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Big Ten Hoops Power Rankings: Maryland may be the surprise team in the Big Ten

Maryland earned a huge win over the Fighting Illini this weekend

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten basketball has begun, as some conference play has snuck into the early season already this past week. Two teams remain undefeated, but almost every team appears to be competing for a spot in the big dance this March.

The best news for a lot of these teams? There is a lot of basketball left to be played and much to sort out.

Here are our first set of Big Ten Power Rankings.

No. 14: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota has lost three straight, including getting shellacked by 19 points to Purdue at home. An early season loss to DePaul and one-point wins over Western Michigan and Cal Baptist have the Gophers looking like they may be the worst team in a loaded Big Ten.

No. 13: Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern is riding off the high of beating Michigan State in East Lansing this week. Any given day, even the worst teams in the Big Ten can compete with teams with superior talent. A one-point loss to a ranked Auburn squad also provides some intrigue about these Wildcats. However, I question their stability for the long term in the conference.

No. 12: Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State is off to a 6-2 start, but don’t let that fool you. The Nittany Lions have the 131st-ranked strength of schedule so far this season, according to ESPN’s BPI. Their two losses came against their only formidable opponents: Virginia Tech and Clemson. But if things keep going well for them, they could be a threat to compete for a spot in March.

No. 11: Michigan Wolverines

Ranking the Wolverines this low speaks to the status of the conference. They lost two games against ranked opponents in the last week, both of which were very winnable. Even if they pull one of those off, they would be ranked much higher on this list. An injury to Jaelin Llewellyn adds to the intrigue of how they are set up for a run in what appears to be a stacked Big Ten in 2022-23.

No. 10: Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans looked legit after hanging with No. 2 Gonzaga and beating Kentucky earlier this season, but they haven’t looked right recently. The Spartans narrowly escaped upset bids by Oregon and Portland earlier this season. This week, they lost twice. Once to Notre Dame and an at-home shocker against Northwestern, leaving Tom Izzo with more questions than answers heading into the holiday season.

No. 9: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers has had some ups and downs, but just throttled Indiana at home. We are going to learn who this team is in the next two weeks with upcoming contests at No. 25 Ohio State and at home against a Wake Forest team that looks rather strong.

No. 8: Nebraska Cornhuskers

After some tough early season losses, the Huskers have won three straight, including a massive upset win over No. 7 Creighton in Omaha. They’ll get No. 14 Indiana coming off a 15-point loss to Rutgers and No. 4 Purdue in their next two meetings, which will help identify how real this team is.

No. 7: Iowa Hawkeyes

Kris Murray has been outstanding this season. He posted a 31-point, 20-rebound game in the win over Georgia Tech this week. Iowa may have another superstar on its hands, but how will it shape up against No. 15 Duke and No. 20 Iowa State this week? That should help shake up where this team is at after a soft early season schedule.

No. 6: Wisconsin Badgers

Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl have looked great in the early season, and true freshman Connor Essegian is shooting 50% from deep to open up the year. This team has the makings for a contender in the Big Ten and will be a tough out for anyone. They just beat rival Marquette in overtime, one game after the Golden Eagles upset No. 6 Baylor.

No. 5: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State earned a signature win against Texas Tech the week of Thanksgiving, but slipped to Duke a game later. True freshman Brice Sensabaugh is the key for this Buckeyes team to sit atop the Big Ten. He scored just four points in the loss to the Blue Devils and has to be much better than that for the Buckeyes to compete for the top of the Big Ten.

No. 4: Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois beat a very talented UCLA squad early in the season, but has lost consecutive games to ranked opponents in Virginia and Maryland. They play No. 2 Texas tonight in what could be one of the most exciting non-conference games the Big Ten plays this season.

No. 3: Indiana Hoosiers

Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the most productive forwards in the country. He’s shooting at almost a 68% clip. As long as he does that, the sky is the limit for this Hoosiers team that is laden with talent. This week, they’ve got a big matchup with No. 10 Arizona after facing a Nebraska squad coming off an upset win over Creighton.

No. 2: Maryland Terrapins

The Terps may be on to something. They have two players, Donta Scott and Jahmir Young, averaging more than 15 points per game. Their only knock was they hadn’t beaten a premier program yet. That all changed last week in a five-point win over Illinois. There’s still plenty ahead with a game in Madison and against No. 7 Tennessee coming up, but College Park is buzzing thanks to an 8-0 start.

No. 1: Purdue Boilermakers

No Jaden Ivey, no problem. Purdue has played one of the most difficult schedules in the country to open the season and remains unscathed. An 18-point beatdown of Gonzaga followed by a 19-point blowout of Duke in consecutive games has the Boilermakers looking like they may be one of the best teams in college basketball. Much of that is thanks to Zach Edey, who is averaging a dominating 23.3 points and 12.8 rebounds. Purdue is the easily the favorite to win the Big Ten.