Big Ten Power Rankings

The Big Ten has been knocked for its slow pace of play and its inability to put up big numbers and advance against quality opponents when they get to the NCAA tournament. Rubbish? With Big Ten coaches Tom Crean, Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Tubby Smith and Bruce Weber having made final fours in their tenure, that particular group might have something to say about that.

"I'm sick of hearing all the junk!"

Bruce Weber was simple and to the point when asked about how the Big Ten's style of play of low score and physical play will hamper them come March.

"Go look at the scores in non-conference, guys. Look at Michigan State and Kansas. Look at [Minnesota] against Louisville, look at us against Missouri. Look at that stuff."

OK Bruce, but don't forget about the Wolverines at home against Duke and against UCLA on a neutral court. What about Ohio State against Butler and on the road in Miami? And don't forget about Wisconsin's win at Virginia Tech!

"I'm mad. We guard, we prepare, we play our butts off in hostile environments. I'm sick off all that stuff."

Through games of Sunday, Big Ten teams have prepared, holding non-conference opponents to 59.9 ppg, while those opponents are averaging a combined 68.6 points overall per game. Big Ten teams held non-conference opponents to 8.7 points per game below their collective sea- son averages, the largest differential of any conference (the Pac-10 is next closest at 6.9 ppg, followed by the Big East at 5.3 and the ACC at 4.9).

As a conference, Big Ten teams scored 70.6 points per game in the non-conference and those opponents are allowing an average of 67.9 ppg in all games to date, meaning that Big Ten teams scored 2.7 points per game more than non-conference opponents collectively allowed. The Big Ten held teams below their scoring averages and scored more than they were allowing on average.

"But the thing that makes me really angry is I have to wait all the way until Monday to read the Power 11!!!"

JEEZ! Relax Bruce, don't blow a gasket!

Badger Nation's weekly feature will rank the 11 teams of the Big Ten Conference, giving you our opinions as to who is rising, who is falling and the key matchup to watch for in our favorite conference.

Each contributor ranks the 11 teams from one to 11 with one being the weakest and 11 being the strongest. Seventy-seven points this week is a perfect score and seven is the lowest score.

This week's contributors include Aaron Brenner from the Janesville Gazette/Capital Times/Badger Nation, Bryan Camp from the Grateful Red, Brad Fedie from Badger Nation, Adam Hoge from the WGN Radio, Ben Voelkel from Sportsbubbler.com, Badgermaniac and Benjamin Worgull from the Nation.

View Last Week's Rankings

Badger Nation's Power 11

1) Michigan State (23-5, 13-3) (77)

2) Purdue (22-7, 11-5) (70)

3) Illinois (23-7, 11-6) (61)

4) Wisconsin (18-10, 9-7) (58)

5) Penn State (20-9, 9-7) (44)

6) Ohio State (18-9, 8-8) (42)

7) Michigan (18-12, 8-9) (36)

8) Minnesota (20-8, 8-8) (31)

9) Northwestern (16-11, 7-9) (22)

10) Iowa (14-15, 3-12) (14)

11) Indiana (6-22, 1-15) (7)

first number in parentheses is overall record, followed by conference record and then total number of points

Featured Matchup of the Week

No.19 Purdue vs. 8 Michigan State, 11:00 a.m. Sunday, CBS

Purdue thumped Michigan State in West Lafayette on February 17 to keep its hopes of a conference title alive. Now all the Boilermakers have to do is beat the Spartans again (and hope MSU loses in Bloomington) to earn their first piece of the title since 1996.

Odds are that they will have to wait a little longer but the Boilermakers would love a sweep of the Spartans to prove to themselves that they still are a dangerous team come tournament time.

Aaron Brenner's Poll

(My rankings are still done the same way, but I'm doing something different this week for my commentary. With the regular season coming to a close, I shall select one player from that team and make a case for that person as Big Ten Player of the Year, illustrating how wide-open this race is)

1) Michigan State – Kalin Lucas, sophomore guard. Best player on the best team, and a major reason why the Spartans will raise another conference banner in Breslin after losing Drew Neitzel.

2) Purdue – JaJuan Johnson, sophomore forward. Cap Times columnist Mike Lucas listed Lucas as his Big Ten POY when I talked to him Sunday. His runner-up? Johnson, for doing all the heavy lifting for Purdue's big men with Robbie Hummel in and out of the lineup and Nemanja Calasan too inconsistent this year. Johnson might be the most underrated player in the conference.

3) Wisconsin – Joe Krabbenhoft, senior forward. Bo Ryan isn't exactly a guy who's buying Kleenex in bulk … but I'll bet you a Leinie's Honey Weiss that ol' Bo is going to get choked up next Sunday when somebody asks him about Krabby playing his last game at the Kohl Center. Just a hunch.

4) Illinois – Chester Frazier, senior guard. Demetri McCamey could just as easily be here, but Frazier is the glue for his team and a big reason why Illinois had a major renaissance this season.

5) Ohio State – Evan Turner, sophomore forward. Turner starts a run of good players who had great years for just-okay teams. Turner leads all Big Ten players in conference scoring (17.0 points per game) and pulls down 7.2 boards a game; he kind of had to pick up the slack, with David Lighty gone for much of the season.

6) Penn State – Talor Battle, sophomore guard. Hard to argue with a guy who averages a 17-5-5, and anchors one of the conference's most explosive offensive team. Battle and Michigan's Manny Harris each have scored 20 or more in 12 games – no one else in the conference has done that more than seven times.

7) Michigan – Manny Harris, sophomore guard. Speaking of Harris, how does a 6-foot-5 lean guy rank in the top five rebounders from the gritty Big Ten, especially with a big dude like DeShawn Sims raking in most the boards? Harris also can score it (17.2 points, best in the Big Ten for all games), as well as dish it and snatch it (top ten in assists and steals).

8) Minnesota – No pick. You could go with Lawrence Westbrook, but his team has lost a bunch of games in a row largely due to his offensive disappearance (6.0 points a game in the past five defeats). Nah, the Gophers are too team-oriented to pick just one guy.

9) Northwestern – Craig Moore, junior guard. Moore averaged over 20 points in the Wildcats' five resume-boasting victories this season (Florida State, Minnesota, at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State). He's been big when his team needed him. A nod to forward Kevin Coble as well.

10) Iowa – Jake Kelly, sophomore guard. Sure, his team is 1-4 since Feb. 11 at Wisconsin. But Kelly's been darn impressive (at least 17 points in all five games) and gives Hawkeye Nation something to look forward to in 2010.

11) Indiana – Tom Crean, freshman coach. Just for trying hard and keeping his enthusiasm. And, you know, because I couldn't stake my life on naming a single Hoosier beyond all certainty.

Bryan Camp's Poll

1) Michigan State

2) Purdue

3) Illinois

4) Wisconsin

5) Penn State

6) Ohio State

7) Michigan

8) Minnesota

9) Northwestern

10) Iowa

11) Indiana

Brad Fedie's Poll

1) Michigan State

2) Purdue

3) Illinois

4) Wisconsin

5) Ohio State

6) Penn State

7) Michigan

8) Minnesota

9) Northwestern

10) Iowa

11) Indiana

NCAA Locks: MSU, Purdue, Illinois

It would take a big surprise to keep them from dancing: Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State (need to beat Indiana (H), Iowa (A) or Northwestern (H), and Iowa (A) respectively).

Work to do: Michigan and Minnesota. Big game on Saturday. If Minnesota can beat the Badgers Wednesday, then the pressure is off of them a little, but Michigan needs the win to be .500 in the conference. A deep tournament run for either (aka a championship appearance or a close loss in the semis) could help the cause in the event of a 8-10 conference mark. Since the expansion to a 64/65 team field in 1985, 27 teams have managed to make the tournament with a sub-.500 conference record. Five of those teams were Big Ten teams (Iowa in 2005, Penn State in 2001, Purdue in 1999, Wisconsin in 1994 and Indiana in 1990 (courtesy of collegehoopsjournal.com)). None of those teams finished lower than 7th, however, so the 8th place team is going to have to hope their big non-conference win(s) help sneak them in.

NIT?: Northwestern. They have the big win in East Lansing, but at a projected 7-11 in conference and 16-13 overall, Northwestern might be sweating out Selection Sunday as well. I'm guessing they make it, but you never know.

Back to the Fields: Iowa. The weather looks to be warming. Maybe they can get some early corn planting done.

Hop in to Coach Crean's tanning bed, because you have absolutely nothing else to do for spring break: Hoosiers Gone Wild, coming soon to an Assembly Hall near you. Hopefully Dumes will throw an elbow at that Girls Gone Wild guy.

Adam Hoge's Poll

1) Michigan State

2) Purdue

3) Illinois

4) Wisconsin

5) Michigan

6) Penn State

7) Minnesota

8) Northwestern

9) Ohio State

10) Iowa

11) Indiana

The top four remain the same after a relatively boring week. Michigan jumps up to No. 5 after beating Purdue and giving Wisconsin a run for its money at the Kohl Center. Penn State falls a spot after a very uninspiring win over Indiana at home. Meanwhile the rest of the conference continues to sink slowly. Minnesota and Ohio State need to halt their slumps immediately, while Iowa and Indiana were lost causes a long time ago. Northwestern looked better last week with two wins and Bill Carmody told the Big Ten Network that this is his most successful season as a coach. That explains a lot.

Ben Voelkel's Poll

1) Michigan State

2) Purdue

3) Illinois

4) Wisconsin

5) Penn State

6) Ohio State

7) Michigan

8) Minnesota

9) Northwestern

10) Iowa

11) Indiana

Just a couple weeks ago, it looked like the Big Ten could get as many as eight teams into the NCAA tournament. As is usually the case, the more games the bubble teams played, the more their tournament worthiness came into question. Ohio State has won just one of its last five games. Minnesota's only two wins in its last seven games have come against Indiana and Northwestern. Michigan picked up a big home win over Purdue last week but is still below .500 in conference play. Right now, about the only teams that look to be locks for NCAA play heading into the Big Ten tournament are Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Badgermaniac's Poll

1) Michigan State - Spartans are the best rebounding team in the country.

2) Purdue - A solid No.2

3) Illinois - The best defense in the Big Ten. I actually flip flopped them with Wisconsin even though they lost to MSU this week after thinking about it. They are now 8-6 vs. the top 50.

4) Wisconsin - Now have the best offense in the Big Ten. As noted on the message boards this week, the Badgers are just 4-8 against top 50 teams (1-6 vs. top 25), so their strong computer ranking has been because they have beaten a lot of good, but not great teams.

5) Ohio State - Similar resume to Minnesota, but the Buckeyes have seven top 50 wins, the Gophers only four.

6) Minnesota - Both OSU and Minnesota are fading fast. And yet, their overall resume still looks better than Penn State due to much tougher schedules. It will be interesting to see how the NCAA considers these three teams.

7) Penn State - Convincing loss to OSU keeps them at seven.

8) Michigan - Won three out of four crucial games before tight loss to Wisconsin, including an upset over Purdue. As I noted last week, the loss to Iowa was critical.

9) Northwestern - It has been a good year for the Wildcats, but they couldn't quite get over the hump and into real contention.

10) Iowa - After the loss to Northwestern, they have two must win games if they are going to have a sniff at the NIT.

11) Indiana - Gave PSU a battle on the road, which is all you can really ask for these days.

Benjamin Worgull's Poll

1) Michigan State

2) Purdue

3) Wisconsin

4) Illinois

5) Penn State

6) Ohio State

7) Michigan

8) Minnesota

9) Northwestern

10) Iowa

11) Indiana

How much fun is the Big Ten Tournament going to be next week? Badger Nation will be there and odds of our brackets being put through the shredder is 100 percent.

The top four teams should be in the NCAA. Penn State has a bunch of great wins, but a weak non-conference schedule and an overall conference schedule that ranks 108th.

Ohio State has solid wins against the top 50 and the top 100 but are 3-6 on the road. Michigan has beat two top five teams but they are sub-.500 in conference and Minnesota hasn't been impressive at all.

Like I said, next week's Big Ten Tournament should be nuts.


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