Big Ten Power Rankings: December 27

  • 12/27/2023 9:08 am in

With one-third of the regular season complete, it’s time to update our Big Ten power rankings.

Here’s how the league currently stands ahead of conference play resuming next week:

14. Penn State (6-6, 1-1 Big Ten)

The lowest-ranked Big Ten in KenPom, there’s little on the Penn State resume outside of a home win against Ohio State on Dec. 9. The Nittany Lions lost at home to Bucknell in early December but have been competitive in most of their games. The guard combo of Kanye Cleary and Ace Baldwin will be enough to give Big Ten opponents problems, particularly at the Bryce Jordan Center.

13. Minnesota (9-3, 1-1)

Ben Johnson wisely scheduled lightly in the non-conference and the Golden Gophers are 8-2 in those games. Minnesota’s best win came at home against Nebraska, but the rest of its resume is full of victories against teams ranked 250th or lower on KenPom. Minnesota desperately needs Dawson Garcia, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, back in the lineup.

12. Rutgers (7-4, 0-1)

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Scarlet Knights have taken a step back. Rutgers lost Paul Mulcahy, Caleb McConnell and Cam Spencer and is relying on young players like Derek Simpson, Jamichael Davis and Gavin Griffiths to fill the void. Rutgers ranks in the top 15 in the country defensively, but is 260th in 3-point shooting, 290th in 2-point shooting and 329th in free throw shooting.

11. Iowa (7-5, 0-2)

Fran McCaffery’s club has a top 20 offense nationally, according to KenPom, but has lost by eight or more points to five of the six top 100 teams it has played this season. Some of the losses have been ugly. The Hawkeyes lost by 19 at Purdue and by 25 at Iowa State. Iowa will be tough at home, but this doesn’t look like an NCAA tournament team.

10. Michigan (6-6, 1-1)

The outlook for Michigan would be much better had the Wolverines taken care of business in some of their close games. Outside of a 16-point blowout loss to Texas Tech in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Michigan has been in every game but has struggled to finish. The Wolverines have a pair of overtime losses, a 3-point home loss to Indiana and a head-scratching eight-point home loss to Long Beach State. Juwan Howard is now back on the sidelines full-time, but Michigan has a lot of work to do to get back into the NCAA tournament conversation.

9. Maryland (8-4, 1-1)

There’s no getting around this fact: Maryland is the Big Ten’s most disappointing team so far. The Terps were expected to be in the tier of teams just below Purdue in the standings, but a disastrous 1-3 start that included losses to Davidson and UAB saw Maryland’s computer numbers tumble quickly. The Terps have won seven of eight since, but Maryland’s shooting woes haven’t been fixed. The Terps are 336th in 3-point shooting percentage and have the nation’s 141st-best offense.

8. Indiana (9-3, 2-0)

The Hoosiers have been in a ton of close games against inferior competition and the computer numbers have suffered as a result. Blowout losses to UConn and Auburn didn’t help, either. Kel’el Ware has been one of the best transfers in the Big Ten, but the absence of Xavier Johnson and shaky guard play have Hoosier fans worried about what’s to come when league play resumes.

7. Michigan State (7-5, 0-2)

Tom Izzo scheduled with a deep NCAA tournament run in mind, but it is taking time for this Michigan State team to figure things out. The Spartans have been better lately, with a 24-point waxing of Baylor in Detroit and then two easy wins against Oakland and Stony Brook. But things don’t get any easier as Indiana State comes to East Lansing on Saturday before Big Ten play resumes next week.

6. Nebraska (10-2, 1-1)

It’s year five of the Fred Hoiberg era in Lincoln and the Huskers finally look ready to break through. Nebraska takes care of the ball, doesn’t foul and hits the offensive glass hard. It also has one of the 30 best 2-point field goal defenses in the country through 12 games. The Huskers are balanced offensively with four players – Juwan Gary, Brice Williams, Keisei Tominaga and Rienk Mast – averaging between 14.2 and 13 points per game.

5. Northwestern (9-2, 1-0)

Northwestern has the Big Ten’s best win and also its worst loss. The Wildcats knocked off No. 1 Purdue in overtime at Welsh Ryan Arena on Dec. 1 but then lost to Division I bottom-feeder Chicago State in the same building just 12 days later. Chris Collins plays a tight rotation led by Boo Buie, Brooks Barnhizer, Ty Berry, and Ryan Langborg, who transferred in from Princeton. The Wildcats should be in the mix for another NCAA tournament berth come March.

4. Wisconsin (9-3, 1-0)

Greg Gard and the Badgers have navigated a tough schedule to a 9-3 record and a top 15 ranking in KenPom as of Wednesday morning. Wisconsin has wins against Virginia, SMU, Marquette and Michigan State. All three of its losses – Tennessee, Providence and Arizona – have come by double figures. The Badgers are one of the Big Ten’s most experienced teams, and the addition of AJ Storr gives Gard a dynamic wing-scoring option that was lacking a season ago.

3. Ohio State (10-2, 1-1)

There was pressure on Chris Holtmann to win entering the season, but Buckeye fans should be pleased with Ohio State’s 10-2 start. Bruce Thornton has developed into one of the Big Ten’s best guards and fellow sophomore Roddy Gayle Jr. has also been excellent in year two. The Buckeyes shoot it well, defend and are deep at every position. While there are few NCAA tournament locks this season in the conference, go ahead and pencil in Ohio State for a spot.

2. Illinois (9-2, 1-0)

Terrence Shannon Jr. has been one of the top five players in the country this season and has carried the Fighting Illini to a 9-2 start. Illinois crushed Rutgers on the road in its only Big Ten game thus far and beat Missouri by 24 last Friday in a rivalry game. Illinois is an elite defensive team and its opponents are shooting just 41.2 percent on 2s, the 4th lowest mark in the country.

1. Purdue (11-1, 1-1)

As expected, Purdue is the class of the Big Ten and the league’s best chance to end a national championship drought of more than 23 years. Zach Edey is the national player of the year frontrunner again, but it’s the play of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer that has elevated the Boilermakers. Smith has blossomed into one of the league’s best guards and Loyer has connected on 22 3-pointers and is shooting close to 39 percent. This team, however, will ultimately be judged by what it does in March. Fair or not, anything less than a deep NCAA tournament run will be considered a failure.

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