ACC-Big Ten Challenge causes a little shakeup in our Big Ten power rankings
For the second year in a row, Big Ten basketball teams can celebrate as the conference came out ahead, 6-5, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
There were surprises along the way - Virginia upending Minnesota, Michigan knocking off Clemson - but for the most part, the Challenge shook out as expected.
With less than a month until conference play starts, here are the latest AnnArbor.com Big Ten power rankings:
A reminder: The rankings reflect how a team is playing right now - not necessarily where it will finish the season.
1)Ohio State (6-0, 1): Another week, another pair of wins for Ohio State, including a sweep of the major-conference Florida teams on its schedule (the Buckeyes don’t play Miami and beat Florida, 93-75, last month). Freshman Jared Sullinger continues to show why he might be the best freshman in America, scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against Florida State.
2) Illinois (7-1, 3): North Carolina may not be the great team many predicted, but the way the Illini handled the Tar Heels, especially with the play of Demetri McCamey (17 points, eight assists) and Mike Davis (20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) shows Illinois could be a Final Four contender. What makes the Illini strong? A good point guard and great balance.
3) Michigan State (5-2, 4): The Spartans drew the matchup no one in the Challenge wanted - No. 1 Duke on the road - and did what a lot of teams will do against the Blue Devils this year. Lose. But Michigan State showed resiliency against Washington in Maui and its only losses have come to Top 10 teams (Duke, Connecticut). Two tests - Syracuse and Texas - remain before the Big Ten season.
4) Minnesota (6-1, 2): Just as the Gophers surprised a week ago in winning the tournament in Puerto Rico, they did so again this week in losing at home to Virginia. Point guard Al Nolen was out and Virginia made 10 of 13 3-pointers, but a loss to an average-at-best Cavaliers’ team sends off some warning bells about Tubby Smith’s crew. Minnesota had to like the effort from Trevor Mbakwe, though, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
5) Northwestern (5-0, 9): Northwestern hasn’t played a team in the Top 25 - a 91-71 win over Georgia Tech is its only Big Six non-conference game - but it is how the Wildcats have beaten opponents that is impressive. Only one team, Texas-Pan American, played Northwestern in single digits. And blowing out an ACC team, even a bad ACC team like the Yellow Jackets, by 20 points is eye-popping.
6) Wisconsin (5-2, 5): An up-and-down week for the Badgers. They were shut down in the late second half against Notre Dame in a game they looked like they were going to win. Bouncing back to crush N.C. State helped its cause offensively and defensively.
7) Purdue (5-1, 5): The Boilermakers probably don’t deserve to be this low, but a double-digit loss to Richmond followed by JaJuan Johnson saving Purdue against Virginia Tech creates concern. What was once a team destined for the Final Four still looks somewhat lost without Robbie Hummel.
8) Michigan (4-2, 7): An interesting week for Michigan. Play well enough to win against a Syracuse team not playing at its best, put nothing together in a second-half meltdown against UTEP and then come back to lead almost the entire way on the road against Clemson. This is probably how it is going to be all year for the Wolverines, but one thing is apparent - this team is better than expected.
9) Indiana (6-1, 8): Indiana played a good opponent from a good conference for the first time and showed one thing - the Hoosiers have a lot of work to do. They’ll get another chance against Kentucky on Dec. 11 but until then, it will be tough to figure out exactly whether Indiana can compete in the Big Ten.
10) Penn State (5-2, 10): Not the best week for Penn State. The Nittany Lions showed they have a second option besides Talor Battle in Jeff Brooks, but double-digit losses to Mississippi and Maryland do nothing for PSU’s confidence.
11) Iowa (3-4, 11): The Hawkeyes showed some fight against Wake Forest on the road before falling, 76-73, but as the only team in the Big Ten under .500 - and the only one with a couple of bad losses - Iowa hasn’t shown anything to prove they belong anywhere but the bottom of the Big Ten.