While the Big Ten Conference is licking its wounds from its performance in the football bowl games, the Big Ten Conference does not have to apologize for its basketball teams, as the Big Ten started the New Year with six teams among the top 25 in the Nation.
Below are the first Big Ten Power Basketball rankings in 2010.
11. Iowa (7-6)(0-1)
The Hawkeyes lost 87-77 to the Illini on December 29 at home. Iowa had no answer for Demetri McCamey and never threatened in the second half because they couldn’t stop the Illini. Iowa hasn’t identified a defensive stopper on their team. Sophomore point guard Cully Payne is considering red-shirting this year and given that this year will not be year the Hawks see post-season play, Payne would be wise to red-shirt.
10. Indiana (9-6)(0-2)
The loss to Ohio State was expected, but the 69-60 loss to Penn State on December 27 in Bloomington might be a game that comes back to haunt Indiana when NIT post-season bids are handed out. Freshman guard Victor Oladipo might be emerging as a surprise this season, as he has scored 14 or more points in the last three games.
9. Penn State (8-5)(1-1)
The Nittany Lions split their recent road trip when they lost to the Wolverines after beating the Hoosiers. Penn State needs to find some scoring from its underclassmen as seniors Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks and David Jackson accounted for 62 of Penn State’s 69 points in the team’s loss to Michigan.
8. Michigan (11-3)(1-1)
The Wolverines may be the most difficult team in the Big Ten to figure out this season. Michigan looked dazed and confused jacking up ill-advised three point shots and failing to rotate on defense in losing 80-57 to Purdue. The Wolverines, however, rebounded nicely in their next game to defeat Penn State 76-69
7. Northwestern (9-2)(0-1)
Forward John Shurna struggled against Purdue scoring a season low eight points; Northwestern dropped its Big Ten opener to Purdue, 82-69. 5’10" guard Michael Thompson continues to play well as he is averaging just over 15 points a game and is shooting 51 percent from the floor and 41 percent from beyond the arc.
6. Minnesota (11-3)(0-2)
Minnesota dropped its first two games of the season, which is not unexpected given that the games were played in Madison and East Lansing. However, if you are a team such as Minnesota who has hopes for contending for a Big Ten title you have to find a way to win these games. Expect to see guard Devoe Joseph to try to provide more scoring late in the game. Coach Tubby Smith lost a little depth in the post with the loss of Freshman Mo Walker for the season due to a knee injury.
5. Wisconsin (11-3)(1-1)
The Badgers continue to get great play from forward Jon Leuer and guard Jordan Taylor, which means that Wisconsin will be in all of the games that the play this season. Coach Bo Ryan appears to be in post season form already as he smartly used the lack of respect of card to motivate his team in a 68-60 win over the Gophers. Unfortunately, motivation gets you only so far as the Badgers found out in Champaign losing to the Illini 69-61.
4. Michigan State (9-4)(1-0)
The Spartans trailed the Gophers 28-22 at halftime in Michigan State’s Big Ten opener and things looked gloomy in East Lansing, especially in light of the Spartans shooting 1-for-14 from behind the arc in the first half. The Spartans rallied in the second half and took control of game by forcing Minnesota’s guards to commit eight turnovers in the final twenty minutes. Michigan State has not yet hit its stride as a team this season; the comeback win over Minnesota might be the turning point.
3. Illinois (12-3)(2-0)
The Illini lost two games just before Christmas break and things began to look bad for the Illini that they might not reach their potential as a team. Demetri McCamey however came back from Christmas and announced to the team that he was going to get to the basket more because somebody at Christmas dinner told him that he needed to do so. True to his word, McCamey has made it a point to get to the basket more and as a result the Illini have cruised in their first two wins during conference play against Iowa and Wisconsin.
2. Purdue (13-1)(2-0)
A lot of people wrote off the Boilermakers after the loss forward Robbie Hummel to a knee injury before the season began but Purdue remains a quality team. JaJuan Johnson and ETwaun Moore are both going to be given the opportunity to continue play basketball after they graduate this year. Kelsey Barlow has taken over the Chris Kramer role of defensive stopper and may be the key player to determine the fortunes of Purdue.
1. Ohio State (14-0)(1-0)
The Buckeyes look to be the class of the Big Ten Conference this year. Ohio State has five players who are averaging more than 10 points a game. The Buckeyes have two outstanding freshmen in Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas; Sullinger may be the best player in the conference. Ohio State surrounds their two youngsters with possibly the best trio of experienced guards in the Big Ten with Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and William Buford. Diebler is shooting a ridiculous 51 percent from beyond the arc.
We will check back in with the Big Ten after the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to see what adjustments need to be made to the power rankings.