Big Ten Power Rankings: January 5

  • 01/05/2015 9:04 am in

The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back for another season as conference action now is underway. Here’s a look at where each team stands following the first week of play in 2015: 

14. Rutgers (9-6, 1-1) … One of the two additions to the Big Ten last July, the Scarlet Knights have never had much success in basketball — their last NCAA tournament appearance was in 1991, five years before current college freshmen were even born. The woes have continued into year two under coach Eddie Jordan, as they have suffered home losses to the likes of St. Francis (Pa.) and Saint Peter’s and boast the nation’s No. 271 offense and an effective field goal percentage in the bottom 30 in the country. But the Scarlet Knights have wins over Vanderbilt and most recently Penn State, showing glimpses of potential success in a wide open Big Ten this season. (Next up: Jan. 8 at Nebraska; Jan. 11 vs. Wisconsin)

13. Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) … In Chris Collins’s second year at the helm in Evanston, the Wildcats have yet to find any of the magic they had last season in what has been a lackluster start thus far. With another young squad, the 33rd-least experienced in the country, the Wildcats’ offense has once again been slow and inefficient — with their points per possession, effective field goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage and free throw rate ranking all in the bottom half of the country. And through the first half of the season, they have yet to be competitive against upper-tier teams, either — losing to its five top-100 opponents thus far at the closest by seven points and an average 14 points per game. (Next up: Jan. 11 at Michigan State)

12. Nebraska (8-5, 0-1) … Despite returning much of its 2013-2014 NCAA tournament squad, Nebraska has struggled immensely to start this season. The main difference: Its offense has been nowhere near as efficient as it was in 2013-2014 — averaging nearly 0.12 points per possession less. And after losing once in its new Pinnacle Bank Arena last season, Nebraska has already lost three times in its home arena, including one to the University of Incarnate Word. (Next up: Today at Iowa; Jan. 8 vs. Rutgers; Jan. 11 vs. Illinois)

11. Penn State (12-3, 0-2) … The Nittany Lions have had one of the surprise starts of the Big Ten — losing just once in the non-conference season for its best start since 1995-96. But their 12-1 record was perhaps deceiving, especially since they had the nation’s 32nd-least competitive non-conference slate according to KenPom.com. And with two losses to start their conference season, including one to Rutgers, it’s clear the Nittany Lions still have plenty of work to do to reach the upper echelon of the league. (Next up: Jan. 6 vs. Michigan)

10. Michigan (8-6, 1-1) … Nearly halfway into their season, perhaps the best explanation for the Wolverines’ preseason ranking has been its previous seasons’ successes. That’s because this year’s squad has shown little of the consistency that has made past Michigan squads so reliable. The Wolverines, who lost multiple players over the offseason to either the NBA (Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson, Mitch McGary), graduation (Jordan Morgan) or to other schools (Jon Horford to Florida), have the country’s 27th least experienced roster and have shot the ball at their poorest under head coach John Beilein since the 2009-2010 season. The byproduct of that: They have losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. But with wins over Syracuse and Illinois, the Wolverines have shown they have potential once again. It’s just a matter of reaching it, especially as the opponents get tougher. (Next up: Jan. 6 at Penn State; Jan. 10 vs. Minnesota)

9. Michigan State (9-5, 0-1) … After losing Adreian Payne and Gary Harris over the offseason, the Spartans found themselves without their two best players from a season ago and with another preseason top 25 ranking to live up to. Thus far, they have been unconvincing in that role. Their best win thus far has been Loyola Chicago — yes, the Ramblers — and they even inexplicably lost at home to Texas Southern just two weeks ago. Their five losses have been close, a combined 25-point margin, however the Spartans have yet to prove they can beat a top opponent in the country, let alone in the Big Ten. (Next up: Today vs. Indiana; Jan. 8 at Iowa; Jan. 11 vs. Northwestern)

8. Illinois (10-5, 0-2) … The Fighting Illini came into this season with high hopes, returning pieces like Nnanna Egwu, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Rayvonte Rice while adding the likes of Aaron Cosby, Ahmad Starks and Leron Black to the mix. But their start to the season has been slow — granted, like much of the Big Ten this season. The Illini had an impressive win over Baylor early, but since then they have been unconvincing, with losses to Miami (FL), Villanova and Oregon, games that could have put them a leg up in the Big Ten. And with two losses already to Michigan and Ohio State, the Illini find themselves at the bottom of the league standings — a position they likely did not expect to be in this season. (Next up: Jan. 7 vs. Maryland; Jan. 11 at Nebraska)

7. Minnesota (11-4, 0-2) … As with much of the Big Ten, the Golden Gophers had a number of chances to separate themselves during the non-conference season and came up short, beating Georgia but also suffering losses to St. John’s and Louisville. Those losses, though, are certainly nothing to hang their heads on, and they have both a top 50 offense and defense in addition to a top 50 team in experience. But through two games in conference action this season, the Gophers have not taken advantage of their opportunities on the road, losing to Purdue and Maryland. And who knows what effect missed chances will have on the NCAA tournament committee come Selection Sunday. (Next up: Jan. 6 vs. Ohio State; Jan. 10 at Michigan)

6. Purdue (10-5, 2-0) … There were few teams in the league that had as poor of a start to the season as the Boilermakers did. Losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb speak for themselves, after all. But since then, Matt Painter has his young team back on track with victories over Minnesota and Michigan to start the Big Ten season. Only Maryland and Wisconsin can also lay claim to two league wins thus far. And with the continued development of their young players, including A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, Kendall Stephens and Vince Edwards, the Boilermakers could feasibly continue their run in an otherwise weak Big Ten, although two stiff tests await this week. (Next up: Jan. 7 at Wisconsin; Jan. 10 vs. Maryland)

5. Ohio State (12-3, 1-1) … The Buckeyes have been one of the top teams in the league on an annual basis, and not much has changed following the departure of Aaron Craft. But against the top competition this season, the Buckeyes have been just a notch below the likes of North Carolina and Louisville and failed to hold home court against Iowa in their Big Ten opener. They have no bad losses to their name, but the Buckeyes have yet to impress against the better teams of the country. (Next up: Jan. 6 at Minnesota; Jan. 10 at Indiana)

4. Iowa (10-4, 1-0) … One of the very few Big Ten teams returning the majority of their starting five (only losing Roy Devyn Marble), the Hawkeyes came into this season with the advantage of experience in a league that simply does not have much of it. Thus far, though the on-court results have not been ideal, with losses to Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Texas and Syracuse, Fran McCaffery’s squad still has shown it can win big games, most recently on the road at Ohio State and last month in Chapel Hill against North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. And experience will only help down the line, too, as the season nears closer and closer to March. (Next up: Today vs. Nebraska; Jan. 8 vs. Michigan State)

3. Indiana (11-3, 1-0) … Just two months ago, many were wondering the future of Tom Crean after multiple off-court issues marred the Hoosiers’ start to the season. But those doubts have been quieted (for now), as the Hoosiers emerged from the non-conference season with wins over SMU, Pittsburgh and Butler and one of the nation’s top offenses — a rarity in the Big Ten this season. And although they have a young squad once again, the Hoosiers emerged from Lincoln with a win last Wednesday over Nebraska — proof they can be competitive this season away from Assembly Hall in the tougher environments of the Big Ten. (Next up: Today at Michigan State; Jan. 10 vs. Ohio State)

2. Maryland (14-1, 2-0) … This was supposed to be the make-or-break season for Mark Turgeon, and thus far the fourth-year Terrapins coach has put together a soaring start for the first-year Big Ten squad. They’re young — four freshmen see significant minutes — but the Terps shoot the ball well, defend well, get to the free throw line often and don’t foul often. It’s a recipe for success, and it has shown with wins already over Arizona State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Michigan State and Minnesota, teams all ranked inside the KenPom top 100. Its only loss: an 11-point game to former ACC foe Virginia. (Next up: Jan. 7 at Illinois; Jan. 10 at Purdue)

1. Wisconsin (15-1, 3-0) … It comes as no surprise that the Badgers come in at the top of the power rankings, as they never skipped a beat following last year’s Final Four appearance. It also helps that they returned nearly all of their team from last year. Frank Kaminsky is having a National Player of the Year caliber season thus far (averaging 16.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 blocks per game), and overall the Badgers have the nation’s No. 2 offense at a whopping 1.19 points per possession rate. They also are the best in the country at not turning the ball over and keeping opponents off the glass. In short: It will be tough for any Big Ten team to beat the Badgers this season as they once again contend for the national title. (Next up: Jan. 7 vs. Purdue; Jan. 11 at Rutgers)

(Photo credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

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  • GaHoosier

    IU at #3 is ambitious! I think most every Hoosier fan would take a third place finish this year!!!

  • ForeverIU

    Well I’m glad I didn’t budge on my Top 3 prediction since the Canada days. I might end up eating my words, but at least I’ll be doing it in good company (and NOT in a mental asylum, lol).

  • IULore

    Andy Katz also liked IU to finish top the BIG

  • This year’s Big Ten season is very intriguing. It’s going to be a major toss-up and unpredictable, besides the top and bottom few teams. I have a hard time believing MSU will end up so low…just seems like a bad bet. Nebraska is maybe the biggest surprise, and I hope they continue to dwell in the cellar. It would be nice if PU joined them. There’s going to be a real battle between Michigan, OSU, Iowa, MSU, Illinois, IU, and Minnesota over the next few months. Every game counts.

    I love the call of IU at #3, as well. I think a lot of people are finally coming to the conclusion that this is indeed a very good team, but they still have a lot to prove and a long way to go. Let’s remember how many people were saying IU had a shot at the top 3 in the conference in November: ZERO. Movin’ on up! We really need a win tonight to make that happen. This is going to be a really tough conference season, very interesting.

    My picks: I agree with the above list, except PU is much further down around 9 or 10, and replaced by Minnesota at #6. MSU at #7, Illinois at #8, and who cares about the rest. (Michigan is the sleeper who will remain dangerous, like a wounded animal…but also an easy target)

    A win tonight would be huge and absolutely necessary if they want a shot at the top. Go Hoosiers!

  • it seems like most of the smart money is shifting towards IU in 2015. LOTS of analysts are jumping onto this wagon now, due in part to the style of play. Always good to hear.

  • Ole Man

    Bandwagon may get crowded. LOL!
    Except for the Syc. loss, the other 3 Iowa losses have been to excellent teams. Watch out for them.

  • and they are experienced, if I’m not mistaken.

  • ForeverIU

    I think Iowa will evolve as our nemesis in the years to come. We already won our first battle with them: OG Anunoby.

  • That’s right. Hey I haven’t heard anything recently on how OG’s Sr. season is going.. or did I miss it. It’d be cool to get an update from Alex or someone as to both of our recruits current play. I am very ‘high’ on both of them.. A lot of potential.

  • Luke Recker

  • ForeverIU

    My info is very sketchy, but I remember some time ago hearing about OG making some noise. I think he and Juwan will both bring the same work ethic that Robert and James bring.

  • IULore

    I think the fact that they are able to run and score in the BIG makes them more attractive.

  • Corey M

    These are just power rankings based on how teams are playing right now, not end of the year predictions..

  • I agree. And I think they both have nice size and a lot of athleticism.. They’re not huge, but good size for the 3 or 4. Isn’t Juwan an inch or so taller than OG? I think they are both very good ‘gets’ for CTC and staff.

  • They are more or less the same thing, as all predictions are basically based on the same thing….how teams are playing recently; preseason predictions are hokus pokus flim flam.

  • ForeverIU

    Found this in a piece from Dec. 30, fwiw:

    “O.G. Anunoby had himself quite the busy weekend. After dropping in 24 points in a loss to Raytown South, Anunoby got a bit of personal redemption by winning the slam dunk competition (Vine of the winning dunk is below) at the Holiday Hoop Showcase. He then rode that momentum by putting in another 24 points in a 59-57 win over Lausanne, going 7-12 from the field, 2-4 from downtown, and 8-12 from the line.”

    www. springfieldnewssun. com/feed/sports/basketball-recruiting-roundup-og-anunobys-busy/fw7pQ/

  • IUBizmark

    Like your write up. That Michigan team is a dead dog though. They can’t shoot and can’t rebound. They are dealing with injuries though, so maybe those will heal, but I’m not as high on them as you.

  • Thanks, I hadn’t seen that.. Wow, that sounds great.. As I said.. really good gets, both of them.. IMHO…

  • ForeverIU

    Three juniors, a senior, and a soph in their starting lineup at OSU. And two seniors, two freshmen, and a junior for their bench players in that game.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    Dang. I started off thinking #3 was crazy high, but I have to say, through a combination of playing way better than I expected and the conf underperforming, I actually think this is about right.

    I have particularly been impressed by our rebounding, which I expected would kill us. We have been adequate.

    And those kids are fun to watch. Shooting cures a lot of ills. Oh, Noah, we miss you, friend…

  • Outoftheloop

    It is so early in the season that this exercise is close to meaningless. Let’s see how the race looks after 6 games and after 12 games.

  • I agree on the rebounding. The team (and coaching) doesn’t get enough credit for really tackling this, especially with such an undersized team. Rebounding has been a real bright spot, in my opinion. They don’t need to out-rebound everyone (and yet sometimes they do) but have to have a strong showing to win…and they have. This is a real accomplishment, as with the turnovers. Still waiting on that defense….

    If Vonleh was still on this team, IU would be in the top 10. I can’t help to think that this should be a huge recruiting plus, when going after big guys for next year: immediate playing time on a potentially great team. With another Zeller-type player added to this team, (assuming continued growth and improvement), this team could be a real contender next year. And I’m talking about national championship contention, to be clear.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I see no reason we can’t finish in the top 4 at least. Iowa looks like they could be a contender though too. We win tonight and beat Ohio St Saturday and I think we will be in phenomenal shape to hold our position.

  • calbert40

    I think IU *could* be the 3rd best team in the B1G, but after only one conference game AND beating what this ranking considers to be only the 12th best team in the league, I think that ranking is too high. Equally, I think that rankings of 10th and 9th for UM and MSU won’t last too long at that level, respectively.

    I think we need to understand this is a very small sample that we are viewing. Yes, IU’s win on the road against a preseason B1G contender was a great win. However, we need to temper it with the understanding that Neb is really reeling right now. The same could be said for all teams in the B1G whether their start has been good or bad.

  • InTheMtns

    Since rebounding and defense are on Hoosiers’ minds a lot these days, it’s good to note that in the game with Raytown South, O.G. had eight rebounds and three blocks. In the game against Lausanne, he had seven rebounds. There was also a recent overtime game with Louisville Western in which he had 26 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

  • sd chuck

    I was hoping for a 3-1 start through the first 4, the second 4 is brutal, hoping for 2-2, second 4, 3 away, 1 home. 3-1 is achievable in first 4 but certainly not a given. important game tonight!

  • ForeverIU

    Wow, good to know. Thanks. Especially that rebounding numbers tend to translate well into college-level.

  • Lance76

    Count me in as a believer for third place if they find a way to beat Sparty @ the Breslin Center. Every year there are 2-3 epic games in the Big Ten and this could be one. Bring the lunch pail, hard hat and lace them up!

  • N71

    Iowa’s win at Ohio State is nothing to sneeze at and Maryland going into East Lancing and beating MSU is impressive. Wisconsin is good but who have they beaten? Until they go into OSU, IU, or Maryland and get a win I wouldn’t position them as significantly better than Maryland, IU, or Iowa.

  • N71

    If we beat MSU tonight I might even say we’re #2 or #1. At this point I’d put Maryland ahead of Wisconsin until Wisconsin beats someone good…like Maryland, Iowa, or us.

  • Gregory Spera

    I agree that it is a small sample size so far, but I also think that I agree with these rankings on the point that, we are, right now, a better team than Michigan State. I thought we actually had more talent than them going into the season, and we are playing better as a team going into this game. Everybody thinks that Izzo will get his team on track sooner than later, but there is good reason to be optimistic about our chances tonight, IMHO.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Wisconsin has beaten Georgetown and Oklahoma (both in Atlantis)…I’m not suggesting those are great teams but it’s not like their 15 wins have come entirely against guarantee opponents. Plus, their only loss is to Duke. You can definitely argue Maryland vs. Wisconsin for #1 at this point but Wisconsin has beaten some pretty good squads and they’ve avoided any questionable losses and I think they are clearly ahead of everyone outside of Maryland at this point in the season.

  • Dekker, Hayes, Kaminski. Who is going to stop all 3 of them? They might drop a game or two, but they look awful good to me. Unfortunately, Duke is very strong this year, and would get all the attention were it not for Kuntecky. Wisconsin’s loss to Duke was disappointing, but they could just as well beat them if they play Duke again. I’d be surprised if Wisconsin doesn’t get a #1 bid in March. Too strong, too big, too much of a complete and mature team to lose many more games this year.

  • IUMIKE1

    Totally agree.

  • Realityvill-an

    maybe there isn’t as large of a gap between Wiscy and the rest of the league but make no mistake that Wiscy is the best team..then Maryland..then who knows. the “eye test” will tell you this if you watch them play. iu has played well as of late and I hope they keep it up but I really think its going to be an up and down year. not trying to be negative but realistic. i’d say we’re looking at 5th give or take a spot. I don’t see us finishing ahead of wisc, mary, iowa or osu.

  • Arch Puddington

    I don’t know enough about the rest of the conference to know where to project us, but I will say this: a team with the #200 ranked defense in the country is unlikely to finish third, even in a down year.

    I think we will know much more after tonight. No single game is definitive, but if our perimeter defense can hold up against a good back court on the road, we will really be on to something. Third would not seem like such a stretch. But if it gives up as much penetration and as many points as it has against other teams — including Nebraska, whose best two players combined to score 43 points even without much of an interior threat to balance them out — we’ll know we have some more work to do. I’m almost more interested in that than I am in the win or loss.

  • millzy32

    Recker more like Fischer. Came saw, left.

  • I think that’s a pretty fair assessment, overall. I’m optimistic with IU at a 3rd-place finish…basically being a booster, trying to help envision the potential, doing my part in what can amount to a self-fulfilling prophecy, if this team is up to it.

    That being said, a 5th place finish is still pretty good; very few would have expected IU to finish 5th in the conference at the beginning of this season. But if we’re good enough for that right now, then why not shoot for the top. If they keep improving, keep playing hard and with heart, and win big games like tonight, and get a few breaks (like two wins over Maryland and they drop a couple more on their own), IU has a shot at the top.

    If you will it, it is no dream! I’m keeping my high optimism until the end.

  • millzy32

    Tonight’s game is huge. Coming off the Nebraska road victory it’s all smiles and happy predictions. If we win tonight then the Happy train can keep on rolling down the tracks and we probably do finish in the top 3 or 4 in the conference. If we lose close tonight maybe the same thing happens but if we lose and get beat pretty decisively then everyone will think the wheels are falling off.
    This team is very “fun to watch” as everyone is saying. Everyone loves the dunks and long balls but their fundamentals (including rebounding) are still very much in question. Yes, they have been rebounding better but no it’s not because of better position and boxing out it’s because they have been luckier with grabbing the balls that are batted by our inside guys. This has become the main technique of our big men (batting at the ball trying to tap it in our direction of the court).
    This team can beat anybody and get beaten by anybody because of the potential swings with all the 3 balls and wildly fast play.
    Tonight’s prediction is we win a close one or get blown out by 12-15. Percentage guess is 50-50 at this point or maybe I’ll go 60-40 in our favor since MSU has been struggling mightily as of late.

  • pbhuff

    I think MSU will move up, but not UM. I really don’t think they’re that good a team. They are basically IU, but less than half than half the scoring threats.

  • calbert40

    Completely agree. Right now, yes, we are playing better than MSU. However, there is a reason why KenPom has us as a heavy underdog tonight. Winning at Breslin would be a HUGE victory for this team despite the fact we are playing better than them currently.

    Rankings are fun, but they are merely snapshots in time that really don’t matter going forward. Some seem to get too wrapped up in them. I just thought I’d be a punk and throw cold water on everyone’s optimism…you know…just in case the #9 team in the B1G holds homecourt over the #3 team tonight! 🙂

  • that settles it, no more recruiting Lukes.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I’m still rooting for you being able to say “I TOLD YOU SO!”

  • SCHoosier

    WIS has a veteran team. Their pre-conference schedule was planned to build wins and keep people rotating and healthy. All their effort I believe is focused on winning the conference and being a big force in the Dance…. both of which they should do. Can they fall asleep with a bad shooting night and lose a game on the road in the B-10. Sure. Can MD beat them at home or away. Maybe. WIS is still the class of the league by far IMO.

  • PBzeer

    If we’re legit, we’ll go into Madison at 7-2. At 6-3, we’re still in the conversation. Second half of the B1G is favorable for us, with MN, Iowa, and MI all home games, and 2 of 4 road games very winnable. Gotta protect home court though.

    Simply put, the tougher our defense, the tougher we’ll be to beat. I’d like to think that’s the focus of the coaching staff at this point, because that’s going to determine how far we go.

  • ForeverIU

    I was looking at the kenpom adjusted defense scores and rankings. There is no doubt that defense should be a major area of concern for us, but the rank of #200 is not as bad as the ranking numbers might suggest. If you look at AdjD scores (not rank), you’ll see, for example, that the difference in scores between the #1 and #100 teams is 15.9 points, while the difference in scores for teams #101 and #200 is 4 points. Interpret this as you like, my point being that we should be looking at our score rather than our ranking. Again, I’m not making the argument that our defense is not bad, but that we are much closer to team #100, for example, than our ranking might suggest. So I think it is reasonable to expect us to become an adequately average defensive team in a relatively short time (at least shorter than our present ranking might suggest).

  • ForeverIU

    Lol, I’m just happy not to be burned at the stake!

  • IULore

    Latest bracketology has IU first four OUT. Let’s prove them wrong and win this thing!

  • Speed

    #9 just demolished #3

  • dwdkc

    oops. Looks like we need to revise #9 and #3. Of course this isn’t the last time something like this will happen throughout the conference, but a little too much was put into the first couple of B1G games.