Men's Big Ten power rankings


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Michigan State: The loss to North Carolina is concerning, but I still view this team as the best unit in the conference. Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, and Keith Appling form possibly the country’s best trio of teammates. And they’re led by the conference’s best head coach. Of all 12 teams, Sparty is the best bet to go the deepest in the NCAA Tournament.

Wisconsin: An argument could be made that Bo Ryan’s squad is the best in the Big Ten. But aside from their win against a banged-up Florida early in the year, the Badgers haven’t beaten anyone special. What is scary about Wisconsin is that it can win in a variety of ways.

Ohio State: Only in the Big Ten can the nation’s No. 3 ranked team be slotted in the third spot in its conference’s power rankings. The Buckeyes have flown under the radar because of Michigan State’s preseason hype and Wisconsin’s impressive 12-0 start, but don’t think this team isn’t for real.

Iowa: Still the top team in the conference according to College Basketball Reference’s Simple Rating System, Iowa will have to prove more if it is to climb any higher in these rankings. The Hawkeyes have been solid, but how they size up against the Big Ten’s heavyweights will be a better indicator of how good they really are.

Michigan: After stumbling through possibly the nation’s toughest nonconference schedule, Michigan will get a bit of a break when Big Ten play begins. The Wolverines’ first four conference games: Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Penn State.

Indiana: The Hoosiers’ freshman class will have to figure it out quickly if Indiana is to return to the NCAA Tournament. After losing Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and Christian Watford, Indiana has struggled out of the gate in 2013, losing three of its first 11 games.

Illinois: For all the praise the Big Ten gets, it is a little top heavy. Who knows if Indiana can eventually figure it out, and we really don’t know who Illinois is yet. Despite the recruiting debacle in the Chicago-land area that seems to be continuing under his lead, I still believe John Groce can be the man to turn this program into a consistent contender.

Purdue: Purdue’s win total has dropped in each of the past three seasons. Don’t expect the Boilermakers to continue the trend and finish with fewer than the 16 wins they amassed last year. But regardless, the three starters Purdue returned probably won’t be enough to push this team to a postseason berth.

Minnesota: The way the rest of the conference shapes up at this point is nothing more than an educated guess. Minnesota competed with No. 8 Syracuse on Nov. 25, losing only by 8 points. That’s encouraging, but there’s a stretch of 11 days in January when the Gophers have to play Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Yikes.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are an interesting team. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are ranked first and second in the conference in points produced, a statistic aimed to measure a player’s contributions on the offensive end based on shots, assists, and offensive rebounds. Penn State isn’t the deepest unit, though, which is why it’ll most likely struggle to crack the .500 mark in conference play.

Nebraska: Expect Northwestern and the Huskers to battle for the basement spot in these rankings all season. With losses to Massachusetts, Alabama-Birmingham and Creighton already, Nebraska will be hard pressed to top the 4-14 conference record it posted a year ago.

Northwestern: The Wildcats don’t shoot, pass or rebound the ball well. The good news: former Mike Krzyzewski understudy Chris Collins will be given ample time to turn this program around.

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