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Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings, seventh edition

Iowa’s hold at the top may be loosening ever so slightly.

Iowa v Northwestern
Caitlin Clark vs. Northwestern
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Big Ten has three teams in the AP top ten with Ohio State and Indiana making the leap this week. Iowa remains the standard of the conference, but with the Buckeyes and Hoosiers still left to play, the Big Ten regular season title is still very much in play. Here’s how our power rankings look with one month until March:

1. No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 20-2 (9-1 B1G)

Next Game: at Maryland

On Wednesday night, I personally got to bear witness to the juggernaut that is Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday night. And as much as it pains me to say it as the LSU-Northwestern fan that I am, No. 22 is the truth. The face of college basketball turned Welsh-Ryan black and gold for an evening on her way to a cool 35-piece and a comfortable 36-point W. Much has been made of Northwestern’s home-court advantage as of late, but it was a true away game environment for the ‘Cats. You could not get a car within a quarter mile from the stadium an hour before tip-off.

However, the Hawkeyes have shown some signs of fallibilty as of late. Ohio State and Nebraska both substantially out-rebounded Iowa, a worrying statistic for what was the best rebounding team in the Big Ten before this week. It does feel like I’m picking nits here to find anything negative, but the Hawkeyes’ hold on the Big Ten appears to be loosening ever so slightly.

2. No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 18-3 (9-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Indiana

Ohio State has soared to eighth in the country and the three-line in ESPN’s latest Bracketology, but this week was a stressful one for Buckeye fans. OSU trailed in the second half against both Illinois and Purdue, needing a stop on the final possession to sneak by a Boilermakers side that is 2-8 in the Big Ten. I’m sure some of its struggles can be attributed to an Iowa hangover, and that win is still impressive enough to keep Ohio State at the 2-spot in these power rankings. But, the Buckeyes will need to right the ship by Sunday when the 10th-ranked Hoosiers come to town.

3. No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 18-2 (9-1 B1G)

Next Game: at Ohio State

The Hoosiers continue to take care of business ahead of their matchup with Ohio State. Mackenzie Holmes and Co. thrashed Northwestern by 41 and led wire to wire in a 14-point win over Maryland. Holmes has a real case as the most efficient scorer in the Big Ten, averaging 20.5 points per game on a ridiculous 66.8% clip from the field. Since losing to Iowa on the road, Indiana has won its last 4 contests by an average of 21 points. I do have the Hoosiers teetering behind the Buckeyes for now, but I’m not sure if Ohio State has the size necessary to contain Holmes on Sunday.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 16-5 (7-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Michigan

Penn State jumps up two spots after a 3-0 week that culminated in a 16-point win over Minnesota on the road. The Nittany Lions had as impressive of a January as anyone else in the Big Ten, winning 7 of 8 with their only loss coming in a tight contest with Indiana on the road. The X-factor has to be the debut of Ashley Owusu. Owusu, a college basketball itinerant who’s stopped at Maryland and Virginia Tech on her way to Happy Valley, has been a force in her six games back since missing the start of the season with an undisclosed injury. Penn State is yet to lose with Owusu bringing up the ball, and her 18-7-5 line has raised the Nittany Lions’ ceiling from a fringe tournament team to a borderline contender in the Big Ten.

5. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 16-5 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

Michigan State is going to be a tough team to beat in March. Since its 19-point loss to Minnesota on the road two weeks ago, the Spartans have romped through inferior Big Ten competition, running through Purdue, Michigan and Rutgers by an average of 22 points. What makes the Spartans really scary though, however, is that nobody else in the conference has been nearly as competitive against Iowa and Ohio State. Michigan State lost its two games against the best of the Big Ten by a combined eight points, with its road loss to Iowa coming down to a buzzer-beater Caitlin Clark three from the logo. Sparty is downright dangerous.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 14-7 (4-6 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan State

The Gophers are a tough team to figure out. On one hand, they trounced a good Michigan State team by 19 two weeks ago in a game where Mara Braun – Minnesota’s leading scorer who averages 18 a game – shot 4-of-20 from the field. On the other hand, Minnesota has dropped three in a row since then, with two of those losses coming against Big Ten bottom-feeders Wisconsin and Illinois. On Wednesday, Penn State beat the Gophers soundly at home in a game that was never really close. Minnesota has a rematch with Michigan State on the road up next on the docket, and you would think it needs to at least be competitive in that one to keep its free-falling tournament hopes alive.

7. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 14-7 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Rutgers

Nebraska put together one of the more impressive weeks in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers lost to Iowa by 19 on Saturday, but played the Hawkeyes close for much of that contest, buoyed by 15 points and 11 rebounds from Big Ten leading rebounder Alexis Markowski. On Wednesday, it held Purdue to just 54 points in a comfortable victory at home. Buoyed by Markowski, Nebraska boasts the most rebounds per game in the Big Ten and the fourth-rated defense in the contest. The Cornhuskers have yet to put together four complete quarters against the best of the Big Ten, but this week is a promising sign for a team that is teetering on the bubble.

8. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 10-10 (4-6 B1G)

Next Game: at Purdue

The Illini are the big movers of these rankings. Last week, we predicted Illinois would finish the week 0-3 against Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan in Ann Arbor. Instead, Northwestern’s neighbors to the south played the Buckeyes tight and handled both Minnesota and Michigan by double digits. Makira Cook shot 40% from deep in all three games, putting up back-to-back 20-point performances in Illinois’ two wins. The Illini have played good teams close all season, with their losses to Ohio State, Indiana and Notre Dame all coming by 11 points or fewer. Their one double-digit conference loss came against Michigan in December, and Illinois beat them Wednesday by 13.

9. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 14-8 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Penn State

Michigan is lucky to only drop one spot after a brutal, brutal week. The Wolverines played themselves into the first four out after double digit losses to Michigan State and Illinois. Laila Phelia played high quality, efficient basketball all week, dropping a combined 38 points in Michigan’s two losses at a 61% clip. The junior guard is up there with the best in the Big Ten when she’s hot. Unfortunately for her though, her teammates struggled mightily. Michigan shot 40% from the field as a team this week, and played uninspired basketball on the defensive end. The Wolverines have a chance to get back on the right side of the bubble on Saturday with a road matchup against Penn State.

10. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 12-9 (4-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Iowa

It was a tough week for Big Ten bubble teams. Jakia Brown-Turner is emerging as an elite scoring option for the Terrapins, putting up 20 points in four consecutive games, but Maryland has yet to figure it out on the defensive end. Penn State dropped a 112-piece in a 36-point boat racing, and Maryland had no answer for Mackenzie Holmes and the Hoosiers on Thursday. Caitlin Clark might score all 103 points she needs to surpass Kelsey Plum as the all-time NCAA scoring leader at College Park on Saturday.

11. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 10-10 (3-7 B1G)

Next Game: at Northwestern

Serah Williams is an absolute weapon. The 6-foot-4 sophomore carried her Badgers to a double digit win over a hapless Rutgers side to the tune of 31 points and 12 rebounds. Wisconsin enters their matchup with Ohio State having won back to back games for the first time since November, where Williams could give an undersized Buckeyes side some fits down low.

12. Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 9-12 (2-8 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Illinois

Purdue took Ohio State to the brink in a three-point loss at home, but it was unable to capitalize on its momentum against Nebraska, falling 68-54 in a game that was never really close. The Boilermakers have lost seven straight since starting 2-1 in conference play. With a surging Illinois and No. 10 Indiana next up on the docket, Purdue will most likely find itself nursing a nine-game losing streak when it arrives at Welsh-Ryan on Valentine’s Day.

13. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 7-14 (2-8 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Wisconsin

Melannie Daley looked impressive in NU’s loss to No. 3 Iowa, finding her spots in the midrange on her way to 19 points, but there was not much else positive to take away from a week where Northwestern was outscored by Iowa and Indiana by a combined 77(!) points.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 6-17 (0-10 B1G)

Next Game: at Nebraska

Dark, dark times in Piscataway. Rutgers is winless since Dec. 5, and the Scarlet Knights have rarely looked competitive in the two months since. They got within four against Wisconsin with three minutes left on Sunday, but Serah Williams dispatched the hapless bottom-feeders of the Big Ten down the stretch. Rutgers may not win again.