Week 2 B1G basketball power rankings
Purdue has established itself as the team to beat in the Big Ten.
And everyone else looks to be chasing, especially in a non-conference season that hasn’t been all that pretty for the conference. Expected frontrunners Michigan and Illinois have suffered unexpected losses, raising questions about where they stand as we inch closer to Big Ten play.
Let’s take a look at Saturday Tradition’s Week 2, Nov. 23, power rankings:
Record: 3-2 overall, 0-0 in the Big Ten | Last week: 14
Nebraska survived its first 2 games without forward Trey McGowens, who is out after surgery on his right foot. It’s a big loss considering McGowens is one of Fred Hoiberg’s most experienced front court players. Since the injury, Nebraska has won 2 straight, feasting on lower-division competition visiting Lincoln. That’ll continue through the end of the month, before the Cornhuskers get real, with a trip to N.C. State then the start of Big Ten play.
Record: 3-2, 0-0 | Last week: 9
Whoa Rutgers. It was sensible to think that it might be a rough transition to this season, considering the exodus of talent last year, but with Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. back, no one predicted that would include a home loss to previously winless Lafayette. Yikes. The Leopards were the 315th-best (or worst) team in the country, per KenPom, yet they escaped Piscataway with a victory. Despite Steve Pikiell switching up the starting lineup, the Scarlet Knights still had the same issues as earlier games this season: Listless on offense, dysfunctional on defense. It could be a longer-than-expected season.
12. Penn State
Record: 3-1, 0-0 | Last week: 13
The Nittany Lions will need to win via the 3-pointer this season, as they did against Cornell Monday night for their second straight victory. Penn State hit a school-record-tying 15 3-pointers in the comeback win, with Sam Sessoms and Seth Lundy combining to hit 11 of 15 attempts. The duo have been outstanding early this season, averaging a combined 37 points per game while each is shooting 58 percent from the field. The problem for PSU is that it is not going to bury 3s every game, especially once the competition level picks up.
Record: 4-0, 0-0 | Last week: 12
There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting will be officially launching on January 1, 2023. Ohio will join other Big Ten states where sports betting has become legalized such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and more.
The Gophers might get to 5-0 to start the season if they can beat Jacksonville in Williams Arena on Wednesday, but it’ll be a record that includes wins over Kansas City, Western Kentucky, Princeton and Purdue Fort Wayne, so not exactly murders row. But under first-year coach Ben Johnson, Minnesota is looking for early-season momentum, and it has at least found that. Johnson has to be more than pleased with newcomer Jamison Battle, a 6-foot-7 forward who has given the Gophers a frontcourt scorer they otherwise would have lacked.
Record: 4-1, 0-0 | Last week: 10
The Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season to Providence on Monday night, as the Fryers raced out to an early lead then never looked back. It would have been a good early-season victory for Northwestern, had it been able to hang in, but a charge to a margin of 5 points came well too late. Northwestern will show much more about who it is in the next couple weeks, with a Legends Classic game vs. Georgia before road trips to Wake Forest and Maryland.
Record: 2-2, 0-0 | Last week: 4
What is up with the Fighting Illini? Illinois at least had an excuse for less-than-outstanding performances in the first 3 games, when Kofi Cockburn was serving an NCAA-imposed suspension. But Illinois somehow looked worse when he made his season debut against Cincinnati Monday night. After Illinois raced to an early 23-8 lead behind Cockburn’s 12 points, the Illini offense went stone cold. The 51 total points in a 20-point loss — Illinois was a double-digit favorite — are the fewest since 2018. What gives? Illinois looks lost on offense, with Andre Curbelo unable to guide his Illini teammates. The sophomore had 12 points and 5 assists vs. UC but missed 8 of 12 shots and had 5 turnovers and a technical foul.
Record: 3-1, 0-0 | Last week: 11
The Badgers looked fantastic against Texas A&M in Vegas for the Maui Invitational on Monday afternoon, especially after a slow start. Wisconsin trailed by 16 in the first half but turned up the defensive intensity — it’s how the Badgers will need to win this season, as it does most seasons — and held the Aggies to only a point in the final 7:10 of the first half. It was a similar scene in the second. Wisconsin is 3-0 this season when Johnny Davis, its leading scorer, is on the floor; he missed the Providence loss with a “lower-body” injury.
7. Michigan State
Record: 3-1, 0-0 | Last week: 8
The story for Michigan State is the same as a bunch of teams in the Big Ten this season: It can’t shoot. The Spartans are hitting only 28.8 percent of their 3-point attempts, and they’ve made only 23 total, about 6 per game. What happens when MSU gets into Big Ten play? The Spartans are likely going to need Max Christie to continue to develop; the freshman gives Tom Izzo a more dynamic backcourt player, which the Spartans lack, and he is averaging 11.5 points per game. But he’s doing so while hitting only 41 percent of his field goals.
Record: 4-1, 0-0 | Last week: 5
Maryland had to overcome yet another poor shooting night to escape with a victory over Hofstra in its last outing. And escape is definitely the right word: The Terrapins trailed by 2 with less than 30 seconds remaining before getting a basket, a stop and free throws to get the victory. But the shooting is a problem. The Terps are hitting their 3-pointers at only a 25.4 percent rate. It’s not for a lack of trying; they’ve attempted 114 in 5 games but have made only 29. And take out senior Eric Ayala’s 12 triples and the rest of the team is woeful.
Record: 3-2, 0-0 | Last week: 1
It’s hard to imagine that Michigan won’t get its act together at some point, but it’s certainly not happening right now. Juwan Howard’s squad has lost 2 of its last 3 games, including getting smoked by Arizona on Sunday. The Wolverines looked exposed vs. the Wildcats, unable to deal with the physicality and speed of the game. It hurts also that when opponents are challenging Hunter Dickinson in the post, he has few scoring options to go to with the ball. Senior guard Eli Brooks is hitting shots, but that’s about it. Michigan is going to need other scorers to step up if it’s to defend its Big Ten title.
Record: 4-0, 0-0 | Last week: 6
The Hoosiers have rolled to an undefeated start while playing all 4 of their games in Assembly Hall. Game No. 5 brings Jackson State into Bloomington. So it’s hard to put a definitive stamp on what Mike Woodson has done early in his tenure as IU’s coach. But the Hoosiers do look improved, with a front line that is undersized but effective — Trayce Jackson-Davis has been excellent and Race Johnson a solid complementary player — but IU still is in search of consistency on the perimeter. IU has more depth than anticipated, however, with Tamar Bates, Kristian Lander and Jordan Geronimo, in particular, giving Woodson good minutes.
Record: 5-0, 0-0 | Last week: 7
Keegan Murray is the real deal. The sophomore forward has been stellar for the Hawkeyes since moving into the lead role this season, and his performance vs. Western Michigan Monday night was no different. He scored Iowa’s first 17 points, had 22 at the half — while WMU had only 20 — and finished with a career-high 29 (on only 13 shots) with 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. The question is, outside of Murray does Iowa have enough firepower? Well, so far this season, the Hawkeyes are averaging 97.3 points per game, as 8 players are averaging at least 6 points. Where others are flailing in the Big Ten, maybe Iowa will fill the void.
2. Ohio State
Record: 4-1, 0-0 | Last week: 3
After a loss to Xavier, Chris Holtmann wanted to see his team play with more physicality and toughness. Mission accomplished vs. Seton Hall on Monday, as the Buckeyes picked up a solid win. Meechie Johnson might have been the game’s final hero, with his game-winning 3-pointer, but OSU had plenty of stars, with EJ Liddell scoring a career-high 28 and Justin Ahrens hitting 5 triples, but it was more about how the Buckeyes played. The Buckeyes were tough and physical in a game that had a Big Ten feel.
Record: 5-0, 0-0 | Last week: 2
Although only a few weeks into the season, Purdue has established itself as the class of the Big Ten and one of the best teams in the nation. Back-to-back wins against ranked North Carolina and Villanova in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic will do that. The Boilermakers are deep, with 10 players who legitimately can have a significant influence on a game. And Purdue might be able to simply wear opponents down, as they appeared to do vs. the Tar Heels and Wildcats. But it was star Jaden Ivey who proved the biggest difference in both wins over the weekend, as his athleticism and play-making swayed momentum toward Purdue in the second half.