Power Rankings: Purdue takes No. 1 spot, Minnesota jumps to No. 3
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It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for me to release my latest Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal.
Check it all out below, and, as always, don’t be shy about letting me hear your thoughts. I can be reached at @BTNJonCrispin.
Editor’s note: Team records are through Sunday, Jan. 8, action.
1. Purdue (14-3, 3-1). The Boilers continue to impress behind the play of Caleb Swanigan and the much-improved backcourt of Carson Edwards and Dakota Mathias that is providing a perimeter punch. This team can beat you both in the half court and in an uptempo game. Expectations should be high in West Lafayette.
Last week: 2
2. Wisconsin (13-3, 2-1). The Badgers may still be the team best suited for long-term, sustainable success. Nigel Hayes is ultimately the catalyst, though, and he needs to be active on the offensive end (cutting hard without then ball, setting screens, etc.) for Greg Gard’s first full season as head coach to be as successful as it could be.
Last week: 1
3. Minnesota (15-2, 3-1). It’s impossible to ignore this team any longer. The overtime win at Mackey was a statement in my book and the double-duo (not sure if that’s a thing or not) of Nate Mason/Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch/Jordan Murphy gives the Gophers a versatility and balance that only the elite teams in the country have.
Last week: 6
4. Indiana (11-5, 1-2). Getting the offense going quickly out of the gate is the key for the Hoosiers. Although I’ve got them here this week, I still believe this team has the highest ceiling of anyone in the conference. When the ball moves quickly, this is a tough team to stop. Get the ball to stick against the Hoosiers, and you’ve got a chance.
Last week: 3
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5. Maryland (14-2, 2-1). The talented young pieces, the likes of Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter, in the lineup with Melo Trimble leading the way gives this team a shot to slide up toward the top of the conference as they develop and get more continuity and chemistry. Mark Turgeon has been excited about this team since the fall. I can see why.
Last week: 7
6. Northwestern (13-4, 2-2). The biggest issue for the Wildcats, outside of injuries, has been their inability to make big shots and close out games in the second half. They took a big step forward in Lincoln on Sunday, and with Dererk Pardon back in the lineup, this is a formidable Big Ten team and a legitimate NCAA tourney contender. The key: Bryant McIntosh needs to lead the way.
Last week: T-10
7. Michigan State (11-6, 3-1). The Spartans are young, and we’ll likely see some ups and downs this season. With Miles Bridges back and likely back to playing major minutes, though, I still see them as one of the better teams in the conference. Penn State did a terrific job defending in the half court, but I trust Tom Izzo will get that lack of execution squared away to get this team ready for March.
Last week: 4
8. Nebraska (9-7, 3-1). This is going to be a dangerous team to face all season. Glynn Watson Jr. and Tai Webster make up one of the best backcourts in the conference. Although they are 3-1 in conference, with wins at Maryland and Indiana, I still see this as a “middle-of-the-pack” Big Ten team, which makes them a NCAA tournament contender on any given year. Toss out that Gardner-Webb loss, too. That’s not who this team is.
Last week: 9
9. Iowa (10-7, 2-2). I love this team, but consistency is going to be the issue with so much youth, particularly on defense. Fran McCaffery may have to get creative with his defenses to put the Hawkeyes in the best possible position to win, but they’ll always have a chance in any game with their ability to score. Particularly when Peter Jok goes for 34 points….30 of which came after the first half (at Nebraska).
Last week: T-10
10. Michigan (11-5, 1-2). Don’t jump ship yet on the Wolverines. It’s been a tough start to conference play for John Beilein’s crew, but the talent, the depth and the versatility are there. I believe it starts with Derrick Walton Jr. on both ends. When he set the tone last season, this team won and competed against the conference’s best. D.J. Wilson has really turned into a next-level player, too.
Last week: 5
11. Illinois (11-5, 1-2). The pressure is certainly on this team. Getting healthy was supposed to solve all of the problems in Champaign. Defensively, this team has to be able to take opponents out of their initial options and sets. The potential is there. The talent and experience is there. It’s just a matter of getting them to play to their potential and find chemistry soon as it doesn’t get any easier in the Big Ten.
Last week: T-10
12. Penn State (10-7, 2-2). The talent of this team could land them anywhere between 5-12 in this list every week. It seems as if, yet again, Pat Chambers has a team that no one wants to play, and I can understand why. They compete, they work hard, they believe in each other and everyone knows you’ll never get out of State College (or Philly!) without a fight.
Last week: 13
13. Ohio State (10-6, 0-3). When you look at the Buckeyes (objectively and without bias), they look like they could be a national contender. The product on the floor has fallen short. Losing Keita Bates-Diop for the year is a huge blow for Thad Matta, but I still think this team has enough talent and length to win big games and get back in the hunt. I’m not bailing on the Buckeyes yet, but need to see them win a game in conference to move them back up.
Last week: 8
14. Rutgers (11-6, 0-4). If you’re a Scarlet Knight fan or alum, you should be proud of what you’re seeing so far from Steve Pikiell and his staff. Not only has been able to keep key players around, he’s focused on building a foundation that he and future coaches will benefit from for years to come. I predict that in 2-3 years he’ll bring this program to be relevant in the Big Ten.
Last week: 14