With Wednesday night’s games, the first segment of Big Ten play is nearly closed and it’s as good a time as ever to check in with the league. It’s been a whirlwind over the last few days and it should make for some intrigue in the rankings.
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 Five Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines played two games since our last rankings, blowing out Purdue at home last Saturday and then following it up with a road win against a top 50 team in Northwestern. The wins pushed Michigan to 9-0 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
While Tuesday night’s game against Northwestern could have easily been a loss, it’s hard to find much to complain about with regard to this Michigan squad. The team has the nation’s best defense and a top 20 offense and has overwhelmed virtually every opponent.
And it’s hard to argue that Michigan should be anywhere except one on this list. Michigan is the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten and it has three dominating wins against top 20 opponents in North Carolina, Purdue, and Villanova.
It’s also worth mentioning that Michigan has a very manageable slate moving forward. The Wolverines face a mediocre South Carolina team at home on Saturday, play three buy games, and then return to Big Ten action with some manageable games. In fact, Michigan now has 80 percent odds or better in each of its next eight games.
Don’t look now, but Michigan could be set to keep things rolling. Michigan will now prepare for a home matchup against South Carolina on Saturday.
#2 - Wisconsin Badgers (--)
The Badgers played two games since our last power rankings, beating a ranked Iowa team on the road and holding off Rutgers at home. The two wins pushed Wisconsin to 8-1 on the season with the team’s only loss coming against a really good Virginia team.
At this point, it’s fair to say that Wisconsin has improved substantially from last season. The team is up to 12th on KenPom and already has six wins against top 100 opponents and three against top 50 teams. Even the skeptics have to admit that the Badger look like an NCAA Tournament squad and a team that could make it past the first weekend.
Wisconsin will now go on the road to face Marquette on Saturday. KenPom has this as essentially a pick ‘em game. Another win would only help the team’s resume.
#3 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+2)
The Buckeyes fell to Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this year, but rebounded in a major fashion. The team beat Minnesota at home and then were able to hold off an upset-minded Illinois in Chicago on Wednesday night. The two wins pushed Ohio State to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Although many of Ohio State’s wins have still come against underwhelming competition, it’s clear that the resume is forming. The team has two road wins against top 35 opponents and has beaten two league opponents as well. Ohio State will now move on towards Bucknell at home on Saturday.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (+2)
The Spartans got two more wins since our last rankings, beating Rutgers on the road and blowing out Iowa at home. Michigan State now sits at 7-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play with the two wins. The last win over the Hawkeyes was particularly impressive.
Michigan State is very close to moving up this list. The team has four wins against top 100 opponents with three of them coming away from home. Add in that the team’s only losses came away from home, including a loss to a really good Kansas team and it’s hard to complain too much about the Spartans. However, the losses do count. And the team’s other loss to Louisville looks far less impressive.
The team will now move forward with a road game against Florida on Saturday. This will be Michigan State’s final marquee opportunity in non-conference play.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-1)
The Hawkeyes have stumbled out of the gate in Big Ten play, losing narrowly at home to Wisconsin and getting blown out on the road to Michigan State. However, the team rebounded with a huge win over Iowa State on Thursday night and sits at 7-2 overall with a few really nice wins moving into a manageable finish to non-conference play.
Iowa’s defense remains a significant concern, but the team’s offense and depth should be good enough to get it past most teams this season. KenPom has the Hawkeyes at 36th overall and that feels like a decent ranking. The team will get Northern Iowa on a neutral court on Saturday.
#6 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-3)
The Huskers split two games since our last power rankings, beating Illinois at home and falling on the road to Minnesota on Wednesday. Nebraska now sits at 7-2 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play heading into the final stretch of non-conference play.
Nebraska fans will certainly be excited to see what the team can do on Saturday at home against Creighton. The Huskers haven’t beaten Creighton since 2010 and will be looking to end a seven-game skid against the Bluejays. Expect a great game. A win there would go a long way toward building this team’s resume moving forward.
#7 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers played two games since our last power rankings. The team was blown out on the road against Michigan, but followed that up with a narrow win over a ranked Maryland team on Thursday night. The split pushed Purdue to 6-3 overall.
Purdue still looks like a good team and one that should be on the right side of things on Selection Sunday. However, there’s little debating that the Boilermakers have taken a step back. How the team’s depth progresses moving forward will tell a lot. The team will get a huge opportunity on Sunday on the road against Texas.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers opened up Big Ten play with two wins this week. Indiana beat Northwestern at home on Saturday in a tight game and then followed that up with a road win over Penn State in another really tight matchup. The two wins pushed Indiana to 7-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play. This is the team’s best start since the 2015-’16 season.
On Saturday, Indiana will get a huge home matchup against Louisville. This is part of a home-and-home series and most figure it was meant to replace the Kentucky game. There’s no debating that this would be a huge resume win for the team and would keep the momentum rolling from Indiana’s fast start in Big Ten play.
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+2)
The Gophers remain in the background in the Big Ten right now, but added a real nice win this week, beating Nebraska at home. And while a loss to Ohio State before that stung, Minnesota now sits at 7-2 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play. Minnesota also has four wins against top 100 opponents and two against top 50 teams.
Minnesota will look to keep things rolling with Arkansas State at home on Saturday. We won’t get to see this team against a competent opponent until 2019.
#10 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
Although the Terps are 7-2 and have only lost on the road to top 15 opponents, it’s hard to put Maryland much higher on the list. Maryland has only played three teams in the top 110 on KenPom and is 1-2 against them. Add in that the win came against Penn State at home and it’s hard to feel too confident in the Terps right now.
Maryland is simply going to have to add some real wins to its resume if it wants to move higher on this list. The Terps get Loyola (Chicago) on a neutral court on Saturday, and a win there would be a good start.
#11 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights had two games since our last rankings and lost both. Rutgers fell in a close one at home to Michigan State and then fell at Wisconsin. The team actually battled well in both games, but wasn’t able to grab a win. Rutgers will now go on the road to face a very beatable Fordham team on Saturday.
#12 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
Like Rutgers, Northwestern had two games since our last rankings and lost both in tight games. The Wildcats fell narrowly on the road against Indiana and then couldn’t finish off a dramatic comeback against Michigan on Tuesday. The team now sits at 6-3 overall.
Northwestern will get an interesting home game on Saturday against DePaul. A win there could get the team back on track moving forward.
#13 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions were the third team in a row to lose two games in narrow fashion to open Big Ten play. Penn State fell on the road to Maryland after blowing a lead and then couldn’t comeback against Indiana on Tuesday night. The losses dropped Penn State to 4-4 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play.
All told, this is the sixth time in the last eight years that Nittany Lions have opened league play at 0-2 under Pat Chambers. Penn State will hope to get back on track against Colgate at home on Saturday.
#14 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini continue to struggle with losing games out against quality teams. Illinois fell by 15 on the road against Nebraska to start this week, but kept things close with Ohio State on a neutral court before falling on Wednesday night. The loss dropped Illinois to 2-7 overall, but with five losses to top 100 teams by 10 points or less.
Illinois will look to rebound against UNLV at home on Saturday. This is a big game for Brad Underwood. It’s clearly a winnable matchup. He needs to find a way to win it.