If the last few weeks composed the first act of Big Ten play, we’ve now moved into the heart of league play. The contenders have risen, the pretenders have fallen, and we’re consistently getting marquee games on a nightly basis. The last week was a particularly great one for the league and shook things up substantially.
Not only did Michigan State suffer its first loss in Big Ten play, but Michigan asserted itself again on the road and Purdue got a statement win on Sunday. Other teams like Maryland also had wild weeks. And of course, that whirlwind shook up things in this week’s power rankings. 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 13 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans had an eventful last seven days with three games against top 30 KenPom opponents this week. Michigan State opened things up with a win against a red hot Maryland team at home on Monday and followed that up with a win at Iowa on Thursday night. Unfortunately, Michigan State fell on Sunday afternoon on the road against Purdue.
Despite the loss on Sunday, Michigan State’s overall resume remains incredibly impressive. The Spartans are 18-3 overall and 8-1 in Big Ten play. The team has also won 13 of its last 14 games, including nine games against top 70 opponents. Michigan State is a clearcut Big Ten title contender and KenPom still gives the Spartans the best chance to win the league.
And it’s important to reiterate that Sunday’s loss is nothing for fans to panic about. The Big Ten is simply too good for anyone to go unbeaten in league play. Michigan State was going to slip up at some point and it just happened to take place against Purdue. The Spartans are still absolutely loaded and will bounce back in short order.
The challenge, of course, will be keeping pace with Michigan moving forward. This week, Michigan State only has one game. It will be Saturday at home against Indiana. The Spartans will be substantial favorites in that matchup.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines were hoping to get back on track this week after falling on the road against Wisconsin earlier this month. And that’s exactly what Michigan ended up doing. The Wolverines opened with a win at home against Minnesota on Tuesday and added a road win over Indiana on Friday evening. With those two wins, Michigan improved to 19-1 overall and 8-1 in Big Ten play and added two more wins against top 60 opponents.
Generally speaking, Michigan remains in great shape and has case to be atop these power rankings. The Wolverines have an incredibly impressive resume and are a bucket or two away from having an unblemished record. The early season wins over North Carolina, Purdue, and Villanova also continue to look more impressive by the week.
However, there are still some concerns for this Michigan team. The team narrowly avoided losing to Minnesota at home and is a little over a week removed from that loss to Wisconsin. Additionally, even though the win against the Hoosiers was impressive, Indiana has been reeling in recent weeks. As such, that win isn’t going to turn heads anymore.
Given these concerns, there wasn’t enough to bump the Wolverines past the Spartans in this week’s power rankings just yet. It’s also hard to drop Michigan State much when it still ended up beating two ranked teams in the last seven days. It’s going to take more than a single slip on the road against Purdue by the Spartans for the Wolverines to move up.
The good news for Wolverine fans is that Michigan gets two solid opportunities to move up this week. Michigan faces Ohio State at home on Tuesday and then travels to face what should be a ranked Iowa team on the road on Friday. Michigan is favored in both games, but neither is anywhere close to a guarantee.
#3 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
The Boilermakers are absolutely red hot right now. After showing some serious signs of improvement earlier this month, Purdue really got things going last week with a road win over Ohio State on Wednesday and an upset over Michigan State at home on Sunday. It was undeniably the best week of the season so far for the Boilermakers.
With the last two wins, Purdue now sits at 14-6 overall and 7-2 in Big Ten play. The team has a really impressive resume backed up by one of the toughest schedules in the country. Notably, all six of the team’s losses came away from home and four came against top 30 opponents. It’s hard to criticize a team for losing those types of games.
And this recent surge has drastically changed Purdue’s season. The Boilermakers are now in great shape to make the NCAA Tournament and actually have an outside shot at winning the Big Ten title. That might sound wild given the team’s early losses and the play of Michigan and Michigan State, but it’s absolutely possible. The Boilermakers have a very manageable slate moving forward and could realistically finish at 15-5 or better in Big Ten play. That’s certainly good enough to have a shot at a league title.
This week, Purdue will try to keep things rolling with two winnable games. The Boilermakers get Penn State on the road on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday.
#4 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
Entering last week, Maryland fans were flying high. The Terps had won seven in a row and had emerged as, arguably, the third-best team in the Big Ten. Maryland had recorded wins over Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin in January and seemed destined to compete with Michigan and Michigan State for a top seed in March.
But college basketball changes quickly and the Terps were on the wrong side of that equation this week.
Maryland opened the week by losing to Michigan State on the road on Monday night and followed that up with a loss to Illinois in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Terps had avoided any bad losses all year before falling to the Illini. The loss dropped Maryland to 16-5 overall, 7-3 in Big Ten play, and likely out of the Big Ten title race.
Generally speaking, Maryland remains in fine shape. The Terps are only a few games away from reaching that magic 20-win total and still have a lot of winnable games left on the docket. In fact, Maryland still has seven games remaining where it has at least a 40 percent chance to win, according to KenPom. Win a few of those games and Maryland would easily move into the field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament.
However, the last two losses were certainly demoralizing. And it’s also important to mention that three wins of that recent seven-game winning streak came by 10 points or less, including two by just one possession. Maryland won the games, but it wasn’t like the Terps were dominating opponents. It’s one of the major reasons why Maryland didn’t move up higher on KenPom, despite reeling off a number of impressive wins.
Either way, the recent losses make this week particularly important. And Maryland will have two tricky games this week with Northwestern at home on Tuesday and Wisconsin on the road on Friday. Maryland needs to find a way to at least split those games.
#5 - Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
The Badgers entered last week with a fair bit of momentum. Wisconsin had just upset an undefeated Michigan team at home to break a recent skid. However, many were wondering whether the win would be a sign of things to come, or a fluke win. The pressure would be on the Badgers to show that its struggles were a thing of the past.
And all told, Wisconsin impressed. The Badgers opened the week with a road win over Illinois on Wednesday and followed that up by beating Northwestern at home on Saturday. Neither win was impressive in its own right, but the wins improved Wisconsin to 14-6 overall and to 6-3 in Big Ten play. It also removed the potential for two bad resume losses.
Wisconsin will now try and prove it belongs among the Big Ten’s elite with two challenging games this week. The Badgers will get Nebraska on the road on Tuesday and Maryland at home on Friday. Wisconsin projects to split the games, but does have a chance to grab two impressive wins. We’ll see if the Badgers can keep things rolling.
#6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+2)
The Gophers had a mixed week. The team narrowly lost on the road to Michigan on Tuesday, but rebounded against Iowa at home on Sunday evening. The split left Minnesota at 15-5 overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play heading into the close of January.
Generally speaking, Minnesota remains in decent shape for the NCAAs. The Gophers already have 15 wins and have a number of winnable games remaining. However, it’s important to acknowledge that Minnesota’s schedule is backloaded. Things are going to get much, much tougher in February, so cashing in on the winnable games is crucial.
This week, Minnesota will get Illinois at home on Wednesday and Purdue on the road on Sunday. Gopher fans have to be hoping for a split.
#7 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-2)
The Hawkeyes had a tough slate this week with Michigan State at home and Minnesota on the road. Iowa ended up dropping both games. As a result, Iowa fell to 16-5 overall and 5-5 in Big Ten play.
This week, Iowa will get Michigan at home on Friday night. Hawkeye fans will be hoping that Iowa can score a marquee upset win against the Wolverines.
#8 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+2)
The Buckeyes split the team’s games this week. Ohio State opened up with a loss at home to Purdue on Wednesday, but rebounded with a road win against Nebraska on Saturday. The split left Ohio State at 13-6 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play.
Like several other Big Ten teams, Ohio State remains firmly on the bubble. The Buckeyes have been underwhelming in January, but the team’s early season successes are still notably. Ohio State sits at 38th in the NET rankings following Saturday’s games, which means that there’s still plenty left in the air for the team moving forward.
This week, Ohio State will get arch-rival Michigan on the road on Tuesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. A split has to be the goal.
#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (-3)
The Hoosiers are in trouble. After jumping out to a 12-2 start to the season, Indiana is now 12-8 and 3-6 in Big Ten play. The two most recent losses came last week as the Hoosiers dropped a winnable road game against Northwestern on Tuesday and a huge opportunity at home against Michigan on Friday evening. Indiana is just 1-6 in January so far.
Plenty will debate what’s caused the recent struggles, but the reality is a tough one for Hoosier fans. Despite looking like a near NCAA lock a few weeks back, that’s no longer the case. Indiana is now firmly on (or on the wrong side of) the bubble heading into the final week of January. And with a stacked Big Ten, that’s not encouraging news.
Still, there’s still time for Indiana to get things figured out, especially with some depth pieces potentially returning in the weeks to come. This week, Indiana will get Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Michigan State on the road on Saturday. The Hoosiers absolutely need to win one of these two games.
#10 - Northwestern Wildcats (+1)
The Wildcats were another team with mixed results last week. Northwestern opened up with a home win against Indiana on Tuesday, but fell on the road to Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. As a result, Northwestern sits at 12-8 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play.
Northwestern remains one of the biggest wildcards in the Big Ten right now. The Wildcats will only get one game this week on the road against Maryland on Tuesday night.
#11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-2)
The Huskers are in trouble. Despite starting the season at 11-2 overall, Nebraska now sits at 13-7 after dropping two games last week. Nebraska fell on the road against Rutgers on Monday night and at home against Ohio State on Saturday. The Huskers also lost star forward Isaac Copeland for the season following the loss to the Buckeyes.
Before last week, it was easy to write off Nebraska’s first five losses. All came away from home and against top 60 opponents. Losing to teams like Michigan State and Texas Tech away from home isn’t exactly embarrassing. And when you added in some of Nebraska’s non-conference wins, the team still projected pretty well.
However, that ended last week. Nebraska shouldn’t have lost to Rutgers on Monday and dropping a game at home to another bubble team on Saturday isn’t going to help things. Time is running out for the Huskers and Tim Miles needs to get things figured out.
The Huskers will hope to get things back on track this week against Wisconsin at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Saturday. Both games are absolutely winnable.
#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini fell to Wisconsin on the road on Wednesday, but scored a massive upset victory over Maryland on a neutral court on Saturday. It was arguably the biggest win of Brad Underwood’s brief tenure with Illinois and one that could change the direction of the program moving forward. There’s little doubt that Illini fans are overjoyed with the team’s upset of the Terps over the weekend.
Illinois will hope to keep its recent success going this week with Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and Nebraska at home on Saturday. Even a split would be huge.
#13 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights had a great week. Rutgers began the week with an upset win over Nebraska at home on Monday and followed it up with a road win over Penn State on Saturday evening. The wins pushed Rutgers to 10-9 overall and 3-6 in league play.
Rutgers will hope to build on its recent success with Indiana at home on Wednesday and Ohio State on the road on Saturday. A win in either game would be huge for Steve Pikiell’s program moving forward.
#14 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions only had one game this week and fell short at home against Rutgers on Saturday. The loss dropped Penn State to 7-13 overall and 0-9 in Big Ten play. At this point, it’s hard to imagine Penn State figuring things out this season. Penn State will hope to do that this week against Purdue at home on Thursday night.