We’re coming off quite the week in the Big Ten, huh? Michigan goes down, Indiana and Purdue battle, and other teams like Ohio State continue to struggle. Without a doubt, last week was an absolute whirlwind from top to bottom.
And of course, that whirlwind shook up things in this week’s power rankings. Our top team has finally changed, but a few others are close behind. As such, let’s take a look.
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 12 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (+1)
It’s been a long time coming for the Spartans. Despite playing at an elite level for more than a month and a half, Michigan State just hasn’t quite had enough to jump Michigan in these rankings. The Spartans may have been red hot, but moving past an undefeated team in January takes some help.
Well, Michigan State got that help on Saturday.
The Spartans move atop this week’s power rankings after Michigan fell on Saturday and Michigan State beat Nebraska on the road last week. That win at Nebraska was particularly impressive as the Huskers were previously unbeaten at home. The win pushed Michigan State to 16-2 overall and 7-0 in league play. It’s the first time Michigan State has reached 7-0 in Big Ten play since the 2013-’14 season.
Although Michigan State had a few uncomfortable moments on the road against Nebraska, it’s hard to find many flaws with this team. Cassius Winston is playing at an absurd level in the backcourt and Nick Ward has been fantastic upfront. And as players like Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman continue to develop, this team could get even better. It’s also worth mentioning that Josh Langford is still out. Who knows what this team could look like if he can jump back into the rotation in the weeks ahead.
However, this week is going to be really challenging for the Spartans. The team will face a red hot Maryland team at home on Monday night, Iowa on the road on Thursday, and Purdue on the road on Sunday. If Michigan State remains unbeaten in league play after that slate, it will be the unquestioned frontrunner for the Big Ten title.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines only had one game last week and slipped up on the road against Wisconsin on Saturday. It was the team’s first loss of the season and only Michigan’s second loss in its last 33 games dating back to last season. The loss marked the end of what was an unprecedented run in Michigan basketball history.
However, for many, this loss had been coming for some time. Michigan’s offense had been showing flaws for the better part of a month and the Wolverines were due for a freshman performance from star forward Ignas Brazdeikis. Unfortunately for Michigan, he did it on the road against Wisconsin and when Charles Matthews was also having an off day. All told, Brazdeikis and Matthews combined for just five points on the afternoon. The two have arguably been Michigan’s best offensive players all season.
But even with the loss, Michigan remains in great shape. The Wolverines are 17-1 overall and 6-1 in league play. The challenge now will be keeping pace with Michigan State moving forward. The Wolverines will get Minnesota at home on Tuesday and Indiana on the road on Friday. Michigan probably needs two wins there to feel good about its Big Ten title chances moving into the end of the month.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (+4)
After putting Maryland at seventh in my power rankings last week, I took plenty of heat from Terp fans. And to a certain extent, I understand the criticism. Maryland had been on quite a roll heading into last week’s power rankings and had compiled some impressive wins. However, I just hadn’t seen enough resume-wise to bump Maryland much further up the rankings. After all, it’s a moving scale. It’s hard to make drastic jumps in a single week.
Well, after beating Wisconsin at home on Monday night and Ohio State on the road on Friday, I feel comfortable pushing Maryland up to third this week. Not only because Maryland has been quite impressive over the last month, but also because all of the teams above the Terps have been up and down over their last few games.
Additionally, I did consider pushing Maryland to second after Michigan’s loss, but the Wolverines still just have too impressive of a resume to drop below Maryland. We’ll see if that changes in the days ahead.
But before getting into what lies ahead for Maryland, let’s take a second to acknowledge what the team has done in recent weeks. The Terps have won seven straight, including five games against top 70 and three games away from home. The run pushed Maryland out of the NCAA bubble conversations into Big Ten title discussions. An incredible turn of events.
Maryland will now get two really intriguing games with Michigan State on the road on Monday night and Illinois in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Everyone is expecting a split in those two games. Maryland can either cement itself as a Big Ten title contender with two wins or drop out of the conversation with two losses. It’s going to be interesting to see.
#4 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
The Boilermakers have been playing really good basketball over the last month, but just haven’t had the wins to move up much on the rankings. Well, that ended this week as Purdue added two nice wins to its resume. Purdue beat down Rutgers at home on Tuesday and Indiana at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Purdue to 12-6 overall.
Realistically, it’s still hard to view Purdue as a Big Ten title contender at this point. While the Boilermakers have played like one recently, the team has been inconsistent away from home all season and already has two league losses. Still, with a big week ahead, Purdue remains a dark horse for the Big Ten title.
This week, Purdue will go on the road to face Ohio State on Wednesday and will face Michigan State at home on Sunday. The Boilermakers would become a legitimate Big Ten title contender with two wins and would remain a dark horse with a split.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes are another group that have slipped under the radar in recent weeks. And last week, the team had two interesting challenges and grabbed two wins. Iowa beat Penn State on the road on Wednesday and Illinois at home on Sunday. The wins pushed Iowa to 16-3 overall and 5-3 in league play this season.
Iowa’s wins last week might not seem impressive, but they were still important nonetheless. The Hawkeyes avoided two potential bad losses and are now projected to finish the regular season with a 22-9 overall record. Simply put, it’s going to take something pretty significant for Iowa to miss the NCAA Tournament at this point. And those last two wins certainly played a role in changing that picture.
This week, Iowa will get Michigan State at home on Thursday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday. A split would be a pretty good performance for the Hawkeyes.
#6 - Indiana Hoosiers (-2)
The Hoosiers have been in free fall the last few weeks. Indiana has now lost four straight, including two last week. The team fell at home to Nebraska on Monday and lost by 15 on the road against Purdue on Saturday. The losses dropped Indiana to 12-6 overall.
Generally speaking, Indiana still remains in pretty decent shape for the postseason. The Hoosiers shouldn’t be considered legitimate Big Ten title contenders anymore, but the team still doesn’t have any bad losses and has a handful of marquee wins. That’s the main reason why Indiana is still 34th in the NET ratings, despite its current losing streak.
However, time is certainly running out for the Hoosiers. The team needs to get back on track and do it soon. KenPom is currently projecting the team to finish the regular season at 18-13 overall, which wouldn’t be good enough to guarantee an at-large bid. More simply put, Indiana is going to need to pull off a few upsets to feel good about its postseason chances moving into February and beyond.
Fans will have to hope that starts this week as Indiana gets Northwestern on the road on Tuesday and Michigan at home on Friday. Both of these games are winnable, but neither is anything close to guaranteed. Indiana has to find a way to at least split.
#7 - Wisconsin Badgers (+3)
The Badgers split the team’s games this week with a loss to Maryland on the road on Monday night and a huge win over previously unbeaten Michigan on Saturday. As a result, Wisconsin sits at 12-6 overall and 4-3 in league play.
Wisconsin’s victory over Michigan will certainly turn a lot of heads nationally, but the main goal for the Badgers moving forward needs to be improved consistency. Wisconsin needs to get more from its role players and show up in the “ordinary” games. For instances, losses to Minnesota and Purdue at home and Western Kentucky on the road stand out.
This week will be a great test for the Badgers as the team faces Illinois on the road on Wednesday and Northwestern at home on Saturday. Both of these games should be wins, but can the Badgers get it done? We will see.
#8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-5)
The Gophers have been a really bizarre group this season. Minnesota has a handful of really nice wins on its resume, but has also looked utterly incompetent at other points. It’s just difficult to figure out where this team belongs right now.
And last week, “bad Minnesota” showed up. The Gophers were blown out by a bad Illinois team on Wednesday night and followed that up with a narrow home victory over Penn State on Saturday. The split left the Gophers at 14-4 overall and 4-3 in Big Ten play. Minnesota is also 2-2 over the last four games.
Gopher fans better hope that Minnesota has figured things out because things are going to be immensely difficult this week. The Gophers get Michigan on the road on Tuesday and Iowa at home on Sunday. KenPom has Minnesota as an underdog in both games.
#9 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers split the team’s games last week with a win on the road against Indiana on Monday and a loss at home to Michigan State on Thursday. All things considered, it was actually a pretty solid performance in light of the schedule. As a result, Nebraska now sits at 13-5 overall and 3-4 in league play. The team has lost three of its last five games.
Nebraska will hope to get back on track after the loss to Michigan State this week against Rutgers on the road on Monday and Ohio State at home on Saturday. KenPom has the Huskers as major favorites in both games.
#10 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-2)
The Buckeyes are another team in free fall. Ohio State has now lost four in a row, including a home loss to Maryland on Friday last week. The recent losing streak has dropped Ohio State to 12-5 overall and 2-4 in league play. Ohio State is also 0-3 against top 30 opponents on KenPom so far this season.
At this point, it’s probably time to start wondering a bit about this Ohio State squad. Only one of these four losses (at Rutgers) was a bad one, but the team just hasn’t looked sharp. The Buckeyes also appear overly reliant on Kaleb Wesson offensively. While Ohio State remains in decent shape from a resume perspective, these aren’t encouraging things as the Buckeyes prepare for three more incredibly difficult games.
This week, Ohio State will get Purdue at home on Wednesday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. KenPom has the Buckeyes as an underdog in both games. Nonetheless, Ohio State needs to find a way to end its skid in these two games.
#11 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats won the team’s only game this week, taking down Rutgers at home on Friday night. The win pushed Northwestern to 11-7 overall. This week, Northwestern will get Indiana at home on Tuesday and Wisconsin on the road on Saturday.
#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)
The Illini split the team’s games this week with a blowout win over Minnesota on Wednesday and a loss on the road against Iowa on Sunday. With the split, Illinois now sits at 5-13 overall and 1-6 in league play. The Minnesota win, in particular, was encouraging. It showed the potential of this squad when it’s playing well.
Illini fans are hoping that Illinois can build off that success with Wisconsin at home on Wednesday and Maryland in Madison Square Garden on Saturday on the docket next. The Illini are major underdogs in both games, but an upset would be huge for the fanbase and for the program’s growth moving forward.
#13 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
The Scarlet Knights fell short in both of the team’s games this week, losing on the road against Purdue on Tuesday and on the road against Northwestern on Friday. The losses dropped Rutgers to 8-9 overall. The team will hope to get back on track against Nebraska at home on Monday and Penn State on the road on Saturday.
#14 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-1)
The Nittany Lions lost both of the team’s games last week. Penn State lost at home against Iowa on Wednesday and on the road against Minnesota on Saturday. The two losses dropped Penn State to 7-12 overall and to a dreadful 0-8 in league play.
While Penn State has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, it’s hard to feel great about a squad that’s 0-8 in Big Ten play heading into the final portion of January. Fans were hoping that Penn State would build on its NIT title, but that just hasn’t been the case. This team is markedly worse than last year’s squad and things probably aren’t going to improve going forward. KenPom projects Penn State to finish the regular season at 12-19.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this team is that there’s real talent on the roster. Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are legitimate Big Ten contributors and Josh Reaves is one of the better defenders in the league. Penn State has a backcourt void, but that’s no excuse for an 0-8 record in league play.
This week, Penn State will get Rutgers at home on Saturday. Per KenPom, it’s the only game Penn State will be favored in until March. As such, Penn State needs to find a way to win.