In Chad Leistikow’s recap of the Iowa Hawkeyes’ blowout of the Michigan State Spartans, he noted Iowa’s stretch of five wins in six games with an average margin in those wins approaching 20 points (19.8).
That level of dominance has seen the Hawkeyes rise in KenPom’s rankings 8 spots ($) since the double overtime loss at Penn State, with defense being the story. They’ve risen from 103rd to 81st. The adjusted expected margin change is more ... marginal at 2.85 points/100 possessions, so it overstates the improvement a bit given that would translate into a basket’s difference in the average Iowa game (70 possessions). But it is the 23rd best improvement in the country since their low point and second in the conference to only Rutgers.
So with three Iowa games left, how has the rest of the conference stacked up in terms of “hotness?” Let’s take a look from the top of the conference on down before identifying the best and worst trenders. We’ll look at something soccer often does, with their last 5 results, and average margin in them.
T-1) Wisconsin Badgers (13-4) - WWWLW (+4.0 PPG)
The Badgers have played tight games throughout the season, which is reflected in their KenPom ranking of 25. They just keep winning, including last night’s game at Minnesota where Johnny Davis sat out the final minutes after fouling out. They host Purdue on Tuesday in a game which could decide the conference title.
T-1) Purdue Boilermakers (13-4) - WWWLW (+2.6 PPG)
For as tight as Wisky has played past games, Purdue is even tighter with single-digit wins against Maryland and Northwestern. They also have the 24-point defeat to Michigan as an anchor on their margin.
3) Illinois Fighting Illini (12-4) - WLWLW (+0.4 PPG)
Tonight’s game against Ohio State could bring the group into a three-way tie at 13-4 with two weekends left to play. They’ve struggled on the road, with recent losses to Purdue and Rutgers but withstood a fiery comeback in East Lansing. They finish with 3 of 4 at home, including their finale against Iowa.
4) Ohio State Buckeyes (10-5) - OLWWL (+6.4 PPG)
Their overtime win against Indiana righted the ship before closing the season with five games in 11 days. Brutal stretch. Speaks to their resiliency that they’ve got the best margin over five games despite not leading after forty minutes in three of those games. Iowa’s chances at the double-bye hinge on OSU coming back to earth.
5) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-7) - LLWWW (+/- 0.0 PPG)
After surging up the standings in the first half of February, Steve Pikiell’s bunch have returned to earth in two road losses (Michigan & Purdue). Their ceiling is no higher than Iowa’s, as they have the same number of losses, and will have to face the Cardiac Badgers on Saturday. It’s a huge game for their tournament prospects, considering how ugly their season began.
note: the following three teams are 1-1 against each other so they’re sorted alphabetically
T-6) Iowa Hawkeyes (9-7) - WWLWW (+16.0 PPG)
The Hawkeyes caught the right teams at the right times. Did the airplane malfunctions for a trip to Columbus after their loss to Penn State save the ceiling? It was a topic in our slack, courtesy Matt Cabel. Anyways, the first three wins could be chalked up to competition but fighting to the end against Michigan, a flipping of the script against OSU, and a now-routine(?) blowout against MSU have the Hawkeyes sitting as pretty as anyone could ask coming into the season.
T-6) Michigan Wolverines (9-7) - WLWLW (+2.6 PPG)
The conference’s most volatile team righted the ship again with Phil Martelli leading them to a win against Rutgers. I don’t know what win total they need to get to to lock themselves into a tournament but they’ve got the next three at home. They’re better there. (6-2 against Big Ten/top 50 KenPom teams at home vs. 3-7 away)
T-6) Michigan State Spartans (9-7) - LLLWL (-2.4 PPG)
The conference’s Mendoza line. A win against Indiana is the only success of their last five games, as they’ve gone sideways since a 5-0 start. Helps to have those five games come against Minnesota twice, Penn State, Northwestern, and Nebraska. They’re going the wrong direction, which is contrary to what we’re used to out of Tom Izzo’s club this time of year.
9) Indiana Hoosiers (7-9) - OLLLL (-11.2 PPG)
Did I think IU was a dark horse to win the conference? No comment. This “O” is the overtime loss to Ohio State. I’m not saying they’re gonna backdoor their way into the tournament, but they have three winnable games and a road finale against Purdue to close the season.
10) Penn State Nittany Lions (6-10) - LWWLL (+2.4 PPG)
Micah Shrewsberry has had Penn State in a ton of games this season and their last five is indicative of that. The conference appears to have added two good coaches at historically mediocre programs.
11) Northwestern Wildcats (6-11) - WLLLW (-2.0 PPG)
I watched some of the Northwestern/Nebraska game for a healthy bit of schadenfreude before podcasting with Ben this week.
12) Maryland Terrapins (5-11) - WWLLL (-3.4 PPG)
A week ago, they were staring down the barrel of five straight losses. Nothing a trip to Lincoln can’t cure. They got another win against Penn State. They have a Big Ten roster but have been all over the place after Mark Turgeon’s “you can’t fire me, I quit!”
13) Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-13) - LWLLW (-4.8 PPG)
I like Ben Johnson even though I can never remember his name. They have the worst roster in the league and it shows, but they’ve had some really strong efforts in losses, including last night to Wisconsin. They close with IU and road games at Maryland and Northwestern. Could be a team who makes a Big Ten Tournament run into the quarters from Day 1. But they’re the only W for ...
14) Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-15) - LLLWL (-12.0 PPG)
Iowa has to beat them before I put my thoughts on Hoiball 2: The Hoiballening on this here website.
Iowa (+16.0 PPG, 4-1 last 5)
Ohio State (+6.4 PPG, 3-2)
Wisconsin (+4.0 PPG, 4-1)
Purdue (+2.6 PPG, 4-1)
Nebraska (-12.0 PPG, 1-4)
Indiana (-11.2 PPG, 0-5)
Minnesota (-4.8 PPG, 2-3)
Maryland (-3.4 PPG, 2-3)
Michigan State (-2.4 PPG, 1-4)
The Hawkeyes face teams who are a collective 9-11 down the stretch. Ohio State & Rutgers are facing weaker groups to close the regular season:
Ohio State: 10-15
Michigan State: 12-8
At the end of the day, Iowa just has to win for the seeding to play out in their favor.