As we move into the final month of the college basketball season, it is time to start evaluating teams and looking at what we thought they would be in the preseason compared to right now. Who has overachieved? Underachieved? Been exactly who we though they were?
So this week for You’re Nuts, the Bucketheads Connor Lemons and Justin Golba are debating who we think has been the biggest surprise in the conference thus far.
Last week, Justin and Connor debated what lineup change they thought the Buckeyes should make in the midst of their losing streak.
After 220 votes, Justin took 59 percent of the vote with ‘just play Tanner Holden more’ over Connor’s 37 percent of the vote.
Here are the updated standings:
After 85 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
And here is this week’s prompt. Let’s ride.
Of course, check out the Bucketheads podcast, available on the Land-Grant Holy Land feed on all podcast platforms.
Today’s question: Which Big Ten men’s basketball team has been the most surprising this season?
Connor: Ohio State Buckeyes
If you’re a longtime Twitter user, this is where I would like to insert the “Our expectations were low, but holy f*ck!” meme. However, that apparently just crosses the line of what I’m allowed to say, so I won’t.
But still! This Ohio State team was picked to finish sixth in the Big Ten Media poll before the season, and fourth in the Basketball Almanac's preseason predictions. Plus, those predictions were made without knowing that Brice Sensabaugh was going to pop off the way he has, leading Ohio State with 17,4 PPG on 50.6% shooting. Bruce Thornton, despite his struggles the last few weeks, has also over-delivered compared to what everyone expected. Justice Sueing has been healthy the entire season, too.
And yet, the Buckeyes are in 12th-place in the Big Ten.
At 11-9 overall and 3-6 in conference play, Ohio State is teetering on the edge of irrelevance. What is even more disappointing about this is that they’re doing it with fairly good health and with the freshmen largely exceeding expectations — two things that we did not expect three months ago. Despite that, this team has been one of the most disappointing squads in the nation in comparison to what was expected of them.
Ohio State’s defense has more or less gone down the tubes every seasons since 2020, and this year is no different. The Buckeyes sit at No. 75 in defensive efficiency, which is a bit better than last season. Aside from their win against Iowa recently, the offense has gone stagnant and even Sensabaugh’s unbelievable ability on that end can’t cover it up.
Well, what’s the big deal here? Coaching could be the issue — fans sure seem to think so. The most experienced players on the team underperforming is a big part of it — Isaac Likekele transferred to Ohio State as a 1,000-point scorer and has averaged 4.1 PPG to this point in the season. Justice Sueing has put up respectable numbers overall this season, but has been brutal at nearly every aspect of the game during Ohio State’s 1-6 stretch — so much so that he’s been relegated to the bench.
Need I really say more? *fart sound*
Justin: Purdue Boilermakers
Coming into this season, there were a lot of teams in the Big Ten that were surrounded with question marks. One of the teams with the most was Purdue.
How do you replace Jaden Ivey? The shooting of Sasha Stefanovic? The playmaking of Trevion Williams? Would Ethan Morton, Caleb Furst and Mason Gillis step up? Who is their point guard? What are realistic expectations for Zach Edey?
All of those questions were posed to head coach Matt Painter and his staff, and through the first eight games they played, those questions were answered.
Purdue finished 29-8 overall and 14-6 in the Big Ten last season. They finished 10th in the country, but at one point in the season, held the No. 1 overall ranking. Now, after beating Michigan on Thursday night, the Boilermakers are 20-1 overall and 9-1 in conference play with their sole blemish being a road loss to Rutgers.
But they lost four starters off that team, and for the most part struck out in the transfer portal on all of the point guards they went after following the departure of Eric Hunter Jr. to Butler. Enter: Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith.
Loyer and Smith were both highly regarded recruits, but no one expected them to be as impactful as they have been this fast. Loyer and Smith are the Boilermakers second and third leading scorers with 12.8 and 9.9 points per game, respectively. Smith also leads the team in assists (4.3 per game) and is third in rebounds (4.9 per game).
Then of course, there is Zach Edey. Edey is averaging 21.5 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. Edey is 11th the country in scoring and second in the country in rebounds, only behind Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, who is averaging 13.9 per game. In the Big Ten, he leads the league in both.
He is easily the Big Ten Player of the Year thus far, and is leading the National Player of the Year race, mainly because of his stats and his importance to Purdue and their success.
No one thought Purdue would be bad because they have Edey and Painter running the show, but to start as the preseason 24th team in the country and then make it to No. 1 after just one month is incredibly impressive. And they are just one Cam Spencer three-pointer away from being 21-0.
Shoutout to the boys in Black and Gold.
Which Big Ten men’s basketball team has been the biggest surprise to this point?
This poll is closed
Ohio State (Connor)
Purdue Boilermakers (Justin)
A different team