Thanks to a new 20-game Big Ten schedule, we got an early sense of conference competition last week. Teams will take a break to play a handful of nonconference games before getting back to Big Ten action Jan. 2. Here are our updated power rankings after two conference games for each team.
1. Michigan (10-0, 2-0)
The Wolverines looked human against Northwestern (a 62-60 victory) and South Carolina (89-78) after beating their first eight opponents by at least 17 points and holding each to less than 40 percent shooting. While Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole deservedly receive much of the attention, 7-foot-1 junior center Jon Teske averaged 13.3 points and nine rebounds the last three games.
2. Michigan State (8-2, 2-0)
The Spartans posted double-digit wins at Rutgers and against Iowa. They’ve had four double-digit scorers in the last four games and gone 5-1 in a challenging six-game stretch that also included victories against UCLA, Texas and Florida and an overtime loss at Louisville.
3. Ohio State (8-1, 2-0)
Keyshawn Woods’ 18 points against Illinois were vital. Getting consistent production from him off the bench could be a difference maker for the Buckeyes. Against Minnesota in the previous game, he was 0-for-5 from the field. Six of Ohio State’s eight victories have been by 10 points or more.
4. Wisconsin (8-2, 2-0)
The Badgers had been balancing Ethan Happ’s inside presence with outside shooting — until facing Marquette. In the overtime loss, Wisconsin hit just 5 of 24 3-pointers, while Happ scored 34. The Badgers play a light nonconference schedule (Savannah State, Grambling and Western Kentucky) before Big Ten play resumes.
5. Indiana (8-2, 2-0)
The Hoosiers won their last three games by two points or fewer. Close games against two of the lower-rated Big Ten teams (Northwestern and Penn State) raise questions, but they showed grit in a one-point win against Louisville. Freshman Romeo Langford hasn’t disappointed, scoring at least 12 points in every game.
6. Nebraska (8-2, 1-1)
The Cornhuskers have won 17 straight at home, 12 by double figures. It’s their longest home winning streak since the mid-1960s. Saturday’s win over Creighton snapped a seven-game losing streak against the in-state rival.
7. Iowa (7-2, 0-2)
After a blowout loss to Michigan State, many wondered if the Hawkeyes were overrated. A 14-point win against rival Iowa State could put them back on track. Iowa’s nonconference slate has been impressive with wins against Oregon, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. Now it needs to do the same in the Big Ten.
8. Purdue (6-4, 1-1)
Carsen Edwards tied a career high with 40 points against Texas but without much help from his fellow starters, who added only 21 points. Edwards (23.9 points per game) and Ryan Cline (14 ppg) are the only players averaging double-digit points and more than two assists. The key to the Boilermakers’ season will be developing more scorers.
9. Maryland (8-2, 1-1)
After beating Penn State and narrowly losing at Purdue, the Terrapins’ potential is tough to predict. Their only losses were by six to No. 6 Virginia and by two to Purdue. Their minus-five turnover margin in two conference games is the worst in the Big Ten. They averaged 17 turnovers in those games.
10. Minnesota (8-2, 1-1)
No. 1 on the Gophers’ to-do list: Work on 3-pointers. Minnesota missed all 13 attempts in a 20-point loss at Ohio State and made only 3 of 8 in a victory against Nebraska. That’s 14.3 percent. That’s bad. For the season, the Gophers are hitting 34.9 percent of their 3s.
11. Northwestern (7-3, 0-2)
A 25-0 run helped the Wildcats beat DePaul. Is that good news or bad news given the state of the Blue Demons? The Wildcats look like a team with fight, almost knocking off Michigan at Welsh-Ryan Arena and losing another close game at Indiana. But they need victories. They have a tough nonconference game against Oklahoma before starting Big Ten play against Michigan State.
12. Penn State (5-4, 0-2)
In two conference losses, the Nittany Lions shot 38.4 percent, 23.8 percent on 3-pointers and got outrebounded by 5.5 per game. Penn State needs to find contributions from outside of its big three of Lamar Stevens (20.1 ppg), Rasir Bolton (13.6) and Josh Reaves (10.4).
13. Rutgers (5-4, 0-2)
After a strong 5-1 start, the Scarlet Knights lost three straight. Last season they started 6-0, lost three straight and then won four in a row. But Rutgers will be judged by its Big Ten wins. It had only three last season and was dealt a tough hand this season by opening conference play against top-15 opponents Michigan State and Wisconsin.
14. Illinois (3-7, 0-2)
The Illini played away from Champaign for two weeks and played three games in a week. They were rewarded with a much-needed victory against UNLV. Illinois has been competitive in most of its losses, but the defense allows 47.1 percent shooting, worst in the Big Ten.