Big Ten Power Rankings: Week ThreePosted by Deepak Jayanti on November 23rd, 2012
This is the third installment of our weekly Big Ten Power Rankings which we will publish each Friday. This week’s voters were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan of the Big Ten microsite.
- Indiana (5-0): Indiana solidified its No. 1 ranking by winning the Legends Classic in New York. The Hoosiers were pushed to overtime against Georgetown, but they came out on top thanks to the stellar play of Jordan Hulls. IU certainly didn’t look polished against the Hoyas and there could be some bumps in the road, but the Hoosiers took care of business as expected, therefore they still deserve the top billing in the Big Ten and the country.
- Michigan (4-0): Like the Hoosiers, the Wolverines were pushed to the limit by an unranked but very tough Big East team. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers are a hardy group that are trying to make their way back into the NCAA Tournament this season. The Wolverines held off Pitt in their first true test of the season by grinding it out and playing great defense. But we still don’t know a lot about this team, and likely won’t learn a lot more when they face Kansas State Friday night. We may have to wait for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against NC State to properly evaluate this team. Until then, we still think that the talented Wolverines are the second best team in the conference.
- Ohio State (3-0): The Buckeyes have been good but not great in the early going, disposing of some lesser foes in just three games so far. They’ll get a great chance to show what they’re made of against Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but until then, this team needs to show more that it can separate itself from lesser opponents. Because we have a small sample to evaluate them against the rest of the Big Ten, they are slotted as the third best team in the conference at this point.
- Michigan State (3-1): The loss of Gary Harris has major short-term implications but having him back in just a matter of 2-3 weeks is the best-case scenario for the Spartans. In the meantime, they need to be able to develop a few more scoring options through the non-conference season. Denzel Valentine might be the guy who benefits the most from Harris’ absence as he proved against Boise State looking for his shot during the last five minutes of the game. Despite the injuries, the Spartans are still among the top-tier teams of the Big Ten.
- Illinois (5-0): John Groce’s Illini jumped into the top half of the Big Ten after their impressive performance at Maui. Not only did the Illini average over 70 points in every game, but they led for practically the entire games against USC, Chaminade and Butler. The guard trio of Brandon Paul, D.J.Richardson and Tracy Abrams have surpassed expectations so far this season and might make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid if they can continue to shoot well from the field despite their rebounding woes.
- Minnesota (4-1): The Gophers’ loss to Duke on Thursday shows that they need to play better defense if they want to crack the top-tier, but its win over a talent-rich Memphis team on Friday afternoon shows that the Gophers have the talent to compete with just about anyone. Tubby Smith’s team locked down Richmond to only 57 points but Duke put up 89 points as the Gophers had no answer for Seth Curry (25 points).
- Wisconsin (3-1): After being thumped by the Gators, the Badgers crushed their next two opponents without any trouble. But wins over Presbyterian and Cornell are not good enough to rank the Badgers over Illinois or Minnesota. Nonetheless, Bo Ryan’s team is definitely in the “next four” after Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.
- Northwestern (4-0): After beating up on four cupcakes, including a scare against Mississippi Valley State, Northwestern gets its first “test” of the season against TCU in the South Padre Island Invitational. That won’t be a great challenge, but that game combined with potential match-up against Illinois State will be the Wildcats’ best competition of the season to date. We’ll learn a lot about this team — particularly big man Alex Olah and NU’s new frontcourt — when Maryland visits Welsh-Ryan Arena for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wildcats have gotten off to an impressive start in the past but if they remain undefeated after the next few games, we might be convinced that they can compete with the big fish in this league.
- Iowa (5-1): During the first two weeks, a single game can change the perception of a young team who is very talented on paper like the Hawkeyes. Their freshman point guard Mike Gesell was very impressive against Central Michigan but his inexperience caught up with him against Wichita State. The Shockers showed that the Hawkeyes will compete, but they will have trouble against disciplined, well-coached teams due to their youth. A gutsy win on the road against Virginia Tech next week will prove that the guards can make the adjustments, but expect Iowa to be a somewhat volatile throughout the season.
- Purdue (2-3): The Boilermakers still cannot find ways to score. They’ve struggled in the early stages of this season’s rebuilding process, and the non-conference slate isn’t getting much easier for them. Rebounding has also become a bit of an issue. Expect Purdue to improve over the next couple of months but they might not crack the top eight teams of the Big Ten this season.
- Nebraska (4-0): Nebraska is 4-0, but that likely won’t last once the Cornhuskers start playing better competition. They have struggled against all four of their opponents — Southern, Valparaiso, Nebraska-Omaha and Tulane — and don’t have a go-to star. The frontcourt needs work and the Huskers will need seniors Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley if they have any hope of surprising some people in the Big Ten.
- Penn State (2-2): It feels strange to drop anyone below Nebraska in the Power Rankings, but without Tim Frazier in the lineup, there is just that much doubt surrounding the Nittany Lions. He was the source of the majority of their scoring when he was in the lineup, as the offense ran completely through him. Without him, who knows? Penn State could spiral away and remain at the bottom of the conference until they figure out their offensive issues without Frazier.