College Basketball: Week 13 Big Ten Power Rankings
Hoosiers Back On Top
Indiana won its showdown against Michigan on Saturday night and this week it is back on top in the Big Ten power rankings.
The Hoosiers executed on both ends of the floor against the Wolverines and there is no question that they are deserving of being dubbed the best team in the conference this week.
But it doesn't mean the Hoosiers are unbeatable the rest of the way. They still have to play at Michigan at the end of the year and the outright title could be on the line. Michigan and Ohio State are both very good basketball teams and either one is capable of winning a championship. Minnesota has an outside chance at the title but it's unlikely that the Golden Gophers find a way to win it.
The conference continues to be as competitive as ever, but I do think there is more of a divide as we go further into the year. As of right now, you can say there are about six, maybe seven, teams worthy of of NCAA tournament consideration. The rest of the teams in the league, including the once-hot Fighting Illini, are just fighting for respectability, unless of course one of those teams in the bottom half of the league can make a run in the conference tournament.
A lot is still up in the air with the conference, and a lot is still on the line. It is going to be interesting to see how things pan out the rest of the way. What won't surprise is if the regular season champion doesn't win the conference tournament title.
Enjoy this week's look at the rankings and don't hesitate to follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind that these rankings are through games played as of Tuesday night.
No. 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions
At some point Penn State has to win a conference game. At least one would think so.
The Nittany Lions (8-18, 0-10) have struggled mightily in Big Ten play and that doesn't surprise me at all. Give them credit for being more competitive as of late, losing their last two games by less than 10, but with an offense averaging around 60 points per outing, it's going to be tough to win more than a couple of league games this year.
No. 11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Is it football season yet in Nebraska?
The Cornhuskers (11-12, 2-8) have dropped two consecutive games, including a 63-56 loss to Ohio State. They have shown some life from a competitive standpoint, but just don't have enough offensive firepower to compete with the best in the Big Ten.
Nebraska is averaging less than 60 points per game and that just won't cut it in the toughest conference in the country. Defensively, the Cornhuskers aren't bad and perhaps they have a shot to lean on that defense to produce a strong finish to the year.
No. 10 - Illinois Fighting Illini
Maybe Illinois will find a way to get back on track, but at this time, it's not looking good for the Fighting Illini (15-8, 2-7).
Illinois has lost six of its last seven and has really struggled to be consistent offensively during the stretch. The Fighting Illini are averaging 72.1 points per outing, which isn't bad, but they are shooting just over 42 percent from the floor.
Illinois is going to need to find some offensive consistency if it's going to make a last-gasp push for the NCAA tourney. It's also going to need Brandon Paul to continue to be a go-to scorer. Paul is averaging 17.4 points per outing.
No. 9 - Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern did manage to get an impressive win over Purdue this past weekend behind 26 points from Reggie Hearn, and perhaps that is a sign of things to come.
The Wildcats (13-10, 4-6) need all of the wins that they can get at this point if they are going to make a push for the NCAA tournament. One of the keys is going to getting more big nights from Hearn. He is averaging 14.2 points per game and he needs to be on top of his game from here on out for the Wildcats to be more productive on the offensive end of the floor. Northwestern is currently averaging just 63.9 points per outing. That average needs to come up for the Wildcats to be successful.
No. 8 - Iowa Hawkeyes
The Iowa Hawkeyes aren't bad, and of all the teams near the bottom of the conference, I think Iowa has the best shot at making some noise as the surprise team of the conference tournament next month.
Iowa (14-8, 3-6) has lost three games by nine points or less in the last couple of weeks, and if the Hawkeyes make the big plays in crunch time in those games, we are talking about a much different team at this point.
The Hawkeyes bring a great effort every time they take the floor and if they can turn that effort into wins in the close games down the stretch, they have a chance to finish strong.
No. 7 - Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue has been up and down lately, including losing at Northwestern, and the Boilermakers need to get back on track in a hurry.
The Boilermakers (12-11, 5-5) still have a chance to finish in the upper half of the league standings, but to do that, they need to score more points. They haven't scored more than 60 in their last three games, which means Terone Johnson and A.J. Hammons need some more support from other players on the team.
If Purdue can get that additional scoring, it will be in good shape down the stretch.
No. 6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
Of all of the potential contenders in the Big Ten, Minnesota has been the team that hasn't quite lived up to expectations in conference play.
The Golden Gophers (17-5, 5-4) are still dangerous, though, and they have won two straight after four consecutive losses.
With five players averaging nine or more points per game, including Andre Hollins at 14.2 per outing, Minnesota has the balance on offense to make a push for a conference tourney title and have success in the NCAA tournament. But they need to show that they have what it takes to win big games against top-notch opponents. That really hasn't happened too often in conference play.
No. 5 - Wisconsin Badgers
The Wisconsin Badgers might not win the conference title, but because they are so good on the defensive end of the floor, they are going to be a tough out for any opponent.
Wisconsin (15-7, 6-3) has only won twice in its last five games, but it has only given up 70 or more once during that stretch.
The Badgers are allowing only 55.6 points per game. The key is to continue to play well defensively and find a way to get a little more secondary scoring to help support the efforts of Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Ryan Evans. All three are averaging 10 or more per game.
No. 4 - Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State has won seven of its last eight, and it came real close to winning all eight. The Spartans' only loss in the stretch was a 75-70 setback to Indiana on the road.
The Spartans (18-4, 7-2) are one of the best defensive teams in the conference, holding opponents to under 60 per game, and they have a lot of scoring options.
Keith Appling leads the team at 14 points per outing, but he doesn't have to carry the load every single night. If the Spartans can continue to get balanced scoring and give a blue-collar effort on defense, they are certainly good enough to win a conference title, be it in the regular season or Big Ten tournament.
No. 3 - Ohio State Buckeyes
Say what you will about the Ohio State Buckeyes, but there is no question that they are a legit contender for the conference crown.
They nearly went into Ann Arbor Tuesday night and knocked off rival Michigan, and to me, that effort against the Wolverines says a lot about Ohio State (17-5, 7-3).
Sure, Deshaun Thomas once again led the Buckeyes in scoring, pouring in 17, and he is the leading scorer at nearly 20 points per game (19.9). But the Buckeyes have others capable of stepping up and they have a defense anchored by one of the best defenders in the nation in Aaron Craft.
The Buckeyes will be tested later this week against Indiana, and even if they lose, they can't be counted out for the regular season or tournament championship.
No. 2 - Michigan Wolverines
Michigan is No. 2 in my poll this week, but the Wolverines are no doubt good enough to be the best team in the conference.
The Wolverines (21-2, 8-2) nailed down a much-needed win against Ohio State after falling to Indiana and they have one of the most balanced teams in the country.
As long as players such as Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas continue to perform at a high level, it's going to be tough to slow down the Wolverines..
Michigan is not only solid offensively, but it plays hard on the defensive end of the floor and I will be surprised if the Wolverines don't win either the regular season or conference tournament title.
No. 1 - Indiana Hoosiers
Well, Indiana started the year at No. 1 and the Hoosiers are back at No. 1 after knocking off Michigan over the weekend.
The big key for the Hoosiers (20-2, 8-1) is the fact that they do have so many options on offense, headlined by the play of Cody Zeller.
Zeller is clicking for 16.3 points per outing but give a lot of credit to Victor Oladipo, who has quickly become an important part of the success of the Hoosiers. Oladipo is averaging 14.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and if he continues to thrive, the Hoosiers will be tough to beat.
Indiana is allowing 61 points per game and it's ability to defend will put it in a position to not only make a run at the conference title, but at the national title as well.
One thing worth noting about the Hoosiers is that they are shooting over 50 percent from the floor and holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting.