Week 5 B1G basketball power rankings: Teams scoring upsets as December begins
Unexpected teams are scoring big upset victories.
This week, it was Nebraska, which took down then-No. 7 Creighton on the road, and Northwestern, which went on the the road to beat then-No. 20 Michigan State. It makes the Big Ten the deepest league in the country, by far. But where do they stack up against each other?
Let’s take a look at the Week 5 power rankings:
Record: 4-4 overall, 0-1 in the Big Ten | Last week: 14
Minnesota played its 1st Big Ten game of the season Sunday, falling at Purdue by 19 points. Unfortunately, it might be a sign of what is to come for the Golden Gophers. Wins aren’t going to be easy to come by in a league that appears to be as deep as it’s ever been. Ben Johnson’s rebuild in Minneapolis is going to take a lot more time. Can he dig the Gophers out of this hole? Seems like a monumental task.
Record: 5-3, 0-0 | Last week: 11
Michigan is way, way too talented to be wallowing around in the bottom half of the Big Ten, but the results are the results. And Michigan, at least right now, doesn’t look like a team that will compete to win a league championship this season. But there’s still time to figure it out. Sunday, the Wolverines dropped a 2nd consecutive chance to score a marquee non-conference victory, falling short against No. 19 Kentucky (in London) a week after losing to 3rd-ranked Virginia at home. Maybe UM is close; the combined margin was only 6 points. But concerning right now is the status of point guard Jaelin Llewellyn, who left the UK game with a knee injury.
12. Penn State
Record: 6-2, 0-0 | Last week: 8
After its double-overtime loss at Clemson in the Challenge, the Nittany Lions got a bit of a breather. Might need it considering the way they open the Big Ten in the early-December slate of games, hosting Michigan State, then traveling to Illinois. Penn State might need at least a split if it’s entertaining the idea of having an NCAA Tournament team. Unfortunately, for as much of a surprise as the Nittany Lions have been, they’ve missed out on chances vs. Virginia Tech and Clemson.
Record: 6-2, 1-0 | Last week: 12
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.
After 2 straight losses to Power 5 competition, including getting nuked by Pitt on its home court in the B1G/ACC Challenge, there was little reason to think Northwestern would rebound to get an upset win at Michigan State. But college basketball, right? The Wildcats’ guard play is inconsistent, but when those guys — Boo Buie and Chase Audige — are on, they can compete with just about anyone. And the pair had 35 points in the win. NU has had MSU’s number of late, with 2 straight victories and wins in 3 of the last 4. It’s telling about the depth of the league that the Wildcats are No. 11 in the power rankings, yet have an NCAA résumé right now that might put them on the tourney bubble.
Record: 6-3, 1-1 | Last week: 13
Nebraska picked up a signature victory under Fred Hoiberg on Sunday, perhaps a sign that the Cornhuskers can start to make some progress this season. We’ll see. But it sure was a big one, as Nebraska scored a W at No. 7 Creighton, its 5th top-10 win in program history and 2nd in the last 2 seasons under Hoiberg, joining a triumph over Wisconsin last season. The Huskers have a nice 1-2 punch in Derrick Walker, who is now healthy and back in the lineup, and Sam Griesel. The duo combined for 40 points, 20 rebounds and 9 assists in the win at Creighton.
9. Michigan State
Record: 5-4, 0-1 | Last week: 6
Michigan State is struggling right now to find an offensive flow, which showed up again in its loss to Northwestern on Sunday and previously in an 18-point loss to Notre Dame. It doesn’t help that Malik Hall is still sidelined with a foot injury, with another week or 2 until he can return. Michigan State is trying to win with toughness and physicality, and that’s fine, but a team has to consistently make shots, too, and the Spartans are struggling there.
Record: 6-2, 1-0 | Last week: 10
Rutgers can win Big Ten games at home and showed that yet again by out-toughing then-No. 10 Indiana at Jersey Mike’s on Saturday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights didn’t respect the Hoosiers’ shooting ability — that’s got to be concerning for IU — and sagged back in the paint to contain Trayce Jackson-Davis, who they frustrated into a 5-of-11 shooting performance. It was a perfect game for Rutgers, in that the Knights used their aggressive, attacking defense to stymie the opponent’s offense, then hit big shots when needed. Can they take the show on the road? Next up is at Ohio State.
Record: 6-1, 0-0 | Last week: 7
Iowa will try to improve to 3-0 vs. the ACC when it travels to New York to take on Duke in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night. It’ll be the 1st of 2 this week against top-25 opponents, with Iowa State coming to Iowa City on Thursday. In the last 5 seasons, the Hawkeyes are 1 of 10 teams nationally to have at least 22 victories against opponents ranked in the top-25. So they’ll try to add to the list. It’s hard to understate the job that Kris Murray has done through 7 games this season, stepping up as the lead man. He’s averaging 21 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game.
6. Ohio State
Record: 6-2, 0-0 | Last week: 5
Although it came in a blowout of St. Francis, it’s noteworthy the type of contributions Ohio State got from its freshmen on Saturday, when 4 rookies — Bruce Thornton, Brice Sensabaugh, Roddy Gayle Jr. and Felix Okpara — each scored at least 10 points. Each of the foursome is going to be critical to the success of the Buckeyes this season, as will the 3 transfers. The new group, each of whom has been in the rotation at the start of the year, makes OSU a bit of a work in progress. Maybe we’ll know more after the next 2 games: vs. Rutgers, then at North Carolina.
Record: 6-2, 0-0 | Last week: 9
Max Klesmit hasn’t scored at Wisconsin the way he did at Wofford — about 6 points per game compared to 15 last season — but the transfer came up big in the Badgers’ overtime victory against Marquette on Saturday, when he hit the winning bucket with just a few seconds left. It marked his best output as a Badger, as he finished with 13 points and 4 assists. Wisconsin certainly could use another scorer on the perimeter to help take the pressure off Chucky Hepburn. Maybe Klesmit can be the guy.
Record: 7-1, 0-1 | Last week: 2
The loss Saturday at Rutgers was concerning, because it re-raised some of the problems facing the Hoosiers before the season began, like whether Indiana can shoot from the perimeter. Miller Kopp was on fire, hitting 5-of-9 3-point attempts, but his teammates couldn’t do much of anything. They combined to make only 1-of-16 triples, and that was with the Scarlet Knights frequently leaving them open on a dare. But against Rutgers, IU wasn’t good inside the arc either. Although Kopp was 8-of-12, the rest of the Hoosiers combined to go 9-of-44 (only 20.5%). Alarming.
Record: 6-2, 0-1 | Last week: 3
Illinois fell in the 1st of its back-to-back games against ranked opponents on Friday night, when Maryland pulled away in the closing minutes. But the Fighting Illini get another chance Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden against No. 2 Texas. Illinois has a ton of weapons, but getting them to gel has been a challenge for Brad Underwood. The defense wasn’t where it needed to be in the 1st half against the Terrapins. It’ll be something to watch for vs. the Longhorns.
Record: 8-0, 1-0 | Last week: 4
Maryland is the surprise of the Big Ten, thanks to a new coach in Kevin Willard who has brought energy back into the program. It was a great atmosphere for Maryland’s home victory over Illinois on Friday night. Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young has been great, as he’s 1 of 4 Terrapins averaging in double-figures (and 1 of 4 who could go off for a big night at any point), and was again in the win over Illinois, scoring 22 including the game-sealing bucket in the final seconds. Maryland isn’t deep, but it has 4 high-end players who are solid at the offensive end but are also playing tough-minded, physical defense, which was missing for most of last season.
Record: 8-0, 1-0 | Last week: 1
In the Big Ten opener, Zach Edey scored 31 points and had 22 rebounds, 1 more than all of the Golden Gophers pulled off the glass. It was an incredible performance by the 7-foot-4 big man, who further solidifies himself as a potential national player of the year candidate. But the Boilermakers are playing well off Edey too, moving the ball to get open shots, then hitting them. The depth helps too — Purdue goes 10 deep — although that took a hit this week, with starting forward Mason Gillis sitting out the Minnesota game due to a back injury. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined.