Busting Brackets

Big Ten Basketball: Grading each team's 2023-24 non-conference performance

The end of the non-conference portion of the 2023-24 college basketball season is near, meaning it is time to grade how each Big Ten team has fared in non-conference play.

Zach Edey, Fletcher Loyer, Lance Jones
Zach Edey, Fletcher Loyer, Lance Jones / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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Michigan State Spartans: D-

It’s been nothing short of a disaster in East Lansing.

After starting the year ranked 4th in the AP Top 25, Tom Izzo’s Spartans now stand at just 7-5 (0-2) with losses to James Madison, Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Despite having a plethora of talent to work with, the Spartans have gotten off to notoriously bad starts, such as trailing 25-12 to James Madison, 24-10 to Arizona and 20-8 to Wisconsin.

Although the Spartans were able to get back in those games, a team of this talent continuing to start so slowly is a major red flag moving forward.

On the bright side, Michigan State might have seemed to flip the switch late into non-conference play, with an 88-64 triumph over Baylor alongside wins over Oakland and Stony Brook.

Michigan State’s margin of error has diminished immensely due to a poor non-conference showing, but there is no denying that this team is capable of turning their season around.

Up next, the Spartans will face Indiana State -- a very good mid-major -- on Saturday, Dec. 30.

Penn State Nittany Lions: D-

First-year head coach Mike Rhoades has his work cut out for him, as the Nittany Lions have gone 2-6 in their past eight games after starting the season 4-0.

The Nittany Lions do have an 18-point comeback against Ohio State on their resume, but unfortunately, that will not count when grading how they have performed on their non-conference slate.

After going 0-3 in the ESPN Events Invitational (including a double-digit loss to Rhoades’ previous school -- VCU) Penn State would then suffer a surprising 76-67 loss to KenPom sub-300 Bucknell.

Most recently, Penn State lost a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech in a controversial foul call in OT despite a strong game from Kanye Clary (17.3 PPG), who has had a tremendous breakout season for the Nittany Lions.

Overall, the Nittany Lions have not shown much during the first two months of the season. It might be a tough hill to climb for Mike Rhoades and Co. come January.

Penn State will take on Rider on Friday, Dec. 29 to finish their non-conference slate.