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College Basketball: Week 14 Big Ten Power Rankings

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Hoosiers Still Team To Beat In Big Ten

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Bradley Leeb - USA TODAY Sports Images

Indiana is the No. 1 team in the country, and while that doesn't mean the Hoosiers are necessarily the best team in college basketball, you still have to give them edge. At least for now.

When the Hoosiers are on top of their game, they are as good as any team in the country. They are a team that has plenty of talent to win a national championship.

It's why I'm keeping them in the top spot in a conference filled with a ton of parity. To me, the loss to Illinois was a fluke, one of those strange nights where things just don't go your way. Indiana bounced back with a big win on the road over Ohio State and that sealed the deal to keep them on top.

Teams such as Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin are all very good and any of them could win the conference championship.

I think Minnesota is well out of that picture but could bust of out its funk and be a dangerous tournament team. Illinois is capable of being dangerous as well.

With the way things have been in the Big Ten this year, it's safe to say it has been one of the most competitive leagues in the country and it would not surprise me if the conference tournament champion is different than the regular season champion. As for the home stretch of this regular season, success all comes down to which teams play the best defense. The title, for now, is Indiana's to lose, but are not head and shoulders above everyone else. It's definitely going to be an interesting fight to the finish.

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No. 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions

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Matthew O'Haren - USA TODAY Sports Images

Is it next season yet? That is what the Penn State Nittany Lions are probably asking at this point.

Penn State (8-15, 0-11) can't catch a break in the Big Ten, but you would think at some point it will win at least one league game.

The Nittany Lions are just not that good offensively, shooting only 38.1 percent from the floor and averaging 60.3 points per game. At this point, the Nittany Lions have to focus on making little improvements and shifting their attention to being a better team next season.

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No. 11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY Sports Images

Nebraska ended its two-game losing streak with a win over Penn State, but the Cornhuskers haven't had much go their way this season.

Defensively, they haven't been bad, allowing only 61.9 points per game, but like a lot of struggling teams, they can't get on track offensively.

Nebraska (12-12, 3-8) averages 59 points per game and shoots just 41.2 percent from the floor. Ray Gallegos, Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley are good players, but they just don't have enough in them to take this team to another level. Nebraska just has to focus on finishing strong and hope next year is better.

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No. 10 - Northwestern Wildcats

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David Banks - USA TODAY Sports Images

Northwestern has lost three of four and it's going to have to get its act together in a hurry if it's going to be in a position to make a little noise in the conference tournament.

The Wildcats (13-11, 4-7) have struggled offensively at times, although Reggie Hearn is having a good year, pumping in 14.2 points per outing, and it's negated what they have done on the defensive end of the floor. Northwestern probably isn't going to the NCAA tournament this year unless it can pull off a miracle and win the conference tournament, or at least finish second.

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No. 9 - Iowa Hawkeyes

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Mary Langenfeld - USA TODAY Sports Images

Iowa continues to be a competitive basketball team, taking Wisconsin to two overtimes and nearly pulling off a win on the road against Minnesota.

The Hawkeyes (15-9,4-7) are one of those teams that could be dangerous come tournament time, but if they are going to surprise a team or two, they need to find a way to win the close games.

Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White need to continue to play at high level. Both players are averaging in doble figures. Like I said before, it comes down to making plays for the Hawkeyes at this point.

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No. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Mike Carter - USA TODAY Sports Images

Minnesota continues to be the most disappointing team in the conference. Expectations were high for the Golden Gophers (17-7, 5-6) and I'm starting to wonder if they are even worthy of an NCAA tournament bid this year.

Minnesota has lost six of eight and has struggled to find consistency on offense despite averaging just over 70 points per game.

The Golden Gophers are one of the better defensive teams in the league and they have the talent to get going again offensively. It's a matter of executing on both ends of the floor and bringing the mental toughness and drive that is necessary to be a good team.

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No. 7 - Purdue Boilermakers

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Matthew O'Haren - USA TODAY Sports Images

Purdue has been an up-and-down team. The Boilermakers (12-12, 5-6) have shown at times that they can be a tough team to deal with, but at other times, they have struggled in games they probably should have won, including against Northwestern earlier this month.

Purdue is holding teams to 39.6 percent shooting from the floor and it's going to have to really dig deep on the defensive end of the floor to be successful going forward. If the Boilermakers shine on defense and get solid play out of Terone Johnson, they will be a tough out for anyone in the Big Ten tourney.

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No. 6 - Illinois Fighting Illini

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Bradley Leeb - USA TODAY Sports Images

Illinois is a team that has been tough to figure out. The Fighting Illini are hot early in the year, hit a slump when conference play begins, and now get back on track with wins over Indiana and Minnesota.

Both wins were good for a team that needed a shot of confidence, but I'm still in wait-and-see mode for the Fighting Illini (17-8, 4-7).

If Illinois can play great defense and get big games out of Brandon Paul, it could make a push for an NCAA tournament bid. As I've said before, Illinois will go as far as Paul takes it. I do like the direction the program is headed in, though, regardless of what happens this season.

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No. 5 - Ohio State Buckeyes

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Ohio State has lost two in a row, but I don't think it's a big cause for concern for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State (17-6, 7-4) will have a tough time winning the conference title because it will need help at this point, but the Buckeyes are certainly good enough to win the conference tournament and be a tough out for anyone in the NCAA tournament.

As long as Deshaun Thomas is lighting up scoreboards and Aaron Craft is playing defense at the level he is capable of playing it at, the Buckeyes can't be overlooked in this league.

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No. 4 - Michigan Wolverines

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Mike Carter - USA TODAY Sports Images

Without question, the Michigan Wolverines are one of the top teams in the country. Their talent is impressive and they have won several big games.

But Michigan (21-4, 8-4) is showing that perhaps it doesn't have the poise and maturity to win in difficult venues. It was flat out hammered against Michigan State Tuesday night and it struggled to get going offensively against Wisconsin.

Michigan has shown it has issues with good defensive teams, and unless it can get that straightened out, it could be setting the stage for an early exit from the NCAA tournament. Trey Burke, who is pouring in 18.2 points per outing, has to be the guy that gets things back on track for the Wolverines.

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No. 3 - Wisconsin Badgers

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Mary Langenfeld - USA TODAY Sports Images

Wisconsin has shown that good defense still makes a difference in big games. The Badgers played tremendous defensive against an explosive Michigan team last week and while they might not win the conference crown, they are another team you can't sleep on.

The Badgers (17-7, 8-3) have also shown they can play poised in tough situations. Their last two games have gone into overtime and they prevailed in both instances.

Wisconsin doesn't have the most dangerous offense, averaging only 67.4 points per outing, but it does have one of the best coaches and a defense that is as good as any in the country.

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No. 2 - Michigan State Spartans

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Mike Carter - USA TODAY Sports Images

Michigan State came up with a huge win over Michigan Tuesday night and there is no question that the Spartans are the real deal.

The Spartans (21-4, 10-2) are a blue-collar team that plays with a relentless effort on defense and makes it tough for teams to get into the paint and score because of their solid play in the post.

Michigan State has won its last four games and seems to be hitting its stride at the right time.

The Spartans are averaging 69.9 points per outing and holding opponents to 58.9.

Keith Appling has stepped up big for the Spartans, clicking for 14 points per outing, and Gary Harris is averaging 12 points per game.

If the Spartans can keep rolling like they have lately on the defensive end of the floor, they are certainly capable of being crowned Big Ten champions when the regular season is finished.

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No. 1 - Indiana Hoosiers

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Bradley Leeb - USA TODAY Sports Images

Indiana is one of the best teams in the country when everything is clicking, and at least for now, they are my top team in the Big Ten.

One of the keys to success for the Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2) has been the play of Victor Oladipo. Yes, Cody Zeller gets most of the attention with this team, but if Oladipo keeps up his current pace, the Hoosiers are going to be tough to put away come tournament time.

Oladipo is averaging 14.3 points per outing and has knocked down 21 3-pointers. He is also grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game.

It will be interesting to see how Indiana plays down the stretch, but until proven otherwise, the Hoosiers are the best team in the conference./p>