What a topsy-turvy start to the Big Ten conference season we have had so far. Nebraska won at Indiana and then went into College Park and beat Maryland. Is Michigan State back from the dead? I have no idea what to think yet about this conference but here goes the first power rankings of the season.
14. Rutgers (0-2, 11-4) – The Scarlet Knights are still having a much better season than in years prior, they fought hard in their losses to Wisconsin and Penn State in the first week of conference play but couldn’t put a win on the board. To make matters worse, their best player Corey Sanders is banged up, although still playing.
13. Penn State (1-1, 9-6) – The Nittany Lions lost a home game to Northwestern by 10 and then struggled against Rutgers. Penn State has had a brutal schedule so far this season and they’ll have to take on Michigan and Michigan State this coming week. I still love watching the backcourt duo of Shep Garner and Payton Banks
12. Iowa (1-1, 9-6) – The Hawkeyes got a big win over Michigan to bounce back from the thumping put on them by Purdue. Peter Jok is carrying the team on his back night after night, but getting back freshman forward Tyler Cook should help take some of the pressure of him.
11. Michigan (0-1, 10-4) – The 3 point loss at Iowa to start conference play isn’t a great sign for Michigan. They don’t have a “bad” loss so far this season, but only have wins over Texas, SMU, and Marquette on their resume.
10. Ohio State (0-1, 10-4) – The Buckeyes are in the same boat as Michigan. They dropped their conference opener at Illinois by 5 points and they have a bad loss to Florida Atlantic, but nearly beat Virginia in Charlottesville and competed strongly against UCLA in Las Vegas. They are too experienced and talented to stay in the bottom of the conference. They host Purdue on Thursday night for a chance at a big win.
9. Illinois (1-1, 11-4) – The Malcolm Hill show got destroyed by Maryland but bounced back to beat Ohio State at home by 5 thanks to Hill’s 20 and a big game from sophomore Michael Finke. The Illini are only ahead of Ohio State because of that win and will need much more consistency from Tracy Abrams to take the load off Hill.
8. Northwestern (1-1, 12-3) – The Wildcats opened up conference play with a 10 point win over a much weaker Penn State but didn’t give Michigan State too much trouble in their second game. Northwestern is still in a good position to make the dance for the first time ever, but will need to win their 2 games against Minnesota and Nebraska this week to keep their confidence high.
7. Minnesota (1-1, 12-3) – The Gophers are another inconsistent team so far early in conference play. They lost a game to Michigan State at home that they had literally every chance to win and then go on the road and put up 91 points to beat Purdue. They have a very balanced offensive attack that is still mostly based around Nate Mason and have two tricky games against Northwestern and Ohio State coming up this week.
6. Maryland (1-1, 13-2) – Maryland suffered a huge setback with the Nebraska loss, in which they led by 12 with 4 minutes left and failed to score for the remainder of the game as they shot just 8-16 from the line. This takes away a lot of the confidence they gained with the 25 point win over Illinois in the game before. Melo Trimble and company still don’t have a signature win and will need to pick up the slack this week against Michigan in their first conference road game.
5. Michigan State (2-0, 10-5) – Michigan State struggled out of the gate losing to a bunch of good teams in Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor, and Duke but really hit their setback with a home loss to Northeastern. So of course they would start conference play by winning against Northwestern and Minnesota, two very solid teams in the middle of the pack without Miles Bridges. The scheduling committee was nice to Sparty as they have Rutgers and Penn State this week and should be 4-0 before they have any real competition again with a rematch next week with Minnesota already. They should get Bridges back this week to give them an extra boost.
4. Nebraska (2-0, 8-6) – What is going on in Lincoln? After beating Indiana in Bloomington, the Huskers win in College Park?? Although Nebraska has 6 losses, only one of them have come to a less than quality opponent in Gardner Webb. But Tim Miles clearly has his team playing confidently so far to start conference play. This is the most surprising team in the conference right now.
3. Indiana (0-1, 10-4) – Indiana, what is going on with you? You beat score 103 points to beat Kansas and dominate North Carolina but then lose to IPFW and Nebraska. This is such a talented team with many versatile players and as good of a starting 5 as anyone in the conference, but might be the most inconsistent team in the country. Their spot in the power rankings will flutter all year I am sure. They host Wisconsin tonight in the BIG’s best conference matchup so far.
2. Purdue (1-1, 12-3) – Another team that is hard to figure out so far. The Boilermakers recently beat Notre Dame and then crushed Iowa, but also lost at home to Minnesota, as they allowed 91 points when they typically allow less than 70 per game. But when you have Caleb Swanigan you can expect things to turn around for you and they have 2 possibly challenging games this week with Ohio State on the road and then hosting Wisconsin, in which they’ll need Swanigan to shine.
1. Wisconsin (1-0, 12-2) – The Badgers have lost to Creighton and North Carolina so you can’t fault them there. But their best wins are Marquette, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, so there isn’t anything too special there either. However, they have the opportunity to get two signature wins this week as they are on the road at Indiana tonight and Purdue on Sunday. Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes, and Bronson Koening are all playing very good basketball and Wisconsin will probably remain the best team in the conference in my opinion for the majority of the season.