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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, second edition

It still remains tight between the top five, but there’s been some movement in the background.

@IndianaWBB on Twitter

Not much has changed at the top of the standings as teams move into the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, but there’s been a few surprises so far that have shaken things up further down the line. There’s still not much to go off of yet, but here’s the second round of 2021-22 Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings.

1. No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers

Previous Ranking: 2

Record: 5-1 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 2 NC State

There’s a new number one in town. Indiana steamrolled over its first four opponents of the season by an average margin of 20.5 points, their streak only broken by a three-point loss to No. 7 Stanford. The Hoosiers were clearly shaken by the loss, barely surviving their following matchup against Miami in the Bahamas, but all five starters continue to average double-digit performances and their defense remains locked in with one of the highest defensive rebounding percentages in the nation at 75.5%. With standouts Grace Berger, Mackenzie Holmes and Ali Patberg as a triple threat at the helm, another top ten matchup against No. 2 NC State should be even more telling of how far this team can really go on a national scale.

2. No. 8 Maryland Terrapins

Previous Ranking: 1

Record: 6-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. University of Miami

While the reigning conference champs came out to a flying 6-0 start this season, including a big three-point win over No. 6 Baylor, the Terps last two matchups have exposed some weaknesses in their play. Maryland drops in this round of rankings after losing by 18 points to No. 5 NC State and falling 86-67 to No. 7 Stanford, a 16-point difference from Indiana’s loss to the Cardinal. That being said, playing three top-ten teams in a row is nothing to scoff at, and one of their leading scorers, Diamond Miller, has been out with an injury for the past few weeks. The Terps are still turning the ball over less than any other team in the country and scoring more than 80 points per game, while Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese are averaging 17.9 and 18 points each contest, respectively. With four other team members averaging double-digit games, this Maryland team is still deep, even without one of its key players in Miller.

3. No. 12 Michigan Wolverines

Previous Ranking: 4

Record: 7-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 10 Louisville

Two words: Naz. Hillmon. The senior is averaging a double-double of 21.5 points and 10 rebounds per game as she remains the Wolverines’ star player. With Hillmon and fellow standout senior Leigha Brown on the court, Michigan has won its first seven games by an average of 17 points. All things considered, the Wolverines’ schedule has not been as strenuous as those of Indiana and Maryland, but they did pull off an impressive nine-point victory over No. 16 Oregon State followed by a 16-point win against Mississippi State. However, Michigan will be tested in their next matchup vs. No. 10 Louisville, the result of which should put into perspective how it will stack up to its fellow conference foes at the top of the table.

4. No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes

Previous Ranking: 3

Record: 4-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Duke

Iowa faced some disappointing news as it was forced to cancel three matchups (vs. Drake, Seton Hall and Southern California) due to COVID cases within the program. Nonetheless, the Hawkeyes were dominant in their opening four games, winning by an average margin of 30.3 points per game. In other words, they did what they were supposed to do. Caitlin Clark has impressed so far, as expected, and she matches Hillmon’s scoring average with 21.5 points-per-game along with 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists. However, Clark and the Hawkeyes have yet to be tested and likely won’t be until they face No. 14 Iowa State in a week into December.

5. No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes

Previous Ranking: 6

Record: 5-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Syracuse

The Buckeyes are in a similar situation to Iowa (sans COVID) in that they really haven’t been tested yet. Still undefeated, their average margin of victory is six more than that of the Hawkeyes at 36.0 points for the time being, but again, you would expect a team like OSU to beat teams like Bucknell, Bowling Green State and Cincinnati handily. The addition of Oregon transfer Taylor Mikesell has been fruitful so far, as she has jumped into the Buckeye lineup with 14.6 points per game, just behind Jacy Sheldon, who is bringing in putting up an average of just under 20. This 2021-22 OSU team won’t really face viable competition until it plays Purdue after its upcoming matchup versus Syracuse, but the Buckeyes do look solid so far.

6. Purdue Boilermakers

Previous Ranking: 11

Record: 5-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Georgia Tech

Enter the Boilermakers, this year’s first resident chaos-conductor. Purdue has one thing that each team below them doesn’t so far: a ranked win. At first, it seemed like this season would mirror that of years past when the Boilers fell 78-62 to an average Dayton team after having won their first three games. Then, a quick rout of Marshall and a disappointing, yet relatively close, eight point loss to No. 22 West Virginia dropped Purdue to 4-2. The trajectory of the season thus far changed when Madison Layden and Co. upset No. 17 Florida State with a shocking 66-61 victory. The win might seem less significant with FSU losing to an unranked BYU shortly after, but Purdue will have a chance to prove themselves once again soon against a Georgia Tech team that is still receiving a good number of AP Top 25 votes.

T-7. Northwestern Wildcats

Previous Ranking: 5

Record: 4-3 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Clemson

It’s clear that the Wildcats are far removed from their three loss carousel just two years ago. However, there is potential for improvement throughout the season, as Joe McKeown is slowly integrating his top ten recruiting class into Northwestern’s rotation. First-years Caileigh Walsh and Jillian Brown, while still getting acclimated to the level of Division I college play, are looking like they could fit right in with the rest of the Wildcats once they gain enough experience. For the time being, Veronica Burton and Courtney Shaw are struggling to pick up the slack and restore Northwestern to its former glory. The seniors are the only two players averaging more than 10 points per game, which is indicative of the Wildcats’ persistent offensive struggles. While it has lost three games so far, NU was competitive in each, and all three losses came against solid programs in 5-2 DePaul, 5-2 Pitt and No. 23 Texas A&M. It’s tough to say how the ‘Cats will fare in conference play, but a win in their upcoming matchup versus Clemson could put them right back in the mix.

T-7. Penn State Nittany Lions

Previous Ranking: 10

Record: 4-3 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Boston College

Penn State’s record isn’t indicative of their strength of schedule coming out of the gate. PSU’s three losses have come against a still-undefeated No. 13 Iowa State, a two-loss Clemson team (to which the Nittany Lions only lost by three) and a one-loss Kent State team. The Nittany Lions have beaten their other four opponents pretty soundly, but the point is that they didn’t have as easy of a start to their season as some other Big Ten teams. Junior Makenna Marisa is having a breakout season, currently leading the conference with 22.4 points-per-game and emerging as one of the best players in the Big Ten. Whether PSU can hold its own against conference opponents is TBD, but there’s some potential for a few upsets buried somewhere among the Nittany Lions’ ranks.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Previous Ranking: 9

Record: 7-0 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Wake Forest

Alright, slow down Nebraska, don’t get ahead of yourselves just yet. The combined record of your opponents is 14-28, with three of the seven having not won a single game so far. The best squad the Cornhuskers have faced is a 5-2 Drexel team whose biggest win came against a six-loss Dartmouth. The Huskers have won four of their matchups by more than 50 points, though, which is... something to think about. Nonetheless, much like Iowa and OSU, Nebraska has yet to be truly tested. Sophomore transfer Jaz Shelley has been a bright spot, lighting up the court with 14.6 points per game along with 7.4 rebounds; last years’ standout in Sam Haiby has been relatively quiet with a modest nine points per game. The Huskers will get to show what they are really about in their next two matchups versus Wake Forest and Minnesota. If they can stay undefeated through those, we might see them move up in the field.

10. Minnesota Gophers

Previous Ranking: 12

Record: 6-3 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. North Carolina

A scary 69-66 loss on opening night to what many thought was an inferior team in Jacksonville University worried Gopher fans about how this season would pan out. However, Minnesota redeemed itself with three consecutive wins after-the-fact before giving up 88 points and losing expectedly to No. 2 UConn. The Gophers’ only loss since came at the hands of Oklahoma, which currently sits atop the Big 12 conference at 6-1. It’s still difficult to determine where Minnesota falls in Big Ten terms, but Sara Scalia and Jasmine Powell are two high-level players the Gophers have in their rotation that can definitely shake things up come January.

11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Previous Ranking: 8

Record: 4-4 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: @ Pitt

This one might be controversial, but hear me out. Yes, Rutgers is sitting at .500 only eight games in, but consider the teams it has played so far. Losing to No. 9 Arizona was expected, falling by nine to 7-0 Stony Brook wasn’t out of pocket, and falling by only three to DePaul is really not that bad. Nonetheless, the Scarlet Knights did lose to Vanderbilt, which lost to DePaul by 17. Rutgers’ schedule so far has been slightly more difficult than that of the 6-2 Michigan State, and the Scarlet Knights’ inferior record is a product of these tougher matchups. That being said, Rutgers also hasn’t had any impressive wins itself and not a single rostered player is averaging more than nine points per game. It’s likely there are more losses in RU’s near future.

12. Michigan State Spartans

Previous Ranking: 7

Record: 6-2 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 24 Notre Dame

The Spartans’ record makes sense when you consider the cakewalk of a schedule they’ve had so far. Their four wins that started the season were quickly overshadowed by back-to-back losses against mediocre teams Fordham and St. Francis (Brooklyn), to whom they lost by three points each. MSU’s six wins look impressive on paper, but it’s likely its successes will be even more negated with three ranked opponents, notably No. 24 Notre Dame, on the docket in its next four games. If Nia Clouden and the Spartans can pull off an upset (or more likely, a few relatively close, competitive games) in their next handful of matchups, then we might be able to bump them up a bit in the ranks, but for now, there’s nothing really impressive to consider.

13. Illinois Fighting Illini

Previous Ranking: 14

Record: 3-3 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 25 Florida State

A 2-0 start may be one of the few bright spots the Illini will experience this season because it’s likely they just won’t match up to most Big Ten opponents. A nine-point loss to SIU-Edwardsville capped off any momentum Illinois may have collected from their first two wins, and a subsequent victory over UC Riverside was short-lived, as the Illini dropped two more in a row to Dayton and Middle Tennessee. Their Big Ten/ACC matchup against No. 25 FSU likely won’t be kind to them either, but Aaliyah Nye and company are still hoping to pull off a win or two before conference play.

14. Wisconsin Badgers

Previous Ranking: 13

Record: 2-5 (0-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Virginia Tech

Welcome back to the bottom, Badgers. I gave them the benefit of the doubt for one set of rankings, but unfortunately for them, that was short-lived. Wisconsin’s opening win against St. Thomas was overshadowed by a four game losing streak which included 10+ point drops to NJIT, Bradley and Milwaukee. Their schedule only gets tougher, and fans will be lucky to see more than four or five wins from the Badgers this season.