There’s a camaraderie felt around the Big Ten this season, but it’s not one that brings much solace.
With a little less than a month until the conference tournament, no Big Ten team has managed to avoid a conference losing streak and more than half has experienced a losing streak of three games or longer.
The question isn’t about which teams will get knocked down. The question is which ones will be able to rise once they’ve taken a few consecutive losses.
“It brings perspective and reality to it,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “There is some perspective that’s required in it, but it doesn’t feel any better (to know other teams are also losing).”
By most every measurable metric, the Big Ten rates as the best conference in the nation. It has the highest efficiency margin according to KenPom.com, which has seven Big Ten teams among the top 21 nationally and 12 within the top 44 as of Thursday. In his latest NCAA Tournament projection updated Tuesday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has 11 Big Ten teams included. In the NCAA’s NET rankings, which will be used to sort tournament resumes, 11 Big Ten teams are among the top 40.
Last season, Purdue and Michigan navigated the first year of the 20-game conference schedule without losing consecutive games. This season, the Boilermakers have lost consecutive games twice and the Wolverines have lost four straight.
“I think with the added two more games, it’s a really, really difficult league,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said Wednesday after suffering a 72-66 loss to Ohio State at Value City Arena. “Great coaches, really good players. Comes down to the little things, too. A couple more prep days (for example) are very important for my team.”
The Scarlet Knights are a prime example. After going 7-3 through the first half of league play and climbing into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1979, Rutgers has lost three of four.
Penn State dusted itself off the mat, answering a three-game losing streak in January with a seven-game winning streak. Maryland, which sits atop the league at 10-3, lost two straight road games in January but has also won seven straight.
The Buckeyes have started to pull themselves out of a swoon, going from a stretch of five losses in six games to having won four of five.
“Some of it is you’re just running into a team that’s going to play better than you on a given night or a rough part of the schedule,” Holtmann said. “Then there’s other parts where you’ve got to perform better and coach better. But it’s a combination of all that.”