Big Ten Power Rankings: Freshman Jared Sullinger helps Ohio State lead the power rankings again
At some point this season, it is possible Ohio State will move off the top line in the AnnArbor.com Big Ten basketball power rankings.
It just seems unlikely it'll happen before Big Ten play starts. The Buckeyes have been one of the more dominant teams in the country and are led by super-freshman Jared Sullinger, who was last week's Big Ten Player and Rookie of the Week.
Already, Sullinger is compared to Ohio State's last dominant big man, Greg Oden.
"(Jared's) a little more polished around the basket," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "Where Greg was so dominant defensively."
As always, these power rankings reflect how a team is playing now, not necessarily how it will finish the season.
1) Ohio State (8-0, 1): The Buckeyes added a couple of wins this week against inferior opponents, but there are challenges ahead. South Carolina looms on Dec. 18 and Oakland, which almost beat Michigan State and knocked off No. 7 Tennessee last night, 89-82, goes to Columbus on Dec. 23. If there is any question about the Buckeyes, though, freshman Jared Sullinger might have answered it by scoring 40 points against IUPUI in a 75-64 win on Dec. 9.
2) Illinois (10-1, 2): The Illini struggled more than expected against Oakland after using a women’s basketball for the first 10 minutes of their 74-63 win over the Grizzlies. They also led by double digits for most of the way against Northern Colorado. Bruce Weber should be happy with the way Illinois is passing the ball (17.5 assists a game) and shooting from the field (48.6 percent).
3) Minnesota (9-1, 3): The Gophers are considered by some coaches - including Northwestern’s Bill Carmody - as the surprise of the Big Ten this season. With the emergence of forward Trevor Mbakwe (13.8 ppg., 10.2 rpg.) and playing well despite an injury to point guard Al Nolen, the Gophers are establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the league.
4) Purdue (9-1, 5): After looking lost without Robbie Hummel the first few weeks of the season, the Boilermakers continue to find themselves. They blew out North Florida, 77-57, behind 25 points from JaJuan Johnson. Although better-than-expected IPFW could be a test on Dec. 21, Purdue’s next tough game is at Michigan in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 28.
5) Michigan State (7-3, 4): Tom Izzo’s crew didn’t lose this week - although the Spartans easily could have in a 77-76 win over Oakland on Saturday. Something still seems to be missing in East Lansing and Izzo said of all the teams in the league, “maybe the only surprise is that we’ve been a little disappointing.” It doesn’t let up yet. Michigan State still has to play Texas on Dec. 22 before Big Ten play starts.
6) Northwestern (6-0, 6): The weak non-conference schedule the Wildcats have played make it tough to judge how good they are. American (6-3) could be a challenge on Thursday, but Bill Carmody said he schedule this way so his team could gain some confidence.
7) Wisconsin (9-2, 7): It likely speaks to the strength of the Big Ten that Wisconsin is seventh in the power rankings. The Badgers have won five straight since losing to Notre Dame in Orlando last month, including a 69-64 win over in-state rival Marquette.
8) Michigan (8-2, 8): Status quo for Michigan, which seems to be playing up to or down to its level of each opponent. The Wolverines blew out Utah, 75-64, on Friday and then struggled for the first half in a 64-44 win over North Carolina Central. A win over Oakland on Saturday could make a statement on how good this team might be entering the Big Ten season.
9) Indiana (7-2, 9): Nothing to be embarrassed about in losing to Kentucky, 81-62, although a game-ending 25-5 run for the Wildcats has to be a concern for Tom Crean. Sophomore Christian Watford, who had 19 points and nine rebounds against Kentucky, is starting to emerge as a front-line player for the Hoosiers.
10) Iowa (5-5, 11): Don’t expect the Hawkeyes to be out of the bottom spot for long, but they hung on for most of the game against Iowa State, which means there could be progress being made. This team won’t contend for the Big Ten title, though.
11) Penn State (7-3, 10): The Nittany Lions are not playing good basketball. They barely beat 3-7 Mount St. Mary’s, 57-53, on Dec. 7 followed up with a 10-point loss to Virginia Tech, which had lost three straight entering the game. Like last year, Penn State is Talor Battle, a little bit of Jeff Brooks and nothing else.