College Basketball: Week 3 Big Ten Power Rankings
Indiana Hoosiers Still The Best Team In The Big Ten
If one thing is for certain as we head into the final days of November it is that the Indiana Hoosiers are still the best team in the Big Ten.
They have been ranked No. 1 in my power poll all year and have done their part to live up to the hype as the top team in the nation.
Indiana’s convincing win over the North Carolina Tar Heels was yet another reminder of why the Hoosiers are the frontrunner for the national championship at the moment.
Are they going to have a game or two where they slip up? Of course they will. No way is anyone going to go perfect in the Big Ten this year.
Ohio State and Michigan still hold the No. 2 and No. 3 positions as both teams are unbeaten and have done nothing to make me believe they won’t contend for the conference title, and yes, maybe even the national title.
Minnesota and Michigan State round out my top five, although after the way Illinois played out in Maui, the Illini are not far off from cracking the top five.
The Big Ten has done nothing to harm its reputation as the best basketball conference in the country. Four teams are unbeaten, four more have lost only once and only Purdue has a losing record, although don’t expect the Boilermakers to stay down for very long. They will be a decent team in the league when it’s all said and done.
So without further delay, take a look at my rankings and feel free to share your thoughts. You can hit me up on Twitter @BLester1993 or drop me an email at email@example.com.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten Columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association as well.
No. 12 Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue ended a two-game slide last week with a 66-40 win over UNC-Wilmington and perhaps that win will help get the Boilermakers on track again. Terone Johnson scored 19 points in the victory as Purdue improved to 2-3.
The Boilermakers have yet to lose by more than 10 points and while I have them at the bottom of my poll at the moment, I don't expect them to stay there. They have been competitive in every game and Matt Painter is a very good coach. He will have this team on the winning side of things in a matter of time.
No. 11 - Penn State Nittany Lions
Life without Tim Frazier continues for the Nittany Lions, who sit at 3-2 after edging Bucknell 60-57.
D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall have done their part to make up for the loss of the team's best player and if they can continue to be productive, Penn State might be in line for a decent season.
Offensively, the Nittany Lions need to be more productive. They are averaging just 59 points per outing and that just won't cut it once they get into conference play. Only two other players average at least 6 points per outing. Unless that changes, Penn State will have a hard time keeping pace with opponents in the Big Ten.
No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa is on the way down at the moment after losing two consecutive games, including a 95-79 loss to Virginia Tech on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Hawkeyes (5-2) are struggling defensively, and while Aaron White has played well as of late ---he had a double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds) against the Hokies, other players need to step up and make a difference. After all, Iowa hasn't scored more than 66 points in four of its last five games.
Iowa is good enough to at least be a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference, but that hinges on improving its play on both ends of the floor.
No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers
You have to be impressed with the fact that Nebraska went on the road Tuesday night and knocked off Wake Forest in its ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.
The Cornhuskers came away with a 79-63 victory behind stellar 20-point efforts from Ray Gallegos and Andre Almeida. Almeida was also a force on the boards as he pulled down 11 rebounds.
Nebraska is 5-1, which isn't bad when you consider this team won only 12 games all of last season. The signs of progress are there, especially with the balance it has shown offensively, and if the Cornhuskers can keep going forward, they have a chance to be a little better than expected.
No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats
Don't think Northwestern is too thrilled about Maryland joining the Big Ten. The Wildcats (6-1) were blasted 77-57 by the Terrapins at home on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and that is not a good sign for a team hoping to crack the NCAA tourney field for the first time in program history.
The Wildcats had been playing well on defense, allowing 56.7 points per outing, but their effort wasn't good enough against Maryland.
That game against Maryland was one Northwestern needed to win to prove it can be a tourney contender. Obviously, it's a tough loss but the fate of this team will hinge on how it responds going forward. My guess is the Wildcats will find a way to bounce back.
No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers
After a loss to mid-major power Creighton, the Wisconsin Badgers got back on track with a 77-70 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
The Badgers (4-2) continue to get great play out of Jared Berggren, who has led or tied for the team lead in scoring four times this year and is averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Sam Dekker has also played a key role for the Badgers, clicking for 11.8 points per outing.
Offensively, the Badgers have been fairly balanced and they understand how to execute a game plan. They are still very tough defensively as well as long as they continue to rebound well and force turnovers, they will be a tough out for anyone once conference play rolls around.
No. 6 Illinois Fighting Illini
Maybe it's too early to put the Illini this high up in the power rankings, but after what they did in Hawaii, it's hard to debate their rise this week.
Illinois (7-0) played four games in Hawaii, including three in the Maui Invitational, and they found a way to win all four, including a 78-61 win over a very good Butler team in the championship game of the tourney. It was an impressive run and there is no question that John Groce has this team playing hard.
The Illini were pushed by Gardner-Webb on Sunday in a 63-62 win, but I chalk that up to playing so soon after a long trip.
Brandon Paul has played very well and leads the team in scoring (18.7 points per game). The Illini have have been effective from beyond the arc, drilling 76 treys, and they have played hard on defense, allowing only 63.4 points per outing.
I don't expect Illinois to win the Big Ten this year, but if it continues to play at a high level, it will be one of the better teams in the conference.
No.5 Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans have won their last five games and now sit at 5-1 on the season.
Keith Appling has been on a roll as of late, leading the Spartans in scoring in their last three games. He has scored 20 or more twice during the stretch and poured in 19 points in a 63-60 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday.
Appling is averaging 16.8 points per outing and as long as he keeps playing at a high level, the Spartans are going to be fine offensively. Michigan State always gets after it on defense and its effort on that end of the floor will allow it to contend for a conference title. The Spartans are currently giving up 58.8 points per game.
No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota is clearly still one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Its only loss was to No. 2 Duke and it has won three consecutive games.
The latest victory for the Golden Gophers (7-1) was a 77-68 win over Florida State on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.
What is worth noting about that win is that Joe Coleman turned out to be the leading scorer for the first time all season. He dropped in 16 points and is averaging 10 points per tilt on the year. Coleman gives Minnesota another option on offense and adds to the difficulty of defending this team.
Throw in the fact that Minnesota has been solid defensively, holding teams to 60.9 points per game and forcing opponents to shoot a mere 35.9 percent from the field, and what you have is a team with the potential to contend for the Big Ten title.
No. 3 Michigan Wolverines
No one can deny the Michigan Wolverines are a top three team in the Big Ten. The Wolverines (6-0) and are coming off an impressive 79-72 win over ACC favorite North Carolina State on Tuesday night.
One thing worth noting about that game is that Nik Stauskas emerged as the leading scorer, pouring in 20 points. He is averaging 13 points per game on the year.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have lived up to their hype and had taken turns leading the offensive attack until Tuesday. Glenn Robinson III has been productive as well offensively and has been a steady presence in the paint for Michigan.
The Wolverines have all of the pieces in place to win a conference title. Their scoring is balanced, their defensive effort has been phenomenal and they are well-coached. I don't expect them to drop off anytime soon.
No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State (4-0) has looked like a Big Ten title contender through this early part of the season, and one of the most impressive aspects of its game has been the way Deshaun Thomas has emerged as a leader.
Thomas has gone over the 20-point mark in three consecutive games and he is the viable scoring threat the Buckeyes need to be a top-tier team in the league and in the country. It's worth noting that Thomas has also been the leading rebounder for Ohio State in the last three outings.
Aaron Craft has only gotten better, offensively and defensively, and his ability to run the offense and defend with unmatched intensity will serve the Buckeyes well in their quest to be the best in the conference this season.
Ohio State faces a big test against Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but win or lose, the Buckeyes are going to be a force to be a top 10 team nationally all season.
No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers
If anyone had any doubts about Indiana being the best team in the Big Ten and the nation, they were answered on Tuesday night after the Hoosiers' convincing win over North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Hoosiers run their offense so effectively, especially with Cody Zeller's ability to run the floor, and opponents are really forced to pick their poison against them.
Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Will Sheehey have all played a pivotal role in the unbeaten start for Indiana (7-0).
The Hoosiers have depth and are so tough to deal with on the defensive end of the floor. They won't be perfect this season, but I don't expect Indiana to lose more than a few games during the regular season as they position themselves for a run at the national title.