[Editor’s Note: Posted prior to Wisconsin’s win against Michigan State]
These power rankings are based on games through Thursday night, including Iowa’s beat down of Michigan State in East Lansing. These rankings are sure to change as the Big Ten season is only about a quarter of the way done but it is always fun to look where teams stand.
Is there any question here? After the aforementioned win in East Lansing, the Iowa Hawkeyes are 4-0 in Big Ten play. The win tonight capped a sweep of the Spartans. Add that onto a solid road win against Purdue and this Iowa team is rolling. No other team in the league can match the quality of victories of the Hawkeyes. I do not think this is the most talented team in the league but they do boast a veteran starting five with a go to scorer and leader in Jared Uthoff. I would probably take at least two others team against them on a neutral court but right now this is the best team in the Big Ten.
This team is the most talented team in the Big Ten. This is one of the most talented teams in the country. The Terps have the best point guard in the country in Melo Trimble and they have a quality second option in Rasheed Sulaimon. Add in the veteran presence of Jake Layman and the freshman super star Diamond Stone and this team is loaded. They are at the two spot right now after a road loss to Michigan. A loss to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor is not the most egregious thing but it is enough to drop them below the Hawkeyes.
The Hoosiers have won their first four Big Ten games and nine in a row overall. To this point, the Hoosiers have beaten the teams they are expected to beat but that is what quality teams do. The Hoosiers looked impressive manhandling Ohio State in Assembly Hall. Their schedule is extremely favorable as they do not play a team currently ranked until February 11th. Their toughest test up to that point is a road game in Ann Arbor. As long as the Hoosiers continue to take care of business against the bottom half of the Big Ten, they should find themselves in contention late in February.
There are more questions surrounding this team than any other team in the Big Ten. There maybe more questions about the Spartans than any other team in the country. They looked great through the non-conference highlighted by a huge, neutral-court win against Kansas. Sparty was ranked number one throughout most of the non-conference but they have not looked the same since star forward Denzel Valentine missed a few weeks with a knee injury. Michigan State looked average in getting beat at Iowa but the hope was that Valentine would help right the ship. They looked solid in wins against Illinois and Penn State but tonight’s loss to the Hawkeyes brings more questions.
The Boilers looked better at home on Wednesday defeating Penn State 74-57 but it is hard to tell how much Purdue has corrected its issues in a game against an outmatched team. The 3-2 start to the Big Ten has to be disappointing for the Boilermakers considering how they got here. Purdue blew a 17 point second half lead at home to Iowa in a gut-wrenching loss. On Sunday, Purdue lost a maddening game to an over matched Illinois team. Purdue has the potential to compete with the best teams in the Big Ten but they must find some consistency.
John Beilein is a heck of a coach. It is impressive to see how well he adjusts season after season to his personnel. Caris Lavert, who was expected to be the leader of this Wolverine squad, has been in and out of the lineup with injuries. Even without Lavert, Michigan was able to pull off an upset at home against Maryland. Michigan plays with a frenzy on offense where they rely heavily on jump shots. John Beilein will continue to create game plans that utilize his personnel and the Wolverines will continue to compete.
7. Ohio State
I know this seems low for a team that is currently 4-1 in the conference but if you watched this team play Sunday afternoon in Bloomington you understand. Ohio State looked dreadful against the best team they have played so far in the Big Ten. Ohio State has taken advantage of a soft schedule thus far but that is a huge step for a team that has home losses to University Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech on its resume’.
I believe in Northwestern. I hope they can make a run to the tournament this year. The Wildcats were 12-1 entering Big Ten play as they took advantage of a soft non-conference schedule. That record put them in position to make a run to the tournament but they have to beat some top tier Big Ten teams if they want to earn a ticket to the Big Dance. The home loss to Maryland was tough but understandable. It is home losses to teams like Ohio State that could come back to haunt the Wildcats in March.
I’m not ready to give up on the Badgers yet. They lost a bunch of talent off of last year’s team. I mean a bunch of talent. They do have some quality players still on the roster though with the likes of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. They played Purdue close at home to start the Big Ten season and they hung with Indiana in Bloomington. Wisconsin also had Maryland on the ropes at the Kohl Center until Melo Trimble did what Melo Trimble does. This team will continue to get better and it is always tough to play in Madison.
This is a toss up between Nebraska and Illinois. Illinois is coming off of a nice win at home against Purdue but the nod goes to the Huskers right now because they have two conference wins to Illinois’ one. The good news for these teams is they get to decide who should rightfully be in this position this weekend when they meet in Champaign.