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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, fifth edition

The Illini are starting to struggle.

@IndianaWBB on Twitter

As we enter the last week of January, The Big Ten remains a very lopsided conference. The top four teams in the conference refuse to budge from their winning ways, and the bottom teams, well, also refuse to budge, though for different reasons. But for the middling teams like Purdue and Nebraska, hope still remains as Illinois starts to look a bit shaky. Here’s where things stand after this weekend’s slate of games:

1. No. 2 Ohio State

Record: 19-0 (8-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 10 Iowa

Last Ranking: 1

The Ohio State Buckeyes still have not lost a basketball game this season. They made fools out of a bottom-feeding Northwestern team in their only matchup of the week, holding a lead of at least ten points following the first quarter en route to a laughable 84-54 victory. They’ll finally face some of the tougher teams in the Big Ten this coming week, with matchups against Iowa and Indiana on Monday and Thursday, but there shouldn’t be reason to worry considering the Buckeyes’ 4-0 record against ranked opponents this season.

2. No. 6 Indiana

Record: 17-1 (7-1 B1G)

Next Game: at No. 14 Michigan

Last Ranking: 2

The Hoosiers extended their winning streak to five games last week with a decisive win against a ranked Illinois team. They pulled away in the second half, outscoring the Illini 46-41 and holding the Big Ten’s best three-point shooting team to just 5-of-15 from behind the arc. They’ll look to carry that momentum into matchups against Michigan and Ohio State next week, which will test their No. 6 ranked standing.

3. No. 10 Iowa

Record: 15-4 (7-1 B1G)

Next Game: at No. 2 Ohio State

Last Ranking: 3

Iowa was barely able to hang on against a scuffling Michigan State team, eventually beating the Spartans 84-81 in overtime, but that seems to be an outlier among its recent performances. The team struggled to shoot three pointers against a strong Spartans three-point defense and turned the ball over more times than they would’ve liked. They’ll have to regroup before a tough matchup against Ohio State on Monday.

4. No. 14 Michigan

Record: 16-3 (6-2 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 6 Indiana

Last Ranking: 4

The Wolverines were able to take advantage of a weak Rutgers team on Thursday, trouncing them 81-58 in a game that never felt close after the first quarter. The team was more efficient than average in both field goals and three pointers against a below average Rutgers defense, and shot 18-of-19 from the charity stripe. They won’t be given as many free points against Indiana on Monday, but Michigan could find some holes in their weak three point defense.

5. No. 11 Maryland

Record: 16-4 (7-2 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 14 Michigan

Last Ranking: 6

The Terrapins powered past the middling Badgers in Madison last Thursday, then left for Nebraska hoping to carry some of that momentum with them. They continue to be one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the conference, which made them an unbalanced matchup for a Wisconsin team that has been weak behind the arc all season. Maryland then won a laugher in Nebraska despite an uncharacteristically off scoring night, but the defense kept them in that one.

6. No. 21 Illinois

Record: 16-4 (6-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Purdue

Last Ranking: 5

Illinois has seemingly hit its first skid of the year, dropping two of its last three matchups while struggling to defend against the Big Ten’s better offenses. They remain in the AP Top 25, but that might not last long if they fail to compete against other ranked opponents. The Illini still shoot the ball well, leading the conference in three-point percentage and ranking fifth in field goal percentage, but the defense will have to improve. Their upcoming matchups against weaker Big Ten teams should give them some momentum, but then again they barely squeaked out a win against a struggling Northwestern team on Sunday.

7. Purdue

Record: 13-6 (4-5 B1G)

Next Game: at No. 21 Illinois

Last Ranking: 7

Purdue excelled in non-conference play, but its Big Ten matchups have been a mixed bag so far. They sealed a commanding win over Minnesota on Saturday, taking the lead late in the first quarter and never looking back. But that win came despite a below average shooting performance, with most of their help coming from the defensive end. It’s easy enough to out-shoot Minnesota, but whether their defense can hold up against better offense has still yet to be determined.

8. Nebraska

Record: 12-8 (4-5 B1G)

Next Game: at No. 10 Iowa

Last Ranking: 8

Nebraska beat Purdue in weird fashion on Wednesday, winning by seven points despite both teams making 40% of their field goals and Nebraska being decidedly less efficient from behind the arc. Going to the free-throw line 21 times certainly helped, but it’s hard to use this performance to evaluate the Cornhuskers’ future. A 15-point loss to No. 11 Maryland might be a little more indicative, though. Perhaps we’ll get the full picture when they take on No. 10 Iowa next weekend.

9. Penn State

Record: 11-8 (2-6 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

Last Ranking: 11

After being victimized by Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes, the Lady Lions came home and dropped a game against the lowly Minnesota Golden Gophers. They allowed a struggling Minnesota team to shoot nearly 10% more efficiently than their season average, but they turned their week around with a five point defeat of Wisconsin. The defense looked strong, which should carry over well to their Rutgers matchup.

10. Wisconsin

Record: 6-14 (2-7 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Valparaiso

Last Ranking: 10

The Badgers have had a disappointing season to this point, but they’ve separated themselves from the Big Ten’s rock bottom by taking advantage of weaker opponents. They lost to ranked Indiana and Maryland, but they handled Minnesota and squeaked past Michigan State, displaying some of their best scoring efforts in the process. A close loss to Penn State may kill some momentum, but we’ll see how much their winning ways continue against Valparaiso and Northwestern in the coming week.

11. Michigan State

Record: 11-9 (3-6 B1G)

Next Game: at No. 21 Illinois

Last Ranking: 9

The Spartans’ losing streak almost came to an end in a battle with a dominant Iowa team, but they unfortunately couldn’t hang on in overtime and lost by three. However, they finally ended it in commanding fashion with a blowout win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at home. Michigan State got outshot from behind the arc, but put on one of its more efficient scoring nights of the season. MSU could put up a fight against a tumultuous Illinois team next week.

12. Minnesota

Record: 9-11 (2-7 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 14 Michigan

Last Ranking: 13

The Golden Gophers are a testament to the idea that it’s hard to win basketball games if you don’t score a lot of points. Minnesota lost by 19 to a middling Purdue team on Saturday, making less than a third of their shots and only a quarter of their threes. Only Rutgers and Northwestern shoot less efficiently than Minnesota, and only the Wildcats are worse from behind the arc.

13. Rutgers

Record: 8-13 (2-7 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Penn State

Last Ranking: 12

Despite having some success against unranked conference teams, back-to-back 20+ point losses to Maryland and Michigan dropped Rutgers all the way near the bottom of the power rankings. A defense that looked incredible against Nebraska and Minnesota just hasn’t had the same effect on even the sixth- and seventh-highest scoring teams in the conference. They’ll play a struggling Penn State team before heading to Indiana, but it’s not looking good.

14. Northwestern

Record: 6-13 (0-9 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Chicago State

Last Ranking: 14

Another week, another appearance for the Northwestern Wildcats at the bottom of a power ranking. The ‘Cats started the season with a respectable 4-2 record against non-conference teams, but now find themselves on an eight-game losing streak heading into Wednesday’s matchup versus Chicago State. The good news? Northwestern won’t face another ranked opponent until they take on Maryland on Feb. 9.