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Big Ten Power Rankings 2019: Edition 2

Carsen Edwards, Purdue
1. Michigan Wolverines 20-2 overall, 9-2 conference Previous Ranking: 1
The Wolverines have slowed down after their fast start to conference play, but they still remain the tentative favorite in a shifting conference. A recent loss in Iowa City to the Hawkeyes stings, but it wasn't altogether surprising. The good news is that Michigan still remains a terrific defensive team (allowing 57.0 PPG, second in the entire country) and their next three road games are extremely winnable, as they face Rutgers, Penn State and then Minnesota away from home. It will be interesting to see if Michigan can regain some of their offensive flow that has eroded over recent weeks. In order for that to happen, young forward Ignas Brazdeikis must become more consistent, and the Wolverines have to shoot better from downtown.
2. Purdue Boilermakers 16-6 overall, 9-2 conference Previous Ranking: 10
Give a lot of credit to this Purdue team; they recovered from a tough non-conference slate where they went 7-4 and are now playing the best basketball in the conference. The guiding force to their improved play has been undoubtedly Carsen Edwards. The 2018 All-American has left off right where he started, and is notching 24.5 PPG. Down the stretch, the key for this Boilermakers team will be how they play in the paint. Matt Haarms has been okay in an extended role, as has junior Evan Boudreaux, but in a conference that leans heavily on its physical nature, Purdue needs even more contributions from their frontcourt. Purdue's schedule the next few weeks is very manageable, so it looks like they should be able to keep up their impressive play.
3. Michigan State Spartans 18-4 overall, 9-2 conference Previous Ranking: 2
Two straight losses to teams from Indiana (Purdue and the Hoosiers) dropped the Spartans from undefeated in the league to a three-way tie for first place. However, Tom Izzo's teams tend to traditionally play better down the stretch, and the Spartans are still certainly dangerous. Superb point guard Cassius Winston runs one of the sport's most efficient offenses, and he appears to be one of the favorites to win Big Ten Player of the Year. What really hurts this team is the absence of guard Josh Langford who was having an extremely productive year before a stress injury in his foot ended the year. That should put pressure on other wings to step up in his absence, namely youthful Aaron Henry.
4. Wisconsin Badgers 16-6 overall, 8-3 conference Previous Ranking: 7
The Badgers remain one of the most confounding teams in college basketball. They entered the new year with a bad non-conference loss to Western Kentucky and lost three of four in Big Ten play. Yet, they've recovered admirably, with five straight victories and an upset over Michigan to boot. Forward Ethan Happ remains as the unquestioned leader of this team, but improved play from guards D'Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison has been the main fuel behind their improved play. Davison in particular has impressed with his silky smooth shooting; he is coming off a showing where he was 4-6 from three in a win over Maryland. While they still remain confusing this Wisconsin team clearly is a threat that can beat anybody in this conference when they're playing well. They are just as much of a threat to win a Big Ten Title as the three ahead of them here.
5. Maryland Terrapins 17-6 overall, 8-4 conference Previous Ranking: 3
A lot of people were surprised by Maryland's hot start to conference play, and while they've slowed down, they still remain a threat. The Terrapins have dropped three of four, but they still remain a team that can move the ball and has a premier post presence in budding forward Bruno Fernando. Yet, the really concerning issue for this Maryland team is their upcoming slate, which gets brutal as February marches on. Over their next four, the Terps go on the road against Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa and get Purdue at home. Thats a terrifying stretch for a team that is sliding slightly; if they don't come out .500 in those games, things could go south quickly.
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers 16-6 overall, 6-5 conference Previous Ranking: 4
A hard-fought road loss to Purdue dropped Minnesota to 6-5 in the conference, and likely on the bubble at this point. They have some good wins, such as a road victory against Wisconsin and a non-conference win over Washington but also have some bad losses (ahem, Illinois). The improved health of big man Eric Curry and great play from freshman Daniel Oturu has helped their frontcourt, but what this team really lacks is a true floor general at point guard. The only true PG on their roster, sophomore Isaiah Washington, has really struggled and is shooting just 32% from the field. If they don't figure out that problem at some point over the next couple weeks, they could be in store for a tough February, with a couple tough road games.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes 17-5 overall, 6-5 conference Previous Ranking: 6
Their recent upset of Michigan helped Iowa jump to No. 20 in the polls, and they look like a team ready to rise up the rankings in this conference. Offensively, the Hawkeyes are among the best in the Big Ten, with two great forwards in Tyler Cook and Luke Garza, along with a high-scoring backcourt. Now, the key for them will be figuring out how to keep opponents from doing the same; in their last three losses they've allowed an average of 86.7 points. While they do on the road twice over their next three, the Hawkeyes face down what should be a good schedule for them.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes 14-7 overall, 4-6 conference Previous Ranking: 9
After a brutal five-game losing streak to begin the major chunk of their league play, Ohio State has figured things out, winning two of their last three. They remain out of the NCAA Tournament picture right now, but there is still ample time to make things up. Any hope of returning to serious contention in the conference would likely center around veteran point guard C.J. Jackson. After an up-and-down start to Big Ten action, Jackson notched 20 points in the Buckeyes' recent win over Rutgers. With matchups against Penn State, struggling Indiana and Illinois over their next three, don't count out this OSU squad just yet.
9. Indiana Hoosiers 13-9 overall, 4-7 conference Previous Ranking: 8
Entering this weekend's meeting with Michigan State coming off seven consecutive losses, Indiana didn't look like they had any chance. Instead, they stunned MSU in front of their home crowd, and perhaps completely changed the trajectory of the rest of their season. They still have work to do if they want to get back into the NCAA Tournament mix, but they do still retain one of the most explosive guards in the entire country in Romeo Langford. The X-factor could end up being forward Juwan Morgan, who has to recover from a shoulder injury.
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers 13-9 overall, 3-8 conference Previous Ranking: 5
Once a Top 25 team, things have gone downhill fast in Lincoln, as Nebraska has now lost five straight. The big issue has been an offense that has lost its punch, and has really struggled with turning the ball over. Wing James Palmer Jr. remains a dangerous offensive weapon, but he needs to get better shots. On this five-game losing streak, he has shot just 33 percent and doesn't seem to have the confidence he had earlier in the year. Unless he figures that out, any shot at a postseason berth will definitely go out the window.
11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 11-10 overall, 4-7 conference Previous Ranking: 12
It hasn't exactly been the quickest or most impressive turnaround, but Steve Pikiell continues to dig Rutgers out of the cellar they've been in since joining the Big Ten. This year's Rutgers squad has been respectable, and was recently riding a nice little three game win streak. They still don't have a very explosive offense, but have instead focused on play sound, physical defense. It has worked for them, and this team is not a fun team to play anymore. Can they continue their improved stretch? The rest of February is tough, with games against Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa looming.
12. Northwestern Wildcats 12-10 overall, 3-8 conference Previous Ranking: 11
This Northwestern team certainly won't be earning the program a second ever trip to March Madness, but they could still rise up the totem pole if they can find some offense. They haven't been great offensively all season, but it has been very bad the last couple games, especially with just 46 on the road against Wisconsin. It isn't like the Wildcats don't have talent, as Vic Law and Derek Pardon are two of the better frontcourt players in the entire conference. The biggest issue has been the Wildcats' putrid shooting from deep, which absolutely has to change.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini 7-15 overall, 3-8 conference Previous Ranking: 14
The Fighting Illini had a disastrous start to league play but they've been playing significantly down the stretch. They are coming off a strong showing in a win over Nebraska and at the time of publishing, hold a halftime lead over Michigan State. Guard Trent Frazier hasn't been very consistent but is starting to look like the clear-cut No. 1 option on this offense, while freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili has been a revelation. Again, this team won't be playing in the postseason, but they could still establish some momentum for next fall, which will be Brad Underwood's third in Champaign.
14. Penn State Nittany Lions 8-14 overall, 1-10 conference Previous Ranking: 13
After winning the NIT Title last spring, this year has gone quite a bit different for the Nittany Lions. They lost their first ten games in Big Ten action, before a recent seven point victory over Northwestern. The thing is, they aren't exactly getting blown out these games. Their last four losses have all been very competitive and with forward Lamar Stevens, they have a go-to scorer. This team needs to step up and figure things out late in games, because they appear to be better than a 1-10 record may indicate.

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