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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, first edition

The order is starting to take shape.

At last, we have finally hit the conference scheduling portion of the Big Ten’s basketball season! Although it’s still quite early (note: first edition), we’ve done our best to rank the Big Ten top to bottom, and we know that these power rankings will change mightily throughout the season. Currently, a pair of undefeated teams are in the conversation for the top spot, while several few-loss teams are jostling for the ranks behind them. Northwestern may sit near the bottom at the moment, but with the rest of the conference still on the schedule, anything is possible.

1. No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 13-0 (2-0 B1G)

Next game: @ Northwestern

Since beginning the season ranked 14th in the AP Poll, the Buckeyes have reached new heights up to the third rank in the nation. Their unblemished 13-0 record features ranked victories over No. 5 Tennessee, No. 18 Louisville and No. 16 Oregon. Although Ohio State needed a miracle to beat South Florida last week, a strong win against the Ducks showed the Buckeyes should get right back on track.

2. No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 12-0 (2-0 B1G)

Next game: @ Michigan State

Like their counterpart Buckeyes, the Hoosiers also boast an undefeated record, with ranked victories over both No. 11 Tennessee and No. 6 North Carolina. Unlike Ohio State, they haven’t had a real scare to their perfection. Indiana currently has the number one overall defense in the Big Ten while also shooting the best percentage on offense; that’s a great recipe for success moving forward.

3. No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 10-3 (2-0 B1G)

Next game: vs. Purdue

Since falling to No. 3 UConn and No. 12 NC State consecutively a month ago, the Hawkeyes have found their groove again with five straight wins. That includes two large victories over Wisconsin and Minnesota. On Thursday, Iowa will finally face difficult Big Ten competition when it takes on Purdue, who’s currently right on the fringe of being a tournament team, and will almost certainly be a good matchup. Caitlin Clark continues to wow once again, leading the conference in points per game by over seven, and as long as she’s on the court, the Hawkeyes will be contenders.

4. No. 14 Michigan Wolverines

Record: 11-1 (1-0 B1G)

Next game: @ Nebraska

The Wolverines are coming off a massive win against No. 6 North Carolina, ensuring that Dec. 8th’s defeat to Toledo was merely an anomaly and moving up five spots in the AP Poll as a result. Michigan has already dipped its feet into Big Ten play, struggling against Northwestern in early December, but now it’ll have a huge opportunity to continue momentum Wednesday against a strong Nebraska team.

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 10-3 (2-0 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 14 Michigan

AP Voters may not be ready to rank the Cornhuskers as the fifth-best Big Ten team yet, but I am. Since its 31-point defeat to No. 9 Virginia Tech on Dec. 1, Nebraska has rattled off five straight victories by an average margin of victory of nearly 22 points a game. Oh yeah, and that includes two ranked opponents in formerly No. 20 Maryland (90-67) and recently No. 20 Kansas (85-79, 3OT).

6. No. 16 Maryland Terrapins

Record: 10-3 (1-1 B1G)

Next game: vs. Minnesota

Minus Angel Reese (whose LSU Tigers are currently 12-0), it would be foolish to say the Terrapins haven’t skipped a beat. However, they have been far from a disappointment. Maryland hit a bump in the road when it lost by 23 to the aforementioned Cornhuskers, but massive victories over No. 7 Notre Dame, Purdue and No. 6 UConn have shown the potential this team holds.

7. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 11-2 (1-1 B1G)

Next game: @ Wisconsin

The Illini finished the 2021-22 season with a 7-20 record. In less than half as many games, Illinois has already surpassed last year’s win total (and equaled its conference win total), thanks in part to Dayton transfer Makira Cook. Cook is currently seventh in the Big Ten with just under 18 points per game, and her 33 points almost single-handedly took down Indiana in early December.

8. Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 10-2 (1-1 B1G)

Next game: @ No. 12 Iowa

In his latest Women’s Basketball Bracketology prediction, ESPN’s Charlie Creme ranked Purdue as the first team outside of the NCAA Tournament as of this moment. The Boilermakers are a wildcard in the Big Ten, ranking seventh in offense and eighth in defense, and currently stand as a team that needs strong conference play to sneak into March Madness. Purdue defeated Michigan State in overtime in early December, but fell to No. 20 Maryland the next matchup in a three-point affair.

9. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 8-5 (0-2 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 4 Indiana

The Spartans have had a tough go at things early. After starting 6-0, Michigan State dropped five straight, including a 31-point walloping from No. 5 Iowa State and close losses to No. 18 Oregon and No. 3 Ohio State. Add in tight defeats to Georgia Tech and Purdue, and you have a brutal last-month stretch. Things won’t get any easier either, as the Spartans have No. 4 Indiana coming to East Lansing Thursday.

10. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 9-4 (0-2 B1G)

Next game: vs. Rutgers

Despite having fewer losses than the aforementioned Spartans, Penn State slots in behind Michigan State due to its strength of schedule. The Lady Lions have dropped four of their last six contests, with two of them (Minnesota, Drexel in OT) coming to teams with a NET ranking outside the top 100.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 8-5 (1-1 B1G)

Next game: @ No. 16 Maryland

On Dec. 3, Minnesota took down Penn State in double overtime. Unfortunately, that’s really been one of the only good things to happen to the Gophers this season, as Minnesota seems like it’s on another track for a losing season.

12. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 6-5 (0-1 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 3 Ohio State

In the Big Ten, Northwestern ranks as the worst shooting team, worst three-point shooting team and second-worst free throw shooting team. That’s not exactly a good recipe for success. The Wildcats have dealt with inconsistency all season as the team has struggled to find its identity post-Veronica Burton, and the results have reflected that. Northwestern was blown out by No. 20 Oregon, No. 9 Notre Dame and Duke (now receiving votes) before finally keeping things close against No. 17 Michigan in early December. If the ‘Cats want to show significant improvement going into conference play, they’ll need more scoring from their young stars like Jillian Brown and Melannie Daley.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 6-8 (0-2 B1G)

Next game: @ Penn State

One of just two sub-.500 Big Ten teams, Rutgers has had a brutal schedule early, facing three ranked opponents, as well as tough foes Illinois, Princeton and South Dakota State. The Scarlet Knights rank last in the Big Ten in scoring offense and scoring defense, and their schedule definitely won’t get any easier moving forward.

14. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 4-9 (0-2 B1G)

Next game: vs. Illinois

It hasn’t been easy sledding for the Badgers, who have yet to pick up a Power Five victory this season. Wisconsin has suffered losses to the likes of Illinois State and VCU, the latter of which has a NET ranking of 193. The Badgers also lost their two conference matches by a combined 59 points, leaving it anyone’s guess if/when they’ll pick up a Big Ten win this season.