Ten days into the college basketball season, and the Big Ten Conference has compiled an impressive 36-4 record thus far. The West Coast Conference is the only other league to have as few losses at fourM. Only Penn State and Northwestern have lost, leaving the other 10 B1G squads unscathed early on.
Though it's early on in the 2013-14 season, the Big Ten should remain the nation's elite league throughout the year. Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan all find themselves in the AP Poll's Top 25, with Iowa and Indiana barely on the outside looking in.
The league should be able to send seven or eight teams to March Madness, with those who aren't to the Big Dance left fighting for NIT bids. Strong nonconference records, even against inferior competition, will go a long way in helping those teams reach the postseason.
1) Michigan State Spartans (4-0)
Tom Izzo and Sparty are atop the college basketball rankings, following a Champions Classic victory over then top-ranked Kentucky. Since then, though, MSU has struggled to get past Columbia and Portland, prompting Tom Izzo to start Alex Gauna and Denzel Valentine over Matt Costello and Branden Dawson. Keith Appling has been the team's MVP early on, while Adreian Payne and Gary Harris have been as good as advertised.
2) Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0)
Although it wasn't pretty, Thad Matta's team was able to dismantle Marquette on Saturday afternoon, beating MU 52-35, thus ending the Golden Eagles' nation's longest home winning streak. Starting point guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott together in the backcourt has allowed each to shine on both ends of the court. Lenzelle Smith Jr. has been his normal consistent self, while Sam Thompson's move to sixth man hasn't altered his production. LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams still leave OSU fans wanting more.
3) Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0)
All the preseason talk about the Hawkeyes getting back to the NCAA Tournament and beyond appears to be warranted as of this point. Iowa is ranked 17th in points, ninth in rebounds and ninth in assists nationally, scoring in triple figures twice. Although the Hawkeyes' nonconference schedule still leaves you wanting more, they will be playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White are the team's top players, while Melsahn Basabe, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury round out the starting five for Fran McCaffery's big, deep and talented roster, itching to get back to the field of 68.
4) Wisconsin Badgers (3-0)
Though the Badgers have been challenged in all three of their victories, they've been able to grab a pair of quality wins. Wisconsin beat Big East contender St. John's before knocking off the 11th-ranked Florida Gators. Sam Dekker appears ready for his superstar role, while the backcourt trio of Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson has allowed Bo Ryan's bunch to stretch the floor even more. Frank Kaminsky outplayed Green Bay stud big man Alec Brown in the team's most recent victory.
5) Michigan Wolverines (2-1)
Michigan's preseason expectations may have been high, despite returning three sophomores from a team that reached the National Championship in April. Mitch McGary returned from his back injury in the team's loss at Iowa State on Sunday. Fellow sophomores Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III have all played well, while Derrick Walton Jr. must adjust to the Trey Burke role of the past two seasons. The Wolverines should be able to play deep, with Zak Irvin, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.
6) Illinois Fighting Illini (4-0)
John Groce's Illini had a rough day on Friday, losing Quentin Snider to Louisville and Cliff Alexander to Kansas. Those losses haven't hurt this Illini team on the court, as U of I has won all four games by double-digit margins. Transfers Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey have arguably been the team's top players early on, while Nnanna Egwu, Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand, the team's only returning players from last season, have been contributing starters. Though he's the lowest rated of Illinois' five-man recruiting class, freshman point guard Jaylon Tate has been most impressive in leading the team in assists.
7) Indiana Hoosiers (4-0)
The Hoosiers have also broken the 100-point plateau in half of their four contests, though they did receive a major scare in between those offensive outbursts. IU got past LIU Brooklyn 73-72 last Tuesday despite missed free throws late in the game. Yogi Ferrell has improved from his freshman year, while Noah Vonleh has recorded double-doubles in all four of his collegiate games to this point. Will Sheehey rounds out the team's big three, though Tom Crean's squad does appear to have depth issues.
8) Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0)
Tim Miles' squad was able to christen their brand new stadium a week ago Friday, beating last March's Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast, 79-55 in their season opener. The Huskers have not let up since then, winning their next two games by 15 and 26 points, respectively. Ray Gallegos and Deverell Biggs were welcomed back Sunday, combining for 35 points. Shavon Shields is primed for a big sophomore year, while newcomers Terran Petway, Walter Pitchford and Tai Webster have been welcome additions.
9) Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0)
The Gophers have started the Richard Pitino era in Minneapolis with a bang, winning their three contests by an average of 20 points. They will be tested next week, as Minnesota opens the Maui Invitational against ninth-ranked Syracuse. Andre Hollins is one of the league's best players, while Austin Hollins and Deandre Mathieu have helped lead a strong backcourt. Oto Osenieks and Elliott Eliason are the new starting frontcourt, with Maurice Walker returning from suspension in time for the Maui Invite.
10) Purdue Boilermakers (3-0)
The good news is Purdue is still undefeated. The bad news is that two of Purdue's wins could have gone either way, nearly dropping home matchups against Northern Kentucky and Rider. Brothers Terone and Ronnie Johnson have been the team's best players so far, while AJ Hammons has yet to get on track. Kendall Stephens can stretch the floor for the Boilermakers, while Cornell transfer Errick Peck has played the stretch-four role well. Jay Simpson and Raphael Davis, former prep teammates at La Lumiere, are each averaging 8.7 points and more than five rebounds while playing less than half the available minutes.
11) Penn State Nittany Lions (2-1)
Penn State has won a pair of 12-point contests early on in the year, though the Nittany Lions dropped a home faceoff with Bucknell in between their victories. Not surprisingly, Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill will be the team's do-everything guards, while Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis are each averaging in double figures and look improved from a year ago. Donovon Jack rounds out the starting lineup, while Miami (Ohio) transfer Allen Roberts has been a spark off Patrick Chambers' bench.
12) Northwestern Wildcats (1-2)
Chris Collins was able to notch a win in his head coaching debut over Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats have since dropped games against Stanford and Illinois State and will face tests next week in Las Vegas, matching up with Missouri and UCLA on back-to-back nights. Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb are clearly the Wildcats' best players, while Alex Olah and Dave Sobolewski have struggled early on. Redshirt freshman Sanjay Lumpkin has shown promise, while Tre Demps is an instant offense provider.
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