Saturday, January 12, 2013

Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings - Conference Season #1

We're three games into the Big Ten conference season, so it's time for another Power Rankings.  Now that things have heated up, I'll be sure post a weekly list where hopefully Purdue avoids the cellar.  The start of conference play has seen only a few upsets (the largest being thanks to the Boilers), so there hasn't been too much movement since December.

On to the rankings, where ugly shades of yellow are so hot right now and the bottom half of the conference pathetically stays the same.

C'mon, there's no way we deserve to be this good man!
1.   Michigan (16-0, 3-0, RPI: 5) [Last week's rank: 1]

Since the last rankings, Michigan has wins at Northwestern and at home against Iowa and Nebraska, and all were blow outs.  Of course, all were against some of the conference's bottom teams (Iowa's only good at home apparently), so we haven't learned anything new about the Wolverines.  They are undefeated but face two huge tests this week: at Ohio State and at Minnesota. If they can win both those games, I'll be penciling them in for a #1 seed in March.

2.   Minnesota (15-1, 3-0, RPI: 3) [Last week's rank: 5]

I'm really surprised how good the Gophers have been so far, with wins recently against Michigan State, Northwestern, and at Illinois, they may shock the world and surpass Michigan and Indiana by the time the season ends.  How are they doing it?  Lots of talent, lots of rebounding, lots of defense, and efficient shooting.  What can stop them?  A penchant for turnovers and, of course, being Minnesota.

3.   Indiana (14-1, 2-0, RPI: 13) [Last week's rank: 3]

The Hoosiers have only had two conference games so far, narrowly winning at Iowa but destroying the Nittany Lions on the road.  That's not a bad start, but again, it's one that hasn't seen them face a real test.  I'm amazed any time they don't break 80 points, since with so much offensive fire power, that's a sign something is majorly wrong.  Maybe it's just a road vs. home thing, but we'll find out this weekend when Indiana hosts Minnesota.  Some home cooking could really build their resume, but I'll be rooting for the Bucktooths, and I do mean Tubby.

4.   Michigan State (13-3, 2-1, RPI: 21) [Last week's rank: 6]

The Spartans are good, but not remotely great.  Gary Harris is the real deal, and Brandon Dawson is the biggest jerk in the conference (you're welcome Derek Elston).  I can't write anything else complimentary about them, because I've lost a lot of respect for Tom Izzo.

5.   Ohio State (12-3, 2-1, RPI: 39) [Last week's rank: 4]

After getting routed by Illinois and having a tough fight against Purdue, OSU's road gets even tougher as they face Michigan and Michigan State this week.  Seeing a team that could barely win a game while shooting 20% better than their opponent leaves a lot of doubt that the Buckeyes can hang with the big boys this season.  And just for good measure, Aaron Craft is a punk.

6.   Illinois (14-3, 1-2, RPI: 14) [Last week's rank: 2]

I mentioned last time that Illinois always seems to have a knack for starting hot and then playing inconsistently once conference play begins, and of course they played to their role this season.  After a big upset loss at Purdue, the Illini crushed Ohio State at home but followed that up with a huge loss at home to Minnesota.  Still bipolar as ever.  Which team will show up at Wisconsin this weekend, and better yet, which version of Brandon Paul?  Probably the bad one that got Bruce Weber fired.

7.   Iowa (11-5, 0-3, RPI: 92) [Last week's rank: 7]

The Hawkeyes had nearly the roughest start to the conference season imaginable, with games against Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State.  All losses, but both their home battles were incredibly close.  Despite the poor record, I still expect Iowa to finish in the middle of the conference and to make up ground as their schedule gets lighter.

8.   Wisconsin (11-4, 2-0, RPI: 83) [Last week's rank: 8]

Wisconsin still hasn't been challenged, with wins against Penn State and Nebraska, but they're doing what they need to do - beating the bad teams.  Opponents this week are Illinois and Indiana, and six of their next seven opponents are ranked.  I see the potential for Bo Ryan's head to explode (or he may bite the head off a live bat in a fit of rage) if the Badgers can't muster their distinct home court advantage this season.

9.  Purdue (7-8, 1-2, RPI: 149) [Last week's rank: 9]

Thanks to the big upset over Illinois, the Boilers look more respectable than their resume.  They've played great halves against Michigan State and Ohio State, too, but half a game won't cut it in the Big Ten.  They better beat Penn State and Nebraska this week or the glimmer of hope will fade away.

10.  Northwestern (10-6, 1-2, RPI: 86) [Last week's rank: 10]

With tough blowout losses to Michigan and Minnesota, the Wildcats will probably lose to all the good teams but still have enough tricks up their sleeve to contend against the bottom half of the conference.  Even so, I only predict three more conference wins for Northwestern since they'll be at a huge talent disadvantage against everyone other than Penn State and Nebraska (and they only get to play Nebraska once).

11.   Penn State (8-7, 0-3, RPI: 147) [Last week's rank: 11]

I still feel bad for Penn State after losing Tim Frazier for the season.  He was fun to watch and gave them a chance in any game.  Instead, they lose to teams like Northwestern by 16 points at home.  Ugly. Purdue better destroy them on Sunday or else Painter should start using co-rec players as punishment.

12.  Nebraska (9-7, 0-3, RPI: 65) [Last week's rank: 12]

How on earth is Nebraska's RPI still so high?  They haven't won a game since December, aren't competitive against ranked teams, and are barely over .500.  Sometimes the RPI doesn't make sense, and I don't see how they even get to three conference wins this year.  Do I rip on these Corn Jerkers unjustly?  Probably, but I think we can all agree that you always hope to see them twice on the schedule each season.  Irony being Purdue only gets to face them once.

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