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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Ohio State Buckeyes: B

Standing at 10-2 (1-1), Chris Holtmann has gotten the Buckeyes back on track thanks to a strong non-conference performance.

The Buckeyes started the year with an early loss to Texas A&M at home but would end up winning seven straight, including double-digit wins over Santa Clara and Alabama in the Emerald Coast Classic.

Despite blowing an 18-point lead to Penn State (which technically doesn't hold against their non-conference grade), the Buckeyes have done a good job with taking care of business, including a recent 67-60 win over UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic.

With Bruce Thornton (17.4 PPG) and Roddy Gayle (13.8 PPG) both taking a significant leap in the backcourt, the signs are promising in Columbus as the Buckeyes prepare to take on West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 30 in Cleveland, Ohio to close out their non-conference schedule.

Northwestern Wildcats: B

The good: Northwestern is 9-2 with one of the best wins in the country to date -- an OT win over Purdue. 

The bad: Northwestern lost to Chicago State.

Giving Chris Collins the benefit of the doubt here, the Wildcats have looked like a quality, NCAA Tournament-caliber team during the non-conference portion of the season thanks to their trio in Boo Buie (18.5 PPG), Brooks Barnhizer (13.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg (12.6 PPG).

Although Northwestern's NCOS is far from elite, their win over Dayton continues to look better and better as the season moves along and they avoided another disaster with a low-scoring win over DePaul on the road.

No doubt, their loss to Chicago State (who is much improved this year) will dampen their resume. On the other hand, the Wildcats didn’t have too high of expectations this year, yet are firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture as they enter the New Year with their next game against Jackson State on Friday, Dec. 29.