Big Ten Power Rankings: 1/27

Story posted January 27, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeff Jezewski

1.     Michigan (15-4, 7-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Iowa 75-67, (W) @ Michigan State 80-75

This Week: Purdue (13-7, 3-4), @ Indiana (13-7, 3-4)

Michigan leaps to the top spot in the rankings, after picking up two outstanding wins against Iowa and Michigan State. The Wolverines are on a nine-game winning streak, all after the loss of sophomore center Mitch McGary. After four non-conference losses, Michigan has had a flawless start to Big Ten play. Much of their success can be attributed to the outstanding play of sophomore guard, Nik Stauskas. Stauskas averaged 22.5 points per game in the Wolverines big wins last week.

Players like sophomore, Caris LeVert, and freshman, Derrick Walton Jr, have continued to develop and give Michigan solid contributions. While no week in the Big Ten is an easy one, Michigan gets a little bit of a break, facing Purdue and Indiana. The Wolverines are the lone undefeated team in Big Ten play. If they continue to avoid bad losses, there is no reason to believe this team can’t win the conference.

2.     Michigan State (18-2, 7-1 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Indiana 71-66, (L) Michigan 80-75

This Week: @ Iowa (16-4, 5-2) Georgetown (11-8, 3-5 Big East)

While Michigan State may still be the best team in the Big Ten, Michigan deserves the top spot. The Spartans loss to Michigan, at home, was a big blow, but they played without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. When fully healthy, Michigan State is a National Title contender, but they have had problems staying healthy. Sophomore guard, Gary Harris, displayed one his best performances of the season against Michigan, but the lack of frontcourt production hindered the Spartans.

Michigan State has a huge road game against Iowa this week, before heading to Madison Square Garden for a rare non-conference game this late in the season. If the Spartans can take down Iowa, on the road, they will remain a strong favorite to bring home the Big Ten title. The contest against Georgetown, while essentially meaningless, will be a nice change of pace game for Michigan State.

3. Iowa (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Michigan 75-67, (W) @ Northwestern 76-50

This Week: Michigan State (18-2, 7-1) @ Illinois (13-8, 2-6)

Despite the loss to Michigan, Iowa is still in solid shape in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes dropped a tough contest to the Wolverines, but handled a pesky Northwestern team, on Saturday. Against the Wildcats, Iowa proved they have enough depth to win, without big performances from Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe, their second and fourth leading scorers. However, the Hawkeyes were halted against Michigan by a lack of three-point shooting. Iowa shot just 20 percent from three in the contest, more than 17 percent less than their season percentage.

When everything is clicking for the Hawkeyes, they can compete with anyone in the Big Ten. Maybe their biggest test to date will come on January 28th, against the Michigan State Spartans. A win over the Spartans would cement Iowa as a Big Ten title contender. After taking on Michigan State, Fran McCaffery’s squad will get a much easier contest, heading on the road to reeling Illinois.

4. Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Minnesota 81-68 @ Purdue 72-58

This Week: Northwestern (10-11, 3-5), Ohio State (16-4, 3-4)

The Badgers have a big week coming up, after ending their three-game losing streak against Purdue, on Saturday. After losing at Minnesota, the Badgers broke through against Purdue, 72-58. The game was an ugly one, as the Badgers scored just 13 baskets over the last 34 minutes. However, the win was huge for Wisconsin heading into a week in which they must capitalize.

On Wednesday, the Badgers will take on a Northwestern team that is finally learning how to play together. Northwestern has improved dramatically since the team’s first matchup, which Wisconsin won by 27. After the Wildcats, Ohio State heads into Madison, in a game that both teams need for their confidence. These two programs have hit a rough patch in the middle of their seasons and need a win to break out of their respective funks. While it is still early, Wisconsin can’t afford to drop many more contests, if they expect to contend for the Big Ten title.

5. Ohio State (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Nebraska 68-62 (W) Illinois 62-55

This Week: Penn State (10-10, 1-6), @ Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3)

Despite the bad loss against Nebraska, Ohio State remains at number five in the rankings, thanks to Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska. The Buckeyes finally ended their four-game skid against Illinois, on January 23rd. Leading scorer, LaQuinton Ross continued his strong performance against Illinois, dropping 18 points. Without Ross’ consistent performance, the Buckeyes would be in worse shape than they already are.

The key to Ohio State’s success, however, is Aaron Craft’s performance. During their losing streak, Craft turned the ball over 19 times in four games. Ohio State’s win was aided by Craft’s 11 points, to go along with six rebounds and five assists. This week, the Buckeyes welcome in the Penn State Nittany Lions on January 29th, before traveling to Madison, to take on Wisconsin. Ohio State hopes to turn their season around and get back to their winning ways.

6. Minnesota (15-6, 4-4 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Wisconsin 81-68 (L) @ Nebraska 82-78

This Week: Northwestern (10-11, 3-5)

After picking up a big time win against Wisconsin, the Golden Gophers dropped a contest to Nebraska. The loss to Nebraska is a tough one for the Gophers, who had a golden opportunity to move up the Big Ten table. Minnesota took down Wisconsin behind a surprise performance from reserve forward, Maurice Walker, who scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds. The defense faltered in the contest against Nebraska, letting the Huskers shoot 50 percent from the field. The Gophers failed to pick up the win, despite 29 points from Malik Smith.

After their up-and-down week, the Gophers have a light week, playing just once, on February 1st. In that contest, Minnesota will take on Northwestern, a team that has caused problems in the Big Ten recently. However, the Golden Gophers are at home and fully expect to pick up a victory over the Wildcats. As of right now, a tournament team, Minnesota has to become more consistent to be a threat in March.

7. Indiana (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Michigan State 71-66, Illinois 56-46

This Week: @ Nebraska (10-9, 2-5), Michigan (15-4, 7-0)

After battling Michigan State, in a game they led at the half, Indiana picked up a win over Illinois, 56-46, on Sunday. Indiana, along with much of the Big Ten, has been inconsistent at times. The Hoosiers, led by freshman sensation Noah Vonleh, have been an enigma of sorts, winning games they shouldn’t, but losing games to inferior teams. Vonleh, averaging nearly a double-double, and Yogi Ferrell, have the talent to take this team to March, but the rest of the team needs to provide some help.

The upcoming week is a big one for the Hoosiers. They take on a scrappy Nebraska team coming off an upset win over Minnesota, before returning home to take on the hottest team in the Big Ten, Michigan. If Indiana wants to return to the NCAA tournament, they must add another big win against a top Big Ten opponent. They have the perfect opportunity, February 2nd, in Assembly Hall, against Michigan.

8. Purdue (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Northwestern 63-60 (2OT) (L) Wisconsin 72-58

This Week: @ Michigan (15-4, 7-0), @ Penn State (10-10, 1-6)

Last week was a rough one for the Boilermakers, who dropped both of their contests after enjoying a three-game winning streak. The week started with a rough, double-overtime loss to Northwestern and finished with another loss, this time at the hands of Wisconsin. Center, A.J. Hammons, did his job against Northwestern, but became invisible against Wisconsin, scoring just two points and recording two rebounds.

Without Hammons performing consistently, Purdue won’t compete with the top half of the Big Ten. A very inconsistent team to this point, Purdue has a lot of work to do to become a tournament team. The schedule does no favors to Purdue, as they head to Michigan before continuing their road trip in State College. The Boilermakers take on an on-fire Michigan team and a scrappy Penn State team. Purdue needed last second heroics to defeat Penn State in their first matchup.

9. Illinois (13-8, 2-6 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Ohio State 62-55, (L) @ Indiana 56-46

This Week: Iowa (16-4, 5-2)

Despite their six-game losing streak, Illinois hasn’t been playing incredibly poorly. The Illini battled Ohio State and played well defensively against Indiana. Illinois has talent, but can’t seem to put a complete game together. Going through an incredibly tough stretch, Illinois will find themselves even deeper in the Big Ten standings if they don’t figure things out quickly. Rayvonte Rice is the key offensively for the Illini. For them to turn things around, he needs to put up gaudy numbers.

Continuing their daunting stretch, Illinois faces another ranked opponent, Iowa. The Illini will take on the Hawkeyes, their fourth top 20 opponent in less than a month. Once a threat to make the tournament, Illinois now hopes to avoid the cellar of the Big Ten. The Illini will look to pick up their first victory since January 4th, on Saturday.

10. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Purdue 63-60 (2OT) (L) Iowa 76-50

This Week: @ Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3), @ Minnesota (15-6, 4-4)

Northwestern continues to get better as the season goes along, under first year head coach Chris Collins. The Wildcats have gone 3-2 in Big Ten play since starting out 0-3. Northwestern is a young team that plays hard, but doesn’t quite have the talent to consistently win in conference play, yet. Collins has his team taking leaps in the right direction, already outperforming their preseason expectations.

After picking up a win against Purdue and playing well in the first half of the Iowa game, Northwestern heads into a very tough week. The Wildcats head on a road trip, traveling to Wisconsin and then Minnesota. Nothing comes easy in the Big Ten, and that will continue to be the case for Northwestern. The tough, resilient Wildcats have heart, but not enough talent to make serious noise in this tough conference.

11. Nebraska (10-9, 2-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Ohio State 68-62, (L) @ Penn State 58-54, (W) Minnesota 82-78

This Week: Indiana (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten)

What a confusing week it was for the Cornhuskers, earning gigantic wins over Ohio State and Minnesota, but losing to Big Ten bottom dweller, Penn State. Regardless, it was a big week for Tim Miles’ program, one that could change the trajectory of Nebraska’s season. Terran Pettaway, a transfer from Texas Tech, has been a do-it-all star for the Cornhuskers this season. Pettaway scored 35 points to lead the Huskers over Minnesota. With a little more help offensively, Nebraska can become a consistent threat to knock off teams in the Big Ten.

After getting over the hump and picking up two conference wins, the Huskers will look to keep things rolling in the right direction. By no means is Nebraska ready to make moves towards the top of the Big Ten, but they’re moving in the right direction. After three games last week, the Cornhuskers get a break with only one game, taking on Indiana in Assembly Hall, on January 30th.

12. Penn State (10-10, 1-6 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Nebraska 58-54

This Week: @ Ohio State (16-4, 3-4), Purdue (13-7, 3-4)

Penn State stays at the bottom of the rankings, even with their victory over Nebraska. Nebraska’s wins over Ohio State and Minnesota keep them ahead of the Nittany Lions, for now. However, the Lions took a step in the right direction, earning their first Big Ten win. The key cogs, Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, led the way against the Cornhuskers and are the key moving forward. Penn State has the talent to win games in the Big Ten, but they lack depth and the ability to close out ball games.

The Nittany Lions got a sense of relief, finally hanging on to win a Big Ten game, but it won’t get any easier for Penn State. Pat Chambers’ squad will have to play much better if they expect to upset Ohio State. After traveling to Columbus, the Lions return home to take on Purdue for the second time this season. Penn State blew a late lead in the first matchup with the Boilermakers. For the Nittany Lions to avoid the cellar, they must figure out how to close out games.

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu.