1. MICHIGAN (15-0, 2-0)
The high-flying Wolverines remain out front with dominating efforts at Northwestern and home vs. Iowa, averaging 94.5 points in the first two games of the Big Ten season. They host Nebraska tonight, then perhaps get their first test at Ohio State on Sunday.
2. INDIANA (14-1, 2-0)
The only team to start the conference campaign with two road games, the Hoosiers took care of business at Iowa and Penn State, setting themselves up nicely as four of the next five games are at home. Indiana ranks first in field-goal percentage defense through the first two league games.
3. MINNESOTA (14-1, 2-0)
Wins over Michigan State and Northwestern at home have the Gophers on the verge of starting conference play at 3-0 for the first time since 1974-75 (not counting the vacated 1996-97 season). But a trip to Illinois tonight and to Indiana Saturday in an Assembly Hall doubleheader will be a stern test.
4. ILLINOIS (14-2, 1-1)
The Illini looked dreadful in a loss at Purdue, only to respond with a thorough dismantling of Ohio State this past Saturday. A big key was 6-foot-11 Nnanna Egwu, who had 16 points and eight rebounds vs. the Buckeyes. If he can provide an inside presence, Illinois just might have staying power.
5. MICHIGAN STATE (12-3, 1-1)
Like many Big Ten teams, the Spartans were Jekyll and Hyde from a loss at Minnesota to a win over visiting Purdue. However, they move up this week more as a result of Ohio State’s unimpressiveness than their own achievements. The jury’s still out on this squad.
6. OHIO STATE (11-3, 1-1)
There’s time for the Buckeyes to change their verdict, but so far every time they play a quality opponent, the scoreboard doesn’t rule in their favor. Whipping Nebraska at home was expected, but the loss at Illinois was a listless effort. Next three games at Purdue, home to Michigan and at Michigan State could be pivotal.
7. WISCONSIN (11-4, 2-0)
As usual, the Badgers aren’t going to win any style points for digging out a home win over Penn State and a road win at Nebraska. But they’ve found their way to a five-game win streak and 2-0 Big Ten start. Center Jared Berggren has six blocks in two league games, anchoring a defense allowing just 46 points per contest.
8. IOWA (11-4, 0-2)
It’s been a brutal schedule to start the Big Ten campaign for the Hawkeyes, with a home loss to No. 5 Indiana and a road loss to No. 2 Michigan. Next up is a home game vs. Michigan State, then the schedule lightens a bit. With freshmen at key guard spots and center, the Hawkeyes will be better late this season.
9. PURDUE (7-7, 1-1)
An upset win against Illinois was the first real sign of life from the Boilermakers this year, and they had a solid showing at Michigan State before fading late. Center A.J. Hammons had 20 points and seven rebounds against the Spartans, which could be a real boon going forward.
10. NORTHWESTERN (9-6, 0-2)
The Wildcats knew they were in for a tall task to open league play but were blasted by Michigan and saw more of the same in the second half at Minnesota. Games at Penn State and home to Iowa give them a chance to regain their balance, but the defense has to be better for Northwestern to score enough points to win.
11. PENN STATE (8-6, 0-2)
The Nittany Lions were competitive and scrappy at Wisconsin, though not so much when they hosted Indiana on Monday. There are some nice pieces for second-year coach Pat Chambers to work with, but he needs them to all get clicking at the same time in order to find the win column.
12. NEBRASKA (9-6, 0-2)
Averaging just 42.5 points in losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin, with a road trip to Michigan and Michigan State up next, doesn’t bode well for the Cornhuskers. It’s looking like a long Big Ten season in Lincoln for first-year coach Tim Miles.