Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

  • 01/17/2011 6:58 pm in

And we’re back for another week, with another installment of Inside the Hall’s weekly Big Ten power rankings. It took us a full 21 days to reach our first notable milestone, but we have: For the first time, Alex, Ryan and Zach all turned in identical ballots.

Indiana is moving up, Michigan and Illinois each took a slide and Purdue reclaimed the No. 2 spot on the ballot by the skin of its teeth, after successive road losses. Perhaps most impressive is Penn State, which has beaten Michigan State and Illinois, and Saturday took Ohio State all the way to the brink at Value City Arena.

And away we go …

Inside the Hall Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

11. Iowa – NR; 7-10, 0-5; 33 total points

It’s getting bleaker by the moment in Iowa City, as more and more teams grab at least one nice Big Ten win, and supposed bottom feeders like Penn State leave Fran McCaffrey’s group behind. The Hawkeyes have a road date with Ohio State on Wednesday, but it’s Sunday they might be thinking about, when Indiana comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Lose then, and it’s tough sledding if Iowa wants to win one in the Big Ten all year.

10. Michigan – NR; 11-7, 1-4; 30 total points

Ooof. It’s hard to pick out the worst thing about Michigan’s rather comprehensive loss to Indiana on Saturday, the elimination of Zach Novak from the offense, the porous defense or the notion that Darius Morris felt devoid of impact until late in the game. Michigan has some impressive losses this year — Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State. Last Saturday was not one of them.

9. Indiana – NR; 10-8,  1-4; 27 total points

A 19-point win over Michigan isn’t the most earth-shattering result in the world — unless it’s an emphatic end to a dispiriting six-game losing streak. The win was Indiana’s first in conference this season, it was strong in nearly every facet and it was Tom Crean’s largest Big Ten win, in terms of point total, in his IU career. Play like that against any other Big Ten opponent, and the Hoosiers will almost certainly be, at very least, competitive.

8. Northwestern – NR; 11-5, 2-4; 24 points

When is it going to happen for Northwestern, a team that is now 2-0 against teams further down the Big Ten standings and 0-4 against teams better placed? The Wildcats have brought Michigan State down to the wire twice, and twice come away empty. They played well against Purdue, but lost. Oh, and John Shurna, Northwestern’s leading scorer: 40 points in the two aforementioned wins and 35 in those four losses.

7. Minnesota – No. 15 AP/No. 19 Coaches; 14-4, 3-3; 21 total points

The polls continue to love Minnesota just a little bit more than Inside the Hall. The Gophers are, if nothing else, building a resume that won’t require a whirlwind Big Ten Tournament to go dancing. Next step? Win some conference road games. An excellent opportunity presents itself Saturday with a trip to Ann Arbor to play a reeling Michigan squad.

6. Penn State – Receiving — no joke — one AP vote/NR; 10-7, 3-3; 18 total points

Forget the non-conference for a second, and look at the Nittany Lions’ body of work in the Big Ten. Or better yet, just consider the following: Penn State is a three-point loss away from being fourth in the Big Ten standings a third of the way into the season. But you don’t break the top five just by looking good when you also lost to Maine at home.

5. Illinois – No. 23 AP (tie)/No. 22 Coaches; 13-5, 3-2; 15 total points

Down three spots from last week, Illinois is also responsible for Penn State’s three-spot jump in our latest rankings. The Illini always seem to do this, don’t they, where they pull you in and then drop a game they have no business losing? Fifteen turnovers and a minus-6 rebound margin will do that to you. Penn State fans rushed the court when the Illini went down in State College — all 74 of them.

4. Wisconsin – No. 18 AP/No. 17 Coaches; 12-3, 2-1; 12 total points

Ah, Wisconsin, our weekly No. 4. It’s worth noting that the Badgers have two Big Ten losses to teams ranked in the Top 25, and those losses came by a combined 11 points. It’s also worth noting that this team isn’t mind-blowing statistically, and incredibly top heavy in offensive production. Three of its players produce nearly 65 percent of its points.

3. Michigan State – No. 17 AP/No. 18 Coaches; 12-5, 4-1; 9 total points

Have the Spartans stabilized a bit after a tough non-conference slate? We’ll know better after this week, when they play Illinois and Purdue, both on the road. After that, it’s three games against the three teams at the bottom of this poll. It’s easy to see the Spartans at seven wins halfway through the Big Ten slate. Given that they lost to Penn State, and that those first two are on the road, it’s also easy to see them at five or six.

2.  Purdue – No. 14 AP/No. 13 Coaches; 15-3, 4-1; 6 total points

Consider the Boilermakers the poll’s most resilient team, given that they moved up a notch following consecutive road losses. Dropping a game at the Barn to Minnesota isn’t so bad. Following that with a tight loss in Morgantown in an oddly scheduled non-conference game with West Virginia doesn’t help, but it’s still not the end of the world. But seven of Purdue’s next eight are against teams currently ranked in the Top 25, so it’s not going to get any easier.

1. Ohio State – Consensus No. 1; 18-0, 5-0; 3 total points

The Big Ten head honchos can breathe a mite easier after their presumptive No. 1 overall snuck by Penn State last Saturday. Duke’s loss to Florida State opened the door, and Ohio State nearly slammed it closed, catching its fingers in the jam in the process. It’s hard to deny just how deep and talented this team is, but the Buckeyes don’t go quite so deep as you’d like a national title contender to. Having such a productive back-up point guard in Aaron Craft is a tremendous help.

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