crop to rise to the top. – Kevin Raftery