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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Iowa Hawkeyes: D

After a valiant effort in their loss to Creighton early in the season, the Hawkeyes proceeded to have not-so-valiant efforts to Oklahoma, Purdue, Iowa State and Michigan -- all losses where they have struggled mightily defensively.

Standing at just 7-5 (0-2), the Hawkeyes' three non-conference losses have proved that this team’s ceiling will be limited due to their defensive issues.

Although the team is young, freshman Owen Freeman (9.5 PPG) has been a major bright spot for the Hawkeyes alongside leading scorer Ben Krikke (16.8 PPG), a transfer from Valparaiso.

The trio of Tony Perkins, Payton Sandfort and Patrick McCaffery will help keep the Hawkeyes afloat, but after poor defensive outings in non-conference play, just how good can Iowa be when Big Ten play resumes?

Fran McCaffery’s club will take on Northern Illinois on Friday, Dec. 29 to round out their non-conference slate.

Michigan Wolverines: D

Michigan got off to one of the hotter starts to open the season, including blowout wins over UNC Asheville, Youngstown State and St. John’s where the Wolverines averaged 93+ PPG during that stretch.

It seemed as if Michigan, who entered the year with middling expectations, was ready to prove everyone wrong.

After their hot 3-0 start, Michigan proceeded to drop five out of six games, with losses to Long Beach State at home, Memphis and Texas Tech in Atlantis, Oregon on the road and Indiana at home.

To Michgian’s credit, their non-conference schedule has been quite challenging, which is a reason why their metrics have not completely tanked despite a 6-6 (1-1) record.

The issue for Michigan has been an issue for the past couple of years: closing out close games. 

"This is the fifth season of the Howard era, and Michigan is 2-13 in one-possession games (those with a final margin of three points or fewer; Tuesday’s did not qualify)."

Andrew Kahn

Although the Wolverine's recent 2OT loss to Florida did not qualify as a one-possesion game because they ended up losing by five, they still had plenty of opportunities to put the Gators away and missed block-outs and defensive miscues proved to be the demise for the Wolverines. 

Despite Michgian’s lackluster performance in non-conference play, the Wolverines take on Will Wade’s McNeese Cowboys on Friday, Dec. 29 to wrap up non-conference play.