Welcome to the inaugural Big Ten men's basketball Power Rankings for the 2014-15 season. Now that each team has played about 10 games against a variety of nonconference opponents, it's time to rank them in terms of how they've done in the first third of the season. Once B1G play starts up in earnest, I'll likely have more frequent rankings, but as most schools, such as Indiana, head into their finals week, let's see how each team makes the grade so far.
14. Rutgers (6-4)
The Scarlet Knights are newcomers to the B1G, and from the looks of it, they'll have a long way to go before being competitive in the league. Eddie Jordan, in his second year coaching at his alma mater, started with a cupboard of players as bare as Tom Crean's in 2008. Rutgers has been a hard place to win, but an early loss to St. Peter's is not a good sign of things to come this year.
13. Northwestern (5-3)
The Wildcats showed promise at times last season, but Chris Collins's squad recently lost three games in a row to Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech, and Butler. They were lucky to escape Elon and North Florida early in the year. Luckily for Northwestern, they'll start B1G play against Rutgers on December 30, so their first conference win could come right away.
12. Michigan (6-4)
Yep, I'm as shocked as you are. However, home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, followed by a brutal road loss to Arizona, has put the Wolverines in this position. Right now, Michigan is having trouble getting points on the board, and their frontcourt might even more questionable than Indiana's. This team has issues, and while John Beilein is a great coach, even he might not be able to sort this team out.
11. Nebraska (6-3)
Full disclosure: I picked the Huskers to finish second in the B1G this season. And while anything is still on the table, it's going to be a lot tougher for Nebrasketball to do that when they can't beat Incarnate Word at home. I'm still worried about how the Hoosiers will do when they start Big Ten play in Lincoln on New Year's Eve, but less so than I was a month ago.
10. Purdue (8-3)
Credit where credit is due: the Boilers have shown promise this year, and Isaac Haas gives them two frontcourt threats, which will make the two games against Indiana very interesting affairs this season. The home loss to UNF stings, as does a road loss over the weekend to Vandy, but Purdue had a couple of nice wins while out in Maui around Thanksgiving.
9. Indiana (8-2)
So far, the Hoosiers and Boilers have had pretty similar seasons. Both have a rough home loss to a spry mid-major, both have solid wins against teams in major conferences, and both have wins in the ACC/B1G challenge on their resumes. But this is an IU blog of course, so the Hoosiers get the edge at this point. The IU-Purdue rivalry resumes January 28 and February 19, and both dates cannot come soon enough.
8. Iowa (8-3)
The Hawkeyes have been a mixed bag so far this season, and in-state rival Iowa State embarrassed them in Iowa City on Friday. Their three-point loss to Syracuse also is looking worse in retrospect. However, their road win in the Dean Dome was solid, and could be a trump card if they're a bubble team in March (as long as guys other than Marcus Paige step up their shooting on the Tar Heels).
7. Illinois (7-3)
The Illini suffered a similar fate to the Hoosiers in NYC last week, as they hung around with Villanova for about 30 minutes but ultimately did not have enough in the tank at the end. Three losses in their last four games, including one to a decimated Oregon squad, has to be a cause for concern for John Groce, but Rayvonte Rice is the type of player who could keep Illinois alive in any game.
6. Minnesota (8-2)
With three mid-major opponents to go, Minnesota will likely head into conference play at 11-2. However, they lost by double digits in their two toughest tests of the season, against Louisville and St. John's at neutral sites. In the Louisville game, Rick Pitino proved to his son that father still knows best, as Richard's Golden Gophers could never quite test the Cards in the same way that Indiana or Ohio State did.
5. Penn State (10-1)
Pat Chambers's team is 10-1 right now. So why am I still a little skeptical of them? Well, the strength of schedule has been questionable, for one. In addition, a lot of these victories came by the slimmest of margins - Cornell by 1 point, Duquesne by 2, and Virginia Tech by 3. Guard D.J. Newbill looks like the real deal too. We'll see if this streak of close wins continues once conference play starts, but the Nittany Lions might be close to being tournament-worthy if they finish .500 in the conference.
4. Michigan State (6-3)
Sparty may not have a quality win yet, but their losses have come against Duke, Kansas, and Notre Dame, all away from the Breslin Center. They may only be 6-3 at this point, but none of the losses have been particularly terrible, and stacking the nonconference schedule has been Izzo's game plan every year. I have a feeling this team has yet to peak, but with the talent of players that MSU lost in the offseason, it may take more than one season for this to happen.
3. Maryland (10-1)
Could this be the year that Mark Turgeon finally puts it all together in College Park? Despite Dez Wells being out for a month, the Terps are in great position so far, and have a nice win over Iowa State on their resume. We'll see how good the Terps are when they open B1G play by hosting Sparty.
2. Ohio State (8-1)
The Buckeyes went down early against Louisville, but thanks to freshman guard D'Angelo Russell, they clawed their way back and had the Cards on the ropes until the final minute of that game. Not having Aaron Craft is a blessing in disguise for this team, as it has opened up the floor for more players to contribute and take control of the game.
1. Wisconsin (10-1)
Still the team to beat in the B1G this year, despite Sam Dekker struggling early. I can't think of any B1G teams that have the ability to stop Frank the Tank, and they played well in a loss at home game against Duke, even though the Blue Devils shot the lights out that night. Wisconsin also won a very competitive Battle for Atlantis, including wins over Georgetown and Oklahoma. As of now, they sit atop the league, and still have an excellent chance of going deep in the tourney.