Lost in all the talk about where the Gophers were ranked in the new basketball polls is any conversation about the Big Ten's conference RPI, perhaps a more important longterm measuring stick. Individual team rankings will fluctuate throughout the season, but the conference's collective RPI is poised to be at or near the top of the country at season's end
You'll still probably see national pundits talk about a down Big Ten. Usually it takes the national writers 6 months or a year to catch up with what is actually happening on the ground. But when the NCAA selection committee convenes in March, the numbers won't lie. What the numbers will indicate is the Big Ten has proved its worth during non-conference games.
As Big Ten season is upon is approaching, five teams are ranked nationally. In no particular order they are Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan. A sixth team, Wisconsin, faces Texas in Badgerland tonight and will be pesky as usual. That's six teams that have real shots at an NCAA Tournament. And let's also not forget about Illinois or even Northwestern, both teams that have looked to be improved.
Just how good has the conference been? From the BTN:
Currently standing at 93-21 (.816 overall), the Big Ten is off to its best nonconference start since the 1988-89 season when it went 98-21 (.824) against non-conference foes during the regular season. Prior to that season, the closest the Big Ten came to earning a similar mark was in 1917-18 when it amassed a 47-11 slate for a .810 winning percentage in non-conference contests. Since the 1905-06 season, there have only been eight times in which the Big Ten has finished .800 or above against non-conference teams during the regular season.
How has this happened? The ACC-Big Ten Challenge was close. ACC won 7-6. Minnesota beat Louisville. Michigan upset Duke and UCLA. Michigan State just went into Houston and beat Texas. Ohio State has beat highly ranked Notre Dame and a top-25 Miami team on the road. Purdue just ravaged Davidson.
All of this sets up a very interesting Big Ten race. And perhaps a return to form of the Big Ten conference?
- John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus took note of the Big Ten's big weekend in a piece here. The article discusses Michigan State and The Winehouse Factor (yes, named after the pop diva), Purdue's defeat of Davidson and Minnesota's trouble on the defensive glass.
- The Minnesota PR folks have a first look at tonight's game against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions. The last and only time the two teams played was in 2006 when the Gophers won 63-61 at the buzzer when Spencer Tollackson tipped in a shot at the buzzer. Let's hope it's not that close tonight.
- 10,000 Takes gives their take on a tidbit that was reported by the local press that U President Robert Bruininks phoned AD Joel Maturi during Minnesota's win over Louisville.
- Jim O'Connell, who I thought has always done a very good job covering college hoops for the AP, leads his story on the new basketball rankings with Tubby Smith and the Gophers. He has a good quote from Smith:
"It's a good way to start the holiday season," Smith said Monday. "I'm sure the kids are excited about it, you can tell in their disposition. We've got a great group of kids and this will help the school, help recruiting. At Kentucky, we were ranked year in and year out so this is a different dynamic for this program and how we handle it will be critical."
NCAA Hoops Today picked up on the Pitino/Tubby tilt over the weekend. This line stuck out:
As expected, Tubby had the better team, and Pitino had the better raw talent. And as it is often the case in single-games in college hoops, the best team won!
The blogger goes on to write that Minnesota is the perfect place for Tubby, because he'll be able to go after very good players that aren't one-and-done types. This might be its own post over the holidays. But I ask you. Would you prefer Tubby go after the diaper dandies, or a group of players that will play together for 3 or 4 years.