Big Ten power rankings

1. WISCONSIN BADGERS (16-2, 4-1 BIG TEN)
The foot injury to point guard Traevon Jackson helps close the gap for the rest of the Big Ten for six weeks, but Frank Kaminsky is back from his concussion, and the Badgers are still going to be tough to beat, especially at home. The better gauge for Wisconsin’s ability to stay atop the league will be how Jackson’s replacement, Bronson Koenig, handles the pressure of games on the road with trips to Michigan and Iowa looming.

2. MARYLAND TERRAPINS (17-2, 5-1)
The newcomers already have a season sweep of Michigan State in hand. With trips to Indiana and Ohio State sandwiched around a home game with Northwestern ahead, the Terps will find out if they can maintain the level of consistency necessary to stay in the Big Ten race. To this point, Maryland has shown depth and balance to go with standout freshman Melo Trimble.

3. IOWA HAWKEYES (13-5, 4-1)
Aaron White has been very good this year, almost single-handedly closing out Ohio State last week. Against both the Buckeyes and at Minnesota, the Hawkeyes saw big leads dissipate late, but unlike in the past, Iowa found ways to get the finish line a winner. If that trend maintains, the Hawkeyes have a chance to post an upper third finish in the conference race. Trips to Wisconsin and Purdue will test that resolve, however.

4. INDIANA HOOSIERS (14-4, 4-1)
The Hoosiers already have two road wins in league play, and if they can back those up by protecting the home court in games such as the one against Maryland this week, they might prove to be more than a nice story to start the Big Ten season. Playing without Hanner Mosquera-Perea is requiring Indiana makes some adjustments, but so far those have been to the Hoosiers’ advantage rather than detriment.

5. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (12-6, 3-2)
Maryland has turned out to be the Spartans’ Achilles heel, but those games not withstanding, Michigan State is still a dangerous team. Consistency is the challenge though, as an overtime win against Northwestern at home was also rather unimpressive last week. A home game against Penn State, then road trips to Nebraska and Rutgers will give Michigan State a chance to gather some momentum or fade into the middle of the pack.

6. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (14-5, 3-3)
The Buckeyes won big vs. Michigan, then lost to Iowa on the road, dropping to 1-2 in the league away from Value City Arena. After a road trip to Northwestern, home games are coming up against Indiana and Maryland. Buckeyes need to find more production from their frontcourt in order to help the solid play at home translate to the road.

7. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (11-7, 3-2)
A loss at home to Maryland was countered by an overtime win at Penn State for the Boilermakers, who have not won more than three consecutive games all season. Purdue needs the roller coaster to trend upward if it has designs on playing in the NCAA Tournament, but the next three games will prove challenging in that regard — at Illinois, home to No. 25 Iowa and No. 23 Indiana.

8. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (10-7, 2-3)
Last week’s loss at Wisconsin not withstanding, things are looking up for the Cornhuskers, who got 6-foot-8, 254-pound Leslee Smith back in the past three games, with fellow big man Moses Abraham also returning against the Badgers. Two straight wins preceded the trip to Madison, and with the big guys helping relieve the pressure on Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway, another late season run could be on the way.

9. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (11-7, 4-2)
The good news for the Wolverines was the 56-54 win over Northwestern on Saturday. The bad news was that Caris LaVert is done for the season with a left foot injury. The team’s leading scorer (14.9) and rebounder (4.9), LaVert’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the Michigan lineup and makes an already vulnerable team even moreso. The new look Wolverines will debut at Rutgers, then host Wisconsin this week.

10. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (12-7, 2-4)
Speaking of injury troubles, the Illini have split four games since the loss of Rayvonte Rice, despite the emergence of sophomores Kendrick Nunn and Malcom Hill. While that bodes well for the future, Illinois has to do more than tread water in Rice’s absence to stay in the postseason hunt. The Illini host Purdue in what is almost a must-win game, then visits Minnesota this week.

11. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (12-7, 1-5)
The Gophers finally got in the Big Ten win column with a home victory against Rutgers over the weekend, including a breakout game of 31 points from Andre Hollins. Now Minnesota will look for a way to win the close games it has been losing with four of the five losses by five points or less. A tough road trip to Nebraska starts the week, followed by a home date with Illinois.

12. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (10-9, 2-4)
The road hasn’t been kind to the momentum initially generated by the Scarlet Knights’ win over Wisconsin with losses at Maryland and Minnesota, but even those games have been more competitive than might have been expected, both decided by single digits. This week Rutgers gets its first home game since beating Wisconsin when Michigan visits, followed by a trip to Penn State.

13. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (10-8, 1-4)
All four of the Wildcats’ Big Ten losses to date have been by seven points or less, so while the losing is discouraging, there are encouraging signs of competitiveness in Chris Collins’ second year at the helm. Northwestern narrowly missed forcing overtime at Michigan on Saturday and will look for redemption when Ohio State visits this week before heading to Maryland.

14. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (12-6, 0-5)
The Nittany Lions aren’t a bad team, but they haven’t been good enough to win in the Big Ten so far this season with a three-point loss on the road to Indiana followed by an overtime home loss to Purdue last week. Penn State needs more than D.J. Newbill to get the results it wants. Next chance to right the ship comes at Michigan State this week, and then Rutgers comes calling.