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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, second edition

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Aside from a clear cut favorite, there’s been little separation between the majority of the conference.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

We’re now about six or seven games into the 2021-22 season, depending on which team you look at. Despite the fact that doing power rankings at this point is like throwing darts at a moving dartboard upside down and backwards while blindfolded, we’ve done our best to compile a complete order. Here’s our second edition of the Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings.

1. No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers

Previous Ranking: 2

Record: 6-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Florida State

This is about the only spot that can be guaranteed at this point. Through six games, the Purdue Boilermakers have not only looked like the best team in the Big Ten, but a top three team in the country. The one-two scoring punch of 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and star guard Jaden Ivey has every college basketball fan licking their chops. The Boilermakers have wins over both North Carolina and Villanova, and against their other four opponents, they’ve won by an average of almost 39 points per game. It’s clear they’ll be the favorite to win the Big Ten come conference play, and they could even be a favorite to win the NCAA title come March Madness.

2. No. 22 Michigan State Spartans

Previous Ranking: 4

Record: 5-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Louisville

This number two spot could have gone to multiple teams. While this may be a controversial choice, Michigan State’s only two losses have come against top 10 teams in Kansas and Baylor. On top of that, the Spartans have two quality wins over Loyola-Chicago and a ranked UConn team. They’ve also got a 21-point victory over a decent Butler team. MSU is a well-rounded squad, with three players averaging nine points or more. Additionally, the Spartans are a great defensive team, as, according to KenPom, they rank second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

3. No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers

Previous Ranking: 11

Record: 5-1 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Georgia Tech

Oh man, did we underestimate the Badgers or what? Coming into the season, we had them placed at No. 11 in our first edition of power rankings. After a loss to Providence, it looked like Bucky and Co. were reaffirming that decision. That was before Wisconsin took down Houston, the team ranked fifth in KenPom’s rankings, and a previously undefeated St. Mary’s team. They also have a solid win against Texas A&M. Collectively, these three wins are why the Badgers have now surprisingly snuck into this week’s AP Top 25. Whether they can keep it going as they wrap up non-conference play is still up for debate, though.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes

Previous Ranking: 10

Record: 7-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 2 Purdue

Much like Wisconsin, Iowa is a team that was underestimated a bit coming into the year. After losing Luka Garza to the NBA, it wasn’t super clear as to who was going to replace him for the Hawkeyes. Seven games into the 2021-22 season, it’s now clear that Keegan Murray is the answer. The sophomore forward is averaging 25.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. What makes it even more impressive is that he’s doing all this while averaging just 24.5 minutes per game. Prior to their victory over Virginia last night, the Hawkeyes’ strength of schedule was certainly a question mark, and how they would perform against real competition was unknown. Having now beaten a top ACC opponent, it’s evident that Iowa will be a team to look out for when Big Ten play arrives.

5. No. 24 Michigan Wolverines

Previous Ranking: 1

Record: 4-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ North Carolina

This may be another controversial ranking, and that’s okay. The Wolverines come in at fifth in these rankings due in large part to their loss to Arizona. Their loss at home to Seton Hall was concerning, sure, but at least a two-point defeat like that could be played off as a one-game fluke. Against the Wildcats, however, Michigan was outplayed the entire game and ending up losing by 18 points. On top of that, the Juwan Howard’s team struggled with Tarleton State in its next game and only managed to win by 11. While it still ranks top 12 in both offensive adjusted efficiency and defensive adjusted efficiency, Michigan has some issues it needs to patch up before conference play rolls around.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

Previous Ranking: 3

Record: 5-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 1 Duke

Much like Michigan, Ohio State simply hasn’t played up to its preseason expectations so far this year. The Buckeyes came into the season with a top 25 ranking, but quickly fell out of the poll due to a loss at Xavier. They followed that loss up with a three-point neutral site win over Seton Hall, only to drop their next game to Florida by three points days later. The Buckeyes’ inconsistencies have been evident, but they’ve been able to avoid any major upsets and take care of business against far inferior opponents. OSU will have a huge opportunity to climb up the rankings when they take on the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils in Columbus tonight.

7. Indiana Hoosiers

Previous Ranking: 5

Record: 6-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Syracuse

Indiana has done just about what everyone expected them to do early on. The Hoosiers have beaten every single one of their opponents thus far, with their closest win being a two-point victory over St. John’s. With that being said, they haven’t looked extremely convincing at any point, either. Their game against a 3-3 Syracuse team tonight likely also won’t be very telling, so we may need to wait until conference play to make any concrete judgements on Indiana. Regardless, any team with a player like Trayce Jackson-Davis should be in a pretty good spot, right?

8. Illinois Fighting Illini

Previous Ranking: 6

Record: 4-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Rutgers

We knew the departure of Ayo Dosunmu and Adam Miller would hurt Illinois, but did we think it would hurt them this much? The Illini came into this season ranked in the top 10, but have now tumbled out of the top 25 entirely because of back-to-back losses to Marquette and Cincinnati, the latter of which was a 20-point defeat. Illinois still ranks in the top 30 for both adjusted offensive and adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, but the Illini turn the ball over a ton. After narrowly escaping a massive upset at the hands of UT Rio Grande Valley, they beat Notre Dame by 10 points last night. Maybe things are beginning to get back to normal in Champaign, whatever normal is.

9. Northwestern Wildcats

Previous Ranking: 12

Record: 5-1 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Wake Forest

Is this too high for Northwestern? Maybe, maybe not. As of now, it’s tough to say, but they certainly aren’t a bottom three team in the conference. The Wildcats have been able to take care of business against inferior opponents thus far, something we haven’t really seen these past few seasons. While their loss at the hands of Providence wasn’t as close as the score line suggests, the effort they had in those last few minutes to claw back to within five was a pleasant sight, as well. Ultimately, Northwestern’s next two games against both Wake Forest and Maryland will be very telling of just how the ‘Cats will fit into the Big Ten landscape this year. As of now, they’ve avoided any big upsets, and that’s enough to land them here.

10. Maryland Terrapins

Previous Ranking: 8

Record: 5-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Virginia Tech

Here’s the deal: Maryland hasn’t beaten any good this season. Four of the Terps’ five wins have come against teams ranked 100th or below by KemPom, with the only outlier being the Terps’ 86-80 win over Richmond. While Northwestern hasn’t beaten anyone good either, the ‘Cats have at least been able to take care of business against inferior opponents. The Terrapins have not, as shown by their home loss to George Mason. They also lost by eight this past Saturday to Louisville, though the Cardinals were a far more quality opponent. Overall, there are just too many question marks surrounding this Maryland team to rank them any higher.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Previous Ranking: 14

Record: 6-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Pittsburgh

Sure, Minnesota is undefeated, but have you looked at the teams they’ve played? Is a four point victory over Western Kentucky impressive? What about needing double overtime to defeat Princeton or scoring a mere 55 points on Jacksonville? The Golden Gophers are undefeated, but they’ve still struggled against some awful teams. They’ve got a chance to prove themselves with a stretch against Mississippi State, Michigan State and Michigan coming up, but for now, the Gophers will remain near the basement of the power rankings.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

Previous Ranking: 13

Record: 4-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Miami (FL)

Poor, poor Penn State. Not only have they fallen off a bit in football, but they’re struggling in basketball as well. While the Nittany Lions’ most recent loss at the hands of LSU was a tight game throughout, their 25-point loss at the hands of UMass on Nov. 15 is keeping them in the bottom three for the time being, as their 1-5 Oregon State team doesn’t truly impress anybody.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Previous Ranking: 9

Record: 5-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ N.C. State

Would you look at that? The Cornhuskers are on a four-game win streak! It’s impressive, to say the least, but their loss to Western Illinois to begin the season still looms large. The teams they’ve played during said four-game streak have an average KenPom ranking of 277, so that’s something to keep in mind, as well. You could make an argument that UNL and Penn State should be flipped in these rankings, but PSU’s ability to force overtime against LSU is what keeps them above the Huskers.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Previous Ranking: 7

Record: 3-3 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Clemson

Perhaps the biggest surprise this entire season has been the performance of Rutgers, and not in a good way. Not only did they lose at home by two points to Lafayette, but they managed to choke away a 17-point lead to UMass and fall 85-83. At one point, the Minutemen had a mere 3.8 percent win probability, as Rutgers led 72-57 with about eight minutes to go. Still, they managed to fight back and upset the Scarlet Knights. Now, Rutgers will try to bounce back against Clemson and climb up from the bottom spot in the conference.