While there are still plenty of games to go, last week was a massive one for the Big Ten title race. With Michigan State going down to Michigan and Purdue scoring two huge wins, the table has been set. It should be a fun race to the finish.
And plenty more happened last week than just that. Michigan and Ohio State scored some marquee wins, while teams like Minnesota and Nebraska suffered tough losses. It was a crazy stretch of basketball and it should only continue going forward.
And with that, let’s take a look at the latest Big Ten power rankings.
Big Ten Week 10 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers had two huge games last week and managed to score wins in both matchups. The first came in a thrilling matchup against Michigan on Tuesday night and the second came on the road against Minnesota on Saturday. The wins pushed Purdue to 17-2 overall and 6-0 in Big Ten play. Purdue has now won 13 straight games.
For Purdue, the table has been set for a Big Ten title run. Two of the team’s most difficult remaining games were last week and Purdue won both matchups. With those in the rear-view mirror, Purdue is now massively favored in 11 of its remaining 12 games. In fact, Purdue has 81 percent odds (or better) in every remaining game, except for its road trip to East Lansing on February 10th.
This week, Purdue will hope to keep things rolling with a home game against Wisconsin on Tuesday and a road trip to Iowa on Saturday. The Boilermakers are substantial favorites in both games and will hope to improve to 19-2 overall.
#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes entered last week coming off a huge upset of then No. 1 Michigan State at home. Naturally, with such a huge win, fans were worried that Ohio State might “come back to Earth” in its upcoming matchups. However, that wasn’t the case.
On Thursday, Ohio State blew out Maryland at home and then followed that up with a road win against a pesky Rutgers team on Sunday. The two wins pushed Ohio State to 15-4 overall and 6-0 in Big Ten play. At this point, Ohio State needs to be viewed as a legitimate threat to Purdue to win the Big Ten. Purdue is the favorite, but this battle is a long way from over.
Ohio State will now move on to face Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Minnesota on a neutral court on Saturday. The Buckeyes are favored in both games.
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (+1)
The Wolverines entered last week with a seven-game winning streak and two huge games on the docket. And while Michigan fell short on Tuesday against Purdue, it went on the road and scored a huge win over rival Michigan State on Saturday. The split pushed Michigan to 15-4 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play.
At this point, Wolverine fans have to feel pretty good about the team’s NCAA Tournament chances. As long as Michigan can protect home court and avoids upsets against teams like Rutgers and Wisconsin, it should make the field pretty easily. Not something many guessed just a few weeks ago.
However, the question is now whether Michigan can build off its recent success and transition from a bubble team into a top 25 squad. Since losing to Ohio State in early December, Michigan has improved 25 spots on KenPom. The Wolverines are now 17th nationally and projected for 23 wins in the regular season. Expectations have changed and the question is whether Michigan can live up to the accompanying challenges.
Fans will get a good idea about that this week as Michigan hosts Maryland at home on Monday, travels to Nebraska on Thursday, and then returns home to face Rutgers on Sunday. If the Wolverines manage to add three wins, fans will have to feel pretty good about where John Beilein’s crew is heading for March.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (-2)
The Spartans entered last week looking to regroup after a shocking upset on the road to Ohio State. It was the team’s first loss since November and fans were hoping that it would be the last for quite some time. Most figured it was just a blip on what, otherwise, had been a stellar season.
However, things didn’t exactly go as planned following the loss to the Buckeyes. To start, Michigan State was pushed to overtime against Rutgers at home on Wednesday. While the Scarlet Knights may be improved, Rutgers still shouldn’t be going on the road and nearly beating a top five team. It was a frustrating performance.
And then, on Saturday, Michigan State fell to arch-rival Michigan at home. The game wasn’t even all that close either, as Michigan was in control for the last five minutes of the game and ended up winning by double-digits. As a result, Michigan State fell to 16-3 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. Not where fans expected even two weeks ago.
Some may argue that dropping Michigan State to fourth on this list is over reactionary. To a certain extent, they have a point. The Spartans are still a really great team that could go on and do big things this year. Miles Bridges still looks like one of the best players in the Big Ten and he has complementary pieces like Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward around him. Few teams have the pieces to beat a roster like that.
However, it’s also time for a reality check. It’s January 15th and Michigan State has one (!!!) win against a top 100 team since December 3rd. In fact, the Spartans are 1-2 against top 100 teams in its last three outings. Moreover, the only win in that group came against a Maryland team that hasn’t looked all that great since Ivan Bender and Justin Jackson went out for the season with injuries.
Preseason projections and talent are important, but, at some point, teams need to show it on the court. While Michigan State got off to a great start, it’s now January. Outside of blowing out a banged up Maryland and weak opponents, Michigan State hasn’t done anything to show its a title contender in quite some time. Until it does, there’s no reason to put the Spartans above the Buckeyes and Wolverines on here.
This week, Michigan State has just one game. That matchup will come at home against Indiana on Friday night. It’s a nice opportunity for the Spartans to get back to work and regroup after a rough stretch.
#5 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terrapins had just one game last week, falling short on the road against Ohio State on Thursday. It was the team’s second loss in three games and dropped Maryland to 14-5 overall on the season and 3-3 in Big Ten play. The loss also dropped the Terps to 41st on KenPom with some tough games ahead.
At this point, it’s tough not to overreact to the last few games for the Terps. The team has looked relatively underwhelming since Bender and Jackson went out with injury and it doesn’t seem like that’s something the coaching staff can fix overnight.
However, fans should remember that, even at full strength, Maryland very well could have lost on the road to Michigan State and Ohio State. Both are really solid opponents and beating teams on the road like that isn’t an easy task. Thus, Maryland still remains in solid position for an NCAA Tournament appearance.
More questions will likely be answered this week as Maryland goes on the road to face Michigan on Monday and will host Minnesota at home on Thursday. There’s little debating that the Terps need to find a way to split these games.
#6 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions split the team’s games this week, losing on the road against Indiana and beating Nebraska at home on Friday. After the two games, Penn State now sits at 13-6 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play.
According to many of the latest bracket projections, Penn State is now just narrowly clinging to hopes of an NCAA at-large bid. The Nittany Lions are the 18th team outside the bracket according to TRank and are 117th in RPI. It’s not looking good.
Like several other Big Ten teams, this is sort of a “last stand” for Penn State’s NCAA hopes this week. The Nittany Lions get Minnesota at home on Monday and Northwestern on the road on Saturday. If Penn State is going to make the Tourney, both of these likely need to be wins.
#7 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1)
The Huskers appeared to be gaining momentum heading into last week. Despite a loss to Purdue, Nebraska had won four of five and had avoided any terrible losses. And, with a down Big Ten, many were hopeful that Nebraska could grab the role of “best of the rest” and quietly build its record and resume.
On Tuesday, things appeared to be on the right track. Nebraska scored a solid win against Wisconsin at home and improved to 12-6 overall. However, a tough road loss to Penn State in overtime on Friday removed all of Nebraska’s positive momentum. The Huskers are now 12-7 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play.
Barring something magical, Nebraska’s NCAA hopes disappeared with the loss to Penn State on Friday. As of Sunday, Nebraska is 72nd in RPI and still has plenty of tough games remaining. An NIT berth is still a possibility, but it would take a pretty impressive finish to the season to get there.
Nebraska will now move on to face Illinois at home on Monday and Michigan at home on Thursday. This is a great opportunity to get back on track and add a marquee win.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (+3)
The Hoosiers had two games this week and scored wins in both matchup. The first came against Penn State and the second came against Northwestern. With the two wins, Indiana is quietly starting to build some momentum. The Hoosiers have won five of six and three-straight. The team is 11-7 overall.
Indiana will try to keep things rolling this week with Michigan State on the road on Friday night. A win there could change the team’s expectations for the season.
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-2)
The Golden Gophers are in big trouble. Everyone knew that Minnesota would look differently without Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch, but the collapse has been swift. After losing to Northwestern on the road and Purdue at home in blowout fashion, Minnesota is now just 13-6 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play.
Let’s be blunt about things. With three games awaiting Minnesota this week, this is “do or die” time for the Gophers. The Gophers get Penn State on the road on Monday, Maryland on the road on Thursday, and a neutral game against Ohio State on Saturday. Three losses, and likely even two losses, would doom Minnesota’s at-large hopes. Unfortunately, Minnesota will be an underdog in all three games.
#10 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats had two games last week and had mixed results. Northwestern opened with a home blowout win over Minnesota, but followed it up with a blowout loss on the road against Indiana on Sunday. Northwestern now sits at 11-8 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play. The team has lost four of its last six games.
At this point, Northwestern’s at-large hopes are dead. It would take a nearly unprecedented finish to the season for the Wildcats to even have a shot. And, of course, that’s really disappointing considering what the program accomplished last season. Northwestern should be better than this, but things just haven’t broken the right away for the Wildcats this season.
Some have credited these struggles to the team’s lack of a true home court advantage. However, I think that’s a misleading conclusion. It’s misleading because Northwestern hasn’t only struggled at home. In fact, six of the team’s eight losses this season have come away from home. And many against underwhelming competition. Simply put, Northwestern just hasn’t been that good, regardless of location.
But, with a down Big Ten, Northwestern still has a shot at an NIT appearance and to help its Big Ten Tournament seeding over the upcoming weeks. That effort will start with Ohio State and Penn State at home this week.
#11 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers had one game last week and fell on the road against Nebraska on Tuesday night. It was the team’s second-straight loss and its ninth loss of the season. Wisconsin is now projected to finish with a losing record. An incredible statement considering where this program has been over the last 20 years.
This week, Wisconsin will get Purdue on the road on Tuesday and Illinois at home on Friday. The Badgers will be looking to help the team’s Big Ten positioning in those and score another Big Ten victory.
#12 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights had two games this week and fell short in both matchups, losing to Michigan State on Wednesday and Ohio State on Sunday. Rutgers is now 11-8 overall and 1-5 in Big Ten play. The team will try to regroup with Iowa at home on Wednesday and Michigan on the road on Sunday.
#13 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes only had one game this week, but scored a nice road victory over Illinois on Thursday night. The win gave Iowa its first conference win of the season and pushed the team’s record to 10-9 overall. Iowa will now get Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Purdue at home on Saturday.
#14 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
The Illini only had one game this week and lost a home battle against Iowa on Thursday night in overtime. The loss dropped Illinois to 0-5 in Big Ten play this season. While Illinois probably isn’t as bad as its record, it’s hard to be happy about that mark. Illinois will get road games against Nebraska and Wisconsin this week.