NCAA power rankings: Big Ten meat grinder claims another

Josh Gasser and the Wisconsin Badgers were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 75-72 loss to Indiana.

Brian Spurlock/Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Suddenly there are no undefeated teams in the Big Ten Conference. You knew it was coming. Wisconsin became the last to fall, losing at Indiana Tuesday night. The nation’s toughest conference still has four teams among the top 13 in this week’s power rankings. But Wisconsin’s loss proves how prepared teams need to be when they hit the road. Michigan State and Michigan, tied for first at 4-0 in conference play, have managed to win their first two road games. But the other 10 teams in the league have a combined 5-15 record on the road so far. Handling the road will separate the men from the boys.

Here are the rankings for this week:

The Wildcats survived their big test on the road against UCLA and now the schedule turns a bit more favorable in the Pac-12. Sean Miller’s team gets down and dirty on defense, and when they are rebounding, the Wildcats look unbeatable.

New conference? No problem for the Orange. Syracuse has moved into the ACC and is acting like it owns the place. Jim Boeheim’s team held North Carolina to 45 points. Then at Boston College, the Orange turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point win in the final 10 minutes of play.

Growing credentials

The Spartans had to work overtime — against Ohio State and Minnesota — but that was worth it to rise to the top in the Big Ten. Tom Izzo’s team shares first with Michigan, and they will meet for the first time Jan. 25.

Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State are the last undefeated teams remaining. That’s right, the Shockers are still in that elite group, despite falling behind Missouri State by 19 on Saturday. They rallied to win 72-69 in overtime.

Creighton and Villanova have taken early control of the Big East standings. They face off against one another on Jan. 20, but before that the Wildcats go up against DePaul on Saturday.

The Gators keep finding ways to win despite injuries and setbacks. Florida defeated Arkansas and Georgia without leading scorer Casey Prather, who has a bruised right knee. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin exited the Georgia game with cramps but returned to play after treatment.

The first “game of the year” in the Big 12 takes place Saturday when the Cowboys invade Lawrence to play Kansas. Jayhawks fans will have their eyes on Marcus Smart, who celebrated a win on the Allen Fieldhouse floor as a freshman last season.

The Aztecs just keep on winning. Steve Fisher’s team lost to Arizona back on Nov. 14 (and that seems like a long time ago). That’s the only taste of defeat for the Aztecs, and they don’t face Mountain West challenger New Mexico until Feb. 22.

Point guard Naadir Tharpe recorded 16 assists and five turnovers in the last three games — wins over Oklahoma, Kansas State and Iowa State. That’s a ratio that could make a world of difference for the Jayhawks, who are getting great play from center Joel Embiid.

Playing on the road — especially in the brutally difficult Big Ten — can be hazardous. The Badgers learned that the hard way in Bloomington, Ind., Tuesday night while suffering their first loss of the season, falling to the Hoosiers 75-72.

The Cyclones lost at Oklahoma, then returned home to Hilton Coliseum to play Kansas. Instead of playing with high energy, they couldn’t hit from three-point range and couldn’t contain Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins. It won’t be easy bouncing back Saturday at Texas.

The Hawkeyes were more than impressive in their 84-74 victory over Ohio State on Sunday. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White led the way, and Iowa closed out the win on a 22-9 run on the road. Consider that a big step forward for the Iowa program.

The Buckeyes take a two-game losing streak to Minnesota on Wednesday. The Gophers are 2-2 in the Big Ten with only four losses, and there are no easy road wins in the conference this season.

The Bears opened Big 12 play with a 15-point loss at Iowa State, but they didn’t let that setback drag them down for long. Baylor crushed TCU and has a road game at Texas Tech before visiting Kansas on Monday night.

Joe Jackson and Shaq Goodwin combined for 30 points when the Tigers turned heads with a win at Louisville. Memphis followed that up with a 10-point win at Temple and has another big opportunity at home Thursday against Connecticut.

The Bearcats have quietly put together a nine-game winning streak and have emerged as a force in the American Athletic Conference. Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson led the way in a 69-58 win over Temple Tuesday night.

When Peyton Manning screams out “OMAHA” at the line of scrimmage, is it really a tribute to Doug McDermott? Well, no. But McDermott continued his campaign for national player of the year with 28 points in a win over Butler.

Trey Davis found his shooting touch just in time for the Minutemen as they rallied for a 73-68 victory over St. Bonaventure. It was the second come-from-behind victory of the week for UMass, which plays four of the next five on the road.

Michael Qualls of Arkansas posterized the Kentucky Wildcats in classic style Tuesday night, slamming down a two-handed putback dunk for an 87-85 overtime victory in Fayetteville. The SEC road continues to be a cruel place for Kentucky.

After such a terrific start to the season, dark clouds are gathering over the Buffaloes. C.J. Wilcox and Washington tormented Colorado with 3-pointers, but the crushing blow was Spencer Dinwiddie’s torn left ACL. Now, Tre’Shaun Fletcher is also out with a knee injury.

Rick Pitino is asking Luke Hancock and Russ Smith to take charge as the defending national champions struggle to hold things together with a depleted roster. After losing to Memphis last week, Louisville was able to hold off SMU thanks to 23 points from Hancock.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski rediscovered his smile Monday night after Rasheed Sulaimon buried a 3-pointer to help the Blue Devils hold off Virginia for a 69-65 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. A loss to the Cavaliers would have been a difficult experience for the Crazies.

After a magical run for the Billikens last season, expectations may have been lower for coach Jim Crews and his squad. But Saint Louis is back in the groove. Wisconsin and Wichita State are the only opponents who have gotten past the Billikens.

The Power Rankings took a chance on Pitt earlier in the season when everyone else had doubts. Now Jamie Dixon’s team is 4-0 in the ACC after winning at Georgia Tech. The Panthers head to Syracuse Saturday, but that’s nothing new for them.

The Bruins handled Arizona three times last season but fell to the No. 1 Wildcats 79-75 last week at Pauley Pavilion. Road games at injury-ridden Colorado and Utah this week will give UCLA a chance to move up in the Pac-12 standings.