World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams. National RPI from RPIratings.com.
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1. Wisconsin (15-0, 2-0, 1st)
This week: Illinois. This is the best start in 100 years for the Badgers. One reason is contributions from unexpected sources like forward Nigel Hayes, the two-time Big Ten freshman of the week.
2. Ohio State (15-0, 2-0, 7th)
This week: at Michigan State, Iowa. Questions about the Buckeyes’ soft schedule to this point end now. These two games will show what OSU really has to offer.
3. Michigan State (13-1, 2-0, 11th)
This week: Ohio State, Minnesota. The hammering that the Spartans put on Indiana in Assembly Hall signaled nothing has changed regarding MSU’s Final Four credentials.
4. Iowa (12-3, 1-1, 20th)
This week: Northwestern, at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes will be a handful for anyone, but they need to start winning regularly on the road to move into true title-contender status.
5. Illinois (13-2, 2-0, 17th)
This week: at Wisconsin, at Northwestern. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice has adjusted well to the Big Ten. The 6-foot-4 junior leads the league in scoring at 18.7 points a game.
6. Michigan (10-4, 2-0, 60th)
This week: at Nebraska. This Wolverine team isn’t a candidate to finish as the national runner-up like last season, but more things are starting to fall in place for an injury-riddled roster.
7. Indiana (10-5, 0-2, 91st)
This week: at Penn State. Noah Vonleh leads the Big Ten in rebounding at 9.5 a game. Why is that newsworthy? Vonleh is a true freshman. Rookies aren’t supposed to be the top rebounder in this league.
8. Minnesota (12-3, 1-1, 48th)
This week: at Penn State, at Michigan State. Center Elliott Eliason out of Chadron, Neb., drew a standing ovation for his work in Sunday’s win over Purdue. The junior had eight points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
9. Purdue (10-5, 0-2, 105th)
This week: Nebraska. The mystery that is center A.J. Hammons remains unsolved. Last week, the 7-footer had 18 points and 16 rebounds against No. 3 Ohio State, then 7 and 1 against unranked Minnesota.
10. Nebraska (8-6, 0-2, 66th)
This week: Michigan, at Purdue. The Huskers won’t sneak up on either opponent. Neither Michigan nor Purdue has a second game this week, so all focus will be on NU.
11. Penn State (9-6, 0-2, 103rd)
This week: Minnesota, Indiana. Guard John Johnson, a Pittsburgh transfer, has led the Nittany Lions in scoring in two of his three games since becoming eligible. PSU’s three-man backcourt averages 48.2 points a game.
12. Northwestern (7-8, 0-2, 185th)
This week: at Iowa, Illinois. After the football team went 1-7 in Big Ten play, the men’s basketball team is a candidate to post a similarly dismal winning percentage.