Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, December 21, 2015
It's the final week of non-conference play. That's right, on Tuesday, Dec. 29, the Big Ten conference season tips off.
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Before the games really start to count, and before you check out for the holiday break, it's time to share my latest Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal.
Editor's note: All records are through Sunday, Dec. 20 action.
See my latest list below:
1. Michigan State (12-0). Tom Izzo is still working to establish his rotations as we near Big Ten play, and Denzel Valentine's minor knee surgery (2-3 weeks) will lead to more tinkering. You can?t take anything away from what the Spartans, tied for the best start in program history, have done in non-conference play. Look out for the matchup against Oakland on Tuesday and check out 5-foot-9 Kahlil Felder, who averages 25.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 8.9 assists.
Last week: 1
2. Maryland (10-1). The Terps seem to be making strides each and every game. Diamond Stone is looking more and more like a dominant center and the spacing on offense continues to improve, which will make life easier for Melo Trimble, Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon. By the end of the season, I expect Maryland to be right back at the top of the charts in college basketball.
Last week: 3
3. Purdue (11-1). Butler did what Butler always seems to do: It cut down another giant at the knees. The loss to Butler was more about what Butler did well than what Purdue failed to do. While it?s not ?Back to the Drawing Board? for the Boilermakers, they have some issues to correct heading into a matchup against Vandy before traveling to Wisconsin to take on newly appointed interim head coach Greg Gard.
Last week: 2
4. Indiana (9-3). I still really like the potential of this team, and I like that the Hoosiers showed a lot of fight in a tough matchup against Notre Dame this past Saturday. Credit the players for staying dialed in after a tough first half where they were not only down, but they had to block out the boos from their own fan base. This team will continue to improve, however consistency will be an issue with its limited defensive potential.
Last week: 4
5. Iowa (8-3). I still like the Hawkeyes but feel as if the lack of depth will begin to become an issue. The second-half meltdown last week at Iowa State is still something that baffles me. That is where the experience of the Hawkeyes should prevail. The Hawkeyes start Big Ten play vs. No. 1 Michigan State, which, even without injured star Denzel Valentine, is so deep that it could probably afford to loan Iowa a few key players.
Last week: 5
6. Michigan (9-3). As much as I question the toughness of the Wolverines, I simply love the style of play that John Beilein teams have always brought to the table. Caris LeVert is a true star, but I?d love for him to get a little Tony Robbins (Self-Affirmation) couch session to build even more confidence and swagger as he will have to play to his full-potential for this team to excel.
Last week: 7
7. Northwestern (10-1). I get the sense that Chris Collins recognizes the opportunity this team has this year. The Big Ten is wide open, from teams No. 4-12 in the rankings, and this is the year for a talented Northwestern team to capitalize. I also think that Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps could cause some problems and make some noise in the NCAA tournament. I hope we get to see that this year.
Last week: 6
8. Ohio State (6-5). I saw the Buckeyes look great against Air Force and saw legitimate potential. Then, they struggle against UConn before bouncing back with two good wins against NIU and then-No. 4 Kentucky. The Kentucky game was a great confidence-booster, but it was one extremely talented but young team beating a better extremely talented but young team. The sky is the limit for the Buckeyes if Thad Matta and staff can find a way to get these guys to bring that kind of intensity and swagger every night.
Last week: 12
Ohio State ending the first half on a REALLY high note. https://t.co/3CxBSRJZBj— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) December 19, 2015
9. Illinois (7-5). I?ve talked about Malcolm Hill before and can?t say enough about what he?s been able to do with Mike Thorne Jr. out with injury. Kendrick Nunn and Hill will cause all sorts of problems for Big Ten foes. I also think this team will play better with Thorne being out as they can bring the same ?Backs against the wall? mentality that made them so tough late last season.
Last week: 10
10. Wisconsin (7-5). I am removing all of the pressure and expectations for interim head coach Greg Gard. Personally, I think Gard will do a great job with the Badgers and we should expect to see a slight resurgence as the coaching change should bring a new energy to the program. I?ll be on hand for Gard?s first game, and I?m anxious to see how this team evolves as the season progresses.
Last week: 8
11. Nebraska (7-5). I have a feeling that this team will beat a few teams that they (presumably) shouldn?t beat, and they?ll lose some games that they shouldn?t lose. This is typical of a young and developing team and program. Andrew White III and Shavon Shields will keep Nebraska in games – they will likely win a few games on their own – but the development of Glynn Watson is a key to sustained and consistent success.
Last week: 9
12. Penn State (8-3). I like this Penn State team and really like the two-man game with Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor. I?d run something for one or both of them every time down the floor. Their record is good but there have simply been too many close games against lesser opponents. The Nittany Lions play a very good Colorado team on Tuesday before heading to Maryland to start Big Ten play. Ouch.
Last week: 11
13. Minnesota (6-5). There are certainly some good pieces in Minnesota, although we have yet to see it truly come together on the court against a quality opponent. Jordan Murphy looked great with 12 points and 18 rebounds against Chicago State, but we all know Big Ten play will provide a better challenge than Chicago State. I?m interested to see what the identity of this team becomes in conference play.
Last week: 13
14. Rutgers (4-7). There are some signs of progress with Eddie Jordan?s Scarlet Knights. With six players averaging above or near double digits, there is decent balance here, which shows that numerous new pieces are getting quality experience. This team will compete, but they?re ultimately still rebuilding from the ground up.
Last week: 14