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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, fifth edition

Indiana and Michigan are solidifying their spots at the top.

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

While Indiana maintains its dominance at the top of the ranks, there is a decent amount of movement occurring in the backdrop this time around. The Terps are out of the top three for the first time in a long time, while Iowa and Ohio State are on the comeback trail, and Michigan State is creeping back into the mix. There are still a lot of moving parts to consider when thinking about who is maintaining their hopes for March, but our fifth edition of Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings is here to make the postseason picture a bit more clear.

1. No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers

Previous ranking: 1

Record: 14-2 (6-0 B1G)

Next game: vs. Illinois

In case it’s time for a refresher: Indiana has not lost since Dec. 2nd, and its only two losses so far came at the hands of two ranked teams in Stanford and NC State. There’s not much to say about the Hoosiers other than until they lose a conference game, they will remain at the top of the table. It’s looking like that won’t be anytime soon, however. Their next two matchups against Michigan State and Iowa have been postponed due to COVID protocols, leaving Illinois as next in line.

Grace Berger continues to tear up opposing defenses, dropping 22 and 24 points in her most recent appearances against Nebraska and Purdue, respectively. The only potential rut in Indiana’s impressive regular season run is an injured Mackenzie Holmes — who to this point is averaging 17.9 points per game, Holmes missed the Hoosiers’ last two matchups. But hopefully with two postponements, she will be able to recover without missing too much else. With Berger and Holmes at the helm, this team is really tough to beat.

2. No. 8 Michigan Wolverines

Previous ranking: T-3

Record: 16-2 (7-1 B1G)

Next game: vs. Purdue

Since their 21-point loss to Nebraska, the Wolverines have looked solid. Wins versus Rutgers, Penn State and Wisconsin were expected, but most recently defeating Maryland on the road by 20 points was enough to put Michigan right back in the mix for a regular season championship. Naz Hillmon and Co. held the Terrapins to just under 50 points, an impressive feat against the sixth-highest scoring offense in the country. To add to it, it wasn’t even Hillmon’s best game, as Michigan was carried by sophomore Maddie Nolan, who put up an impressive stat line of 21 points, five rebounds and three assists. Leigha Brown also chipped in with 15 points of her own in the Wolverines’ first win against UMD since the 2017-18 season. Michigan is right where they need to be to challenge Indiana for the regular season title, but there’s still a lot of season left to go.

3. No. 25 Iowa Hawkeyes

Previous ranking: 7

Record: 11-4 (5-1 B1G)

Next game: @ Illinois

Congratulations, Caitlin Clark. The sophomore made history on Thursday night by becoming the first Division I basketball player, men’s or women’s, to lock in 30-point triple-doubles in back-to-back games. She achieved this feat while beating Minnesota by 56 points — the Hawkeyes’ largest margin of victory over a conference opponent ever. The fact that Iowa has arguably one of the best players in college basketball on its roster supported by an impressive core of Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock might be why they have been so hard to beat lately. The Hawkeyes have won four straight Big Ten games, and they are looking really scary heading into a stretch of even more winnable matchups against the likes of Illinois and Penn State.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

Previous ranking: 6

Record: 14-3 (6-2 B1G)

Next game: @ Rutgers

Ohio State is on a redemption arc fueled by a much needed ranked win against No. 12 Maryland on Thursday. After having lost to Michigan in the early days of conference play, questions arose concerning the Buckeyes’ ability to compete with the best-of-the-best, and they’ve certainly stepped up their game. Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon have led OSU to five straight wins, including solid victories over Northwestern and Michigan State as well. Mikesell scored a whopping 33 points against the Terps, while Sheldon dropped 24 of her own along with 10 assists. This team has shown that they can outscore one of the best offensive teams in the country, and if the Buckeyes continue on this upward trajectory, they could very well be in the running for some postseason magic.

5. No. 12 Maryland Terrapins

Previous ranking: 2

Record: 12-6 (4-3 B1G)

Next game: vs. Northwestern

Last year’s conference regular season and tournament champions have had a tough go in recent contests, losing back-to-back matchups against Michigan and Ohio State. Maryland’s offense averages 81.7 points per game, yet it was held to 49 against the Wolverines — fewer than the Terps scored on No. 1 South Carolina back in December. With a bit of an easier road ahead of them, Ashley Owusu and Co. are going to have to take advantage of teams like Rutgers and Penn State to re-establish themselves as a dominant offensive force. Angel Reese has continued to be a huge influence on Maryland’s success, still averaging a double-double of 17.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. Owusu has not had as large of an impact as Reese, but her presence on the court is still one of the first things on opponent’s scouting reports. With a few more dominant wins under their belts, the Terps should be right back in this thing.

T-6. Michigan State Spartans

Previous ranking: 8

Record: 9-8 (3-3 B1G)

Next game: @ Minnesota

The Spartans earned a much needed win over Northwestern after struggling against both Purdue and Ohio State, bumping their stock in this week’s power rankings. Nia Clouden and freshman Mathilda Ekh led the way as MSU effectively shut down Veronica Burton’s scoring game along with the rest of the Wildcats. Clouden and Ekh combined for 37 of the Spartans’ 65 points all while holding Northwestern to just 46 on the scoreboard. With the majority of MSU’s problems prior to this game rooted in a lack of support for Clouden, the Spartans may have found their answer in the freshman Ekh, who can clearly help them continue winning meaningful matchups for the rest of the season.

T-6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Previous ranking: 6

Record: 13-4 (2-4 B1G)

Next game: @ Wisconsin

Yes, Nebraska lost three straight. But, two of the three were against No. 25 Iowa, and the other was against No. 6 Indiana. What the Cornhuskers still have, though, is a ranked win against Michigan, putting them on par with the Wildcats who have a ranked win over Iowa. Michigan State has beaten both Nebraska and Northwestern, but it doesn’t have a ranked win yet, hence the three way tie. The Huskers also only lost to Indiana by seven, and they dropped 80+ points in both Iowa matchups. So, it would be unfair to give up on them just yet, especially considering the next four games on their schedule (Wisconsin, Purdue, Rutgers, Penn State) are winnable.

T-6. Northwestern Wildcats

Previous ranking: 5

Record: 11-6 (3-3 B1G)

Next game: @ No. 12 Maryland

Joining the list of conference teams in the midst of struggle is the Wildcats, who unfortunately have not been very successful since their impressive win over a ranked Iowa team in early January. Northwestern has lost three of its last four games, only beating Rutgers by a slim five points. What’s upsetting is that two of their three losses, against Michigan State and Penn State, were winnable games the ‘Cats needed to keep themselves in the running. Teams are starting to figure out how to shut down Veronica Burton’s scorin — the Spartans held her to just nine points — and the rest of the squad is struggling with turnovers, giving the ball up 21 and 18 times in their last two games. Northwestern is in a tough spot now and will have to pull out some bigger wins to keep postseason hopes in the picture, but this team is certainly capable of playing up to its opponents.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

Previous ranking: 11

Record: 9-7 (3-3 B1G)

Next game: @ Wisconsin

Coming off of two difficult losses to Maryland and Michigan by a combined margin of 45 points, the Lady Lions were due for some victory. A win at Illinois was comforting but expected, but it was Penn State’s victory at Northwestern that really showed what this team is capable of. PSU forced 18 turnovers out of the Wildcats and hit 100% of its free-throws with Northwestern hitting an unimpressive 45.5%. In a game that really came down to the wire, Makena Marisa and her squad did the little things better, and that’s what won them the game. Marisa has been phenomenal in her third season as a Nittany Lion, sitting at 10th in the country with 21.5 points per game. Though there aren’t many other recognizable names on the PSU roster, Marisa has been leading this team in a way that is slowly bringing out its true potential.

10. Purdue Boilermakers

Previous ranking: 9

Record: 12-6 (3-4 B1G)

Next game: @ No. 8 Michigan

The Boilermakers deserve some credit. They took No. 6 Indiana to overtime, only to unfortunately lose by five, but they displayed an admirable amount of fight. Nonetheless, they haven’t beaten a team better than Michigan State, and early season losses to Ohio State and Maryland indicate they probably won’t for the rest of the season. The Boilers are pretty much middle of the pack in every stat category, and no one on the roster is averaging more than 13 points. Cal-Poly transfer Abbey Ellis has been productive as of late, averaging 19.3 points over her last three appearances and contributing handily in both rebounding and assist categories. Ellis is certainly a player to keep an eye on in Purdue’s final half of Big Ten play, even if they are likely out of the running for any sort of hardware.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Previous ranking: 10

Record: 9-10 (2-5 B1G)

Next game: vs. Michigan State

The Gophers have pretty much performed how everyone expected them to. They beat Wisconsin by 16 in the border battle...and then they lost to Iowa by a record-breaking 56 points just eight days later. Where Minnesota does have an edge over most conference teams, however, is its three-point percentage, which at 37%, puts the Gophers at fourth in the conference and 14th in the country. Sara Scalia has been carrying the bulk of team scoring on her back as well, scoring an average of 17.8 points over her last four games, including contests against Maryland, Ohio State and Iowa. On a good night, Minnesota could beat teams like Northwestern and Michigan State, but there is unfortunately little to no March hopes left for this squad.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini

Previous ranking: 13

Record: 6-10 (1-4 B1G)

Next game: vs. Nebraska

Illinois is in a really similar situation to the Gophers in that they’ve won the one game everyone expected them to win against Wisconsin, and then lost literally every other one. Interestingly enough, the Illini actually lead the conference in rebounds per game with 40.4 and commit the fewest fouls with an average of 12.2. So, there’s a little bit of a silver lining for them this season. Even then, Illinois’ schedule is not getting any easier and it will be difficult for them to earn more than a handful of wins.

13. Wisconsin Badgers

Previous ranking: 14

Record: 4-13 (1-6 B1G)

Next game: vs. Penn State

For the first time since the first edition of power rankings, the Badgers are out of the bottom! Yay! Wisconsin’s four point win over Rutgers last week was just enough to bump them up. Sydney Hilliard had a stellar performance with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Julie Pospisilova contributed with 13 points of her own. Nonetheless, there’s little Hilliard and Pospisilova can do to turn this team around in the bigger picture when they’re competing with the likes of other Big Ten powerhouses.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Previous ranking: 12

Record: 7-12 (0-7 B1G)

Next game: vs. Ohio State

Well, well, well...if it isn’t the winless Scarlet Knights. Winless in conference play, that is. Rutgers just hasn’t been able to pull out a victory in its last five games, three of which were lost by five or fewer points. It’s just not their year. No one on the roster is averaging double digits, and the team is positioned at last in most statistical categories. Hopefully, the Scarlet Knights can win a game or two before the season is over, but it’s going to take a lot of offseason work to get this team back on track.