Now that week six is wrapped up, let’s take a look at the current conference landscape
Six weeks into the season is early enough in the year where teams shouldn’t be hitting the panic button just yet, but late enough for us to get an idea of who might be in trouble. With conference play just around the corner, programs will find themselves either primed for Big Ten play or wishing for another month to sort things out.
One team that isn’t sweating a chance to sharpen its teeth against Big Ten competition is Maryland, who is outscoring teams by more than 32 points a game.
The 8-2 Terps have lost their only two ranked games this year—a 63-54 loss to #5 South Carolina and a 66-59 loss to #9 NC State—but will have plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks for a statement win.
Maryland is lapping most of the Big Ten on both sides of the ball. They’ve done it through a flurry of strong guard play surrounding 6-foot-5 sophomore Shakira Austin, who is averaging nearly 14.0 points per game 6.6 rebounds on stellar efficiency. Including Austin, the Terrapins have four players averaging 10 or more points, with Stephanie Jones just missing the cut at 9.9 points.
The Hoosiers are the clear-cut next best team thus far, led by sophomore guard Grace Berger who has taken a leap this year. Indiana’s leading scorer is averaging 13.9 points per game while shooting 53% from the field. Berger provides the type of shot creation that will allow Indiana’s offense to reach its full potential down the stretch of the season.
The 3-point revolution marches on
Offenses across the conference have continued an upward trend in shooting from deep, with teams on average taking two more threes a game.
Michigan State is making more threes than most of the country, and they’re doing it despite ranking 122nd in 3-point percentage, per Her Hoop Stats. The run-and-gun Spartans have now increased their 3-point rate for the third consecutive season and have taken 27 or more threes in a game four times already.
On the other end of the spectrum is Penn State. The Nittany Lions are shooting threes at their lowest rate since the 2015-2016 season and have made a living in the paint. Fifth in the nation in free throws made, Penn State has cast the three ball aside and made it their mission to get to the rack.
Big Ten continues strong AP Poll showing
Looking at the whole of the Big Ten, the conference is in line with its past AP Top-25 Poll performances at this point in the year.
Four Big Ten teams made the cut in the week six poll, just one team short of the preseason poll. There is a noticeable lack of top-end representation, but that’s sure to change.
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The conference lost its only top-10 team after Maryland, now ranked #13, lost to NC State. But Indiana, who came out of Monday’s ranking at #12, is surging with two ranked wins over Miami and South Carolina. The Hoosiers’ only loss is at the hands of #6 Baylor, and they are primed to jump in the rankings if they can continue their play in the coming weeks—a slate of home games that feature matchups with #10 UCLA and #19 Michigan State.
With Michigan State and Michigan rounding out the backend at #19 and #24, respectively, the Big 10 could be poised for one of its deepest years yet. Minnesota, Rutgers and Ohio State all got votes in the week six poll, and Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue have a combined five losses, three of which came against ranked teams. Purdue and Ohio State’s losses this weekend will set them back some, but both programs have flashed enough to show that they belong in the conversation.
There’s no reason to expect the week six poll to be representative of the basketball world two months from now—the cannibalism of conference play is inevitable. But the Big Ten’s depth looks legitimate so far, it’s only a matter of seeing just how deep the conference goes.
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