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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, second edition: 2023 rolls in

Conference play has started!

Rutgers v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Happy new year college basketball fans! Not only does the start of 2023 mark a clean slate for many teams, but it also starts up the bulk of conference play for the Big Ten. With almost half the season over, things will get much more interesting in the weeks to come. Let’s see how the Big Ten stacks up heading into January:

1. No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 13-1 (2-1 B1G)

Next Game: at Ohio State

Last Ranking: 1

Even after its close loss to Rutgers, Purdue has been the best team in the Big Ten so far. Zach Edey is one of the favorites for National Player of the Year, and freshman Fletcher Loyer is picking up a lot of the production that Purdue was scared of losing with the departure of Jaden Ivey. Right now, it is hard to find any weaknesses with the Boilermakers.

2. No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 10-2 (2-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

Last Ranking: 2

There were worries coming into the year for the Badgers with star player Johnny Davis leaving for the NBA, but after his departure Wisconsin has looked like a more complete team. With players such as Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl, Wisconsin looks scary. It has also been consistent so far this season, and its two losses were by a combined four points — one to Kansas and the other to Wake Forest.

3. No. 15 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 10-3 (1-1 B1G)

Next Game: @ Iowa

Last Ranking: 3

The Hoosiers have an identity: play through superstar Trayce Jackson-Davis, and have another secondary option — such as Xavier Johnson or Jalen Hood-Schifino — take on a primary offensive role if Jackson-Davis cannot get going. Luckily for the Hoosiers, that is barely the case, and this is why they will be troublesome for any team in the upcoming months.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 10-3 (2-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Purdue

Last Ranking: 6

So far this season, the Buckeyes have had the best offense in the conference, and this is largely due to their freshman play. While junior Zed Key has led the team in scoring, freshmen Brice Sensabaugh and Bruce Thornton have constantly made an impact on both sides of the floor. Even their losses are impressive: they took last year’s runner-ups North Carolina to overtime (Pete Nance!), and played Duke and San Diego State — both of whom are top 30 teams in the country — close until the end.

5. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 9-4 (0-2 B1G)

Next Game: at Northwestern

Last Ranking: 4

Illinois has had some high moments this season: it beat Texas, who was second in the nation and undefeated at the time, in overtime, and also defeated a highly-ranked UCLA team. But, the Illini’s low moments have been pretty low: they were smoked in Champaign by Penn State, beaten to the floor by Missouri and Maryland had their number in College Park. While Illinois is a scary team when it plays well, it depends on which version of the Illini shows up.

6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 10-4 (2-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Maryland

Last Ranking: 9

What a win for Rutgers Monday night against Purdue, the top team in the country. The Scarlet Knights got off to a great start and never looked back, and while they almost lost, the time ran out. This was a perfect way for Steve Pikiell’s team to start 2023.

7. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 10-4 (1-2 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

Last Ranking: 5

Maryland was going to jump Illinois in these rankings, but its performance in Ann Arbor against Michigan was unacceptable for the Treps. They were outplayed for all 40 minutes and allowed the Wolverines, who have not played a complete game all season, to have their way with ease. Before people get high on Maryland, the Terps need to prove they can hang with their best: their losses to Wisconsin, Tennessee and UCLA all raise causes for concern. The loss to Michigan last night only made them larger.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 11-3 (2-1 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan

Last Ranking: 8

The Nittany Lions keep on rolling, and they have not lost a game since Dec. 7 against Michigan State. Though they cannot be considered as serious contenders yet, Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy are two of the top players in the conference at this point in the season. Penn State also capitalizes on opportunities, as they shoot just under 50% from the floor and hold opponents to under 40.

9. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 10-3 (1-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Illinois

Last Ranking: 12

Does Northwestern deserve to be this high? No, not yet. Will it stay this high? No, probably not. But, the Wildcats have put together some of the best defense in the country, and even with Ohio State coming into Evanston and putting Chris Collins’ squad in its place, the ‘Cats have been better than the teams below them so far into the season. Northwestern has a chance to shock some people in conference play if it continues to play stellar defense combined with some above-average offense.

10. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 9-4 (1-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Nebraska

Last Ranking: 7

The only reason the Spartans are this low is because of this: what is their resume win? Sure, Tom Izzo’s team beat Kentucky in overtime, but the Wildcats have not been playing good basketball at all this season. A one-point loss to Gonzaga is impressive, but Michigan State has lacked a big win as of late. This can change quick, though, with conference play coming up.

11. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 8-5 (2-0 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Penn State

Last Ranking: 11

Michigan deserved to move down on this list, as the loss to Central Michigan in Ann Arbor is unacceptable for Juwan Howard and his team. But, there are teams that have played worse so far, and Michigan’s win against Maryland shows the team it can be. When he plays well, Hunter Dickinson cannot be stopped, and Jett Howard has come in and has made an instant impact. But, the Wolverines will need more contributions from Kobe Bufkin and Terrance Williams II to make some noise in the conference.

12. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 8-6 (1-2 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan State

Last Ranking: 13

While Nebraska is toward the bottom of these power rankings, it is in a better position than last season. It took the Cornhuskers until February last year to get a Big Ten win, and they were able to achieve this feat in December this year with a win over Iowa. They have also played Purdue, the top team in the country up to date, closer than anyone so far besides Rutgers. Props to Derrick Walker and Keisei Tominaga: they have both stepped into significant roles after a large turnaround from last season.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 8-6 (0-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs Indiana

Last Ranking: 10

The Hawkeyes have been bad as of late, and Fran McCaffery should be worried. While his group started the year well, it has won two of its last seven and is spiraling downward. Obviously, it won’t get easier in Big Ten play.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 6-6 (0-2 B1G)

Next Game: at Wisconsin

Last Ranking: 14

What have the Gophers done that shows they aren’t the worst team in the Big Ten so far? In their two conference games, they have failed to be competitive, and it does not stop there. Minnesota has not played a game since the last edition of these rankings, too, and a three-point win against Chicago State is not going to help its problems.