What an opening (almost) week of college basketball. After months of waiting, we got a heaping of great games over the last few days. All 14 Big Ten teams got into action, including some marquee matchups against teams like Arizona, Cincinnati, and Kentucky.
And where do things sit in the Big Ten after six days of the season under our belts? Let’s take a look at my latest Big Ten power rankings.
But before you do jump into the power rankings, a reminder about how my rankings are made. Once the season starts, my power rankings reflect actual gameplay. Who have you beaten, when did you do it, and how have you played otherwise? Those are the questions I focus on. The same can be said for losses. And given that these are power rankings, it’s a rolling scale. More recent results will be weighed more heavily.
Big Ten Week One Power Rankings
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+3)
Let’s be very clear about this. Many are going to think this is hyperbolic and an overreaction to six days of games. However, as noted above, my power rankings are based on gameplay on the court. And through six games, Ohio State not only has a better resume than any other Big Ten team, but the Buckeyes might be playing better than anybody else, too.
Ohio State opened the season by beating a top 30 Cincinnati team at home and followed that up with a 20-point win over UMass Lowell on Sunday. The wins pushed the Buckeyes to 2-0 overall heading into a showdown with Villanova on Wednesday. Kaleb Wesson has looked really impressive and Kyle Young has turned a corner as well.
The only real question out there about this team is whether the offense can improve. The Buckeyes started really slow against Cincinnati and ranked 40th in offensive efficiency. Ohio State is going to need more than that to reach its season goals. However, it’s hard to complain about the results so far. In particular, that win over Cincinnati warrants Ohio State moving to the top of these rankings, for at least a week.
#2 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps had a really nice opening week, winning by 24 points on opening night against Holy Cross and then following that up with a solid win over a top 100 opponent in Rhode Island on Saturday. The wins pushed Maryland to 2-0 on the season heading into a pretty manageable next few games.
Perhaps the most impressive player for Maryland so far has been Jalen Smith, who scored 16 points in the opener and 19 points against Rhode Island. He’s also averaging 11 rebounds a game so far this season. Aaron Wiggins has also been solid and Donta Scott is playing well as a freshman.
It’s also worth mentioning that Maryland has looked physically overwhelming through two games, maybe more than anybody else in the league. We’ll see if that can translate to more wins on the court. Maryland’s only game this week will be on Saturday when the Terps host Oakland at home.
#3 - Michigan State Spartans (-2)
The Spartans entered the season atop these power rankings and the national polls. For the first time in school history, Michigan State was No. 1 in the preseason polls. Unfortunately for Michigan State, that lasted all of half a night as the team fell to Kentucky on Tuesday in the Champions Classic. Michigan State was able to bounce back after that loss by beating Binghamton at home on Sunday afternoon.
By any reasonable measure, Michigan State is a really good team. The Spartans remain No. 1 on KenPom and seem like the clear Big Ten favorites. Cassius Winston has looked good and there are a number of younger players who figure to improve in the coming weeks.
The loss against Kentucky has also been overblown by some. It was a seven-point loss in a game where Michigan State got into massive foul trouble early. The Wildcats actually dropped down to 57.3 percent odds to win in the closing two minutes as well. It was a competitive game where the Spartans just came up a bit short.
Michigan State will get back into action on Thursday on the road against a really good Seton Hall team. Seton Hall is rated 21st nationally on KenPom and is undefeated coming into the matchup. Barring an absolute collapse from Seton Hall, that would be a really good win for Michigan State moving forward.
#4 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
The Boilermakers grabbed fourth on these power rankings, but only by a narrow margin. Purdue was rated as a top 10 team by KenPom coming into the season and has seen mixed results so far. Purdue beat Green Bay at home on Wednesday, but followed that up with a loss at home against Texas on Saturday. The split left the team at 1-1 overall.
Purdue’s play on the court has also been mixed. Jahaad Proctor has played really well, but Nojel Eastern has assuredly not lived up to the hype so far. Notably, Eastern has some potential injury concerns. Fans will have to hope that’s what has been slowing him down because he currently has a 98.3 offensive rating, which is not exactly great.
That mixed play easily could have dropped Purdue further on this list. However, Purdue did keep things close with Texas throughout and were in decent position to win with just a few minutes remaining. Sometimes, games just slip away and punishing Purdue for a tight loss to a top 25 team seems like overkill, especially when the teams behind the Boilermakers have largely played poor competition.
We’ll learn a lot more about this team this week as Purdue travels to face Marquette on Wednesday and then hosts Chicago State on Saturday. A sweep here would be huge.
#5 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions played exactly no one in the team’s first two games. Penn State faced Maryland Eastern Shore on Tuesday and then Wagner on Saturday. Both opponents are currently outside the top 335 on KenPom and are absolutely horrible teams. It’s hard to read too much into games against teams like this.
However, the good news for Penn State fans is that Penn State treated these teams exactly that way, blasting both off the court in convincing fashion. That shouldn’t be understated, given how some others in the league like Nebraska and Northwestern have struggled with such opponents.
Penn State will have an opportunity to get a resume win this week with Georgetown on the road on Thursday. Win there and people will start discussing this group as a potential NCAA team moving forward.
#6 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
The Illini had quite a dramatic week. Illinois opened things up with a win against Nicholls State in overtime on Tuesday and followed that with a road win against Grand Canyon on Friday. Unfortunately, things ended with a loss on the road to Arizona. The stretch left Illinois sitting at 2-1 overall.
Despite playing more games than anyone in the league up to this point, it’s hard to say what this Illinois team is right now. Is it the team that nearly lost to Nicholls State? Or is it the one that went on the road and beat a top 130ish opponent in convincing fashion? The team also showed some mixed play on the road against Arizona on Sunday. If Illinois can build off its good segments of play, it could be dangerous this season.
Unfortunately for fans, we won’t find out the answers to any of those questions for a bit as Illinois has a bye week. The Illini will resume play on November 18th at home against Hawaii.
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers have two games against weak opponents this week in Western Illinois and Portland State and cruised to two convincing wins. Indiana now sits at 2-0 overall and will prepare for two more manageable games against North Alabama on Tuesday and Troy on Saturday. Odds seem high that Indiana opens up the season at 4-0 overall.
Two players to keep an eye on moving forward will be Rob Phinisee and Justin Smith, who have both been impressive so far for the Hoosiers. Notably, Smith has scored 40 points through two games. Even against bad competition, that’s impressive.
#8 - Michigan Wolverines (-2)
The Wolverines opened up things on Tuesday night at home against Appalachian State. And if you tuned in for the first half, you probably thought John Beilein was still coaching the team. Michigan jumped out to a dominant lead early and looked every bit like one of the better teams in the Big Ten. Unfortunately, Michigan fell apart in the second half and had to fight to get out with a win.
Michigan still has enough pieces to make some noise in the Big Ten this season. The question will be whether the Wolverines can fix some of the team’s offensive issues moving forward in order to get there. Players like Zavier Simpson need to be more consistent.
This week, Michigan will host Creighton on Tuesday and Elon on Friday. Two wins there would go a long way toward building confidence in this group. It’s worth noting that Creighton is rated nearly identically with Michigan on KenPom right now. As such, expect a tight game in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night.
#9 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
The Badgers moved up a spot, despite opening the season with a loss. Wisconsin lost to Saint Mary’s on a neutral court in overtime on Tuesday and followed that up with a 13point win over Eastern Illinois on Friday. Considering that Saint Mary’s is rated 28th nationally on KenPom, that’s actually a pretty encouraging two-game stretch.
Wisconsin will get back into action this week with McNeese State at home on Wednesday and Marquette at home on Sunday. Given that Marquette is rated 15th on KenPom, a win in that game would be massive for the Badgers moving forward. In fact, it would arguably be the league’s best win to date, depending on what happens in the coming days.
#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
It was a more interesting week than most Scarlet Knight fans would have liked for Rutgers, as the team narrowly escaped against Bryant at home on Thursday and followed that up with a convincing win at home against Niagara on Sunday. The two wins pushed Rutgers to 1-0 overall heading into another manageable week of games.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the lackluster and dominant performances was the play of Geo Baker. He had seven points against Bryant, but led the team with 22 points and an 168 offensive rating on Sunday against Niagara. If Rutgers is going to make the postseason, it seems like Baker will have to be the key guy.
This week, Rutgers will get Drexel at home on Wednesday and St. Bonaventure on a neutral court on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights will be favored in both games.
#11 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes only had one game last week, hosting SIU Edwardsville at home on Friday night. Iowa scored a 27-point win and improved to 1-0 overall. Iowa will now prepare for its first real challenge of the season with DePaul at home on Monday. That’s where we will start to learn about this Hawkeye squad.
#12 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers had a mixed week with a 35-point win over Cleveland State at home on Tuesday and a loss on a neutral court to Oklahoma on Saturday. The split left Minnesota at 1-1 overall as the team prepares for a tough stretch of non-conference play.
Minnesota has generally played above preseason expectations so far (moving up on KenPom despite the Oklahoma loss), but it let a big opportunity slip away against the Sooners on Saturday night. Fans are hoping the team can get back on track this week away Butler on the road on Tuesday and Utah on the road on Friday. Even a split would be huge.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (+1)
The Wildcats actually moved up a spot in these rankings this week. That normally wouldn’t be a wild statement, but it is this time. That’s because Northwestern moved up a spot after suffering a horrendous loss at home on Friday to Merrimack to open the season. Nonetheless, Northwestern moves up because another team did even worse.
While Northwestern didn’t enter this season with high expectations, it’s hard to excuse this kind of loss. To put the loss in perspective, just consider that this is Merrimack’s first season in Division I and the Warriors already lost to a Maine team rated outside the top 300 on KenPom. Merrimack is a bad team and still won by double-digits in Evanston.
Fans will have to hope this was a lesson and the team can grow from the loss. Unfortunately, things won’t get easier with Providence coming to town on Tuesday night. A loss there and many are going to start to wonder where things are heading with Chris Collins at the helm.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1)
If you were looking up examples on the worst debuts for head coaches in the Big Ten, it’s hard to envision many being worse than what Nebraska just experienced with Fred Hoiberg. Despite crazy high expectations and optimism, Nebraska opened the season with two embarrassing losses at home to UC Riverside and Southern Utah.
Make no mistake. Nebraska entered this season with massive questions. The roster was basically brand new and nobody had any idea how things would fit together. Seeing it struggle out of the gate isn’t necessarily a surprise. After all, even if you believed in this team, few thought Nebraska would be a top-tier unit.
With all of that said, Nebraska has no excuse for these losses. UC Riverside and Southern Utah are really bad teams. Even if the team was stuck together with duct tape and super glue, there’s no excuse. The Huskers should have won these games.
Nebraska still has plenty of time to get things back on track and figured out, but it’s hard to envision the Huskers doing anything significant with these losses on the books. The only good news is that the team gets a few days off before its next home game against South Dakota State on Friday. A loss there and things could get ugly.