For a conference that many believed to be the strongest in the nation at the beginning of the year, the Big Ten standings inspire more controversy, and perhaps confusion, than any other in 2014. Teams that figured to sit atop the standings are sliding, and the current leader wasn't exactly favored after losing four non-conference games.
The Big Ten remains the most compelling conference in college basketball, if not for the right reasons. Here are some surprising numbers from the Big Ten entering Sunday.
1. Every Big Ten team has a winning record, but only three have a winning conference record
Though it hardly seems mathematically possible, only three of the 12 Big Ten teams have winning records. Michigan (8-0), Michigan State (8-1) and Iowa (6-3) hold the top three spots, and it's a jumbled mess from there.
Even the teams that hover precariously close to the .500 mark for the season find ways to win and keep their heads above water. For example, Penn State, previously sitting at 10-10, shocked Ohio State in Columbus Wednesday to move to 11-10.
In short, every Big Ten team possesses enough talent to win, but few of them do so consistently. Illinois streaked to an 11-2 start during the pre-conference season only to drop seven of nine so far to Big Ten teams.
Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa are a combined 22-4 in conference; the other nine teams are 30-48.
2. Northwestern would get a bye if the Big Ten tournament started today
Looking past Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa, which are all ranked in the top 15, the fourth seed remains up for grabs.
Ohio State, previously 15-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation, figured to be a lock for one of the top four seeds. Five losses later, the Buckeyes are shockingly on the outside looking in.
Wisconsin's demise arrived even more abruptly. The Badgers were 16-0 before losing five of six games, with three of those losses coming at home.
Many wouldn't have been shocked even to see hot-starting Illinois or Minnesota near the top of the conference. But both teams hit rough stretches, faltered, and fell in the standings. Pre-season No. 23 Indiana suffered similar difficulties and sits at ninth place.
Despite pre-season expectations for all of these teams, the Northwestern Wildcats, after starting conference play 0-3, are in fourth place at 5-5. Chris Collins changed the culture in Evanston, and his team responded.
3. Nebraska is statistically the second-toughest team to beat at home
Pinnacle Bank Arena opened at the start of the 2013-14 basketball season with expectations extremely low in Lincoln. But Nebraska overachieves at home in stunning fashion.
Nebraska's resume away from Lincoln certainly disappoints, but Tim Miles's team dominates at home.
Nebraska is 10-1 in its new arena with victories over Ohio State, Minnesota and Indiana. Its only loss, on January 9th, resulted from three missed layups at the buzzer to fall 71-70 at the hands of first-place Michigan.
Even powerhouse home teams like Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin dropped multiple home games earlier this season. Indiana fell to Michigan State and Northwestern, Wisconsin to Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State, and Michigan State to North Carolina and Michigan.
The only team with a better home resume at this point is the first-place Michigan Wolverines, who lost 72-70 to Arizona back in December. Michigan is undefeated in the Big Ten at home in four games.
But losing just one home game, by one point, to the top team in the conference gives Nebraska the next-strongest home resume in the Big Ten.
4. The State of Michigan is more dominant than previously thought... in conference
In-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State continue to carry the Big Ten as a duo. Separated by a full two games from any other team in the conference, only a shocking streak could propel a third team into the mix with the Wolverines and Spartans.
Dismissing the undefeated battle between the two teams, in which one of them HAD to lose, the Michigan schools are 15-0 against the rest of the conference, winning by an average of 10 points per game.
Michigan's non-conference struggles grabbed national headlines as the defending runner-up lost four early contests. Michigan State's season passed without many problems until an underwhelming loss to Georgetown Saturday.
The Spartans faltered at home against North Carolina and got crushed in early December, and other than the win over then-No. 1 Kentucky, few good wins overshadow that.
The Big Ten may stand as one of the top conferences in the country, but both Michigan schools epitomize the opposite.
5. Half of the conference is ranked in the RPI top 35
Six Big Ten teams currently rank in the top 35 in the country, according to RPI.
RPI is the most useful tool for the NCAA Tournament selection committee to analyze a team's play throughout the entire season, so all six Big Ten teams likely would receive a bid as of Sunday.
The surprising statistic in this case is that three of those six teams have losing conference records. Ohio State (19) and Wisconsin (13) are ranked among the best in the country in RPI, yet both teams are 4-5 in the Big Ten.
Teams that boasted top-10 rankings in the pre-conference standings found the Big Ten schedule to be much less welcoming. Though it may not have the highly-ranked teams like other conferences, it is supported by the RPI standings.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed