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Big Ten Power Rankings 2023-24: Edition 1

Zach Edey, Purdue

1. Purdue Boilermakers (8-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

Purdue may have opened up league play with a surprising loss at the hands of Northwestern, but the Boilermakers have already built a resume that has them on the inside track towards a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. Wins over Gonzaga, Tennessee, and Marquette demonstrate that Purdue will not only hang among the nation's elite, but that they can defeat opponents with a wide range of play styles. In fact, the Northwestern defeat could actually end up being a positive for the program, providing them the wakeup call they need to overcome a precarious slate before the meat of the Big Ten schedule arrives. That slate includes the nation's new No. 1, Arizona, who will come to Indianapolis to square off against Purdue in the 2023 Indy Classic.

2. Illinois Fighting Illini (7-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

An 18-point victory on the road was a resounding statement from an Illinois team that has serious Big Ten Title aspirations, but even more impressive? The Fighting Illini's encore, when they crushed No. 11 Florida Atlantic in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, 98-89. It feels like both games are indicative of the type of product the Illini will put on the court in 2023-24 - they're going to score plenty of points, but it will be up to their defense to determine their ceiling this winter. If the Rutgers game was any indication, things are looking bright in Champaign - they only forced 10 Scarlet Knight turnovers, but held them to 33% shooting and 58 points.

3. Wisconsin Badgers (7-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Two losses in their first three games seemed to indicate the same old offensive woes would plague Wisconsin once again this season, but they've quickly turned things around and have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the last month. Beating in-state rival Marquette and then going on the road and handling Michigan State was quite the statement from Greg Gard's club, and the good news? They've done so with sophomore sharpshooter Connor Essegian playing far below 100 percent as he nurses a back injury he sustained in the Tennessee loss. After playing just seven minutes total in the Marquette and MSU wins, the Badgers will be eager to get the youngster back at full strength, as they need him when they travel to Tucson to face Arizona this upcoming weekend.

4. Northwestern Wildcats (6-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Chris Collins worked his way off the hot seat with an impressive 2022-23 campaign that saw the Wildcats finish tied for second in the league, and it's looking like he's preparing for a grand encore. After a quiet non-conference, the Wildcats opened up Big Ten action with a bang, shocking top-ranked Purdue in Evanston, 92-88. Northwestern did so even with Zach Edey still scoring 35 points, as Boo Buie responded with 31 points of his own, and the Wildcats gained a significant edge in the turnover battle, with just three compared to Purdue's 17. But, in order to prove that they can seriously challenge for league supremacy, Northwestern will have to do more than just pull out one huge victory, and the rest of the non-conference schedule isn't exactly loaded with heavyweights. But, perhaps that should provide this team further momentum before they jump back into Big Ten play with a road tilt against Illinois in early January.

5. Indiana Hoosiers (7-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten)

Thanks to victories over Maryland and Michigan, it is the Indiana Hoosiers who currently sit atop the Big Ten standings at 2-0. Yet, there's still plenty of work to be done, and the Hoosiers still have plenty to prove in the month of December before league play resumes. But, I will say, this team has a really interesting feel to it, a real throwback in the context of modern college basketball. They're going to lean heavily on their post game, with Kel'el Ware and Malik Reneau as their top two scorers, while true freshman sensation Mackenzie Mgbako continues to acclimate himself to the collegiate game. Mike Woodson has an intriguing situation here, but whether that means the Hoosiers are ready to seriously challenge in the Big Ten remains to be seen.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

The disaster that was the 2022-23 campaign for Ohio State always felt like more of a one-off than the beginning of a trend for Chris Holtmann, and the program has responded in a big way so far this winter. They are 8-1 to begin the year and their lone defeat came at the hands of a quality Texas A&M team, albeit at home. A road tilt with Penn State gives them the opportunity to move to 2-0 early on in the Big Ten season, and they'll get a chance for two additional resume-boosting wins in the month of December with UCLA and West Virginia.

7. Michigan State Spartans (4-4 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

There's no denying that Michigan State has been a massive disappointment up to this point in the year, but more and more this is starting to feel like a typical Tom Izzo season. The Spartans have struggled in the non-conference and lost their Big Ten opener to Wisconsin, but it hasn't been uncommon for the program to take lumps early on before they find their groove over the season's final months. And, the reality is that this team is still extremely talented - Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard remain an imposing 1-2 punch in the backcourt, a healthy Malik Hall is a true difference-maker, and the youngsters are going to put it all together eventually. Michigan State may be situated down here at seven at the moment, but it feels like only a matter of time before they quickly ascend these rankings.

8. Maryland Terrapins (5-4 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

A pair of close, surprising losses to Davidson and UAB seemed to knock Maryland down the Big Ten pecking order, but the Terrapins have responded nicely over the last several weeks. They've taken care of business against the teams they should beat and after losing to Indiana to open up the conference schedule, they won a thriller over Penn State earlier in the week. The offense is clearly still working out some kinks beyond Jahmir Young, but this remains a deep and talented team, and it wouldn't be surprising if they're able to turn things around and get back on track towards making the NCAA Tournament. Plenty of resume-boosting opportunities abound, even if the rest of the non-conference slate remains awfully soft.

9. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-4 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

Iowa will square off with Michigan over the weekend in a game that will tell us quite a bit about both teams, particularly after underwhelming starts to the 2023-24 campaign. The Hawkeyes have had a rough go of things in the non-conference, fresh off a 25-point loss to their Cy-Hawk rival Iowa State, and lost by 19 on the road to Purdue to open up Big Ten play. We know the Hawkeyes can still score, as they're averaging nearly 88 points per game, but it's a buttery soft defense that has created the 5-4 start. In fact, opponents have scored at least 87 points in three of Iowa's four losses up to this point in the year.

10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-3 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

Rutgers has celebrated some major wins on the recruiting trail recently, but the product on the court has been less than impressive. An 18-point loss to Illinois at home is at least somewhat understandable considering how hot the Illini have been, but losses to Princeton and Wake Forest seem to indicate this could be a rebuilding campaign in Piscataway. The offense has struggled mightily, and someone needs to emerge if this team has any chance of climbing their way out of the bottom of the Big Ten rankings.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)

In just two league games, Minnesota has nearly matched last year's conference win total (two), as they completed an impressive comeback against Nebraska earlier in the week. This team still has notable deficencies, but Dawson Garcia's growth into an All-Big Ten talent gives them a bonafide top scorer, and the depth on the roster has improved significantly. If the young guys, notably Braeden Carrington and Pharrel Payne, continue to grow, this Gopher team could be feisty and potentially open the door for something special in 2024-25.

12. Michigan Wolverines (4-5 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

Juwan Howard's seat was at least warming prior to the 2023-24 campaign, and a rough start has turned up the temperature in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have lost three straight entering the weekend, and have quite the stain on their postseason resume with a home defeat to Long Beach State. Perhaps they could turn things around - Howard has done it before - but it just feels like the roster is missing the necessary pieces to do so. Dug McDaniel and Olivier Nkamhoua have carried the offense so far, and it's hard to see if anyone else is going to emerge and turn the tide for the Wolverines.

13. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-5 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

It wouldn't be surprising if Mike Rhoades' first team in Happy Valley suffers through an up-and-down campaign, although the Nittany Lions nearly went into College Park and pulled out a win against Maryland this week. Kanye Clary and Ace Baldwin Jr., who followed Rhoades from VCU, give this backcourt plenty of punch, but it's the development of the frontcourt that looks to be the X-factor on the season. Qudus Wahab is back in the Big Ten, but the Nittany Lions will need others to step up if they want to survive a league brimming with elite post talent.

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

Nebraska's 7-2 record looks a bit more impressive at face value than it actually is, considering they've beat up on a soft non-conference schedule before a pair of losses over the last week. The loss to Creighton at home doesn't feel like a big deal, but the 'Huskers had a chance to close out Minnesota on the road earlier in the week and squandered it. Clearly, Fred Hoiberg's team is still figuring things out, but this team could be dangerous if things come together, making this last-place ranking obsolete. At the very least, guard Keisei Tominaga, who has earned the nickname, "Japanese Steph Curry" gives fans reason to tune in each and every night. 

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