B1G basketball Week 9 power rankings
The Big Ten’s final unbeaten team is no more, as Michigan fell at Minnesota on Saturday.
So an already tight Big Ten race tightens up a little more. Four teams are within 2 games in the loss column of conference leaders Iowa and Michigan. But where do we rank them?
Let’s take a look at our Week 9 power rankings.
(Previous week: 1)
Record: 12-2 overall, 6-1 Big Ten
If the opponent doesn’t have the means — or the will — to play defense, then it’s doomed vs. Iowa. The Hawkeyes have exploited that often this season, and did so again Sunday vs. Northwestern. Even with Luka Garza scoring only 17 (mainly because he didn’t play the last 12 minutes), Iowa can beat teams in so many different ways. Iowa comes at opponents in endless waves, with Garza, Joey Wieskamp, Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick, Jack Nunge and now freshman Keegan Murray, to name a few. The Big Ten is still crowded at the top, but it feels more and more like teams are going to have to come get Iowa.
(Previous week: 3)
Record: 11-3, 5-2
After getting boat-raced early in the week at Michigan, Wisconsin needed a bounce-back at Rutgers, seeing if it could salvage the second game of a difficult road trip. It did, winning at the RAC despite shooting only 35 percent from the floor (including 28 percent in the second half). Holding the Scarlet Knights to 22 helps. But there is some concern about senior Nate Reuvers, whose numbers are well off those of a year ago. Why? The All-Big Ten forward is shooting only 41 percent from the floor, with his scoring average (9.4 ppg) being almost 4 points less than last year.
(Previous week: 2)
Record: 11-1, 6-1
The Wolverines’ 11th win in a row to start the season was their most impressive, as Michigan smoked then-No. 10 Wisconsin by 23. In one of the more remarkable streaks this season, the Wolverines beat three consecutive ranked opponents by at least 19 points, the first team in college basketball history to ever put together such a run. And what did they do for an encore? Well, they got smoked in their next outing, falling by 18 at Minnesota. Michigan was well overdue for an off night, and this was it; the Big Ten’s third-highest scoring team was held 23 points below its average by Minnesota, not exactly the Big Ten leader in defense.
4. Ohio State
(Previous week: 5)
Record: 11-3, 5-3
Outside of Iowa, Ohio State might be the hottest team in the Big Ten, having won three straight games. That it’s doing so without veteran point guard C.J. Walker makes it even more impressive. The last win was the biggest, a 6-point victory at Illinois, when E.J. Liddell scored a career-high 26. But it’s the others who are making the biggest difference right now for OSU. Take Seth Towns, for example: The long-injured center, a former star in the Ivy League, scored 11 off the bench in 15 minutes, his best performance after missing the last two seasons. The Buckeyes’ bench scored 24 points, productivity that proved the difference in Champaign.
(Previous week: 6)
Record: 11-4, 4-4
Minnesota isn’t known for its defense — the Golden Gophers rank 11th in points allowed (73) and 9th in FG percentage (41.9) — but it was hard to tell vs. Michigan. Instead, Minnesota held its guests to a season-low in points (57) and forced them into a season-high in turnovers (20). The game ended a streak of seven straight against ranked opponents, and Minnesota held serve in the home games, going 4-3. But is there concern about the Gophers’ home/road split? Minnesota is undefeated in its 11 games in The Barn, but is winless in four games away from Minneapolis. Perhaps its next scheduled game would have been a victory, at Nebraska, but the game is postponed due to the Huskers’ COVID issues.
(Previous week: 7)
Record: 10-5, 4-3
Maybe it’s the sign of an improving team, that Purdue didn’t play its best but the Boilermakers were still able to fend off Penn State in Mackey Arena on Sunday. Purdue gave up 29 second-chance points after getting outrebounded by a significantly smaller team, and the Boilermakers made only 6 of 32 3-pointers, yet were in control most of the way. Getting to the line 33 times (and hitting 24) was the difference. Trevion Williams, who has taken his game to a new level lately, scored 13 points and had 11 rebounds in only 19 foul-plagued minutes. But for Purdue to win at Ohio State Tuesday night, he’ll need to avoid the ticky-tack fouls that marred his first half.
(Previous week: 4)
Record: 9-5, 5-3
What’s up with Illinois? Brad Underwood sure wants to know. Something seems wrong with the Fighting Illini, which have lost two straight at home. Does Illinois have chemistry issues? Leadership? Is the roster, as talented as it is, flawed, particularly with a lack of depth at power forward? All might be somewhat true. But there’s still time. Illinois has sub-.500 Penn State and Michigan State next, probably must-wins if the Fighting IIlini are to rally from two games down in the standings.
(Previous week: 9)
Record: 8-6, 3-4
Fans are restless — again — in Bloomington, with the Hoosiers failing to show the kind of progress expected in Archie Miller’s fourth season. Losing by a dozen to rival Purdue, which ran its winning streak in the series to nine, certainly turned up the volume. The problem for Indiana is that it has a very small margin of error, needing to play solid defense and rebound to make up for an offense that lacks the ability to consistently hit shots. Who can IU rely on, aside from Trayce Jackson-Davis?
(Previous week: 8)
Record: 7-5, 3-5
Rutgers might be the most perplexing team in the Big Ten. Its drop has been sudden and without explanation. The Scarlet Knights have lost four straight games, the latest being a 6-point decision to Wisconsin in the RAC Friday. Rutgers needs veteran guards Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. to get back into form, because it just doesn’t have enough other weapons to overcome sub-par games from the duo. But they’ve come apart lately. Against Wisconsin, they combined for 12 points on 6-of-24 shooting. Its game Thursday at Penn State is as close to must-win as possible for late January.
10. Michigan State
(Previous week: 11)
Record: 8-4, 2-4
Michigan State postponed its game scheduled this coming Saturday vs. Illinois, its third straight due to an outbreak of COVID-19 within the program. The Spartans missed out on their games vs. Iowa and Indiana in the last week, leaving MSU to stew as it sits surprisingly below .500 in the Big Ten. The Spartans have had at least five players test positive in the last week, leading to the program’s pause.
(Previous week: 10)
Record: 6-6, 3-5
Unfortunately for Northwestern, this might be the reality. The Wildcats have lost five in a row after their 3-0 start in the Big Ten. And they’ve not been close, with each loss being by at least 10 points. Boo Buie finally broke out of his slump, scoring 12 points on four 3-pointers against Iowa (in a 23-point loss). But while Chris Collins might have a nice young core, like Buie, each one is woefully inconsistent, and that makes it hard to win in a deep Big Ten.
Record: 8-6, 2-5
Maryland picked up a game late, adding Wingate to the schedule after its contest vs. Nebraska was postponed. And the Terrapins smoked the DII opponent Friday, rolling by 42. Chances are Maryland will face a slightly stiffer opponent back in the Big Ten Tuesday in Ann Arbor, especially considering Michigan is coming off its first loss of the season. But Maryland has two road wins vs. ranked Big Ten opponents, at then-No. 6 Wisconsin and then-12 Illinois.
13. Penn State
(Previous week: 13)
Record: 3-5, 0-4
Penn State returned to action for the first time in nearly three weeks with a trip to Purdue. And credit to the Nittany Lions, who looked ready to go, played hard on defense and fought the Boilermakers. It wasn’t enough, and it won’t be frequently for PSU in the Big Ten. But Jim Ferry, the interim coach, has his team battling and that likely will surprise someone by the end of the year.
(Previous week: 14)
Record: 4-8, 0-5
Several programs have been hit by the pandemic lately, but none more so than Nebraska. The program has paused team activities after a massive team outbreak of COVID-19 that has collected 12 within the program, including seven players and Coach Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg is experiencing symptoms but said Sunday that his condition was improving. Nebraska’s next game is tentatively set for Jan. 30 vs. Penn State.