B1G basketball Week 7 power rankings
Iowa scored a huge win on the road Saturday, in what was one of the best games so far in the Big Ten this season.
The Hawkeyes escaped with a 77-75 win over Rutgers, ending a game that featured 19 ties and 19 lead changes. And it helped the Hawkeyes climb back to the top of the power rankings after a one-week hiatus.
Who’s moving up? Who’s moving down? Let’s take a look at the Week 7 power rankings.
(Previous week: 2)
Record: 9-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten
In one of the biggest matchups in the Big Ten so far, the Hawkeyes outbattled the Scarlet Knights in the RAC on Saturday. Iowa has plenty of weapons — Luka Garza scored 13 straight to finish with 25 — but it was one of the role players who pushed Iowa over the top. Freshman Keegan Murray had 14 points and 9 rebounds, double his season averages. Fran McCaffery has a wealth of weapons, but has an injury concern, as well. Son Conner McCaffery rolled an ankle against the Scarlet Knights, returning only to throw a late in-bounds pass. The junior’s impact is greater than the stats — 3.3 points, 4 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 24 minutes — because he’s the glue guy for the offense.
(Previous week: 5)
Record: 8-3, 4-1
When Ayo Dosunmo and Kofi Cockburn are rolling, as they were in the win over Purdue on Saturday, the Fighting Illini are near impossible to slow down. But let’s take a moment to talk about the impact of starter Da’Monte Williams, who is one of the most efficient players in the Big Ten. The big guard has 78 points on exactly half as many shots (not makes; attempts). Crazy. He’s shooting a blazing 64 percent from the field, including a remarkable 68 percent (19-28) from 3-point range. The percentage actually went down after he hit only 3 of 5 vs. the Boilermakers. Add his 12 points and 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season, to Dosunmo and Cockburn’s output, and Illinois was really hard to defend on Saturday.
(Previous week: 1)
Record: 10-2, 3-2
The Gophers rebounded from being bullied at Wisconsin — it happens to almost everyone in the Kohl Center — by forwarding the favor at home vs. Ohio State. The difference between Minnesota now and in years past: In the past, the Gophers would have let the loss linger, and turned it into a losing streak. Not now. Minnesota not only has veterans, but ones with some leadership too, like newcomer Liam Robbins. The transfer from Drake has changed the Gophers’ personality — and given them a fierce interior defender and good scorer, too. He had 27 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks vs. OSU.
(Previous week: 7)
Record: 9-0, 4-0
The Wolverines scored their best win of the season, not only beating Northwestern but smoking the Wildcats. The Wolverines have been good, no doubt about that, winning their four Big Ten games by an average of more than 11 points. But those games? Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland and Northwestern. Next up: Minnesota at home on Wednesday, which might be more telling. Center Hunter Dickinson has been a stud all season, and now has four Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards following a 19-point performance against NU. He plays like a veteran.
(Previous week: 3)
Record: 7-2, 3-2
After missing a game due to an ankle injury, Ron Harper Jr. returned vs. Iowa but wasn’t sharp, shooting 5-of-15 from the floor. Maybe it made a difference in the 2-point loss. The Scarlet Knights again have dealt with injury issues — Geo Baker missed the beginning of the season; freshman center Cliff Omoruyi has missed several games; the same for rookie Mawot Mag; Harper a game — but it hasn’t reached 2019-20 levels yet. Coach Steve Pikiell has managed the roster well, perhaps last season being a good test run. But Rutgers will only beat the best of the best if it’s healthy. Not there yet.
(Previous week: 4)
Record: 9-2, 3-1
The Badgers have extended time off after their game vs. Penn State on Sunday was postponed due to health concerns. They’ll reschedule. Wisconsin will get three days of practice in before its Thursday home game against Indiana, which will now be its first game of 2021. The last game was a quality one, as the Badgers held high-scoring Minnesota to only 59 points. Few are able to play the kind of team defense needed to hold Minnesota star Marcus Carr to only 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting, but Wisconsin can.
(Previous week: 6)
Record: 6-3, 3-2
Who is Northwestern? The team that started the Big Ten 3-0 or the one that has lost the last two, getting smoked by 15 points at Iowa and 19 at Michigan? Probably a little of both, but the problem for the Wildcats is that the slate doesn’t get much easier. Their next three are against Illinois, Ohio State (road) and Iowa. Northwestern was a disappointment at Michigan, struggling offensively with only 5 made 3-pointers. And Boo Buie, who had been great, was held scoreless before leaving with an injury.
8. Ohio State
(Previous week: 8)
Record: 8-3, 2-3
Ohio State guard Duane Washington Jr. had it right after the Buckeyes’ 17-point loss at Minnesota, saying they got “punked.” OSU trailed for more than 38 minutes and never put a scoring run of more than 4 consecutive points together. Yikes. The Buckeyes are likely to continue on this yoyo because they don’t have the kind of scoring necessary to keep up with the best scoring teams in the Big Ten, like Minnesota. OSU is shooting only 31.2 percent from 3-point range, hitting the third-fewest total triples among league teams. And 63 percent of the makes come from only two players.
9. Michigan State
(Previous week: 12)
Record: 7-3, 1-3
The Spartans got in the win column in the Big Ten with a 7-point victory at Nebraska. So that’s nice. The big issue, though, persists: Michigan State gave up 36 points in the paint, allowing Nebraska to shoot just a tick under 50 percent from the field. The Spartans don’t have the personnel to protect the rim, and until they do — Marcus Bingham Jr. played only 2 minutes — the problem will continue. MSU’s ceiling is low if it can’t properly defend.
(Previous week: 11)
Record: 7-4, 2-2
When Indiana wins, it’s because the Hoosiers embrace playing lock-down defense, as they did in the second half of their win over Maryland on Monday night. The Terrapins helped — they were miserable from the field — but give IU credit. Especially after Armaan Franklin rolled his ankle in the first half, sapping Indiana of its only consistent perimeter scorer, the Hoosiers knew they’d need to win ugly. So they held the Terrapins to a paltry 55 points. But the Hoosiers are what they are offensively: Limited. Outside of Trayce Jackson-Davis, IU doesn’t have much — it was only 4-of-22 from 3-point range vs. the Terps — and if Franklin misses any time at all, then the Hoosiers offense could be further bottled up.
(Previous week: 9)
Record: 7-5, 2-3
The Boilermakers suffered back-to-back losses on the road, at Rutgers and Illinois, and there’s no shame in that. But Purdue might have missed an opportunity to get at least one W. It might not be fair to Eric Hunter Jr., but as the veteran in the backcourt — the only one — he has to not only be good but be great for the Boilermakers to have a chance to win. And he wasn’t in the two losses. The junior was 2-of-14 from the floor in the losses, including an 0-6, zero-point performance at Illinois.
Record: 6-5, 1-4
Maryland’s win at Wisconsin in late December seems downright shocking now. How did the Terrapins win in one of the most difficult venues in the Big Ten? Hard to believe. Monday, Maryland led by 10 at Indiana before its offense almost completely disappeared in the second half. The Terps went more than 6 minutes without a point, as IU took over and then pulled away in the last 10 minutes. Aaron Wiggins scored 22 on 8-of-15 shooting; as for his teammates: 12-of-37 (32.4 percent). Mark Turgeon’s team doesn’t appear to be running much of a set offense, other than get the ball, dribble for a bit, then drive and hope to score.
13. Penn State
(Previous week: 13)
Record: 3-4, 0-3
Penn State’s margin of error is tiny: It has to shoot well, rebound well, defend the interior well, and if any one area slips, it’s not good enough elsewhere to make up the deficit. And so wins are hard to come by, although the Nittany Lions almost got one their last time out, a 2-point overtime loss at Indiana. Penn State had to postpone its game vs. Wisconsin on Sunday because of a couple positive COVID tests in the program. No word yet on the Wednesday contest at Ohio State.
(Previous week: 14)
Record: 4-7, 0-4
Nebraska might not be a favorite until Jan. 30, when it hosts Penn State in Lincoln. That’ll probably be the only time all season, unless the Cornhuskers get the nod in the return trip to Happy Valley on Valentine’s Day. The Cornhuskers do get a boost in their next outing — Tuesday’s game at Purdue was postponed for health reasons — when Tennessee transfer Derrick Walker will debut. The junior forward sat out the first 11 games of the year serving an NCAA suspension.