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Big Ten Men’s Basketball Power Rankings Post-Christmas Edition

We look at where the fourteen conference teams stand just over a week before league play resumes

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten play resumes just after the new year and in an effort to get you caught up on how the conference has fared so far this season, here is the first edition of power rankings for men’s basketball during the 2018-2019 campaign. The Big Ten is looking extremely strong this season and I consider any of the teams ranked below in the top nine as an NCAA Tournament contender. Let’s tip things off here.

Note: All rankings are per KenPom as of December 26th. I consider bad losses against teams ranked worse than 100. The Big Ten is ranked second among all conferences so far this season.

#14 Illinois (KenPom #106)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: None

Bad Losses: Georgetown (113th)

Overview: The Illini are just 4-8 to start the season, but have losses to seven top 100 teams including #3 Gonzaga, #14 Nebraska, and #17 Iowa State. They did just get routed by rival Missouri by 16 points, the first time they lost to them in five years. Illinois has adjusted efficiency ratings worse than 100 for both offense and defense and while they are making three-pointers at a high clip (37.6%) they’re struggling from two-point range (244th) and the free throw line (256th). They are an inexperienced team (298th) like Rutgers and could improve as the season progresses. However, I have them last because their best win so far is only against East Tennessee State (116th).

#13 Rutgers (KenPom #114)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Miami (48th)

Bad Losses: Fordham (204th)

Overview: I wrote earlier this week in this look at recent trends for Rutgers that their 6-5 record is exactly where I thought they’d be at this point in the season. If you flipped the Miami win for the Fordham loss, the outcomes of each game would be exactly as expected. Shooting in all phases remains an issue and this team needs to put forth a better performance in conference play than they did last time out against Columbia or the Big Ten slate will get ugly. However, Rutgers has played up against better teams and I do expect them to be a tough out at the RAC in conference play with Maryland presenting a big opportunity on January 5th.

#12 Northwestern (45th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: None

Bad Losses: None

Overview: The Wildcats have beaten who they should so far, as well as lost to who they should with the debatable exception of Fresno State (56th). Their best wins are over Georgia Tech (101st) and DePaul (107th), both of which are not particularly good teams. Chris Collins’ team could prove to be worthy of a higher power ranking this season, but I’ll wait until the wins against quality opponents start adding up.

#11 Penn State (47th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Virginia Tech (9th)

Bad Losses: DePaul (107th); Bradley (157th)

Overview: They are just 6-6, but I’m weighing PSU’s win over Virginia Tech in putting them above Northwestern, especially since it came after their two bad losses. They’ve also played a much more competitive schedule (29th vs. 303rd). Their last time out they lost to Alabama (65th) by 9 on the road. The Nittany Lions really miss Tony Carr this season and look in line to be a bottom four team again in the Big Ten this season.

#10 Iowa (33rd)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Iowa State (17th); Oregon (42nd); UConn (88th); PITT (90th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: The Hawkeyes started the season in surprising fashion by defeating Oregon and UConn. That momentum stopped once Big Ten play began, as they lost at home to Wisconsin by six and then got blown out by 22 points at Michigan State. Iowa’s offense has been very good overall (18th), but defense remains an issue (89th). Their non-conference schedule ranks 317th, so we won’t know if they are for real or not until the thick of league play takes place.

#9 Purdue (19th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Maryland (32nd); Davidson (81st); Ball State (84th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: Purdue could finish in the top half of the conference before it’s all said and done, but they are currently 0-3 vs. top 20 teams they’ve faced this season in Michigan, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. All of those losses were away from home and as they continue to gel, they should be dangerous as always in West Lafayette. Carsen Edwards is one of the best players in the country and gives them a shot against anyone, despite the 7-5 start playing a difficult non-conference schedule (31st).

#8 Minnesota (59th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Nebraska (14th); Washington (52nd); Texas A&M (64th); Oklahoma State (80th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: Losing to Boston College (92nd) by 12 was close to a bad loss, but the Gophers have some solid wins so far this season. The jury is out on whether they’ll turn out to be a bottom four team in the league, but Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey are a very good duo to have. How the supporting cast plays the rest of the way will determine their fate.

#7 Maryland (32nd)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Penn State (42nd); Loyola Chicago (86th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: The Terps just lost at home to Seton Hall (55th) and we really don’t know how for real this team is either yet (non-conference strength of schedule is 300th). They have Radford and Nebraska at home before coming to the RAC on January 5th. Maryland is a strong scoring team from two-point range (32nd) and have six players scoring 9+ points per game. They aren’t a deep team though and they average 14 turnovers per game.

#6 Nebraska (14th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Clemson (37th); Creighton (39th); Seton Hall (55th); Oklahoma State (80th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: Speaking of the Huskers, this is supposed to be a big season with their very good trio of James Palmer, Isaac Copeland, and Glynn Watson Jr. They’re currently ranked in the top 30 for both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Their loss on the road to Minnesota was a game they need to win to secure an NCAA bid, but have taken care of business otherwise and own four top 100 victories. Anything less than finishing sixth in the Big Ten would be a disappointment for Tim Miles and his program.

#5 Ohio State (23rd)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Cincinnati (26th); Creighton (39th); Minnesota (59th); UCLA (66th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: The Buckeyes haven’t played a particularly difficult non-conference schedule (209th), but they’ve beaten everyone except Syracuse (34th), which was in Columbus. Ohio State wasn’t expected to compete for a top five finish in Big Ten play this season, but Chris Holtmann is once again proving what a great coach he is. Kaleb Wesson has been outstanding while seniors C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods have stepped us as well. They’ll visit the RAC on January 9th.

#4 Wisconsin (12th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: N.C. State (20th); Oklahoma (25th); Iowa (33rd); Xavier (72nd)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: The Badgers have bounced back so far after a disappointing season last year, with their only defeats coming to #2 Virginia and #30th Marquette, which was on the road. Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the country and D’Mitrick Trice is one of the best from three-point range (36-67 for 53.7%). Wisconsin continues to play its traditional grind it out pace (346th adjusted tempo) and have the 11th rated adjusted defensive efficiency in Division I.

#3 Indiana (24th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Butler (29th); Marquette (30th); Louisville (38th); Northwestern (45th); Penn State (47th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: The Hoosiers are one of the most improved teams in the country in Archie Miller’s second season in charge. They own five top 100 victories and other than a blowout loss at top ranked Duke, their only other defeat was a 1 point loss at Arkansas (60th). Freshman Romeo Langford is the real deal and senior Juwan Morgan has been outstanding. They completed non-conference play with an 11-2 record and after hosting Illinois to resume Big Ten play, they’ll travel to Michigan for a major showdown.

#2 Michigan State (6th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: Florida (27th); Iowa (33rd); Texas (36th); UCLA (66th)

Bad Losses: None

Overview: After opening the season to a loss against Kansas (5th), the Spartans have beaten everyone except a road contest to Louisville (38th). Tom Izzo’s team remains uber talented and very well balanced in all facets of the game. They could certainly challenge for the national championship once again and were considered the conference favorites before the season began.

#1 Michigan (4th)

KenPom Top 100 Wins: North Carolina (7th); Villanova (18th); Purdue (19th); Northwestern (45th); Providence (61st)

Bad Losses: undefeated

Overview: The Wolverines have picked up right where they left off after making a run to the national championship game last season. Despite losing Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman, head coach John Beilein’s team has been great so far this season. Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews are main cogs once again, while freshman Ignas Brazdeikis ha made a seamless transition to the college game. Their offensive efficiency is rated 26th while defense is 4th. Their list of impressive wins include victories over the past three national champions in dominating fashion, beating Villanova 73-46 on the road and North Carolina by 17 points at home.