College Basketball: Week 17 Big Ten Power Rankings

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Ohio State Buckeyes Best In Big Ten

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Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports Images

Ohio State seems to be getting hot at just the right time of the year, and because of its impressive win over Indiana on Tuesday night, I feel it is necessary to put the Buckeyes on top of my latest power rankings. It's not easy winning on the road anywhere. Playing on the road on an opponent's senior night is even more difficult, and yet Ohio State rose to the challenge.

Of course, the top of the poll has changed a lot, and while the Buckeyes are the best team this week, it doesn't mean they will remain on top. The only sure thing is Ohio State will be a contender in the conference tournament and NCAA tournament this month.

Teams such as Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State are all still viable conference tourney contenders as well and it wouldn't surprise if any of those teams won the tourney. Those teams are also capable of making a run in the NCAA tourney, and any of them could end up in the Final Four.

The only team I can see really making a push for the conference tourney title from the bottom half of the league is Iowa. The Hawkeyes have played well in some very tough games, and they seem to be playing their best basketball at the right time of the year.

It is interesting how, as the season has gone along, the conference has become much more divided between the best and the rest. I don't doubt how good the Big Ten is, but the only question remains is if all of this success in the regular season will translate into success in the postseason.

I based my rankings on games through Tuesday night. Enjoy checking them out. As usual, you can always contact me via email at collegehoopswriter@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @BLester1993. Have a good week everyone.

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No. 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions

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Penn State has had one of the toughest seasons of any team in the country this year, but the Nittany Lions did enjoy a bit of success last week when it stunned Michigan in State College.

Jermaine Marshall came up big against the Wolverines, dropping in 25 points, and he is averaging 15.2 points per outing. The key for Penn State (9-19, 1-15) was that it finally scored some points in a year where it is averaging only 61.4 points per game.

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No. 11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY Sports Images

Nebraska continues to struggle this year, although I did see that it beat Minnesota the other night. Of course, not sure how big of a deal beating Minnesota is at this point.

The Cornhuskers (13-16, 4-12) have had trouble putting up points in bunches, averaging 58.5 per outing. And without a consistent offensive effort in the conference, especially for a lower-tier team, it becomes difficult to win games in this league. Give credit to Dylan Talley, Brand Ubel and Ray Gallegos, though. All three have done a good job of being consistent for Nebraska.

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No. 10 - Northwestern Wildcats

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Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY Sports Images

I expected more from Northwestern this season, but the Wildcats have fallen hard and have little hope of seeing any sort of postseason.

The Wildcats (13-16, 4-12) have dropped six consecutive games and have scored less than 50 in three of those losses. That just isn't going to get the job done in the Big Ten.

Reggie Hearn has done what he can to help the Wildcats, averaging 13.5 points per outing, but he doesn't have enough help around him for Nortwestern to be a good team in the conference.

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No. 9 - Purdue Boilermakers

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Purdue has been far too up and down this season, and that lack of consistency has made it an off year for the Boilermakers (14-15, 7-9).

They have done a good job defending teams when it comes to shooting the ball, holding opponents to a 39.7 percent clip, but the Boilermakers are only shooting 41.7 percent from the floor, which negates that defensive effort to a degree.

Terone Johnson has been the most consistent player for Purdue, averaging 13.5 points per outing, but he can't carry a team by himself.

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No. 8 - Illinois Fighting Illini

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Bradley Leeb - USA TODAY Sports Images

Illinois seemed to be back on the right track after a five-game win streak, but the Fighting Illini (21-10, 8-9) have dropped two of their last three, which is never a good thing heading toward the postseason.

The Fighting Illini haven't had a bad season. In fact, it's been much better than expected. But in the end, Illinois only goes as far as Brandon Paul will take them. Paul is averaging 16.2 points per game.

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No. 7 - Iowa Hawkeyes

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Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports Images

You have to be impressed with the way Iowa has played lately. The Hawkeyes haven't always won the tough games, but they always seem to battle.

They have won five of their last seven and if they can keep the momentum rolling in their direction, it wouldn't surprise if they make a decent run in the conference tournament.

Only two teams have scored more than 70 against them during their recent run and there is no question that playing well defensively will be a key to Iowa's success in the Big Ten postseason. Iowa (19-11, 8-9) is allowing only 63.2 points per outing.

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No. 6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports Images

Minnesota has tumbled harder than any contender I've seen in a long time.

The Golden Gophers (20-9, 8-8) began this season with so much promise, but lately, they haven't been able to catch a break. They have to be consistent and have lacked an ability to take advantage of an offense that features a lot of balance.

I know Minnesota has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, and maybe the wear and tear of it has caught up to the Golden Gophers. They better figure something out in a hurry, though, or it's going to be a short March.

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No. 5 - Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports Images

Wisconsin had rolled to three consecutive wins, including an impressive one over Ohio State, but then it turns around and drops a game to Purdue.

Without question, the Badgers (20-9, 11-5) are one of the top teams in the conference and they are as capable as any of the contenders to make a run at the conference tournament title and in the NCAA tournament. If the Badgers are going to make it happen, though, they need to play defense. It's the key to their success. They are holding opponents to 55.8 points per outing and their play on that end of the floor will determine how far they go.

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No. 4 - Michigan State Spartans

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Michigan State has had a tough run as of late, dropping three consecutive games. All three have come at the hands of the best teams in the conference, though, which is why I won't rule out the Spartans.

When a team goes through a losing streak, it is all about how it responds to it. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) is still a very good basketball team, especially on defense where it is allowing only 59.8 points per outing.

If the Spartans can get back on track, they are good enough to be a force to be reckoned with in March. Only time will tell if they can make it happen, but you never rule out a team coached by Tom Izzo.

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No. 3 - Michigan Wolverines

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Michigan is still one of the more dangerous teams in the conference with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the backcourt, and if the Wolverines can build on their recent surge of momentum, they are going to be in the mix for a conference tournament championship and a potential run at the Final Four.

Burke is paving the way at 19.1 points per outing and Hardaway is clicking for 14.9. Those two have to be able to play well and the Wolverines also need to continue to keep their shooting percentage near the 50 percent mark if they are going to be a team to beat in March.

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No. 2 - Indiana Hoosiers

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Indiana is assured of a share of the Big Ten championship, but what concerns me about the Hoosiers is their up and down moments. You have to be able to show up to play at home, especially on senior night, and the Hoosiers (25-5, 13-4) did not rise to the occasion.

Don't get me wrong. Indiana is a good basketball team. A team that has the potential to win the national title. But for the Hoosiers do it, they need to be clicking on all cylinders. If they aren't balanced on offense and playing with intensity and effort on defense, they are just as prone to a first-round exit as they are to going all the way to Atlanta.

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No. 1 - Ohio State Buckeyes

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Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports Images

Ohio State looked in bad shape after that loss to Wisconsin, but the Buckeyes seemed to have figured things out at the right time of the year, making a statement with a big road win over Indiana.

It's not as if the Buckeyes (22-7, 12-5) were ever really a bad team to begin with. They just haven't had that consistent second scorer and it appears that Aaron Craft is beginning to embrace that role.

If Craft steps up offensively the way he has on defense all year, the Buckeyes could very well find themselves in a position to win the Big Ten tournament and make a run for Atlanta.

And at least for this week, Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten.

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