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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, third edition

Another week, another quite similar power ranking

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joseph Scheller/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

March is getting closer and closer, yet we haven’t seen much madness begin. Big Ten play is in full swing, but many of the most exciting matchups are still yet to come. While Ohio State claims the number one spot on the Big Ten Power Rankings for our third listing of the season, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa are showing that they are not willing to yield that spot easily. As for the Northwestern Wildcats, they are continuing to slip further and further down this list, yet to have notched a B1G win this season. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, and these rankings are far from being set in stone.

1. No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 17-0 (6-0 B1G)

Next game: @ Nebraska

Last ranking: 1

The OSU squad is continuing to roll, having picked up two wins this past week against Minnesota and Illinois. Despite losing point guards Madison Greene at the tail end of December and Jacy Sheldon a few weeks earlier, Rikki Harris has stepped up for the Buckeyes, recording a career-high 19 points at Minnesota on Thursday. Taylor Mikesell has now taken the reins, guiding OSU to an unblemished record. In the last five games, Mikesell has averaged 22 PPG, topping off this week with a 30-point game against the tough Fighting Illini squad. Although Sheldon is still on a week-to-week basis, the Buckeyes are looking to continue their hot streak as they travel to Nebraska next Saturday.

2. No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 14-1 (4-1 B1G)

Next game: vs. Maryland

Last ranking: 3

The Hoosiers only played one game this past week, and they sure knew how to capitalize. The Indiana team was swiftly in and out of Evanston this past Sunday, decisively defeating Northwestern, 72-50. Veteran Mackenzie Holmes put up 24 points, bringing her average up to 21.1 on the season. Additionally, the Hoosiers’ defense looked stellar, as they tallied 11 steals and five blocks against the ‘Cats. Indiana was able to pull it out this weekend despite shooting their lowest total field goal percentage (36.8%) and three-point field goal percentage (13.6%) all season. The road to March only gets harder from here, and the Hoosiers are going to have to step up their game as B1G play continues on.

3. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 14-2 (4-1 B1G)

Next game: @ Minnesota

Last ranking: 2

Illinois’ seven-game win streak was snapped on Sunday in a tight loss to the Buckeyes. However, the Fighting Illini are proving that they belong at the top of the B1G and can keep up with teams like Indiana, Ohio State and Iowa. Prior to the loss, Illinois shot a better three-point percentage (42.1%) than total (41%) against Northwestern on Thursday in another dominant performance. Against the Buckeyes, the Illini put up a fantastic performance with Kendall Bostic tabbing a 27-point, 15-rebound double-double, and Genesis Bryant scoring 20 points. Any given player can step up in key moments for the Illini and the B1G season is still young. This Illinois team has a really high ceiling and they can definitely accomplish it.

4. No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 12-4 (4-1 B1G)

Next game: vs. Northwestern

Last ranking: 4

If we have learned anything from watching the Hawkeyes over the past few years, we know that it really is just the Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano show. Iowa bounced back after last week’s loss to Illinois by taking down Michigan in Ann Arbor. Clark and Czinano led the team in scoring with 28 and 19 points. McKenna Warnock and Kate Martin also tallied double-digit scores, putting up 14 and 10 points, respectively. Clark posted 20+ points for the 15th time this season. Coach Bluder’s team has fallen just short of the national championship for multiple years running, but they are proving that they have the grit and determination to make a deep run this year.

5. No. 14 Michigan Wolverines

Record: 13-3 (3-2 B1G)

Next game: @ Purdue

Last ranking: 5

Despite a loss to the Hawkeyes in a high-scoring shootout this past Saturday, the Wolverines are looking like an extremely solid team, well deserving of maintaining their place in future top 25 rankings. The Wolverines are shooting just over 48% on the season while holding opponents to a shooting percentage of 39.6%. Michigan ranks 115th in scoring defense, higher than almost every other team in the B1G. Graduate student Emily Kiser and fifth-year Leigha Brown are bringing their veteran status to the table to return Michigan to the phenomenal record it produced last year.

6. No. 16 Maryland Terrapins

Record: 13-3 (4-1 B1G)

Next game: @ Indiana

Last ranking: 6

Ranking this Maryland team this low doesn’t exactly feel right with star senior Diamond Miller averaging 18.7 PPG this season. However, the Terrapins haven’t exactly proved that they belong at the top of the Big Ten. So far, Maryland has faced off against Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota, Rutgers and Michigan State in B1G play. The Terrapins held on marginally to take down the Boilermakers, but were decimated by the Cornhuskers in a 90-67 loss. Still, Maryland took down three non-conference ranked opponents — No. 17 Baylor, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 6 UConn. This Thursday’s game against current No. 6 Indiana could skyrocket Maryland up the rankings.

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 11-5 (2-3 B1G)

Next game: @ Nebraska

Last ranking: 9

While the Nittany Lions faced some struggles at the end of November and early December, signs are pointing to Penn State being back on track. Despite dropping a game to the No. 14 Wolverines, the Nittany Lions rebounded to get a conference win against Purdue. In that game, Penn State tied their season-best three-point field goal percentage (50%) and recorded 12 steals. Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Lions, having 276 on the season so far. Senior Makenna Marisa has been a star so far this season, and when she performs, the Nittany Lions win. That’s a lot of pressure riding on one player, so Penn State must find a way to balance out its lineup to see consistent wins in B1G play.

8. Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 11-4 (2-3 B1G)

Next game: Michigan

Last ranking: 8

Purdue has seen an extremely solid run so far in B1G play. The Boilermakers’ loss to the Nittany Lions came on 39.3% shooting, almost a ten-point difference from their 47.4% shooting on the season, placing them 15th in overall shooting percentage in Division I. If Purdue can return to these numbers, it will likely see success and potentially a few upsets in the rest of the season to come.

9. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 10-6 (2-3 B1G)

Next game: Wisconsin

Last ranking: 10

Michigan State’s 2-3 record in the Big Ten does not show the potential that this team has. Yet, their record does show that this team may be one of the most inconsistent in the B1G. In both their win against Northwestern and their loss against Maryland, two players off the bench served to be crucial for the Spartans, with Taiyier Parks putting up 17 points against the Wildcats and Moira Joiner recording 19 points against the Spartans. However, these players aren’t able to consistently help the Spartans, with Parks only getting six points for MSU in more play time and Joiner only averaging 9.2 on the season. Sophomore guard Matilda Ekh seems to be picking up her load, averaging just under 20 PPG in her last three, but the Spartans have yet to prove that this can last.

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 10-6 (2-3 B1G)

Next game: Penn State

Last ranking: 7

Nebraska is on a three-game losing streak, picking up losses against No. 6 Indiana and Rutgers in the past week and a half. The Cornhuskers put up quite the fight against the Hoosiers, forcing the game into overtime before their eventual loss. However, their loss to Rutgers was an ugly reality for the Nebraska squad. Nebraska went 2-of-25 from the three-point line. Jaz Shelley, the Husker’s leading scorer this season, was held to zero points and sophomore center Alexis Markowski, the second-leading scorer on the year, scored only five points. The Cornhuskers have struggled on the road this year, going 1-5, while their home record is 7-1. Nebraska can turn it around, but it starts with Penn State this Wednesday in Lincoln.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 8-8 (1-4 B1G)

Next game: vs. Rutgers

Last ranking: 11

In our last power rankings, we proposed the question of whether or not the Golden Gophers knew how to play defense. The stats speak for themselves. The Golden Gophers have dropped from the 299th-best defense in the nation to the 312th-best. Despite this, Minnesota was able to hold its own against the No. 3 Buckeyes, putting up 71 points against a team that allows 62.1 points on average. Their loss to Wisconsin seemed to cancel any step in the right direction that they were making. Their game against Rutgers this upcoming week will be a true test of whether they are heading up the rankings or further down.

12. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 5-11 (1-4 B1G)

Next game: at Michigan State

Last ranking: 14

The Wisconsin Badgers pulled out a win this past weekend, defeating the Gophers in their one and only game of the week to earntheir first Big Ten win of the season. Yet, it was against one of the weakest defenses in the B1G. Julia Pospisilova and graduate student Avery LaBarbera had particularly strong performances, each putting up 20 points, including a career-high for LaBarbera. However, it does not look like much will turn around for the Badgers. Sydney Hilliard, a key player for the Wisconsin squad, announced on Sunday that she would be leaving the team for personal reasons and would not be returning. Hilliard becomes the second player off the bench to be unavailable for the Badgers, following Halle Douglass’ season-ending knee injury in late November. Wisconsin is losing depth on an already struggling B1G team. While they may pull out another win or two here or there, it is unlikely that Wisconsin will climb the ranks.

13. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 6-9 (0-5 B1G)

Next game: @ Iowa

Last ranking: 12

The Northwestern Wildcats are facing one of their most tumultuous seasons in recent years. However, it is very likely for the ‘Cats to turn their season around and make a run through the rest of the B1G season. McKeown’s squad is in the toughest stretch of the season. From December 28th to January 22nd, the ‘Cats will have played Ohio State twice, Indiana once, Illinois twice, and Iowa once, with a few other mid-tier B1G teams sprinkled in. Courtney Shaw and Jillian Brown have not stepped up to be more influential players for the squad as many predicted after Veronica Burton’s departure last year. Caileigh Walsh and Sydney Wood, the ‘Cats’ two leading scorers, are only averaging 12.3 and 11.3 PPG, respectively, a meek number for competitive B1G play. The Wildcats have a chance to turn things around midseason, but it won’t come easily.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 7-10 (1-4 B1G)

Next game: vs. Minnesota

Last ranking: 13

The Scarlet Knights tallied their first Big Ten win this past week. However, it is hard to tell how much it was their own doing, or rather if it was a fluke for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. To put it bluntly, the Nebraska team struggled, while the Rutgers squad struggled marginally less. The Scarlet Knights put up only 10 points in the first quarter and almost all of their success in their 57-45 win came from their freshman forward Kaylene Smikle, who tallied 20 points. The Scarlet Knights struggled to connect with the bottom of the net, with the exception of a solid 20-point second quarter. It is unlikely that this win against a solid Cornhusker team really means much for the progress of the Rutgers program.