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Big Ten Power Rankings 2022-23: Edition 2

Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois
Records updated: morning of 1/19/2022*

 1. Purdue Boilermakers (17-1 overall, 6-1 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 1

While the rest of the Big Ten has beaten themselves up over the course of the early schedule, Purdue has been able to stay mainly above the fray. They come in at third nationally and have just one loss to their credit, a heartbreaker at home to Rutgers. Big man Zach Edey continues to be one of the main frontrunners for the National Player of the Year award, but the real fuel behind Purdue's success in 2022-23 has been their young, but talented, backcourt. Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer may be freshmen, but the duo has been arguably the best guard combo in the conference this season. Loyer has emerged as the scoring threat, averaging 13.4 PPG and gifted with unlimited range, while Smith has proven to be an adept playmaker and active defender. If that duo can keep it going over the course of a rugged league schedule, the Boilermakers won't just go home with a conference title, they can seriously challenge for a National Title.

2. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-5 overall, 5-2 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 10

Rutgers has evolved into a consistent winner under head coach Steve Pikiell, but they've been more of a pest than serious Big Ten Title contender the last several seasons. That has changed in 2022-23, as the Scarlet Knights are second only to Purdue in the league standings and currently own the tiebreaker over the Boilermakers. It's been an impressive stretch from the Scarlet Knights, winners of seven of eight, and the upcoming slate in late January seems as favorable as you can get in this league. They need Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell to get back to full strength after being limited early on, but Cam Spencer has proven he can handle the offensive load. Spencer, a transfer from Loyola-Maryland, isn't just the team's leading scorer, he's been an absolute demon from deep, shooting 47% from three.

3. Illinois Fighting Illini (13-5 overall, 4-3 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 5

Is there a team that better epitomizes the chaos and strangeness of this year's Big Ten than the Illinois Fighting Illini? They had a rollercoaster of a non-conference, had a couple of bad conference losses, but have since reeled off four straight victories. The decision from hyped freshman Skyy Clark to leave the program midseason originally looked like a sign things were set to go off the rails, but the Illini have looked significantly better without him. Freshman Jayden Epps has looked like the real deal helping to steer the offense and Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer appear to be settling in. They look very scary at this point in the season, and their next four home games are extremely winnable.

4. Wisconsin Badgers (12-5 overall, 4-3 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 2

Wisconsin looked like a potential conference frontrunner when they jumped out to a 3-0 start in the league, but they've fallen back to Earth since. A close win at the Kohl Center over Penn State stopped a three-game skid, one that included a horrifying loss to Indiana in Bloomington. The offense remains underwhelming, but getting Tyler Wahl back to 100 percent will be huge. He left the Minnesota game early and proceeded to miss their next three before scoring 10 against PSU. The senior is not only their most consistent offensive weapon, his energy and hard work goes well behind the box score.

5. Michigan State Spartans (12-6 overall, 4-3 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 8

This year's Michigan State team doesn't seem like the group that's going to deliver Tom Izzo his first Big Ten Title since 2018-19, but they've proven they are a serious threat in the conference. A recent two-game losing streak has been frustrating, but the Spartans reeled off seven straight victories beforehand. One of the losses was also to Purdue on Martin Luther King Day, a heartbreaking defeat that occurred at the hands of a late layup from Zach Edey. Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard are a formidable backcourt, but it's the growth of Joey Hauser that has really stuck out to me. He's taken his scoring up a notch and is playing with much more confidence, giving the Spartans a versatile, consistent threat.

6. Michigan Wolverines (10-7 overall, 4-2 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 6

Juwan Howard's club remains a confusing one as we trek through January. They have some bad losses, punctuated by their defeat at the hands of Central Michigan, but have gotten off to a 4-2 start in the Big Ten. A lot of that can be accredited to a pretty soft schedule up to this point, but the Wolverines still deserve credit; it's not easy to get any wins in this league. Hunter Dickinson remains a threat to win Big Ten Player of the Year, but the supporting cast must develop consistency. Jett Howard, Kobe Bufkin, and Dug McDaniel can be a maddening trio at times, but they bring plenty of playmaking punch and seem to be figuring out their respective roles with the absence of Jaelin Llewellyn. 

7. Northwestern Wildcats (12-5 overall, 3-3 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 12

Northwestern has been one of the league's pleasant surprises over the early conference slate, with impressive road victories over Michigan State and Indiana and a home win over Illinois. Their veteran guard play has fueled their success, with Chase Audige and Boo Buie leading the way, but I still wonder if they have the bigs to last as a contender in the conference. Beyond combo forward Robbie Beran and center Matthew Nicholson, they're incredibly thin on the frontline, a real problem in a league defined by their low-post stars. The Wildcats have been able to make do just fine so far, but this is probably their ceiling at this point.

8. Iowa Hawkeyes (12-6 overall, 4-3 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 9

Iowa is another team that's had a wacky season so far, and it's anyone's guess how they'll wrap up the regular season. Things were looking dark, with a three-game losing streak that included a shocking loss to Eastern Illinois, but the Hawkeyes have won four since. Three of the four were at home, but it still indicates Iowa could be turning a corner as they look towards a brutal upcoming road slate. Finding a quality complement for Kris Murray has been the primary challenge, but could the emergence of Payton Sandfort create a strong final two-and-a-half months? Sandfort has been on fire as of late, averaging 20 points per in their final three games. If he can keep it up, Iowa's potent offense should be able to keep firmly cemented as an NCAA Tournament team.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (12-6 overall, 3-4 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 11

Micah Shrewsberry had a quality debut campaign in State College, but his program looks like they may be ahead of schedule in Year Two. The Nittany Lions are off to a quality 3-4 start in the Big Ten and even in their losses, they've looked very competitive. With that being said, Penn State has lost three of four, indicating there's work to be done if this team wants to enjoy a postseason trip. This feels like a team that's going to live or die by their guards; when they're on, this team could challenge just about anyone in the league, but when they're not, it's probably a lower-tier group in the conference. Jalen Pickett has proven to be All-Big Ten worthy, but others need to step up if the Nittany Lions are to get back on track.

10. Indiana Hoosiers (11-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 3

There were hopes of a conference title entering the season in Bloomington. Six games into league play, those hopes have all but evaporated. The Hoosiers have probably been the league's greatest disappointment early on, but I'm still not ready to completely sell my stock. They remain one of the most talented teams in the Big Ten, with a bonafide 1-2 punch in Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino. It just feels like something is off in the locker room; the energy and execution on this team isn't there. It's going to take a tremendous coaching job from Mike Woodson to get this team back into the hunt in the conference. How he and this program battle through adversity will tell us a lot about whether he is the guy ready to return Indiana basketball to national relevance.

11. Maryland Terrapins (11-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 7

The Kevin Willard era got off to a hot start in College Park, as the Terrapins won their first eight games of the season. Since then, it's been frustration after frustration, with Maryland losing six of their next nine. A pair of those victories came against mid-majors, Saint Peter's and UMBC, but the home win over Ohio State showed the Terrapins can still be a feisty out. However, the offense remains in a severe slump, only hitting 70 once in their last four. Jahmir Young has shown he can carry an offense, but the three-point shooting has been atrocious for most of the year. There's still time to figure things out, but this is quickly looking like the hot start was more of a mirage than the norm in Year One for Willard.

12. Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-9 overall, 3-5 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 13

Nobody in Lincoln is throwing a parade over being 10-9 overall and 3-5 in the conference, but there shouldn't be any denying that this program is showing signs of life in Fred Hoiberg's fourth year. Their three conference victories are already nearing the high water mark for Big Ten wins under Hoiberg, which was previously four. And, it isn't just that; the 'Huskers have looked competent on both ends of the floor and have some really interesting pieces. The upcoming slate of games is manageable, meaning it wouldn't be crazy to see Nebraska continue to ascend these rankings.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-8 overall, 2-5 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 4

Since Chris Holtmann took over at Ohio State, the Buckeyes have been one of the most consistent programs in the Big Ten. They've won at least 20 games each of Holtmann's five seasons, and have advanced in the NCAA Tournament three times. But right now, it feels like the sky is falling in Columbus. They've lost five straight to push them to the bottom of the Big Ten standings, losses that have included a defeat at home to Minnesota and defeats on the road to Maryland and Nebraska. The good news is that all of the losses have been close, a good sign that these recent road bumps shouldn't last in the long-term. I firmly expect Holtmann to turn things around, but this team has to figure out how to close out games. They're simply too talented and Holtmann is too good of a coach for this to continue.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-9 overall, 1-5 Big Ten)

Previous Rank: 14

It's been a long season in Minneapolis, with the Gophers non-conference struggles lasting into the Big Ten schedule. They remain one of the youngest teams in the league and it's clear when you watch them play, with sloppy turnovers and bad free-throw shooting. With that being said, the freshmen have all shown potential and the late January - mid-February slate isn't terrible. If Jamison Battle can finally find his rhythm, there's still some hope for the Gophers to scrounge up a couple more league victories in Ben Johnson's second season.

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