Big Ten Power Rankings

Jay Laprete | Associated Press

1. OHIO STATE

Last time around: 1

This week: Lamar (tonight), Miami (Ohio) (Dec. 22)

For as much as Jared Sullinger’s injury issues have set back the Buckeyes, sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas has put them in a new class of dangerous. Thomas stepped into Sullinger’s briefly vacated scoring role and carried the Buckeyes as of late, shooting more than 60 percent from the floor and averaging 21 points in three Ohio State wins. Adding another weapon to Thad Matta’s already stacked starting lineup might make Ohio State a Big Ten title favorite, even without the Buckeyes’ big man in the middle. Either way, Ohio State remains alone at the top.

2. MICHIGAN STATE

Last time around: 3

This week: Lehigh (Dec. 22)

The Spartans still have those two early losses (to North Carolina and Duke) — none of their recent success will take that away — but they’ve been dominating teams since then and, like the Buckeyes, may have found themselves another building block in the starting lineup. Young forward Derrick Nix has averaged 10 points per games in his last five and five rebounds and has looked like a complementary threat down low with Draymond Green. Freshman Brendan Dawson has had back-to-back strong efforts and is starting to get a rhythm going. If the Spartans are clicking on all cylinders, like they seem to be, they could challenge Ohio State at the top.

3. INDIANA

Last time around: 4

This week: UMBC (Dec. 22)

The Hoosiers continue their steady climb up this list and will get their most telling test of the season when they match up against Michigan State (on the road), Ohio State, and Michigan in three consecutive contests when the Big Ten slate begins. A 2-1 record in those games could see them leapfrog the Spartans. There’s no ruling Indiana out at this point though, as the Hoosiers have already shattered most expectations for this season. Cody Zeller continues to shine, and his effectiveness in those first three games could be a litmus test of whether he’s a Freshman of the Year candidate.

4. WISCONSIN

Last time around: 2

This week: Mississippi Valley State (Dec. 23), at Nebraska (Dec. 27)

Wisconsin has gotten by fairly unscathed, despite the relative ineffectiveness of their best player, point guard Jordan Taylor, through 11 games. He’s still shooting just 37 percent from the floor, and when the Badgers have to face a formidable Big Ten opponent in the new year, Wisconsin could be exposed. The Badgers continue to win though, and with the home court advantage of the Kohl Center on their side, along with one of the easier starts to the Big Ten slate, Wisconsin could be in the picture all season long.

5. MICHIGAN

Last time around: 5

This week: Bradley (Dec. 22)

Trey Burke continues to develop and would be the consensus best freshman in the Big Ten, if it weren’t for Zeller. Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to show that he has the potential to be a star in the conference. And Evan Smotrycz has shown flashes of brilliance as well. The Wolverines are still a question mark though, one that will be answered, at least in part, when they come to Bloomington on Jan. 5. Michigan lost its only other true road test to Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and winning on the road has been a problem for the Wolverines in the past. They could sink or swim when the conference slate begins.

6. ILLINOIS

Last time around: 7

This week: at Missouri (Dec. 22)

The Illini, in some respects, are who we thought they were. And the only reason they move up on this list is because of Purdue’s inefficiencies. After a disappointing loss to UNLV, Illinois almost dropped another game to a lesser opponent in Cornell, winning by four points in the end. The game was shockingly similar to the Illini’s close win over a mediocre St. Bonaventure team and indicates a trend — this Illinois team has a long way to go. Center Meyers Leonard is an All-Big Ten-type talent — he tallied 19 points and 16 boards against Cornell — but he has some maturity issues. They have pieces, but putting them together is proving to be tougher than maybe coach Bruce Weber would’ve hoped.

7. PURDUE

Last time around: 6

This week: IPFW (tonight)

I just don’t trust the Boilermakers to hold a lead down the stretch without any semblance of a post game. And against Big Ten opponents, Purdue will have to present at least a semblance of consistency in the post. Both Xavier and a middle-of-the-road Butler squad came back from double-digit deficits to beat the Boilermakers late, showing their opponents if you can contain Robbie Hummel and guard the perimeter, you’ll have a good chance down the stretch. Hummel is still solid, and they’re a talented bunch. But for now, they need to find a recipe to score down low.

8. MINNESOTA

Last time around: 8

This week: North Dakota State (Dec. 22)

The Gophers continue to surprise me, reeling off 11 wins without Trevor Mbakwe and showing that they’re capable of winning games from the perimeter. Julian Welch has been outstanding, stepping into a scorer’s role, and the Gophers essentially get two weeks off to reload before back-to-back ranked Big Ten opponents. We’ll know a lot more about where they stand after those games, so Minnesota may be a wait-and-see sort of team. But so far, the reviews have been much better than expected.

9. NORTHWESTERN

Last time around: 9

This week: Creighton (Dec. 22)

John Shurna continues to catch fire from the perimeter, which is only good news for Northwestern fans who hope they’re never tested down low. Shurna also leads the team in rebounds, while fellow scorer Drew Crawford is second in both points and boards. Beyond that? There’s not much for the Wildcats. Through the non-conference schedule, that two-headed attack has been a success, but an impending game against a ranked Creighton squad and a Big Ten gauntlet arguably worse than Indiana’s, Northwestern is in position to prove that they’re simply a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team.

10. NEBRASKA

Last time around: 10

This week: Central Michigan (tonight)

Bo Spencer continues to prove that he’s a high-level talent and that he belongs in the Big Ten. His team, on the other hand, will get a chance to prove that starting Dec. 27 with four ranked Big Ten teams on the docket. Spencer could very well go off in one of those games and the Cornhuskers could surprise people — that’s the beauty of being in a brand new conference. But Nebraska still has plenty of issues to work out before then, like how to score more points. I think we’ll see a few upsets come from the Big Ten’s most western school, but when that’ll happen is anyone’s guess.

11. IOWA

Last time around: 11

This week: Boise State (Dec. 22)

The Hawkeyes haven’t been able to string many wins together this season, but Fran McCaffrey’s team is currently on a two-game win streak, which could be a three-game win streak heading into the in-conference schedule if they can knock off Boise State. After that though, wins may be few and far between for Iowa. The Hawkeyes aren’t quite on the level, right now, of any teams in the Big Ten’s top half and could be stuck in the cellar all season long. Matt Gatens can’t do it all, and even though Melsahn Basabe is improving, he’s not at the level he should be.

12. PENN STATE

Last time around: 12

This week: Cornell (Dec. 21)

The Nittany Lions are starting to rebound at a better rate, but that good news comes as their field goal percentage continues to drop. Penn State now has the 300th-best field goal percentage in the NCAA, and there doesn’t look to be many answers coming. They’ll sneak a few Big Ten games at home, but it could be a long season for Penn State. Tim Frazier continues to impress though, and hats off to him for carrying a team that wouldn’t win a Big Ten game without him.

14 comments

  1. Yesterday at half time: IU 52 – Howard 15.

    Today at half time: Alford’s Lobos 53 – Montana State 16.

    It’s Christmas: love your coaches Wilson and Crean! Sing an imaginary Christmas Carol with them and feel goodwill towards your fellow Blue Lobster Hoosier Fan! God bless.

  2. So far this season Crean’s Hoosiers: 11-0, beat #1 team in country, the combined records of the teams they have beat from major conferences is 25-10 (.714)

    So far Alford’s NM Lobos: 9-2, lost to perennial powerhouses New Mexico State and Santa Clara, best win is against Washington St (7-4), and the combined records of the teams they beat from major conferences is 22-22 (.500)

    Happy Holidays to all!

  3. Geoff- great stats. My guess is that Alford has not properly taught his crew to be a player-driven team; like teenagers, they have not yet learned to be independent and apply the lessons of their master.

  4. I have been an IU fan for 40 years, hard to believe it’s been that long. I have 2 sons at IU now. They asked me with which former IU Hoosier great would I compare Cody Zeller. Good question. So I tried to do so based this point in their careers. In one regard I think Benson due to his size scoring contributions, intangible contributions, rebounding and others. Then I think Isiah Thomas, but when Isiah was a freshman he had Mike Woodson & Butch Carter. Then I think Alford’s freshman year and the contributions he made on the stat sheet and the intangibles, how he made others around him better. My point is while it is still too early to do a fair comparison I think Zeller stands alone in how well he plays, the little things he does (footwork, vision, passing, etc) but mostly how he makes others aound him better. Other ideas for readers?

  5. Becoming a player-driven team can only happen in Indiana. Overcoming Crean and tuning the bumbling incompetent out was these kids’ only chance. What could they learn from him? Now Crean can go “recruiting” or talk about “offensive execution” or DE-FLECT! — the team doesn’t need him any more. “Coached” by Tan Cream: 28-66. Player-driven team: 11-0 and top ten in the nation in all aspects of offensive execution in spite of what the clueless deflecting “coach” has to say…

  6. I feel sorry for the Crean haters who still come to IU fan sites and try to bash him, even with an 11-0 record. The smart thing would be to wait until the first loss and then give it a go, but of course these kind of people are not smart. I love the argument that it’s Crean fault when we lose, but when we win it’s because the players ignored him. Classic stupidity with no logic.

    Fortunately 99% of the readers here are true IU fans who support the coach of IU because he is now successful. There will always be that pathetic 1%, no matter what happens.

  7. Exactly, when a team devoid of any experience and certainly no experienced talent for the last 3 years that in the beginning of Crean’s tenure was filled with second rate recruits and walkon’s, not because of what Crean did, but because of what his predecessor did, it’s obviously Crean’s fault that he can’t immediately turn such a envious situation into a winner… But now that it’s winning it’s despite the experience they gained under him and the talent he has managed to get here.

    No matter how many times you change your posting name it always sounds ignorant.

  8. ryan,

    zeller doesn’t need to pass a litmus test to become a candidate for freshman of the year. he’s already proven to be one. are you watching the games?

  9. What’s really going to making their tiny heads explode will be when he starts garnering the Coach of the Year Awards which he is already the front runner for. I can already see their whining posts about how ‘clueless’ the voters are.

  10. for anybody to cut down coach crean is just stupid. are you an iu fan or just a hater? coach inherited an absolute mess and his record the first three years should not not even be considered. find something else to worry about or are you a closet purdure fan?

  11. There’s an idiot in group. I knew there was asolutely no reason to have any sort of coaches or managers whatsoever!!!!

    If a team is a loser, it’s coaches fault, they win it’s no responsibility of the coaches, wonder if that poster parents that way?

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