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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, fourth edition

Surprise! It’s more consistency!

Michigan Athletics

We are now officially over halfway through the basketball season, and yet, chaos still has not come to the Big Ten. There are four teams in the conference currently ranked in the AP top 10, and not a single one of those teams has more than two conference losses. Conversely, the bottom four teams in the conference — a group that, unfortunately, includes Northwestern — have combined for a total of five conference wins. Much like Big Ten football, there is a very clear top of the conference and a very clear bottom of the conference. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

1. No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 18-0 (7-0 B1G)

Next game: vs. Northwestern

Last Ranking: 1

What a season for the Buckeyes so far. They’ve been locked in at third in the AP Poll, behind only perennial powers South Carolina and Stanford, and they remain locked in as the top team in the conference in these rankings. They’ve only played one game since the last edition, but it was a fairly light 76-67 victory against Nebraska on the road. The Cornhuskers closed the deficit to just three in the third frame, but the Buckeyes responded with a 17-5 run to seal the deal. Ohio State has six players scoring in double figures right now and the sixth-ranked offense in the nation. They won’t fall from this spot until they lose, and that may not be for a long time.

2. No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers

Next game: At No. 24 Illinois

Last Ranking: 2

The team holding the second-longest win streak in the conference now has the second highest ranking in the conference. Mackenzie Holmes, recently named to the Wooden Award’s Midseason Top 25, has gone over 20 points in 10 of her past 13 games, including 29 in a blowout of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin game also marked the eighth time the season that the Hoosier defense has held its opponent under 60 points. However, over these next two weeks, Indiana will be faced with a gauntlet, including road trips to Illinois and Michigan and a home clash against the Buckeyes. If they’re able to survive that stretch with a winning record, there’s no telling how high they could climb.

3. No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 14-4 (6-1 B1G)

Next game: At Michigan State

Last Ranking: 4

The Hawkeye offense has been on a tear lately, scoring 80 or more points in their its eight games. The major reason for the Hawkeyes’ incredible offensive output, of course, is Caitlin Clark, the defending All-American who’s currently putting up a video-game stat line of 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists. The one way to stop the Hawkeyes might be, as Illinois demonstrated a few weeks ago, to outrebound them, but as Iowa’s 14-4 record demonstrates, that’s a very rare outcome to achieve.

4. No. 17 Michigan Wolverines

Record: 15-3 (5-2 B1G)

Next game: At Rutgers

Last Ranking: 5

Michigan is one of the best shooting teams in the nation, with a team percentage sitting at 47.96%. The Wolverines have been pretty consistent offensively, failing to crack the 60-point barrier just once this season. Ever since that game, a 66-57 loss at Ohio State, they've been playing Big Ten competition very well. Their lone loss is to Iowa, but it’s understandable given that the Hawkeyes shot 45% from three in that game. If the Wolverines are able to shore up a middle-of-the-pack defense, they should be able to challenge for the Big Ten crown.

5. No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 15-3 (5-2 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 6 Indiana

Last Ranking: 3

The Fighting Illini are finally ranked in the AP Poll (about three weeks too late), just in time to prove that they belong in the fight for the Big Ten. While playing on the road against Indiana and Ohio State, they had the lead with less than a minute left and well into the third quarter, respectively. Illinois is currently 14th in the country in scoring at 81.3 points per game, and outdueled Iowa on New Year’s Day to get its biggest conference victory so far. If the Fighting Illini are able to avenge their loss to Indiana on Wednesday, it should be smooth sailing for them from here on out.

6. No. 9 Maryland Terrapins

Record: 14-4 (5-2 B1G)

Next game: At Wisconsin

Last Ranking: 6

If there were any doubts about Maryland’s current place in the Big Ten hierarchy, they were answered with their contest against Indiana last Thursday. The Terrapins fought back from a double-digit deficit to tie the game at 50 in the fourth quarter, but then immediately gave up a 9-0 run that decided the game. Despite the excellent play of Diamond Miller, who’s a Wooden Award semifinalist and one of the best defenders in the country, Maryland just isn't quite in the upper echelon of the conference yet. Only time, and the five games against ranked opponents Maryland has coming up in February, will tell if they can reach that upper echelon.

7. Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 12-5 (3-4 B1G)

Next game: vs. Nebraska

Last Ranking: 8

Purdue had some severe struggles against Michigan, with the 80-59 defeat marking its third straight loss to a Big Ten team by double digits. However, they had a nice get-right game against a team that’s been the Big Ten doormat so far this year: Northwestern. Even with leading scorer Lasha Petree scoring just two points in the game, Purdue garnered a 12-point first half lead before blowing it, then made another run to win by 11. The Boilermakers haven’t really been able to hang with the top teams in the conference, but they’ve been beating up on the lower-end teams pretty consistently. That makes right in the middle a good spot for them.

8. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 11-7 (3-4 B1G)

Next game: At Purdue

Last Ranking: 10

After snapping a three game losing streak by demolishing Penn State, the Huskers gave the best team in the conference a run for their money. The Buckeyes never had a real reason to fear an upset — they never trailed during the game — but only led by seven with a minute to go in the third frame. The Huskers’ offense has been relatively middling so far, but if they're able to start converting more of their 25 three-point attempts per game, they might be able to make some noise in conference play.

9. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 10-8 (2-5 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 12 Iowa

Last Ranking: 9

It might seem a little bit odd to rank the Spartans above some of the other teams on this list, especially given the fact that they're on a three-game losing streak. However, they've been competitive in all of those losses, including taking Wisconsin to overtime. They're a solid shooting team, but the biggest issue has been the turnovers, with over 15 a game. Those giveaways, along with shooting just 64% from the charity stripe as a team on the year, have been a big reason why the Spartans have six losses by single digits this year.

10. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 6-12 (2-5 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 9 Maryland

Last Ranking: 12

Ignore the game yesterday, a 93-56 blowout loss against Indiana. Focus instead on the fact that a team that had lost 10 of 11 games heading into last Sunday managed to string together consecutive victories over the past week or so. Julie Pospisilova has scored in double figures in five of her last seven games, including a 20-point effort in the win over Minnesota. The biggest issue for the Badgers so far has been depth: while all five starters are averaging in double figures, no other player on the team averages over six points per contest.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 11-7 (2-5 B1G)

Next game: vs. Minnesota

Last Ranking: 7

Boy, it’s been a rough week for the Nittany Lions. Penn State went on a road trip through the heart of corn country and got absolutely annihilated, losing to Nebraska and Iowa by a combined 188-138. Penn State has one of the worst defenses in the country, which is giving up 68.3 points per game, and they’ve now given up 80 or more points to four Big Ten foes. Any time you can’t get stops, you won't be able to win games, and Penn State hasn’t really been able to do either since the calendar flipped to 2023.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 8-11 (2-5 B1G)

Next game: vs. No. 17 Michigan

Last Ranking: 14

Rutgers moving up has more to do with the teams that were ahead of them losing than Rutgers winning. While the Scarlet Knights did manage to defeat a bottom-feeder Minnesota team, their defeat at the hands of Maryland yesterday showed the true quality of this team. Their offense is lucky to be in the top 200 in the nation and they seem to be playing with a greased basketball — their 21.2 turnovers per game rank 340th in the nation. They’re also 0-5 against ranked teams, with the closest deficit being 12. Considering they’ve still got five games against ranked teams this year, it won’t get much better anytime soon.

13. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 8-10 (1-6 B1G)

Next game: at Penn State

Last Ranking: 11

Make it five straight losses for the Golden Gophers, who would be winless in conference play if not for a double-overtime shocker over Penn State. Minnesota appears to have not yet discovered the art of defense, given that their points allowed mark is the 33rd-worst in the country. As if that wasn’t enough, they also struggle to shoot the ball. The Golden Gophers are currently ranked 13th in the Big Ten in three point percentage, and that mark, much like their five-game losing streak, is second-worst to one team and one team only.

14. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 6-11 (0-7 B1G)

Next game: at No. 3 Ohio State

Last Ranking: 13

Well, the Wildcats have officially been declawed. After committing 25 turnovers in a home loss to Purdue, Northwestern has lost six straight contests and is still searching for its first win in conference play. Every loss brings a new, painful way for the ‘Cats to come up short. Against Michigan State, it was going 3-of-18 beyond the arc. Against Illinois, it was giving up 14 offensive rebounds; against Indiana, getting out rebounded 46-33. Without a Veronica Burton-level player, the offense has been stuck in the mud most games and often struggles to crack 60 points. The defense has also been sub-par without Burton and is forcing just over 16.5 turnovers per game, a number that’s about right in the middle of the pack. The issue is that a middle of the pack defense needs at least a middle of the pack offense to compete, and Northwestern doesn't really have that right now. While Caileigh Walsh is an excellent player who leads the team in scoring, when the team’s scoring leader can’t even crack the top 250 in the country in points per game, there’s a problem. The schedule does lighten up in February, as there’s only one ranked opponent on the docket. Until then, however, it’ll be rough sailing for the Wildcats.