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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, seventh edition

The Hoosiers are back on top heading into the final stretch

@IndianaWBB on Twitter

With less than two weeks until March, the Big Ten women’s basketball regular season is coming down to the wire. Most of the top five teams still have ranked opponents on the schedule, leaving lots of room for movement in an already close race. The Hoosiers might be back in front, but anything can happen from here. Check out our seventh edition of power rankings to see who has a shot to finish in the lead.

1. No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers

Previous Ranking: 2

Record: 19-4 (11-2 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 22 Iowa

The Hoosiers are back at full strength just at the right time. Though Grace Berger and Co. dropped a contest recently to Nebraska — their second loss in conference play and fourth loss on the year — Mackenzie Holmes has since returned to the starting lineup, re-cementing Indiana as the team to beat. A well-controlled win against Northwestern on Thursday earned the Hoosiers some much needed momentum heading into a difficult final stretch that includes both Iowa and Maryland, but little will stop this team from a conference tournament and March Madness run.

2. No. 13 Maryland Terrapins

Previous Ranking: T-4

Record: 20-6 (12-3 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 9 Michigan

Maryland has been on a tear as of late, even without one of its best players. Ashley Owusu exited the Terps’ Feb. 2nd matchup against Michigan State with a right ankle injury and has not been back since, but her absence has not seemed to bother her teammates too much on the court. Angel Reese has further emerged as a leader, averaging 20 points over her last four appearances, and the Terps are still the fifth highest scoring team in the nation. Their next matchup against Michigan should be exciting, but this team is already headed for a memorable postseason, and that will especially be the case if/when Owusu returns.

3. No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes

Previous Ranking: 3

Record: 19-5 (11-4 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Wisconsin

There is no doubt Ohio State will compete for a share of the regular season conference title, especially with three winnable games ahead of it. The Buckeyes were extremely competitive in their Thursday matchup against Maryland, and few other Big Ten teams look equipped to beat them. Taylor Mikesell had an outstanding performance, scoring 29 points against the Terps alongside Jacy Sheldon, who scored 22. It’s likely OSU will finish out the season on a high, with no ranked opponents remaining on its schedule and hopes of postseason hardware on the rise.

4. No. 9 Michigan Wolverines

Previous Ranking: 1

Record: 20-4 (11-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 13 Maryland

An unfortunate fall from grace is what the Wolverines have experienced since the last round of these power rankings. Michigan has won only one of its last three games, two of which it dropped to teams beatable by its standards in Michigan State and Northwestern. It’s worth considering Leigha Brown’s absence might be affecting the Wolverines a little more than they expected, but great teams are able to win competitive games even without one of their key players (see: Maryland). With a tough schedule remaining, the Wolverines are going to have to find some kind of momentum before March.

5. No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes

Previous Ranking: T-4

Record: 16-7 (10-4 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 5 Indiana

The Hawkeyes have experienced some difficulties lately as well, losing to both Michigan and Maryland in the last few weeks. It seems as though Iowa is just a little bit behind the four teams ahead of it in the rankings, as it is unable to consistently win the big matchups. That being said, Iowa has the unfortunate problem of never being overlooked by an opponent because teams have to come in with a game-plan to contain Caitlin Clark. The sophomore has scored 46, 32 and 19 points in her last three games, but she cannot be the only player who nears 20 points each contest if the Hawkeyes are to have serious postseason aspirations.

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Previous Ranking: 6

Record: 19-7 (8-7 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

Come the Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska has a serious chance to shake things up. Though it would be a mistake for opponents to overlook them, the Cornhuskers play hard and compete against the toughest teams in the conference, earning them two ranked wins so far. Though Thursday’s seven-point loss to Penn State puts a bit of a damper on their success so far, Nebraska is capable of winning out in its final three games and capping off its historic season with a legit postseason run. Five different Cornhuskers hit double-digits in their massive win recently against Indiana, and further full team efforts like that could see them go far.

T-7. Northwestern Wildcats

Previous Ranking: 8

Record: 14-10 (6-7 B1G)

Next Game: @ Illinois

Northwestern is one of the more confusing teams in the conference in that it loses to a mediocre Minnesota team one day and then turns right around and forces a No. 4 Michigan team into double overtime and wins. It seems to boil down to the fact that the Wildcats tend to play up to their opponents, which is great for winning the more difficult matchups, but not so great for emerging victorious in the matchups they are expected to win. That being said, Veronica Burton and Co. really do need to win out to move from their current position on the edge of the bubble into more serious postseason contention.

T-7. Michigan State Spartans

Previous Ranking: 7

Record: 14-11 (8-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Penn State

The Spartans have pretty much done exactly the same thing as Northwestern since we last checked in with them. Literally. They lost to Minnesota and also turned right around to beat Michigan. It doesn’t quite feel right to put one team ahead of the other, and they're not scheduled to play each other before the postseason, so it’s hard to tell where they really stand. MSU does boast a more difficult schedule ahead of it, though, which could spell trouble for tournament chances. Nia Clouden has been a bit quieter as well, with only 10 and 12 points in her last two games, but once again, freshman Mathilda Ekh is prepared to continue her growing role on the court come the final stretch.

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Previous Ranking: 10

Record: 12-15 (5-10 B1G)

Next Game: @ Nebraska

Alright Minnesota, we see you. The Gophers have earned two solid wins over their past four contests, beating both Michigan State and Northwestern. Though these wins may have come a little bit too late to actually help them with any postseason chances, the Gophers have been fun to watch. Sara Scalia has remained the most consistent member of the UMN squad, with dominant double-digit performances in her last five matchups, but she hasn’t always been able to count on her teammates to help her out. That being said, when they do, Minnesota can be really competitive. With the Gophers’ potential peeking out little by little, the future is bright.

10. Purdue Boilermakers

Previous Ranking: 9

Record: 15-11 (6-9 B1G)

Next Game: @ Rutgers

Purdue has done what it was expected to do, losing to both Northwestern and Indiana, then beating Penn State and Illinois. However, the Boilermakers did lose to Wisconsin, but they only fell by two, and the Badgers are really not that bad anymore (more on that in a second). Transfer Abby Ellis has remained a highlight for Purdue this year, hitting double digits in the majority of her recent performances while also contributing handily in the assist area. The Boilers should win two of their next three matchups to round out the season, but it’s doubtful they can do much in the way of furthering postseason hopes anymore this year.

11. Wisconsin Badgers

Previous Ranking: 12

Record: 7-18 (4-11 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 18 Ohio State

The Badgers have already doubled their total conference win count from last year, which is a hopeful sign for the future. But with their final three matchups featuring Ohio State, Nebraska and Purdue left on their plate, it’s unlikely they will add more than one win to their record as the regular season comes to a close.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

Previous Ranking: 11

Record: 10-15 (4-11 B1G)

Next Game: @ Michigan State

The Nittany Lions finally broke their eight-game losing streak with an impressive seven-point win against Nebraska, but it’s too little, too late. There isn’t much Makena Marisa can do to put Penn State back in the mix other than help her team win its next two games, but it’s not turning out to be the year Nittany Lions fans thought it would be.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Previous Ranking: 14

Record: 9-17 (2-12 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Purdue

Since we last talked about the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers not only won a conference game, but it won two back-to-back! Neither game was close either, with RU beating Penn State and Minnesota by margins of nine and 18, respectively. Again, it’s too little, too late, but wins at the end of a disappointing season are always sweet, especially with how long this team has had to work for them.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini

Previous Ranking: 13

Record: 6-16 (1-10 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Northwestern

Illinois returned from a series of COVID postponements only to lose five straight contests, four by double-digits. Notching only one win in conference play so far, the Illini are in the midst of what could be their fifth season in a row with three wins or less. Not ideal. that being said, there’s always hope for next year.