Big Ten Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 28th, 2012

This is the eighth 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.

John Beilein's Wolverines are the best team in the B1G heading into the conference season.( Horwedel)

John Beilein’s Wolverines are the best team in the B1G heading into the conference season.( Horwedel)

  1. #2 Michigan – The Wolverines took care of business in the non-conference season and head into the Big Ten slate in good position, ranking No. 2 in the country. The Michigan freshmen needed hardly any time to grow accustomed to the college game, and the backcourt — particularly Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. — is widely regarded as the best in the nation. There are still concerns about the frontcourt, however. Can Jordan Morgan improve his production in conference play this year? Can Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary continue their impressive starts with tougher teams looming? That remains to be seen, but the Wolverines certainly have the pieces in place for a special year. (Last week: No. 1)
  2. #5 Indiana – Indiana still plays Jacksonville Friday night before Big Ten play begins, but assuming no slip-up there, they’ll head into conference play with just one loss. The Hoosiers certainly have enough weapons to win a national title, but their failure to get their top weapons in the game for the full 40 minutes — like the failure to fully utilize Cody Zeller against Butler — could hurt them at some point. They’ll get a stern test to begin conference play as they head to Iowa City to take on an upstart Iowa team that could pose problems due to its depth. That game will be a good barometer to see just how much Indiana has improved since the Butler loss. (Last week: No. 2)
  3. #12 Minnesota – The Gophers make the big leap in this week’s power rankings because Ohio State and Illinois lost over the weekend. Tubby Smith’s crew has one loss to the top ranked team in the country (Duke) and has been very impressive in every other game. When you beat formidable opponents such as Memphis and Florida State but only lose to the best team in America, you’ve had a great non-conference season. But the Gophers can’t rest easy because they have a great opportunity to knock off a very good Michigan State squad at home on New Year’s Eve. At this point, the Gophers are a legitimate contender to win the Big Ten if they take care of business in Minneapolis. (Last week: No. 5)
  4. #11 Ohio State – We dropped the Buckeyes because they lost to Kansas and they may have trouble in the conference season if they can’t find a consistent second scoring option. Aaron Craft (8.9 PPG) impacts the game in other ways than just scoring, but one of Shannon Scott (7.2 PPG) or Laquinton Ross (9.1 PPG) needs to  step into that scoring role for Thad Matta. The first three games of their B1G schedule are winnable games – Nebraska, Purdue and Illinois – if the Buckeyes can manage to put up 60 points on the board. (Last week: No. 3)
  5. #13 Illinois – Over-reliance on the three-pointer will catch up at some point and it did for the Illini against Missouri last weekend. John Groce’s team shot 25% from beyond the arc and were outrebounded 51-29. On the bright side, despite horrible shooting, they still hung in the game until the last couple of minutes and that shows that the Illini will find ways to pull off some upsets during the conference season. The Gophers have more impressive wins and the Buckeyes still get the benefit of the doubt because of their returning stars – Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft – therefore both of those teams are ranked ahead of the Illini right now. Brandon Paul needs to continue to play like an All-American in order for the Illini to win 10 games in the Big Ten. (Last week: No. 4)
  6. #20 Michigan State – The Spartans had a solid non-conference season to finish 11-2 and seem to be getting healthier for the conference season. Gary Harris and Travis Trice missed some time due to injuries and Branden Dawson is only getting better with each game. Considering the health issues and a tough non-conference schedule, Tom Izzo should be pleased with his team’s performance over the first couple of months. The key for the Spartans in January will be to win a couple of tough games on the road and they will get their chance against the the Gophers in Minneapolis on December 31. (Last Week: No. 6)
  7. Iowa – An 11-2 record in the non-conference season with a young team is a great accomplishment for Fran McCaffery but the Hawkeyes might be in for a rough patch over the next couple of weeks. They open Big Ten play against Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State which could be troublesome for a freshmen backcourt. Because Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons are likely to have a tough time against the top B1G teams, Roy Devyn Marble (15.7 PPG) will need to step up to keep Iowa competitive and maybe even pull off an upset. (Last week: No. 7)
  8. Wisconsin – Assuming that the Badgers beat Samford, they will begin the conference season with a 9-4 overall record. That record is neither great not terrible if you consider Josh Gasser’s injury, but Bo Ryan knows a thing or two about coaching in the conference and it will be interesting to see how the Badgers fare against Nebraska and Illinois over the next two weeks. Wisconsin has always been a tough out at home and a win against Illinois might move them up in the rankings, but for now they are behind Iowa because of their four losses. (Last week: No. 8)
  9. Northwestern – Last week’s loss to Stanford was certainly heartbreaking for Northwestern since the Wildcats were in it to the end, but it was also encouraging considering how the end of the first half went. Down 28-10 late in the half, NU roared back with a 17-0 run and stayed in the game for the duration. There is still a lot to be worried about, though, from the inconsistent play of Alex Olah to the lack of production from Jared Swopshire. And, of course, the loss of Drew Crawford is a big loss. However, guard Tre Demps has stepped up and if the freshmen improve quickly, NU could scare some teams in conference play. (Last week: No. 9)
  10. Purdue – Not much to say about the Boilers since the last power rankings because they haven’t played a game after their win against Ball State on December 18. It is very clear from the non-conference season that the Boilers are in a rebuilding phase and can only hope to improve with every game and develop younger talent such as A.J. Hammons (9.6 PPG). (Last week: No. 9)
  11. Nebraska – What have we learned from Nebraska’s non-conference slate? Well we learned that the Cornhuskers aren’t absolutely terrible, but they’re also not very good either. Tim Miles’ team has had very poor offensive production against good teams in scoring just 38 and 42 points, respectively, against Oregon and Creighton. And, of course, losses to Kent State and UTEP don’t inspire much additional confidence. However, Nebraska showed promise against USC and Wake Forest, even though neither opponent is any good, and if the Huskers can put everything together, they could pull off an upset or two this season. However, the talent gap between this team and the rest of the Big Ten is very evident after non-conference play. (Last week: No. 10)
  12. Penn State – Just like the Boilermakers, the Nittany Lions need to focus on the younger core of players such as D.J.Newbill (15.1 PPG) and Ross Travis (7.8 PPG). Having said that, the conference season could end up being a big “what-if” for the Lions because of Tim Frazier’s injury. With a healthy Frazier and the development of Newbill, Jermaine Marshall and Travis, they could have grabbed a couple of upsets at home but they might fall short without a true go-to player this season. (Last week: No. 12)
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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