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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, fifth edition: Can anyone catch up to Caitlin Clark and Iowa?

It’s Clark’s world, and we are just living in it.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

The main storyline of Big Ten women’s basketball this year has been the historic run of Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark, who is averaging a remarkable 31 points, 7.2 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game. While Clark has dominated most of the media coverage in the conference, it’s also important to remember that plenty of other Big Ten action is occurring on a nightly basis. With such a hectic week in the conference, here are Inside NU’s weekly power rankings for the Big Ten.

1. No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 18-1 (7-0 B1G)

Next Game: at Ohio State

Iowa continued its season-long dominance with a commanding conference win on Saturday night, defeating No. 14 (at the time) Indiana 84-57 in a nationally televised game. Reigning Wooden Award winner Clark delivered another dazzling performance. She recorded her third straight double-double with an absurd stat line of 33 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. The All-American also received a substantial boost from her teammate, as senior Molly Davis contributed a season-high 18 points against the Hoosiers. The Hawkeyes will face another massive conference opponent on Sunday when they travel to Columbus to take on No. 18 Ohio State in a must-watch game.

2. No. 16 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 15-2 (6-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

On Saturday, Indiana faced its toughest challenge of the year when it traveled to Iowa to take on Clark and the Hawkeyes. However, much like the rest of the nation, IU couldn’t find a way to contain Clark, which resulted in a lopsided 84-57 defeat. The Hoosiers encountered difficulties against the Hawkeyes, especially from beyond the arc, where they shot only 25% on three-point attempts. Struggles persisted at the charity stripe, with the Hoosiers only making 54.5% of their free throws. All-American Mackenzie Holmes, in particular, wasn’t as effective from the line, converting just four of her nine attempts.

Despite the disappointing performance against Iowa, it’s important not to overanalyze the outcome, given the Hawkeyes’ dominance over opponents, regardless of their skill level. Indiana remains the second-most talented team in the conference and will have ample time to prepare for a rematch against the Hawkeyes on Feb. 22.

3. No. 18 Ohio State

Record: 14-3 (5-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Iowa

If it weren’t for losses to future Big Ten opponents UCLA and USC, Ohio State would have an appealing argument for being the second-best team in the conference. The Buckeyes have been extremely impressive in conference play as they currently boast a 5-1 record in the Big Ten, with quality wins over Michigan State and Penn State. The success of the Buckeyes has primarily been due to AP All-American honorable mention Jacy Sheldon, who has been lighting up opponents by putting in 17.7 points per game. Sheldon and Ohio State will have a massive opportunity to boost their resume on Sunday when they travel to Iowa City to take on Clark and the Hawkeyes.

4. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 13-4 (3-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan State

The only genuinely concerning loss on Minnesota’s schedule was a bad home defeat to Maryland; outside of that, the team’s other three losses came against No. 8 (at the time), UConn, No. 4 (at the time) Iowa and No. 16 Indiana. The Golden Gophers continued their tournament hopes this week with a nail-biting 62-58 win over Nebraska behind sophomore Mallory Heyer’s 16 points and seven rebounds. Heyer’s stellar defense this season has been a vital part of the Golden Gophers’ success, as she leads the team with an average of eight rebounds per game. Minnesota will face another significant conference test on Saturday when it plays host to Michigan State.

5. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 13-4 (3-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Minnesota

After a disappointing 16-14 season in which Michigan State missed March Madness, the Spartans have turned things around this year as they currently sit at 13-4. Over the weekend, coach Robyn Fralick’s squad had one of its biggest opportunities this season when MSU traveled to No. 17 Ohio State. Even though the Spartans battled the entire game, they fell short as the Buckeyes defeated them 70-65. One of the bright spots from the game for the Spartans was senior Tory Ozment, who provided a major spark off the bench with 18 points in 24 minutes. Michigan State will continue to need consistent scoring from Ozment and its bench unit going down the stretch, which will play a pivotal role in their success. The Spartans will have another chance to pick up a massive conference win on Saturday when they travel to Minnesota.

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 13-5 (5-2 B1G)

Next Game: at Penn State

Nebraska has shown glimpses of a team that could make a March run but hasn’t fully come together as a cohesive unit yet. The Cornhuskers have demonstrated their capability to dominate weaker opponents but have struggled against teams on the same talent spectrum. Nebraska found itself going toe-to-toe with Minnesota on Sunday but ultimately fell short in a 62-58 loss. Despite the defeat, the Cornhuskers have plenty of time to find their identity as a team, given their serious potential to win a game or two in the tournament. This potential is bolstered by the stellar play of 2022 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Alexis Markowski, who is carrying the Cornhuskers with an eye-opening 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this season.

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 11-5 (2-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Purdue

After a highly disappointing 2022-23 season with a 14-17 overall record and a 4-14 Big Ten mark, the Nittany Lions have bounced back tremendously as they currently sit at 11-5. Penn State picked up another conference win this week as it beat Rutgers 94-80 on the road. The Lions got a superb performance from Ashley Owusu, who gave them a massive spark off the bench with 18 points and five assists. PSU will look to win its second straight game on Thursday when the team hosts Purdue.

8. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 11-6 (3-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Illinois

Maryland got off to a rocky start this year, as the Terps began 2-3, but have found themselves in the mix for a tournament berth. The Terrapins’ success has primarily been due to preseason All-Big Ten honoree Shyanne Sellers, who leads Maryland with 16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Sellers was able to help her team pick up a big win on Sunday, as her 12 points and five assists helped the Terrapins defeat Purdue 88-66. Maryland will have another opportunity to add to its tournament resume on Sunday when the squad plays host to Illinois.

9. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 12-6 (3-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

Michigan has earned the title of the best defensive team in the conference, as UM currently allows opponents a Big Ten-best 58.1 points per game. The Wolverines had another outstanding defensive outing on Saturday when they defeated Wisconsin 76-52. Michigan was able to force an eye-opening 28 turnovers in the game, a key reason for the Wolverines’ dominant performance against the Badgers. Michigan will look to continue its impressive start to conference play on Sunday when it travels to Piscataway to take on Rutgers.

10. Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 9-7 (2-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Penn State

On Sunday, the Boilermakers had an opportunity to get their season going in the right direction as they traveled to face Maryland, but failed to capitalize as they suffered a brutal 88-66 loss. Purdue could not find an answer to contain Maryland sophomore Bri McDaniel, who delivered an electric performance with 25 points and seven assists. Additionally, the Boilermakers struggled greatly to get to the charity stripe, as Maryland attempted 18 free throws compared to Purdue’s seven attempts. The Boilermakers will look to end their two-game losing streak on Thursday when they travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State.

11. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 8-8 (2-4 B1G)

Next Game: at Maryland

The Fighting Illini picked up their first conference win on Sunday when they traveled to Evanston and defeated Northwestern 93-52. During their offensive explosion against the ‘Cats, Illinois got a gigantic performance from senior Camille Hobby, who put up a season-high 19 points and seven rebounds. Illinois also did a great job of containing Northwestern’s leading scorer Caileigh Walsh, as the Illini her to eight points on just 2 of 11 shooting. Illinois will now look to add another win to its record as U of I takes on Maryland in College Park on Saturday.

12. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 7-11 (2-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Penn State

It has been a rough couple of weeks for Northwestern, and its playing woes continued on Sunday against cross-state rival Illinois; NU was embarrassingly defeated 93-52. The ‘Cats were severely outshot by the Fighting Illini, making only 26.9% of their field goals compared to Illinois, which made 48.5%. Northwestern will face another challenging conference opponent as they welcome in Penn State following an eight-day layoff.

13. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 8-9 (1-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

Wisconsin extended its losing streak to three games when Iowa blew them out 96-50 on Tuesday. The Badgers’ scoring issues have persisted all season, as they rank dead last in the Big Ten, putting up only 64.3 points per game. These problems continued to show, as they had immense difficulty scoring against the Hawkeyes — particularly from beyond the arc, as they shot only 20% from three.

One of the lone bright spots for the Badgers this year has been sophomore Serah Williams, who is averaging an impressive 16.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. Williams will look to continue her dominant play for the Badgers on Tuesday when they face Minnesota in a conference showdown.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 6-14 (0-7 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Michigan

It is a lost year for Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights sit dead last in the conference with no Big Ten wins to show for their season. Rutgers’ defense has been one of the critical roots of its issues this season, as RU ranks third in the Big Ten, giving up 70.9 points to opponents per game. It’s looking more likely with each game that Rutgers will miss March Madness for the third consecutive season this year.