Big Ten Power Rankings

1. OHIO STATE

Last time around: 1

This week: Purdue (tonight), Michigan State (Feb. 11)

With a decisive road victory at what used to be the Big Ten’s most difficult venue, the Kohl Center, Ohio State is officially on cruise control. Sure, the Buckeyes still have four conference games against ranked opponents and two of them are on the road, but does anyone believe that Ohio State will lose more than one more game down the stretch? The Buckeyes have yet to lose at home this year and are a definite lock for a No. 1 seed in March. Will they slip up? Probably once, yeah. But will they fall from their spot on high in these power rankings? I doubt it.

2. MICHIGAN STATE

Last time around: 2

This week: Penn State (Feb. 8), at Ohio State (Feb. 11)

That was a huge win for Draymond Green and the Spartans to knock down a Michigan team that had their number in the pair’s last three meetings. And as a result, Green continued strengthening his bid for Big Ten Player of the Year marks, tallying 14 points, 16 rebounds — more than the entire Michigan team — and adding four assists. That praise doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about the Spartans’ little slip-up prior to Michigan though, scoring only 41 points and losing to Illinois. But as painful as the loss may have been, chalk it up to a bad night and a bad slip-up against a team that can get hot when it needs to. Michigan State is still the consensus second-best team in the league.

3. WISCONSIN

Last time around: 3

This week: at Minnesota (Feb. 9)

The No. 3 spot was the most difficult for me to rank in this week’s power rankings, as Michigan and Wisconsin both make an interesting case. I still think the Wolverines are the more talented team, but they also haven’t strung together wins since their first two Big Ten contests. Wisconsin, on the other hand, despite having lost a close game at home to Ohio State, had won six in a row before that. Bo Ryan’s ultra-efficient defense is playing at its highest right now, and although the Badgers truly aren’t that great of a team this year, they’ll suffocate teams with that patented ‘D’.

4. MICHIGAN

Last time around: 4

This week: at Nebraska (Feb. 8), Illinois (Feb. 12)

A tough win against Indiana was enough to move Michigan up this list before a shoddy performance from stars Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. against its in-state rival. Hardaway Jr. has been in a serious funk lately and made just 1-of-10 of his shots from the field on Sunday. But if there’s one thing that the Wolverines do well this season, it’s protect their home floor. Crisler Arena and Value City Arena (Ohio State’s venue) have been the two hardest places to play in the Big Ten this year, but on the flip side, Michigan has tallied just one Big Ten road win this season. And whatdya know? Plenty of road games await the Wolverines in the remainder of the season.

5. INDIANA

Last time around: 5

This week: Illinois (Feb. 9)

The Hoosiers lost to both Wisconsin and Michigan in the past two weeks, so it would be tough to move them up past No. 5, but the win over Purdue was extremely important for the rest of Indiana’s season. Road Big Ten wins are hard enough to come by, but throw in a rivalry and a prior losing skid, and you’ve got a huge momentum boost right before a key stretch in the Hoosiers’ season. From here, everything gets easier for Indiana, but that doesn’t mean the Hoosiers are out of the woods just yet. Games against Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue are all up in the air. A game against Michigan State could tilt their way because of home court advantage, and looking at that slate, Indiana may finish the season awful hot.

6. ILLINOIS

Last time around: 8

This week: at Indiana (Feb. 9), at Michigan (Feb. 12)

I’ve given up on Illinois. Yeah, yeah, the Illini are moving up two spots in these rankings, but do I really think they deserve that big of a bump? Probably not on paper. The rest of the Big Ten has been a mess after them, and after becoming the only team to beat both Ohio State and Michigan State this season, Illinois dropped a winnable game against Northwestern. The Wildcats played an impressive game in that one, and Illinois was pretty good too, but Illinois has been too up-and-down all season to allow games like that to get past them. I’ll admit, the Illini are starting to realize how to use Meyers Leonard, and that’ll be dangerous going forward, but will I try to guess at their immediate future? Heck no.

7. PURDUE

Last time around: 6

This week: at Ohio State (tonight), Northwestern (Feb. 12)

Plain and simple, Purdue just isn’t the team it has been in years past. That’s not necessarily a knock on this team as much as its a compliment to how good those teams were, but without guys like JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, the Boilermakers have lost their edge on defense. And offensively, as they showed against Indiana, they’re prone to long, bad shooting stretches. Stretches like that will completely derail a team come postseason, and if Purdue doesn’t get on the right track, it may be looking at a bubble ready to burst.

8. MINNESOTA

Last time around: 7

This week: Wisconsin (Feb. 9)

It’s hard to be down on Minnesota this year, considering the mountain its had to climb to replace Trevor Mbakwe. But even with expectations tempered a bit, the Gophers shouldn’t have lost to Iowa last week, even if it was a road trip that’s hurt plenty of Big Ten teams this season. That’s because, from here on out, no one in the conference has a more difficult road to March. Minnesota plays five ranked Big Ten teams in its remaining seven games – those aren’t odds that will help Tubby Smith sleep at night. The Gophers will need Rodney Williams and Julian Welch at their highest potential in that stretch to even hope to go .500. Something tells me the charm of Minnesota’s comeback story will be wearing off toward the end of February.

9. NORTHWESTERN

Last time around: 10

This week: Iowa (Feb. 9), at Purdue (Feb. 12)

Northwestern has consistently shown that it’s talented enough and can play cohesively enough to beat good teams in the Big Ten. Sometimes, the Wildcats even look like an NCAA Tournament team. But will Bill Carmody’s team get over the hump? Finally? It’s too early to tell right now, but if Carmody can somehow harness the potential in his team that put down Michigan State and Illinois on the road, then I’d say there’s a decent chance. The likelihood of that happening is anyone’s guess though, and it’ll take everything John Shurna and Drew Crawford have, on both ends of the floor, to finally exorcise their Big Dance demons.

10. IOWA

Last time around: 11

This week: at Northwestern (Feb. 9)

The Hawkeyes had two fairly easy games last week, against Penn State and Minnesota both at home, but Iowa did what it needed to do in those matchups and will ride a two-game win streak into Evanston. Freshman Aaron White has been outstanding at times, and if he can harness his skills for the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes may be able to surprise some people. That being said, I think we’re all over the “dark horse” moniker that Iowa had prematurely earned this season. Coach Fran McCaffrey has some pieces in place, but this is still the same team that lost five of six before last week.

11. NEBRASKA

Last time around: 9

This week: Michigan (Feb. 8), at Penn State (Feb. 11)

I moved the Cornhuskers up this list last week after taking care of business on the road in Iowa City, but Nebraska failed me on my confidence, tumbling back to the No. 11 spot after losing to Northwestern and Minnesota. There’s still a chance for Nebraska to regain some confidence this season with a mild schedule the rest of the way, especially after having gone through the gaunlet for their welcome tour to the conference. But it’s clear now that Bo Spencer can’t do it all for this team, and neither can Toney McCray. Can a third option please stand up?

12. PENN STATE

Last time around: 12

This week: at Michigan State (Feb. 8), Nebraska (Feb. 11)

Indiana fans can pity Penn State fans a bit, after the Hoosiers endured being at the bottom for a few seasons, but now the Nittany Lions are firmly entrenched, after losing nine of ten games. The win was a good one, over a then-ranked Illinois team, but teams have begun to understand how to stop Tim Frazier, and that’s meant a world of hurt for Penn State’s chances at climbing out of the conference cellar. Honestly, I don’t see more than one or two possible wins left on the schedule.

16 comments

  1. Instead of any analysis and justification for any slightly inflated positioning of Michigan in his Big 10 Power Rankings, Ryan should just say “linger a little longer.”

    Too bad he didn’t linger at little longer.

  2. downunder – 100% agree.

    Kid is always pumped up. I hate to compare him to Adam Ahlfeld, AE is a huge sideline cheerleader. His reactions are already classic.

    He’s always so pumped for this team. It’s small thing, but something you love to see from your team on the sidelines.

    I hope AE is able to find the court in the coming years, but it won’t be easy with all the talent.

    With regard to the rankings…I think it’s looking about right at this point. Indiana has a chance to move up as high as 3, I think. A top 4 finish would be great in terms of getting a first round bye, but then again, I wouldn’t complain about having a winnable game in the first round of the B1G tournament to add to the resume.

  3. I’d like to see him on the court, too. I really think he is very close but the ante gets upped next year. I hope he has a good off season. I’ll bet he is tremendous in practice.

  4. VJ3’s face looks like he’s thinking “god please don’t let that fall I want to keep my job”

  5. Tom Crean made some comments about AE on his radio show Mon. night, and they were all very good. He said Austin could play right now for a lot of teams and is very good on the scout/practice team. He said that Austin will really help this team in the future. Good teams have most of their freshmen on the bench, we must get used to that. Minutes will definitely be hard to come by in the future, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Austin knew this was a tough climb.

  6. Coach Wilson has a new staff member. His name is Linwood Ferguson. In his 30 years of coaching he has recruited and/or coached 40 NFL players. I suspect he takes the recruiting position Jeff Simms held but has not yet been stated.

  7. On Etherington…. Next year there will be a huge talent increase. We lose VJ3, Pritch, and Roth (maybe). We gain the movement. So what am I going to say about AE’s chances of playing…?

    I actually think he has a pretty good chance of getting 5-10 minutes a game. Here’s why: IU loses its dead eye shooter in Roth (we assume)m who currently gets anywhere from 5-20 minutes a game. Etherington is probably the guy who steps into the roll of pure shooter off the bench. Now obviously minutes will be even scarcer next year, but I think that AE understands that and will really work on his body this offseason. Think about the meteoric leaps that Dipo and Sheehey took after their freshmen seasons… That is whati expect from Austin. Maybe not quite as much, because he isn’t quite the athlete those guys are, but I believe he makes a vast improvement in strength which will help his defense, ball-handling, and rebounding. He will have a year head start on the freshmen like Hollowell and Patterson, and he is a purer shooter than either guy.

    So while I think he probably won’t ever have a big role at IU, I think next year is his best chance to contribute and get minutes.

  8. I think Etherington should transfer to Butler..Maybe move 65 miles north with another slow white kid on our team that gets ridiculed and taken to school by the phenomenal guards around the Big 10. Minutes next year? You’re joking, right?

    The primary reason he’s currently on the team is because of the tall freshman kid that saved Crean’s a$$. I believe they played on an AAU team together. Now you know how the AAU system of influence works.

    Wait…? Forget everything I just said. He’ll get more minutes than VJ!

  9. Well he was offered and accepted a scholly before Zeller made his decision. I know it was all part of the plan, but there were certainly no guarantees. I know that you’re being partially sarcastic here, it’s just hard to tell exactly how much. I stand by what I said… Of course it’s just a prediction.

  10. I wish the best for the young man, Geoff. He looks like a great kid. If a picture is worth a 100O words, the shot of him above speaks undeniably to his unselfish faith in cream and crimson.

    I do remember the many suggestions on Scoop, from bloggers and journalists alike, his friendship and trusted relationship with Cody having a high probability in influencing the scales to tip in Crean’s favor in landing our most heralded recruit in decades. The fact he was offered a scholarship before Cody doesn’t change much when contemplating the importance of his efforts to get his friend in candy stripes. Crean was always holding onto one available slot.

    I’m sure much of the insinuation that he was a side expense to getting our freshman phenom(like Dakich’s boisterous claims of coziness with the Zeller family), was more about removing some praise for our coach’s efforts more than anything else.

    I’ve had very little chance to see any potential he may possess and have no idea if he could develop into a player that will see enough minutes to impact anything on the floor. I would love to be surprised and see the next Steve Green.

  11. I like AE and my historical text on this blog proves it. I think he needs to play more. He has very good fundamentals. Sure, he’s not the fastest, nor jumps the highest, nor hits every shot. But when he’s in there the kid knows where the ball is, knows where his man is, and he plays hard. He reminds me a lot of Hummel. He clearly has a long way to go, but I see this kid playing a key back-up, super-sub role next year & beyond.

    Remember Brian Sloan. That young man could set a screen and not move. He blocked out. He hit FTs. A good unsung hero. I think AE could be that kind of a key player.

  12. jesus h christ! i sure hope he’s a helluva lot better than brian sloan. i don’t think i’ve ever seen a player who knew less about what was going on, in the game of basketball, than brian sloan.

    coach bob knight

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