College Basketball: Week 9 Big Ten Power Rankings
Michigan Wolverines Remain No. 1
Michigan is still the team to beat in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have yet to lose and are certainly capable of winning a conference title this season. I still don't think they are going to run the table in the conference but they shouldn't fall out of the top three in the league this season.
Indiana and Minnesota join Michigan as the most consistent teams in the league up to this point. After those three, it's a free-for-all battle for the other spots. One day Illinois is losing to Purdue, the next it's crushing Ohio State. It's just one example of how unpredictable and how balanced the Big Ten really is and will continue to be throughout the season.
We will definitely learn more about the league this week with Illinois and Indiana both going up against Minnesota while Ohio State and Michigan will square off in a rivalry game.
It's worth noting that no one should count out Wisconsin or Michigan State. Both teams play hard, especially on defense, and they will be in the mix for the conference title, even if both teams only have outside shots of winning it.
Of the conference teams that have yet to win a game, Iowa is probably the team with the best shot of being successful in the league. I thought Northwestern would have a chance to make a run in the conference this year, but now, I don't even think I'd bet my lunch money on the Wildcats.
It will be interesting to see how things play out going forward. I expect the power rankings to change quite a bit from here on out and I expect the Big Ten to live up to the hype of being one of the top conferences in the country.
Enjoy checking out the rankings, and as usual, feel free to follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at email@example.com.
No. 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has dropped its first two conference games and the odds of winning more than five or six games this season in the league don't look very good at the moment.
If the Nittany Lions (9-6, 2-0) had Tim Frazier, I'd be more optimistic about their chances for success, but with only two consistent scorers in D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, it's going to be tough to survive the grind of the Big Ten.
Penn State will compete hard, especially on the defensive end of the floor, but without an efficient offense, it could be a long year.
No. 11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska took one on the chin in its conference opener against Ohio State but it wasn't bad defensively in the loss to Wisconsin.
The problem for the Cornhuskers (9-6, 0-2) is that they just don't have the offensive punch to make an impact night in and night out.They are averaging just 59.1 points per outing and that won't cut it in the Big Ten. Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos and Brandon Ubel have all played well and are steady contributors but Nebraska lacks balance and is only shooting 42.4 percent from the field. Unless that changes, it will be tough win consistently in the Big Ten this season.
No. 10 - Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern isn't exactly off to an impressive start in conference play after losing to Michigan and Minnesota. The Wildcats aren't doomed yet, but they better get their act in gear if they are going to end the NCAA tournament drought.
Offense has been an issue for Northwestern (9-6, 0-2), which has scored 70 or more only twice in the last eight games.
Drew Sobolewski is doing what he can to help the Wildcats succeed and Reggie Hearn hasn't played bad either. But the Wildcats just don't have that third scoring threat that can push them into the upper half of the Big Ten standings. Northwestern needs to steal a few surprise wins here or there or it can forget about the NCAA tournament again.
No. 9 - Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue continues to play hard and play close, and that recipe should bode well for it going forward
The Boilermakers (7-8, 1-2) got a huge win over Illinois but couldn't get the job done against Michigan State or Ohio State.
Terone Johnson has come up big often for Purdue and that has to continue if the Boilermakers are going to get on a roll this month. What would help Purdue is if it could get a little bit better at knocking down shots from the outside. The Boilermakers shoot only 28.3 percent from beyond the arc. Johnson has 16 treys and D.J. Byrd has hit 31 3-pointers. No one else has more than eight on the team.
No. 8 - Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa showed a lot of promise in its loss to Indiana and then it got blitzed by Michigan.
The Hawkeyes (11-4, 0-2), despite a tough start to Big Ten play, should still do pretty well this season. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White have played well and Mike Gessell and Adam Woodbury have done a decent job as well of providing a spark on offense.
For Iowa, it has to be able defend the way it did against Indiana to give itself a chance against the better teams in the conference. If the Hawkeyes can consistently play hard defensively, they will do much better than expected this season.
No. 7 - Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State didn't play bad against Minnesota and it was able to get a nice win over Purdue.
The Spartans (12-3, 1-1) are probably a long shot to win a conference title, but they are a team no one can afford to overlook.
Michigan State has the talent and the coaching to get on a roll this month. It all starts, of course, with Gary Harris and Keith Appling playing well. The Spartans should be fine offensively and they continue to be one of the tougher defensive teams in the league, allowing only 57.7 points per outing.
One of the keys to the Spartans having success from this point on is being able to force opponents into tough shooting nights. Michigan State is currently limiting opponents to 37 percent shooting from the field, and that kind of effort will always give a team a chance to win.
No. 6 - Wisconsin Badgers
If Wisconsin is going to be in a position to win a lot of games in the Big Ten, it needs to continue to get after it on defense. The Badgers have held their first two conference opponents to less than 60 points and that shouldn't surprise anyone because Wisconsin thrives on hard-nosed defensive play.
The Badgers (12-4, 2-0) are holding opponents to 54.9 points per outing and not only have they done well on defense, but they have been stellar at taking care of the ball. Wisconsin is averaging just 8.7 turnovers per game, and when you don't give a team extra possessions, you increase your chances of winning.
No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes
Not sure what to think of Ohio State at this point, but I will say this: I don't think the Buckeyes can be ruled out as a contender for the conference title.
Sure, they rely heavily on the play of Deshaun Thomas and they are still searching for consistent secondary scorers, but if the Buckeyes (12-3, 2-1) get on a roll and they begin to click on all cylinders offensively, don't be surprised if they are in the title race until the end.
The thing to keep in mind about Ohio State is that it has players who understand what it takes to play at a high level, and that knowledge combined with its talent could be enough to propel Ohio State to a title.
No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois impressed me with its dominating win over Ohio State, but even with that victory, it's hard to say just how good the Fighting Illini can be this year.
The Fighting Illini (14-2, 1-1) have continued to play well on defense and Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams and D.J. Richardson have all been steady contributors this season for a team that is averaging close to 80 points per outing.
The thing I'm waiting to see from Illinois is if it can win key Big Ten games on the road. It didn't look good in it's loss to Purdue, but if it can prove it can win big games on the road, it will be one of the top four or five teams in the league this year.
No. 3 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota has done nothing so far to prove it isn't a legit conference title contender.
The Golden Gophers (14-1, 2-0) have won their last 10 games and have done it by being one of the more balanced teams in the conference. Five players are averaging at least eight points per outing, including Andre Hollins, who is clicking for 13.1 points per outing.
Minnesota is shooting 46.9 percent from the floor and has been tough to crack on defense as it is holding opponents to 38.1 percent shooting.
As long as the Golden Gophers maintain their consistency on both ends of the floor, they will be in the running for the conference title all season.
No. 2 - Indiana Hoosiers
The Indiana Hoosiers haven't lost since falling to Butler last month and they could just as easily be on top of the power rankings as Michigan.
The Hoosiers (14-1, 2-0) are cranking out 87 points per outing and are limiting opponents to 59.1 points per game.
Cody Zeller is going to be the key to success for Indiana as he is the go-to guy for the Hoosiers, and as long as he continues to get steady contributions from the players around him, the Hoosiers are going to be in a position to win the title. Indiana still has all of the pieces in place to be a champion and it's just a matter of it putting it all together in the biggest games of the conference season, starting with the showdown against Minnesota this weekend.
No. 1 - Michigan Wolverines
All Michigan has done so far is make teams look silly in conference play, waxing Northwestern and Iowa. The Wolverines (15-0, 2-0) have yet to lose and could certainly make a case for not only being the best team in the Big Ten, but for being the best team in the country.
Four players are averaging in double figures and the Wolverines are averaging more than 80 points per game. When you have that kind of balance and efficiency, it's tough for opponents to contend with it.
What is perhaps just as impressive as the offensive might of the Wolverines is the way they have defended. They have given up only 70-plus points twice this year and holding opponents to under 60 per game. When you can defend that well, winning is never out of reach, and for now, the Wolverines are the team to beat in the conference.
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