This season has been an odd one for the Big Ten for a multitude of reasons. Not only has the slate been crunched together to allow for the league to play its conference tournament in New York City, but there have been substantial ups and downs. Weeks can be absolutely loaded or without any marquee matchups.
It’s an odd setup.
Nonetheless, with last week in the books, we now have a clear view on what’s to come in the next month or so. We know what teams are in title contention, who is pushing for the NCAA Tournament, and who will need to make a run in Madison Square Garden to have a shot at the postseason.
As such, let’s take a look at the latest Big Ten power rankings.
Big Ten Week 12 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers had two huge games last week and came out on top of both. The first was an epic battle with Michigan on Thursday night, where Purdue and Michigan’s offenses were on fire. The two both finished with offenses above 1.3 points per possession. For context, Purdue’s offense is ranked third nationally and has averaged 1.24 over the course of the season.
After beating Michigan, Purdue then went on the road to face arch-rival Indiana in what projected to be one of the team’s more difficult remaining games. The Boilermakers were in trouble early, but took control in the second half and ended up scoring a 74-67 victory.
With the two wins last week, Purdue now sits at 21-2 overall, 10-0 in Big Ten play, and has won 17 straight games. The run includes 11 wins against top 100 KenPom opponents and seven wins away from home. It’s been impressive, to say the least.
Purdue will now move into what looks like a pretty manageable week with Maryland at home on Wednesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. The Boilermakers have 90 percent odds or better in both games, according to KenPom. Of course, the game against Rutgers will be particularly important from an RPI perspective.
#2 - Michigan State Spartans (+2)
Obviously, there’s a lot going on in East Lansing right now off the court that warrants discussion. For brevity’s sake, I am going to jump over that now. This is a post about power ranking the Big Ten’s men’s basketball teams and not about diving into these issues on a deeper level. That will be done at a later time.
Last week, Michigan State played three games with Illinois on the road on Monday, Wisconsin at home on Friday, and Maryland on the road on Sunday. The Spartans won all three games and improved to 20-3 overall and 8-2 in Big Ten play.
With those three games out of the way, things look pretty solid on the court for Michigan State in the coming weeks. The Spartans are favored in every remaining game and most of the games by a significant margin. As such, Michigan State will remain in the Big Ten title race for the time being.
This week, Michigan State will get Penn State at home on Wednesday and Indiana on the road on Saturday. Both offer solid opportunities for wins.
#3 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-1)
The Buckeyes had two games last week and saw mixed results. Ohio State opened with a solid home win against Nebraska on Monday, but fell flat on its face on Thursday at home against Penn State. The split left Ohio State at 18-5 overall.
Naturally, with the loss to Penn State on Thursday, fans are now wondering whether the Buckeyes can keep pace with Purdue in the Big Ten title race. Ohio State was tied with Purdue in the standings, but now trails by a game.
At face value, the answer to the question above is yes. With a game against Purdue still awaiting and a relatively manageable schedule otherwise, Ohio State still has a chance to catch the Boilermakers. It will take some fortune, but the wins are there.
However, more realistically, the loss to Penn State was brutal for the team’s Big Ten title hopes. Ohio State now either needs to beat Purdue on the road when the two teams face off on February 7th or the Buckeyes have to win the rest of the team’s games and hope that Purdue loses two other games.
Not exactly situations that are incredibly likely.
Ohio State’s more realistic goal will be finishing strong and trying to get the two seed heading into the Big Ten Tournament. That quest will start this week with Indiana at home on Tuesday and Illinois at home on Sunday. Both are likely wins.
#4 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines had one game last week and dropped it on the road to Purdue on Thursday night. Michigan actually played pretty well in the loss, but didn’t quite have enough to grab what would have been a massive road win. As a result, Michigan dropped to 17-6 overall and 6-4 in Big Ten play.
While Michigan only went 3-3 over its last six games, it’s not time to panic just yet. The Wolverines had one of the league’s most difficult schedules over that stretch and things will get much easier in the weeks to come. In fact, despite only going .500 in those six games, Michigan’s KenPom profile improved eight spots.
This week, Michigan will get Northwestern at home on Monday and a struggling Minnesota team at home on Saturday. The Wolverines are significant favorites in both games and will be hoping to build some momentum.
#5 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers are easily the Big Ten’s biggest dark horse at the moment. After a rough start to the season, Nebraska has spent much of the last two months showing improved play and performances akin to a team in NCAA Tournament consideration.
Nebraska’s improved play extended into last week, where the team went 2-1 through a tricky three-game stretch. While the Huskers lost on the road on Ohio State on Monday, the team rebounded with a road win over Rutgers and a home win over Iowa in the following days. Nebraska now sits at 16-8 overall and 7-4 in league play.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, there’s little room for error going forward. TRank currently has Nebraska as the 18th team outside the NCAA field and beating more teams like Iowa and Rutgers won’t do much to change that. Every win helps, but Nebraska isn’t going to jump roughly 20 bubble teams by beating up on Big Ten bottom dwellers.
Given these circumstances, Nebraska has to beat expectations going forward. That can start this week with Wisconsin and Minnesota both on the road. The Huskers are projected as underdogs in both games, but beat both opponents earlier this season. Nebraska really needs two wins to keep its at-large hopes alive.
#6 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
The Terrapins entered last week with a lot on the line. Maryland was firmly on the bubble with two huge games on the docket. A matchup with Indiana offered the Terps to add a nice road win and a game against Michigan State offered the team an opportunity to add its first marquee win of the season.
Unfortunately, neither of those things happened for Maryland. The team dropped its road game to Indiana and then fell short on Sunday against Michigan State. As a result, Maryland dropped to 15-8 overall and 4-6 in Big Ten play.
The two losses also put Maryland on the outside of the field for the time being. TRank has the Terps as the fourth team missing the cut and it’s hard to argue much with that projection. Maryland’s resume is all sorts of ‘meh’ right now.
Maryland will now face another huge week with Purdue on the road on Wednesday and Wisconsin at home on Sunday. Two losses would be utterly devastating. Maryland needs to find a way to split or win both of these games.
#7 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+3)
The Nittany Lions had two games last week and scored wins in both matchups. The team started with a huge road win over Ohio State on Thursday and followed it up with a home win against Rutgers on Saturday. The two wins pushed Penn State to 15-8 overall and 5-5 in league play. It also gave the team its first marquee win.
For much of the season, Penn State has frustrated fans with its inability to finish things off in big games and the team’s inconsistency. The Nittany Lions would look an NCAA Tournament team on a given night and follow it up with a crushing defeat. Penn State also lacked quality wins, with its best coming against a decent, but not great Nebraska.
However, that changed last week. Beating Ohio State was a huge moment. That’s the kind of win that Penn State can build on. TRank currently has Penn State as the 17th team outside the field with roughly a month remaining. There’s time to make a run, but it will need to start soon.
This week, Penn State will get Michigan State on the road on Wednesday and Iowa at home on Saturday. A split would get the Nittany Lions alive.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
The Hoosiers had three games this week and went 1-2 in those matchups. Indiana opened with a huge win over Maryland on Monday, but dropped a road game to Illinois later in the week and a home game against rival Purdue on Sunday. The performance left Indiana at 12-10 overall and 5-5 in Big Ten play.
Many Hoosier fans are frustrated with the last few weeks, where Indiana has lost three of its last four games. However, the team isn’t even playing that badly. The schedule has simply gotten tougher. Michigan State and Purdue are some of the toughest teams Indiana has seen all season and it faced both in just over a week.
Unfortunately, things will remain difficult going forward. Indiana will get Ohio State on the road on Tuesday and Michigan State at home on Saturday. Hoosier fans need to hope that Archie Miller can find a way to split those games.
#9 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats only had one game last week and scored a nice road win over Minnesota on Tuesday night. The win improved Northwestern to 13-9 overall on the season and eight spots on KenPom.
Northwestern will hope to continue its success this week with Michigan on the road on Monday night and Wisconsin on the road on Thursday. Northwestern will be an underdog in both games. A win in either would be huge for the team’s Big Ten Tournament seeding, however.
#10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)
The Golden Gophers only had one game last week and dropped it at home to Northwestern. The loss was the team’s sixth in seven games. As a result, Minnesota now sits at 14-9 overall and 3-7 in Big Ten play.
This is what I wrote in last week’s power rankings:
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.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Minnesota actually dropped in the TRank projections and is now the 33rd team outside the NCAA Tournament field. For all intents and purposes, any at-large talk is dead.
With eight games remaining, Minnesota would need to go 6-2 to even hit 20 wins and the Gophers still have road games remaining against Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. To date, Minnesota is 2-4 on the road. Simply put, the odds of such a run are pretty unlikely.
Of course, this is still college basketball and weird things happen. However, Gopher fans need to keep things in perspective. Nothing short of a miraculous run would even get Minnesota back in the conversation.
The Gophers will hope to get things rolling this week with Iowa on the road on Tuesday and Michigan on the road on Saturday. Minnesota is an underdog in both games.
#11 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+2)
The Hawkeyes split last week with a home win over Wisconsin and a road loss to Nebraska. This left Iowa at 11-12 overall and 2-8 in Big Ten play.
Iowa will try to get back on track with Minnesota at home on Tuesday and Penn State on the road on Saturday. These two games will be important for Iowa’s seeding for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.
#12 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
The Scarlet Knights entered last week in a key position. While few expected Rutgers to make much noise, the schedule set up for the team to start showing that it had improved on past seasons. If Rutgers was going to show it had put the rough times in the past, the moment had arrived.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Rutgers lost to Nebraska at home on Wednesday and followed it up with a road loss to Penn State on Saturday. The games were relatively competitive, but did little to change the narrative. Rutgers really hasn’t done much to show it’s better than last season and time is quickly running out.
Rutgers will now move on to another important week with Illinois on the road on Tuesday and Purdue at home on Saturday. A win in either would be huge.
#13 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers had two games last week and lost both matchups. The first was on the road against Iowa and the second was on the road against Michigan State. Wisconsin now sits at 10-12 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin will hope to get back on track with three games this week. The first two are at home against Nebraska and Northwestern and the third is on the road against Maryland. Fans will be hoping to go at least 2-1.
#14 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini had two games this week and split the matchups. The first was a home loss to Michigan State on Monday and the second was a win over Iowa on Wednesday. The split left the team at 11-11 overall and 1-8 in Big Ten play.
This week, Illinois will hope to keep its success going with Rutgers at home on Tuesday and Ohio State on the road on Sunday.