Here is a look at the Big Ten basketball power rankings at approximately halfway through the season. The team at the top has started to separate themselves while the middle of the conference is a muddled mess. There is still plenty to sort out but here is where the teams stand now.
(Note: These rankings based on games through Wednesday night.)
1. Iowa 7-0
As I stated before, these rankings were made before the Hawkeyes’ huge matchup against Maryland. I believe the road trip to Maryland will be Iowa’s first loss of the season. With that said, I still believe Iowa is the best team currently in the Big Ten. A loss on the road to Maryland, should it occur, would not be an unthinkable act. Iowa would still own season sweeps of Michigan State and Purdue. Iowa has shown the ability to win on the road and notch big victories throughout the first half of the Big Ten season. Regardless of what happens against the Terrapins, this is the best team in the Big Ten now.
2. Maryland 6-2
I believe this is the most talented team in the Big Ten. They are still trying to figure out a consistent second option behind Melo Trimble and they find themselves in a lot of close games but they are still have the most talented roster. The loss at Michigan State was tough but understandable, although, it does make the game on Thursday against Iowa a huge game if the Terrapins want to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title.
3. Indiana 7-1
Indiana got off to a great start in the Big Ten taking advantage of an easy schedule. The Hoosiers did look good beating up on the teams they are expected to beat, which says a lot about a team. They suffered a tough loss on the road to Wisconsin who seems to be finding its groove at this point in the season. Yogi Farrell has continued to be a great leader for the Hoosiers and they have started to play better defensively. I.U. needs to continue to take care of business against the bottom half of the Big Ten to keep themselves in good position before the schedule gets tougher late in February.
4. Purdue 6-3
Purdue melted down against Iowa in the second half for the second time this season over the weekend. The Boilers then came back and were forced to grind out a victory against lowly Minnesota on Wednesday. Purdue is ranked here mostly because there are still flashes of how good this team looked during the non-conference. This team just needs to be more consistent and get a solid win against a top-tier team in the Big Ten to be considered a contender. The talent is there but so is the inconsistency.
5. Michigan 6-2
You could make a solid argument for the Wolverines to be higher than this. They have won three in a row with a nice win coming over the weekend in Lincoln. Michigan did not look great at home against Rutgers, but a lot of teams will mail it in against the Scarlet Knights this year. Michigan has a great win against Maryland but they are ranked here because it still feels like this team is overachieving. They are small on the front court and without injured star, Caris Lavert, they do not have a consistent go-to guy. The influence of John Beilein will continue to put Michigan in good positions. They have another big opportunity when the Hoosiers come to town on Tuesday.
6. Michigan State 4-4
The Spartans got back on track after a three game losing streak with a win against Maryland. I’m not sure that Michigan State’s talent was ever worthy the number one ranking they garnered early in the non-conference season. They do have an absolute leader in Denzel Valentine but they are still looking for a second option. If Bryn Forbes can play the way he did against Maryland more consistently than Michigan State could make the step up toward the upper echelon of teams in the NCAA.
7. Wisconsin 4-4
Wisconsin is playing well. They’ve beaten Michigan State and Indiana during a three game winning streak. Nigel Hayes was a monster in the overtime win against the Hoosiers. Ethan Happ’s production has stepped up and turned himself into a low post threat. The key to Wisconsin continuing this success is finding some consistency from the veteran Bronson Koenig. The Badgers are going to continue to get better and will knock off another one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
8. Ohio State 5-3
This ranking might seem low for a team that is 5-3 halfway through the Big Ten, but look at who the Buckeyes’ five wins have come against. Ohio State has yet to beat a Big Ten team with a winning record in the league. They looked awful in losses to Indiana and Maryland. They did look better on the road last week against Purdue, but they did not have enough fire power down the stretch. It looks like all the years of early departures in Thad Matta’s tenure has caught up to the Buckeyes this year. This team is young and not as talented as some other young teams Matta has had in Columbus.
9. Nebraska 4-4
The Huskers looked great on the road in a win against Michigan State. That win in East Lansing capped off a three game winning streak. Nebraska is well-coached and seemed to find its rhythm but the home loss to Michigan over the weekend stopped some of the momentum. This team needs cannot afford to lose to any of the Big Ten’s bottom dwellers and they need to find a way to knock off a couple of top teams in order to move up the rankings.
10. Northwestern 3-5
It feels like the Wildcats are fading. Northwestern took advantage of a soft non-conference schedule and came into league play with a lot of momentum. However, that momentum has not turned into any great wins in the Big Ten. They suffered a devastating overtime loss on the road against Maryland that could have kept their season afloat but now it feels like this team is fading fast. They have two opportunities for big wins in the next week when they get Michigan State in Evanston and then travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats could change the outlook of their season if they can get one of those wins.
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