We are now fully into college basketball season and the Wisconsin Badgers have just pulled off one of the biggest wins of the season, so let’s get the first B1G Power Rankings of the season going!
We will have a rankings post up later on Monday to discuss where the rest of the country thinks the B1G teams rank. For now, though, I am going to give you my unimpeachable list of the teams based upon watching all of the Wisconsin games and parts of the Iowa/Penn State game. I am an expert.
1) Michigan State (12-3 overall, 4-0 B1G)
The Spartans were a trendy preseason Final Four pick and then they opened the season with a loss to Kentucky and then after three wins they lost to Virginia Tech. Everyone was like “what the hell...why is my Final Four pick 3-2?” After losing to Duke to bottom out at 5-3, MSU has rattled off seven straight wins and just completed a weekend steamroll of Illinois and Michigan to start off B1G play at 4-0. The Spartans will be at the top of this list until further notice.
2) Penn State (12-2 overall, 2-1 B1G)
I grew up in Pennsylvania. I played basketball in Pennsylvania. The Penn State Nittany Lions are, on a good day, the seventh most popular basketball team in the state. It is amazing that they played in front of a raucous and sold-out Palestra over the weekend and equally amazing that they beat a tough, talented Iowa squad. Besides their weird loss to Ole Miss earlier in the year, the Nittany Lions have an impressive resume and a chance to rack up three more wins (at Rutgers, vs. Wisconsin, at Minnesota) before their rematch with Ohio State (who blew their doors off in Columbus at the beginning of December).
3) Ohio State (11-3 overall, 1-2 B1G)
This may be an unfair spot for what looks like the second best team in the conference this year, but that’s what you get when you lose to Wisconsin at home after losing to West Virginia (and also Minnesota a few games ago). I don’t make the rules...wait...yes I do. Welp, those are the rules, Buckeyes! Eat it!
OSU has an away game against Maryland on Tuesday (which they are projected to lose on KenPom) and then they don’t play another game they are projected to lose until their last game of the season. They’ll be fine.
4) Maryland (12-2 overall, 2-1 B1G)
The Terps are kind of quietly lurking, just off the pace of the top teams, waiting to pounce and snag a top-12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve only lost to Penn State and Seton Hall (both on the road) this year and have a huge chance at a statement win with Ohio State coming to town on Tuesday. As long as players stop transferring out of College Park midseason, Maryland should be right there at the end of the year.
5) Iowa (10-4 overall, 1-2 B1G)
Iowa’s offense (I know, right?!?) is a death-machine this year. They are ranked No. 2 (behind only Ohio State) in AdjO on KenPom and average 81.1 ppg (good for No. 18 in the nation). Their loss to Penn State over the weekend was heartbreaking and their loss to DePaul at the beginning of the season was puzzling, but they get a bye on Tuesday when they travel to Nebraska and then host Maryland on Friday for a marquee clash.
6) Michigan (10-4 overall, 1-2 B1G)
Strange season for the Wolverines so far. They had their crazy run to win the Battle 4 Atlantis which included wins over Iowa State and UNC (which both look less impressive now than they did) and a win over Gonzaga (which looks more impressive now I’d argue) but have followed that up with losing four of their last seven games. All those losses have been to good teams, but you have to beat a couple of good teams if you are, uh, also a good team.
Their season will probably come down to a two-game stretch at the beginning of February where they host Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back games.
7) Wisconsin (9-5 overall, 2-1 B1G)
I think we are all well aware of the Badgers story so far this season. Brutal loss to open the season, sweet win over Marquette, something terrible happened around Thanksgiving, Greg Gard was fired maybe, beat Indiana, Gard was rehired maybe, lost to Rutgers and we all threw in the towel, beat Tennessee and Ohio State on the road and NOW WE ARE BACK, BABY! Badgers could finish anywhere from No. 4 to No. 11 on this Power Ranking and I wouldn’t be surprised.
8) Illinois (10-5 overall, 2-2 B1G)
The Fighting Illini come to the Kohl Center on Wednesday fresh off an absolute drubbing of Purdue. They held the Boilers to 37 points. In the whole game! The game before that they lost to Michigan State by 20.
Who really knows what to expect with this team. I just know they have a guy named Kofi Cockburn who is a freshman and may be the largest person I’ve ever laid eyes on. We’ll have more on this matchup throughout the week with our friends from The Champaign Room.
9) Rutgers (11-3 overall, 2-1 B1G)
The Scarlet Knights have been much better than everyone anticipated this year and it is thanks mostly to a shutdown defense. Before giving up 62 points to Nebraska (who they still waxed, mind you) Rutgers hadn’t given up more than 50 in three straight games.
Things will obviously be tough in conference, but RU is not a pushover anymore and they should scare some teams and even upset one or two.
10) Purdue (9-6 overall, 2-2 B1G)
Oh Purdue. What the hell are we supposed to do with you? The Boilers have an excellent defense and an average offense. They’ve still got a really tall guy with two “a’s” in his name. They just got embarrassed by Illinois on Sunday night. They also lost to Nebraska somehow, but beat Virginia by 29.
They have a rough upcoming schedule (at Michigan, Michigan State, at Maryland) and I think things are going to get worse for them before they get better. They should be squarely on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
11) Indiana (11-3 overall, 1-2 B1G)
Indiana is a football school because the basketball team lost to Arkansas and that would never happen on the gridiron. This may be the worst 11-win team in the country.
12) Minnesota (8-6 overall, 2-2 B1G)
The Gophers have had an extremely up-and-down year so far. They’ve beaten Ohio State and Oklahoma State but lost to Utah and DePaul. They are going to need to pull of a few upsets on the road to get into tourney consideration and they may have blown one of their bigger chances when they lost to Purdue in double OT last Thursday.
On a positive note, sophomore center Daniel Oturu has turned into a dominant inside presence who refuses to allow the opposing team to get a rebound, like, ever (12.2 boards per game, which is fourth...in the country). He also blocks a bunch of shots and averages 19.1 points per game.
13) Nebraska (6-8 overall, 1-2 B1G)
The Cornhuskers started off the season losing to UC-Riverside and Southern Utah at home and I hope to never have to write about their basketball team again. The only game they are predicted to win the rest of the season is their home game against Northwestern on March 1st. MUST SEE TV!
Also receiving votes: Northwestern