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College basketball rankings: Evaluating the Big Ten picture without Traevon Jackson

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Friday Facts: A clear group of contenders begins to emerge, led by MSU; attempting to quantify the loss of Traevon Jackson; a notable upward trend in DI scoring continues.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers did their part during last week's Upset Sunday, losing a true shocker at Rutgers -- joining two other top-ten teams, Arizona and Duke, among the conference roadkill.

But Thursday night's blowout win at home against Nebraska allowed Wisconsin to to stay near the top of the Friday Facts:

T-Rank Team Name W-L RawEM EM+/G Adj OE Adj DE Barthag Proj. Rec
17 Michigan St. 3-1 0.14 31 115.7 85.8 0.9552 13-5
8 Ohio St. 3-2 0.08 25 114.8 89.8 0.9252 14-4
4 Wisconsin 4-1 0.19 27 132.2 103.6 0.9239 15-3
33 Iowa 3-1 0.02 24 128.9 101.3 0.9218 11-7
28 Maryland 4-1 0.07 24 106.0 83.5 0.9198 13-5
53 Purdue 2-2 0.00 21 108.7 88.5 0.8923 9-9
94 Nebraska 2-3 -0.02 17 107.0 90.1 0.8534 6-12
85 Michigan 3-2 -0.03 16 107.1 91.8 0.8291 8-10
57 Indiana 3-1 -0.03 15 112.0 96.7 0.8186 9-9
46 Minnesota 0-5 -0.08 14 113.3 98.6 0.8068 7-11
51 Illinois 2-3 -0.07 12 104.9 93.8 0.7585 9-9
118 Northwestern 1-3 -0.12 9 110.1 99.3 0.7415 4-14
138 Rutgers 2-3 -0.06 10 98.9 89.4 0.7372 4-14
115 Penn St. 0-4 -0.13 5 106.8 100.2 0.6586 4-14

Reminder: these are the adjusted efficiency numbers for conference-only games. (Results for every conference, along with conference-only Four Factors, are available here; the full-season T-Rank is here.)

Michigan State stays atop the Friday Facts despite a close shave against Northwestern on Sunday, its only game of the week. The Spartans' efficiency numbers dropped (their Barthag went from .9771 to .9552) but no one else was able to capitalize enough to overtake them. The Badgers dropped because of the Rutgers fiasco; Purdue lost to Maryland at home; Maryland struggled with Rutgers at home; and Iowa and Ohio St. were too far behind.

Five contenders emerge

The top five teams in the Friday Facts standings -- Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Ohio State and Iowa -- have begun to put some statistical distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Each of the five is projected to win at least 11 games, and no other team is projected to win more than nine. Wisconsin still projects to be the champion with a 15-3 record, but that doesn't account for Traevon Jackson's injury.

Quantifying the loss of Traevon Jackson

About that: the Badgers lost their senior point guard during the Rutgers loss. He had surgery on his broken foot and figures to be out at least six weeks. If he comes back after six weeks, that would get him back for the stretch drive in the conference, which starts with a road game at Maryland on Feb. 24 (which I'll be attending!).

But let's assume the worst, that Jackson misses the rest of the conference season. How would that affect the Badgers' chances of winning their first Big Ten title since 2008? Of course, this question can't really be answered with any level of certainty. But for fun's sake, I thought I'd give it a try.

As you may recall, the T-Rank started out as an effort to rank every DI team in the preseason. So I went back to that spreadsheet and removed Jackson from the Badgers' roster, to get a sense of how it would change the projection for the Badgers. The result: their projected efficiency margin dropped 3.2 points per 100 possessions, and their Pythagorean winning percentage dropped about 200 points. Let's call this the Traevon Effect.

The Badgers' current Kenpom rating is .9368, good for sixth-best. If you subtract the Traevon Effect, it would go down to .9173, which would put them in 12th place in the Kenpom rating. So still a very good squad, but definitely a real blow.

Now the real question: how would this affect the Badgers' chances of getting a share of the title? To answer this question, I used the Kenpom ratings to simulate the rest of the Big Ten season 1,000 times with the Traevon Effect and then 1,000 times without the Traevon Effect. Here are the results:

WINS With TJ No TJ
18 0% 0%
17 2% 0%
16 9% 5%
15 20% 11%
14 27% 19%
13 23% 27%
12 13% 23%
11 6% 9%
10 2% 4%
9 0% 1%
AVG WINS 13.8 13.0
CHAMP % 54% 36%
Sole Champ 34% 19%

So, according to this conjecture, the loss of Jackson (for the rest of the Big Ten season) would cost the Badgers about one win, about half their chances of being sole champ and reduce their chances of winning a share of the title by one-third. FWIW.

Division I scoring edging up

Last year, with the new officiating emphases, Division I scored made a big jump, up to 1.043 points-per-possession (from 1.004 in 2013). But early on this year, the increase disappeared. After seven days of games, the scoring average in D1 games was a paltry .987 points-per-possession. Thankfully, the trend has reversed itself, and scoring efficiency is edging back up. In fact, the daily average has been above 1.04 each of the past three days, and the season average is all the way up to 1.008. Here's a graph!

D1 PPP over Time

This week's Big Ten games

Date Matchup T-Rank Prediction TTQ
1/17 17 Michigan St. @ 28 Maryland Maryland, 66-65  (53%) 92
1/17 8 Ohio St. @ 33 Iowa Ohio St., 71-67 (66%) 89
1/22 28 Maryland @ 57 Indiana Maryland, 75-74 (54%) 88
1/21 53 Purdue @ 51 Illinois Illinois, 70-66 (66%) 75
1/20 46 Minnesota @ 94 Nebraska Minnesota, 65-63 (60%) 75
1/18 57 Indiana @ 51 Illinois Illinois, 80-74 (69%) 75
1/17 53 Purdue @ 115 Penn St. Purdue, 69-67 (62%) 71
1/20 33 Iowa @ 4 Wisconsin Wisconsin, 71-59 (89%) 71
1/20 85 Michigan @ 138 Rutgers Michigan, 58-57 (55%) 64
1/22 8 Ohio St. @ 118 Northwestern Ohio St., 71-58 (91%) 59
1/21 115 Penn St. @ 17 Michigan St. Michigan St., 76-59 (94%) 55
1/17 138 Rutgers @ 46 Minnesota Minnesota, 74-60 (91%) 50
1/17 118 Northwestern @ 85 Michigan Michigan, 60-54 (75%) 50

This week's games are highlighted by a couple of monster matchups on Saturday between the league's emerging Big 5, with the home teams looking to finish up a huge sweep. Michigan State will try to avenge its overtime loss to Maryland, and Iowa will attempt to replicate its upset win over Ohio State.

Illinois and Purdue have an interesting battle for supremacy in the second-tier, with both teams trying to keep tourney hopes alive.

Minnesota remains desperate for that first win, and has a decent shot at Nebraska. I'm going to go ahead an anoint that my Upset Special of the Week (even though T-Rank predicts a Minnesota victory, I suspect the Gophers will be underdogs in Vegas). If they don't turn out to be underdogs, then I'll revise this to my Slight Favorite Special of the Week.