It’s no secret that the Big Ten hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire over the first month-plus of the college basketball season. Even before the B1G got hammered by the Big East in the Gavitt Games, Nebraska, Penn State, and Maryland all suffered pretty embarrassing losses This posed the question if the conference would come anywhere close to last season’s nine NCAA Tournament bids. Early on, it’s looking pretty unlikely.
Two weeks ago — we were off last week for the holiday — Connor and Justin tried to describe this season in three words or fewer. Connor went with “adjust your expectations” after a few underwhelming Ohio State performances. Justin said “more Eugene Brown” and just a few days later he became concussed.
You folks voted, and Connor won with 52% of the vote. Justin came in second with 27% of the vote, and the final 21% chose the “They pay you guys?” option, which was only included to be funny — shame on all of you.
After 29 weeks:
(There has been one tie)
Connor continues to stretch his lead, and Justin jinxing Brown like that certainly won’t help his popularity in the polls moving forward.
This week we’re looking at the big picture — the entire B1G. Whether it’s due to over or under-performing, we both picked which team has surprised us the most through the first four weeks or so.
Today’s Question/Prompt: Which Big Ten team has been the most surprising?
Listen, if any Wisconsin fans have somehow wandered to this article, I’m sorry. Before the season began, I picked the Badgers to finish 12th in the conference this season. Maybe I was wrong. I’m not sold on the Badgers finishing in the top tier of teams in the B1G this season, but I’ve seen enough to admit there’s no way they finish in the bottom four.
Can you blame me? Wisconsin lost a metric ton of scoring from last year with Micah Potter, Nate Reuvers, D’Mitrik Trice, and Aleem Ford all leaving. Brad Davison returned for what feels like his ninth year of college basketball, but can we really trust a team whose main weapon is Brad Davison? How about Tyler Wahl?
When you also consider how many teams in the Big Ten brought back their stars (Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, etc.) I just did not (and still don’t) see a world where Wisconsin even sniffs the top-five in the Big Ten this season. But picking them 12th was wrong.
All Wisconsin has done this season is win the Maui Invitational by beating a Houston team that made it to the Final Four last year and a very talented St. Mary’s team that’s in the top-40 in KenPom. The Badgers followed that up by beating Georgia Tech — last year’s ACC Tournament champs — at their place on Wednesday. They’re 6-1 this season, and have crashed the AP Poll party at No. 23.
What did I not see? Am I just a dingus? The answer is yes to the second question, but the answer to the first question is Jonathan Davis.
Wisconsin’s star guard from La Crosse, Wisconsin has nearly tripled his scoring output from his freshman season, jumping from 7 points last season to 19.3 this season. He’s led the Badgers in scoring in four of their seven games, including a career-high 30 against Houston last Wednesday in Maui. He’s hitting shots at a 43% clip this season and three-pointers at 38.5%, so we also can’t chalk it up to just being a chucker — he’s actually a star.
So I’ll bend the knee and admit I may have been wrong about Wisconsin. If Davis is suddenly one of the best guards in the country, they will not finish 12th in the B1G. Kudos to him.
A lot of teams came into the season with some high hopes. One team that came in with the highest was Michigan. The Wolverines entered this season as the No. 4 team in the AP Poll with one of the top recruiting classes in the country, two of the top returning players in college basketball and bringing in one of the top transfers in the nation.
However, it has been a tumultuous start to the season for the Wolverines. After winning their first three games and impressively handling a feisty Buffalo team 88-76, showing exactly what that high touted offense can do, their season came to a halt against Seton Hall.
In the Wolverines match up with the Pirates in the Gavitt Games, the Wolverines blew an 11-point halftime lead and fell 67-65. Michigan had a chance to tie the game at the end, but Terrance Williams could not convert at the free throw line, and the Wolverines recorded their first loss.
Michigan then took off to Las Vegas and played two games, defeating UNLV and getting dominated by, at the time, unranked Arizona, 80-62. To be fair to Michigan, Arizona was grossly underrated entering the season, and are now ranked No. 11 in the country as they sit at 6-0. Still, as a team that was in the preseason top five, the Wolverines are good enough to hang with anyone and should not be blown out by 18.
To make matters worse, Michigan only beat Tarleton State by 11 (granted they gave Gonzaga a run for their money as well) and then lost to North Carolina 72-51 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. North Carolina is a team searching for their identity as well, and most people thought this would be a tight game in Chapel Hill. Michigan was ranked No. 24 in the country coming into the game against the Tar Heels, and will now be unranked come next week.
It is a rough month to go from a top five team in the country to unranked as the Wolverines almost assuredly will. They have had a tough schedule and it can be tough to integrate transfers and freshman onto the team, but 4-3 is simply not how Juwan Howard and the fans envisioned this season starting, especially with Purdue looking truly like the top team not only in the Big Ten, but in all of college basketball.
They have four non-conference games left, all of which they should win, and their two December conference games are against Nebraska and Minnesota, who they should obliterate. They can use these six games to get back on track and head into conference play 10-3. But, if they lose any of those six games, it might be time to sound the panic alarm.
Which Big Ten team has surprised you the most this season?
This poll is closed