Through the first 3 weeks of the season, the biggest surprise in the Big Ten is Maryland.

The Terrapins are undefeated at 5-0, with NCAA Tournament résumé-padding wins vs. Saint Louis and Miami to win the Hall of Fame Tipoff Championship over the weekend. Considering where they started — most publications had the Terps finishing lower than 10th in the Big Ten — it’s been a meteoric rise, but not a fluky one. Maryland is playing well, having won each of its 1st 5 games by at least 18 points.

Maryland 1st-year coach Kevin Willard isn’t satisfied.

“That’s good, but that’s not the big one we’re [aiming] at. We’re not happy,” he said in a celebratory locker room after the win over the Hurricanes on Sunday. “That’s a nice little trophy for the office. We’re going after the big one.”

Maybe the Terrapins will get a chance. Certainly, the national media has recognized the start, as Maryland jumped into the AP Top 25 at No. 23. It marks the 1st time the Terrapins have been ranked since Week 2 of last season, before Mark Turgeon suddenly resigned and Maryland’s season turned sideways, finishing 15-17 under interim Danny Manning.

Willard’s rebuild has been quicker than expected, largely because Maryland’s returning veterans, such as Donta Smith, Julian Reese and Hakim Hart, have taken big steps forward, combining for 42.4 points and 19 rebounds per game. The start of December will provide another big test for the Terps, as they take on Illinois and Wisconsin in the Big Ten, then face Tennessee and UCLA in a 2-week span.

Rutgers winning despite injuries

The Scarlet Knights are plugging along despite the absence of 2 critical starters.

Paul Mulcahy (shoulder) missed his 2nd consecutive game Tuesday, when Rutgers smoked Rider 76-46. He was joined on the sideline by reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell (knee), who hasn’t played yet this season but is expected back at some point, perhaps soon.

Playing without Mulcahy presents challenges to the Scarlet Knights since he does so much to organize Rutgers offensively.

“Paul’s the toughest guy I’ve coached. He’s awesome. Obviously, if he’s not going to play, he’s hurting,” coach Steve Pikiell told “It’s hard for him, he doesn’t miss anything. He doesn’t miss a minute in practice. But he gave us a lot on the bench and he’s a terrific leader. We have to get him back healthy, obviously, he’s an important part of what we do. He’ll work to do rehab and hopefully we’ll have him back soon.”

Depth showing

After having only 3 teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, the Big Ten is showing its depth as the season goes on.

Monday’s poll release had 6 ranked squads: Indiana (No. 11), Michigan State (12), Illinois (16), Maryland (23), Purdue (24) and Iowa (25). Ohio State and Michigan were receiving votes, placing them at 28th and 29th, respectively. The Wolverines had been in the Top 25 but dropped out after a rough week that saw them beat Pitt but lose to Arizona State, then need overtime to beat a sub-.500 Ohio team at home on Sunday.

Penn State is also receiving 1 vote in the AP poll.

A backup for Hepburn?

Wisconsin point guard Chucky Hepburn is likely to play a ton of minutes this season, and might lead the league in the category — he’s currently 17th, at 29.7 minutes per game — by the end of the year.

Why? A) He’s a solid player, one of the best points in the Big Ten. And B) Wisconsin doesn’t have a clear backup, something to watch as the competition increases for the Badgers. Will Greg Gard be comfortable with any of his options, like junior Max Klesmit (who is also a starter) and sophomores Kamari McGee and Isaac Lindsey, or will he have to ride Hepburn deep into games? In Wisconsin’s only game vs. a high major, a win over Stanford, Hepburn played 35 minutes.

“Probably the prerequisite for all of them is don’t turn the ball over,” Gard said before Wisconsin’s trip to the Battle4Atlantis, which starts vs. Dayton today. “They understand, that position, we put a lot of responsibility on it, put a lot on their plate.”