B1G basketball Week 3 power rankings
For many B1G teams, the competition will rapidly increase this week with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It’ll provide a good barometer of where teams stand before conference games start later this month.
On the eve of those bigger games, let’s take a look at Week 3 of our Big Ten power rankings:
(Previous week: 1)
The three second-tier (third-tier?) opponents that the third-ranked Hawkeyes have faced in the first two weeks of the season have proved no match for Iowa’s offense. Not even close. The 3-0 Hawkeyes are pouring the ball into the hoop, averaging just a shade under 100 points per game. The formula is perfect: Get a big man who is nearly unstoppable — Luka Garza is averaging 34 points on 76 percent shooting — and surround him with a bunch of shooters. Eight of Garza’s teammates have hit at least one 3-pointer this season. Oh yeah, and forward Jack Nunge is back after missing the last year with a knee injury. All he did was score 18 in his debut.
2. Michigan State
(Previous week: 4)
The No. 4 Spartans haven’t had many days off to start the season, having already played 5 games in 12 days. It’s a good thing, because they’re rolling, with an undefeated start that includes a victory over then-No. 6 Duke in Cameron Indoor last week. The Spartans had to rally, as they trailed by 10 in the first half, with Rocket Watts scoring 13 of his 20 after the break. What have we learned so far? MSU is much deeper than anticipated, especially considering all that it lost after last season. Joey Hauser has been excellent, averaging a double-double in his first season in East Lansing. An example of the depth: Forward Julius Marble is averaging 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in only 7.4 minutes per game.
(Previous week: 2)
Illinois’ bigs got exposed a bit by Baylor’s pick-and-roll, but a lot of team’s interior players will find the Bears’ offense a challenge. The 3-1 Fighting Illini, No. 6 in the latest AP Poll, gave up 51 second-half points to the country’s second-ranked team. Illinois is playing small, making it all the more impressive that it’s the top rebounding team in the Big Ten in terms of margin. But against top-flight Baylor, the Bears had 16 offensive boards and turned those into 24 second-chance points. It’s a potential concern.
(Previous week: 5)
Without Geo Baker in the starting lineup — he’s been out since turning his ankle in the opener — the 3-0 Scarlet Knights aren’t shooting the ball well from the perimeter, only 29 percent. But they’re getting to the basket, particularly guards Ron Harper Jr. and Jacob Young. Their attacking nature has been a hard guard for opponents. Plus, No. 21 Rutgers is getting solid minutes from its two-headed monster at center, as Clifford Omoruyi and Myles Johnson average a combined 16 points and 14 rebounds per game. For Rutgers really to get dialed in, it’ll need to get Baker back as soon as possible. It doesn’t want a repeat of his injury-plagued 2019-20.
(Previous week: 3)
It has to be a bit of a concern that 13th-ranked Wisconsin struggled to keep the quicker Golden Eagles of Marquette from getting to the basket so frequently during the in-state rivalry game Friday. Marquette got the Badgers in foul trouble and got to the line, where it converted a missed free throw for a tip-in winner at the buzzer. It ended a stretch in which 3-1 Wisconsin had won three straight by pummeling lesser opponents by an average of 28 points. The Badgers have great depth, but they might not have the one offensive player who can break down a defense and score when everything else breaks down.
6. Ohio State
(Previous week: 7)
The question before the season was who would score. But through three games, the No. 22 Buckeyes have not had an issue, with four players averaging more than 11 points per game. Long-range shooting might still be an issue, however, as OSU is hitting only 32 percent of its 3-pointers and outside of two players — Duane Washington Jr. and Justin Ahrens — everyone else is only 7-of-29 (24.1 percent). That might not bode well for the 3-0 Buckeyes once the level of competition increases, namely when Big Ten play starts later this month.
(Previous week: 6)
There’s a lot of positives about freshman Hunter Dickinson’s game. The big man is averaging 14 points and 7.5 rebounds in 22.3 minutes off the bench for the 4-0 Wolverines. But the stat that might stand out most? He has only four turnovers total in nearly 90 minutes of playing time, an incredible number for any player 7-foot-1, but especially for a rookie. His early emergence gives Michigan one of the best and most versatile frontlines in the Big Ten, with Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers.
How long can Maryland keep up the ridiculous shooting to start the season? Through the undefeated Terrapins’ four wins, they’re shooting a robust 56 percent from the field, best in the Big Ten, including 42.5 percent from 3-point range, the fourth-highest in the league. It seems unsustainable, but guards Eric Ayala and Hakim Hart are shooting 61.8 percent and 59.3 percent, respectively, while combining for 28.1 points per game.
(Previous week: 11)
Marcus Carr might be the most electric player in the Big Ten, with an ability to go get any shot he wants. And the 6-2 junior guard plays as if his hair is on fire, hustling constantly to see how many open shots he can create. It’s fun to watch. But at 4-0, there’s a distinct feeling that we’ve all been here before, a quick start by the Golden Gophers that will inevitably be followed by a slow fizzle. Maybe Carr is the man to get Minnesota over the hump, doing what others in the Richard Pitino Era have failed to accomplish.
(Previous week: 10)
The Boilermakers faced an unexpected challenge Friday night, when Valparaiso pushed Purdue nearly 40 minutes. Maybe it was a wake-up call for the 3-1 Boilermakers, who are so reliant on their youth for minutes, especially on the perimeter. But junior Eric Hunter Jr. is expected back, maybe as soon as this month. Until then, fellow junior Sasha Stefanovic will have to continue to carry the load; he’s averaging a team-high 14 points per game while hitting his triples at a 56-percent rate.
(Previous week: 9)
Coach Archie Miller issued Trayce Jackson-Davis a challenge after the Hoosiers had fallen to Texas in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational last week, and the sophomore responded. He scored 31 on 10-of-16 shooting in the third-place game against Stanford, improving IU to 3-1. But the 44-point outing vs. Texas did expose some concerns for the Hoosiers, like whether they have the necessary weapons on the perimeter. IU has hit only 17 3-pointers in four games, and only at a 29.3 percent clip, tied with Rutgers for 12th in the Big Ten and only ahead of Nebraska.
12. Penn State
(Previous week: 12)
Undersized Penn State might be fun to watch this season, with a rotation that includes only one player taller than 6-6. The Nittany Lions are going to run the court and hunt for shots. But wins might be hard to come by. PSU has started 2-1, with the loss coming to Seton Hall in overtime after the Lions had given up a 19-point lead. Undisciplined play, and bad defense, had a lot to do with the collapse. Will it trend?
(Previous week: 13)
Nebraska is 3-1, but the cupcake portion of the schedule — no offense to the schools in the Dakotas — is over. The Cornhuskers face Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday and then are at Creighton on Friday in their last two non-conference games. And then the Big Ten starts: At Wisconsin, Michigan, at Ohio State, then vs. Michigan State. What game will it win in the conference? Maybe vs. visiting Penn State on Jan. 30?
(Previous week: 14)
In its first two games, Northwestern has scored 92 and 111 points, respectively, vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State. Sure, they’re wins, but probably not indicative of much. Miller Kopp has had a good start to the season, averaging 17 points while hitting 70 percent of his 3-pointers.