As of Saturday, every team has played at least two games. This is hardly a meaningful sample, but sportswriters will boldly go where statisticians fear to tread. Buckle in for a wild ride, it's the Weekly Women's Power Rankings: Overreactions Edition.
Big Ten Week 2 Power Rankings
#1 - Maryland Terrapins (3-0)
Yes, Maryland hasn't beaten anyone good, and yes, they lost their amazing backcourt in the offseason to graduation and transfers. Yes, they'll have trouble repeating their undefeated record from one year ago. But there are three numbers that really stand out in the early going: 49, 55, and 56. Those are the margins of victory in the Terps first three games. Against matchstick competition, Maryland showed up with a flamethrower. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is playing out of her mind, and is my Way Too Early pick for Big Ten Player of the Year. 'Undefeated' doesn't sound as crazy as it did two weeks ago.
#2 - Northwestern Wildcats (2-0)
So far this season, Northwestern hasn't had any opportunities to raise their stock, although they've taken care of business against the Howard Lady Bisons and Idaho State Bengals. But if you're looking for signs that this team is making a leap, look no further than junior forward Nia Coffey. Coffey has a total of 43 points and 23 rebounds, and has already taken 19 free throw shots - all of which is better than she was doing this time last year against similarly weak competition. In the preseason, I said Northwestern could be a great starless team, winning with guile and superior chemistry. Imagine how good they could be if Coffey keeps playing like a star.
#3 - Michigan State Spartans (3-0)
Last year the Spartans had possibly the thinnest roster in the Big Ten, which is one reason they were 13th out of 14 teams in assists. This year there's some real depth, assists are up, and an offense led by Tori Jankoska has looked downright decent. The Spartans already have a nice win on their resume, the 20-point smackdown over the Georgia Lady Bulldogs, who were an NCAA tournament team last year. They did that without Aerial Powers, the Spartans' leading scorer from a year ago, who was banged up in the preseason. Now Powers is back, and the Michigan State offense is poised to explode.
#4 - Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)
Five. Four. Five. That's the number of Hawkeye players who scored in double digits over the first three games, a feat accomplished by eight different players. Among Big Ten teams, only Maryland has approached that kind of balance. Within coach Lisa Bluder's relentless attacking offense, someone is always open, and the open player always takes the shot. The question for this team, as it was for last year's team, is going to be the defense. We'll know more when their competition improves, but I'd be surprised if this isn't one of the three best offenses in the conference.
#5 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0)
I'm higher on the Cornhuskers than most, and I'll be the first to admit I might be wrong. Jessica Shepard might be fooling me by beating up on overmatched bigs, and it's always hard to have faith in a team whose best player is a freshman. But Nebraska's second-best player, Rachel Theriot, is a former Big Ten Tournament MVP and a Preseason Big Ten All-American. Besides, Shepard is too big, too strong, and too fast for most teams; she's exactly the kind of player that gives Ohio State fits. So I'm making it official: I'm hopping on the Nebraska Cornhuskers bandwagon, and I'm going to ride this crazy tractor until it breaks down (or until Shepard gets demolished by Connecticut this Saturday.)
#6 - Ohio State Buckeyes (1-2)
After a close loss to the #2 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks, and a blowout loss to the #1 Connecticut Huskies, Ohio State finally got their first win of the season, smacking around the Belmont Bears to the tune of 84-56. However, that drubbing hides a deeper issue: Belmont had a staggering 53 rebounds (almost as many rebounds as points!) and the Buckeyes only managed 34. That's three straight games where OSU has been outplayed in the post. Kelsey Mitchell is still a superstar, but this team has a big problem with big players.
#7 - Purdue Boilermakers (3-0)
I think Sharon Versyp has more fun filling out her lineup cards than any other coach. Against the North Florida Ospreys on Saturday (tallest player: 6'2") , she started the game with four guards, one forward, no center, and no player taller than 6'0". She won't have the option of doing that against some of the larger teams, but the great surprise of this year is that she won't need to. Freshman center Nora Kiesler is 6'6" and built like Plymouth Rock. Against the Ospreys she not only dominated the paint on both sides of the ball, but also made several nifty passes. Keep an eye on her.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (2-1)
This ranking is a compromise, the numerical equivalent of a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The Hoosiers squad that upset the #24 Chattanooga Lady Mocs deserves to be in the Top 5, but some other team must have showed up for the spanking against the DePaul Blue Devils. The difference, really, was turnovers: 23 against DePaul, and only 10 against Chattanooga. Considering Indiana had 19 turnovers against the Tennessee State Lady Tigers, I wonder if the Chattanooga knockoff was a fluke. Either way, guard Tyra Buss and forward Amanda Cahill both seem to have taken a step forward, and Indiana is the only team on these power rankings with a win against a team ranked in the top 25.
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0)
Minnesota has the second-most efficient offense in the conference, as of Saturday, but recent history suggests it isn't meant to last. To start, Minnesota is shooting 41% from three; last year, with much of the same roster, they shot a dismal 31% for the season. A lot of this year's scoring outburst has been Big Ten Co-Player of the Week Mikayla Bailey, who is shooting 47% from deep (last year: 28%). Which isn't to say this Golden Gophers team isn't necessarily good; only that the offense will look a lot less scary if it experiences a little regression to the mean.
#10 - Illinois Fighting Illini (3-0)
You don't get many style points for beating Chicago State and Tennessee-Martin, but the Ohio Bobcats are a nice little team, and that win carries some weight. The undisputed MVP of the Fighting Illini so far has been center Chatrice White, who is averaging 17.5 points and 13 rebounds per game. We knew White would be good; the surprise is freshman guard Cierra Rice. Rice has been freakily efficient, averaging 13 points while shooting 80% from three and 71% overall. Illinois has a really solid young core of players. All of their wins have come at home, however; I'm cautious until we see how the young players do on the road.
#11 - Penn State Lady Lions (2-1)
After two ACL injuries to key guards Sierra Moore and Amari Carter, Penn State looked to be in trouble, especially after they barely won their opener against the Holy Cross Crusaders. But the Lady Lions held their own against the #4 Tennessee Lady Vols in a game that was neck-and-neck until the very end, when a parade of free throws in the final minute put away the game. 6'6" Candace Agee has been a defensive terror this year, junior Peyton Whitted might be in the middle of a breakout season, and freshman guard Teniya Page is fast and fun, zipping around the court like a waterbug. This team could be on the rise.
#12 - Michigan Wolverines (3-0)
The Wolverines are undefeated, but should be very concerned. Their 18.3 turnovers per game is last in the Big Ten, even worse than the Bad News Badgers. Their rim protection is non-existent; Michigan is last in the conference in blocks per game, too. In other statistical areas, the team is middle-of-the-pack. When you're not good at anything, and you're terrible in important areas, you tend not to stay undefeated for very long.
#13 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-2)
In my Way Too Early Preseason Power Rankings, I said "Rutgers won't miss the NCAA tournament again." Gulp. This team is a mess. They take forever getting into their offensive sets, and many possessions seem to go nowhere. They commit too many dumb turnovers, and have fouled their opponents more than they've been fouled in all three games. As a team, they've only managed 7 blocks total. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Candice Agee have managed that many blocks by themselves. Finally, they are currently the worst rebounding team in the Big Ten. The good news is it's early in the season, and there's plenty of time for the Scarlet Knights to bounce back. They're probably not very good, but they're probably not this bad.
#14 - Wisconsin Badgers (1-1)
Last year, the Bad News Badgers played at one of the slowest paces in the Big Ten. Through two games this year they are playing the absolute fastest, even faster than the amphetamine-scheme Ohio State Buckeyes. I wish I could say this made the games more watchable, but that's only true if your taste runs towards disaster films. Unofficially, Wisconsin leads the nation in passes thrown into the second row of the bleachers. Bobbie Kelsey, the losingest coach in the Big Ten currently, doesn't look like she wants to give up that title any time soon.