College Basketball: Week 12 Big Ten Power Rankings
Wolverines Remain On Top Of Poll
The Michigan Wolverine rose to the top of the national poll this week for the first time in two decades and so it's obvious why they are on top of my power rankings this week as well.
As good as Michigan has been, though, it is impossible to say it is the best team in the Big Ten, although with the way its talent has meshed together, it will be a tough team to deal with down the stretch.
Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all still capable of being a conference champion in a league where any team can be beaten on any given night.
If one team has been a surprise in terms of how it has struggled it is Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are 4-4 in conference play and I'm just not sure they have the ability to win the conference title, although, a lot can happen between now and March.
You can rule out Purdue, Norrthwestern, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State as conference championship contenders this year, but don't be surprised if one of those teams pulls off a stunning win or two down the road and creates a little chaos in the race for the title. The perfect example was Iowa knocking off Wisconsin earlier this month.
It's going to be interesting to see how things play out and I expect the rankings to continue to change week to week. So enjoy taking a look at the rankings for this week and feel free to follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions
You figure at some point Penn State is going to win a game, but don't expect the Nittany Lions to win more than two or three conference games this year.
The Nittany Lions (8-12, 0-8) are mired in an eight-game losing streak and continue to struggle offensively, averaging just over 61 points per outing.
D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall have been the two most consistent scorers but Penn State doesn't have enough players in the lineup who can step up on a given night and help lead the way.
No. 11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska has shown a little more promise than Penn State, but not much more.
The Cornhuskers (11-11, 2-7) have struggled in conference play and their only league wins have come against Penn State and Northwestern.
Nebraska isn't even averaging 60 points per outing, and while at times it has shown signs of promise on defense, the Cornhuskers don't have the offensive firepower to successfully compete in the Big Ten.
Their ability to shoot the ball has been a big issue. They are shooting just 41.7 percent from the floor this season and it's tough to win games when you can't shoot more effectively.
No. 10 - Illinois Fighting Illini
Talk about a team that has struggled mightily. Illinois (15-6, 2-5) has not been able to get on track in conference play and I can't say that I am surprised.
The Fighting Illini had a great start to the season but have struggled offensively against the better teams in the conference and they aren't shooting nearly as well as they once were.
Illinois needs to focus on playing as hard as possible on defense and hope it translates into success on the offensive end. John Groce can coach and he will get this program where it needs to be, but right now, Illinois needs to push for a strong finish to the season and see if perhaps it can sneak into the NIT.
No. 9 - Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern probably isn't headed to the NCAA tournament this season unless it gets on track in a hurry. The Wildcats (12-9, 3-5) haven't had a lot of success in the Big Ten this year, although you have to give them credit for knocking off a quality team like Minnesota.
If the Wildcats can build on that win going forward, they have a shot to finish strong. Losing to Nebraska isn't the way to do that, and the lack of consistency by the Wildcats has been their biggest problem. Northwestern hasn't won two or more games in a row since November.
No. 8 - Iowa Hawkeyes
Of the teams with losing records in the bottom half of the conference at the moment, Iowa is probably the best one.
The Hawkeyes (13-7, 2-5) have a nice win over Wisconsin and it's last three losses have all been by less than 10 points. Iowa has definitely proven it can compete in the conference, but it hasn't been able to turn more of those competitive games into wins.
The Hawkeyes have been solid offensively, averaging over 70 points per outing, and they haven't been bad defensively either. If they can put it all together, I can see the Hawkeyes making a nice run here in February and perhaps even making a push for an NCAA bid. But it's going to take some work and Iowa doesn't have much more room for error the rest of the way.
No. 7 - Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue has quietly improved and it has managed to get above the .500 mark in conference play.
Terone Johnson continues to play well and the Boilermakers (11-9, 4-3) are capable of being a dangerous team down the stretch. They won't win the conference title but you better believe they could have a say in which team does win it.
Purdue will need to pick it up a bit offensively to stay on the winning side of things in league play, but if it can do that, I think the Boilermakers are tough enough defensively to be a tough team to deal with on any given night going forward.
No. 6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
I thought Minnesota would play a lot better and prove it does have what it takes to win a conference title, but four losses in their last five games hasn't been a good thing for the Golden Gophers (16-5, 4-4).
Minnesota hasn't been able to nail down that quality win, losing to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, and it even lost to Northwestern.
The win over Nebraska at least stopped the bleeding, but the Golden Gophers have a lot of work to do if they are going to have any shot at finishing in the top four or five in the conference.
Offensively, they have struggled at times as of late, but its on the defensive end of the floor that the Golden Gophers need to pick up the intensity if they are going to be successful.
No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin lost a tough one to Ohio State, but the Badgers (14-7, 5-3)are still a team you simply cannot count out.
They continue to play well defensively, allowing only 55 points per outing, and when you can play good defense, you have a chance to win on any given night.
The problem for Wisconsin is being productive enough on offense to win big games. They average just over 66 points per outing and I think one of the keys for Wisconsin going forward is for it to continue to get big games from Traevon Jackson. Jackson needs to play as big of a role as possible offensively for Wisconsin to win important games down the stretch.
No. 4 - Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has been questioned about its play offensively at times, but the Buckeyes proved they can defend as well as any team in the country.
The Buckeyes (16-4, 6-2) have one of the best defenders in the nation in Aaron Craft, and the energy he brings on that end of the floor is contagious.
Ohio State hasn't given up 70 more since the loss to Illinois and that bodes well for a team that is still very much alive in the hunt for the conference title.
As long as the Buckeyes continue to bring it on defense and get big games out of Deshaun Thomas, everything else should fall into place.
No. 3 - Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State has won six of its last seven, and that one loss was to Indiana, by a mere five points.
The Spartans (17-4, 6-2) are playing well and I don't expect them to drop off anytime soon as they stay within striking distance of a conference title.
Michigan State has fueled its success with a blue-collar defensive effort and Keith Appling and Gary Harris continue to pave the way offensively for the Spartans. Branden Dawson has come up big as well.
The Spartans are shooting a little over 46 percent from the floor and opponents are shooting under 40 percent. There is no question that Michigan State is good enough to win the Big Ten title.
No. 2 - Indiana Hoosiers
The Indiana Hoosiers aren't top of the poll, but they are still alive in the hunt for the Big Ten title.
The Hoosiers (18-2, 6-1) are tied for first and have rattled off three consecutive wins.
Indiana has one of the best offensive teams in the nation, averaging over 80 points per game, and one of the big keys to their success over the next month is going to be the play of Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo has led the Hoosiers in scoring in their last two games and is averaging 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. If he continues to thrive, the Hoosiers are going to be fine.
No. 1 - Michigan Wolverines
Michigan has recovered nicely from its loss to Ohio State and has won three consecutive games.
The Wolverines (19-1, 6-1) are the top-ranked team in the nation and have continued to thrive on both ends of the floor.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. make the Wolverines extremely difficult to deal with. Throw in guys like Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, and the Wolverines are even more of a handful.
Michigan isn't invincible but the Wolverines have the pieces in place to win it all. They are shooting over 50 percent from the field and opponents are shooting a hair over 40 percent.
The balanced attack Michigan has put on display time and again, combined with its ability to defend as well as any team in the country, makes the Wolverines are worthy No. 1 team.