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Big Ten Power Rankings 2022-23: Edition 1

Zach Edey, Purdue

1. Purdue Boilermakers (10-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 4

Matt Painter just keeps on churning out winning basketball teams in West Lafayette. Despite not having Jaden Ivey to handle the offensive load this season, the Boilermakers have looked dominant over the season's first month-and-a-half. Behemoth big man Zach Edey looks like the early National Player of the Year favorite, averaging 22.0 PPG, 13.7 RPG, and shooting 61% from the field. He's become the focal point on offense, but this Purdue team is much more balanced than the last several editions. The trio of guards Braden Smith, Brandon Newman, and Fletcher Loyer have all been impressive so far this winter, and young forwards Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn have the potential to be excellent complementary pieces up front. Purdue has already gotten through their toughest games of the non-conference, now it looks like smooth sailing until they reach the thick of their Big Ten schedule, which picks back up with Rutgers in early January.

2. Wisconsin Badgers (8-2 overall, 2-0 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 8

The Badgers are fast risers in the first edition of these rankings, in large part to quality victories over Maryland and Iowa to start Big Ten play. Even the two non-conference losses are quality defeats; the Badgers came up just short in a loss to Top 10 Kansas, and a three-point loss to Wake Forest isn't terrible either, particularly with Wake's Tyree Appleby going for 32. This year's Wisconsin team plays like a typical Greg Gard team; they're short on elite star-power, but they're well-rounded and play tough defense. Tyler Wahl has shown he can handle an expanded role on offense, and freshman Connor Essegian has been a pleasant surprise. Yet, Chucky Hepburn is the key; he's been less than 100 percent the month of December, but is the heart-and-soul of this team. How he goes will determine whether the Badgers are conference title contenders, or merely another team in the middle-of-the-pack.

3. Indiana Hoosiers (8-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 3

There have been significant ups-and-downs for Indiana over the course of their 10-game season so far. The win at home over UNC originally looked like a major one for Mike Woodson and company, but the Tar Heels have struggled since, and Indiana's offense sputtered in their next game, a 63-48 loss to Rutgers. They lost their second game of the year this past weekend to Arizona, which isn't a bad loss by any means, but indicates this team still has some growing to do. Trayce Jackson-Davis has been unsurprisingly terrific, but the Hoosiers are still looking for a more consistent No. 2 weapon. That will likely end up being highly touted freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino, who has been a joy to watch when he's been playing, but has missed their last several contests. Once he's back, this team should look more like the one that was earning significant preseason adoration.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 5

A buzzer beating win over Rutgers kicked off Ohio State's Big Ten season in a major way, but this team still has some growing to do as they finish off their non-conference slate. They're still figuring out how to fit all the new faces, such as Isaac Likekele, Brice Sensabaugh, and Sean McNeil, in with the remaining ones, like Zed Key. The result has been a team that has their impressive stretches, but is still an incomplete product. Even so, that incomplete product is a real threat in the conference, especially if the youngsters can grow up quickly.

5. Illinois Fighting Illini (7-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 1

It's been a rollercoaster of an early season for Illinois, with wins against UCLA and Texas in the non-conference, but also consecutive losses in league play. Losing on the road to Maryland wasn't a major problem; the Terrapins look like a contender in the conference, and College Park is a tough place to play. But, then there was the Penn State loss, a 15-point defeat to a team most consider to be near the bottom of the conference. The Nittany Lions could certainly be better than we think, but the Illini looked completely flat in front of their home crowd, resulting in an openly frustrated Brad Underwood. I remain under the belief Illinois is among the best in the Big Ten, but this is another team breaking in a lot of fresh faces. There's no questioning the talent, but they have some kinks to work out as they wrap up a three-game non-conference stretch before returning to the Big Ten.

6. Michigan Wolverines (6-3 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 3

For the second straight year, Michigan had a rough go of it in the non-conference, with a 5-3 record to their names before starting league play. However, there's no sense of panic around the program; aside from a 25-point stinker to Arizona State, the Wolverines went toe-to-toe with a pair of Top 25 teams in Virginia and Kentucky, then pounded Minnesota to open up their Big Ten slate. Losing star guard Jaelin Llewellyn for the season may be a point of concern, but the young pieces in the backcourt have looked good early on and if not for Zach Edey, Hunter Dickinson would be the Big Ten Player of the Year frontrunner today. There will still be some growing pains as this youthful Michigan team figures it out, but I firmly believe they still have the ceiling to win a Big Ten Title.

7. Maryland Terrapins (8-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 10

The Terrapins haven't faced as difficult of a schedule as others in the conference, but they've done what's asked of them en route to an 8-2 start. Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young has been terrific since arriving in College Park, but it's the offensive balance that has struck me in watching Maryland so far this season. They have four players averaging double-digit points, and go deeper in their bench than we assumed they would in the preseason. That doesn't mean there aren't some problem areas; the three-point shooting in particular has been rough, and is the primary reason for the Terps dropping their last two games, against Wisconsin and Tennessee. Things don't get a ton easier in the near future, as Maryland hosts UCLA this week and tips off the bulk of conference play with consecutive road games against Michigan and Rutgers.

8. Michigan State Spartans (7-4 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 6

Michigan State plays a brutal non-conference schedule every year, so it's not surprising they took some lumps early on in this year. While the Kentucky win represents a bright spot, the Spartans dropped games to Gonzaga, Alabama, Notre Dame, and now Northwestern. The offensive inconsistency has been at the core of Michigan State's streakiness. Joey Hauser has looked improved and Tyson Walker is leading the team in scoring, but it still feels like the Spartans are missing something. Is there another level that Malik Hall can reach this year? Or is there another piece off the bench ready to take a major leap? Tom Izzo still has a quality squad, but it feels like this is more of a middle-of-the-pack MSU team than one that can challenge for conference supremacy.

9. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-3 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 7

Keegan Murray be playing in the NBA, but Iowa has reloaded with his brother, Kris, who is off to an impressive 2022-23 campaign. Kris is averaging over 19 points per game and over 10 boards per game while shooting over 50%, pacing a Hawkeye offense that is once again one of the most explosive in the Big Ten. But, can they stop anyone going the other way? So far, Iowa's defensive numbers show progress, thanks to more athleticism on the perimeter and rim protector Filip Rebraca underneath, but this still feels like it could another season where Iowa lives and dies by their offense. That still means they're a threat in the league, but you wonder if they have the pieces to make a run at a conference title. Fortunately, the early Big Ten slate is soft (by Big Ten standards), which could give this team an opportunity to make a strong early impression.

10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-4 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 9

It's looking like another typical campaign for Stevie Pikiell's program in Piscataway. They will lose a couple head-scratchers, beat a couple highly ranked teams, and probably finish around the middle in the league standings. Any hopes for a jump up the rankings likely hinges on Paul Mulcahy returning to form after struggling through injuries at the start of the year. The same can be said for Caleb McConnell, who has played in just half of Rutgers' contests up to this point. Once they get the pair of wings back, the Scarlet Knights represent a very tough out in the league, and one of the best atmospheres.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 11

Micah Shrewsberry's Nittany Lions have shown real growth in his second year, off to a strong 7-3 start. The schedule's been awfully soft, but Penn State showed they were real by traveling to Champaign and stomping Illinois by 15. They've been a fun watch, too, with a flurry of explosive guards running an up-tempo offense. Jalen Pickett has been the star, but Seth Lundy, Andrew Funk, and Camren Wynter offer an impressive supporting cast. You wonder if they have the frontline to compete with the elites of the Big Ten, but they could certainly become a factor.

12. Northwestern Wildcats (7-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 13

Northwestern played a buttery soft non-conference schedule, with the notable exception being a home tilt with Auburn that they lost. However, the Wildcats proved themselves quite a bit by going to East Lansing and upsetting 20th-ranked Michigan State, 70-63. It wouldn't be the first time in recent years the Wildcats have started off the season strong, but maintaining it over the course of the Big Ten slate has been the challenge. There are interesting pieces on this roster, namely guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige, but you wonder if Northwestern has the depth to make a serious push up from the bottom-tier.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-5 overall, 0-2 Big Ten)

Preseason Rank: 14

Could Nebraska finally be showing signs of life in Year Four of Fred Hoiberg? The 'Huskers got one of their biggest wins in recent program history by defeating in-state rival Creighton in Omaha and have looked competitive in losses to two of the Big Ten's best, Indiana and Purdue. A healthy Derrick Walker underneath has been huge, but Nebraska's improvement this season has been primarily spurred by newcomer Sam Griesel, a transfer from North Dakota State. Griesel has been an absolute stat-stuffer in the early going, averaging 10.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 1.4 SPG, injecting new life into a program that needed it. There's still a long way to go for Nebraska to be considered a genuine threat, but this team isn't the pushover they've been over the last three seasons; they have a chance to rise up the league totem pole this winter.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-6 overall, 0-2 Big Ten)

Preseason Ranking: 12

It's looking like it will be a rough second season for Ben Johnson and company in Minneapolis. The Gophers didn't look particularly inspiring in the non-conference, and have followed that up with two blowout losses to Purdue and Michigan. Granted, those are two tough outs, but the Gophers have been a rough watch so far this year. Star forward Jamison Battle missed several games with injury and has shown rust in his return, big-name transfer Dawson Garcia has been underwhelming, and the roster is full of youth. Gopher fans have to hope some of the freshmen can grow up quick and Battle and Garcia return to form, but even if that happens, they'll be hard-pressed to show much improvement in 2022-23.

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