29 January 2016

B1G Projections: Halfway Home Edition

We last looked at the B1G projections in late December prior to the onset of conference play.  We are now roughly halfway into conference play with teams having played 8 or 9 games.  Below is our summary of how the conference race has developed in the eyes of kenpom.
Above are the updated projected B1G standings.  Shown in white boxes are the most likely projected finishes for B1G teams that were based on preseason expectations.  Iowa, which has raised eyebrows by sweeping the season series with both Michigan State and Purdue, has far and away gained the most ground in the B1G pecking order.  The Hawkeyes were expected to finish in 7th place based on preseason expectations and had raised their profile during the non-conference slate to an expected 4th place B1G finish.  Eight games into B1G play and sporting a lofty 7-1 B1G record, Iowa is now the overwhelming favorite to finish in first place during the regular season.  Yes folks kenpom is not infallible and clearly missed the mark on the Hawkeyes.

Nebrasketball has also made some serious headway in the projected B1G standings.  The Huskers showed some signs of life in non-conference play -- raising their projected standings by one rung.  But they really have hit their stride during the month of January to the tune of improving their projected standings by an additional 2.5 rungs on a weighted average basis (second only to Iowa's 3.1 rung gain).  Prior to the season Nebraska was penciled in as the 13th place team ahead of only lowly Rutgers.  Now they are projected to finish in 8th.  The Huskers still have more ground to gain to earn a surprise NCAAs bid, but regardless Tim Miles is doing some good work out there in Lincoln.

Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State and Indiana have made some modest headway during conference play, each rising about one rung on a weighted average basis.  When you throw in the teams' non-conference performances, Maryland stands out as the third most improved B1G team relative to preseason kenpom expectations; the Terps were expected to finish in fourth but are now the most likely runner-up to the surprising Hawkeyes.

Rutgers and Wisconsin both have fared as expected in B1G play so far.  That is not a good thing for either team as Rutgers was projected to be the worst team in the B1G, and the Badgers have done nothing more than hold the line on the damage done during their non-conference slate which was far and away the worst among performance among B1G teams relative to preseason expectations.

After an already disappointing non-conference slate, the slide has continued during conference play for the Illini which have lost another rung in the weighted average projected standings.  The Illini are now staring down an expected 11th place finish.

But the Illini have fared better in B1G play than Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Minnesota, which have fallen in the projected standings by about 2.0 to 2.5 rungs relative to pre-B1G play expectations.  The Gophers, still winless in B1G play at 0-9, followed up its woeful non-conference play (which was only better than Wisconsin's relative to expectations) with the league's worst in-conference performance to date.  Goldy, which at a projected 10th place finish never had high expectations, is a life-support moment or two from Rutgers away from finishing in last place.  Woof.  One has to wonder if Richard Pitino -- despite only being in his third season -- will be coaching in the Barn next season.

The disappointing B1G play for the other three major underperforming teams comes on the heels of pleasant non-conference results.  The Boilers had the B1G's best performance relative to expectations prior to conference play, but during January they have given back nearly all of the ground they had gained.  Sparty had the second-best non-conference performance but so far in B1G play (despite last nigh's shellacking of Northwestern) has given up more ground than it had gained during non-conference games.  Northwestern's disappointing B1G performance (a hair better than Minnesota's relative to preconference play expectations) has left NU on net one rung below their preseason expectations.  Sadly disappointing conference results are still as common to Wildcat fans as a biting January wind blowing off Lake Michigan
The projected win totals above tell similar stories for B1G teams.