|1. Michigan State 8-1|
The Spartans top the first edition of BTC's basketball Power Rankings after showing they can win away from home this week. Michigan State recently defeated a tough Bradley team on the road and toppled BYU on Saturday in Salt Lake City. The Spartans only loss came in a very close contest against then #1 ranked UCLA in a game played at Kansas City. Through 9 games, MSU has had one of the ten most efficient offenses in the nation with Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan leading the way. It also comes as no surprise that the Spartans are once again one of the nation's best rebounding teams, and right now the best in Offensive Rebounding %. Morgan and Goran Suton have been absolute monsters on the offensive glass to this point.
2. Indiana 8-1
Indiana defeated Kentucky at home on Saturday without guards Eric Gordon (day-to-day) and Armon Bassett (team rule). The 70-51 victory over the rival Wildcats was IU's 23rd straight home victory, and coach Kelvin Sampson improved his record to 21-0 at Assembly Hall since becoming the Hoosier's head coach. Indiana may be the Big Ten's most balanced team with an offense led by Gordon and the inside play of D.J. White and Lance Stemler to go along with Coach Sampson's pressure defense. The Hoosier's only blemish came earlier this year to a 7-1 Xavier team that has one of the nation's most efficient offensives to date.
3. Wisconsin 6-2
Bo Ryan's Badgers once again have one of the best defenses in all of college basketball, which should come as a surprise to no one. Wisconsin is actually the nation's best defense right now by "tempo-free" efficiency standards. What makes that stat even more impressive is the fact that one of the Badger's two losses came in the 82-58 slaughter at the hands of Duke. Wisconsin's other loss was this Saturday at home against a very good Marquette team. The Badgers will again this year be one of the toughest teams in the nation to score against and should compete for the conference crown.
4. Illinois 5-3
Saturday's overtime loss to Arizona at the United Center in Chicago dropped Illinois' record to 5-3 on the year. The Illini have played the toughest non-conference schedule to date of any Big Ten team and have faired decently well considering the quality of their competition. Illinois' three losses have come to Arizona, Duke and at Maryland. Bruce Weber's team will be a force when the Big Ten schedule opens up.
5. Purdue 5-2
Purdue has an extremely young team that has been pretty impressive on the defensive end to this point in the season. The Boilermakers have lost their only two road games to date, Saturday at Missouri and at Clemson in last week's Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The talent is obviously there for this to be a good squad, and with more experience look for the Boiler's to continue showing improvement throughout the year. This will be a very tough team to beat come conference games.
6. Minnesota 6-1
Tubby Smith's tenure with the Golden Gopher's has started better than any of the other first year coaches in the conference (more on those later), but most of those wins have come against weak competition. Minnesota has an experienced bunch this year with senior's Lawrence McKenzie, Spencer Tollackson, and Dan Coleman logging the most minutes. The Gopher's do have a road win over Iowa State, but did lose by double digits at Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It will be interesting to see how the team performs when the quality of their opponents increases (NOTE: The cupcakes continue for Minnesota until their Big Ten opener at Michigan State).
7. Ohio State 4-3
Ohio State will host Coppin State tonight as they should no doubt end their current 2-game losing streak. The Buckeye's three losses have come to quality teams, but the margin of defeat has to be more than a little concerning. OSU lost 70-47 to Texas A&M in New York earlier in the year, and more recently dropped a game at Butler 65-46, in which they were completely dominated in the 2nd half. A lot has been made early of freshman big man Kosta Koufus who is averaging 16.1 points per game. However, it should be pointed out that Koufus is currently taking 35.5% of Ohio State's total shots on the offensive end. Koufus is certainly a promising talent, but he can certainly become a much more efficient scorer and was more than disappointing against North Carolina, scoring just 4 points on 1 of 10 shooting.
8. Penn State 4-4
Penn State's first eight games has been a story of two teams. The Nittany Lions are 4-0 at home and 0-4 away from Happy Valley. Penn State's 66-61 win over Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was impressive, but losses to Rider and Central Florida away from home are equally as disappointing.
9. Iowa 6-5
Who else is wondering whether Todd Lickliter regrets his move from ranked Butler to this year's Hawkeyes? Lickliter inherited an Iowa team which had lost their two leading scorers in Tyler Smith and Adam Haluska. Then leading returner Tony Freeman went down with an ankle injury and has missed all but 1 of Iowa's games this season. The Hawkeye's did show some promise in their win at Northern Iowa last week thanks in large part to the return of Freeman. With a healthy ballclub Iowa will be better than they have shown so far but still don't expect much more than 5 conference wins from this bunch.
10. Northwestern 4-4
Northwestern started the year 1-4 before their recent three-game win streak. Of course those wins have been against Savannah State, Arkansas State, and Western Michigan. Not exactly NCAA powerhouse programs. The Wildcats have a legitimate scoring threat in guard Craig Moore, but they just don't have the depth to finish anywhere of the bottom of the league again this year.
11. Michigan 3-6
Name one thing more embarrassing than Michigan's search for a new football coach? This year's Michigan basketball squad. The Wolverines have had quite a past 10 days, losing to former coach Tommy Amaker's Harvard ballclub, and followed that up with a 95-67 bloodbath loss at Duke on Saturday. Coach John Beilien's system will eventually work at Michigan, but it sure is going to be an uphill climb.