Week 2 B1G basketball power rankings: Status quo as league starts 28-1
Not much of a change for the Big Ten through the first week of the season, as the conference feasted on lesser competition.
Only Michigan State lost, although it was a 1-point defeat to No. 2 Gonzaga on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln Friday, when the Spartans missed an opportunity to win the Armed Forces Classic at the buzzer. Otherwise, the Big Ten is 28-0. Schedules, however, get much tougher this week, with the start of the Gavitt Games for many programs in the Big Ten.
Let’s take a look at our Week 2 rankings:
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 14
Without Jamison Battle available to start the season — he’s rehabbing from foot surgery — the Golden Gophers have turned to a youth movement in their 1st 2 victories. In a win over St. Francis Brooklyn Friday, freshmen combined for 40 of Minnesota’s 72 points, including 16 from Jaden Henley. The Gophers’ top 5 scorers through 2 games are all newcomers: 2 transfers and 3 rookies.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 13
The Wildcats have scooted by a couple of area schools in their opening 2 games, against Chicago State and Northern Illinois. Northwestern was at least tested in Game 2, as the ‘Cats had to fight off a challenge by closing out on a 15-3 run, including holding the Huskies scoreless for the final 4 minutes. Northwestern has gotten an interior scoring boost — its biggest question this season after the transfers of Pete Nance and Ryan Young — from senior forward Robbie Beran, who has 20 and 15 points in the 1st 2 games. He averaged only 6.4 per game last season.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 12
Fred Hoiberg is trying to get his team to embrace physicality, a trait that has been missing from his first several teams in Lincoln. So far so good, especially in the 2nd game of the season, when the Huskies didn’t get the offense going until late. They had to lean in on defense and toughness to hold off Omaha, with transfer big man Blaise Keita scoring 9 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in his second start. Transfer Sam
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 11
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Sophomore Julian Reese is embracing his role as a leader for the rebuilt Terrapins, as the 6-foot-9 forward physically dominated Western Carolina in Maryland’s 2nd win of the season, going for his 1st career double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The Terps will face better competition later this season, particularly in a big man-heavy B1G, but at least Reese showed a glimpse of what he’s capable of, and Maryland will likely need more of it if it’s to stay relevant in Kevin Willard’s 1st season.
10. Penn State
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 10
If the 1st 2 games are an indication, the Nittany Lions are going to be able to score this season. They’ve poured in 34 3-pointers in 68 attempts, an incredible 17 per game on a 50 percent shooting clip. It’s not as if it’s been one player; 10 Nittany Lions have hit at least 1 triple this year, with the leaders being Myles Dread (8-of-13) and Andrew Funk (7-of-15). Yes, it’s been against Winthrop and Loyola Maryland, but PSU is averaging 91.5 points per game on better than 56 percent shooting.
Record: 3-0 | Last week: 9
Transfer Cam Spencer has given the Scarlet Knights the added scoring boost they’ve needed following the departures of their 2 leaders in Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. The former Loyola University Maryland guard is averaging 16.7 points per game while hitting 50 percent of his attempts, both inside and outside the arc. Rutgers is 3-0 to start the season, although the 3 wins are against inferior opponents. But look, last season Rutgers got upset by DePaul, Lafayette and UMass during the non-conference; so far it’s avoided that fate.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 8
In only 2 games this season, Wisconsin has proven it can win both inside and out. After beating South Dakota in the opener, the Badgers knocked off Stanford in the “Brew City Battle,” played at American Family Field (formerly Miller Park), the home of the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers. It was the first college hoops game in a baseball facility since 2015. Wisconsin has gotten solid performances from Tyler Wahl and Chucky Hepburn, as expected, but Jordan Davis, the twin of former star Johnny Davis, has averaged 9.5 points through 2 games, including a career-high 13 vs. Stanford.
7. Michigan State
Record: 1-1 | Last week: 7
Michigan State very nearly pulled off an upset to keep the Big Ten undefeated through the 1st week of the season, but couldn’t hold on vs. No. 2 Gonzaga on an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego. It would have been a huge victory for the Spartans, yet they can still take a lot of positives away from the 1-point loss, especially as they head toward a gauntlet of tough matchups, including this week vs. No. 4 Kentucky and No. 16 Villanova.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 6
Even without Keegan Murray, the Hawkeyes haven’t had trouble scoring in their 1st 2 games, going for 89 and 112 points (granted against Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina A&T). Five players are averaging in double-figures, led by Kris Murray, who has been great in trying to become the leader now that twin Keegan is in the NBA. Kris is averaging 18 points per game while shooting 63 percent from 3-point range. But perhaps more notable is how good Tony Perkins has been at the point, averaging 11 points with 11 assists and only 1 turnover through 2 games.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 5
It’s hard to be much more dominant than 7-4 big man Zach Edey has been through his first 2 games of the season, with the center averaging 21 points, 14 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in 27.5 minutes per outing. And he has only 4 turnovers, not bad for a post player who touches the ball on about every possession. In a win over Austin Peay, Edey scored a game-high 30 points on only 13 field goal attempts. Mercy. But Purdue hasn’t shot the ball well from the perimeter, only 26 percent from 3-point range, but it feels like the long-distance touch will come.
4. Ohio State
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 4
Center Zed Key, one of only a few familiar names on the Ohio State roster this season, is off to a terrific start to his season, and that’s been great for a team needing a consistent interior scorer after the departure of EJ Liddell. Key is averaging 15 points on 80 percent shooting (12-of-15) in the 2 OSU victories, plus 11.5 rebounds, and he’s doing so in less than 21 points per game. Between his emergence and the return of veteran Justice Sueing, who missed most of last season with injuries, Chris Holtmann has to feel great about the Buckeyes’ start.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 3
Michigan survived a challenge from neighbor Eastern Michigan in Game 2, overcoming an 8-point deficit in the 2nd half to pull away for a victory in Detroit. A 6-0 run with 2 minutes left proved the difference for Michigan, which got a great game from center Hunter Dickinson (30 points, 7 rebounds). Dickinson has been outstanding, as one would expect, but does Michigan have a concern about perimeter scoring? Freshman guard Jett Howard has been consistent, but few others. Something to watch early this season.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 2
Dain Dainja might have faced his biggest tests during practice in the spring, when he matched up with Kofi Cockburn following his mid-season transfer from Baylor. Seems it did him good, because the sophomore hasn’t had any issue filling Cockburn’s void on the court this season, with the 6-9, 270-pounder having 37 points, 25 rebounds and 7 blocks in Illinois’ 2 victories. That’s after playing only 9 minutes, total, last fall in Waco, preceding his transfer. His interior presence answers a big question for Brad Underwood’s team.
Record: 2-0 | Last week: 1
The Hoosiers could talk all they wanted in the offseason about how they’d be a better shooting team this year, but the only way to prove it is on the court. Indiana did so in its 2nd game, when the Hoosiers hit 10 triples in throttling Bethune-Cookman. Forward Miller Kopp, in particular, has been great, hitting 6 of his 1st 8 attempts on the season after he had made it a priority to rediscover his stroke in the offseason. Now, the question is how IU’s shooting holds up vs. better competition.