Jan 17, 2015; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) shoots as Michigan State Spartans forward Matt Costello (10) defends during the first half at Xfinity Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland is playing some of the best basketball that many fans have seen in their lifetime. The Terrapins have only lost two games, one of which was to second-ranked Virginia in December. Maryland has an extremely deep roster and could be at the top of the Big Ten when the season wraps up. Here are my power rankings prior to Monday’s games.
1. Wisconsin (16-2) – It’s Wisconsin or Maryland at the top of the Big Ten. Both teams have had incredible starts to the season and has barely missed a beat. Since falling to Duke, the only game the Badgers have dropped was against Rutgers last week. Of course, that was without star forward Frank Kaminsky. For that fact, I’m going to give the slight edge to Wisconsin.
2. Maryland (17-2) – After falling to Illinois on the road, the Terrapins have rattled off an impressive three-game winning streak. The latest victory was a 16-point thrashing of Michigan at home on Saturday. Guard Melo Trimble continues to excel as he scored 24 points (21 in the first half) against the Spartans. Trimble is definitely near the top of the conversation for Freshman of the Year and has been a godsend for these Terps. With a tough road test against a guard-dominated Indiana team, we’re starting to find out just how good this Maryland team really is.
3. Indiana (14-4) – After a down year last season, the Hoosiers are off to a great start in Big Ten play with a 4-1 mark. Indiana’s only loss came against Michigan State and they recently upset a previously ranked Ohio State squad. Freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. has been nothing short of magnificent so far. The matchup between Blackmon Jr. and Trimble this week should be a very entertaining one.
4. Michigan (11-7) – After losing four of their first five games in December, the Wolverines looked like a shell of what they were during the 2013-14 season. However, Michigan has turned things around during the start of Big Ten play with wins over Illinois, Penn State, and Minnesota. The Wolverines are only one win back of the Terps. Not to mention guard Caris LeVert is on a tear as of late, averaging 16.3 points-per-game over Michigan’s last four games.
5. Iowa (13-5) – The Hawkeyes aren’t exactly what people call a top Big Ten team. However, Iowa has gotten off to a great start in conference play with four wins in five contests, including a pair of wins against Ohio State. Aaron White had 22 points in Saturday’s win over the Buckeyes.
6. Ohio State (14-5) – The Buckeyes were supposed to be right with Wisconsin and Maryland near the top of the Big Ten standings. However, it’s been an extremely rough start to the conference schedule. Ohio State has dropped a pair of games to Iowa and also lost to Indiana. Star freshman D’Angelo Russell does it all for the Buckeyes, who score the ball at an alarming rate. Ohio State has Northwestern, Maryland, and Indiana in their next three games and needs at least two wins to keep pace in the conference.
7. Purdue (11-7) – Purdue is surprisingly having a strong campaign so far. The Boilermakers narrowly lost to Wisconsin and Maryland, but have the frontcourt presence to make some noise. A.J. Hammons and Issac Haas anchor the middle and force teams to shoot from the perimeter. With a somewhat easy schedule the rest of the way, Purdue could be one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten.
8. Michigan State (12-6) – It’s been a tough start to the year for the Spartans. Their non-conference schedule featured losses to Duke, Kansas, Notre Dame, and lowly Texas Southern. Michigan State has only lost to Maryland in Big Ten play, but they lost a late lead in the first meeting and got run out of the gym in Saturday’s contest. With Penn State, Nebraska, and Rutgers next on the schedule, the Spartans have a chance to right the ship and build some momentum heading into February.
9. Nebraska (8-4) – The Cornhuskers definitely have a great amount of talent, but have been very inconsistent. Guard Terran Petteway is still managing to fill the stat sheet, and will need to continue to do so if Nebraska wants to win a large majority of their Big Ten games down the stretch.
10. Minnesota (12-7) – Despite losing their first five Big Ten games, the Golden Gophers still have a ton of talent and should be competitive in the league. Transfer guard Carlos Morris has arguably been Minnesota’s best player. For the rest of the month, they have a pretty easy schedule and could vault themselves back into the race.
11. Illinois (12-7) – Rayvonte Rice being out for the majority of Big Ten play is a huge disadvantage for the Fighting Illini. After knocking off Maryland on Jan. 7, they’ve only won one of their last three games. Malcolm Hill can’t go off for 28 points every night.
12. Rutgers (10-9) – The Scarlet Knights are one of the biggest surprises in the Big Ten. Rutgers knocked off Wisconsin a week ago and nearly defeated the Terps last Wednesday. Guard Myles Mack is shooting the lights out right now and Kadeem Jack and Junior Etou anchor the low post. It wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if the Scarlet Knights finish in the middle of the pack in the conference.
13. Penn State (12-6) – The Nittany Lions started off the season very strong as they only lost one game in their non-conference schedule. Penn State has went on to lose all five of their Big Ten matchups so far. Coach Pat Chambers has done a great job on the recruiting trail, including getting commitments from DMV products Joe Hampton and Josh Reeves. However, it appears that the Nittany Lions are a few years away from making an impact in the Big Ten.
14. Northwestern (10-8) – The Wildcats have appeared at the bottom of the Big Ten standings the last few years. Former Duke assistant Chris Collins is slowly trying to bring this program back from the dead and it may be a reality in a few seasons. The Wildcats have three scorers averaging in double figures in guard Bryant McIntosh (11.9), guard Tre Demps (11.9), and center Alex Olah (10.9). Their only win in conference was a narrow four-point victory over Rutgers on Dec. 30.