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.