The Big Ten season is upon us with a marathon of games on Wednesday opening up the conference slate. It's been an interesting non-conference season for the Big Ten, to say the least. Heading into conference play, spots 2-14 look like they're pretty much up for grabs. What teams not named Wisconsin will find enough consistency to compete at the top of the standings?
Without further ado, here's my first stab at Big Ten Power Rankings for this season. We will release our rankings every Monday for the remainder of the season.
Agree? Disagree? Have an opinion to share? Share it in one of our message boards by clicking the yellow bar at the bottom.
14. Northwestern (9-4, KENPOM: 134th): The Wildcats may be better than Rutgers, but they haven't proven it to this point. Northwestern doesn't own any quality wins, and it has been playing without Jershon Cobb. Freshman Bryant McIntosh will be a good player for Northwestern, though.
13. Rutgers (8-5, KENPOM: 152nd): The Scarlet Knights are certainly not a strong addition to the Big Ten Conference. They've played well at times, but they have been very inconsistent. Rutgers does own wins over Vanderbilt (59th) and Clemson (128th), neither of which was a home game. But the Knights were also dominated by a bad Saint Peter's team at home. They open conference play with two winnable home games against Northwestern and Penn State.
12. Purdue (8-5, KENPOM: 86th): The Boilermakers are heading into conference action playing their worst basketball of the season. There may not be a team playing worse than Purdue, which has lost three straight games to Vanderbilt (by 10), Notre Dame (by 31) and Gardner-Webb (by five). I think Matt Painter is an excellent coach, but A.J. Hammons seems to have a cancerous effect on this team. Can the Boilers turn it around? If not, they may cost Painter his job.
11. Michigan (7-5, KENPOM: 80th): The Wolverines finally ended their embarrassing losing streak with a win over Coppin State, but they were the biggest disappointment of the non-conference season. John Beilein is widely regarded as one of the nation's best coaches and the cupboard is not completely bare in Ann Arbor, but the Wolverines have a lot to fix. Many expected them to right the ship after a loss to NJIT, but losing to Eastern Michigan in their very next game was eye opening.
10. Penn State (12-1, KENPOM: 85th): The Nittany Lions don't have any great wins, but they also don't have any glaring losses, which is why they belong in front of Michigan at this point. Finishing 12-1 in the non-conference isn't easy, regardless of who you play. Penn State's 13-point win over George Washington should not be overlooked, either. The Colonials are ranked 38th by KenPom.com after their win over previously-unbeaten Wichita State.
Are the Nittany Lions any good? We will learn a lot on Wednesday when they open the conference season at No. 4 Wisconsin. D.J. Newbill, who is averaging 21.4 points per game, had a short Twitter exchange with Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky on Sunday.
9. Nebraska (8-4, KENPOM: 87th): I doubted the Cornhuskers before the season, and so far, they've proven me correct. Even though they returned their entire team from last year, I thought Nebraska overachieved out of nowhere last year and figured it would be much tougher for the Cornhuskers to achieve with much greater expectations placed on them. Their only quality win came in double overtime at home against Cincinnati (54th), and they own bad losses to Incarnate Word and Rhode Island. Nebraska hosts Indiana on Wednesday to open Big Ten play.
8. Iowa (9-4, KENPOM: 41st): The Hawkeyes have always been able to score the ball, but they struggled last season because they couldn't stop anybody. So far this season, their defense has been better. Iowa won at North Carolina (9th) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and it has played a difficult schedule to this point. But the Hawkeyes are just 1-4 in so-called "big games" (losses to Texas, Syracuse, Northern Iowa and Iowa State), and they're no better than the third-best team in their own state. Iowa opens Big Ten play at Ohio State.
7. Illinois (10-3, KENPOM: 43rd): The Fighting Illini beat Baylor (17th) on a neutral floor, the Bears' only loss to this point in the season. But Illinois doesn't own another quality win, and I'm not quite ready to buy in quite yet. Rayvonte Rice is shooting a sizzling 51.4 percent from the field, something that's certain to change with conference play starting. Still, though, John Groce has enough talent in Champaign to be one of the Big Ten's top four or five teams during a down year for the conference.
6. Michigan State (9-4, KENPOM: 22nd): OK, the home loss to Texas Southern was a bad one, but that's the sign of a young team, and it's the lone bad loss on the Spartans' resume to this point. The Spartans are a great team, but they've played a difficult schedule and they will continue to get better as the season goes along. Tom Izzo teams always do. Can we say the same for Illinois? History would say no, which is why the Spartans are ranked ahead of the Illini at this point. Michigan State opens its Big Ten slate at home against No. 12 Maryland. We will learn a great deal about both teams in that game.
5. Indiana (10-3, KENPOM: 44th): Is 5th a little too high for the Hoosiers? Maybe so, but I think they are better than most people give them credit for. They're flawed, sure, but IU has outstanding guard play and has gotten great play of late from sophomore Troy Williams. Indiana must make strides on the defensive end to be a good Big Ten team. The Hoosiers will be tested right out of the gate with games at Nebraska and Michigan State to begin the conference season.
4. Minnesota (11-2, KENPOM: 27th): The Gophers haven't really played anybody, but they've taken care of business against inferior competition, something that cannot be said for many other Big Ten teams. Minnesota boasts a top 10 defense and averages 20.2 assists per game, tops in the nation. The Gophers' only losses came against Louisville and St. John's, and neither game was a blowout. We will learn a lot about the Gophers this week as they begin conference play at Purdue and at No. 12 Maryland.
3. Ohio State (11-2, KENPOM: 10th): The Buckeyes are young and, unexpectedly, they've been inconsistent through the non-conference season. They played Louisville tough on the road, but lost. They were pretty well handled by North Carolina. And they don't have any great wins. But Thad Matta has an extremely talented team in Columbus, one that could challenge for a Big Ten title if it finds some consistency.
D'Angelo Russell has been one of the nation's best freshmen and will be a key to Ohio State's success or lack thereof. He's averaging 17.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. In the Buckeyes' two losses, though, Russell was just 10-of-37 from the field and 3-of-16 from beyond the arc.
Ohio State opens conference play with back-to-back home games against Iowa and Illinois.
2. Maryland (12-1, KENPOM: 24th): The Terrapins have been one of the only positive surprises from the Big Ten thus far in its first year as a member of the league. With a healthy Dez Wells, Maryland can challenge Wisconsin for a Big Ten title. The Terrapins are that good.
Maryland already owns wins over Iowa State (20th) and Oklahoma State (25th), and its only loss came against No. 7 Virginia. The Terrapins were without Wells, their best player, in that loss. Maryland opens conference play at Michigan State.
1. Wisconsin (12-1, KENPOM: 4th): Not much of a surprise here. The Badgers didn't play particularly well in their spotlight home game against Duke, but they still have one of the nation's best teams, one capable of making the Final Four. The Badgers have a pretty easy stretch to begin conference play: Penn State, at Northwestern, Purdue and at Rutgers.