Before conference play gets underway Tuesday night, here's my latest attempt at ranking the Big Ten:
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes seem to have it all right now. Jared Sullinger is arguably the top player in the country. And his squad has one of the country’s best starting rotations. We didn’t learn much from its latest wins over Lamar and Miami (Ohio), other than the Buckeyes continue to be crazy good.
2. Indiana: The Hoosiers aren’t supposed to be here. But they’re in this spot because they can shoot (51 percent) and score (84 points per game) with the best teams in the country. Big Ten play will offer another test, but none greater than a Dec. 10 win over No. 1 Kentucky. They’ve won their first 12 games of the season.
3. Michigan State: During their 11-game winning streak, the Spartans held seven opponents under 60 points. We know that Draymond Green is balling right now. But it’s the emergence of Branden Dawson (43 points in team’s past three games) that’s changed projections for Tom Izzo’s team.
4. Wisconsin: The Badgers’ Jared Berggren has scored 13 or more points in eight games this season. The 6-foot-10 Minnesota native is a key part of Wisconsin’s plans. Winners of six straight, the Badgers are confident entering Big Ten play.
5. Michigan: Trey Burke had a season-low one turnover in Thursday’s win over Bradley. He’s averaging 2.8 per game. If he can control the ball for the Wolverines, they’ll certainly move up the standings. But there’s just as much potential for Michigan to slide.
6. Illinois: There’s no shame in losing to Missouri, especially with young center Meyers Leonard recording a double-double (14 points and 13 rebounds) in that game. Illinois’ concern: 45 turnovers in its past three games.
7. Purdue: The Boilermakers are a play or two away from being a one-loss team (they lost to Butler and Xavier by four points combined). Robbie Hummel looks like he has regained his old form. And Matt Painter’s squad is averaging just 9.7 turnovers per game.
8. Minnesota: The Gophers will definitely move up if they knock off Illinois. Despite their surprising six-game winning streak without Trevor Mbakwe, the opposition is about to get much, much better. Can they handle better competition? We’ll see.
9. Northwestern: The Wildcats are another team that hasn’t suffered a bad loss, but we won’t know if they’re destined for the bottom of the standings or an unexpected push through the ranks until Big Ten play begins. But Northwestern might not be physical enough to compete with the best teams in the Big Ten.
10. Nebraska: Bo Spencer (16.0 ppg) is the Big Ten’s top newcomer. But the LSU transfer will need consistent contributions from teammates to help the Huskers avoid a finish at the bottom of the standings in their first season with the Big Ten.
11. Penn State: They’re riding a two-game winning streak and Tim Frazier (17.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 7.2 apg) is putting put freakish numbers. But when a 6-1 guard leads the team in rebounding, that’s rarely a good thing.
12. Iowa: Worst scoring defense. Worst field goal percentage defense. Worst 3-point defense. And the winner of the “most likely to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten” goes to the Hawkeyes.