B1G basketball Week 6 power rankings
For the first time this season, there’s a change at the top.
Iowa’s overtime loss at Minnesota opened the door for another Big Ten team to climb our power rankings. But who deserves the top spot?
It’s a crowded field in the Big Ten, with 9 teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including newcomer Northwestern, which jumps in at No. 19 following wins over Indiana and Ohio State in the last week. It’s NU’s first appearance in the poll since November 2017.
The 8 others in the top 25: Wisconsin (6), Iowa (10), Rutgers (14), Illinois (15), Michigan (16), Michigan State (17), Minnesota (21) and Ohio State (25). Indiana received 4 votes. Which team tops our list? Let’s take a look at our Week 6 power rankings.
(Previous week: 10)
Record: 9-1, 2-1
The Golden Gophers have skyrocketed to the top, thanks to a couple impressive victories in the last week: First, an overtime victory against Iowa, in which Minnesota rallied late, and then a win against Michigan State on Monday night in The Barn. (Perhaps it’s not that the Gophers beat the wayward Spartans, but that they smoked them). The win over Iowa was huge, with Marcus Carr hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final half minute, then Western Michigan transfer Brandon Johnson taking over in the extra 5 minutes, hitting 4 triples to help Minnesota pull away. The Golden Gophers have solid complementary players to Carr, such as fellow guards Both Gash and Johnson, along with center Liam Robbins, who scores and boards (12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game) and also gives Minnesota a solid rim protector. He has 26 blocks in 10 games.
(Previous week: 1)
Record: 7-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten
Even though it hadn’t played at its best, it looked like Iowa might escape Minnesota with a victory, but the last 44 seconds of regulation and the overtime period told a different story. Behind a rare inefficient day from Luka Garza — he had 32 points but on 27 shot attempts — and late breakdowns on defense (which aren’t surprising), the Hawkeyes saw a 7-point lead evaporate in the final minute. Then, they got walloped in overtime, giving up 19 points. Concerns? Well, the defense continues to be a soft spot. Can the Hawkeyes reach their goals — a Big Ten title, the Final Four — if they continually give up points in bunches in critical stretches?
(Previous week: 2)
Record: 6-1, 2-1
The Scarlet Knights have had nearly a week to stew over their first loss of the season, a 12-point defeat at Ohio State. Rutgers was undercut in the loss after running out of big men because Myles Johnson fouled out and Clifford Omoruyi was injured. Before Johnson fouled out, the Scarlet Knights had built a 16-point second half lead. That’s more like what should be expected. It’s hard not to like Rutgers’ confidence, moxie and toughness, which will be tested again this week with home games vs. Purdue and Iowa.
(Previous week: 3)
Record: 8-2, 2-1
The Badgers are a solid defensive club, ranking No. 1 in the B1G in points allowed entering their game on Monday. But if there’s one area where Wisconsin struggles, it’s in containing the dribble, and Maryland exploited that weakness in a win in Madison on Monday night. Maryland broke down the Wisconsin defense by getting into the lane for quality looks. Much was made about Wisconsin’s maturity after its 2-0 conference start — the Badgers start five seniors — but they’re going to have trouble against opponents with big, physical guards. Hello Illinois, Rutgers (and Maryland).
(Previous week: 5)
Record: 7-3, 3-1
Ayo Dosunmu is capable of getting hot, like he did against the Hoosiers on Saturday when he scored 11 points in a 14-0 stretch to break open a close game. He finished with 30 points. With the junior running the show, the Fighting Illini are capable of winning anywhere at any time, which has made the 7-3 start to the season somewhat frustrating. Whoever it is — Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller are good candidates — Illinois needs a consistent No. 3 scoring option behind Dosunmu and post Kofi Cockburn. They can be good without one, but great with one.
(Previous week: 11)
Record: 6-1, 3-0
Surprise. Surprise. Northwestern is much better than anyone thought before the season, climbing from the basement of our Power Rankings into the top half of the Big Ten. Beating an overrated — it appears — then-No. 4 Michigan State team at Welsh-Ryan Arena is one thing, but then going on the road to win at Indiana and battling out a 1-point victory back at home vs. No. 23 Ohio State provides the validation. Boo Buie has been fantastic as the NU leader, averaging 18.3 points in the three Big Ten wins while hitting 10 of 15 3-pointers. And the Wildcats are more well-rounded with better weapons than anyone was giving them credit for in the preseason. This start doesn’t appear to be a fluke.
(Previous week: 8)
Record: 7-0, 2-0
The Wolverines are 2-0 in the Big Ten, having feasted on bottom-dwellers Penn State and Nebraska, and now it gets Maryland next. Last season, Michigan also started hot, with an 8-0 record that included a victory against Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship, but the Wolverines plateaued once the Big Ten season came. Will something similar happen this season? This is clear: Michigan has a solid frontline that will match many in the Big Ten. But will its guards stack up against the likes of Rutgers, Illinois and others?
8. Ohio State
(Previous week: 7)
Record: 7-2, 1-2
The second game back for E.J. Liddell helped the Buckeyes get their biggest win of the season, upending Rutgers a couple of days before Christmas. The forward had a great game — hard to believe he was coming back from mono — with 21 points and 6 rebounds. He’s the most important piece for the Buckeyes, but don’t overlook other contributors, such as Musa Jallow off the bench. The veteran has battled injuries, but when healthy he gives the Buckeyes a ton of energy and production. OSU is likely better than its 1-2 Big Ten record, given that one loss, at Purdue, was without Liddell and the other was a 1-point defeat at upstart Northwestern.
(Previous week: 6)
Record: 7-3, 2-1
Brandon Newman and Jaden Ivey will go through the ups and downs typical of freshmen, but they’ve shown enough to observers to know their futures are very bright. Both can score — Newman had 17 and Ivey chipped in 11 in Purdue’s win over Maryland on Christmas Day — and also show a willingness to seek out shots at critical moments. That is hard to teach. The Boilermakers are off to a good start in the Big Ten, with the only blemish being an expected loss at Iowa, but the next week on the road, at Rutgers and Illinois, will tell us a lot about where Purdue is headed.
Record: 6-3, 1-2
The Terrapins lit up the Badgers’ defense in the second half on Monday night, scoring 46 points to rally for a road victory, perhaps marking (outside of Northwestern’s run) the biggest upset of the first couple weeks of the Big Ten. Maryland’s strength is getting the ball to the basket with its quick athletic guards, but it must complement that by hitting 3-pointers — it was 6-of-17 at Wisconsin — and converting free throws; and there, the Terrapins went 12-of-15, particularly impressive for a team that came in 11th in the Big Ten in free throw percentage. Had they been better than 10-of-21 from the line at Purdue earlier in the week, perhaps the outlook would look even better for the Terps.
(Previous week: 9)
Record: 5-4, 0-2
Indiana is winless in the Big Ten after stumbling vs. Northwestern at home, then losing at Illinois. Outside of Armaan Franklin, who has taken a step forward and had a game-high 23 points at Illinois, the Hoosiers aren’t getting much from their guards. Archie Miller tried flipping the lineup, taking veteran Rob Phinisee out and inserting freshman Trey Galloway, but it didn’t work. Both scored 4 points. Miller would like to go younger, but that works only if those players provide productive minutes, and so far they haven’t.
12. Michigan State
(Previous week: 4)
Record: 6-3, 0-3
What’s up with Michigan State? Not only are the Spartans losing, but they look completely uninterested, with their three losses coming by a combined 48 points. MSU is barely playing defense, giving up just under 75 points per game, which is second-worst in the Big Ten. It’s also 13th in the Big Ten in shooting percentage defense, allowing opponents to hit better than 42 percent of their attempts, including 36 percent from long range. Tom Izzo’s group virtually has no defensive interior presence. Yes, Marcus Bingham has 13 blocks, but he’s only playing about 11 minutes per game.
13. Penn State
(Previous week: 13)
Record: 3-3, 0-2
Kofi Cockburn was going to be a near impossible matchup for the undersized Nittany Lions, and that turned out to be true. Penn State can’t stop — heck, it can barely even slow down — talented opposing bigs. Cockburn finished with 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting in Illinois’ victory in Happy Valley on Wednesday. John Harrar, the only PSU starter with any size at all (he’s 6-foot-8), had 4 fouls in 9 minutes. And if he’s not productive, the Nittany Lions have very little chance, no matter how well their guards play.
(Previous week: 14)
Record: 4-5, 0-2
Nebraska is sort of fun to watch when it is rolling, because the Cornhuskers are just flying around trying to score one-on-one. And when that works, it’s great. But it too often doesn’t, and Nebraska goes long stretches without scoring. The Cornhuskers dropped games to Wisconsin and Michigan in the last week, in each game shooting less than 40 percent from the floor.