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Big Ten CommunicationsPublished: 3/6/2024, Last updated: 3/15/2024
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Big Ten Weekly Men's Basketball Central - March 5-6

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  • Purdue clinched at least a share of the 2024 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball championship on Sunday, as it topped Michigan State 80-74. The Boilermakers claimed the outright title on Tuesday, topping Illinois 77-71. The victory improved the Boilermakers to 16-3 in conference play and established a three-game lead over Illinois with one game to play. This is Purdue’s second consecutive Big Ten title and its 26th overall, four more than Indiana for the most in conference history. The repeat marks the first for the program since raising three straight crowns in 1994, 1995, and 1996.

  • Michigan State Tyson Walker is one of five finalists for the Naismith Hall of Fame Jerry West Award, the hall announced on Tuesday. Arizona’s Caleb Love, Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr., Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves, and North Carolina’s RJ Davis join Walker as the award’s five finalist. Three Big Ten players have previously won the award, including Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis (2022), Purdue’s Carsen Edwards (2018), and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell (2015). 

  • Purdue guard Braden Smith has been named one of finalists for the 2024 Naismith Hall of Fame Bob Cousy Award, the hall announced on Monday. Smith joins Alabama’s Mark Sears, Houston’s Jamal Shead, Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, and UConn’s Tristen Newton as finalists for the nation’s top point guard award. Smith looks to become the Big Ten’s third winner of the award, joining Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu (2021) and Michigan’s Trey Burke (2013).  

  • MILESTONE WATCH... Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is on a short countdown to coaching his 1,000th career game. With four more games on the Michigan State bench, Izzo will join a club that included just 12 active coaches at the beginning of the season.

  • Five teams were included in this week’s AP and USA Today Coaches polls, released on Monday. Purdue will enter this week’s action ranked No. 3 in both polls, while Illinois sits at No. 12 in both lists. Michigan State received votes in the AP poll, while the coaches recognized Northwestern and Nebraska in their poll.

  • Iowa’s Payton Sandfort was named Men’s Basketball Player of the Week presented by Air National Guard for the week of Feb.26-March 3, 2024. Sandfort earned his first career Player of the Week award after averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks, with a shooting line of 40.0/40.0/95.8, as the Hawkeyes scored a pair of wins. The senior guard recorded the first triple-double in program history with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 90-81 victory over Penn State. Sandfort then tallied 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists to lead Purdue to an 87-80 win at Northwestern.

  • Minnesota’s Cam Christie claimed his second Freshman of the Year honor after averaging 21.0 points and 3.0 rebounds on 42.3 percent shooting, including 7-13 from three-point range, as the Gophers split a pair of games. Christie scored a career-high 23 points and hit six of nine three-point attempts in 36 minutes of a 105-97 loss at then-No. 13/16 Illinois. Christie closed the week with a game-high 19 points, including 8-8 from the free throw line, in the Gophers’ 75-70 win over Penn State.

  • Eight Big Ten teams rank in the top-60 in Tuesday’s NET rankings, including four in the top 25. Purdue’s No. 2 ranking is tops in the league, while Illinois sits at No. 15, followed by No. 22 Michigan State, No. 23 Wisconsin, No. 43 Nebraska, No. 52 Northwestern, No. 57 Iowa, and No. 59 Ohio State. 

  • Ten Big Ten teams currently rank in the top-65 in today’s Kenpom rankings, including four in the top-25. Purdue leads the way at No. 3, followed by Illinois (#12), Michigan State (#19), Wisconsin (#22), Nebraska (#34), Northwestern (#47), Iowa (#49), Maryland (#52), Ohio State (#53), and Minnesota (#61).  

  • According to KenPom, the Big Ten currently owns a 108.7 efficiency rating, second in the country among power conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) and fifth highest overall. 

  • In Big Ten play, teams are protecting their home floors to the tune of a 69.0-win percentage (89-40), second best home winning percentage among all conferences. The Big Ten’s 89 home conference victories are the most of any league in the nation. 

  • Nine Big Ten teams currently rank in the top-50 of the ESPN Basketball Power Index (BPI) listing. Purdue leads the way at No. 2, followed by No. 12 Illinois, No. 19 Michigan State, No. 23 Wisconsin, No. 37 Northwestern, No. 39 Nebraska, No. 43 Iowa, No. 51 Ohio State, and No. 53 Maryland. 

  • The Big Ten ranks among the nation’s best conferences on both sides of the hardwood. Offensively, the league is tied for third among all conferences in scoring (75.0 ppg), fourth in total assists (5,955), and sixth in total points (31,265). According to, the Big Ten also ranks third in the country with a +14.86 Adjusted Efficiency Margin (AdjEM), the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiencies.  Twelve teams average north of 73.0 points per game, led by Illinois’ Big Ten-best 84.8 points, which ranks seventh in the country, a tick ahead of Purdue’s 84.7 points per game. Five teams also rank in the top-50 in the country in field goal percentage, led by Purdue at 49.2 percent. Iowa (48.1), Indiana (48.1), Minnesota (47.4), and Illinois (47.3) also rank in the nation’s top 50. Much of that offensive efficiency stems from taking care of the ball, as five team list in the top-35 in assists/turnover ratio. Iowa ranks second with a 1.83 ratio, while Northwestern (1.78) and Michigan State (1.69) rank sixth and eighth, respectively.

  • Defensively, the Big Ten boasts nine teams that hold their opponents below 72 points per game, led by Maryland, who surrenders just 65.0 points per outing, good for 19th nationally, followed by Rutgers at 66.0 and Michigan State at 66.5. Five Big Ten teams also rank in the nation’s top 70 in field goal percentage defense. Nebraska leads the way at 39.6 percent, ninth nationally, while Rutgers holds its opponents to 40.3 percent shooting. Rutgers also ranks 13th in the country with 5.3 blocked shots per contest, just ahead of Maryland and Minnesota at 4.6, while Penn State forces a league-best 14.93 turnovers per game, 23rd in Div. I.

  • Big Ten players also rank in the top-10 in several individual statistical categories. Purdue’s Zach Edey ranks second in the country with 24.0 points per game, third in rebounds per game (11.8), and third in double-doubles (21), while his 319 free throw attempts and 229 free throws made lead the nation. Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr. joins Edey on the scoring list, as his 22.0 points per game rank fifth. Ohio State’s Jamison Battle is hitting threes at a 43.6 percent clip, eighth in Div. I. Minnesota’s Elijah Hawkins and Purdue’s Braden Smith rank fourth and fifth, respectively with 211 and 206 assists on the season. Hawkins 7.5 assists per game rank second, while Smith lists sixth with 7.1. Ohio State’s Bruce Thornton ranks fifth in the country with a 3.59 assist/turnover ratio. Defensively, Rutgers’ Clifford Omoruyi’s 3.00 blocked shots per game rank second in the country, while Penn State’s Ace Baldwin Jr.’s 2.77 steals per game rank fourth.  

  • More than 4.8 million fans have watched Big Ten basketball this season, including more than 2.75 million fans in our 14 home venues. Seven Big Ten teams rank in the top-20 in total attendance. Indiana (280,123 fans) and Nebraska (277,338) rank sixth and seventh, followed by Illinois (254,283), Michigan State (251,549) and Wisconsin in 10th, 11th, and 12th. In total, 11 Big Ten schools rank in the top-45 in total home attendance.

  • The Big Ten closed its nonconference slate with a combined 117-37 record. The Big 12 (144-34), SEC (132-47), Atlantic 10 (131-60), and ACC (119-46) collected more wins, but the Big Ten’s .760-win percentage falls behind only the Big 12 (.809). Among the B1G’s 117 victories are 9 wins over AP Top 25 opponents.