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Big Ten Power Rankings 2019: Edition 1

Jordan Poole, Michigan
1. Michigan Wolverines 17-0 overall, 6-0 conference
Michigan has not slowed down at all following last spring's National Championship Game appearance, and they appear to be the clear favorite right now in the Big Ten. Newcomer Ignas Brazdeikis has been a revelation, coming out of nowhere to lead the team in scoring (15.6 PPG) in the place of NBA bound Moritz Wagner. Just as crucial for the Wolverines has been the play of their backcourt, which is stocked with guys that can hurt defenses. Versatile Charles Matthews is one of their most reliable options and a tough guard for anybody in the Big Ten, while NCAA Tournament hero Jordan Poole has become a legitimate No. 1 option. Michigan is so hot and playing so well offensively, they've won their last four conference games by an average of 13.5 points. The schedule does start to get tougher, road trips to Madison and Bloomington on the near horizon, but UM is simply on fire. There is certainly an argument to be made that they are playing the best basketball in the country right now, and look to be the clear favorite in the always-competitive Big Ten.
2. Michigan State Spartans 15-2 overall, 6-0 conference
While Michigan remains undefeated, their in-state rival in East Lansing is right on their tail, also jumping out to a 6-0 conference start. The Spartans don't quite have the offensive firepower that Michigan possesses, but they've made up for it be playing intelligent, efficient basketball. Junior guard Cassius Winston has been terrific, averaging 17.4 PPG and 7.4 APG while shooting 45 percent from three-point. Winston is the guy that makes this team run, but credit should also go to swingman Joshua Langord and fellow guard Matt McQuaid, whose floor-spacing ability is absolutely crucial for this team. If the Spartans continue to play under control and Winston doesn't slow down, MSU is quit the worthy challenger to the Wolverines, which they'll have time to prepare for (their first meeting is in late February).
3. Maryland Terrapins 14-3 overall, 5-1 conference
He doesn't get the attention of some of the other coaches in this conference, but Maryland's Mark Turgeon has proven himself as one of the best in the Big Ten. Once again, Maryland had to replace a number of key contributors over the off-season, but they've recovered incredibly well, rising to a 5-1 conference record. Included in those victories have been wins over then-ranked Nebraska and Indiana, as well as a huge road win over Minnesota. Much like Michigan State, the Terrapins are fueled by a do-it-all point guard in Anthony Cowan, who leads the team in scoring and assists. However, the big surprise on this team has been the improved play of Bruno Fernando, who has given this team the legit post presence they need to contend in such an unforgiving league. Maryland as a whole still seems to be underrated, but this is a well-rounded, balanced team that has proven they can beat some really good teams in this conference.
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers 13-3 overall, 3-2 conference
After suffering through a brutal 2018 where nearly nothing went right, this year's Minnesota squad has played with significant more energy and urgency. Just as crucial has been their improved health, namely junior Amir Coffey and sophomore Eric Curry. Coffey was never 100 percent during Big Ten play a year ago, but has absolutely taken over at times for this Gopher team. He recently put up 29 points in a win over Rutgers and notched 32 in a huge victory over Nebraska earlier in the season. Curry missed all off last season but has been crucial in improving this frontcourt, as has the addition of freshman Daniel Oturu. The Gophers still have to establish more consistency and solve their offensive woes when facing a zone defense, but they're playing well and have an incredibly favorable upcoming schedule.
5. Nebraska Cornhuskers 13-4 overall, 3-3 conference
Overlooking Nebraska would be a huge mistake, as this is the type of sneaky good team that could cause significant chaos in the top half of this league. The 'Huskers are fresh off a huge road win over a strong Indiana team, and they've been unbeatable in Lincoln, going 9-0 at home. An extremely talented offense has been the fuel for this team over the first chunk of the season, but the defense may end up being why this team ends up contending in the Big Ten. They have the 13th best scoring defense in America, and their stingy defense will be obviously important if they have any shot at up-ending either of the Michigan schools at the top of the conference.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes 14-3 overall, 3-3 conference
A very slow start to Big Ten play, which included a 22-point beatdown on the road against Michigan State, threatened to doom the Hawkeyes, but they have recovered nicely. They have now won three straight in league play, showcasing a high-scoring offense that continues to get better. Forward Tyler Cook has proven to be a legitimate No. 1 scoring threat, while other supporting pieces like Jordan Bohannon have played important roles. A late January and early February stretch of games could be the deciding factor whether this team is really ready to step into serious contention. In a four-game stretch, they get Michigan State, at Minnesota, Michigan and another road trip to Indiana.
7. Wisconsin Badgers 11-5 overall, 3-2 conference
One of the youngest teams in the Big Ten a season ago, Wisconsin has proven that they've taken big steps forward going further into 2019. They already clearly have one of the conference's best players in veteran big Ethan Happ, and have surrounded him with skilled, cerebral guards. Brad Davison has really grown into his role as leader of this team, while D'Mitrik Trice and Kobe King have really been spark plugs. Rough losses over the last few weeks to Western Kentucky and at home against Minnesota and Purdue have certainly dropped Wisconsin in these rankings, but this team has potential, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them re-emerge as more complete threats down the stretch.
8. Indiana Hoosiers 12-5 overall, 3-3 conference
After starting off 3-0 in league play, the Hoosiers have faltered down the stretch, with three straight losses. Considering two of those games were on the road against very strong teams, it isn't extremely worrying, but clearly Indiana has some work to do to get back on track. Any chance of making a run in this conference will center around talented youngster Romeo Langford, who is not only an incredibly explosive scorer, but very efficient. Indiana also needs a number of their other young guys to step up, which has not been an easy task for second-year head coach Archie Miller. This Hoosiers team is talented but they are going through some growing pains, which is to be expected with their inexperience.
9. Ohio State Buckeyes 12-4 overall, 2-3 conference
A rough stretch of play has Ohio State in a tough spot early on, but this is still a strong team that should be capable of returning to contention. They've lost their last three games due largely to an offense that has lacked much punch. Guard C.J. Jackson has been okay, but hasn't played the efficient way he did throughout most of 2018. The Buckeyes have also certainly missed the leadership of versatile forward Keita Bates-Diop, and others need to step up. With of their next six games being at home, Ohio State is certainly not dead. They could regain some momentum and push themselves back into the top half of this conference.
10. Purdue Boilermakers 10-6 overall, 3-2 conference
Purdue suffered through a very tough non-conference slate that included Virginia Tech and Florida State, but they look to be turning the corner. They've won four of five, and have a reasonable schedule going forward. They also have the top guard in the league in Carsen Edwards, who is averaging 25.2 PPG, but must be more consistent. The lack of quality scoring options beyond Edwards and guard Ryan Cline have hurt, and this team doesn't have the post presence recent Purdue teams have had. The Boilermakers are yet another team that may sit low at this point in the season, but there is ample chances to rise up in the competitive Big Ten, and this team has loads of talent.
11. Northwestern Wildcats 10-7 overall, 1-5 conference
There is a significant drop-off here between the top ten teams in this conference, and the bottom four. However, Northwestern is still a disciplined team with solid experience, meaning they could still cause some chaos in this league. Yet, when squaring off against the best teams in this conference, the Wildcats have been blown out. They lost to Michigan State by 26 on the road, and were pounded by twenty recently in Ann Arbor. Can somebody in this backcourt step up beyond Ryan Taylor and make a difference? Any chance of the Wildcats contending for a .500 conference mark will absolutely depend on it.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 8-7 overall, 1-4 conference
It hasn't been an easy few years in Steve Pikiell's rebuild at Rutgers, but this 2019 edition looks pretty fun. They have some talented guards who can make plays, but their lack of depth could doom them as we get deeper in conference play. The potential of this team was on full display in their recent upset of Ohio State, which was one of their biggest wins in a long time. Rutgers does have a pretty favorable schedule upcoming in the next few weeks, and while they still remain flawed, they could still put together some interesting performances.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions 7-10 overall, 0-6 conference
It has obviously not been the start the Nittany Lions were hoping for one-third of the way through Big Ten play, but there are still some pieces that could help them down the stretch. Lamar Stevens has proven himself as a valuable scorer and versatile weapon, but he hasn't been efficient at all throughout the season. If he can get figure out a way to get better shots, and play better late in games, this team may still be able to rise up the ladder at some point.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini 4-12 overall, 0-5 conference
Its been a painful second year of Brad Underwood's tenure in Champaign, as the Illini have really struggled on their way to a 4-12 start. They've had some moments offensively, but their defense has doomed them consistently all season long. Illinois has still been competitive over their last three games, but they haven't found a guy that can make the important shots all season. Even if they do identify a go-to guy, they can't take any steps forward until they figure out the defensive issues.

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