By Austin Miller (@austin_james906)
After a week off for Christmas (I sincerely hope that you and yours had a wonderful holiday season, however you may have spent it), Miller’s B1G Minute is back and better than ever to celebrate the start of conference play. As we enter Big Ten play, it’s important to note that despite the lack of strength in the conference this season, teams’ resumes will be made or broken by what happens during the next two, and come Selection Sunday, most of the attention will, rightfully, be paid to what happens in conference.
However, we shouldn’t forget about what teams did, or didn’t, do during the non-conference slate. Teams like Northwestern should be punished for not beating anyone outside of conference play while teams like Iowa should be rewarded for challenging themselves out of the confines of the Big Ten. Because of their respective non-conference performances, the Wildcats will have a much smaller margin of error in conference play that the Hawkeyes, for example; just one or two bad losses may be the end of the line for the Wildcats’ tournament hopes.
One To Be Proud Of: Iowa 83, Michigan State 70
Michigan State is the biggest possible win to be had in the Big Ten this season, and Iowa went and got it on the opening night of conference play. The Spartans currently sit at No. 3 in the RPI, and Iowa now has one really good win to put on its resume alongside decent wins against Wichita State and Florida State. If the Hawkeyes hold serve the remainder of the season (a long way away), they should be no-doubters for the NCAA Tournament.
One To Be Ashamed Of: Maryland 70, Penn State 64
Maryland is strikingly similar to the Ohio State football team: a really, really talented team that has struggled in games that should be easy wins. Penn State has no business going into College Park and hanging with the Terps, yet there they were. Diamond Stone was incredible, scoring a Maryland freshman record high 39 points and grabbing 12 boards, but the Terps should be blowing out teams of Penn State’s quality. The Terps make the trip to Evanston on Saturday, in a game that should be really interesting to watch.
Big Ten Power Rankings One-Ish Sentence Style:
1. Michigan State: 0-1 in conference play isn’t quite enough for me to bump the Spartans down, who face another road test this weekend against Minnesota.
2. Purdue: The Boilermakers dropped a game to Butler, but rebounded to knock off a good Vanderbilt team and win on the road at Wisconsin, which is never an easy ask.
3. Maryland:No doubt Maryland is No. 3, despite the Terps’ struggles against Penn State.
4. Iowa:The Hawkeyes are up a spot after the impressive win against Sparty. A win against Purdue this weekend would push them even further up.
5. Northwestern: Pardon me, but that was quite a debut from Northwestern freshman center Dererk Pardon. If the Wildcats can stun Maryland Saturday, they can start thinking about March.
6. Indiana: The Hoosiers weren’t overly impressive against Rutgers, but it’s tough to go play under the big city lights of NYC, I’ll give them a pass.
7. Michigan: A few early losses have the Wolverines flying a bit under the radar, but they are definitely a team that fancies itself as tournament material.
8. Ohio State: The Buckeyes saved their season two weekends back against Kentucky, but will still need a good Big Ten showing to overcome a poor non-conference performance.
9. Wisconsin: Losing to Purdue is no shame, but the Badgers are running out of chances to bolster their resume.
10. Nebraska: The Huskers shot the lights out against Northwestern on Wednesday, but couldn’t pull it out late, which is not a good sign for a poor shooting team.
11. Illinois: The Illini are starting to resemble a good basketball team, and could certainly spoil a few tournament resumes.
12. Penn State: Still not good at basketball.
13. Minnesota: Didn’t look terrible against Ohio State, and Joey King can run the 2-3 zone by himself so well you’ll cry.
14. Rutgers: Not much to say about New York’s B1G Team.