With last weekend wrapped up, Big Ten play is now just under halfway completed. We can now say, with certainty, that we have a good feel on which teams will be competing for the Big Ten title and NCAA Tournament bids. Additionally, we also know which teams are hoping to salvage their season in the final weeks of this year.
Last week was a particularly interesting one for the league. Many of the Big Ten’s best teams played away from home and saw mixed results. Ohio State and Purdue rolled, but Maryland dropped a nail biter to Michigan and the Wolverines were blown out on the road against Nebraska.
And plenty more happened last week than just that. As such, let’s take a look at the latest Big Ten power rankings.
Big Ten Week 11 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers had two games this week and looked incredibly impressive in both outings. Purdue blasted Wisconsin at home on Tuesday and followed that up by going on the road to face Iowa and blowing out the Hawkeyes as well. The two wins pushed Purdue to 19-2 overall and 8-0 in Big Ten play.
While Purdue was expected to beat both the Badgers and Hawkeyes this week, how the Boilermakers did was remarkable. Neither game was remotely competitive and Purdue won both games by more than 20 points. At this point, Purdue needs to be considered a legitimate national title contender. This is a great squad.
This week, Purdue will get Michigan at home on Thursday before going on the road to face arch-rival Indiana on the road on Sunday. The Boilermakers will be significant favorites heading into both matchups.
#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes (--)
The Buckeyes had two potential trap games this week with Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Minnesota on a neutral court on Saturday. However, Ohio State looked impressive in both outings and scored two solid wins. The Buckeyes are now 17-4 overall and 8-0 in Big Ten play. The team is also up to No. 11 nationally on KenPom.
At this point, there’s really no denying that Ohio State poses a real threat to win the Big Ten title. Many have doubted the Buckeyes, but this team is legitimately good. While the remaining schedule gets tougher, Ohio State should still be in the title race until the end of the regular season.
Ohio State will move on for an interesting week at home with Nebraska on Monday and Penn State on Thursday. The Buckeyes will be major favorites in both games, but the Huskers are playing really well. That should be a competitive matchup.
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines had a three-game slate this week with Maryland at home on Monday, Nebraska on the road on Thursday, and Rutgers at home on Sunday. Michigan ended up going 2-1 in those three games with wins against Maryland and Rutgers and a tough road loss to Nebraska on Thursday. Michigan now sits at 17-5 overall and 6-3 in Big Ten play so far this season.
Given the last few weeks, it’s easy to have mixed feelings about the Wolverines. The team has looked fantastic for segments and rough for plenty of others. Beating Maryland and Michigan State was huge, but the team got blown out against Nebraska and underwhelmed against Rutgers on Sunday.
However, the easiest explanation for Michigan’s inconsistent play has been a brutal schedule over the last two weeks. The team played two of the best teams in the country and had three games in six days, which were all in different locations. Seeing a letdown like the game against Nebraska isn’t all that surprising.
Michigan will hope to get some revenge on Thursday with a road trip to Purdue. An upset of the Boilermakers would, obviously, be massive.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans easily could have moved up a spot in this week’s power rankings. However, given that the team’s only game this week was a home win over Indiana, it didn’t seem like enough to move up above Michigan, who just beat the Spartans.
This week, Michigan State will get slated with the brutal three-game slate with Illinois on the road on Monday, Wisconsin at home on Friday, and Maryland on the road on Sunday. This should tell fans quite a bit about this Spartan team.
#5 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terrapins had mixed results last week. Maryland dropped a road game in brutal fashion on Monday night, but got back on track on Thursday with a home win over another bubble team in Minnesota. The split left Maryland at 15-6 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play so far this season.
Maryland is still in decent shape to make the NCAA Tournament, but time is beginning to run out. From this point forward, Maryland really needs to avoid bad losses and needs to capitalize on its opportunities at home. In particular, the Terps really need to find a way to score a marquee win to help move up in their bubble position.
The good news is that Maryland will get an opportunity to do that this week. Maryland will go on the road to face Indiana on Monday, but will return home and host Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. A sweep would be absolutely massive for the Terps.
#6 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers are the Big Ten’s hottest team that nobody is talking about. Last week, Nebraska continued building momentum with back-to-back home wins over Illinois on Monday and a ranked Michigan team on Thursday. The two wins pushed Nebraska to 14-7 overall and 5-3 in Big Ten play.
Following the team’s win over Michigan last week, I wrote extensively about Nebraska’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament. I won’t repeat all of my analysis here, but I will touch on the Reader’s Digest version.
Barring a really impressive closing performance, Nebraska is not going to make the NCAA Tournament. The team’s resume still isn’t all that impressive and the closing slate is much trickier than many Husker fans are willing to believe. However, there is a narrow route to the Tournament and a reasonable route to the NIT. Obviously, that’s good news considering what the program has done in recent years.
The key, though, is that a run needs to start now. Unlike some other teams, Nebraska’s already up against the wall. It needs to make up ground and soon. The Huskers need to start adding quality wins and protect home court. Things went well last week and the question will be whether that trend can continue away from home.
Fans will get their answer this week as Nebraska faces Ohio State on the road on Monday, Rutgers on the road on Wednesday, and Iowa at home on Saturday. All three games pose unique challenges for an inconsistent Husker squad.
Perhaps the scariest part of the upcoming slate is that Nebraska fans will know whether the Huskers have a realistic shot at the postseason by Saturday evening. Nebraska must go at least 2-1 over this stretch to stay alive. Anything worse and that faint hope will be extinguished.
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers only had one game last week and dropped it on the road against Michigan State on Friday night. As a result of the loss, Indiana now sits at 11-8 overall and 4-3 in Big Ten play. The loss was a disappointing one for a team that had won three straight heading into East Lansing.
Indiana will now get one of the tougher slates in the league this week with Maryland at home on Monday, Illinois on the road on Wednesday, and Purdue at home on Sunday. The Hoosiers project to be an underdog in all three games. Of course, all eyes will be on Sunday’s game as Archie Miller tries to score a win in his first game against the Boilermakers.
#8 - Northwestern Wildcats (+2)
The Wildcats saw mixed results last week with a loss to Ohio State at home on Wednesday and a home win against Penn State on Saturday. The split left Northwestern at 12-9 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play.
Although Northwestern seems to be playing a bit better, it’s too little and too late. The Wildcats are already well outside of NCAA Tournament at-large range and have a brutal schedule ahead. It would take a near perfect finish for the team to even have a shot at making the field as an at-large team. Even the NIT is a stretch right now.
However, not everything is lost. Northwestern can still get in position for a Big Ten Tournament run. That quest will start this week with Minnesota on the road on Tuesday. Can the Wildcats be a spoiler for Minnesota’s postseason hopes?
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Golden Gophers have easily been the Big Ten’s most disappointing team since the calendar rolled over to 2018. And last week was no different, as Minnesota saw mixed results in a vital week for the team’s postseason hopes. The Gophers beat Penn State on the road on Monday, but fell at Maryland on Thursday and to Ohio State on a neutral court on Saturday. The team now sits at 14-8 overall.
Like Nebraska, it’s “do or die” time for the Gophers. There’s simply no margin for error going forward for Minnesota. The team is currently projected as the 27th team outside the field by TRank and the closing slate isn’t exactly easy, either. If Minnesota is going to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, it will need to tear it up starting now.
The good news is that Minnesota gets a light week with just one game. That matchup will be on Tuesday at home against Northwestern. A loss there would be a dagger to Minnesota’s faint NCAA Tournament hopes. An incredible statement to make, considering how the Gophers started the season.
#10 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-4)
The Nittany Lions had two games this week and came up short in both games, dropping a game at home to Minnesota on Monday and falling on the road against Northwestern on Saturday. The two losses left Penn State at 13-8 overall.
At this point, Penn State’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes are over. It would take a perfect finish for the team to even have an outside shot. The NIT is also realistically out the window without a major Big Ten Tournament run.
So, the question is now what the Nittany Lions do with 10 regular season games and at least one Big Ten Tournament game remaining. An at-large bid isn’t coming, but can Penn State develop its youth and do some damage late in the season? While it’s not impossible, some real progress will need to be made to get there.
Perhaps the most significant factor in a late season turnaround will be what happens with Josh Reaves. He was really productive for the Nittany Lions earlier in the season, but has sat out the last few games due to academic issues. Unfortunately, there’s really no indication that he will return this season.
This week, Penn State will get Ohio State on the road on Thursday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. Fans will be hoping that the Nittany Lions can surprise and grab a win over the Buckeyes.
#11 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+1)
The Scarlet Knights were another team that saw mixed results last week. Rutgers scored a double-digit win over Iowa on Wednesday, but fell in relatively competitive fashion on the road against Michigan on Sunday. The split left Rutgers at 12-9 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten play.
Rutgers is now primed to enter the most significant portion of its schedule for this season. Everyone knew that the Scarlet Knights weren’t a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender, but fans still expected some progress this season.
So far, that progress has been minimal, if present at all. Rutgers is a few spots higher on KenPom and projects to finish with a better record than last season, but the team is still miles away from being a Big Ten contender. Simply put, fans are going to need something more tangible than being 20ish spots higher on KenPom for momentum to keep building in this program.
The good news is that the upcoming slate is quite manageable. Rutgers starts this week with Nebraska at home on Wednesday and Penn State on the road on Saturday. Both of those games are absolutely winnable. And the team gets Illiniois, Indiana, and Nebraska (again) soon thereafter. There are a lot of wins there for the taking.
More simply put, this is where the rubber needs to meet the road. Rutgers can only rely on “losing close” to get people excited for so long. This is an opportunity to get real wins and positioning in the Big Ten. Do that and this program will really be trending up for the season ahead.
#12 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers saw mixed results last week. The team was blown out on the road against Purdue on Tuesday, but recovered on Friday with a home win over Illinois. The split left Wisconsin at 10-10 overall and 3-4 in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin will get another challenging week with Iowa on the road on Tuesday and Michigan State on the road on Friday. The Badgers are underdogs in both games. Even a split would be positive news in Madison.
#13 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes had two games this week and got embarrassed in both, losing on the road to Rutgers and getting blown out at home against Purdue. Iowa now sits at 10-11 overall and 1-7 in Big Ten play. It was just the latest chapter in what has become a season to forget for Hawkeye fans.
Iowa will try to get back on track this week with Wisconsin at home on Tuesday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. Perhaps a rivalry win or two can push a nice spin on what has been a disappointing season.
#14 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini had two games this week and dropped both contests. The first came on the road to Nebraska on Monday and the second came on the road to Wisconsin on Friday. The two losses dropped Illinois to 10-10 overall and 0-7 in league play.
While this keeps getting harder to write, I still don’t think Illinois is nearly as bad as its record indicates. Not only has Illinois lost three Big Ten teams in overtime so far, but the team has lost another three by 10 points or less. Illinois isn’t good, but bad luck has made it look far worse than it is this season.
The Illini will try to get back on track this week with Michigan State at home on Monday night and Indiana at home on Wednesday.