Outlook: It’s hard to call the Badgers’ nonconference schedule anything but a success, with Wisconsin — behind balanced production — skyrocketing up the AP poll to No. 4.
Player to watch: Sam Dekker (14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds per game). The 6-7 forward has developed into a complete player in his second year, rooting a frontcourt that lost all of its starters.
Defining stat: Wisconsin’s schedule so far is ranked third in the country by ESPN.com.
Outlook: There might not be a star like there was a year ago, with Deshaun Thomas, but the Buckeyes are getting it done with stellar defense and a wide range of scorers.
Player to watch: Lenzelle Smith Jr. (13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Junior forward LaQuinton Ross was supposed to run away with the team accolades, but early on, it’s Smith who has impressed, also getting to the free-throw line 48 times, where the senior guard has made 81 percent of his shots.
Defining stat: The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 24.3 percent from three-point range, the best defense behind the arc in the nation.
Outlook: The Spartans have dealt with injury issues all season, and still the only blip on the radar was an ugly loss to North Carolina. Michigan State, which beat now No. 15 Kentucky in the second game of the year, topped off its nonconference schedule with a convincing 101-48 victory over New Orleans.
Player to watch: Keith Appling (15.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5 assists per game). The Spartans are brimming with players to watch, but the senior guard, despite dealing with a sore hip, has been absolutely phenomenal.
Defining stat: Four of the Spartans’ five starters are averaging double digits in scoring.
Outlook: The Hawkeyes have definitely been the Big Ten’s surprise team so far, combining harassing defense with impressive effort on the boards.
Player to watch: Aaron White (13.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg). In his junior year, the 6-9 forward is becoming everything he’s shown the raw talent to be, scoring in a variety of ways and battling in the paint.
Defining stat: Iowa is grabbing 39.8 percent of available offensive rebounds, good for 16th best in the nation according to Kenpom.com.
Outlook: It’s fair to criticize the Wolverines, who recently dropped out of the national AP rankings after landing at No. 7 in the preseason poll. But this young squad has already faced Duke, Arizona, Florida State and Iowa State. They will only learn and grow from here.
Player to watch: Glenn Robinson III, right (14.2 ppg, 5 rpg). With Mitch McGary out because of a back injury and scheduled to have surgery, the sophomore forward will need to be the heart of the frontcourt more than ever.
Defining stat: The Wolverines have posted a 13.8 turnover percentage (turnovers per 100 plays), seventh-best in the country.
Outlook: Minnesota has faced some good teams this season and hasn’t totally been embarrassed, overcoming glaring shortcomings in the frontcourt for the most part.
Player to watch: DeAndre Mathieu (11.9 ppg, 4.8 apg). The junior college point guard has been a godsend to new coach Richard Pitino, running his up-tempo, pressing system with ease. Can Mathieu keep up his impressive production in the Big Ten? It will be a new challenge for the 5-9 guard.
Defining stat: The entire frontcourt is providing a collective 18.6 rebounds a game. That leaves a lot of work for the guards.
Outlook: If the Hoosiers are going to compete with the cream of the crop in the league, they’ve got to learn how to beat good teams. With their only victories coming over cupcakes, the young Indiana squad might be in for a surprise at the start of league play.
Player to watch: Noah Vonleh (12 ppg, 9.5 rpg). The 6-10 freshman forward has provided big production so far, and even more will be expected of him. On a young team, players have to grow up fast.
Defining stat: The Hoosiers are 0-3 against the only top-100 teams they’ve played this season.
Outlook: A neutral-court victory over Missouri has given the Illini something to feel good about as they ease into January. If guards Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand can take the next step, Illinois could be intriguing in the Big Ten.
Player to watch: Rayvonte Rice (18.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg). After sitting out last year after transferring from Drake, the junior guard has become the go-to player on his new team, shooting .500 from the field.
Defining stat: The Illini have held opponents to 40.2 percent shooting.
Outlook: After a few neutral-court losses, perhaps a victory over West Virginia on the road gives the Boilermakers a little steam entering the conference schedule.
Player to watch: A.J. Hammons (8 ppg, 6.8 rpg). The 7-foot center hasn’t had the sophomore leap Purdue fans were hoping for yet, but his size will be a factor in the Big Ten. How quickly can his game grow?
Defining stat: Purdue blocks 6.3 shots per game.
Outlook: It’s pretty obvious from once glance at their Kenpom.com page — the Nittany Lions are much improved from a year ago, starting with their stellar backcourt, which happens to be one of the best in the country.
Player to watch: Tim Frazier (18.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg). The senior guard is back and hasn’t missed a beat, rooting a strong backcourt that also includes junior D.J. Newbill and Pittsburgh transfer John Johnson.
Defining stat: Penn State is making 54.1 percent of its two-point shots.
Outlook: The Cornhuskers might be at least another year away. Early on, they’ve struggled against good teams and haven’t run away with many games, even against mediocre teams.
Player to watch: Ray Gallegos (8.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.8 apg). The senior guard needs to do more for the Huskers, who at this point are being led by sophomore forward Terran Petteway.
Defining stat: Opponents are outrebounding the Huskers by an average of 1.4 rebounds per game.
Outlook: New head coach Chris Collins has a ways to go with his crew, which is firmly in transition mode after becoming accustomed to Bill Carmody’s methodical Princeton offense.
Player to watch: Drew Crawford (16.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg). After returning from season-ending shoulder surgery a year ago, the fifth-year senior has been a force when he’s been able to stay on the court. This year, Crawford has been playing despite back spasms.
Defining stat: The Wildcats are making only 41.5 percent of their shots from the field.