Big Ten Power Rankings: February 2

  • 02/02/2015 11:35 am in

The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back for another week, and with it comes plenty of movement at the halfway point of conference action.

Here’s a look at where each team stands following the fifth week of play in 2015: 

14. Northwestern (10-11, 1-7, PPP: 1.01, PPP Allowed: 1.10) (Last week: 13) … It’s been more than a month since the Wildcats have won a game. Their lone game this past week was on Saturday at home against Purdue, and even then the largest lead they had the entire game was just three points. Midway through the second half, the Boilermakers had the win in the bag. Efficiency wise, the Wildcats rank in the bottom half in both offense and defense — but neither ranks last in the league. They simply haven’t been able to find ways to win. (Next up: Feb. 3 at Nebraska; Feb. 7 at Wisconsin)

13. Rutgers (10-13, 2-8, PPP: .91, PPP Allowed: 1.04) (Last week: 12) Just as a reminder, three weeks ago the Scarlet Knights beat Wisconsin in Piscataway. Because since then, they haven’t shown much. The Scarlet Knights now find themselves on a six-game losing streak after Saturday’s loss at Indiana — as even the Big Ten’s worst offense couldn’t get enough production against the league’s second-worst defense. Their remaining schedule isn’t easy, either — their remaining opponents are a combined 44-28 in league play thus far. (Next up: Feb. 3 at Illinois; Feb. 8 vs. Ohio State)

12. Penn State (14-8, 2-7, PPP: 1.01, PPP Allowed: 1.04) (Last week: 14) The Nittany Lions were competitive in both their games this past week — nearly even knocking off Illinois in Champaign on Saturday before the Fighting Illini squeaked out a win late. They did, however, hold off Minnesota on Wednesday for their second Big Ten win thus far this season — and in an even effort, as well. D.J. Newbill, their leading scorer that game, had just 12 points while six others had at least six points in the win. They might not be winning much, but the Nittany Lions are, at least, finding consistency in performances. (Next up: Feb. 4 at Maryland; Feb. 7 at Nebraska)

11. Nebraska (12-9, 4-5, PPP: .93, PPP Allowed: .99) (Last week: 9) It appeared the Cornhuskers might have turned a corner after they had won four of five heading into this past Tuesday’s game at Michigan. That might have been premature. Against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, they had their worst offensive performance in a Big Ten game in nearly two years — coming up with just .77 points per possession. It got worse. At Minnesota on Saturday, the Cornhuskers turned in their worst offensive performance since Jan. 2, 2013 — coming up with just .70 PPP against the Golden Gophers while turning the ball over on a whopping 33.2 percent of their possessions. What was a season of high hopes for the Cornhuskers is now quickly slipping away. (Next up: Feb. 3 vs. Northwestern; Feb. 7 at Penn State)

10. Minnesota (14-9, 3-7, PPP: 1.01, PPP Allowed: 1.01) (Last week: 11) Speaking of consistency, that is one thing the Golden Gophers have yet to find much of this Big Ten season. Despite being one of only five Big Ten teams with a positive efficiency margin, they have alternated wins and losses since January 13 and still have yet to win on the road in league play. And after losing on the road to Penn State on Wednesday, they came back with an 18-point win against Nebraska in Minneapolis on Saturday. In fact, Saturday’s win was their best defensive performance against a Big Ten foe since its 69-42 win over Purdue on March 13, 2010. Unfortunately for the Gophers, though, not all games are played in “The Barn,” and not all opponents are the Cornhuskers. (Next up: Feb. 7 vs. Purdue)

9. Illinois (14-8, 4-5, PPP: .99, PPP Allowed: 1.03) (Last week: 10) There was just one game to judge the Fighting Illini on this past week — and they nearly blew it against Penn State in Champaign. Actually, it was a Nittany Lions offensive foul and Malcolm Hill layup in the waning seconds that saved the Fighting Illini from a 3-6 start in conference play. But since starting Aaron Cosby has been sidelined from his retinal tear suffered against Indiana, Hill has stepped up much like Kendrick Nunn did when Rayvonte Rice went down. In the Illini’s three games since Cosby’s injury, Hill is averaging 21 points per game. Prior to that, he had been averaging just 13.6 points per game. And in Saturday’s win, he scored 27 against the Nittany Lions. (Next up: Feb. 3 vs. Rutgers; Feb. 7 at Michigan State)

8. Iowa (13-8, 4-4, PPP: 1.10, PPP Allowed: 1.18) (Last week: 5) They had two tough results on the road last week, but back in Iowa City the Hawkeyes didn’t do themselves many favors in front of a stripe-out crowd at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Saturday against Wisconsin. They allowed 1.52 points per possession to the Badgers just 11 days earlier — and there was improvement on Saturday. This time, they allowed 1.30 points per possession. The Hawkeyes have the Big Ten’s worst defense right now by a significant margin. And despite being one of the five tallest teams in the nation, they are the worst in the league in holding opponents off the glass (64.0 defensive rebound percentage). On the bright side for the Hawkeyes: At least they won’t have to deal with the Badgers for a while. (Next up: Feb. 5 at Michigan; Feb. 8 vs. Maryland)

7. Michigan (13-9, 6-4, PPP: .99, PPP Allowed: .99) (Last week: 8) As if the injuries weren’t bad enough for the Wolverines already, things got worse when Derrick Walton was declared out this past week with no return in sight. But John Beilein continues to do a remarkable job coaching the young Wolverines — as they handled Nebraska on Tuesday and pushed Michigan State to the brink in the Breslin Center on Sunday with three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior in the starting lineup and several walk-ons playing in the first half. The offense comes in spurts but the defense has stayed firm. An example: Just .77 points per possession allowed against Nebraska. But against the Spartans in East Lansing, in overtime the Wolverines failed to score a single point. No defensive effort can overcome that. (Next up: Feb. 5 vs. Iowa; Feb. 8 at Indiana)

6. Indiana (16-6, 6-3, PPP: 1.10, PPP Allowed: 1.11) (Last week: 3) If there’s one thing that’s clear about the Hoosiers game in and game out — it’s that defense is not their strength. Against Purdue on Wednesday, the Hoosiers allowed a whopping 71.9 2-point field goal percentage in an 82-70 loss. They got back to their winning ways against Rutgers on Saturday in Assembly Hall, but they still allowed more than a point per possession to the league’s worst offense. The margin is slim between spots No. 6 and No. 2 in the power rankings — but the Hoosiers’ defense ranks second-worst in the conference. That’s a lot of pressure for an offense that hasn’t been playing perfect lately, either. (Next up: Feb. 3 at Wisconsin; Feb. 8 vs. Michigan)

5. Purdue (14-8, 6-3, PPP: 1.06, PPP Allowed: 1.01) (Last week: 7) … When the Boilermakers play to their strengths, they are one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Their biggest strength? Getting to the basket. Against Indiana and Northwestern this past week the Boilermakers did just that, as in each game more than 85.5 percent of their points either came on 2s or at the free throw line. They know where to get their production from — whether it be dishing it to 7-footers A.J. Hammons or Isaac Haas or allowing their guards to drive and score. And when it opens up the 3, so be it. But the Boilermakers’ bread and butter is in the paint this season — and they have embraced that. They have a three-game win streak as proof. (Next up: Feb. 4 vs. Ohio State; Feb. 7 at Minnesota)

4. Michigan State (15-7, 6-3, PPP: 1.07, PPP Allowed: .97) (Last week: 6) … The Spartans’ week was thrown off by the blizzard in the Northeast, as Tuesday’s game against Rutgers was rescheduled for Thursday. That led to a short turnaround for Sunday’s game against rival Michigan, too. But the Spartans were unfazed in Piscataway in a 71-51 blowout of the Scarlet Knights and fought their way to an overtime win over the Wolverines in which they didn’t allow a point in overtime. The defense is not completely consistent yet (see: losses at Nebraska and Maryland), but when the Spartans hold opponents to under a point per possession in conference play, they are 5-1. That’s something Tom Izzo’s squad can build on. (Next up: Feb. 7 vs. Illinois)

3. Maryland (18-4, 6-3, PPP: 1.00, PPP Allowed: 1.01) (Last week: 2) Ever since their 89-70 loss at Indiana, the Terrapins have not looked the same. They needed a miraculous comeback to beat Northwestern in College Park. And against Ohio State on Tuesday, the Terps looked worse than they did against the Hoosiers. They never led against the Buckeyes and eventually lost by 24, putting in their worst offensive performance since their first Big Ten game at Michigan State and allowing 1.22 points per possession to the surging Buckeyes. That said, the Terps are still in strong position at 14 games above .500 and tied for second in the conference, so it’s not all doom-and-gloom. (Next up: Feb. 4 vs Penn State; Feb. 8 at Iowa)

2. Ohio State (17-5, 6-3, PPP: 1.13, PPP Allowed: 1.03) (Last week: 4) The Buckeyes’ surge continued this week with their 80-56 drubbing of Maryland in Columbus, and D’Angelo Russell once again stole headlines with his 18 point, 14 rebound and six assist effort against the Terps. But another freshman has been a large part of their two strong performances recently — undersized forward Jae’Sean Tate, who scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Maryland and scored 20 against Indiana. The Buckeyes blend youth with experience, but it continues to mesh. And they find themselves back in the conference race after a 3-3 start. (Next up: Feb. 4 at Purdue; Feb. 8 at Rutgers) 

1. Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1, PPP: 1.27, PPP Allowed: 1.04) (Last week: 1)  It’s likely no team will catch the Badgers in the Big Ten title race, who continue to win comfortably after the embarrassment of a loss at Rutgers on January 11. They now have a two-game lead in the standing following Saturday’s business-like win at Iowa. The Badgers never really gave the Hawkeyes a chance —  a truly impressive performance in a fired-up arena against a team it had beat by 32 points just 11 days earlier. (Next up: Feb. 3 vs. Indiana; Feb. 7 vs. Northwestern)

(Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images North America)

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