Howe: Big Ten Hoops Power Rankings 1-14
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Many of the Big Ten teams are at least six games into the conference season and all of them have at least five games behind them. Now seems like a good time to roll out my first power rankings for the league.
In addition to slotting the 14 teams, I’m going to break them into tiers in order to better distinguish separation between the programs as I see it.
Here we go:
1. Michigan (17-0 overall, 6-0 Big Ten, No. 2 AP, No. 4 Coaches) – After reaching the NCAA Championship game, and then losing Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.9 ppg), Duncan Robinson (9.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
and Moritz Wagner (14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), nobody would have been surprised if the Wolverines took a step back this season. Nope. They’re better. They’re third in Monday’s NET rankings, while KenPom.com puts them at 6. It should be noted that four of their six conference wins have come against Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State, teams with a combined 1-16 mark in the league.
2. Michigan State (15-2, 6-0, No. 6, No. 6) – The Spartans lost two players – Miles Bridges (17.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.7 apg) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) – who landed among the Top 12 NBA Draft picks last summer. Much like their rivals to the east, they’ve not missed a beat with Nick Ward and Cassius Winston leading the way. And they’ve been without another key piece, Joshua Langford, who’s missed the last four games with a foot injury. They check in at No. 7 in NET and No. 3 for KenPom.com. They also claim a nice road win at Ohio State.
3. Purdue (10-6, 3-2, NR, NR) – I’m guessing this will be met with some eye rolling, but the Boilermakers have the best win among teams in this tier. They won against Wisconsin in the Kohl Center, not an easy task, and their two conference losses were on the road at Michigan and Michigan State. Other setbacks have come against No. 9 Virginia Tech on a neutral court and at No. 11 Florida State by one point. They also defeated another team in this tier, Maryland. They’re No. 18 in the NET and No. 16 in Ken Pom.
4. Maryland (14-3, 5-1, No. 19, No. 22) – Things become tougher to gauge in this tier. Maryland receives the nod for its win against Indiana, another team in this tier. But that came by three points at home, so the Terrapins’ hold on the fourth spot is tenuous. They do own two conference road wins (Minnesota, Rutgers). They’re at home tonight against Wisconsin before traveling to Ohio State and Michigan State. They’re No. 11 in Net and No. 22 in Ken Pom.
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5. Indiana (12-4, 3-2, No. 25, No. 25) – The Hoosiers still have a lot to prove. Their two league losses have come on the road at Michigan and Maryland, while the three wins are against the bottom feeders – Northwestern, Penn State and Illinois. They did knock off a Louisville team that just rolled at North Carolina, No. 15 Marquette and Butler. They’re young but dangerous. They’re 21 in the NET and No. 25 in Ken Pom.
6. Wisconsin (11-5, 3-2, NR, NR) – The Badgers hold this spot based on their win in Iowa City. It’s a razor-thin edge over the Hawkeyes, though. Wisconsin has dropped home games against Minnesota and Purdue, and travel to Maryland tonight. They boast one of the country’s most productive big men in Ethan Happ but need pieces around him to be more consistent. They own two solid out-of-conference wins against No. 17 NC State and No. 20 Oklahoma. They’re 20 in NET and No. 14 in Ken Pom.
7. Iowa (14-3, 3-3, No. 23, No. 24) – The Hawkeyes have an up arrow next to their name after winning three in a row in the league, including an impressive performance against Ohio State on Saturday. They also draw the conference’s basement occupants this week in Penn State and Illinois, who are a combined 0-11 in the league. They’ll get their chance to boost their resume starting next week when they play host to Michigan State, travel to Minnesota and then return him against Michigan. They’re 30 in the NET and No. 35 in Ken Pom.
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8. Minnesota (13-3, 3-2, NR, NR) – The Golden Gophers top this tier by virtue of winning at Wisconsin. They beat Nebraska at home but lost at Ohio State. It’s a muddled tier. Like Iowa, they get games against Illinois and Penn State this week, so they’re favored to reach 5-2 in the league. They need those two with a game at Michigan coming after them. They’re No. 46 in the NET and No. 53 in Ken Pom.
9. Nebraska (12-4, 2-3, NR, NR) – Perhaps the Huskers deserve a spot in Tier 2 based on their No. 13 NET and No. 15 Ken Pom rankings. And maybe I’m swayed by the team I saw at Carver-Hawkeye Arena earlier this month. I’m going to trust my eyes on this one. They don’t look together as a team and the bench is lacking. They can prove me wrong tonight at Indiana and Thursday at home against Michigan State, but I don’t see it.
10. Ohio State (12-4, 2-3, NR, NR) – The Buckeyes dropped out of the AP rankings this week after being 16th last Monday. Losing at Rutgers and Iowa will do that to you. There’s an opportunity to right the ship with upcoming home games against Maryland and Purdue, but they’ll need to play much better to take advantage. They’re No. 36 in the NET and No. 29 in Ken Pom.
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11. Rutgers (8-7, 1-4, NR, NR) – The Knights’ win against Ohio State places them at the front of the tier competing for NIT berths. They also beat an OK Miami (FL) team. After playing at Purdue Tuesday, they get Northwestern and Nebraska at home before a trip to Penn State. Opportunity is there for more separation in this tier. They’re No. 112 in the Net and No. 111 in Ken Pom.
12. Northwestern (10-7, 1-5, NR, NR) – A two-point home win against Illinois gives the Wildcats a slight edge for this spot. They also were competitive against Michigan, Indiana and Oklahoma. They can make a move Friday when they play Rutgers. They’re No. 54 in the NET and No. 58 in Ken Pom.
13. Penn State (7-10, 0-6, NR, NR) – Flip a coin between the Nittany Lions and Illinois for the bottom spot. It’s close. And set your calendars for Feb. 23 and March 3 when they face off against each other. The Lions are No. 78 in the NET and No. 61 in Ken Pom.
14. Illinois (4-12, 0-5, NR, NR) – It doesn’t seem that long ago when the Illini sat among the conference’s best programs. Then Bill Self left, they let Bruce Weber walk and now find themselves in the outhouse. There’s some young talent here but not much of a chance to compete nightly this year. They’re 125 in NET and 107 in Ken Pom.