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College Basketball Betting Report on Big Ten: Conference Tiers, Players to Watch & More

College Basketball Betting Report on Big Ten: Conference Tiers, Players to Watch & More article feature image
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Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jaden Ivey

Non-conference play for Big Ten teams is beginning to wrap up, but as the league does every year, all 14 teams have had two conference games so far.

Therefore, the Big Ten picture is already a lot clearer than many other leagues.

But folks, the picture is not pretty.

Preseason favorite Michigan is horrendous. Purdue had one week atop the AP Poll before falling to Rutgers. Illinois has looked inexperienced and incompetent at times. The whole conference got crushed by the Big East in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Plus, back on November 11th, the 14 teams were 3-13 ATS in early non-conference play.

But the Big Ten bounced back and started to round back into form. So now is the perfect time to check in on the state of things. Who’s up? Who’s down? What should we expect?

I’ve come up with three made-up tiers and placed all 14 teams in them. I’ll also include a list of some players to keep an eye on as conference play heats up.

Author’s Note: Odds to win the conference are via DraftKings


The Favorites

Purdue Boilermakers +145
Michigan Wolverines +300
Ohio State Buckeyes +600
Illinois Fighting Illini +600

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue’s loss to Rutgers shouldn’t be considered the worst thing. Strange things happen at the RAC, like how the Boilermakers have lost four straight in the venue.

Instead, look at how cohesive Matt Painter’s roster is. Some combination of Eric Hunter/Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey/Trevion Williams run the two-man game, while Sasha Stefanovic sits on the perimeter and waits for 40% spot-up 3-point opportunities.

As a result, the Boilermakers pace the nation in offensive efficiency and are 11-1.


Michigan Wolverines

On the contrary, Michigan is a disaster. The offense is disjointed, the defense is mediocre and bad losses have come in bunches (Seton Hall, Arizona, North Carolina and Minnesota).

Those issues fall squarely on the point guard’s shoulders.

Like Mike Smith was last season, DeVante’ Jones was asked to transform from a mid-major volume scorer into a ball-screen facilitator. While his assist rate is high, his turnover rate is too.

Meanwhile, backup Frankie Collins ranks in just the 17th percentile among D-I players in PPP (.688).

Defensively, the backcourt is one of the worst nationally in forcing turnovers (14.9%, 332nd), defending the pick-and-roll (.959 PPP allowed, 349th) and in isolation (1.06 PPP allowed, 347th).


Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State has followed the lead of its big man, E.J. Liddell, who is averaging a superb 20.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

However, the Buckeyes’ backcourt helped Chris Holtmann’s team to the conference’s best early-season win (vs. Duke).


Illinois Fighting Illini

Like Ohio State, Illinois has been carried by its big man, Kofi Cockburn. Meanwhile, the Illini backcourt led to bad late-game losses against Marquette, Cincinnati and Arizona.

The Fighting Illini have been a disappointment, but still have a lot of talented compared to other Big Ten opponents.

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Up-and-Coming

Michigan State Spartans +700
Indiana Hoosiers +1200
Wisconsin Badgers +1500
Iowa Hawkeyes +2500

Wisconsin Badgers

In my preseason Big Ten preview, I was low on Wisconsin and Iowa. I believed the roster turnover would limit the two’s ceilings. Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and Iowa’s Keegan Murray have significantly raised those ceilings.

For Wisco, Davis’ three-level scoring has kept the Badgers’ offense afloat for long stretches, while Greg Gard’s defense continues to over-perform (24th in defensive efficiency).

As a result, the Badgers have a combined five Quad 1 and Quad 2 wins (Houston, Saint Mary’s, Marquette, Indiana, Texas A&M).


Iowa Hawkeyes

For Iowa, Murray is somehow replicating what Luka Garza did for so many years. Murray is dropping 23.5 points per game on 57% shooting, and Fran McCaffery’s offense hasn’t lost a step as a result.

The Hawkeyes are still running at a super-fast pace (eighth-fastest average possession length) while scoring with efficiency (54.2 eFG%).

Moreover, a veteran backcourt runs the quick-pace offense to perfection, leading the league in turnover rate (11.6%) and non-steal turnover rate (4.8%).

As a result, Iowa is fourth in offensive efficiency while scoring the fourth-most points per game (87.1).


Michigan State Spartans

Meanwhile, Michigan State has a high floor, but is still in flux.

Tom Izzo’s new point guard, Tyson Walker, is still developing chemistry with his teammates. So far, the offense has been largely mediocre (93rd in eFG%, 276th in turnover rate).

Luckily, Marcus Bingham Jr. and the defense (sixth in defensive efficiency) have the Spartans winning the games they should — i.e., Loyola Chicago, UConn, Louisville, Minnesota and Penn State.


Indiana Hoosiers

The same goes for Indiana, as the Hoosiers have a high floor, but are still somewhat in flux.

Trayce-Jackson Davis is such a dominant interior presence that Indiana will be competitive. Plus, the defense is third nationally in eFG% allowed (40%).

However, Mike Woodson’s Hoosiers still have lingering Archie Miller issues, including turnovers (21.6%, 291st) and inconsistent perimeter shooting.

On the bright side, Northwestern transfer Miller Kopp has helped alleviate those perimeter woes, scoring 1.184 PPP in spot-up situations (85th percentile).


Rebuilding

Maryland Terrapins +3500
Northwestern Wildcats +8000
Penn State Nittany Lions +9000
Minnesota Golden Gophers +16000
Nebraska Cornhuskers +20000

Maryland Terrapins

Some may be surprised to see Maryland on this list, but this roster has not meshed.

Qudus Wahab has been good — particularly in the rebounding department — but the backcourt combination of Rhode Island transfer Fatts Russell and Eric Ayala — a tandem I had high hopes for — have a combined 92.3 ORtg.

As a result, Maryland is 263rd in eFG% (47%) and boasts losses to George Mason, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Northwestern.


Nebraska Cornhuskers

I am excited about Nebraska’s backcourt development. Alonzo Verge Jr. and freshman five-star prospect Bryce McGowens are combining for 32 points per game despite their combined 42% shooting.

If those two can score with some added efficiency, Fred Hoiberg’s squad could start winning games.


Players to Watch

Keegan Murray (Iowa): 23.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 50.6 FG%

KEEGAN MURRAY COAST TO COAST POSTER pic.twitter.com/pA0Q4XnXz5

— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) November 27, 2021

Johnny Davis (Wisconsin): 20.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.3 APG

Johnny Davis is BIG TIME.

(via @WisconsinOnBTN)pic.twitter.com/eZbgqBOuQ1

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 9, 2021

E.J. Liddell (Ohio State): 20.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.7 APG

EJ Liddell is a problem 😤 pic.twitter.com/PSZhoUSJwF

— Bleacher Report CBB (@br_CBB) November 19, 2021

Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana): 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 60.2 FG%

A standout performance. 👏 pic.twitter.com/8ytB6bDk4d

— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) November 28, 2021

Which one of these players will win the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year award? It is anyone’s guess.

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