By ESPN Wisconsin staff
This, our third week of the Big Ten power poll, is different than all previous ones. With a voting panel of eight, including reporters, hosts and producers from both ESPN Madison and ESPN Milwaukee, the resultant poll turned out like this.
1. No. 6 Michigan State Spartans: 95 points, 7 first-place votes (22-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten)
-Hard to argue when a team houses Wisconsin inside the Breslin Center and dispatches an improving Purdue squad after trailing by three at the break. It’s weird to think that this Michigan State squad started the season unranked.
This week: at Minnesota (Wednesday), vs. Nebraska (Saturday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 1
2. No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes: 86 points, 1 first-place vote (22-5 overall, 10-4 Big Ten)
-The Buckeyes looked dominant at times at Minnesota last week, but followed that win up with a loss at Michigan. Obviously that’s not a bad loss, but it hurt OSU’s chances for a Big Ten regular season crown and potential NCAA tournament No. 1 seed.
This week: vs. Illinois (Tuesday), vs. No. 16 Wisconsin (Sunday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 2
3. No. 11 Michigan Wolverines: 83 points (20-7 overall, 10-4 Big Ten)
-With its win over rival Ohio State, Michigan solidified itself as one of the legitimate contenders to win a Big Ten regular season championship. With two very winnable games this week it seems the Wolverines will be in it until the end.
This week: at Northwestern (Tuesday), vs. Purdue (Saturday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 3
4. No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers: 71 points (20-7 overall, 9-5 Big Ten)
-UW had a prime opportunity to move up the Big Ten standings had it pulled off a victory at Michigan State. Following an uninspiring effort in East Lansing, the Badgers are now two games behind the conference leader with four to play.
This week: at Iowa (Thursday), at No. 8 Ohio State (Sunday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 4
5. No. 23 Indiana Hoosiers: 63 points (20-7 overall, 8-7 Big Ten)
-Those electrifying wins over Ohio State and Kentucky seem like they were 10 years ago. Having started the season off with a 15-1 record, Indiana has struggled to compile a 5-6 record over the course of its last 11 games. It’s most recent loss at Iowa was ugly.
This week: at Minnesota (Sunday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 5
6. Purdue Boilermakers: 57 points (17-10 overall, 7-7 Big Ten)
-The good news for Purdue heading down the stretch? Its star forward Robbie Hummel is playing at a high level. The bad news? It still can’t find that signature win. It looked like Purdue had a chance at home against Michigan State, but then a 1-for-25 rut thwarted that.
This week: vs. Nebraska (Tuesday), at No. 11 Michigan (Saturday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 6
7. Northwestern Wildcats: 42 points (16-10 overall, 6-8 Big Ten)
-This might be the most critical week in Northwestern basketball history. Get two wins over top-15 Michigan at home and bottom-feeder Penn State on the road and the Wildcats might crack the field of 68 for the first time ever. The Michigan game is huge.
This week: vs. No. 11 Michigan (Tuesday), at Penn State (Saturday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 8
8. Iowa Hawkeyes: 40 points (14-13 overall, 6-8 Big Ten)
-If Matt Gatens continues to hit 7-of-10 3-pointers (highly unlikely) it seems as though Iowa might be a thorn to the sides of many Big Ten contenders. Knowing it has to essentially win out to push for an at-large big, expect Iowa to give teams fits down the stretch.
This week: vs. No. 16 Wisconsin (Thursday), at Illinois (Sunday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 10
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers: 34 points (17-10 overall, 5-9 Big Ten)
-Minnesota was one of two teams to lose both games it played a week ago, joining suddenly dormant Illinois in that category. For a team on the bubble for NCAA consideration that type of stretch simply can’t happen.
This week: vs. No. 6 Michigan State (Wednesday), vs. No. 23 Indiana (Sunday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 7
10.) Illinois Fighting Illini: 27 points (16-11 overall, 5-9 Big Ten)
-Welcome to the Bruce Weber swan song. Barring an improbable turnaround during the final two weeks it seems as though the veteran head coach is on his way out of Champaign.
This week: at No. 6 Ohio State (Tuesday), vs. Iowa (Sunday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 9
11. Penn State Nittany Lions 14 points (12-16 overall, 4-11 Big Ten)
-Penn State beat Illinois and nearly overcame a 20-point deficit at Wisconsin. That’s the type of late-season play that’s encouraging. The Nittany Lions, clearly not headed to any postseason tournament, could have easily packed it in. But they haven’t, and that’s a testament to first-year head coach Pat Chambers.
This week: vs. Northwestern (Saturday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 11
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers: 13 points (12-13 overall, 4-10 Big Ten)
-With a game at Michgian State late this week, Nebraska will have an opportunity to play spoiler in the Big Ten conference race.
This week: at Purdue (Wednesday), at No. 6 Michgian State (Saturday)
Last week’s ranking: No. 12