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Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings, fifth edition: Teams dominate outside of conference play

FIRST POWER RANKINGS OF THE DECADE!

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

Looking at the past week, the Big Ten has continued to impress in non-conference play. As conference play starts back up, a slew of matchups will help sort out what currently appears to be a loaded conference:

Let’s dive into where the conference stands heading into this stretch:

1. Ohio State (11-2, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 1

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Ohio State Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Despite another upset (this time by West Virginia) leaving a mark on their schedule, the No. 5 Buckeyes stay at the top of the power rankings. A stagnant offense gave them their second loss of the season, yet their wins against top-ranked teams earlier in the year give them some wiggle room.

2. Michigan State (10-3, 2-0 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 5

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

With a win over Western Michigan, the No. 14 ranked Spartans remain the only undefeated team in the Big Ten at 2-0. The team is known for relying heavily on senior guard Cassius Winston, but after he sat out of the most recent game due to a knee injury, this MSU team showed serious potential even without their star player.

3. Penn State (11-2, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 2

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins have led this team to a strong start so far this season. No. 21 Penn State cruised past Cornell on Sunday, making its home winning streak 13 games. This season marks the fourth time in Big Ten history that the Nittany Lions have won at least 11 of their first 13 games, the most recent time being during the 2008-09 season.

4. Michigan (9-3, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 4

NCAA Basketball: Presbyterian at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ignoring the upset by Illinois, No. 12 Michigan’s only loss this season has been to (at the time) No. 1 Louisville. And after beating Gonzaga earlier in the season, it is safe to say this team deserves some credit. The Wolverines have a chance to prove themselves with the opportunity to ruin MSU’s conference record this Sunday in East Lansing.

5. Maryland (11-2, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 3

NCAA Basketball: Bryant at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Again, this No. 15 Maryland team seemed to be exceeding expectations at the start of the season, but back-to-back losses against Penn State and Seton Hall slowed their momentum.

Nonetheless, the Terps bounced back to handle Bryant behind a debut from 7-foot-2 freshman center Chol Marial, who has been unable to play competitively for two years due to injuries. And he definitely impressed, with six points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes.

6. Iowa (10-3, 1-1 B1G)

NCAA Basketball: Kennesaw State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 23 Hawkeyes are now on a 3-game winning streak after they topped Kennesaw State behind a career-high 20 points from senior Ryan Kriener. As a team, the Hawkeyes shot 60 percent from the field, their best so far this season. The real test for this team remains their upcoming matchup with Penn State to re-enter conference play.

7. Indiana (11-2, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 7

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoosiers followed up back-to-back wins with a disappointing loss to Arkansas — in part because standout freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis did not shoot for the last nine minutes of the game. During those final minutes, Arkansas came back from an 11-point deficit to ruin this team’s perfect non-conference record.

Indiana has a chance to bounce back from that poor offensive performance against Maryland this Saturday.

8. Purdue (8-5, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 9

NCAA Basketball: Central Michigan at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Boilermakers came out swinging to end non-conference play, recording a season-high 97 points against Central Michigan. As expected, big man Matt Haarms returned to play and impressed with 11 points and two rebounds in just 11 minutes of game time.

Purdue has a chance to keep this momentum going as the team is slated to face Minnesota and Illinois at the end the week.

9. Minnesota (7-5, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 6

NCAA Basketball: Florida International at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers are on a roll after their win over Ohio State. They followed the upset with two more double-digit wins behind scoring efforts from Gabe Kalscheur (who has 34 and 23 points) and Daniel Oturu (who had 22 and 21 points).

An upcoming game against Purdue in West Lafayette will test Minnesota, who is 0-3 on the road.

10. Illinois (9-4, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 9

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

7-foot big man Kofi Cockburn recorded a career-high 26 points to lead the Fighting Illini to a win over North Carolina A&T after they fell to Missouri the week before. Cockburn has more double-doubles this season than any other freshman in the country — with him, among others, this team has some serious talent to take advantage of. Whether they use that talent correctly is the real question.

11. Wisconsin (8-5, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 13

NCAA Basketball: Rider at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers have seen their fair share of ups and downs this season, with wins over Indiana and Tennessee coupled with losses to Rutgers and New Mexico all in the span of a month.

Wisconsin is looking at a tough run to re-enter conference play: some of the first few games on the schedule include Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland. Based on how they have played so far, it looks like the Badgers are going to have a hard time keeping up.

12. Rutgers (10-3, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 12

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The win over Wisconsin kick started a four-game winning streak for the Scarlet Knights, who have gone on to beat both Seton Hall and Lafayette since. They take on Nebraska Friday in what should be a close game between two bottom-of-the-conference teams.

13. Nebraska (6-7, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 11

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 01 Nebraska at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the exception of their win over Purdue, the Cornhuskers haven’t seen much success this season. A relatively easy schedule gave them a few wins early on, but losses to the likes of North Dakota and George Mason mean that upcoming matchups against Rutgers, Iowa and Northwestern might cause Nebraska some trouble.

14. Northwestern (5-7, 0-2 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 14

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The ‘Cats bring up the rear for the Big Ten for the second edition in a row. Recent losses to Hartford and DePaul indicate that Northwestern may not fare well in conference play, with a lack of experience down the stretch costing them two straight non-conference games. With meetings against Minnesota and Indiana lined up to start 2020, NU will have a chance to show a new side of them in the new year.