The debut of the 2012-13 power rankings, emphasis on power rankings. For instance, do I think Illinois is better than Indiana? No, but the Illini are unbeaten with a neutral court win over Butler and a road win at Gonzaga — IU has neither. With that in mind, feel free to peruse and second guess.
1. MICHIGAN (11-0)
We knew what the Wolverines had in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but newcomers Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have added depth and versatility on the wing. The Maize and Blue also have added Mitch McGary to Jordan Morgan on the interior, and that duo’s ability to be a threat in the post may determine Michigan’s fate in the long run.
2. OHIO STATE (8-1)
Only real measuring stick for the Buckeyes was at Duke, where they let a second-half lead slip away. But if the Blue Devils are the No. 1 team in the nation, then OSU isn’t far behind. Fort Wayne native Deshaun Thomas has stepped ably into the go-to role, and Aaron Craft remains one of the nation’s toughest customers at the point.
3. ILLINOIS (12-0)
New coach John Groce has taken advantage of the backcourt talent at his disposal, and the Illini have bought into the same system that brought success to Groce’s Ohio Bobcats in recent years. Whether Illinois can continue to win with such a reliance on the perimeter is debatable, but it’s hard to argue with a resume that has wins over Butler on a neutral court and Gonzaga on the road.
4. INDIANA (9-1)
Hoosiers’ two biggest tests of the season — Georgetown and Butler on neutral courts — have both gone overtime (UNC at home is a distant third), which shows there is still plenty of work to be done. However, IU will get a chance to see what its full roster looks like going forward with the return of big men Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Peter Jurkin and Derek Elston.
5. MINNESOTA (11-1)
Only loss, like Ohio State, is to Duke, only not nearly as close of a game. But Gophers have shown more firepower early this season and less reliance on Trevor Mbakwe than you might have thought. Like Illinois, there is reason to doubt Minnesota, but a New Year’s Eve clash with Michigan State should be revealing.
6. MICHIGAN STATE (9-2)
The Spartans split early-season games with Connecticut and Kansas, then took a bad loss at Miami (Fla.). An otherwise light schedule means it is yet to be determined just how good this group is. Guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris have led the way, but MSU will need other perimeter options — Travis Trice has shown flashes since his return from a concussion and broken nose.
7. IOWA (9-2)
A slow start might have caused some to question the darkhorse tag slapped on the Hawkeyes in the preseason, but four straight victories — including wins over Iowa State and Northern Iowa — are promising. Freshmen Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury have blended well with holdovers like Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, making Iowa better equipped for coach Fran McCaffery’s system.
8. WISCONSIN (7-4)
Injuries have done the Badgers no favors with point guard Josh Gasser (ACL) lost for the year, and Mike Bruesewitz sidelined for two different stints (leg, concussion) so far. The four losses aren’t bad ones — Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette — but the wins don’t stand out either. Some good health and a steadying influence at the point could put Wisconsin on the rise.
9. NORTHWESTERN (8-3)
The loss of Drew Crawford (torn labrum) for the season may turn out to be a crippling one, as evidenced by the Wildcats’ struggle against Texas State on Monday night. That, combined with the suspension of Jer’Shon Cobb before the season started, robs Northwestern of much of its perimeter athleticism.
10. NEBRASKA (6-3)
The Tim Miles era probably got off to a better start than most imagined, but the Cornhuskers have been waylaid by Creighton and Oregon in their last two outings, averaging just 40 points per game. Finding enough offense to keep winning games in league play will likely be an ongoing problem.
11. PURDUE (4-6)
Another offensively challenged team, the Boilermakers have suffered five losses by single digits, struggling to find the right combination down the stretch of games. They have not won or lost more than two consecutive games this season, seemingly just stuck in neutral with little sign of change on the horizon.
12. PENN STATE (6-4)
Any hopes the Nittany Lions had of escaping the Big Ten cellar were dashed early this season when all-conference guard Tim Frazier went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon in the fourth game of the year. D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall have tried admirably to fill in scoring-wise, but Frazier’s playmaking ability is irreplaceable.
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