College Basketball: Week 4 Big Ten Power Rankings
Hoosiers unbeaten and still on top
In case you were hoping for a little suspense in the power rankings this week, forget about it. The Indiana Hoosiers are still the team to beat in college basketball and they are once again on top of my power rankings for the week.
The Hoosiers have done nothing to damage their reputation as the top team, although I don't expect them to be perfect all season. Just don't plan on them losing a game until Big Ten play starts.
Ohio State, Michigan and Minnesota have all been solid and have a combined two losses between the three, which, for now, helps solidify the Big Ten as the best basketball conference in the country.
I did move Illinois up a spot from last week and I also decided to bump up Northwestern after its road win against Baylor. Yet, even with their early-season success, both teams have a lot to prove going forward.
Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Penn State have all played decent basketball while Purdue is still that team I'm waiting to see get hot. The Boilermakers were brick city from beyond the arc in a loss to Xavier, but as I keep saying, the Boilermakers continue to play close games and eventually they will get on a roll.
The most impressive thing about the Big Ten through this first month is that not one team has a losing record. Purdue is the only team at .500. Obviously, that will change once conference play begins, but you have to believe that the Big Ten is going to be as competitive as expected this season.
Without further delay, here are my rankings for the week. As usual, you can follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 and don't hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 12 - Purdue Boilermakers
After missing every shot it took from 3-point range in a loss to Xavier, Purdue bounced back in a big way as it slammed Lamar 72-39.
The Boilermakers (4-4) have still yet to lose a game by double digits and I think that is the most encouraging sign for this team. If they can learn to win the close games, they are going to be fine.
Terone Johnson continues to produce for Purdue. He scored 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the loss to Xavier and is averaging 13.1 points per outing. The Boilermakers just need to find that second guy who can consistently score in double figures and they could turn out to be a decent team in Big Ten play.
No. 11 - Penn State Nittany Lions
Jermaine Marshall has really started to step up his game in the absence of star Tim Frazier. Marshall has led the Nittany Lions (4-3) in scoring in their last three games, including a 25-point effort in a 71-63 win over Boston College, and he could turn out to be the player that gives Penn State a shot at a winning season.
Marshall and D.J. Newbill could end up being a formidable one-two punch and make the Nittany Lions a tough out for anyone on a given night..
Throw in the fact that Ross Travis has done a nice job on the boards, averaging 7.7 per game, and what you have is a Penn State team with a chance to have success despite losing its best player.
No. 10 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska made a mini-statement with its road win over Wake Forest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week and it's hard not be impressed with what the Cornhuskers have accomplished up to this point.
Nebraska (6-1) won only 12 games a year ago and it is already half-way to that total. The Cornhuskers are another one of those teams in the league that could turn out to be better than expected, although part of that hinges on Ray Gallegos continuing to play well.
Gallegos dropped in 20 points against Wake Forest, matching the total put up by Andre Almeida, and he is one of three players averaging in double figures (13.0 points per game).
The Cornhuskers still need to be a little more productive on offense to keep the success going and continue to defend as well as they have up to this point.
No. 9 - Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa continues to look impressive early in the season. The Hawkeyes (7-2) picked up their latest win on Tuesday when they knocked off South Dakota State 87-63.
Four players scored in double figures in the victory, led by the 21-point performance of Aaron White. White also grabbed six rebounds while Roy Devyn Marble pumped in 14 points and pulled down boards.
Mike Gesel dropped in 12 points and Adam Woodbury scored 10. The Hawkeyes had 11 players score in the win and when you can get a lot of players involved, you have a chance to win games.
Iowa has won back-to-back games and if it can continue to get balanced scoring and capitalize on turnovers, it will be in good shape heading into conference play.
No. 8 - Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin has played a tough early-season schedule but did manage to get a bit of a break on Tuesday when it rolled past Nebraska-Omaha 86-40.The Badgers had five players score in double figures, with Ben Brust recording his fourth double-double of the year, tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Brust has played with a ton of effort and if he can stay at a high level, the Badgers (6-3)are going to at least be in the mix for a conference championship.
It is the defense of the Badgers that will play a role in conference title contention. The Badgers have allowed 70 or more points only three times and they will have a chance to win any game if they maintain their intense play on the defensive end of the floor.
No. 7 - Northwestern Wildcats
If Northwestern (7-2) is going to contend for its first ever trip to the NCAA tournament, it needs to win tough games on the road. The Wildcats picked up a tough win on Tuesday night, edging Baylor 74-70.
It says a lot about the toughness of the Wildcats and that experience should serve them well going forward as long as they learn from the mistakes that nearly cost them the game.
The Wildcats have the talent to be a good team, especially with Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn leading the way, but one improvement they need to make is at the free-throw line. Northwestern is shooting just 69 percent from the line. That will have to change for Northwestern to live up to its potential.
No. 6 - Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State has been playing solid defense as of late, and while their wins haven't come against powerhouse teams, the Spartans (6-2) are making strides.
The Spartans beat up on Nicholls State on Saturday, winning 84-39, and they are holding opponents to 57.4 points per outing.
Sure, the loss to Miami was tough to digest for this team, but to think the Spartans are in danger of being average this year is a mistake. Tom Izzo will have this team playing good basketball come the start of the Big Ten schedule and as long as players such as Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson continue to deliver, the Spartans will contend for the conference title.
No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois (9-0) is undefeated and nationally ranked, and those are two things I bet not many people expected from the Fighting Illini through one month of the season.
The Fighting Illini have done a very good job of knocking down shots from the outside, hitting 97 as they have shot 40.6 percent from long range. But what has stood out the most to me about this Illini team is its ability to defend. Illinois has only given up 70 or more points, and that was to Hawaii in overtime. It's allowing 63.3 points per game while scoring 78.7.
Illinois started off playing well a year ago as well, but I just feel like this team is different. For now, Illinois is in my top five, but only time will tell if it is worthy of maintaining a spot there.
No. 4 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
Since the loss to Duke, Minnesota (9-1) has rattled off five consecutive wins and continues to play like a Big Ten contender.
The Golden Gophers have been balanced offensively throughout this year, and Andre Hollins has continued to lead the way for this team, clicking for 13.7 points per outing. Hollins has buried 18 3-pointers and Austin Hollins has come through with 15 treys while averaging 12.1 points per game.
Minnesota is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field as a team and it has been tough defensively, holding opponents to 36 percent shooting.
If Minnesota stays balanced and continues to make strides on defense, it will give itself a chance win a conference title this year.
No. 3 - Michigan Wolverines
Michigan went on the road over the weekend and earned a big win over Bradley. It was the first true road test of the year and the Wolverines (8-0) were able to get the job done.
Nik Stauskas continues to look like anything but a freshman. He dropped in 22 points in the win over the Braves and has become an integral part of Michigan's offensive success. Stauskas is averaging 13.9 points per game and has been the biggest threat for the Wolverines from the outside, knocking down 21 treys.
The Wolverines are shooting over 50 percent as a team and have played well defensively.
Considering the talent this Michigan team has, you have to believe it is the real deal and that it will be ready to roll come the start of conference play.
No. 2 - Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is still the second-best team in the Big Ten in my book, although you can certainly make a case for Michigan to be in that spot.
The Buckeyes (5-1) have lost only to Duke this year and just beat up on Northern Kentucky, winning 70-43 on Saturday.
Deshaun Thomas has been a leader all season, but what should be encouraging for the Buckeyes is that someone like LaQuinton Ross was able to step up in a game. Ross scored 20 against Northern Kentucky and could prove to be an added weapon for this team as it goes through the grind of the year.
Ohio State is still one of the best defensive teams in the league as well and good play on that end of the floor is something the Buckeyes should always be able to count on. Don't expect the Buckeyes to fall out of the top three anytime soon.
No. 1 - Indiana Hoosiers
If anyone has a reason why Indiana shouldn't be the top team in my power rankings, please share it with me right now.
All the Hoosiers (8-0) have done up to this point is win games and they have looked like a complete team en route to their unbeaten start.
The Hoosiers have plenty of options on offense --- five players are scoring 11 or more points per game --- they have depth and they play as hard defensively as any team in the nation.
Is Indiana perfect? Of course not. Every team has improvements it can make, and as long as the players understand as much and don't get caught up in all of the hype, the Hoosiers are going to be in good shape when it comes time to contend for the Big Ten title.