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2017-’18 Week 13 Big Ten Power Rankings: Wisconsin Hits Rock Bottom

Check out BTP's power rankings for the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With a down Big Ten, much of conference play has been filled with underwhelming matchups where one team looks like a significant favorite, at least on paper. There have certainly been some great games, but when there’s only four teams in a league that look like safe NCAA Tournament bets, the schedule can suffer.

However, that changes this week. Big Ten fans are finally going to get the marquee matchups they have been waiting months to see. Purdue and Ohio State will tangle early in the week and the Boilermakers will head to East Lansing to face the Spartans in a battle between top 10 teams.

So, let’s all buckle up and take a look at the latest Big Ten power rankings heading into what is a massive week for the conference.

Big Ten Week 13 Power Rankings

#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)

The Boilermakers played two games last week and came out on top in both of them with the first coming at home against Maryland the second coming on the road against Rutgers. The two wins pushed Purdue to 12-0 in Big Ten play this season.

While Purdue remained unblemished in Big Ten play, there are some concerns about how the team has played over the last few weeks. The Boilermakers narrowly beat Michigan at home a week and a half ago and then had to work to avoid losses to Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers thereafter. Simply put, some cracks were showing.

But it’s important not to overreact to the issues that have shown up for Purdue lately. To start, Purdue’s still winning these games. One can only complain so much about how a team performs in a victory. Moreover, it’s not like Michigan and Maryland are bad teams and playing on the road in college basketball isn’t an easy task, either.

Nonetheless, Purdue finds itself with some real questions for the first time since November as it prepares for its biggest week of the season to date. The Boilermakers get Ohio State at home on Wednesday and Michigan State on the road on Saturday.

Not only will these two games be Purdue’s best remaining opportunities for securing marquee wins heading into March, but two wins would also lock up the Big Ten title. There’s a lot on the line and fans will finally get to see whether the recent issues are legitimate concerns or blips on the radar.

#2 - Michigan State Spartans (--)

The Spartans had two games last week and came out on top in both. The first came at home against Penn State and the second came on the road against Indiana. With the two wins, Michigan State improved to 22-3 overall and 10-2 on the season.

Much like Purdue over the last few weeks, Michigan State has been showing some concerns as well. The Spartans narrowly beat Maryland a little over a week ago, had to come back at home against Penn State last week, and narrowly beat a struggling Indiana over the weekend. And this just adds onto earlier battles against teams Illinois and Rutgers and the losses to Michigan and Ohio State in January.

Honestly, since Michigan State’s blowout victory over Maryland on January 4th, things haven’t looked all that pretty for the Spartans (please note, I am only speaking about on court issues). The Spartans are 7-2 since that blowout win, but only one of the wins came against a top 40 opponent and five came by single digits. Winning is winning, but Michigan State hasn’t looked anywhere as dominant as it did earlier this season.

The good news is that Michigan State will get a huge opportunity to put those concerns to bed this week. The Spartans will face Iowa on the road on Tuesday and get Purdue at home on Saturday. Two wins would put Michigan State in the heart of the Big Ten title race and in position for a nice seed in March.

#3 - Ohio State Buckeyes (--)

The Buckeyes had two games last week and went 2-0 in those contests. Ohio State opened with a win over Indiana on Tuesday and followed that up with a victory over the Illini on Sunday afternoon. The two wins propelled Ohio State to 20-5 overall and 11-1 in league play entering a huge week.

This will sound repetitive, but Ohio State is another team that hasn’t looked particularly sharp over the last few weeks. The Buckeyes barely beat Nebraska roughly two weeks ago and followed that up with a loss to Penn State, a win over a struggling Indiana, and a near loss to Illinois on Sunday.

But Ohio State will get an opportunity to put those concerns to bed this week with Purdue on the road on Wednesday and Iowa at home on Saturday. This is an absolutely massive week for the Buckeyes. Two wins would put Ohio State in serious contention for the Big Ten title and a one seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

#4 - Michigan Wolverines (--)

The Wolverines had two games last week and scored two victories, beating Northwestern at home on Monday and Minnesota at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Michigan to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in league play. Michigan has also won three of its last four games and five of its last seven.

Unlike the three teams above Michigan in these rankings, Michigan doesn’t have a marquee matchup this week. However, the team does enter what looks like it’s trickiest week of the season. The Wolverines get Northwestern on the road on Tuesday and Wisconsin on the road on Sunday. Two wins would guarantee Michigan an NCAA Tournament bid, but two losses would be destructive for its RPI. Things could get wild.

#5 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)

The Huskers only had one game last week, but scored a nice road win over Wisconsin on Monday. The win pushed Nebraska to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in Big Ten play. It also kept the Huskers in the heart of the NCAA Tournament bubble discussion.

According to TRank, Nebraska now sits as the 10th team outside the field entering this week. And with Minnesota on the road on Tuesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday, this looks like a great opportunity for Nebraska to add two victories. It’s also worth mentioning that the game against Minnesota currently projects as Nebraska’s most difficult remaining game of the season.

Going 2-0 in this week’s games wouldn’t be enough to get the Huskers into the field, but it would be enough to put Nebraska in serious bubble discussion entering a manageable closing slate. With three of the team’s final four games at home and the lone road game coming against Illinois, there are wins there for the taking. And that has to get fans excited about what’s to come.

#6 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+1)

The Nittany Lions had two games last week and split the results. Penn State lost on the road to Michigan State on Wednesday, but rebounded at home against Iowa on Saturday. The split left Penn State at 16-9 overall and 6-6 in Big Ten play.

Penn State has now won three of its last four games and is listed as the 12th team outside the field by TRank. What this means is that Penn State is starting to work itself back into the NCAA Tournament discussion, but still has a long way to go to get in serious contention for the Tourney.

The good news is that opportunity awaits for Penn State. The team will get Maryland at home on Wednesday and Illinois on the road on Sunday. Two wins would be huge for Penn State’s postseason hopes.

#7 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)

The Terrapins split the team’s games last week. While Maryland fell on the road to Purdue on Wednesday, it was able to recover on Sunday by taking care of Wisconsin at home. The split left Maryland at 16-9 overall and 5-7 in Big Ten play.

On paper, Maryland remains the Big Ten’s best bet to get a fifth team into the NCAA Tournament. The Terps are currently the fifth team outside the field and have a favorable closing slate. Here’s what Maryland is looking at next:

  • 2/7 - at Penn State
  • 2/10 - Northwestern
  • 2/13 - at Nebraska
  • 2/17 - Rutgers
  • 2/19 - at Northwestern
  • 2/24 - Michigan

Not only does Maryland have a legitimate shot to win every remaining game, but the Terps get shots at RPI boosting wins at Penn State and Nebraska and at home against Michigan. There is no massive opportunity against a team like Purdue, but Maryland could see a huge jump in its RPI over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately, the other side of that equation is that many of these games could also very easily be losses. In fact, Maryland only has 75 percent (or better) odds to win one of its six remaining games and that comes against Rutgers. This is the double-edged sword of opportunity. Terp fans will have to hope the team can beat expectations.

Moreover, doing well over the next few weeks is also crucially important for the team’s Big Ten Tournament seeding. As of now, Maryland is tied for eighth in the league standings, which could put it in that tough eight vs nine game. The Terps need to find a way to get better seeding to avoid a loss in the Big Ten Tournament.

#8 - Northwestern Wildcats (+1)

The Wildcats split the team’s games last week, losing on the road to Michigan, but recovering on Thursday with a road win against Wisconsin. Northwestern now sits at 14-10 overall and 5-6 in league play.

Northwestern now gets a fun opportunity to play spoiler for the Big Ten with Michigan at home on Tuesday and Maryland on the road on Saturday. Both opponents desperately need wins and the Wildcats are hoping to pull off the upsets.

#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)

The Hoosiers are in a free fall right now. After dropping a tough game against Purdue heading into last week, Indiana dropped two more games. The first came on the road against Ohio State and the second came at home against Michigan State. After the losses, Indiana now sits at 12-12 overall and 5-7 in Big Ten play.

Perhaps the only consolidation that Indiana will get heading into this week is that the schedule gets far more manageable. The Hoosiers will get Rutgers on the road on Monday and Minnesota at home on Friday. Indiana has a shot to win both games.

#10 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)

The Hawkeyes split the team’s games last week, beating Minnesota at home on Tuesday and losing on the road to Penn State on Saturday. The split left Iowa at 12-13 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play.

Unfortunately, things won’t get easier this week. Iowa gets Michigan State at home on Tuesday and Ohio State on the road on Saturday. The Hawkeyes will be substantial underdogs in both games.

#11 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)

The Golden Gophers hoped to rebound this week after a disastrous January. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Minnesota began by losing on the road to Iowa on Tuesday and followed that up with an overtime loss to Michigan on Saturday. The Gophers now sit at 14-11 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play.

Minnesota’s only goal moving forward has to be improving and setting itself up for a run in the Big Ten Tournament. The Gophers can make some moves in that regard this week with Nebraska at home on Tuesday and Indiana on the road on Friday.

#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)

The Illini split the team’s games last week, beating Rutgers at home on Tuesday and losing on the road to Ohio State on Sunday. The split left Illinois at 12-12 overall and 2-9 in Big Ten play this season.

Illinois will now move on to face Wisconsin at home on Thursday and Penn State at home on Sunday. This is a great opportunity to score two wins.

#13 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)

The Scarlet Knights had two games last week and dropped both in brutal fashion. The first was a blowout loss to Illinois on Tuesday night. Rutgers didn’t even look remotely competitive against the Illini. The second came on Saturday against Purdue where the Scarlet Knights nearly pulled off an upset.

I have written this on numerous occasions over the last few weeks, but this is a crucial time for Steve Pikiell and the Rutgers program. The Scarlet Knights have clearly improved from the Eddie Jordan era, but how far will this go? Rutgers needs to show that it can do more than simply lose by a smaller margin against Big Ten teams.

Fans may think that’s harsh, but one needs to take a broader view at this program. While Rutgers has improved under Pikiell, what actually looks better this season than last? Not only is Rutgers lower on KenPom than it was in Pikiell’s first season, but it projects to have essentially an identical record at season’s end. That positive momentum will dry up if the program doesn’t start winning games.

The good news is that there’s still time this season. Rutgers will get Indiana at home on Monday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday in hopes of starting that run. The Scarlet Knights should be hoping to split these games.

#14 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)

The Badgers had three games last week and lost them all. The first was at home on Monday to Nebraska, the second was at home against Northwestern on Thursday, and the final was on the road against Maryland on Sunday. Wisconsin now sits at 10-15 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play.

Fans have known for some time that this year’s Wisconsin team has taken a step back, but the drop has still be startling to observe. While many unfortunate circumstances led to this regression, it’s still remarkable for a program that has been so good for such a long period of time. To a certain extent, it’s just difficult to process.

For perspective, just think about it this way. Wisconsin needs to win every remaining regular season game to even guarantee itself a record of at least .500 at this point. That’s an incredible statement considering that the Badgers haven’t finished below .500 since the 1997-’98 season. This has been a long time coming.

Wisconsin will hope to start this process this week with Illinois on the road on Thursday and Michigan at home on Sunday. The Badgers are underdogs in both games.