We took last week off due to the holiday on Monday, but we're back at it with our third edition of Big Ten power rankings today. Justin Albers ranked the top five, and Nathan Brown took 6-12. Enjoy.
1. Michigan (15-4, 7-0) (LAST WEEK: 5) … I don't know how they're doing it, but the Wolverines just keep winning. And they've been impressive in doing so. They have now won nine consecutive games, including the last three at Wisconsin, at home against Iowa and at Michigan State. That's incredible when you think about it. Nik Stauskas is having a tremendous year, averaging 18.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting. And all of this has been without Mitch McGary. The Big Ten title now runs through Ann Arbor.
2. Michigan State (18-2, 7-1) (LAST WEEK: 2) … The Spartans still could very well be the best team in the conference. But without starters Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, they lost at home to Michigan on Saturday night. Gary Harris continues to play better as the season goes along, which is a very good sign for Michigan State. The Spartans face a major challenge at Iowa on Tuesday night.
3. Iowa (16-4, 5-2) (LAST WEEK: 3) … The Hawkeyes fell at Michigan by eight points, but rebounded with a 26-point win at Northwestern. They continue to get solid play out of Roy Devyn Marble and others, and have a big home game against Michigan State coming on Tuesday.
4. Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3) (LAST WEEK: 1) … The Badgers finally got on back after a three-game losing streak with a win at Purdue on Saturday. They have two home games this week against Northwestern and Ohio State.
5. Ohio State (16-4, 3-4) (LAST WEEK: 4) … You could make a strong argument for Minnesota at this spot, but I believe the Buckeyes are one of the top five teams in the conference, despite losses at Minnesota and Nebraska. They beat Illinois last week and have another winnable game against Penn State coming up on Wednesday.
6. Minnesota (15-6, 4-4) (LAST WEEK: 6) … The Gophers finally suffered their first bad loss of the conference season Sunday on the road against Nebraska 82-78, but a win against Wisconsin at home earlier in the week helps keep them in the hunt.
7. Indiana (13-7, 3-4) (LAST WEEK: 8) ... The Hoosiers got back on track with a bit of an ugly win Sunday against a free-falling Illinois team after losses to Northwestern and Michigan State. Two wins this week – on the road Thursday against Nebraska and at home Sunday against Michigan – sure won't be easy, but at least one of two is crucial for IU's postseason dreams.
8. Purdue (13-7, 3-4) (LAST WEEK: 9) ... The Boilermakers have been treading water a bit lately, losing to the teams at the top and, with the exception of a loss to Northwestern last week, taking care of the others. A tough stretch lies ahead, though, with games against Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State in Purdue's next four.
9. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5) (LAST WEEK: 10) ... The Wildcats have had some recent success with upsets at Indiana and at home against the Boilermakers to salvage their otherwise mediocre season. They'll likely stay towards the bottom of the conference, but they'd be a dangerous team to look past late in the season.
10. Nebraska (10-9, 2-5) (LAST WEEK: 12) ... Nebraska only has two wins in the conference, but they've both been big. This week, the Cornhuskers upset Minnesota in Lincoln, Neb. Sunday at home 82-78 after defeating Ohio State the week before. They linger as a dangerous test for an IU team on the road on Thursday.
11. Penn State (10-10, 1-6) (LAST WEEK: 11) ... The Nittany Lions became the last Big Ten team with a win Thursday, taking down Nebraska at home 58-54. Three of their conference losses have come within three points or less.
12. Illinois (13-8, 2-6) (LAST WEEK: 7) … It's hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago the Fighting Illini sat in the top 25, but six straight losses later, they've taken a nose dive. Things don't get any easier with games against Iowa and Wisconsin coming up.