Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, December 5, 2016
Although the ACC won the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, I do feel like we learned a lot about a number of Big Ten teams. Even in a loss, a team can show you what they are made of and can give you a glimpse of its true potential.
If you are a fan of Big Ten basketball, have patience this season as nearly every team needs time to develop into what they'll become once conference play is upon us.
Editor's note: Records are through Sunday, Dec. 4, action.
See my latest top 10 below.
1. Indiana (7-1). The loss to Fort Wayne may have been what Maui was for last year's Hoosier squad. At some point, the players on the floor have to realize that this is a highly elite basketball team and the effort and urgency needs to be consistent. There may not be a more fun team to watch in the country, particularly if you like offense and pace. I most certainly do!
Last week: 1
2. Purdue (6-2). Of course we all know how dominant the size of the Boilermakers is, but we are beginning to see more and more balance with the emergence of consistent guard play and perimeter sharpshooting. Especially with Ryan Cline back in the lineup. The inside-out balance makes Purdue a national contender.
Last week: 2
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3. Wisconsin (7-2). The Badgers, particularly Nigel Hayes, put on a clinic on how to defeat the Syracuse zone. Hayes' play-making ability in the middle of the defense and Ethan Happ's ability to occupy the block will open up more high percentage perimeter shots. The offense is improving from week to week and the defense is stingy as usual. The Badgers are poised to make another run for a conference championship.
Last week: 3
4. Ohio State (7-1). I've always known the Buckeyes had potential and talent. I did not realize how good they truly could be, and they are doing it with Keita Bates-Diop injured. Energy and effort will be the key for them yet again this year. Winning at Virginia would have been a treat, but they'll get another shot at a giant when they face UCLA in Vegas next week. The Buckeyes are high on my list at the moment.
Last week: 7
5. Maryland (8-1). The Terps have not looked particularly dominant but that is to be expected when you are replacing so many key pieces. I feel that Maryland and Michigan State will be the teams that have the most room and potential for improvement from November to March. I really do like the individual parts that Mark Turgeon has to work with. The best part being Melo Trimble.
Last week: 6
6. Michigan (6-2). The loss to Virginia Tech frustrated a lot of Wolverine fans. While fans focus on why it happened, John Beilein, Derrick Walton Jr. and crew are working on how to keep it from happening again. They've learned how to play together and they've made improvements on the defensive end. Now they've got to learn how to win those games that get tight down the stretch. This is a fun team to watch. Next up for the Wolverines: Texas and UCLA this week!
Last week: 4
7. Michigan State (5-4). After calling the Oral Roberts game, I came to the realization that Tom Izzo could certainly start four freshmen by the time the season is through. With Miles Bridges out with an ankle injury, opportunity is present for others to earn a more significant role. The freshman class is beginning to emerge as Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Josh Langford all had career highs this past weekend. Hang in there, Spartan fans.
Last week: 5
8. Northwestern (6-2). The only two losses for the Wildcats this season came at the hands of two very good teams in Butler and Notre Dame. Plus, you could argue that those were two games they should have won. Chris Collins has much more depth and versatility than I've ever seen in Evanston. With Dererk Pardon out for the moment, we are reminded how important health is for a team like Northwestern.
Last week: 8
9. Minnesota (7-1). Even in a loss to Florida State, Minnesota was impressive. They showed that they belong in the mix of Big Ten teams who will compete to remain in the middle of the pack and in NCAA Tournament discussions. Amir Coffey, Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy make the Gophers a tough team to match up against. They'll be even better as Richard Pitino continues to help this team find its true identity.
Last week: NR
10. Illinois (6-3). The Illini are my sleeper team this year, and I still think they have the potential to be competitive in the Big Ten and beyond. The challenge for John Groce will be to find the best and most productive rotations. Illinois developed quite a bit of depth due to injuries last season, allowing rarely-used reserves like Maverick Morgan to get quality minutes and experience. I'm banking on the leadership of Tracy Abrams and Malcolm Hill bringing this team together for the start of conference play.
Last week: 10