For the first time this season, the Big Ten has a leader and it may not be who most would have expected. However, outside of the top few teams, the conference race continues to become more confusing, especially at the bottom due to some surprising upsets. Here are the power rankings this week as voted by BTP:
Week 13 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan (Average - 1.2)
After what was perhaps the most impressive one week stretch during any regular season in decades, the Wolverines have moved to the top of this week's power rankings. Not only did they beat Michigan State last weekend, but they also beat Wisconsin on the road and Iowa at home. Michigan remains undefeated in conference play and has a decent chance of being up 2 games before they play Purdue on Thursday. They finish the week with Indiana on the road on Sunday.
#2 - Michigan State (Average - 2.1)
The Spartans lost their first game in Big Ten play last Saturday when they were upset at home against Michigan. Most still think MSU has a great future. Unfortunately, they have been hindered by injuries so far this season and it is really holding them back from winning a lot of games. Despite this, they actually still received two #1 votes this week (we will discuss this below). They have a big game on Tuesday against Iowa and follow that up with an unusual non-conference game over the weekend against Georgetown.
#3 - Iowa (Average - 2.8)
The Hawkeyes have two losses in Big Ten play, but still stand in a good spot after a 1-1 split last week. Their only losses have been on the road against Michigan and Wisconsin and with most of their major games for the rest of the year taking place at home, you have to think they have a serious chance of coming back. However, winning their Tuesday matchup with Michigan State is basically a must. Being down 3 games to Michigan is going to be hard to overcome, especially with some tough games remaining. They also get Illinois on the road this weekend.
#4 - Wisconsin (Average - 4.2)
The Badgers held strong at #4 this week after splitting against Minnesota and Purdue on the road. Wisconsin is still considered a Big Ten contender by most, but have to be virtually perfect for the remainder of the season to have a serious shot at moving up. They get Northwestern and Ohio State at home this week, which could both be important games if the Badgers can sweep.
#5 - Minnesota (Average - 5)
The Gophers also stayed steady at #5 after splitting against Wisconsin and Nebraska this week. Minnesota has been an unusual team. They have knocked off some big wins against teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin, but have also had some letdowns against teams like Michigan and Nebraska. They only have one game this week against Northwestern, but it is a must win if Minnesota wants to make the NCAA Tournament.
#6 - Ohio State (Average - 5.8)
The Buckeyes not only stayed at #6, but had almost exactly the same score as they did last week. This is probably what happens when you win an ugly game against Illinois at home. OSU is in a spot that may be unfamiliar for their fans, but making sure to meet expectations over the next few weeks is crucial. They're a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament, but have been sliding in recent weeks. They get Penn State and Wisconsin this week, which means that splitting is a minimum/.
#7 - Indiana (Average - 7.2)
Another week and another #7 ranking for Indiana. The Hoosiers have had a pretty up and down season, but after splitting against MSU and Illinois, they are at least in decent position to make a tourney run. This week is absolutely huge for Indiana with Nebraska on the road and Michigan at home. If they go 2-0, they would be in great shape for March, but if they split or go 0-2, they are really going to have an uphill battle.
#8 - Purdue (Average - 8.1)
The Boilermakers have been pretty underwhelming this season, but seemed to be in a good spot to make a run as the year went on. Unfortunately, after dropping games to Northwestern and Wisconsin, the prospect of doing that just got a lot tougher. You can stomach a loss to Wisconsin (even at home), but a loss to Northwestern is a killer to the team's RPI and tourney standing. They get road games against Michigan and Penn State this week.
#9 - Nebraska (Average - 9.1)
The Cornhuskers continue to rise and are now the highest they have appeared on this list all season. Nebraska continues to play very strong at home and knocking off a win against Minnesota was huge. They still are just 2-5 in conference play, but get a prime opportunity with Indiana at home this week.
#10 - Northwestern (Average - 10.2)
The Wildcats split their games last week, but an overtime over Purdue was enough to hold them here at #10. Northwestern isn't exactly running teams off the court, but if they keep upsetting teams, who knows where they could end the season. They get Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road this week.
#11 - Illinois (Average - 10.5)
The Illini continue their Big Ten collapse as it seems they have done for the past few years. There are still some positives about this Illinois team, but not enough to even keep them above Northwestern, which has to be depressing for Illini fans. Illinois gets Iowa this week looking to avoid the team's 7th(!!) straight loss.
#12 - Penn State (Average - 11.9)
The Nittany Lions finally have a conference win, but they have some pretty significant separation from the team's above them in this week's power rankings. They get Ohio State and Purdue this week.
Clearly, the conference race has fully taken shape. Not only has Michigan moved solidly into 1st place, but this is the first week of the conference season that the majority of the teams remained steadfast. There is certainly going to be move movement as the season continues, but I think the times of a team jumping multiple spots in one week are about over. From now on, only expect slight modifications. Still, having said that, there are some interesting things about positioning.
First, the #1 spot is intriguing, not because Michigan received the spot (the only remaining undefeated in B1G play), but because they were not a unanimous pick. Sure, Michigan has had their struggles this season (4 losses), but personally, I find it crazy to think anybody is more deserving of that spot right now. Not only does Michigan have an undefeated Big Ten record, but they have already beaten #2, #3, #4, and #5 and only one(!!!) of those games came in Ann Arbor. Maybe people see some flaws in Michigan, but they've backed up just about everything on the court.
Just to get a better idea of why people did not pick Michigan, I asked the two voters (Bryan Steedman & Mark Mowery) who did not select Michigan as #1 why they did so. Here is what they had to say:
"Since it seems like my decision of putting Michigan State over Michigan might be controversial, how many people had Michigan ahead of the Spartans prior to this past weekend? Outside of the Michigan faithful, almost no one. Michigan did pick off Michigan State in East Lansing, but it happened in a game that State was without both Payne and Dawson. Do I think Michigan wins that game if they were healthy? Nope. I still think Michigan State is the better of the two teams and didn't want to penalize them for their current injury issues, especially since both guys should be back for the postseason. You could point out Michigan doesn't have McGary as well, but the difference there is he won't be back this season." - Bryan Steedman
"While it doesn't really reflect the true "feeling" power rankings are supposed to emit, I believe that the best team, when fully healthy (not counting season-ending injuries a la McGary) is still Michigan State. Yes, Michigan went into East Lansing and won, an admirable feat. Yes, Michigan is undefeated. Yes, they have won four away games. But Michigan State was missing 40% of their starting lineup. If the healing progresses as it should, at least Payne will be back for the return trip to Ann Arbor and I have a feeling that Michigan won't come out on top in that game. If you told me to pick a team in a game on a neutral court right now in the Big Ten, I still have the most confidence in picking Michigan State to win. And even without two of their starters down low, I think Michigan State beats Michigan in a head-to-head matchup more than 50% of the time. Just my opinion, I understand the raised eyebrows. Undefeated versus not undefeated. But conference record does not tell the whole story." - Mark Mowery
I can't say I necessarily agree with their opinions for putting MSU as #1 right now, but it certainly is true that MSU is missing two very valuable pieces. Whether they return to make a significant impact on the Big Ten season is unknown, but it could change a lot, including in that Michigan vs. MSU rematch in Ann Arbor. The difference for me is that I believe Michigan has earned that spot with great play. Beating MSU was huge, but it's the wins against Wisconsin and Iowa that really make them look even more impressive. Even if MSU was injured, neither Iowa or Wisconsin were injured and Michigan still beat them. At this point, MSU doesn't really have any wins in Big Ten play that demand they be put at #1. Wins over OSU and Minnesota were solid, but both were at home and went to overtime. Michigan's home win against Iowa alone was more impressive than any win MSU currently has in Big Ten play. Just think about this, MSU, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin have a combined 40-5 record at home. Michigan has accounted for 4 of those 5 losses. The Wolverines are certainly not a team living off one win over an injured MSU squad.
After #1, there isn't a whole lot to debate lower down. In fact, considering not many teams moved, it seems like it was pretty clear to our voters as well. One interesting thing to note is the island Indiana is sitting on between Ohio State and Purdue. OSU has not looked great, but you would think Indiana would be closer to Purdue given some of their struggles in recent weeks. Also, the Purdue divide to Nebraska seems solid right now, but if the Cornhuskers keep playing well, don't be surprised to see that disappear really soon.
At the bottom, Northwestern has jumped above Illinois and Penn State and it seems deserved. Illinois and Penn State are playing some pretty bad basketball and it seems reflected in their scores. Maybe those things move around in the next few weeks, but Illinois could be the most underwhelming team in the Big Ten right now. Looking at how they started, it's amazing they have fallen this far.