B1G basketball Week 4 power rankings
More than a fourth of this week’s AP Top 25 is made up by teams in the Big Ten.
It’s an impressive sign of the strength and depth of the league, especially adding in that two other conference members are also receiving votes.
Those in the Top 25: Iowa (3), Michigan State (4), Wisconsin (12), Illinois (13), Rutgers (19), Ohio State (20) and Michigan (25). Minnesota and Indiana each earned votes.
But where do they stand in our power rankings? Let’s take a look:
(Previous week: 1)
Record: 6-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten
The Hawkeyes have an absolute juggernaut of an offense. Through six games, Iowa has scored at least 100 points three times, including in its last two victories against Iowa State and Northern Illinois to up its per game average to 100.5, second-best in the NCAA and first among Power 5 schools. Second best in the Power 5 is Arkansas, which averages 91 per game, the 17th-best mark in the country. But Iowa’s best win came when it scored only 93, beating UNC to start last week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by hitting 17 3-pointers, the third-most ever in a game vs. the Tar Heels. Next up: No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday.
2. Michigan State
(Previous week: 2)
Record: 6-0, 0-0
The Spartans stayed undefeated by pouring in 109 in a win over Oakland on Sunday when Gabe Brown came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points. Three-point shooting was a question mark for MSU before the season, but now the Spartans have hit 55 through 6 games, a rate of 9.2 per game that ranks fourth in the Big Ten. Brown has been a big reason why Michigan State has found the range, as the junior forward is 14-of-27 from long range. Has MSU been tested? Well, it did win at Duke and beat Notre Dame. Three of the first four Big Ten games are on the road, but at Northwestern, Minnesota and Nebraska.
(Previous week: 3)
Record: 4-2, 0-0
The Fighting Illini followed their impressive win at Duke with a loss on the road at underappreciated Missouri. The AP didn’t seem to care much for Illinois’ win at Cameron Indoor, because it dropped the Illini seven spots in its poll from last week to this. Illinois might have been able to beat Missouri had it hit its free throws, but it was only 9-of-17. Is foul shooting going to be an ongoing Illini issue? They’re only making 67.9 percent during their 4-2 start, the fourth-worst mark in the Big Ten.
(Previous week: 4)
Record: 5-0, 1-0
The big storyline for Rutgers last season was its inability to win a true road game. Well, not so in 2020, as the Scarlet Knights opened Big Ten play Monday night with a decisive 74-60 victory at Maryland. It’s unlikely to be the last road win too, not with Ron Harper Jr. playing the way that he is. The 6-6, 245-pound junior staked his claim as one of the most versatile players in the Big Ten with a 27-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist performance. He can play and guard about every position on the court. And he got his sidekick back — or is Harper the sidekick? — with the return of Geo Baker, who came back from his opening-day ankle injury to score 15 off the bench vs. the Terps. Of concern: Rutgers is a poor free throw shooting team, only 7-of-16 against Maryland.
(Previous week: 5)
Record: 4-1, 0-0
Credit to Wisconsin for being able to adjust quickly. After its game vs. Louisville was canceled in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, it added Rhode Island at the last minute. Then, the Badgers were able to put Loyola (Chicago) on the schedule after Northern Iowa opted out of its last two non-conference games. It’s a step down in competition, but Wisconsin can’t do much about that. The Badgers have the best scoring defense in the Big Ten — is that real or a product of the competition? — allowing less than 60 points per game.
(Previous week: 7)
Record: 6-0, 1-0
Michigan has two fifth-year seniors, three other seniors and two juniors, yet it’s a true freshman who is leading the way. Center Hunter Dickinson made his first career start in the Big Ten opener Sunday — senior starter Austin Davis was out with an injury — and scored 20 points with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in a four-point win over pesky Penn State. Dickinson is now Michigan’s leading scorer (15.7) and rebounder (7.3).
7. Ohio State
(Previous week: 6)
Record: 5-0, 0-0
Ohio State is winning on the court, but is dealing with a loss off it. The Columbus Dispatch confirmed Monday that the reason E.J. Liddell is sidelined indefinitely is because the sophomore forward has mononucleosis. The illness has not been confirmed by the program. But it’s a blow; Liddell has been fantastic in OSU’s first four games, averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds as the Buckeyes’ undersized post. The Buckeyes certainly missed him Sunday, when they squeaked out a four-point win vs. Cleveland State.
(Previous week: 9)
Record: 6-0, 0-0
It’s going to get real in a hurry for Minnesota, which has racked up its 6-0 record by beating Green Bay, Loyola Marymount (x2), North Dakota, Boston College and Kansas City. Impressive (or not so much). But take a look at the start of the Big Ten through the middle of January: At No. 13 Illinois, vs. No. 3 Iowa, vs. No. 4 Michigan State, at No. 12 Wisconsin, vs. No. 20 Ohio State, at No. 25 Michigan, at No. 3 Iowa and vs. No. 25 Michigan. If Minnesota is more than a few exciting guards — and there’s none more so than Marcus Carr — then we’ll know in the next month.
(Previous week: 11)
Record: 4-2, 0-0
Indiana used its Sunday blowout of North Alabama to showcase a few of its freshmen. Trey Galloway scored 11 points, including two on an explosive one-handed dunk. Guard Khristian Lander scored a career-high 10 points off the bench, while Anthony Leal and Jordan Geronimo had productive outings as well. The Hoosiers, who have been surprisingly solid at the defensive end, need the offensive boost at times, especially from the perimeter, so they’ll take the extra production from the rookies.
Record: 4-2, 0-1
Unfortunately for Maryland, the Terrapins are what we thought they were, which has been exposed vs. improved competition the last two games. They just can’t consistently score well against more physical defenses, as evidenced by their performance the last two games, when they put in a combined 111 points vs. Clemson and Rutgers. In those 80 minutes, Maryland made only 41 of 111 shots (36.9 percent). If the Terrapins are to win in the deep Big Ten, they’re going to have to find a way to put points on the board, particularly from the outside.
(Previous week: 10)
Record: 4-2, 0-0
After its total meltdown in the second half at Miami in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when the Boilermakers squandered an 18-point lead, Purdue returned to Mackey Arena to beat Indiana State by a dozen. Matt Painter flipped the starting lineup, trying to jump start center Trevion Williams and forward Aaron Wheeler. It worked: Williams turned in a double-double with 30 points and 11 rebounds, while Wheeler had 10 and 13. Purdue was still disjointed — it trailed 10-1 — but the only way to gain some confidence might be to get the veterans going.
12. Penn State
(Previous week: 12)
Record: 3-2, 0-1
Pesky Penn State nearly pulled off the road upset in the Big Ten opener Sunday, when its layup with seconds to go rimmed out. Michigan escaped 62-58. The Nittany Lions, playing with an overwhelmingly perimeter-oriented roster, are going to have to be able to hit shots, and shooting 30 percent in the Crisler Center isn’t going to get it done. PSU is going to be a spoiler at times this season, because it’ll get hot and prove to be a tough matchup.
(Previous week: 13)
Record: 3-3, 0-0
Nebraska fought at Creighton for more than a half Friday, but fell apart — unsurprisingly — after the break, when the Bluejays scored 54 points. The Cornhuskers have the Big Ten’s second-worst defense, in terms of points allowed, giving up 70.5 per game. And they’ve given up more 3-pointers than anyone else in the Big Ten, also. The bright spot: Transfer Teddy Allen has been solid. The big guard scored a career-high 26 points with 9 rebounds at Creighton.
(Previous week: 14)
Record: 2-1, 0-0
The Wildcats had a chance to keep their undefeated start alive in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but saw a 5-point lead with 34 seconds left disappear against Pitt. It was a disappointing finish for a young Wildcats’ team. NU has had a slew of bad luck in scheduling, having played only three games and having its SIU-Edwardsville game canceled Sunday.