14. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-5)
No one on our side of The Champaign Room table was shocked by the 0-3 performance (Gonzaga, Iowa State, Xavier) in Maui. That was a tough slate. Illinois was a 3-point buzzer beater away from beating Notre Dame, but really that game was lost midway through the second half when scoring drought after scoring drought upended the Illini.
The Illini are the only Big Ten team with a losing record. That’s why they’re last in our Power Rankings.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2)
Losses to Bradley and DePaul are embarrassing. Wins over North Florida, Jacksonville State and Wright State are not impressive.
The Nittany Lions hung tough with an excellent Virginia Tech team and beat them for a solid win against a ranked opponent in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Still, Penn State lost to Bradley?? A bubble team last year, this group will desperately miss the consistent scoring and heroics of Tony Carr, who is now playing international ball in Italy.
12. Northwestern Wildcats (6-1)
Northwestern has had the easiest schedule to start the season of any Big Ten team. Beating Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was impressive, but Georgia Tech does not figure to be particularly good in the ACC.
A 19-point loss to Fresno State looks bad and will continue to haunt these Wildcats, even if NU can string together a few wins in a row once Big Ten play begins in earnest.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-1)
The 18-point loss to a Texas Tech team that lost a bunch of players from last year’s really good squad was bad at a neutral site in Kansas City.
Nebraska can hang its hats on beating Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and beating Seton Hall, a team that has reached the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons. James Palmer Jr. is a big-time, clutch scorer and combined with Glynn Watson, the Cornhuskers have one of the best backcourts in the conference.
10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-1)
The win on Wednesday night at Miami was big for the perception of this Rutgers program. None of Rutgers’ other four wins were against anyone good (Fairleigh Dickinson, Drexel, Eastern Michigan, Boston University) so beating the Hurricanes was a big deal moving forward.
That home loss to the St. John’s Red Storm sticks out and could somewhat hurt Rutgers long term. Why? St. John’s and Rutgers go toe-to-toe in recruiting New York for homegrown talent. The schedule gets a lot harder from here for Steve Pikiell’s squad.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-1)
The Golden Gophers lost handily to Boston College by 12 points and were never really in the game. On the bright side for the Minnesota faithful, the Gophers beat three legitimate opponents in Utah, Washington and Texas A&M.
Gabe Kalscheur is a clutch shot maker and per usual, these Gophers have lots of size to at least hang and bang with the Michigan States and Ohio States of the world.
8. Indiana Hoosiers (5-2)
Indiana is still figuring things out with a ball-dominant scorer in true freshman Romeo Langford. The two losses weren’t bad at all. There’s no shame in losing to a Duke team with the two best players in the country in Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. There’s no shame in a one-point loss to an underrated Arkansas Razorbacks team in a true road game.
The Hoosiers blasted Marquette (aka the Tom Crean bowl) by 23 points a couple of weeks ago. Indiana is as dangerous as any team ranked ahead of them in this power rankings — it’s just a matter of putting it all together on a consistent basis.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1)
Ohio State looks the part with tremendous size and length throughout its entire roster. A big win to start the season at Cincinnati was huge for the direction of this program, and beating Creighton will definitely look good come the end of February.
Ohio State’s lone loss came at home to Syracuse on Wednesday. Down most of the game, the Buckeyes launched a furious rally, but came up short against Jim Boeheim’s squad led by arguably the best rim-protector in the country in Paschal Chukwu.
6. Maryland Terrapins (6-1)
Maryland is loaded with talent, and a bunch of freshmen talent led by elite forward Jalen Smith. The Terps have played an easy, cupcake-filled schedule except for their one loss to top-5 team Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Gone is combo forward Kevin Huerter (Atlanta Hawks), but top-to-bottom this is the most talented group Mark Turgeon’s coached at Maryland. With only two seniors on the roster, there will be ups and downs during the 2018-19 campaign.
5. Purdue Boilermakers (5-2)
Both of Purdue’s losses (Florida State, Virginia Tech) were to ACC teams away from home. Led by the best player in the Big Ten in Carsen Edwards (25.1 ppg), Purdue has not beaten a quality opponent thus far unless you count Davidson — a team the Boilermakers beat by 21.
Purdue’s next four games are: at Michigan, vs. Maryland, at Texas and vs. Notre Dame. If Purdue wins two or three of those four, they’ll be in great shape and right where they want to be.
4. Michigan State Spartans (5-2)
When players come to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, they know a brutal non-conference schedule to start the season is the norm. A close loss to No. 1 Kansas is nothing to hang hats on, and that’s an experience that will benefit Sparty in the long run.
The loss to Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was another nail-biter. Michigan State typically plays its best basketball when it matters most towards the end of the season, and this roster is extremely deep, talented and well-equipped to handle adversity.
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0)
Raise your hand if you thought Iowa would get off to such a hot start. True, they barely beat a winless-conference team from a year ago in Pittsburgh in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but a 19-point win versus UConn and a 9-point win versus an Oregon squad loaded with future NBA players is noteworthy.
Iowa plays ranked foes Wisconsin at home then travels to East Lansing to play Michigan State in the next week. We should find out how legit Iowa is real fast.
2. Wisconsin Badgers (6-1)
Next to Michigan, Wisconsin has had the toughest schedule to start the season. Aside from a 7-point loss to top-5 opponent Virginia, Wisconsin’s looked dominant beating quality teams in NC State, Oklahoma, Stanford and Xavier in a true road game.
The Badgers were woefully bad last season. Silent assassin Greg Gard is out for vengeance, and he coaches his team hard.
1. Michigan Wolverines (7-0)
John Beilein is the best basketball coach in the country, and this 2018-19 team is his best defensive unit he’s had since arriving in Ann Arbor 11 years ago.
The Wolverines beat UNC by 17. They beat Providence by 19. They steamrolled Villanova by 27. Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten as November turns to December.
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