Big Ten Power Rankings: Week FourPosted by jnowak on November 30th, 2012
This is the fourth installment of our weekly Big Ten Power Rankings which we will publish every Friday. This week’s voters were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan of the Big Ten microsite.
- #2 Indiana (7-0) — We didn’t really have much to credit to the Hoosiers this season to justify their lofty national ranking — until now. Wins against Georgia and Georgetown on a neutral floor were nice, but the Hoosiers really came to play at Assembly Hall on Tuesday night. Say what you want about North Carolina’s team this season, but Indiana flexed its muscles inside and out. Defense, at times, is still a question mark. But you’ve got to be able to stop this team to stand a fighting chance.
- #3 Michigan (6-0) — There’s no doubt about it — the Wolverines are a legitimate Final Four and national title contender. Their guard play to this point has been nothing but outstanding, leaving Trey Burke the ability to spend his time finding teammates before going off for eight or 10 points if his team needs a run. While Mitch McGary has been a non-factor early, fellow freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Nick Stauskas have been even better than advertised and Tim Hardaway Jr. has found a consistent jumper. Their interior game is a weakness, but one that no one has been able to fully exploit yet.
- #6 Ohio State (4-1) — It’s still hard to really get a good read on the Buckeyes, whose non-conference slate up to this point hasn’t been able to tell us much. With the Marquette game cancelled, it left us with only the Duke game to really judge. Ohio State played well, simply coming up against a Blue Devils squad with the most impressive résumé in the country. After that loss, we’ll probably see Ohio State steamroll it’s next few opponents until a December 22 showdown with Kansas. Then we’ll have another good measuring stick. Until then, steady as she goes.
- #23 Minnesota (7-1) – The Golden Gophers have quickly gone from a Big Ten sleeper NCAA Tournament team to a team that nobody in the country wants to face. They’re hot as just about anybody now, and the most baffling thing about it is they continue to win without consistent output from Trevor Mbakwe. Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams Jr. have been fantastic.
- #24 Illinois (8-0) — The Illini get the slight edge here in the Power Rankings because they are beating teams that they are “supposed” to beat. Pulling off gutsy wins against Georgia Tech and Gardner-Webb is not an easy task after a week-long trip to Maui. But their competition has not been as good as what Minnesota has faced, so we’ll slot them between Minnesota and Michigan State.
- #12 Michigan State (5-2) – The grueling non-conference schedule seems to have caught up with the Spartans, really resonating with a loss at Miami on Wednesday. Michigan State is clearly working out some kinks — Tom Izzo even admitted it may be time to abandon his idea of playing Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix together regularly — and playing without Gary Harris and Travis Trice recently did not help. Now that they’re back, they can help Keith Appling bring some stability to the backcourt.
- Wisconsin (4-3) — It’s rare to see a Bo Ryan team with as many as three losses at this point in the season and even with the injuries the Badgers have had this year, it seemed unlikely. A loss at Florida is one thing and getting beat by Creighton on a neutral floor is another. But getting beat by a team like Virginia at home (Bo Ryan’s first home loss in November) might just be reason to panic in Madison.
- Northwestern (6-1) — If there’s one thing we know from years past, it’s that Northwestern doesn’t typically schedule the toughest non-conference slate, so they have to get their money’s worth when they can. That wasn’t the case against Maryland, as the Wildcats got blown out at home in what amounted to probably their first real tough test of the season. Games against Baylor, Butler and Stanford loom before Big Ten play starts and you figure Northwestern needs two out of three of those to start putting together that NCAA Tournament resume.
- Iowa (5-2) – It seems almost unfair to have the Hawkeyes slotted this low after their promising start, but that’s just how fast things can take a tumble in this conference this season. It’s also an indication of how much this team is still growing under Fran McCaffery. Youth is the main reason behind their volatility in the rankings. Freshmen point guards and centers don’t win games on the road against potential bubble teams like Virginia Tech unless they’re really special. Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury are good, but they will falter on the road until they get some experience.
- Purdue (3-3) — Will we be able to point to the Clemson victory as the game when Purdue finally figured it out this season? Things were looking awfully bleak for Matt Painter and Co. and the Clemson game looked like a rare November must-win for the Boilermakers to salvage anything from this season. But D.J. Byrd brought the leadership this team is looking for and Purdue won their first true road game of the season after all three of their losses had come at home or on a neutral floor. Xavier is the next test, and it is a tough one.
- Nebraska (5-1) – Of all the surprises out of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Nebraska’s 16-point win over Wake Forest was certainly one of the biggest. Dylan Talley has been one of the conference’s most surprising breakout players in the early going, leading the team in scoring (15.8 PPG) and assists (3.0 APG), while coming in second in rebounding (6.5 RPG). Credit to the Huskers for taking care of some lesser opponents early, but upcoming games against USC, in-state rival Creighton and Oregon make for a tough three-game stretch.
- Penn State (3-3) — Life without Tim Frazier goes on, albeit drearily. Penn State and Boston College were paired together in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in an unfortunate battle of conference bottom-dwellers and it was a match-up that could have gone the Nittany Lions’ way. But, as it is becoming quite evident, scoring is going to be a serious issue for this team that lost it’s top scorer and point guard. D.J. Newbill can only do so much. No game on the schedule will be easy.