Here is this week’s Big Ten Power Rankings:
14. Minnesota (11-6, 0-4): Much was expected from the Golden Gophers before Big Ten play started. They entered conference play with an 11-2 record, but have since lost four straight games. Three of those four losses (at Purdue, Ohio State, at Michigan) were by five points or less. Now they are dead last in the conference standings. As one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten, along conference-leading Wisconsin, the Gophers have been underachieving. This week: 77-75 loss vs. Iowa; Jan. 17 vs. Rutgers.
13. Penn State (12-4, 0-3): Same old story for Penn State. After a promising 12-1 start for the Nittany Lions, they have suddenly lost three straight to open up Big Ten play. Last week they suffered losses at Rutgers and against Michigan at home. The Lions have not been the same on either end of the floor since conference play has begun. They have been outscored 212-182 in their last three games. D.J. Newbill has continued to be the most consistent scoring option for the team, but his supporting cast has been shaky to say the least. Not to mention, John Johnson (7.4 ppg) was suspended yesterday for violating a team rule. Their defense has been the worst in the conference since the start of Big Ten play – giving up 70.6 points per game. This week: 76-73 loss at Indiana; Jan. 17 vs. Purdue.
12. Northwestern (10-6, 1-2): The Wildcats were handily defeated by Wisconsin at home despite a combined 30 points from Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh. They allowed the Badgers to shoot 12-for-25 from beyond the arc and were unable to contain Sam Dekker, who was 4-for-6 from the three-point line for 16 points. On Sunday, they nearly pulled off an upset against Michigan State on the road, before falling to the Spartans 84-77 in overtime. They mimicked Wisconsin’s 12-for-25 shooting performance from the three-point line, but fell short. Overall, Northwestern’s best win this season has come against Rutgers, which isn’t saying much. This week: Jan. 14 vs. Illinois; Jan. 17 at Michigan.
11. Rutgers (10-7, 2-2): Rutgers is coming off an Sunday night’s emotional victory, when it defeated No. 4 Wisconsin at home. Some may downplay their win because the Badgers were without Frank Kaminsky (concussion symptoms), and Traevon Jackson left the game in the second half because of a foot injury. Nonetheless, it was still an impressive win for the Scarlet Knights. Wisconsin was the highest-ranked opponent that Rutgers has ever beaten. Three days prior, they suffered a 16-point loss at the hands of Nebraska – a game in which they turned the ball over 19 times. This week: Jan. 14 at No. 14 Maryland; Jan. 17 at Minnesota.
10. Illinois (11-6, 1-3): It was crazy week for the Fighting Illini. The team lost its leading scorer and rebounder, Rayvonte Rice, to a broken hand sustained during practice. Rice is out indefinitely. They then went on to rally and pulled off an upset win over then-No. 9 Maryland at home. Malcolm Hill scored 28 points in the victory. Things went sour in a 53-43 loss at Nebraska, as they were held to a season-low 43 points while shooting 27.3 from the field. Illinois is 7-0 at home, but 0-4 in true road games this season. Their next game is at Northwestern. This week: Jan. 14 at Northwestern; Jan. 18 vs. Indiana
9. Nebraska (10-6, 2-2): Nebraska began Big Ten play with an 0-2 record, but has won its last two games. The Huskers had a busy week, which started with a loss to Iowa. Shavon Shields did all he could with 25 points, but it was not enough. Moses Abraham and Leslee Smith made their returns in the team’s win over Rutgers. Their presence was a huge plus for the Huskers despite the fact that the two combined for just five points in 26 minutes of game action. Nebraska ended the week by using a stifling defense to beat Illinois. They held the Fighting Illini to 6-for-29 shooting from deep. A tough schedule lies ahead starting with Wisconsin this week, so we’ll see if they can keep up their winning ways. This week: Jan. 15 at Wisconsin.
8. Purdue (10-7, 2-2): The Boilermakers are on a 13-game losing streak against ranked opponents. That trend continued last week with losses on the road against No. 4 Wisconsin and at home against No. 14 Maryland. Purdue shot 51 percent against the Badgers and had five more rebounds. However, they lost the game at the free throw line, where they made just three freebies compared to Wisconsin’s 25. The Boilermakers held Maryland to 37 percent shooting, but shot just 36 percent from the field themselves. After struggling against non-conference competition, Purdue had opened Big Ten play with a 2-0 record, using their dominant inside presence to lead the way. However, these last two losses show that they still have work to do if they want to climb up the Big Ten standings. This week: Jan. 17 at Penn State.
7. Michigan (10-6, 3-1): After losing five of their previous seven games, the Wolverines figure to be back on track after they picked up two straight wins last week – a 74-63 road win at Penn State and a 62-57 home win against Minnesota. It’s no secret that Michigan has had struggles on offense and defense all season long. However, its offense sparked its win over Penn State. The Wolverines went 9-for-15 on three-point attempts. Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin were 12-for-17 shooting for a combined 35 points. The Wolverines defense has seen improvement since the start of league play. Against the Gophers, Michigan held Minnesota scoreless for almost seven minutes in the second half, while they rallied from a nine-point deficit. They also forced Minnesota’s backcourt to commit 17 turnovers. This week: 71-52 loss at Ohio State; Jan. 17 vs. Northwestern.
6. Ohio State (13-4, 2-2): D’Angelo Russell led the Buckeyes to a 74-72 overtime victory over Minnesota. He was spectacular, finishing with 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field, including 5-for-6 shooting from long distance. Russell put Ohio State in position to win, and Marc Loving sealed the deal with a game-winning floater. Loving is making a case for most improved player in the conference. Despite the thrilling win, the Buckeyes endured a three-point loss at Indiana in the following game. The team shot just 34.3 percent, which included a 3-for-21 effort on three-pointers. Ohio State will look to put its top 50 offense and defense to good use when they face Iowa. This week: 71-52 win vs. Michigan; Jan. 17 at Iowa.
5. Iowa (11-5, 2-1): The Hawkeyes began last week with a 70-59 victory against Nebraska, as part of a three-game winning streak. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Aaron White, turned in 23 points and nine rebounds. They couldn’t keep it going and in their next contest were dominated at home by Michigan State. Iowa couldn’t keep up with the Spartans in the second half, allowing MSU to score 47 points and shoot 8-for-9 from deep in the period. The Hawkeyes gave up an 11-point halftime lead in the process, and lost by 14. It was their fourth double-digit loss of the season. This week: 77-75 win at Minnesota; Jan. 17 vs. Ohio State.
4. Indiana (12-4, 2-1) The Hoosiers had a dreadful showing in a 20-point loss at Michigan last Monday. Troy Williams was a non-factor and James Blackmon Jr. shot 1-for-14 from the floor, 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, for eight points. Indiana would go on to rebound quite nicely with a 69-66 victory over Ohio State at home. The Hoosiers were led by a strong defensive effort and a double-double from Williams, who finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Indiana hasn’t been scoring and shooting the ball as well as it had been during non-conference play. The Hoosiers have a chance to put up some good shooting numbers against Penn State and Illinois’ suspect defense this week. This week: 76-73 win vs. Penn State; Jan 18. at Illinois.
3. Michigan State (12-5, 3-1): Before they ripped off three straight wins last week, many wondered if the Spartans were really a top team in the Big Ten. Hold off on those doubts for another week folks. Following a double overtime home loss to Maryland, the Spartans blew out Indiana by 20 points, put together a comeback win to beat Iowa in Iowa by 14 points and squeaked out a seven-point overtime win over Northwestern. Across the three victories, Branden Dawson accumulated 41 points and 37 rebounds. No. 14 Maryland awaits the Spartans this week, who will seek revenge on the Terps for spoiling their Big Ten home opener. This week: Jan. 17 at No. 14 Maryland.
2. Maryland (15-2, 3-1): The Terrapins suffered their first Big Ten loss of the season, 64-57 at Illinois. Their defense had trouble trying to contain Malcolm Hill and they missed some key free throws throughout the game. Maryland bounced back from that loss with a nine-point road win against Purdue. They had four players score in double-figures (Jake Layman, Dez Wells, Melo Trimble, and Richaud Pack). Layman led the way with 14 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals. The Terps’ defensive effort shouldn’t be understated, as they matched the Boilermakers’ physical play and were resilient on that end of the floor. That’s the type of play that makes you a contender in the Big Ten. This week: Jan. 14 vs. Rutgers; Jan. 17 vs. Michigan State.
1. Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1): Similarly to Maryland, the Badgers lost their first Big Ten game last week, falling to Rutgers on the road 67-62 on Sunday. Wisconsin was without their rim protector and low post scoring threat Frank Kaminsky (concussion symptoms), and Traevon Jackson left the game in the second half with a foot injury. Without Kaminsky to protect the paint, the Badgers allowed the Scarlet Knights to shoot 67 percent from the floor in the second half. Earlier in the week, the Badgers got a tough win against Purdue at home. When Wisconsin is fully healthy, they are the best team in the league. They also have the best chance to get to Final Four. This week: Jan. 15 vs. Nebraska.
*Section Photo credit to Jamie Squire, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to USA Today Sports