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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, Edition III

Rutgers is really good. Nebraska is really not. Almost every other team is respectable, if not good.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

We’re mixing things up this week, having two staffers agree on rankings before alternating rationales. Conference play recently began, and we saw what is likely to be a revolving door in these placements with these teams beating up on one another. There will be no off nights in the Big Ten.

1. Iowa (6-1)

Last week’s ranking: 1

NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Even after suffering its first loss, Iowa is the obvious frontrunner in the Big Ten. In what could have certainly been a preview of the National Championship, the Hawkeyes fell victim to an out-of-this-world shooting performance from Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs. In typical Luka Garza fashion, the nation’s leading scorer put up 30 points. Fran McCaffery’s squad was down by as many as 20 against the Zags, but clawed back with the help of Joe Toussaint’s career high 14 points. The Hawkeyes have yet to play a conference game, but their gauntlet of a non-conference slate will serve them well as they open league play against Purdue on Thursday. — Revsine

2. Rutgers (4-0, 2-0 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 4

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The Scarlet Knights have fully ascended from bottom feeder to conference contender. Rutgers was slotted at 11th in the AP Poll on Monday, its highest ranking since 1976, a season in which it made the Final Four. Trailing for most of the first half against Illinois on Sunday, it slowly worked their way back into the game with tough defense and red-hot shooting from Ron Harper Jr., eventually pulling away and securing the 91-88 victory. RU’s 84-for-139 (60.4%) mark from the free throw line this season gives some cause for concern, but as long as Harper continues to scorch the nets from behind the arc (21-for-40 on threes thus far!), expect a big season in Piscataway after being denied a Tournament bid in the spring. — Olinger

3. Wisconsin (6-1)

Last week’s ranking: 5

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

The Badgers have continued to prove their early loss against Marquette was more the exception than the rule. With a strong victory over Loyola-Chicago and a blowout win over No. 23 Louisville, Greg Gard’s squad has looked dominant on both ends of the court. Wisconsin ranks No. 3 in defensive efficiency on KenPom, having yet to allow an opponent score more than 67 points. — Revsine

4. Illinois (5-3, 1-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 3

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Three losses is obviously less than ideal for Brad Underwood’s squad considering the high expectations they held entering the season, but context is important. The three teams holding victories over them (Baylor, Rutgers, Missouri) are a combined 16-0 and rank first, 17th and 35th in KenPom respectively. They need to work some stuff out as they’re 301st in turnover percentage according to BartTorvik, and the offense can get a bit stagnant wheen simply reverting to either Ayo Dosunmu or Trent Frazier isolating out top, but the top-tier talent is still present on the court. — Olinger

5. Michigan State (6-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 2

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Despite an uncharacteristically rough showing against Northwestern, it would be foolish to say MSU has written itself out of title contention. The Spartans have struggled defensively in the past few games and completely disregarded the scouting report against NU. The normally red hot trio of Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts and Joey Hauser combined for a measly 21 points against the ‘Cats. The team’s offensive woes weren’t due to lack of open looks, as 38 percent of the team’s shots were catch-and-shoot threes, per ShotQuality, which is a standard shot distribution for the Spartans’ offense. Tom Izzo will surely chew them out, and expect this team to put up a great fight against Wisconsin on Friday. — Revsine

6. Michigan (6-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 6

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolverines’ front court is dynamite. Freshman center Hunter Dickinson is mashing dudes left and right in the post (12.0 Box Plus-Minus per BartTorvik, a ridiculous rating for production levels), senior Isaiah Livers continues to raise his draft stock with a near Veronica Burton-esque 52-43-94 line of shooting splits (FG%, 3PT%, FT%) and Franz Wagner has made up for his poor three-point shooting by converting 87.5 percent of his shots at the rim. However, Juwan Howard’s back court leaves a lot to be desired, and is a large factor behind their underwhelming close wins against Penn State and Oakland. Their big three gives them a chance against anyone, but UM still has a lot of work left to do. — Olinger

7. Indiana (5-2)

Last week’s ranking: 7

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

Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin have been sensational for IU. They combined for 41 points versus Butler, with Franklin scoring a career-high in points for the second consecutive game and Jackson-Davis recording five blocked shots. Offensive fouls and turnovers nearly derailed the Hoosiers, who held on to win 68-60 in the Indianapolis showdown. If Archie Miller’s squad can come up big against Illinois and Northwestern this week, it could garner some national attention. — Revsine

8. Ohio State (6-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 8

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

The Buckeyes lost to the Boilermakers in West Lafayette last Wednesday, though they were without star sophomore EJ Liddell, their best player due to his interior offensive presence and defensive versatility as a switchable big. They responded well on Sunday with a 77-70 victory over a good UCLA squad, and the quick burst they possess across their lineup with guys like Justice Sueing, CJ Walker and Musa Jallow makes them far from a write-off in the conference title race. Please spare us your “CFP not taking head-to-head results into account” jokes. — Olinger

9. Purdue (6-2, 1-0 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 10

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boilermakers put up two quality wins this week, defeating both No. 23 Ohio State and Notre Dame. Matt Painter’s group has only had two games with the entire team available, but ever since Jaden Ivey and Eric Hunter Jr. rejoined the squad, their offense has taken huge strides. Four players scored in double figures against both the Irish and the Buckeyes in a balanced attack. Mason Gillis went 4-for-4 from the field against ND, extending his perfect shooting streak to three games. — Revsine

10. Minnesota (7-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 12

NCAA Basketball: Saint Louis at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers have proven they can beat teams they’re supposed to, evidenced by their seven out-of-conference wins against an uninspiring schedule. Great. They then got shellacked to high heaven by Illinois in a 92-65 drubbing last Tuesday, as they had absolutely zero answer for big man Kofi Cockburn, who tallied 33 points. Things don’t get any easier, as their next seven games pit them against six of the top eight teams in our rankings. A fall down the standings could soon be on the horizon. — Olinger

11. Northwestern (4-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 13

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern finally finished a game! While this was not the fourth-ranked team many NU fans thought they had a chance to upset this weekend, the win was electric nonetheless. From start to finish, the ‘Cats looked confident and played at a fast tempo. Boo Buie redeemed himself from the Pitt loss, scoring a career-high 30 points and earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Pete Nance continued his vocal leadership and tacked on 15 points, while true freshman Ty Berry was lights out from behind the arc. What really made the difference was Northwestern’s rebounding, particularly in the first half, as the Spartans hardly saw any second chance opportunities. It’s just one game, but the ‘Cats got off to the best start they could have imagined. — Revsine

12. Penn State (3-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 10

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Given the very rough circumstances under which the Nittany Lions entered this season, their start should be seen as a positive. Wins over two not-horrible teams in Virginia Tech and VCU were impressive, and their contest against Michigan this past week was a fairly competitive outing. They still lack in outlier talent, and their three point shooting will likely regress as four of their players are shooting over 40 percent from deep, making a jump up to the top half of the conference unlikely. — Olinger

13. Maryland (4-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 12

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Terps took care of lesser opponents Old Dominion and Mt. Saint Mary’s but came up well short in their last two contests against Clemson and Rutgers. Donta Scott finished with a team-high 20 points against the Scarlet Knights, but the rest of his team had trouble taking the lid off of the basket. A long season is likely in store for Maryland, with no easy wins in this conference. — Revsine

14. Nebraska (4-3)

Last week’s ranking: 14

NCAA Basketball: Doane at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to Minnesota, the Huskers have taken care of business against inferior teams and dropped all of their higher difficulty games. The problem is they’ve played more of said difficult games. Fred Hoiberg has his team playing a very efficient style of ball, with a combined 76.8 percent of their shots coming either at the rim or from three, according to Hoop-Math, but the individual talent just isn’t there in the roster. It’s shaping up to be another rough season in Lincoln. — Olinger