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Big Ten Power Ranking and Team capsules

Even though nothing much has changed since my last power poll, let's take a look at the Big Ten's teams going into the start of conference play.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

1. Wisconsin (13-0)

Well, shoot. The Badgers look like the conference's best team. Bo Ryan just can't be beat, evidently. Particularly notable: the worst three-mark from any rotation player with at least one attempt? Duje Dukan at 34.8% (!). Furthermore, their defense has been very good, and has delivered in their best wins. Just wait until they start playing with the Big Ten refs: there will be some ugly, ugly games.

Newcomer of note: Nigel Hayes (5.5ppg/1.8rpg)
Most improved: Frank "the Tank" Kaminsky (14.2ppg/5.8rpg/1.2apg/1.1spg/1.8bpg)
Best Win(s): v. Florida 59-53, @ Virginia 48-38
Worst Loss(es): none
Predicted Big Ten record: 14-4

2. Ohio State (13-0)

I'm just not as high on the Buckeyes as many others, but I have to keep them at #2 for now. KenPom does rate them as having the top defense in the nation, which is impressive. Still, the Buckeyes needed a miracle comeback to nip Notre Dame, and their early statement win at Marquette has lost a lot of its luster as Marquette has faded to 8-5 overall. Still, undefeated is never a bad thing, and Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross are finally starting to fulfill their potential. But Lenzelle Smith's jump to go-to clutch scorer (that heroic effort against Notre Dame!) has been eye-opening.

Newcomer of note: Marc Loving (6.4ppg/2.4rpg)
Most improved: Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (13.4ppg/5.2rpg/1.5apg): his numbers jumped as his minutes have decreased!
Best Win(s): n. v. Notre Dame 64-61
Worst Loss(es): none
Predicted Big Ten record: 12-6

3. Michigan State (11-1)

After an impressive early win against Kentucky, both the Sparties and the Wildcats have seemed more vulnerable.
MSU hasn't lost very much, only a head-scratching thumping at home against UNC darkens their record. UNC rode that momentum right into a home loss against Texas, who the Spartans went and beat in Austin. My guess is that Izzo's team is still the best challenger the Badgers will see, and will be the most likely B1G squad to make the Final Four. This is the most talented team in the conference, but I worry they'll have a couple more losses than they should due to their incredible reliance on Adreian Payne. When he steps off the bus in Iowa City or Ann Arbor with two fouls, Izzo will have a tough time making do without him.

Newcomer of note: Gavin Schilling (2.4ppg/2.2rpg)
Most improved: Adreian Payne (18.0ppg/7.9rpg/1.3apg/1.1bpg)
Best Win(s): n. v. Kentucky 78-74, @ Texas 92-78
Worst Loss(es): v. UNC 65-79
Predicted Big Ten record: 13-5

4. Iowa (11-2)

The Hawkeyes have played well versus quality foes, and now have sniper Josh Oglesby back in the rotation. This is a truly deep team, with striking offensive power, and you've got to give them respect. However, the defense does not yet have me convinced. I mean, Nebraska-Omaha put up 75 points on them. Still, you have to figure that they are very solidly top-four in the conference. And I dearly hope that Fran McCaffrey continues to vex Bo Ryan.

Newcomer of note: Jarrod uthoff (10.8ppg/6.7rpg/1.0apg/1.4bpg)
Most improved: Gabriel Olaseni (6.6ppg/5.3rpg/1.8bpg)
Best Win(s): v. Notre Dame 98-93, n. v. Xavier 77-74(OT)
Worst Loss(es): n.v.Villanova 83-88(OT), @Iowa St. 82-85
Predicted Big Ten record: 11-7

5. Michigan (8-4)

Well, losing Mitch McGary indefinitely sure doesn't help anything. Their non-conference record looks palatable enough, now. Outside of that loss to Charlotte, they've been competitive against good teams in their losses. I still expect Michigan to be pretty decent in conference play, they're deep enough with experienced bigs that a limited or absent McGary won't cripple them. Still, where would the Wolverines be without Nik Stauskas? His ability to handle the ball and take it to the hoop has really bailed out the offense.

Newcomer of note: Derrick Walton (7.7ppg/2.4rpg/2.8apg)
Most Improved: Apologies to Nik Stauskas' phenomenal performance, but I didn't expect this from Caris Levert (13.1ppg/4.1rpg/2.6apg/1.0spg)
Best Win(s): n.v.FSU 82-80 (OT), n.v.Stanford 68-65
Worst Loss(es):n.v.Charlotte 61-63
Predicted Big Ten record: 11-7

6. Indiana (10-3)

I am still confident that the ball will bounce their way a little more in conference play than it has so far. They've got a good defense that allows them to hang around, and the threes will start falling eventually. I'm more concerned that the turnovers will cost them a couple of games they should win. And that could spell trouble for a team that doesn't have a lot of margin for error as for their bid for a NCAA tourney spot. I think the schedule falls out decently enough for the young Hoosiers that they should finish with a better conference record than Purdue, despite the fact that Purdue should be favored in the only (!) meeting between the two teams.

Newcomer of note: Just one? I suppose it must be Noah Vonleh (12ppg/9.5rpg/1.1spg)
Most Improved: Yogi Ferrell (16.8ppg/3.2rpg/4.2apg)
Best Win(s): v. Stony Brook 90-74
Worst Loss(es): n.v. Notre Dame
Predicted Big Ten record: 10-8

7. Purdue (10-3)

I was about to boost the Boilers up to 5th when I took a more careful look at their wins. They have a lot of
narrow wins over teams like Rider, Siena, and Eastern Michigan, and have really displayed an inconsistency that is likely to hurt them when conference play starts. Whether Purdue vaults into the NCAA tourney, or maintains course towards the NIT, really all keys on AJ Hammons, I think. Hammons is defensively improved and sports a higher FG% this season, but his attempts have dropped by almost half. I'm not sure if that's because the Johnson brothers are hell-bent on getting into the lane or if Painter is outlawing three-point attempts or he's just not demanding the ball. In any case, Hammon has broken double figures just four times so far.

Newcomer of note: Bryson Scott (9.7ppg/2.5rpg/1.6apg)
Most improved: Jay Simpson (5.5ppg/4.5rpg)
Best Win(s): @ West Virginia 73-70
Worst Loss(es): n.v.Washington St. 54-69
Predicted Big Ten record: 8-10

8. Minnesota (11-2)

Young Pitino has done a nice job of blending the returning talent and various transfers into a cohesive whole. I still believe that this club is significantly weaker than last year's version of the Gophers, though. Matthieu and Joey King were nice pick-ups, and the centers have come along nicely, but I feel like they're going to be in trouble when the Big Ten's low-turnover teams start taking the ball to the rack on them.

Newcomer of note: DeAndre Matthieu (11.5ppg/2.5rpg/4.8apg/2.1spg)
Most improved: Tie - Elliot Elliason (5.8ppg/8.2rpg/2.3bpg/1.0spg) and Maurice Walker (5.4ppg/4.3rpg/1.0bpg)
Best Win(s): v. Florida State 71-61
Worst Loss(es): n.v.Arkansas 73-87
Predicted Big Ten record: 7-11

9. Illinois (11-2)

Once again, John  Groce's Illini are a bit hard to figure out. The best win was a narrow squeaker against Missouri, and the worst loss was a road win that got just slipped out of their fingers. They're not particularly deep, but they currently look like a NCAA tourney contender. I guess that I just don't believe that Nnanna Egwu will be enough to hold down the paint in Big Ten play. Jon Ekey's been doing well, but I expect a bit of Lance Stemler trajectory on his year, statistically.

Newcomer of Note: A shout-out to Jon Ekey, but seriously, the man is Rayvonte Rice (18.2ppg/5.5rpg/1.9apg/1.2spg)
Most improved: Joe Bertrand (10.8ppg/5.3rpg/1.1apg)
Best Win(s): n.v. Missouri 65-64
Worst Loss(es): @Georgia Tech 64-67
Predicted Big Ten record: 7-11

10. Penn State (9-4)

With John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson eligible, Pat Chambers is maybe actually fielding a team. The defense is still a major concern, but the offense should create some opportunities for Chambers to make it look like the program is progressing forward. I did not expect Brandon Taylor and Donovan Jack to take such steps forward, either. Some of the offseason transfers make a little more sense, now.

Newcomer of note: Watch John Johnson, but for now it is Allen Roberts (7.1ppg/3.3rpg/1.2apg)
Most improved: Donovan Jack (7.3ppg/3.5rpg/2.0bpg)
Best Win(s): n.v. St. John's 82-89 (OT)
Worst Loss(es): v. Princeton 79-81 (OT), v. Bucknell 71-83
Predicted Big Ten record: 6-12

11. Nebraska (8-4)

The Cornhuskers are definitely trending upwards, but this might be similar to Crean's 3rd year at IU. Tim Miles has more talent and more depth than last year (just look at the fall-off in minutes from former starters Benny Parker and David Rivers), but he's just short one or two key pieces this season. Maybe frosh Tai Webster grows up fast into the steady point guard that Miles needs so badly?

Newcomer of Note: Terran Pettaway (17.3ppg/4.7rpg/1.2apg/1.2spg)
Most improved: Shavon Shields (12.7ppg/5.5rpg/1.9apg)
Best Win(s): n.v. Georgia 73-65
Worst Loss(es): n.v.UAB 74-87
Predicted Big Ten record: 6-12

12. Northwestern (7-6)

Chris Collins' first conference season is going to be pretty rough. I can't imagine what he'd be dealing with if Drew Crawford had jumped ship, or if JerShon Cobb wasn't making such great strides forward. Patience, Wildcat fans, this rebuilding project is going to take a while. Really, the worst case scenario is that everyone starts recognizing how much Bill Carmody was getting out of this program.

Newcomer of Note: Sanjay Lumpkin (4.9ppg/5.6rpg/1.8apg/1.0spg)
Most improved: JerShon Cobb (12.6ppg/4.3rpg/2.7apg)
Best Win(s): @UIC 93-58
Worst Loss(es): @NCSU 48-69
Predicted Big Ten record: 3-15