College Basketball: Week 5 Big Ten Power Rankings
Indiana Hoosiers Remain Atop Power Rankings
Another week is in the books for the Big Ten, and the Indiana Hoosiers have yet to move from the top spot in my rankings.
Indiana is the No. 1 team in the nation as well and has played like a team worthy of winning a national title this season.
But make no mistake, the Big Ten as a whole is arguably the best conference in the country and while the Hoosiers have been the best team so far, in no way does that mean they are going to cruise the rest of the way.
Four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Michigan is at No. 3, Ohio State is at No. 7 and Illinois checks in at No. 10
Minnesota is at No. 13 and Michigan State is at No. 19 as a total of six teams sit in the top 20 in the country.
It's still too early to tell which teams are appropriately ranked and which teams might be a little over-rated or under-rated, but as we inch closer to conference play, that picture will begin to clear up.
All I can say right now is that the Big Ten is worthy of the attention it has received and nothing is going to come easy for any team. My top five remain unchanged but I did bump up Iowa, which has been impressive early on. Wisconsin and Northwestern both dropped slightly but neither fan base has a reason to panic yet.
So here is my look at the power rankings for this week. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 12 - Purdue Boilermakers
I have to admit that I am surprised Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten at this point in the season. The Boilermakers (4-5) are used to winning and at least being a contender for the title. But right now, life is tough for Purdue, which is the only team in the league with a losing record.
The Boilermakers were just beaten in another close game, losing 47-44 to Eastern Michigan. The fact that Purdue has played close in all of its losses gives me a reason to think it can turn things around.
But until it figures out to get into a rhythm offensively and find ways to win tight games, the Boilermakers are going to be stuck in the basement of the Big Ten.
No. 11 - Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has managed to stay above the .500 mark despite losing Tim Frazier and it is coming off of a 78-70 win over Army on Saturday.
D.J. Newbill came through with a big performance in the win, scoring 19 points, and he is third on the team in scoring at 14.9 points per outing.
The Nittany Lions (5-4) still need to be more productive on offense as they are averaging only 61 points per game. They also need to work on cutting down turnovers. They have coughed the ball up 121 times and have forced 120. If they can lower the turnover total, their offense will benefit and they will have a chance to be competitive in conference play.
No. 10 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska faced one of its biggest tests of the season last week when it played nationally ranked Creighton. The Cornhuskers were beaten 64-42 and are clearly not ready for the big time yet.
Yet, they have shown signs of promise. Players such as Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos and Andre Almeida have stepped up and have been steady contributors on the offensive end of the floor. Brandon Ubel has also been key for the Cornhuskers (6-2).
Defensively, they have been fine, giving up only 59.2 points per outing and they are grabbing 33.2 rebounds per outing.
The one concern for the Cornhuskers is if they can find more consistency on offense and push up their season average of 62 points per tilt. If they don't, it will be tough to survive the grind of the Big Ten.
No. 9 - Wisconsin Badgers
It's tough for a team to win a game at the college level when no one scores in double figures. The Wisconsin Badgers had that problem against Marquette as Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren scored nine points apiece in a 60-50 loss on Saturday.
The Badgers (6-4) have scored less than 60 three times and that can't happen too often if they hope to be one of the better teams in the conference and make another trip to the NCAA tourney.
Wisconsin needs Evans and Berggren to be consistent scorers. It also needs Ben Brust to step up game in and game out. I think the Badgers will be fine defensively. It's just a matter of getting consistent play out of its best players night and night out. If they do that, good things will happen for this team.
No. 8 - Northwestern Wildcats
I was impressed with Northwestern after it dug deep for a win over Baylor last week, but the Wildcats came home and fell 74-65 to Butler.
If the Wildcats hope to finally get into the NCAA tournament, they can't steal wins on the road and fail to take care of business at home.
Northwestern (7-3) got a big game from Dave Sobolewski in the loss to the Bulldogs as he scored 21 points and he needs to continue to play well for the Wildcats to be successful.
Sobolewski, Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn make a formidable trio for the Wildcats, but this team also needs more help from its role players if it's going to be in the mix for an NCAA tourney berth in March.
No. 7 - Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa has rattled off three consecutive wins and the Hawkeyes and have continued to play well for the most part this season.
No one expects much from Iowa (8-2) this year, but if Aaron White can continue to be the leader that he has been so far --- he has led the team in scoring six times and is averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game --- the Hawkeyes will have a chance to be much better than expected in the Big Ten.
What could help their cause significantly is if they can get someone like Mike Gesell or Adam Woodbury to raise their average by a couple of points, it would be a good sign for the Hawkeyes going forward.
No. 6 - Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State (8-2) has come through with three consecutive wins and it has been very good defensively in all three games.
It's not a surprise. The Spartans pride themselves on being a hard-working team on the defensive end of the floor and it's their defense that will make or break their hopes to be a contender for the Big Ten championship.
The No. 19 team in the country continues to get a big lift from freshman sensation Gary Harris. Harris has led the team in scoring the last two games and is second on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per outing. He has drilled 13 shots from beyond the arc. If Harris can maintain that high level of play once the conference season begins, the Spartans could be one of the top four or five teams in the league in a matter of time.
No. 5 - Illinois Fighting Illini
If Illinois had stumbled against Gonzaga, I would have probably moved this team out of the top five.
But the Fighting Illini made a statement with their 85-74 win over the Bulldogs on the road and perhaps this team will be able to sustain it's success over the course of an entire season.
It's impressive that No. 10 Illinois (11-0) was able to avoid a letdown after the big win as it returned home to knock off Norfolk State 64-54. Often, a game against a lesser opponent after a huge showdown can turn out to be a stub-your-toe moment. The Illini didn't let it happen.
I don't think Illinois is going to win a Big Ten title this year, but I do think the Illini are good enough to be a top five team all season. This team is playing hard, especially on defense, and it will go as far as Brandon Paul can take it.
No. 4 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
Tubby Smith won his 500th game as a head coach last week and his Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-1) continue to play good basketball.
The No. 13 team in the nation has won its last seven games and four players have taken turns leading the team in scoring during the stretch.
The Golden Gophers have the balance needed to win a Big Ten title as four players are scoring 10 or more points per game.
They have also bought into the importance of defense, holding opponents to 60.3 points per outing, and that is huge because it's rare for a team to compete for a title if it can't play well defensively.
Minnesota could easily be a top three team in the league, but for now, I'm keeping it in fourth in my power rankings.
No. 3 - Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines (10-0) are off to their best start since winning the national championship in 1989 and there is no question that they are a legit top three team in the Big Ten.
Trey Burke has been the steady contributor that everyone expected him to be this season, but what has been really impressive is how well the young guys such as Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have stepped up so early in the season for the third-ranked Wolverines. At times this year, they have played like seasoned veterans.
Michigan has been effective offensively and it has given a tremendous effort on defense. If the younger players can keep going at a high level, this Michigan team will have unlimited potential.
No. 2 - Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has recovered nicely after the tough loss to Duke last month as it has won its last two games. The seventh-rankedBuckeyes (6-1) have been tough defensively and Deshaun Thomas continues to be a leader for the Buckeyes as he is averaging 20.6 points per outing.
Aaron Craft is averaging 11 points per outing and while there will be nights where he will need to deliver big-time performances, his main focus is to run that offense and give it everything he has on defense. When Craft plays at a high level defensively, the Buckeyes benefit and his play on that end of the floor will be crucial to Ohio State's hopes for a conference crown.
I can't see a scenario where Ohio State falls out of the top three in the league. It has too much talent and is too well-coached for that to happen.
No. 1 - Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana is still the best team in the Big Ten until someone proves otherwise.
The top-ranked Hoosiers (9-0) have cruised through the first part of this season and while they are far from being perfect, they clearly have all of the pieces in place to win a Big Ten title and national title.
Only Georgetown has been within 10 points of the Hoosiers, who have dominated opponents with smart, unselfish play on offense and a defensive effort that basically beats you into submission. Victor Oladipo has led the charge with 23 steals. Four other players have tallied at least eight steals.
Five players are averaging in double figures, led by Cody Zeller, who is averaging 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and has looked every bit like a national player of the year candidate.
I still don't think Indiana is going to run the table in the Big Ten, but unless it endures some major collapse, the Hoosiers are going to be champions of the Big Ten when it's all said and done.