Bardo: Badgers make big move in Power Rankings

Maybe all of those concerns about Ohio State and Wisconsin were all for naught. The two teams both went 2-0 this past week, including a statement win for each, and have combined to tally five straight victories. That being the case, the top five of my Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal, has returned to normalcy. See where you team lands on my latest list in this post.

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1. Michigan (17-6, 9-2). The Wolverines played angry in dominating the Huskers on Wednesday. When the ball moves like that and Glenn Robinson III is aggressive, that’s when Michigan is at its best. The next time out, though, Michigan ran into the buzz saw known as Devyn Marble and Iowa, which played like it knew Saturday was a must-win home game.
Last Week: 1

2. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2). Welcome back, Adreian Payne! He scored 12 points in 18 minutes against Penn State, and four other Spartans also scored in double figures in the win minus Keith Appling. Payne stepped up his game at Wisconsin with 24 points, but his six turnovers really hurt. Combine that with Gary Harris shooting 3-of-20 from the field, and I’m surprised the game came down to the final seconds.
Last week: 2

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3. Iowa (18-6, 7-4). With Ohio State and Michigan coming to Iowa City, this was the week to get back on the map in terms of national perception. Behind 3-of-20 shooting from 3, however, the Hawkeyes couldn’t find the range in losing to Ohio State. They rebounded nicely with an impressive win over Michigan, as Devyn Marble poured in 26 points. The question remains for Iowa: Can it find the consistency down the stretch to compete for the Big Ten title?
Last week: 3

4. Ohio State (19-5, 6-5). The Buckeyes seem to have cleared the air and are playing more aggressively. With its back to the wall, Ohio State had excellent offensive balance in stealing the win in Iowa City. When Aaron Craft is aggressive and looking to create for himself, this team is tough to defend. And there was no letdown in the home in victory over Purdue. Thad Matta’s way of having his teams peak at right time is starting to take form.
Last week: 5

5. Wisconsin (19-5, 6-5). Next to Ohio State, the Badgers enjoyed the most success this week. Winning at Illinois was critical for Wisconsin and its postseason aspirations, and the late home win vs. No. 8 Michigan State should give this team plenty of confidence. The win over the Spartans snapped a three-game home losing streak. Thursday night’s rematch with Minnesota will be a lot of fun.
Last week: 10

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6. Northwestern (12-12, 5-6). In their lone game of the week, the Wildcats fell at home to Nebraska, which was 0-5 on the road. Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb scored in double figures, but Tre Demps was held in check. The low-possession style Northwestern plays leaves a very small margin for error. When Demps isn’t scoring in double figures, the Wildcats struggle. Tough challenge at Michigan State on Thursday.
Last week: 4

7. Minnesota (16-8, 5-6). The Gophers showed toughness in their triple overtime loss at Purdue. The game marked Andre Hollins’ return from an ankle injury, and it showed. Richardo Pitino admitted Hollins’ 36 minutes were too much. Minnesota showed no signs of tired legs in its come-from-behind win against Indiana. The inside-outside duo of Mo Walker (14pts) and DeAndre Mathieu (16pts) is starting to become a trend.
Last week: 6

8. Nebraska (12-10, 4-6). The Huskers didn’t seem ready for an angry Wolverine team and were blown out early. Allowing Michigan to shoot 63 percent from the field in the first half sealed Nebraska’s fate. The Huskers bounced back and won at Northwestern to mark their first Big Ten road victory. Walter Pitchford (15pts) and Terran Petteway (17pts) provided enough offense for a big road victory.  Tim Miles’ squad seems to be getting better by the week.
Last week: 8

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9. Indiana (14-9, 4-6). With young teams, it’s a lot of two steps forward, one step back. So is the case with the Hoosiers. They had a really good start at Minnesota and were aggressive on both ends of the floor to jump out to a double-digit lead. The older Gophers, behind their home crowd, rose to the occasion and made plays down the stretch to snatch the victory. Still, it was a good effort as the Hoosiers were one point shy from Jeremy Hollowell of placing five players in double figures.
Last week: 7

10. Purdue (14-10, 4-7). What a great win for the Boilers in their triple overtime thriller over Minnesota. AJ Hammons continued his recent inspired play with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Outlasting a hungry and veteran Gopher squad should give Purdue confidence. In the ensuing loss to Ohio State, the Boilers allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 50 percent from the field in the second half. Kendall Stephens continues to improve, but he got little help offensively in loss.
Last week: 11

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11. Illinois (14-10, 3-8). I continue to be impressed with the effort level of this Illini squad. They have a small margin for error but continue to play hard and stay competitive. John Groce changed up the lineup Sunday at Penn State, putting seniors Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey on the bench, and the freshmen responded. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill both went for career highs and combined for 30 points. And it was Nunn’s late 3 from the corner that gave the Illini the lead they would not relinquish.
Last week: 12

12. Penn State (12-12, 3-8). Trying to win in East Lansing is a tall order for any team not named Michigan. The Nittany Lions made it even harder on themselves as they couldn’t find Kenny Kaminski, who nailed 5-of-6 from downtown and had 19 points. Then, with a chance to avenge an earlier loss and get back in the win column, Penn State dropped another close one to the Illini. D.J. Newbill scored 19 points, but he got little help as the Illini ended an eight-game losing streak.
Last week: 9

– Team records are through February 9 action.

About Stephen Bardo
The BTN basketball analyst and former Flyin’ Illini star is a regular contributor to BTN.com. Follow Bardo on Twitter @stephenbardo, read his past posts right here, and use the form below to submit your questions to his Big Ten basketball mailbag.

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