Last week was a huge one for the Big Ten. Not only did the conference participate in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but it also opened up league play, with the majority of the games occurring on Saturday and Sunday. This season’s early look at Big Ten play comes thanks to Jim Delany’s desire to move the Big Ten Tournament to New York City.
And how did things shake out? Let’s take a look.
Big Ten Week Four Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans are arguably the hottest team in the nation after dismantling two more opponents last week. Michigan State beat Notre Dame by 18 points and then followed that up with a blowout victory of Nebraska on Sunday afternoon. The two wins pushed Michigan State to 7-1 overall.
Thursday’s win was particularly impressive, as Notre Dame entered the matchup at 6-0 with wins over DePaul, LSU, and Wichita State. Nonetheless, Michigan State dominated, holding Notre Dame to 44.4 percent shooting from two-point range. Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston each scored 17 points.
Michigan State should have a relatively manageable slate this week with Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Southern Utah at home on Saturday. Expect two easy wins for the Spartans.
#2 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Golden Gophers split last week’s games with a narrow loss to Miami (FL) on Wednesday and a 22-point win against Rutgers on Sunday. The split pushed Minnesota to 8-1 overall.
Whether Minnesota actually has the depth and talent to challenge Michigan State remains to be seen, but this looks like a top 25 team and one that should continue to develop. The key will be whether the team’s defense can develop around Reggie Lynch’s shot blocking abilities. If so, watch out.
This week, Minnesota gets Nebraska on the road on Tuesday and Arkansas on the road on Saturday. Neither opponent is elite, but two road wins would be a nice boost to the team’s resume.
#3 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
The Boilermakers really shined last week, as the team took down Louisville at home on Tuesday, beat Maryland on the road on Friday, and scored a win against Northwestern at home on Sunday. The three wins pushed Purdue to 8-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play this season.
Admittedly, it’s still hard to forget the losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Bahamas, but Purdue is slowly putting those games in the rear-view mirror. The team is now up to 10th nationally on KenPom and already has wins against top 75 KenPom opponents. A nice mark for this early in the year.
Purdue will now move on to face Valparaiso and IUPUI at home this week. Two more wins would continue to help that rough patch fade away. However, Valpo could put up a fight, as the Crusaders are 8-0 heading into the matchup.
#4 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions had a mixed week of play after losing on the road to North Carolina State on Wednesday and beating Iowa on the road on Saturday. Both games were competitive. Penn State now sits at 7-2 overall.
While I am still a little skeptical on Penn State, the team moves up to fourth on this week’s power rankings largely due to the struggles of other Big Ten teams. Somebody had to move up to fourth and, this week, it’s Penn State. Most simply put, I think Penn State is solid, but the team still doesn’t have any impressive wins so far.
The good news is that Penn State could get a solid win on Monday with a home game against Wisconsin. Moreover, with George Washington at home on Saturday, Penn State could really start to build its resume over the next few days.
#5 - Maryland Terrapins (-2)
The Terps have not gotten off to the best start this season. Despite opening up at 5-0 with two quality wins, Maryland has now fallen to 7-3 overall. During the last week, Maryland dropped a road game to Syracuse and a home game to Purdue before getting back on track against Illinois on Sunday night.
More simply put, there’s no debating that Maryland is a flawed team. A lot of this is due to youth. With so many underclassmen playing huge roles, inconsistency is a natural consequence. This is especially true early in the season, as Maryland is still trying to develop roles.
However, it’s also important to note that Maryland is 7-3 after losing two competitive games away from home (decided by a total of four points) and another competitive game against Purdue at home. Considering that the Boilermakers profile as a top 10 team nationally, this is not the time to panic. Sooner rather than later, Maryland is going to figure things out.
And this week, Maryland gets home game against Ohio on Thursday and Gardner Webb on Saturday. This should be a nice opportunity to settle back in and get back on track after a few hectic weeks.
#6 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+3)
The Buckeyes are a bit of a mystery right now. Ohio State has looked like an NCAA Tournament for portions of the season, but has also looked thoroughly noncompetitive for portions of the season as well. This showed last week, as Ohio State lost at home by double-digits to Clemson on Wednesday, but followed that up with a blowout victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.
Ohio State will get an opportunity to show that Saturday’s game wasn’t a fluke on Monday with a home tilt against the Wolverines. The team will then face William & Mary at home on Saturday. Two wins would be huge.
#7 - Michigan Wolverines (+1)
The Wolverines are another team that has looked inconsistent through the first month of the season. That also extended into last week, as Michigan got blowout on the road against North Carolina on Wednesday, but returned home to beat Indiana comfortably on Saturday afternoon. Michigan now sits at 7-2 overall.
Michigan will now have arguably its most important week of the season so far with Ohio State on the road on Monday night and UCLA at home on Saturday. The Wolverines really need to find a way to (at least) split these two games.
#8 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats looked much better last week than the team did earlier in the season. Unfortunately, that improved play still resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and Purdue and a narrow home win against Illinois. That performance left Northwestern at 5-4 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play.
Northwestern will now get a bye week to regroup for the finally portion of non-conference play. The Wildcats desperately need to do well in December to get back into serious NCAA Tournament contention.
#9 - Wisconsin Badgers (-4)
The Badgers had a horrible performance this last week, losing by double-digits on the road against Virginia on Monday and then getting blown out at home by Ohio State on Saturday. The two losses dropped Ohio State to 3-5 overall. Wisconsin’s best win is against a Yale team that is currently 5-5.
This week will be a vital one for Wisconsin. The team will get challenging road games against Penn State and Temple and then return to face Marquette at home on Saturday. Wisconsin desperately needs to win two of these games, if it hopes to enter the heart of Big Ten play with any quality wins.
#10 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini lost all three of its games last week, falling to Wake Forest on Tuesday, Northwestern in overtime on Friday, and Maryland in overtime on Sunday. Had Illinois simply been a tad better, it very well could have gone 3-0 in those games. Unfortunately, the team now sits at 6-3 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play.
While Illinois still has some significant issues (three-point shooting, in particular), the signs of progress are showing. Even if the team went 0-3 last week, to be that competitive this early is encouraging. And considering that Illini is one of the nation’s youngest teams, things should only get better.
Illinois will now try to get back on track against Austin Peay on Wednesday and UNLV on Saturday. Considering that the Illini have yet to get a top 100 win, that game against UNLV will be particularly important.
#11 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes continued to struggle last week, losing to Virginia Tech on the road on Tuesday and Penn State at home on Saturday. The first game wasn’t even remotely competitive and while the latter was close, Penn State controlled the matchup for the vast majority of the evening.
Iowa is now at an interesting point in its season. With the team’s brutal start to the season, it genuinely feels like this week is the last opportunity to really get things back on track. Maybe that seems hyperbolic, but with a relatively weak Big Ten this year, Iowa can’t afford to enter league play with nothing on its resume. As such, doing something this week will be vital.
And grabbing some big wins this week will be no easy task. Iowa gets Indiana on the road on Monday, Iowa State on the road on Thursday, and Southern at home on Sunday. Iowa desperately needs to go at least 2-1 in those games.
#12 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers showed some fight this week, staying competitive with Duke on Wednesday and fighting back on the road against Michigan on Saturday, but, ultimately, came up short in both matchups. Indiana now sits at 4-4 overall. Not exactly the start fans had hoped to see.
Indiana will now move on to face Iowa at home on Monday and Louisville on the road on Saturday. The team will look to continue its slow trend upward in those games. Beating Iowa alone would be a great start.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers finally showed something this week, scoring a nice win against Boston College at home on Wednesday. It was the team’s first quality win of the season. Even though Nebraska followed that up with a blowout loss to Michigan State on the road on Sunday, it was a solid performance.
Nebraska will now get Minnesota at home on Tuesday and Creighton on the road on Saturday. Both games are projected to be losses, but if Nebraska can find a way to go 1-1 in those two contests, it would go a long way.
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-2)
The Scarlet Knights faced the team’s first real opponents this season and came up short in both games. Rutgers started out by losing a competitive game against Florida State at home on Tuesday and followed that with an noncompetitive loss to Minnesota on Sunday. The team is now 6-2 overall.
Rutgers will now get Michigan State at home on Tuesday, NJIT at home on Thursday, and Fairleigh Dickinson at home on Saturday. Expect a 2-1 performance.