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Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings, second edition: Ohio State is back

Also, the ‘Cats move up in the rankings!

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten won 8 of its 14 games to defeat the ACC in the annual conference challenge, the first time the B1G has won outright since 2015. The matchups against high level competition helped us learn a little more about who is real, and who still has a lot of work to do.

Let’s see where the conference stands as of now:

1. Ohio State (8-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: 2

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State flat out dismantled the North Carolina Tar Heels, pulling away to a 74-49 victory in the Dean Dome. The Buckeyes have handily beaten three very good teams in UNC, Villanova and Cincinnati and proved that the program is finally back to the level it was at in 2012 with Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft.

OSU is third in the country in scoring defense, first in the entire country in scoring differential and looking like a serious national title contender.

2. Maryland (9-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: 3

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There was a little, “Can we trust Maryland?” after two very close games against Harvard and Temple that they managed to win. But after a 72-51 shellacking of Notre Dame, the Terps have assuaged a lot those doubters.

It’s still tough to tell how good this team is considering their very favorable schedule so far, but UMD has handled their business so far and is deserving of respect.

3. Michigan (7-1)

Last Week’s Ranking: 1

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get tricked into thinking that an undefeated team like Indiana is better than Michigan simply because they have an edge in the win-loss column. Michigan’s dominance in the Bahamas against powerhouses like Gonzaga and UNC proved how good they were, and a loss to Lousiville is nothing to be ashamed of. That Cardinals team is long, athletic, and in my opinion, the only team in the country that deserves to be ranked ahead of Ohio State.

4. Indiana (8-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: 6

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I really don’t know what to think of this team yet. They weren’t highly touted coming into year, and prior to their win over Florida State the other night, they hadn’t played any teams of worthy caliber. I’m not even sure how to judge the Florida State win, as the Seminoles have been a little up and down themselves this year. It’ll still be a while before we learn more about Indiana, as they won’t play a team they’re an underdog against untill they see Maryland on January 4th.

5. Michigan State (5-3)

Last Week’s Ranking: 4

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Trust me, I wanted to drop them much lower than this, but I can’t because I just don’t have enough faith in any other team in the conference. Everyone and their mothers had this team penciled in as the national champ prior to the season. Virtually nobody expected this.

I get that it was Duke they lost to on Tuesday, but the fact that you were down 22 with nine minutes left on your home court in a prime time game is unacceptable. They stay in the top five for now due to their overall talent, but the Spartans need to shape up quickly.

6. Penn State (7-1)

Last Week’s Ranking: 7

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State is off to a very promising start. They’ve beaten three semi-capable power conference teams in Georgetown, Syracuse and Wake Forest, and they would have been undefeated had they not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Ole Miss.

The Nittany Lions have a huge challenge at Ohio State tomorrow that will be huge in determining whether they will remain on the bubble or catapult themselves straight into the early NCAA Tournament field, which would be their first appearance since 2011.

7. Purdue (5-3)

Last Week’s Ranking: 9

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While the Boilermakers’ three losses to Texas, Marquette and Florida State aren’t the worst, they certainly aren’t the best, and I can understand that some people might think that putting them this high is an overreaction to their win over Virginia. But Virginia had far and away the best defense in the country, only allowing 40.3 points per game, only for Purdue to shred them in a 69-40 blowout. That win showed a lot of potential for this young squad, who the analytics always continued to love.

8. Iowa (6-2)

Last Week’s Ranking: 5

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t really about the fact that Iowa lost to San Diego State this week. They’re still a good team and very capable of ascending in these rankings. It’s just that teams like Penn State and Purdue have performed well enough in certain spots that I think they have better resumés to this point.

We should also pay attention to their center Luke Garza, who is averaging a 20 points and 10 rebounds as of today, and seems to be emerging as a top player in the conference.

9. Illinois (6-2)

Last Week’s Ranking: 8

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Arizona Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois has been very basic so far this year. They’ve convincingly beaten the six lower-level teams they’ve played, and they lost their two games against power conference teams, including an 81-79 loss to the Miami Hurricanes the other day. What they’ve done so far is acceptable, and we’ll know more about them soon, as their next two games are at Maryland and home versus Michigan.

10. Rutgers (6-2)

Last Week’s Ranking: 10

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to Illinois, Rutgers’ two losses are to the only two higher profile teams (St. Bonaventure, Pittsburgh) they’ve played, and Illinois is only ranked ahead of them because they lost to better teams (Arizona, Miami). But for a program that hasn’t reached the Big Dance since 1991, this has been a very promising start.

11. Minnesota (4-4)

Last Week’s Ranking: 12

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers’ 4-4 record is deceiving considering the quality of their schedule. All four of their losses are to either pretty good teams (Utah, Oklahoma) or really good teams (Butler, DePaul). They just took it to a decent Clemson team 78-60 in the Big Ten vs. ACC Challenge, and have destroyed the three low-level teams on their schedule, unlike a team I’m sure we’re all familiar with...

12. Northwestern (4-3)

Last Week’s Ranking: 13

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

I wanted to move the ‘Cats in front of the Gophers, but I just couldn’t. The losses to Radford and Merrimack can’t be forgotten, and their two “quality” wins over Boston College and Providence aren’t impressive considering that both of those teams aren’t very good themselves.

Still, the ‘Cats did their part to help the Big Ten win their conference challenge, and in my estimation, have proved they are not going to be the worst team in the conference this year.

13. Wisconsin (4-4)

Last Week’s Ranking: 11

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at New Mexico Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this was unexpected. After a decade of consistently being one of the conference’s best teams, the Badgers look overwhelmed, currently on a three game losing streak that includes defeats at the hands of Richmond and New Mexico. They’ve been brutal from beyond the arc so far, shooting a combined 29.7% from three on the season.

14. Nebraska (4-4)

Last Week’s Ranking: 14

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska Omaha at St. Mary’s John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Next time you run into a Cornhusker fan, you should go give’’em a hug. After being the biggest disappointment of the football season, Nebraska’s basketball team has been terrible, not only losing to teams like UC Riverside and George Mason, but not even competing with those supposedly lesser teams.