Big Ten power rankings

It seems you can throw a blanket over most of the Big Ten at this point, with plenty of teams still having plenty of question marks, but here’s my attempt to sort the results within the conference to this point:

1. WISCONSIN BADGERS (10-1)
The fifth-ranked Badgers are pretty much who we thought they were when the season started. Their only loss was to Duke, but aside from a three-point win against Georgetown, Wisconsin has won every game by double digits. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker are leading the way as expected, while coach Bo Ryan is getting bonus production from the guys you don’t know, such as Duje Dukan, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter.

2. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (8-1)
Like much of the conference, the jury is still out on the Buckeyes, whose only ranked foe was Louisville. In that game, Ohio State erased a 17-point deficit to get as close as three in the late stages before falling 64-55. Still, the eight victories have all been by 11 points or more with one-time IU target and freshman D’Angelo Russell shouldering the scoring load at 17.7 points per game. The Buckeyes currently rank second in the Big Ten in both scoring offense and defense.

3. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (7-3)
As is often the case, don’t let the number of early-season losses lull you to sleep when it comes to the Spartans. Those defeats have come to Duke, Kansas and most recently at Notre Dame in overtime. MSU still has some kinks to work out, but the fact that Tom Izzo’s crew ranks third in field goal percentage offensive and third in field goal percentage defense suggests success is in the offing long-term.

4. MARYLAND TERRAPINS (10-1)
The Big Ten newcomers have impressed early thanks in large part to Terrapin newcomers Melo Trimble (15.8 ppg), as well as Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens. Even with leading scorer Dez Wells temporarily sidelined with a fractured wrist, Maryland has held serve. The lone loss so far was to former ACC rival, No. 7 Virginia. The Terps will get a non-conference test at Oklahoma State this weekend, then host Oakland before the conference grind begins.

5. IOWA HAWKEYES (8-3)
A familiar cast of characters is producing a familiar concoction of mixed results for the Hawkeyes, who own a road win at North Carolina, but lost to Texas, Syracuse and Iowa State in their other three games against ranked teams. Aaron White and Jared Uthoff have helped Iowa be the best offensive rebounding team in the league and tops in field goal percentage defense, but shooting the ball at just a 42 percent clip makes a small margin for error.

6. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (10-1)
Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions are perhaps the non-conference surprise of the Big Ten. But for a double overtime loss to Charlotte at the Charleston Classic before Thanksgiving, Penn State would be unblemished. Senior guard D.J. Newbill is lighting up the scoreboard for 22.2 points per game, while freshman backcourt mate Shep Garner is adding 10.5 ppg. The big question remains frontcourt production heading into conference play, with just two wins against power conference foes Southern Cal and Virginia Tech so far.

7. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (7-3)
The Illini got off to a 7-0 start and were looking fearsome with the addition of backcourt transfers Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall), as well as the emergence of sophomore Malcom Hill. However, Illinois has lost three of four since to Miami (Fla.), Villanova and Oregon, perhaps highlighting the absence of senior point guard Tracy Abrams (torn ACL). Leron Black is helping Nnanna Egwu in the frontcourt, but is it enough?

8. INDIANA HOOSIERS (8-2)
Wins over SMU and Pittsburgh were nice, but those teams haven’t proven to be as good as expected to this point, and the Hoosiers were overmatched against Louisville. Challenge for Indiana is not so much to become a good defensive team, but just not be a bad one. With an offense that ranks in the conference’s top three in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, the defense just needs to be a little better than ranking among the two worst in scoring and field goal percentage defense.

9. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (8-2)
Another case where the schedule outside of the opener vs. Louisville leaves a lot to be desired in terms of figuring out just where the Gophers stand. Minnesota goes just eight deep, not quite the depth second-year coach Richard Pitino would like to have. JUCO guard Carlos Morris has been a nice complementary piece to Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu in the backcourt, while Joey King and Maurice Walker anchor the frontcourt for a team that the stats say are about as middle of the pack as you can get.

10. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (6-3)
Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech and Butler handed the Wildcats three straight losses early this month, but this seems a little deeper, more competitive team in Chris Collins’ second year as head coach. How that translates over the course of the conference season remains to be seen, but big man Alex Olah has made strides, leading the Wildcats in scoring (10.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg). Freshman Bryant McIntosh of Greensburg making a difference, too.

11. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (8-3)
In wins over Missouri, BYU and N.C. State, the Boilermakers sure looked like an NCAA Tournament team. Then came a stunning loss to North Florida and more recently a loss at Vanderbilt, confirming that Purdue still has some work to do in the consistency department, with big man A.J. Hammons still the poster child. Hammons has been surpassed in production by 7-foot freshman Isaac Haas, and those two together can be double trouble with some good guard play to boot.

12. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (6-3)
Building on last year’s success has turned out to be more difficult than expected so far for the Cornhuskers. The offensive production has been limited outside of the two-man show of Terran Petteway (19.8 ppg) and Shavon Shields (17.7 ppg). Nebraska’s best win was against Florida State, but a recent loss to Incarnate Word negated that and then some. Tim Miles’ crew has only a game at Hawaii on Dec. 23 before opening Big Ten play vs. Indiana on New Year’s Eve.

13. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (6-4)
A 6-1 start made it seems like John Beilein had his squad right back on a familiar path to success, but losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan at home before a humbling defeat on the road at No. 3 Arizona have returned the Wolverines to mere mortal status. The biggest surprise is to see Michigan rank 12th in the conference in scoring offense and ninth in field goal percentage after such prolific offensive output in recent years.

14. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (6-4)
Somehow the Scarlet Knights beat Vanderbilt on Nov. 28, then set basketball back 80 years in a 45-26 loss to Virginia before beating Clemson. You get the feeling there will be nights where Rutgers can play with the big boys, but others where the Knights are in over their heads in the Big Ten season, as the stats show them near the bottom of the league both offensively and defensively.