College Basketball: Week 10 Big Ten Power Rankings
Badgers Rise To Top Spot In Power Rankings
Remember when I said the power rankings would likely go through a lot of changes over the course of the season? Well, the first big change is this week as the Wisconsin Badgers are the lone team without a loss in conference play.
Maybe the Badgers aren't the best team in the Big Ten and maybe they won't even win the conference title, but for now, they are my top team in the conference. Wisconsin was impressive on Tuesday night, going into Indiana and knocking off the Hoosiers.
What really impressed me about the win is how well the Badgers played on defense. They rendered a very good Indiana team ineffective on offense most of the night.
I still think Indiana is good enough to win a conference title and you can't count out Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota or even Michigan State. Those are the best teams in the conference up to this point.
We are beginning to see much more separation between the top half and bottom half of the conference. The two teams that could still go either way are Illinois and Purdue. Both teams are capable of having good seasons, but both teams are just as capable of falling off to mediocrity.
Things are about to get very interesting in the conference. Protecting home court will be key for every team and the best teams will find ways to steal a few road wins here or there. My guess is the top spot in my rankings will be a bit unsettled the rest of the way.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the rankings. Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy checking out the rankings this week.
No. 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is one of two teams that has yet to win a conference game. The Nittany Lions will eventually win a game or two, but for now, they have struggled as expected in the conference.
The biggest problem for Penn State (8-8, 0-4) is that it just doesn't have the scoring balance to be a competitive team. D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall have stepped up and both players average just over 14 points per outing. But no one else is averaging more than seven points per outing and that is a problem that probably won't be solved this year.
No. 11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska is the only other team without a win in conference play and the odds of things getting better down the road don't look good.
The Cornhuskers (9-8, 0-4) have competed hard, especially in losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State, and that is an encouraging sign for the team going forward.
But Nebraska needs a significant boost to its offense. The Cornhuskers are shooting 41.7 percent from the field and average less than 60 points per outing. Those numbers aren't good enough for success in the Big Ten, but all Nebraska can do is continue to push forward and hope it's effort pays off in the long run.
No. 10 - Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern has done itself no favors in its bid to end its NCAA tournament drought. The Wildcats (10-7, 1-3) have crept toward that wait-until-next-year status and better change things in a hurry if they want a shot at playing important games in March.
Northwestern has lost twice at home in conference play and that can't happen if it wants to be a competitive team in the league. The Wildcats, who average 65.8 points per game, have lacked the ability to score points against quality opponents and unless that changes going forward, it's going to be a long year for Northwestern.
No. 9 - Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa still has a chance to get its act together in the conference. All three of its losses have come against top-tier teams in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes (12-5, 1-3) aren't bad offensively, averaging 74.2 per outing, and they haven't been horrible defensively.
Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White have been a solid one-two punch for the Hawkeyes, but they that third and fourth scorer to raise their game to another level if they are going to be one of the more competitive teams in the league.
What the Hawkeyes need to do is finish the month strong and learn from the lessons of playing against the better teams in the league early in their schedule. If they can do that, they can still have a decent year.
No. 8 - Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue has been competitive for the most part in the early going of its Big Ten schedule and the Boilermakers could easily rise in the conference as the season rolls on.
The Boilermakers (8-8, 2-2) still haven't shot to well from beyond the arc this season but they have been tough defensively, allowing 61.9 points per outing. Purdue is also holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field.
If the Boilermakers can continue to keep games close by defending well, they will be in a position to pull off a surprise win or two and end up somewhere in the middle of the league standings.
No. 7 - Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois hasn't shown a lot of promise lately and it makes you wonder if the Fighting Illini (14-4, 1-3) are good enough to finish in the upper half of the league.
The promising win over Ohio State has been overshadowed by three conference losses and Illinois needs to get in gear quick if it's going to salvage the season.
Illinois is good enough to finish strong, but as I've said before, it all hinges on how well Brandon Paul plays. If Paul can elevate his game night in and night out, the Fighting Illini will be in good shape in the long run.
Illinois needs to get back to defending well. Sometimes playing great defense translates into success on the offensive end of the floor and I think that is the key for Illinois as it moves forward.
No. 6 - Michigan State Spartans
One thing every college basketball fan knows is that you can never count out a team coached by Tom Izzo. The Spartans (14-5, 3-1) have the potential to win a conference title if they can play their best basketball when it matters.
The Spartans have rattled off three consecutive wins and are averaging 70.3 points per outing. Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson continue to lead the way and Derrick Nix is capable of a big game on any given night as well.
For the Spartans, it's all about being a team that will defend hard and play a hard-nosed brand of basketball. As long as they do those two things, the Spartans will be tough to beat on any given night.
No. 5 - Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has been questioned at times this year, but its win over Michigan on Sunday was impressive. It goes to show you that the Buckeyes (13-3, 3-1) are still very much alive in the hunt for a Big Ten title.
The Buckeyes held an explosive Wolverines team to 53 points and it is their ability to defend hard that will give them a shot at a conference championship.
Of course, Deshaun Thomas needs to continue to play at his usual high level. Thomas has scored over 20 points in four consecutive games and is averaging 20.3 points per outing. As long as Thomas continues to lead offensively, other players will find ways to step up and help him out.
No. 4 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota has lost just twice this year and is one of five one-loss teams in conference play. The Golden Gophers nearly pulled off an upset against Indiana but lost 88-81.
The fact that the Golden Gophers (15-2, 3-1)competed with the Hoosiers proves that they are indeed good enough to win a conference championship.
For Minnesota, it's all about continuing to get good balance offensively. The Golden Gophers have four players averaging 10 or more points per game, including Andre Hollins, who is averaging 14.4 per outing.
The balance of Minnesota has been tough to deal with all season, and as long as it continues to get it, along with solid play on defense, the Golden Gophers will be a title contender.
No. 3 - Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana was dealt a tough loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday night and what the win proves is that the Hoosiers are not going to have a clear path to the conference title.
Still, Indiana can't dwell on the loss for too long. The Hoosiers (15-2, 3-1) still have the potential to win a title. They have the ability to put up big numbers on offense, averaging 85.4 per game, and their depth gives them an advantage over a lot of teams.
One of the keys for the Hoosiers is to maintain a high level of play on defense and find ways to win those tight games that they will deal with at times over the course of the season.
No. 2 Michigan Wolverines
Michigan had a chance to remain perfect, but its bid for perfection was wiped out in a loss to rival Ohio State on Sunday.
I don't think anyone expected the Wolverines to run the table in the conference, and despite the loss to the Buckeyes, Michigan (16-1, 3-1) is still capable of winning a championship.
The Wolverines have one of the better offenses in the conference and four consistent scorers, including Trey Burke, who is pumping in 18 points per game.
On most nights, the balanced attack of the Wolverines will overwhelm teams, but it's in those games where scoring is down that Michigan needs to be able to step up and make big plays on defense to get the job done, especially on the road. Michigan is holding opponents to 58.6 points per outing.
No. 1 - Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin probably wasn't the team expected to be the lone unbeaten in conference play at this point in the year, but here the Badgers are, looking like the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Obviously, in college basketball, things change in a hurry and Wisconsin will have its nights where things just don't go well.
But what will keep the Badgers (13-4, 4-0) in the mix for a conference title is its knack for getting the job done on the defensive end of the floor. Wisconsin plays defense as well as anyone in the country, allowing 54.9 points per outing, and when you can play defense that well, you have a shot at success every time you step out on the floor.
Traevon Jackson could be an X-Factor player for the Badgers after his performance against Indiana, and it doesn't hurt that Bo Ryan is one of the best coaches in the nation.
I don't expect Wisconsin to go unbeaten in the Big Ten, but I do expect them to be a contender throughout the season.