Here’s another new feature: Big Ten Power Rankings. At the beginning of each week, we’re going to be making a list ranking the Big Ten basketball teams based on how the teams stack up and taking into account the kind of week each team had. The rankings will change week-to-week based on each teams’ success, or lack thereof, during the previous week. It’s also a good way to stay caught up with all the happenings in the conference to see who’s looking good and who’s struggling.
1) Illinois (8-1) This was a really solid week for the Illini. They started things off on Tuesday with a convincing 79-67 win at home against a talented (though certainly searching) North Carolina squad, contributing to the second straight Big Ten victory in the Challenge. Illinois got balanced scoring, including 20 points from Mike Davis, allowing Demetri McCamey to dish out eight assists. Even though North Carolina doesn’t look good right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that win grow in value as the season goes on and the young Tar Heels improve. Illinois followed that up with a good 73-61 win on the road against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are having a down year and the Illini beat them soundly, but it’s always tough to play there and it’s certainly a quality road win.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Oakland, 12/12 vs. Northern Colorado, 12/18 vs. UIC
2) Ohio State (6-0) Ohio State went into Tallahassee and beat a very dangerous but offensively inept Florida State team 58-44 as part of the Challenge. It was a defensive struggle, but the Buckeyes had a lot of different players step up in the win. Also, Florida State’s only two losses this season are to Ohio State and Florida, so that could be a very valuable win down the road. Ohio State didn’t play on Saturday and Florida State was overmatched, but a road win is a road win and the Buckeyes deserve some credit as they mow down their nonconference schedule.
Next three: 12/9 vs. IUPUI, 12/12 vs. Western Carolina at St. Johns Arena, 12/15 vs. Florida Gulf Coast
3) Wisconsin (6-2) With a complete and total annihilation of NC State at the Khol Center on Wednesday, the Badgers seem to have bounced back from a couple deflating early-season losses — a close one on the road against UNLV and another tight contest against Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic. The Wolfpack rolled into Madison and were destroyed, 87-48. It looked like NC State quit about halfway through, but the Badgers still deserve a lot of credit. Jon Leuer — this week’s Big Ten player of the week — and Jordan Taylor each found their grooves in that game, scoring 22 and 21 points, respectively. Wisconsin finished the week off with a 76-61 home victory over South Dakota on Saturday thanks to Leuer’s 30 points.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Milwaukee, 12/11 at Marquette, 12/13 vs. Green Bay
4) Michigan State (6-2) Yes, the Spartans lost their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on the road against Duke, 84-79. And no, there are no such things as moral victories when you’re the no. 6 team in the country. But State was playing Duke, the no. 1 team in the country (not to mention the defending champs) and they were playing at Cameron Indoor. And if the Spartans hadn’t turned the ball over a million times they probably would have pulled out the win. So though it was a winnable game, it was still a better than it could have been. That and they bounced back to destroy Bowling Green in East Lansing on Saturday.
Next three: 12/7 vs. Syracuse in New York, 12/11 vs. Oakland at Auburn Hills, 12/18 vs. Prairie View A&M
5) Purdue (7-1) Pretty solid week for the Boilermakers, who traveled to Cassell Coliseum and took out Virginia Tech, a team that started the season ranked no. 22 before early-season losses to no. 5 Kansas State and UNLV. Purdue need overtime to do it, but ultimately claimed one for the Big Ten as part of the Challenge, 58-55. JaJaun Johnson willed his team to victory in that one, scoring 29 points and E’Twuan Moore chipped in 14 points of his own. The Boilermakers wrapped up the week with a sound beating of Alabama at home, 66-47. Moore and Johnson switched spots in that game, with Moore scoring 23 points and Johnson 17. The Crimson Tide lost all of their games in the Paradise Jam, but are were otherwise unbeaten before traveling to West Lafayette. Overall, a very nice week for Purdue and the E’Twaun Moore-JaJuan Johnson combo, although the the Boilers did learn that reserve John Hart would be out 4-6 weeks.
Next three: 12/7 at Valparaiso, 12/11 vs. North Florida, 12/18 vs. Indiana State
6) Northwestern (6-0) The Wildcats got their most impressive win of the young season on Tuesday when they dismantled Georgia Tech at home 91-71. The Hornets had not only played Syracuse to within four in Atlantic City, they beat UTEP the game before, a team Michigan lost to in particularly ugly fashion. Georgia Tech appeared to be on a roll coming off those two strong performances, but the Wildcats stopped it in its tracks with a big night from John Shurna and Drew Crawford, who scored 21 and 19 points, respectively.
Next three: 12/13 vs. Long Island, 12/16 vs. American, 12/20 vs. Saint Francis
7) Minnesota (7-1) Minnesota might have been first in this ranking a few weeks ago, but it had a bad week, meaning a bad showing in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. After winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in impressive fashion and blowing out North Dakota State at home, the Gophers let then-4-3 Virginia into Williams Arena and the Cavaliers came through in the second half to win, 87-79. The Gophers had good production from Trevor Mbakwe and Blake Hoffarber, who tallied 18 and 19 points, respectively, but couldn’t stop Virginia’s hot shooting hand in the second half. Minnesota won its game on Saturday against a 2-6 Cornell team at home, 71-66. The Gophers desperately need their point guard, Al Nolen, back in the lineup after his foot injury.
Next three: 12/8 vs. St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, 12/11 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 12/15 vs. Akron
8) Michigan (6-2) The Wolverines had a great week. They kicked it off with a 69-61 win on the road against a very athletic Clemson team and ended the week with a too-close-for-comfort 65-62 victory over Harvard at home, a team many have slated to win the Ivy. The Clemson win was a great early-season road win and is thought to be the Big Ten’s most surprising win of the challenge (even Draymond Green said so). The win against Harvard was also against former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, who had won his only other meeting with Michigan two years ago.
Next three: 12/6 vs. Concordia, 12/10 vs. Utah, 12/14 vs. North Carolina Central
9) Indiana (7-1) Indiana was on a roll this season, winning its first six games before dropping its first real test on the road against Boston College, 88-76. The Hoosiers are expecting big things this year and The Eagles provided an interesting benchmark for them — Boston College went into the Big Ten/ACC Challenge having lost its second game at home against Yale and a game versus Wisconsin in the Old Spice Classic. Though Indiana has to be disappointed it didn’t take advantage of a good early-season road win, it did battle back from a 14-point halftime deficit to cut the game to within a point. The Hoosiers also came back home on Saturday and beat Savannah State at Assembly Hall by over 20 points.
Next three: 12/11 at Kentucky, 12/17 vs. SIUE, 12/19 vs. South Carolina State
10) Iowa (4-4) I would still say it was a productive week for the Hawkeyes even though they lost their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on the road against Wake Forest, 76-73. The Demon Deacons clearly aren’t a very strong team, but Iowa went into their house and was very close to coming away with a victory, a confidence-builder for a young team still trying to find its way. The Hawkeyes saw some balanced scoring with sophomore Eric May leading the way with 17 points. Like most Big Ten teams, Iowa played a cupcake on Saturday and bounced back, beating Idaho State 70-53.
Next three: 12/7 vs. Northern Iowa, 12/10 vs. Iowa State, 12/18 at Drake
11) Penn State (6-2) The loss to Maryland at home wasn’t as bad as the score — 62-39 — indicated, but it certainly wasn’t pretty. Penn State shot 20 percent from the field for the game and 11 percent from beyond the arc and the game was still manageable going into halftime. But there was a lid on the basket and the Terrapins pulled away in the second half and won handily. The Lions eked out a 77-73 win over Duquesne at home on Saturday.
Next three: 12/7 vs. Mount St. Mary’s, 12/12 at Virginia Tech, 12/21 vs. Maine