Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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1. Michigan State (23-8, 12-6)
The Spartans may have suffered a dip in production throughout January and February, but that’s because Keith Appling was battling a wrist injury, Adreian Payne had a tweaked ankle, and Branden Dawson punched a friggin’ table. Now, all those guys are back for Sparty, and the squad is getting healthy at the right time. Gary Harris, Appling, and Payne are all legitimate Big Ten Player of the Year caliber players when healthy. And they are. Yikes.

2. Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6)
Bo Ryan has been coaching in the Big Ten for 13 years, and in each one of those seasons, Wisconsin has not placed below fourth in the conference. It’s unfair, really, to field a team where all five starters can shoot the long ball with success. The Badgers have three guys shooting above 40 percent from long range, and the team makes more than 75 percent of its free throws. Michigan State might be the best team in the conference, but when Wisconsin is feelin’ it on the court, I don’t know if it can lose a game.

3. Michigan (23-7, 15-3)
Can you just imagine if Mitch McGary wasn’t out for the season? It says a lot about the state of basketball in the conference when the team that wins the regular-season title may not even be the best squad in the Big Ten, let alone its own state. Nik Stauskas is probably the favorite to win nearly every Big Ten award, and because this team has experience in the tourney, going to the NCAA championship last year, it would take some sort of meltdown to get bounced out early on.

4. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8)
Ohio State, ranked as high as No. 3 nationally earlier in the season, has suffered a fall from grace of epic proportions, but I still think the Buckeyes are a sleeping giant in the Big Ten and perhaps even on a larger scale. Aaron Craft sucks, but he really is quite good, which just boggles the mind. Still, I don’t think Ohio State will be able to muster up any type of mojo in the Big Ten tourney or otherwise. Getting swept by Penn State in the regular season usually doesn’t bode well for things to come for a team.

5. Nebraska (19-11, 11-7)
Who saw this coming? Nebrasketball may be back, but I think it’s going to take one more year under Tim Miles for this squad to prove that its ready to play with the big boys. That is, providing the school can get Miles to stay. He very well could be the most sought-after coach once the NCAA basketball season is in the books.

6. Iowa (20-11, 9-9)
The once top-10 hometown team has taken a page out of the book of its football counterpart, ripping the heart out those who cheer on the Black and Gold. Iowa, which was ranked throughout the entire regular season, will go into postseason play without a national top-25 ranking and will not have the luxury of getting a bye in the Big Ten tourney. A lot of people say they’re interested to see how Iowa fares against teams out of its conference, but with a less-than-desirable seeding for the NCAA tourney on the way, those Sweet 16 aspirations have melted faster than the snow in Iowa City.

7. Minnesota (19-12, 8-10)
Richard Pitino has already done more with less than Tubby Smith was able to do during his tenure at Minnesota. This squad, led by Andre Hollins, has the potential to beat anyone in the league, while at the same time can lose to a D-III school on any given day. If the Gilded Rodents can squeak into the Big Dance, I could see a couple of upsets getting handed out early on.

8. Illinois (18-13, 7-11)
I think Illinois might be one of the most talented teams in the league in terms of personnel, but they play too raw at times to use that to their advantage. One more year under John Groce could do this team well. Until then, the Fighting Illini remain nothing more than a team full of afterthoughts and guys with cool last (and first) names.

9. Indiana (17-14, 7-11)
Is Tom Crean on the hot seat? His teams have greatly underperformed over the past three years despite having talent. While the infrastructure at Assembly Hall in Bloomington leaves much to be desired, so does the play of Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh recently. The Hoosiers lost to Minnesota, Penn State, and Purdue during a three game stretch in February, which really just sums up their season.

10. Penn State (15-16, 6-12)
Penn State is one of those teams that would finish in the top half if it was in just about any other conference in the country, but the Big Ten season was just too much for this talented, albeit overmatched, squad to handle. The future is bright for Penn State, and it very well could take a page out of Nebraska’s book next year.

11. Northwestern (13-18, 6-12)
Did you know Northwestern has never made it to the NCAA tourney? Like, not once in school history have the Wildcats gone dancing. That pretty much tells the whole story for Northwestern this year. And I don’t see the basketball program getting better until it stops playing its games in a high-school gym.

12. Purdue (15-16, 5-13)
Speaking of seats being warm, how about Matt Painter? The Boilers went from winning the conference in 2010 to likely getting dead last this year. Purdue center A.J. Hammons might legitimately be the best player I saw compete this season, but after that, the rest of the Boilermaker roster filled out like that of a summer-league team.

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