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Big Ten Power Rankings

March Madness is now just 47 days away and the Big Ten season is right about at its midpoint. The conference season has turned out to be surprising with the offensive struggles of Wisconsin and Ohio State and Michigan rolling through the conference. With a number of great games on this weekend (Michigan State vs. Georgetown, Ohio State vs. Wisconsin) it is time to unveil the latest McGowanMania Big Ten Power Rankings:

1. Michigan State Spartans 19-2, 8-1 Big Ten
Even with a roster full of banged-up players the Spartans continue to play well, nearly beating the flaming hot Michigan Wolverines and holding on to beat Iowa on the road. The good news for Michigan State is that Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, two important frontcourt options will be healthy soon and Keith Appling's wrist issues should go away. Appling has been fantastic in his senior campaign and sophomore Gary Harris has turned into the star the Spartans have needed him to be, averaging 18.3 points per game. After their battle with Georgetown, the Spartans get a pretty favorable stretch with Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern all included in a five-game stretch.
Next Game: vs. Georgetown

2. Michigan Wolverines 15-4, 7-0 Big Ten
Think about how well the Wolverines are playing at the moment: they have won 10 of 11 (the lone
Nik Stauskas
loss was to No. 1 Arizona) and are undefeated in possibly the best conference in college basketball. Sophomore guard Nik Stauskas has turned into one of the nation's best players, averaging 18.5 points per game this year, while shooting 50% from the field and 46% from the 3-point line. Sophomore Glenn Robinson looks more comfortable now as the second option in this offense. Earlier in the year he forced up shots but is much better not being the star of the team. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Michigan this season is that they are winning without star forward Mitch McGary, one of the better players inside the conference.
Next Game: vs. Purdue

3. Iowa Hawkeyes 16-5, 5-3 Big Ten
Fran McCaffrey has turned Iowa quickly into a real threat inside the Big Ten and they have a special team this year. Roy Devyn Marble is one of the most reliable scorers in the Big Ten and junior forward Aaron White has been incredibly efficient, shooting 62 percent from the field with 13.5 points per game. Iowa is tough, deep and experienced things that a lot of teams lack inside the conference. With great three-point shooters in Josh Oglesby and Devyn Marble, Iowa can drown teams from deep and is still a team that can punish opponents in the post. Other good news for the Hawkeyes: 3 of their last 4 big games against Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State are at home.
Next Game: vs. Illinois

4. Wisconsin Badgers 17-4, 4-4 Big Ten
The Badgers have hit some big speed bumps lately, losing 4 of 5 with losses to Indiana and Northwestern in that span. Their offense has been tough to watch during this cold stretch and their defense, which Bo Ryan teams pride themselves on, has been exposed. Sophomore forward Sam Dekker continues to contribute in big ways for the Badgers, leading the team with 14 points per game and 6.4 rebounds as well. Along with senior guard Ben Brust, Frank Kaminksy and junior Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin has the talent to return to the nation's elite. A meeting with another struggling team, Ohio State, should go far to tell us if either can get back on track.
Next Game: vs. Ohio State

5. Minnesota Gophers 15-6, 4-4 Big Ten
The Gophers continue to be the most confusing team in the Big Ten. Richard Pitino has already gotten some big wins in his first years with victories over Wisconsin and Ohio State but has also lost to Nebraska and hasn't looked very impressive against Penn State or Purdue. Junior guard Andre Hollins has been great (he is out with an ankle injury at the moment) this year and transfer Malik Smith has been a huge source of scoring since following Pitino from Florida International. Their next three match ups, Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana are all beatable teams but they can't have a setback.
Next Game: vs. Northwestern

6. Ohio State Buckeyes 16-5, 3-5 Big Ten
No way around it: the Buckeyes are absolutely falling apart. A 71-70 overtime loss to Penn State was extremely alarming considering that it was in Columbus and  they have looked uninspired in losses to Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Senior guard Aaron Craft and junior Shannon Scott have formed one of the nation's most feared defensive backcourts but neither have ever been much of scorers. The Buckeyes really need LaQuinton Ross to turn into the go-to scorer that Deshaun Thomas was last season and needs a big man to step up, most likely Amir Williams.
Next Game: vs. Wisconsin

Non-NCAA Tournament Teams:
7. Indiana Hoosiers Noah Vonleh has quickly become one of the best freshmen inside the Big Ten and is shooting up draft boards but depth could be a concern for a 13-7 Hoosiers team.
8. Illinois Fighting Illini The Illini have also fallen apart in Big Ten, stuttering to a 2-6 conference mark. Transfer Rayvonte Rice has been great but they need other scoring options along with him to compete inside the conference.
9. Purdue Boilermakers Quietly, the Boilermakers have built a solid campaign, going 13-7 and posting a 3-4 conference mark. Much of that can be credited to Terone Johnson, who is putting up 13.4 points per game. If big man A.J. Hammons continues to improve, Purdue could surprise down the stretch.
10. Northwestern Wildcats First year head coach Chris Collins won't lead Northwestern to their first ever tournament appearance but he has had a successful first year with them. Drew Crawford has turned into a scary scorer for the 'Cats.
11. Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State proved they are a dangerous team inside the Big Ten when both Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are healthy. Unfortunately, they have struggled all year to find a player that can dominate in the paint like most elite Big Ten teams.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers Give Tim Miles credit for his two Big Ten wins over Minnesota and Ohio State. Sophomore Terran Petteway can score on will, but the 'Huskers will now have to replace junior Deverell Biggs, who was dismissed from the team.

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