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Big Ten conference basketball returns! Women’s basketball power rankings for the first week of B1G action

With almost four weeks of the season done and conference play at the forefront, how do the teams rank?

Twitter | @OhioStateWBB

Standings are great. They crown champions and separate the most successful teams from the cellar dwellers. Power rankings are different. They try to find which team is the best, which is something game-in and game-out schedules can hide with upsets and slip-ups.

After over three weeks of the season, its time to decide which Big Ten women’s basketball team is the best. Unlike polls that start from the preseason, these rankings start after teams have already taken the court and start to show what they’re all about, to avoid any No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers preseason situations as they now sit outside of the top 25.

Without further ado, here’s how the teams rank so far.

1 - Indiana Hoosiers

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 at Illinois

The Indiana Hoosiers are one of three teams in the conference heading into Big Ten play with a perfect record. It’s not only the perfection of their 8-0 start, but who they’ve beaten.

While beating the Tennessee Volunteers doesn’t look like as big of a feat in hindsight, their ACC/B1G win against No. 6 North Carolina — a start-to-finish dominating 87-63 result — is made even more impressive with guard Grace Berger watching the win on crutches from the bench.

2 - Ohio State Buckeyes

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 at Rutgers

It’s undeniable that the Ohio State Buckeyes are off to a fantastic start to the season. If there could be a 1A and 1B in the power rankings, the Scarlet & Gray would be up there too, but the tiebreaker is the ranked wins.

Sure, Ohio State has great wins against Tennessee and No. 18 Louisville Cardinals, but both of those teams are not at the same levels as they’ve been in recent history. They’re both loaded with talent, but the experience of the Buckeyes have put both teams with relatively new chemistry forming into a chokehold in 40-minute games.

3 - Michigan Wolverines

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 vs. Northwestern

It seems like an easy pick to put the Michigan Wolverines in at three because they’re the third team with no losses on their record, but a reason they’re up here is because of slip-ups from some other conference powers and one big win.

The Wolverines haven’t had a tough non-conference schedule, starting a bit lighter than usual with center Haz Hillmon now in the WNBA with the Atlanta Dream. However, their win against No. 21 Baylor Bears gives them an edge. Forward Emily Kiser’s point average shot up to 20.1 this season after last year’s career high of 9.3 points per game, making the Hillmon departure not nearly as big of a storyline.

4 - Maryland Terrapins

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 vs. Nebraska

Outstanding guard Diamond Miller is the reason the Maryland Terrapins are competing this season, and why they’re at four on the list.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Maryland at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After some stumbles, although losing to the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks is hardly a shock, Miller is healthy again and leading the Terrapins into a surprisingly good season with two stars transferring out in the offseason.

Thursday, Miller hit the game-winning buzzer-beater to defeat the No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 74-72. They’re a scary team for anyone in the Big Ten to face, as long as Miller stays healthy.

5 - Iowa Hawkeyes

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 at Wisconsin

A lot about what’s said of Miller above could apply to Naismith Player of the Year finalist Caitlin Clark. In the Iowa Hawkeyes game against the NC State Wolfpack, Clark scored 45 points — a season-high for an individual scoring performance so far in the early NCAA season. The difference between the two? Iowa lost, and it wasn’t close.

NC State came to Iowa and handed the Clarkeyes a 94-81 defeat. Iowa started the year as a No. 4 seed, but the challenges they’ve placed in front of them this year have all gone against them. Losing to No. 3 UConn in a close game isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but losing to Kansas State isn’t great.

Their best win this year is an away game against the Drake Bulldogs, where it took overtime to beat the unranked side.

6 - Purdue Boilermakers

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 5 at Michigan State

The only tarnish on the Purdue Boilermakers schedule this season is a loss to Florida State, which isn’t much of a tarnish at all. They also haven’t exactly challenged themselves.

Their win against the Syracuse Orange on Wednesday was convincing, but games against the Michigan State Spartans and No. 20 Maryland Terrapins will show a lot more of what this year’s team is about.

7 - Illinois Fighting Illini

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 at No. 5 Indiana

Illinois has created an extra favorable schedule for themselves, including a 100-point win against the same McNeese Cowgirls the Buckeyes put up 99 points on. Until the ACC/B1G Challenge, there wasn’t a sign that this team was going to compete once bigger names arrived on the schedule, especially after losing to the University of Delaware at the Daytona Beach Invitational.

Then, on Wednesday, the Illini put up a 21-point win over the Pitt Panthers. Pitt isn’t the stiffest competition in the ACC, but the win shows that maybe Illinois is better than expected?

8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 3 vs. Penn State

The beginning of the season was exciting for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They had a last-second win against Lehigh University, and came within three points of beating the Virginia Cavaliers on the ACC side’s home court.

One reason is their two freshman standouts in Mara Braun and forward Mallory Heyer. Braun hit a buzzer-beating three against Lehigh and leads the team in scoring with 19.7 points per game. Hayer won B1G Freshman of the Week, averaging nine points and six rebounds per game.

Guard Mara Braun (10) during her 26-point performance against Wake Forest.
Twitter | @GopherWBB

If those two stay consistent in their first years, they’ll be a fun and interesting team to watch.

9 - Penn State Nittany Lions

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 3 at Minnesota

The Penn State Nittany Lions are in an opposite situation from Illinois in the first power rankings. Guard Makenna Marisa and the Lions would be higher up this list if not for the ACC/B1G Challenge.

On Nov. 21, Penn State came back for the second largest comeback win in conference history, and largest in program history, when they beat Syracuse after being down by 21 points.

Wednesday, they faced an unranked but undefeated Virginia Cavaliers side in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions were beaten comfortably, and only scored seven points in the first quarter. A single loss doesn’t ruin a season, but it looked a lot like Penn State games over the last couple seasons.

10 - Michigan State Spartans

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 5 vs. Purdue

The Michigan State Spartans had a lot they had to make up this season, highlighted by someone on the Spartans’ beat prior to the season’s tip. The Spartans had six comfortable wins against some smaller teams, but once ranked sides showed up its been a different story.

Sparty is on a three-game losing streak, falling comfortably to the Iowa Cyclones and getting edged by the Oregon Ducks. At the last ACC/B1G Challenge, they fell to Georgia Tech. Losing guard Nia Clouden and forward Tamara Farquhar in the offseason has created a big hole that will take time to fill.

11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 at Maryland

Last season, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were the surprise team in the conference. That let them not surprise many people this season, entering ranked No. 22 in the preseason AP poll.

This season, Nebraska’s struggled. A no good, very bad week saw the Cornhuskers on the wrong side of a 77-51 defeat to the No. 20 Creighton Bluejays, and then losing to the Drake Bulldogs by 18 points four days later.

The duo of center Alexis Markowski and guard Jaz Shelley hasn’t been enough to compete against top sides. Against the No. 9-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, Shelley had six assists but only four points in a lopsided 85-54 defeat.

12 - Northwestern Wildcats

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 at No. 17 Michigan

Nearing the end of the rankings are the Northwestern Wildcats. Northwestern lost their two lone ranked games by 53 and 34 points against the Oregon Ducks and Notre Dame, respectively.

Forward Veronica Burton, a three-time B1G Defensive Player of the Year, isn’t replaceable, and its showing this season.

13 - Wisconsin Badgers

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 vs. No. 10 Iowa

Sitting near the bottom of the power rankings — and last in the standings — this season in the Big Ten are the Wisconsin Badgers. At 3-6 thus far, the Badgers are scoring more than years past, but are also allowing more scoring from opponents.

They might not be last for long, with a possible momentum-building five-point defeat against Florida State in the ACC/B1G Challenge.

14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Last Week: N/A
Upcoming B1G Games: Dec. 4 vs. No. 4 Ohio State

When Rutgers announced they’d have an eight-player team this season, it brought up a lot of questions and intrigue. The answers haven’t gone the Scarlet Knight’s way.

To be fair, they’ve packed nine games into their early season schedule, including the Tennessee Volunteers and Texas Longhorns, but they lost both of them handedly. Against Boston College this week, they lost by 14 points and now have to face the Buckeyes, who beat the same BC Eagles by 18.

Can Rutgers turn their season around in conference play?
Twitter | @RutgersWBB

Things get easier for Rutgers from there, not playing another ranked team after the Buckeyes until Jan. 2 against Maryland, but they’re currently at a -5 turnover margin and giving up 20.9 possessions a game. Not a great time to welcome the team with the highest turnover margin in the NCAA to New Jersey this weekend.