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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, sixth edition

Hail to the victors valiant.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

1. No. 6 Michigan Wolverines

Previous Ranking: 2

Record: 19-2 (10-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 21 Iowa

There’s a new number one in town. After beating Indiana — the top team in last week’s rankings — by 15 points, it’s evident that Michigan is far and away the best team in the conference at the moment. Though the Hoosiers were without their best player, Michigan still held them to a season-low 50 points and dominated on both ends of the court. Naz Hillmon continues to impress, averaging 24.3 points per game over her last three performances, helping the team to seven consecutive double-digit victories. The Wolverines’ next matchup against Iowa is a chance for them to further cement themselves at the top of the table, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to budge anytime soon.

2. No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers

Previous Ranking: 1

Record: 14-2 (7-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs, Purdue

The Hoosiers have hit a bit of a bump in the road. That is, if the bump in the road is losing your best player, Mackenzie Holmes, to knee surgery in the heat of conference play. In addition, Indiana was hit with three game postponements in a row, causing it to miss matchups against Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois. They came off of their break only to lose to Michigan by 15 points in their worst offensive performance the entire season. Unfortunately, it’s likely the Hoosiers will be without their leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker until the postseason, but not all hope is lost. Indiana’s roster hosts five other players who are averaging over 10 points per game, and its next four games are certainly winnable on paper.

3. No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes

Previous Ranking: 4

Record: 15-4 (8-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Rutgers

It’s time to start thinking of the Buckeyes as genuine contenders for the Big Ten Tournament, because this team is fully capable of making a run for it. Ohio State is coming off a massive, season-defining four-point win against Iowa on the road, which ended the Hawkeyes’ seven-game win streak. The Buckeyes are now the fourth-best scoring offense in the country at a robust 83.2 points per game, including an all-around best 3-point percentage at 40.4%. Though they might not be the best defensive team in the conference, it is extremely difficult to match up to OSU’s offensive firepower. Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell also have a newfound helper in junior Rebeka Mikulasikova, who dropped an impressive 17 points on the Hawkeyes. With their final stretch of game including only one ranked matchup, the Buckeyes are on their way to completing a historic season.

T-4. No. 17 Maryland Terrapins

Previous Ranking: No. 5

Record: 16-6 (8-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Nebraska

There isn’t much to update for the Terps since our last round of rankings — they earned expected wins against Northwestern and Rutgers, both at home and both by double-digit margins. That being said, Maryland is on the verge of its most difficult stretch of games yet, ending the regular season with four back-to-back ranked matchups. With contests against Nebraska and Wisconsin acting as a buffer for now, the Terps are going to need to save their energy for those more difficult matchups while remaining dominant in the ones they are expected to win. Maryland is in control of its own destiny though, which is a blessing in disguise. Finish out the season with wins in those key games, and the Terps are a shoo-in for the National Tournament, let alone conference contenders.

T-4. No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes

Previous Ranking: 3

Record: 14-4 (9-2 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 6 Michigan

The Hawkeyes had so much momentum heading into the final stages of the regular season before Ohio State came around and spoiled the fun. Iowa’s remaining slate is incredibly difficult, yet potentially rewarding should they find some wins here ant there. With matchups against Minnesota and Rutgers in the mix to hasten the blow, the Hawkeyes finish conference play with four of their final six matchups coming against ranked opponents, just like Maryland. However, Caitlin Clark is having an unbelievable stretch of performances, dropping 43 of Iowa’s 88 points in the loss to OSU, and with her triple-double magic continuing, the Hawkeyes are hard to beat.

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Previous Ranking: T-6

Record: 17-4 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 17 Maryland

The Huskers are on a four-game winning streak, and although their opponents as of late have not necessarily been Big Ten powerhouses, this set of wins might be just what they need to hop right back into the mix. Nebraska had some mid-season struggles, admittedly due to the difficult task that is simply existing in the Big Ten, but Jaz Shelley and Co. have ample opportunity to avenge their losses by finishing out the regular season with a ranked win or two heading into the conference tournament. Sophomore Isabelle Bourne has played a major part in the Huskers last few matchups, scoring 14-points apiece in two of her last three games. With the Aussie’s play on the rise, Nebraska has a lot of weapons in its arsenal to finish out the regular season with.

7. Michigan State Spartans

Previous Ranking: T-6

Record: 12-9 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: @ Minnesota

It’s definitely not time to give up on the Spartans just yet. Despite coming off a five-point loss against Maryland at home, MSU is enjoying a pleasant surprise in freshman Mathilda Ekh who is shaping up to be a reliable, exciting big-time player. Ekh has had double-digit performances in her last six games and continues to add value to other stat categories as well. Though her efforts alone were not enough to beat the Terps, Ekh is playing alongside one of the best players in the conference, Nia Clouden—if the two continue to build off of each other and make their teammates around them better, the Spartans will be in good shape for a postseason run.

8. Northwestern Wildcats

Previous Ranking: T-6

Record: 12-8 (4-5 B1G)

Next Game: @ Penn State

The Wildcats have faced some midseason blues as of late, but things are looking up. After four losses in a row, Northwestern finally emerged victorious against Purdue in West Lafayette. The 13-point victory was spearheaded by none other than Veronica Burton, who emerged with a massive stat-line of 26 points, six rebounds and six steals. Courtney Shaw has also stepped up her defensive game, averaging 12.3 rebounds in her last four games. Though the team has faced some struggles this season, partially due to an injured Sydney Wood and predominantly young squad, there are still hopes for a solid final stretch and a conference tournament run in Northwestern’s future. And of course, Northwestern is always tough to beat when Burton is on her game.

9. Purdue Boilermakers

Previous Ranking: 10

Record: 13-9 (4-7 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 5 Indiana

Purdue has the worst of its season behind it. With only one ranked matchup to go, the Boilermakers have a genuine chance to win five of its last six games and put up a good fight against in-state rival Indiana. Aside from a shortened appearance against Nebraska, Madison Layden has been the Boilers’ most reliable player, consistently dropping double-digit performances and leading the team up and down the court. When Layden has the help of Abbey Ellis, whose performances are slightly less consistent, Purdue is a tough out for anybody. That being said, earning wins in the final stretch will be key to the Boilers postseason panning out how they want it to.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Previous Ranking: 11

Record: 10-13 (3-8)

Next Game: vs. Michigan State

Minnesota came dangerously close to dropping its contest with the Badgers in a 57-55 win, but other than that, the Gophers have performed as expected in their last few matchups. Sara Scalia is still lighting up Big Ten courts with stellar performances, especially against difficult opponents, most recently dropping 26 points on the Hoosiers. One of her best performances of the season came against Michigan State, who the Gophers face again in their next matchup. While Minnesota might not be projected to beat the Spartans, Scalia’s inevitable impact on every game she plays is a reason to tune in.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions

Previous Ranking: 9

Record: 9-12 (3-8 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Northwestern

The Nittany Lions are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, and it hasn’t been pretty. Ideally, Penn State should have been competitive in three of these matchups—against Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin—but that just wasn’t the case. That being said, they only have one really difficult contest left and five other opportunities to give themselves a shot at the postseason. The Nittany Lions still have Makenna Marisa in their arsenal, and she has only scored fewer than 20 points in two of her last seven appearances. With easier games remaining, there is plenty of room for Marisa to ball out and lead her teammates to a few more well-deserved wins.

12. Wisconsin Badgers

Previous Ranking: 13

Record: 5-16 (2-9 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Illinois

It has not been an easy season for the Badgers, but they’ve managed to pull out a pair of Big Ten wins. Unfortunately, though, after its upcoming, winnable, matchup against Illinois, Wisconsin has a difficult four game stretch. Postseason hopes may be few and far between, but Julie Posipisilova has emerged as a standout alongside Sydney Hilliard this season, which is something to look forward to heading into next year.

13. Illinois Fighting Illini

Previous Ranking: 13

Record: 6-11 (1-5 B1G)

Next Game: @ Wisconsin

The Illini have been the most recent victims of COVID postponements, having only played one game since we last checked in with them. Unfortunately, that game was against Caitlin Clark and Iowa, so naturally it did not bode too well for them. Their next matchup is against Wisconsin, the one opponent they’ve beaten in Big Ten play thus far, and a victory there might help them regain a little bit of confidence as the season winds down.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Previous Ranking: 14

Record: 7-16 (0-11 B1G)

Next Game: @ No. 23 Ohio State

It’s been a long and tiring season for Rutgers. Most recently scoring only 38 points in their matchup against Nebraska, the Scarlet Knights are in the midst of their worst season since the 2016-17 carousel, where they only managed to win six games. Given the success the team has had in recent years, stacking four winning seasons in a row, hopefully this go-around is simply a bump in the road and next year will pan out in a more favorable fashion for the team in Piscataway.