All hail the Butt-Cut! - Andy Lyons
I've been contributing weekly power rankings to the overall power ranking poll at The Big Time (you can find this week's rankings here), but I figured I might as well share my rankings with you fine folks, too. My rankings are based primarily on B1G play.
1) INDIANA (12-1 overall, 3-0 B1G)
LAST WEEK: W, 74-51 at Penn State; W, 88-81 vs. Minnesota
THIS WEEK: Tuesday (Wisconsin), Sunday (at Northwestern)
Indiana scored probably the most impressive win of the B1G season on Saturday, beating Minnesota in Bloomington, 88-81. They dominated the game for the first 30-35 minutes, before a furious late rally from the Gophers made things interesting. They also steamrolled a lousy Penn State team on the road. It was pretty much steady as she goes for the Hoosiers last week. Tonight's game with Wisconsin pits the league's only remaining undefeated teams (in conference play), but I don't think there's a soul out there who thinks Wisconsin is on Indiana's level this year, matching 3-0 starts be damned. Of course, if Bo's boys are able to slow the game to a crawl and light things up from outside, you never know... but that seems unlikely against a Hoosier team with so much athleticism and energy. Their other game this week is a road tilt against Northwestern; fear for the purple.
2) OHIO STATE (13-3, 3-1)
LAST WEEK: W, 74-64 at Purdue; W, 56-53 vs. Michigan
THIS WEEK: Saturday (at Michigan State)
If Indiana's win over
Ohio State Minnesota on Saturday wasn't the most impressive win in league play this year, maybe it was Ohio State's win over Michigan on Sunday. I still think that, overall, Michigan is a better team than Ohio State and that they'll finish above OSU in the league standings, but for now OSU earns the nod above them thanks to matching 3-1 league records and an impressive head-to-head win. OSU also notched a solid road win over a scrappy Purdue team earlier in the week. This week they're off until a Saturday clash in East Lansing; if Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota are the cream of the crop in the Big Ten this year (still my personal belief), then this game could go a long way in determining who's the best of the rest.
3) MICHIGAN (16-1, 3-1)
LAST WEEK: W, 62-47 vs. Nebraska; L, 56-53 at Ohio State
THIS WEEK: Thursday (at Minnesota)
After mauling Northwestern and Iowa by a combined 56 points two weeks ago, Michigan hit a bit of trouble last week. They struggled to put away Nebraska (the 62-47 final scoreline is a little deceptive), thanks to some poor shooting (just 39% from FG, 18% from 3FG%) and Nebraska's tortoise-like pace. Against Ohio State, they needed a furious comeback just to have a prayer of keeping their unbeaten streak alive; they trailed by as much as 18 points several different times in the first half before chopping the lead to 12 (34-22) at half. They kept hacking away in the second half and eventually tied it at 46-all, but a quick 6-0 run by Ohio State put them back in control and they hung on. It doesn't get any easier for Michigan this week, with a roadtrip to Minneapolis to face the Gophers. Michigan will need to be much sharper than they were last week to beat the Fightin' Tubbys in the Barn.
4) MINNESOTA (15-2, 3-1)
LAST WEEK: W, 84-67 at Illinois; L, 88-81 at Indiana
THIS WEEK: Thursday (Michigan)
Last week was one miraculous comeback away from being an amazing week for Minnesota. It was still a pretty good week: they blasted Illinois on the road (thanks to a 50-spot in the second half) and staged a furious rally to make the Indiana game interesting. If only they hadn't been spent the first 30-odd minutes of that game getting waxed. This week offers an immediate shot at redemption in a difficult home game with Michigan.
5) WISCONSIN (12-4, 3-0)
LAST WEEK: W, 74-51 vs. Illinois
THIS WEEK: Tuesday (at Indiana), Saturday (at Iowa)
On record alone, Wisconsin deserves to be ranked higher, but when you dig a little deeper that 3-0 record starts showing a few blemishes. Prior to torching Illinois (a win which may or may not be truly impressive, given Illinois' current tailspin), the Badgers' two B1G wins had been ugly wins over Penn State and Nebraska. This week's road games against Indiana and Iowa should tell us much more about the state of the 2013 Badgers.
6) MICHIGAN STATE (14-3, 3-1)
LAST WEEK: W, 62-59 at Iowa; W, 66-56 vs. Nebraska
THIS WEEK: Wednesday (at Penn State), Saturday (Ohio State)
Ugly wins are still wins, right? Sparty didn't look very impressive in sneaking past Iowa on the road and grinding one out at home against Nebrasketball, but maybe a win is all you really need in this year's Big Ten, attractiveness be damned. Penn State is unlikely to offer much resistance to Sparty, but Saturday's OSU tilt should be Sparty's toughest game since the B1G opener with Minnesota. They'll probably need to play their best game yet to beat the Buckeyes.
7) PURDUE (8-8, 2-2)
LAST WEEK: L, 74-64 Ohio State); W, 60-42 vs. Penn State
THIS WEEK: Wednesday (at Nebraska), Saturday (West Virginia)
Again, these rankings focus more on B1G play than overall performance, so Purdue's lackluster non-conference record isn't holding them back too much. They haven't played a hugely challenging league schedule so far, but they took care of business against a bad Penn State team and gave Ohio State a very difficult game in a losing effort. This week brings a very winnable road game against Nebrasketball, as well as a bizarre non-conference match-up with West Virginia.
8) ILLINOIS (14-4, 1-3)
LAST WEEK: L, 84-67 vs. Minnesota; L, 74-51 at Wisconsin
THIS WEEK: Thursday (Northwestern)
Things continue to go off the rails for the Illini, whose 12-0 start looks like a distant memory. Over 40 minutes against Minnesota and Wisconsin they were outscored 89-56. Game, set, match. They were only outscored 69-64 in the other 40 minutes against those teams, but the damage was done by those two catastrophic halves against the Gophers and the Badgers. Illinois' defense has been brutal in the losses (Wisconsin shot 49% against Illinois, while Minnesota shot 53%) and their own shooting (especially from long range) has been anemic: 35% in both games, just 13% from 3FG%. They lived by the three early in the season, but they're dying by it now. They desperately need to beat Northwestern this week to turn their season around.
9) IOWA (12-5, 1-3)
LAST WEEK: L, 62-59 vs. Michigan State; W, 70-50 at Northwestern
THIS WEEK: Saturday (Wisconsin)
Why is a meltdown-y Illinois team still ahead of Iowa in my rankings? Their win over Ohio State is a hell of a lot better than Iowa's win over Northwestern. If Iowa can beat Wisconsin on Saturday, though, I'd be inclined to move them ahead of the Illini, regardless of what happens in their game with jNW. Iowa had a hard-luck loss against Michigan State, but bounced back well with a beatdown of the Wildcats. Now they need to keep the positive mojo rolling and beat up the Badgers on Saturday.
10) NORTHWESTERN (10-7, 1-3)
LAST WEEK: W, 70-54 at Penn State; L, 70-50 vs. Iowa
THIS WEEK: Thursday (at Illinois), Sunday (Indiana)
Northwestern, based on the evidence of Sunday's game, is a really, really bad basketball team. From what I've seen, Nebraska is playing better than the Wildcats right now -- they've just had a tougher schedule (those two road games against Michigan and Michigan State last week were no picnic). Still, Northwestern did beat up Penn State pretty good last week and that's enough to keep them ahead of Nebrasketball for the time being. This week brings games against a desperate Illinois team and a very good Indiana team, though; things could get (very) ugly.
11) NEBRASKA (9-8, 0-4)
LAST WEEK: L, 62-47 at Michigan; L, 66-56 at Michigan State
THIS WEEK: Wednesday (Purdue), Saturday (at Penn State)
Nebraska would be among the league leaders in moral victories this season if such a stat was kept (Iowa might be right behind them after their almost got 'em games with Indiana and Michigan State). Expected to be a tire fire this year, they've actually proved to be a pretty tough out in league play. Outside of getting trucked in Columbus to start the B1G calendar, they've had three straight fairly close losses to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State -- the final scorelines of the Michigan and Michigan State games don't quite reflect how close those games were for long stretches. (In other news, we may have also found a team with an even tougher opening stretch to B1G play than Iowa.) Nebraska can't shoot (41%, 241st in the nation) and can't score (58.2 ppg, 330th in the country), but they can slow the game to a crawl and play pretty good defense (two of their last three opponents have made less than 40% of their field goal attempts). Lookin' pretty Lickliter-y in Lincoln.
12) PENN STATE (8-8, 0-4)
LAST WEEK: L, 74-51 vs. Indiana; L, 70-54 vs. Northwestern; L, 60-42 at Purdue
THIS WEEK: Wednesday (Michigan State), Saturday (Nebraska)
It's a little mean to pick on Penn State after they lost do-everything PG Tim Frazier, but... they're bad. Like, really bad. They actually shoot worse than Nebraska (39%, 329th in the country). Not surprisingly, they're 0-4 in league play. The schedulemakers were particularly cruel to them last week, squeezing in three games for them to lose. None of the three losses were by less than 16. Wednesday's game against Michigan State is unlikely to be any different for PSU, but Saturday's Official B1G Pillow Fight against Nebrasketball may offer a chance for relief. Although, on current form, I'd probably take Nebraska by 5-6 in that game.