With non-conference play quickly coming to a close, last weekend presented one of the final opportunities for the league to represent itself against other conferences on the national stage. Things generally went well for the Big Ten, but there were a few hiccups that make this week’s power rankings a lot more interesting.
Please also note that this year’s rankings are going to be a tad different. I am only going to look at things each team has accomplished on the court. No projecting or predicting anymore. I will place an emphasis on recent play, but I am only going to be looking strictly at results going forward.
Big Ten Week Seven Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines only had one game this week and were able to hold off a feisty Western Michigan at home to advance to 11-0 on the season. Since losing to Northwestern on the road last season, Michigan is 25-1 with the only loss coming against Villanova in last year’s national championship game. Simply put, things have been going pretty well.
However, since beating Purdue at home earlier this month, Michigan hasn’t looked quite as sharp. The Wolverines nearly lost to Northwestern on the road, let a mediocre South Carolina hang around, and then trailed a bad Western Michigan team late into the first half. Even in the closing minutes, things were a little too close for comfort.
At this point, we know Michigan is a really good team. The Wolverines also already have a great resume, with three wins against top 20 teams on KenPom so far. But there are some cracks in the armor showing. The question will be whether Michigan can fix those issues before jumping into Big Ten play in January.
This week, Michigan only has one game. The Wolverines will face a really bad Air Force team at home on Saturday.
#2 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans only had one game this week, leveling a bad Green Bay team at home on Sunday to improve to 9-2 overall on the season. Michigan State has now won four in a row and has risen to No. 8 nationally on KenPom. This is a squad that looks capable of challenging Michigan for the conference title this year.
Michigan State will now move forward toward a home game against in-state Oakland on Friday night. These games have been tricky for the Spartans over the last few years. Expect a hard fought game.
#3 - Indiana Hoosiers (+2)
The Hoosiers only had one game on the docket and were able to score a huge win against Butler in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday. It was the team’s second straight victory against a quality opponent after getting down early and its fifth win against a top 50 opponent so far this season. The second number is a high mark for the Big Ten.
While Indiana isn’t a perfect team, it’s certainly trending in the right direction and assembling an impressive resume along the way. In fact, Indiana may very well have the second-best resume in the Big Ten through today’s date. That’s quite a turnaround from where this program was last season. And great news for a team that’s so young and still has plenty of room to grow moving forward.
This week, Indiana will close out non-conference play with Central Arkansas at home on Wednesday and Jacksonville at home on Saturday.
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers were another team that only had one game against an overmatched opponent this week. Wisconsin faced Savannah State at home on Thursday and ended up winning by 41 points. As a result, Wisconsin improved to 9-2 on the year.
Wisconsin will now get Grambling State at home on Saturday. Don’t expect that game to be intriguing in the slightest.
#5 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-1)
The Buckeyes have looked like a really good team so far this season. Ohio State may not have an elite wins, but the team scored road wins at Cincinnati and Creighton and held off two Big Ten foes to open up play in December. By all accounts, things looked promising.
Until last weekend, at least.
On Saturday, Ohio State faced off against a mediocre, but not terrible Bucknell team. And while the Buckeyes were able to get the job done, the game was close throughout and the team’s defense had a lot of trouble controlling Bucknell’s shooters. Playing a close game isn’t December isn’t panic worthy, but it wasn’t an encouraging performance for Ohio State.
Fans will have to hope that the Buckeyes get things back on track with two games on the docket this week. Ohio State will face Youngstown State at home on Tuesday and UCLA on a neutral court on Saturday. This is a big opportunity to grab two wins.
#6 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers only had one game this week and cruised to a victory over Oklahoma State on a neutral court on Sunday. It pushed Nebraska’s record to 9-2 on the season and was the team’s fifth win against a top 100 opponent on KenPom.
With non-conference play nearly concluded, it’s hard to complain much about what Nebraska has accomplished so far. The Huskers have a road win over Clemson and blowout victories over Creighton, Oklahoma State, and Seton Hall. Add in a win over a top 100 opponent in Illinois and that’s a pretty good resume through 11 games.
The key for Nebraska this week will be avoiding complacency with Cal State Fullerton at home on Saturday. That game needs to be a win.
#7 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes only had one game last week, but looked impressed during it. Iowa played Northern Iowa on a neutral court on Saturday and absolutely dominated the Panthers. With the win, Iowa improved to 8-2 on the season and the team has won two in a row.
Through 10 games, Iowa has looked like a good and improved team. Last year’s group struggled with consistency and probably wouldn’t have beaten these Iowa State and Oregon teams. However, Iowa has shown its limits. It couldn’t hold off Wisconsin at home and got handled by Michigan State on the road. Things are good, but not great.
Iowa will get two manageable games at home this week with Western Carolina at home on Tuesday and Savannah State at home on Saturday. Both are outside the top 300 on KenPom and should make for easy opponents for the Hawkeyes.
#8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-2)
The Gophers only had one game this week, defeating North Florida at home on Tuesday night. The final score was closer than fans would have liked to see, but it improved Minnesota’s record to 9-2 on the season.
Minnesota only has one game this week with North Carolina A&T at home on Friday. It’s a game that Gopher fans will hope to put away early.
#9 - Maryland Terrapins (+1)
The Terps won the team’s only game last week, beating Loyola (MD) at home on Tuesday night. With the win, Maryland improved to 9-2 on the season and to 9-0 against teams outside the top 20 on KenPom.
Like Iowa and some of the other teams in this area, Maryland has shown has proven itself to be a solid to good team. Unfortunately, the Terps just haven’t gotten enough quality wins to move up this list. Maryland’s best win is against Penn State, who’s only 5-5 on the year. That’s pretty concerning for a team heading into late December.
The good news is that Maryland will get a big opportunity this week against Seton Hall at home on Saturday. This is the only remaining opportunity that Maryland will get to score a quality non-conference win. As such, the pressure will be on.
#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
The Boilermakers fell in the team’s only game this week, losing in the Crossroads Classic against a decent, but not great Notre Dame team. It was the team’s fourth loss in five games and its first against a team outside the top 50 on KenPom. As a result, Purdue fell to 6-5 on the season. Not what fans had hoped to see a few months ago.
There’s are a few ways to look at this team right now. On the one side, it’s hard to get over the fact that Purdue has lost five games so far. The Boilermakers have already blown games against Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Texas and weren’t even in it against Notre Dame in the closing minutes. This was a team that was supposed to compete for a high seed in March that looks like it’s going to need a run to even make the NCAA Tournament.
However, on the other hand, none of the losses have been terrible. Purdue has lost three games away from home against top 15 teams on KenPom and the losses to Notre Dame and Texas were away from home as well. And considering that the team lost four starters, it’s not surprising to see some hiccups. In fact, one could argue that the team’s early competitiveness against top level competition is encouraging.
Personally, I am somewhere in between on Purdue. This team is still more than capable of making the NCAA Tournament and avoiding the bubble. However, it’s clearly not as strong as it has been over the last few years. The depth needs to improve and the team needs to find a few spark plugs offensively. A young player or two is going to need to figure it out.
This week, Purdue gets Ohio at home on Thursday night. Given how things have unfolded so far, that needs to be a win.
#11 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats were off last week, but will be in action on Monday night at home against Chicago State and Friday at home against Oklahoma. The latter will offer a marquee opportunity for the team to score a resume win.
#12 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions lost the team’s only game last week, falling on a neutral court against North Carolina State on Saturday. The loss dropped Penn State to 5-5 overall and to 1-3 over the team’s last four games.
While Penn State has clearly improved with the return of Mike Watkins to the lineup, the losses are starting to pile up. Many thought the Nittany Lions would take a step forward after winning the NIT last year, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The team has dropped more than 20 spots on KenPom and the team’s resume looks concerning.
The pressure will be on this week as Penn State gets Duquesne on the road on Wednesday and Alabama on the road on Friday. Those are both going to be tricky games.
Even though it’s only December, it’s hard not to view this as a final stretch for Penn State. Two losses here would be absolutely devastating. Given what the team has coming up in Big Ten play, it’s hard to see how Penn State could put together an at-large NCAA resume without winning at least one of those games.
#13 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
The Illini faced off against East Tennessee State in the team’s only game last week and were able to score a huge victory, blowing out the Buccaneers at home. Illinois now sits at 4-7 overall and add two wins against top 150 teams over the last two weeks.
Illinois will get a huge opportunity this week with Missouri on a neutral court on Saturday. This is one of the league’s only remaining quality non-conference opponents this season. A win would really help Brad Underwood get some positive attention for this year.
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
The Scarlet Knights only had one game last week and fell short in it, losing on the road to Seton Hall. The game was actually closer than many anticipated, but the loss left Rutgers at 5-5 overall. Rutgers has now lost four straight.
Rutgers will now move forward to face Columbia at home on Saturday in the team’s only game this week.