Big Ten Hoops Power Rankings

It’s time to release my latest Big Ten men’s hoops power rankings. The rankings are not meant to mimic the Big Ten standings. What fun would that be? They aren’t scientific, either. They’re simply my thoughts on where each Big Ten team stands at that time. Agree? Disagree? Tweet @BTNBrentYarina or leave your comments below.

The week ahead pits Big Ten teams against two of the nation’s best programs, No. 1 Kentucky and No. 13 Kansas. Indiana hosts Kentucky at 5:15 p.m. ET Saturday, while Ohio State plays at Kansas at 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Check out Brent’s latest power rankings in this post.

1. Ohio State (8-0) – When you can make Coach K utter this quote in a postgame presser, it’s clear you have a special team: “Sometimes you just get your butt kicked.” On Tuesday, the loaded Buckeyes drilled then-No. 4 Duke, 85-63, to give them a second signature win over top 10 teams before playing a game in December. Yeah, this team is REALLY good.
Last time: No. 1
This week: at Kansas (12/10)

2. Michigan State (6-2) – After opening the season with losses to North Carolina and Duke, the Spartans have reeled off six consecutive wins. The schedule hasn’t been terrific during the streak – Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Florida State headline it – but Michigan State has done what it’s supposed to do: drill inferior opponents. The recent play of Keith Appling, who flirted with a triple-double Sunday, has been as big of a reason as any for the hot run.
Last time: No. 4
This week: vs. Central Connecticut State (12/7), at Gonzaga (12/10)

3. Wisconsin (6-2) – Let’s not overreact to the Badgers’ back-to-back losses. I mean, one came at North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and the other came against instate rival Marquette hours before the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, featuring the Badgers. All in all, it was a case of the 3-pointers simply not falling. A team that will live and die by its success from the arc, Wisconsin went 13 of 47 on treys (28 percent) in the two defeats.
Last time: No. 2
This week: Green Bay (12/7), UNLV (12/10)

4. Illinois (8-0) – Nearly one month into the season, Bruce Weber is the frontrunner for Big Ten Coach of the Year. While everyone knew the Illini had their share of highly recruited players on the roster, they still had to replace 80 percent of their starting lineup. Addition by subtraction, as they say. And the development and improvement of Meyers Leonard has made it all possible.
Last time: T-No. 7
This week: vs. St. Bonaventure (12/7), Coppin State (12/11)

T-5. Indiana (8-0) – Anyone looking for Indiana to revert to its losing ways from the past three seasons must wait longer. You might want to grab a chair, in fact. And anyone expecting Cody Zeller to take a step back and play like a freshman, well, you know the drill. Indiana and Zeller are legit, and while they face No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday, this is a team on the upswing, regardless of Saturday’s result. Wednesday’s win at North Carolina State, a team full of athletes, proved a lot.
Last time: No. 6
This week: vs. Kentucky (12/10)

T-5. Michigan (6-2) – It’s tough to win on the road when your star player has an off night or is battling foul trouble, and Michigan learned that the hard way in its Big Ten/ACC Challenge loss at Virginia. Tim Hardaway Jr. played 25 minutes, thanks to early foul trouble, and scored five points, his lowest total since contributing two against Penn State on Jan. 2. The Wolverines are far from a one-man team, but it doesn’t feature the firepower to get by without Hardaway being a force.
Last time: No. 3
This week: vs. Oakland (12/10)

7. Purdue (7-2) – The Boilers almost tallied what could have been viewed as the Big Ten’s most impressive victory of the season Saturday at then-No. 11 Xavier. We all know what happened, though. Robbie Hummel battled leg cramps and Purdue lost a 19-point second-half lead en route to the 66-63 loss. The defeat is irrelevant when compared to Hummel’s health. Forget about the two season-ending knee surgeries, Hummel is prone to his share of lesser injuries. And because no player is more important to his team’s success, Boiler fans would not be faulted for crossing their fingers.
Last time: No. 5
This week: vs. Western Carolina (12/7), vs. Eastern Michigan (12/10)

8. Northwestern (7-1) – Well, it’s safe to say Northwestern didn’t exactly ace its biggest nonconference test in the last, say, 15 years in Sunday’s 69-41 loss to then-No. 8 Baylor. The Bears were way too much for the Wildcats on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense where they tallied nine blocks and limited the Wildcats to 24 percent from the field. Luckily, Bill Carmody and crew have a week and a half before it plays again.
Last time: T-No. 7
This week: No games

9. Minnesota (8-1) – So far, so good for the Gophers in the absence of injured star Trevor Mbakwe. Much of the credit can be directed to Rodney Williams, the supremely athletic but often underperforming junior. In the last two games, Williams has averaged 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, the latter the most important because it helps make up for losing the Big Ten’s top rebounder. If Williams can continue to play at this level, the Gophers will be better off than everyone expected in the wake of the Mbakwe news.
Last time: No. 11
This week: vs. Appalachian State (12/6), vs. St. Peter’s (12/10)

10. Nebraska (4-3) – The 10-point road loss to Creighton isn’t all that concerning, mostly because the Bluejays are good and will be a tough team to beat this season. The two-point home loss to Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, however, is not a good sign. In two home games against major conference teams (Wake and Oregon), Nebraska is 0-2. Teams have to protect home court, especially in the Big Ten.
Last time: No. 9
This week: vs. Florida Gulf Coast (12/7), at TCU (12/10)

11. Iowa (5-3) – As Melsahn Basabe goes, so go the Big Ten’s most inconsistent team thus far. In wins, Basabe averages 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds; in losses, he puts in two points and 2.3 assists. That said, Basabe’s numbers in wins have come against far inferior foes, so last year’s breakout freshman is still a prime sophomore slump candidate.
Last time: No. 10
This week: at Northern Iowa (12/6), at Iowa State (12/9)

12. Penn State (6-3)  – Junior point guard Tim Frazier continues to light it up, leading the Nittany Lions in every major statistical category. A reason for worry: Penn State has allowed 70.3 points per game against opponents from major conferences, compared to 59 versus everyone else. That’s a big concern when you boast the Big Ten’s worst offense, one that averages 63.3 points, 4.6 fewer than Michigan.
Last time: No. 12
This week: vs. Lafayette (12/7), at Duquesne (12/10)

Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.

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10 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (10 Comments)
Mr. T on 12/5/2011 @ 4:34pm EDT Said:

Can’t find much to disagree with besides you have IU ranked based on what they MIGHT be. North Carolina State proves nothing. Let’s see what happens against Kentucky and then let’s see where you rank them.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 12/5/2011 @ 4:43pm EDT Said:

    I’m not saying the North Carolina State win means Indiana is automatically a really good team. I do think it proved a lot, though. It was a true road game against an athletic team, and Indiana came away with the win. Indiana teams of the past would not have won that game, or even been in it. So, to me, it does prove that you can take Indiana’s strong start more seriously. I’m not sure anyone expects the Hoosiers to beat Kentucky, so I don’t know how much we’ll learn about them. If they hang tough, yeah, it would help the cause, but I don’t think a blowout loss takes anything away from the hot start. This is a good team, one that I expect to be around .500 in conference.

Ace on 12/5/2011 @ 4:57pm EDT Said:

I would go as far to say that the ILLINI are replacing 80% of their starting line-up with DJ Rich being the only returning starter, luckily he has been getting major minutes for 3 years now. I assume you were placing Brandon Paul as the 2nd starter but in reality last year Bill Cole got the majority of the starts at the 3. In turn leaving Paul to come off the bench but yet play more minutes than Cole. Paul would of been the starter but Weber seem to go with experience and length last year, on top of Paul’s inconsistent play in B1G play, which I hope does show up again this year after a great start.

Ace on 12/5/2011 @ 5:05pm EDT Said:

Sorry for got to include apparently it seems B Paul took over DJ Rich starting spot the last few games of the season.

Jeff Stine on 12/5/2011 @ 6:30pm EDT Said:

I’m curious. Had Purdue held on and beat Xavier, thereby giving it “the Big Ten’s most impressive victory”, would they have been ranked #2 on this list? If yes, then I’m surprised a close loss when Purdue’s top 2 players were under the weather (Lewis Jackson was woozy from a hit taken in the Miami game as well) would drop them to 7th.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 12/5/2011 @ 6:45pm EDT Said:

    Good question. No. 2 still would have gone to MSU. I really worry about Hummel’s health. He is the most important player to his team in the Big Ten, and without him, I’m not sure what the Boilers have. I do know they would have no player over 6-foot-5 who can score. Based on history, we can’t assume Hummel will be healthy all season. Even with him, Purdue is going to be inconsistent because it relies so much on jump shots and 3s. A win at Xavier would have been very impressive, but struggles against High Point and Temple concern me.

      Jeff Stine on 12/5/2011 @ 7:02pm EDT Said:

      Thanks for the response. I guess I could see pinging Purdue had Hummel’s ailment been a hamstring or other potentially lingering injury. But given that is was just an illness and there’s been no indication of anything that will linger, I’m not sure it should be relevant. Additionally, given that you mention in your intro that you are judging teams based on where they stand at the time of the poll, I’m not sure Hummel’s injury history should be relevant either.

      That said, I too am mildly concerned about the High Point result. But the Temple score? That is a sold win over the team projected to be battling Xavier for the A-10 title. The Illinois team you have at #3 struggled with a woeful Illinois State team who just gave UNC-Wilmington their lone victory so it’s not out of the ordinary for a team to struggle with a lesser opponent.

      Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 12/5/2011 @ 7:35pm EDT Said:

      You’re right, I do judge based on what teams are doing right now. And Hummel’s status, whether serious or extremely minor, is something I have to consider. So, yes, he is playing right now, but he had to be taken out of his most recent game. As for Temple, they were expected to be solid entering the season, but who has it beat? Oh, and it lost to Bowling Green! Appreciate the comments and hope Purdue proves me wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time – did it last year, too.

Jeff Stine on 12/5/2011 @ 7:45pm EDT Said:

Temple beat a Wichita State team who I’m pretty sure just thumped UNLV.

I appreciate your responses. I realize this is all subjective and very difficult to do in the non-conference. I too hope Purdue surprises you and am hopeful that Matt Painter is well on his way to the “never underestimate” territory that Bo Ryan currently resides.

Mike on 12/6/2011 @ 12:26pm EDT Said:

Guess I just don’t understand how Purdue is 7 when if Holloway misses a 3 pointer they are likely 2 or 3 on this list. Sure it was a horrible collapse, but they proved they can hang with a top 15 team on their court in a hyped up game.