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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, sixth edition

Not much has shifted this week, but where should Iowa stand after losing to Ohio State?

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

It was a big week in Big Ten women’s basketball as some of the better teams in the conference faltered. Things look a little tighter now as conference play moves towards the crucial month of February. Here’s how our power rankings shake out this week:

1. No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 18-2 (7-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Nebraska

The Hawkeyes were court-stormed this week at Ohio State, but that doesn’t mean they should drop on this list. They’re still the fifth-ranked team in the country, and Caitlin Clark is still the best player in the sport. Nothing has changed for the outlook of Iowa’s season. Make no mistake, this is still a championship contender, and it will have an opportunity to get back on track at home against Nebraska. Clark and the Hawkeyes will then travel to Evanston to play Northwestern on Wednesday. Nebraska is good, but it’s a home game, and Northwestern is a very beatable team even at Welsh Ryan. This is a “get right” stretch for the black and yellow.

2. No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 15-3 (6-1 B1G)

Next Game: at Illinois

Any time you knock off Caitlin Clark, you deserve to move up. The Buckeyes did exactly that on Sunday in a game in which sophomore Cotie McMahon dropped 33 points, a career high. Paired with dominant senior guard Jacy Sheldon, who is leading the team in scoring averaging 17.6 points per game, Ohio State has some scary players. Since their loss to Michigan at the end of December, the Buckeyes have been hot and are still undefeated in January. The upcoming schedule is also favorable; their next two games are against Illinois and Purdue, both of which are in the bottom half of the conference standings.

3. No. 14 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 16-2 (7-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs Northwestern

The Hoosiers haven’t done anything to warrant a slide. Their win at Purdue wasn’t the most convincing effort of all time, but a road win is a road win. Indiana just doesn’t lose much. Outside of a trouncing at the hands of Iowa on the road (about as tough of a game as you can come by), the Hoosiers haven’t lost a game since November. And that game was against a Stanford team that is now ranked number six in the country. So yeah, Mackenzie Holmes and the Hoosiers are legit. Nobody wants to play them right now.

4. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 14-5 (4-4)

Next Game: at Illinois

The Gophers lost by three at Wisconsin after beating Michigan State at home by a large margin. Mara Braun is ridiculous for a sophomore. The rest of the rotation leaves a little bit to be desired, especially from a scoring output perspective, but Mallory Heyer is an incredibly talented defensive player. This is a team that is right in the thick of it trying to get into March. The next month, as always, will decide everything.

5. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 14-5 (4-4 B1G)

Next Game: at Illinois

The Spartans had a bad loss in Minnesota this week, and that’s why the Gophers edge them out. But MSU also KILLED Purdue at home by 27 points. So it’s a tough week to judge, but, at the end of the day, it held serve at home in blowout fashion. It’s really close, but that will propel them to the five spot. The Spartans’ losses aren’t that concerning. Coming within three points at Iowa is actually an impressive loss, and losing in Ohio State isn’t a big problem either. Moira Joiner is a solid number one scoring option, while Julia Ayrault provides additional scoring and elite rebounding. This team isn’t quite up with the elites, but it is very good.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 13-5 (4-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Northwestern

It gets incredibly tight here, but of the teams that could deserve this spot, Penn State is really the only one coming off a win. The Nittany Lions convincingly beat one of the conference’s better teams in Nebraska at home. Ashley Owusu, who had 20 in the game, is really good. She averages 19 points a night AND grabs 5.3 boards a contest as a guard. Shay Ciezki and Makenna Marisa provide supplementary offensive production, both averaging over 14 points. This is a good roster with the pieces to push the top teams in this league.

7. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 13-6 (5-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Iowa

The Huskers lost at Penn State. Again, that’s why the Nittany Lions edge them out. But the difference is largely negligible. Alexis Markowski averages a double double, and she gives them a chance to compete game in and game out. Iowa is a tough draw up next, but the schedule gets less daunting after that (before a rematch with the Hawkeyes in mid February). If Nebraska can win the ones it should win, and give itself a chance in the rest, then this is a team that certainly could matter come March.

8. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 14-6 (5-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan State

I’m not going to reward the Wolverines too much for a tight road win against Rutgers and an overtime win at home against Maryland, but they’ll slide up one spot. Laila Phelia is a nice offensive threat. Lauren Hansen is a savvy senior who does her job well and contributes on the score sheet. But this team lacks the fire power to compete with the best rosters in the conference. That’s just the truth. Two wins in a row can never hurt a team, though. It’ll certainly take it.

9. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 12-7 (4-4 B1G)

Next Game: at Penn State

The Terps fell to Michigan on the road, despite Jakia Brown-Turner’s 21 point effort. The senior is one of three players averaging double figures on the season; Bri McDaniel and Shyanne Sellers are the other two. A convincing win against Illinois on Saturday keeps them from sliding too far in the rankings. This is a team very much still alive and hoping to qualify for postseason play. Don’t count them out. Definitely not yet.

10. Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 9-10 (2-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs Ohio State

I’ll give the nod to Purdue here because its second loss this week was on the road in Ann Arbor, and its first loss was a six-point defeat at the hands of Indiana. That’s a tough draw for a team that just doesn’t stack up to the better ones in this conference. This is where the real drop off in these rankings starts. A home game against Ohio State will be a good measuring stick contest for this team to see if it can at least be scrappy in the rest of conference play.

11. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 8-9 (2-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs Ohio State

The Illini weren’t embarrassed this week on the road in College Park, so that’s the good. The bad is that the losses are stacking up for this team, and it doesn’t seem to have the ability to stem the tide. With Ohio State and Minnesota coming up next, a three game skid en route to a 2-7 conference record feels more than likely. Additionally, matchups with Iowa and Indiana remain on the docket. It’s going to be a rough year in Champaign. What a shame.

12. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 9-9 (2-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs Rutgers

Wisconsin secured a big home victory on Tuesday against Minnesota. Coming off a 46 (46!) point loss at Iowa, the Badgers made use of their wounded animal syndrome back in Madison. Serah Williams is an elite scoring threat who also is 6-foot-4 and hauls in 10.3 rebounds per contest. But she doesn’t have much help. This just isn’t a very good team.

13. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 7-11 (2-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs Penn State

The ‘Cats haven’t played since the last time we updated our power rankings, but they’ll slide anyway because of the Wisconsin win and the desire to continue punishing them for their poor effort against Michigan State last week. I mean, they had 11 turnovers in the first half. There was a stretch early where they turned the ball over on SIX consecutive possessions. You just cannot win basketball games that way. Northwestern has had a rough season, and it’s all but lost at this point. Some moral victories down the stretch and improved play from individual players could help soften the blow to the program.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 6-15 (0-8 B1G)

Next Game: at Wisconsin

When you have zero wins in conference, it’s tough to be anywhere but here—in last. Rutgers is really bad. Sophomore Kaylene Smikle is the bright spot, and she offers hope for the future, but that future is not now, and she hasn’t played since Dec. 30 against Northwestern. Right now, this team is the doormat of the conference. Luckily, it’s already played Iowa, Indiana and Ohio State, and it doesn’t have to play any of them again.