B1G rankings: Spartans, Badgers surge

    Does anybody want to be No. 1?

    The Big Ten saw top-ranked Indiana and Michigan lose last week, while unlikely juggernauts Michigan State and Wisconsin continue to make noise in the nation's most crowded conference. The peak of the B1G standings features four teams within one game of each other, and things don't slow down this week with a busy slate of action. Check out the latest installment of NBN Sports' Big Ten power rankings.

    Biggest drop: Ohio State Buckeyes (-3)

    Biggest improvement: Illinois Fighting Illini (+4)

    1. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten)

    Last week: 1

    A mental error on defense as time expired in overtime allowed Illinois to upset then-No. 1 Indiana Thursday. Illini senior forward Tyler Griffey might have made the easiest buzzer beater in the history of college basketball.

    Despite Indiana’s shocking loss to an unranked opponent, the Hoosiers still managed to decisively beat a Top 10 team in Ohio State on Sunday.

    Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo continue to roll, and IU is helped out by a loss from Michigan on Saturday.

    2. Michigan State Spartans (20-4, 9-2)

    Last week: 4

    Tom Izzo’s squad has been on an absolute tear since January, going 9-1 thus far.

    No. 8 State handedly beat then-No. 18 Minnesota Wednesday before taking care of Purdue Saturday. During those two games, junior guard Keith Appling shot 50 percent from the floor, averaging a healthy 15.5 points.

    There are still a lot of tests ahead for the Spartans, who have to face long-time rival and fourth-ranked Michigan as well as Ohio State, Indiana and Wisconsin. None is an easy win by any means.

    3. Wisconsin Badgers (17-7, 8-3)

    Last week: 6

    After a perfect week in the Big Ten with wins over Illinois, Michigan and Iowa, the Badgers find themselves AP ranked and one game out of first place.

    It’s fair to say that No. 20 Wisconsin does not have a signature star player, which has been surprisingly beneficial so far this season. It seems like every night the Badgers have a different leading scorer. How do you defend such a balanced attack?

    Next week, Wisco has a couple of tough games against Minnesota and Ohio State.

    4. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)

    Last week: 3

    The No. 4 Wolverines might have dropped two of their last three, but Michigan scooped up a crucial win against Ohio State in overtime last week.

    Leading scorers Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke have been on point during Michigan’s struggles. What the Victors really need is some help from the supporting cast.

    Over the last three games, freshman Glenn Robinson III has averaged roughly just five points. He needs to pick it up before the Wolverines encounter more trouble.

    5. Ohio State Buckeyes (17-6, 7-4)

    Last week: 2

    Ohio State fans shouldn’t be in panic mode by any means.

    Yes, the No. 13 Buckeyes have lost their last two games, but the losses were handed to them from then-No. 3 Michigan and No. 1 Indiana.

    To be fair, the end of the Michigan game was controversial. Junior guard Aaron Craft took a lot of contact while driving to the basket during the final seconds of overtime.

    Still, there is no guarantee Craft makes the free throws if the foul is called. Even if he does, there is still another overtime to deal with afterward. A loss is a loss.

    6. Illinois Fighting Illini (17-8, 4-7)

    Last week: 10

    Remember these guys?

    Ranked through non-conference play, the Fighting Illini tailspun to losses in six of seven Big Ten games. Yet this week, Illinois came out of nowhere to upset No. 1 Indiana and then-No. 18 Minnesota.

    Next week should be a good opportunity to gain some much needed ground in the Big Ten. The Illini face unranked Purdue and Northwestern, although they have lost to both teams.

    With senior forward Tyler Griffey on a tear, look for Illinois to get hot down the stretch and jump up a couple more spots in the standings.

    7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-7, 5-6)

    Last week: 5

    Minnesota continues to suffer from severe inconsistency, losing both of its games last week and now dropping six of its last eight.

    Sophomore guard Andre Hollins continues to struggle, taking too many shots and poorly distributing the ball, averaging a paltry two assists last week.

    The way Minnesota has been playing, they could easily lose their only game this week against formidable Wisconsin.

    8. Iowa Hawkeyes (15-9, 4-7)

    Last week: 7

    Iowa dominated Northwestern on Saturday and only lost to Wisconsin by four in double overtime last week.

    But aside from an impressive 21 points against the Wildcats, once-leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble has been cold, notching less than 10 percent shooting from the floor last week.

    Iowa's next game against lowly Penn State should be manageable.

    9. Purdue Boilermakers (12-12, 5-6)

    Last week: 9

    The Boilermakers unexpectedly sit tied for sixth in the Big Ten as of Monday. However, that could quickly change with road games against hot Illinois and top-ranked Indiana.

    Freshman center A.J. Hammons needs the ball in his hands more, plain and simple. He’s shooting nearly 51 percent from the field this season, and the last two weeks he's drastically improve his free-throw shooting.

    10. Northwestern Wildcats (13-11, 4-7)

    Last week: 8

    One game, one bad loss for the Wildcats last week. A double-digit drubbing from Iowa on Saturday puts Northwestern toward the bottom of the pack.

    NU will travel to Ohio State and host Illinois next week. The Wildcats just don’t have a player who can guard the Buckeyes' Deshaun Thomas around the perimeter.

    Illinois is catching some momentum, and after taking care of the No. 1 team in the country, the Illini could drop Northwestern to 0-2 on the week.

    11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-12, 3-8)

    Last week: 11

    Nebraska was undefeated last week.

    Too bad the Huskers' only win came against the one team worse than they are, winless Penn State.

    Next week doesn’t look too bright; the Cornhuskers face ranked Indiana and Michigan State. However, if they manage to pull a huge upset, the Huskers might find themselves ahead of Northwestern next week.

    A lack of offense has plagued Nebraska all year. The team ranks 333rd in the nation in total scoring.

    12. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-15, 0-11)

    Last week: 12

    Losers of 11 in a row and winless in the Big Ten, it doesn't get any lower than Penn State's 2012-13.

    The Nittany Lions can expect to extend their losing streak facing Iowa Thursday.


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