Few sports are as unpredictable as college basketball. It’s something that seems like we’re forced to learn years after years. We start to think something’s guaranteed, or nearly guaranteed, but we end up being hit with surprise. Somebody has an NCAA bid locked up, until they don’t. Somebody has already won the Big Ten, but can’t get the job done. We see it over and over again, but we never learn.
And last week was a perfect example. Michigan State looked unbeatable, until they suddenly lost three in a row. Michigan looked vulnerable, until it didn’t. And teams like Indiana and Nebraska hit new lows after impressive early season success.
That unpredictability give us an interesting set of power rankings this week. So, let’s take a look at where the Big Ten sits as of February 11th.
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 15 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers only had one game this week, but were able to cruise to a victory at home against a struggling Nebraska team on Saturday night. The win pushed Purdue to 17-6 overall and 10-2 in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers have also now won eight in a row and 11 of the team’s last 12 games dating back to December 20th. It’s been quite a run.
However, even if things have been going remarkably well for Purdue over the last month, they’re about to get far more difficult this week. The Boilermakers get Maryland on the road on Tuesday night and Penn State at home on Saturday.
While the matchup against the Nittany Lions doesn’t look all that difficult, the game against the Terps looks pretty difficult. In fact, it’s the only game remaining (as of now) where Purdue is projected to be the underdog at tipoff. A pretty wild thing to say in early February.
It’s also important to acknowledge that Purdue hasn’t had a road game of this magnitude since the back-to-back games against Michigan State and Wisconsin in early January. Purdue lost the first handily and beat the Badgers in overtime in the second matchup.
Since those two games in January, Purdue has essentially gotten manageable road games and marquee opponents at home. That isn’t said to minimize Purdue’s recent run and win streak (it’s been really impressive), but rather, to highlight the significance of the road trip to Maryland. A win there would put the Boilermakers in fantastic position to grab at least a share of the regular season Big Ten title. And that’s certainly big news. As such, it’s a big week for the Boilermakers.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines had two games last week and were able to come away with a win in each matchup. Michigan went on the road and beat a feisty Rutgers team on Tuesday night and followed that up with an ugly, but impressive win against Wisconsin on Saturday. The two wins pushed Michigan to 22-2 overall and 11-2 in Big Ten play.
While Michigan remains the outright leader in the Big Ten standings at the moment, its lead is about as small as it gets. The Wolverines are only a half game up on Purdue, just one game ahead of Michigan State, and two games ahead of Maryland and Wisconsin. And with a brutal four-game finale for Michigan, that’s not exactly a massive advantage.
However, beating Wisconsin on Saturday was extremely encouraging and will go a long way toward helping Michigan achieve its Big Ten goals. To start, Michigan scored a win against a top 15 KenPom opponent. By any measure, that’s always a good thing. The Badgers were also red hot coming into the game, having won six straight.
But more importantly, Michigan showed it’s still one of the Big Ten’s best teams. The Wolverines had faltered in its biggest games in January (at Wisconsin and at Iowa), so scoring a huge win against a marquee opponent in February was really encouraging. It also pushed Wisconsin back one more game in the standings, which very likely eliminated the Badgers as a likely Big Ten title contender.
This week, Michigan will hope to build off its marquee win against Wisconsin with Penn State on the road on Tuesday and Maryland at home on Saturday. Two wins and some help from Maryland and Wisconsin on Tuesday night could put the Wolverines in outstanding shape to win the Big Ten title.
#3 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
The Badgers split the team’s games last week with a win on the road at Minnesota on Wednesday, but a loss to Michigan on Saturday. The split left Wisconsin at 17-7 overall and 9-4 in Big Ten play. However, Wisconsin has still won six of its last seven games.
Wisconsin will have a huge opportunity this week to boost its resume before March with Michigan State at home on Tuesday. It will be the only game of the week for the Badgers, but if offers a chance for the team to get arguably its best win so far this season. And with KenPom giving the Badgers a slight edge before tip-off, buckle up for a good one.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (-1)
The Spartans split the team’s games last week with a loss on the road against Illinois on Tuesday night and a win at home against Minnesota on Saturday. The split left Michigan State at 19-5 overall and 10-3 in Big Ten play.
Although many are panicking about Michigan State’s recent struggles, they’re probably still getting too caught up in the moment. The Spartans are still only a game back in the Big Ten standings and lost two road games in challenging environments. Winning in Mackey and in Champaign aren’t easy things to do. Michigan State slipped up there and narrowly lost a thriller to Indiana at home in overtime. The losses weren’t good news, but it’s still way too early to write off this Spartan team.
Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get much easier for the Spartans in the weeks ahead. Michigan State will face Wisconsin on the road on Tuesday and Ohio State at home on Sunday. The Spartans will be underdogs against the Badgers and the game against the Buckeyes is far from a guarantee. After all, the first matchup was pretty competitive.
It’s also important to point out that Michigan State’s window for the Big Ten title and a one seed in the NCAA Tournament shrank considerably with the team’s recent struggles. If Michigan State is hoping to receive both of those honors, it’s going to need to get things rolling in a major way moving forward.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes had two tricky games this week and came out on top in both. Iowa went on the road and beat Indiana on Thursday and followed that up with a home win against Northwestern on Sunday. The wins pushed Iowa to 19-5 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play.
While Iowa isn’t getting the attention of many nationally, it has played remarkably well since the calendar over the last two months. Iowa has now won three in a row, 8 of its last 10 games, and 13 of its last 16 games. And all that success has pushed the Hawkeyes from the NCAA bubble into discussions for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Simply put, it’s been a really impressive run for Iowa.
This week, Iowa will only have one game on the road against Rutgers on Saturday night. The odds certainly favor the Hawkeyes.
#6 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps only had one game last week, but went on the road and beat Nebraska on Wednesday night. The win pushed Maryland to 18-6 overall and 9-4 in Big Ten play. It also improved Maryland to 2-1 over its last three games.
Maryland will now enter arguably its toughest remaining week of the season with Purdue at home on Tuesday and Michigan on the road on Saturday. These are the top two teams currently in the Big Ten standings. Simply put, this is quite literally an opportunity for the Terps to take down to the two top teams in the Big Ten. Two wins would lock up an NCAA Tournament bid and would be huge for the team’s Big Ten Tournament seeding.
#7 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes had two games last week and came away with two wins. Ohio State opened with a win at home against Penn State on Thursday and followed that up with a win on the road against Indiana on Sunday. The two wins pushed Ohio State to 16-7 overall.
There’s no debating that Ohio State still has work to do in order to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid. However, the last two wins really helped things. The Buckeyes have now reached 16 wins and still have a great shot at four or five more wins. Anything close to that would get the team into the field as an at-large team.
Ohio State will hope to keep things rolling this week with Illinois at home on Thursday and Michigan State on the road on Sunday. A split here would be expected.
#8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)
The Gophers had two games last week and fell short in both. Minnesota fell at home to Wisconsin on Wednesday night and fell on the road against Michigan State on Saturday. The two losses left Minnesota at 19-12 overall and 6-7 in Big Ten play.
This week, Minnesota will hope to rebound with Nebraska on the road on Wednesday and Indiana at home on Saturday. Both of these games are very winnable for the Gophers and would help substantially with the team’s postseason hopes.
#9 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+3)
The Illini had two games last week and scored two wins. Illinois opened the week by beating Michigan State at home on Tuesday night and Rutgers at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Illinois to 9-15 overall and 5-8 in Big Ten play.
Despite a rough start to the season, Illinois has really hit its stride over the last few weeks. The Illini not only upset Michigan State earlier this week, but have won four of the team’s last five games and five of the team’s last eight games. Illinois has also risen from 113th to 71st on KenPom. Brad Underwood certainly has his team playing quality basketball.
This week, Illinois will hope to keep things rolling on Thursday on the road against Ohio State. A win there would really get the hype rolling around this team.
#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
The Scarlet Knights had two games this week and came up short in both. Rutgers fell at home to Michigan on Tuesday night and fell in overtime against Illinois on Saturday. The two losses dropped Rutgers to 11-12 overall and 4-9 in Big Ten play.
This week, Rutgers will get Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Iowa at home on Saturday. A split would be huge for the Scarlet Knights.
#11 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
The Hoosiers are in major trouble. After beating Michigan State on the road to open this month, fans were hoping that Indiana had finally figured things out. But that wasn’t the case as the Hoosiers lost each of the team’s games last week. Indiana lost at home to Iowa on Thursday night and followed that up with a loss to Ohio State at home on Sunday.
At this point, it’s hard to feel good about Indiana’s postseason chances. The Hoosiers are 13-11 overall and have lost 9 of the team’s last 10 games. Moreover, KenPom has Indiana as an underdog in its next six games, including three games where the Hoosiers have less than 40 percent odds to win. Those aren’t exactly encouraging numbers going forward.
Indiana will hope to get things turned around this week with Minnesota on the road on Saturday night. The Gophers are favored in the matchup.
#12 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats had two games last week and came up short in both matchups. Northwestern fell at home to Penn State on Monday and to Iowa on the road on Sunday. The losses dropped the Wildcats to 12-11 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play.
This week, Northwestern will face Rutgers at home on Wednesday night and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. The Wildcats are expected to split the games.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers had two games last week and came up short in both matchups. Nebraska fell at home on Wednesday night and on the road against Purdue on Saturday. The losses left the Huskers at 13-11 overall and 3-10 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska will try to turn things around this week on Wednesday at home against Minnesota and Northwestern at home on Saturday.
#14 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions split the team’s games last week. Penn State was able to knock off Northwestern on the road, but fell on the road against Ohio State on Thursday night. The mixed results left Penn State at 8-15 overall and 1-11 in Big Ten play.
Penn State will now prepare to face Michigan at home on Tuesday night and Purdue on the road on Saturday night. A split would be really encouraging news for Nittany Lion fans.