With last week’s games in the books, we are now more than halfway done with conference play. At this point, every Big Ten team has played at least 10 games against Big Ten opponents. That means we have a pretty good perspective on the league as a whole and idea on how things are going to develop in the coming weeks. It also means that there’s still time to change direction. As such, let’s jump into the power rankings.
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 14 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (+2)
The Boilermakers grabbed the top spot this week after adding two more wins to its resume last week. Purdue went on the road and beat Penn State on Thursday and followed that up with a home win against Minnesota on Sunday. The two wins pushed Purdue to 16-6 overall and to the top of the standings in the Big Ten.
It might seem odd to bump Purdue up two spots this week after beating two teams outside the top 50 on KenPom. After all, it wasn’t like Purdue upset anymore. The Boilermakers were supposed to win those games. However, by any measure, Purdue has been really impressive for the better part of the last two months. The Boilermakers are 10-1 over the team’s last 11 games and that includes five wins against top 50 opponents.
And while Purdue’s overall resume doesn’t compare favorably to Michigan or Michigan State, five of the team’s six losses occurred before December 15th. In a power rankings setting—where earlier results matter less than more recent results—, we need to start minimizing some of these early season losses at some point. Purdue is playing like a nationally elite team right now and has been for quite some time.
Purdue will only get one game this week with Nebraska at home on Saturday night. If things go right, Purdue could be the clear leader in the Big Ten standings with a win then. That would be quite the accomplishment for Matt Painter and his staff considering the offseason departures for the Boilermakers.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines had mixed results this week. Michigan opened up with a convincing win against Ohio State at home on Tuesday night, but fell on the road to Iowa on Friday in an equally unimpressive performance. The Wolverines were lost on offense all night. It was the team’s second loss of the season and dropped the team to 9-2 in league play.
Generally speaking, Michigan remains in great shape. The Wolverines are 20-2 overall and are tied atop the Big Ten standings. However, Michigan has looked a bit vulnerable in recent weeks. The team has lost two of its last five games, its offense has struggled, and the Wolverines were just a play or two away from losing to Minnesota as well. Michigan just hasn’t been quite as dominant as it was a few months ago.
This is also particularly concerning given Michigan’s upcoming schedule. The Wolverines have arguably the toughest remaining schedule of the Big Ten’s top title contenders. Michigan still has five road games left on the docket, including trips to Maryland and Michigan State in March. Keeping pace with the Boilermakers and Spartans is going to take quite the effort and it has to start with the team returning to form.
This week, Michigan will get two winnable games with Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Wisconsin at home on Saturday. But while these are winnable, neither is a guarantee. The Scarlet Knights have been feisty over the last month and the Badgers beat the Wolverines just a few weeks ago. It should be an interesting slate of games.
#3 - Michigan State Spartans (-2)
The Spartans continued the team’s slide this week. Michigan State only had one game, but fell short at home on Saturday to what was a reeling Indiana team. The loss was shocking for a variety of reasons and gave the Spartans the team’s second loss in league play. Michigan State also fell to 18-4 overall.
While the loss to Purdue late last month was disappointing, it was hardly enough to panic fans. The Boilermakers were rolling and play exceptionally well at home. However, losing to Indiana at home is a different story. The Hoosiers had lost seven in a row before beating Michigan State. By any measure, Indiana looked like it was collapsing. Blowing a game like that is really concerning for the Spartans.
The good news for Spartan fans is that the team will get two opportunities to bounce back this week with Illinois on the road on Tuesday and Minnesota at home on Saturday. Both of these need to be wins if Michigan State wants to stay in the Big Ten title race.
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
The Badgers are red hot. After going through a really rough stretch in late December and early January, things have finally sorted out for Wisconsin. And that was truly the case last week as the Badgers added two more impressive wins. Wisconsin beat Nebraska on the road on Tuesday and a ranked Maryland team at home on Friday night.
With the two wins, Wisconsin improved to 16-6 overall and 8-3 in Big Ten play. While the Badgers are still a dark horse for the Big Ten title, don’t count Wisconsin out just yet. The challenge will be keeping pace with three really good title contenders.
Wisconsin will get two really challenging games this week with Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and Michigan on the road on Saturday. Both teams will be hungry to grab a win against the Badgers. However, Wisconsin might need wins in both games to have a realistic shot at the Big Ten title.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+2)
The Hawkeyes only had one game this week, but scored a huge upset on Friday night at home against Michigan. It was the program’s first win against a top 10 opponent on KenPom since beating Purdue in January of 2016. The win pushed Iowa to 17-5 overall and on the right side of the bubble heading into February.
The primary question for Iowa moving forward will be what the Hawkeyes can do on the defensive side of the floor. Iowa had a fantastic defensive performance on Friday night against Michigan, but can the team do the same away from home? We’ll find out shortly as Iowa gets a tricky road game at Indiana on Thursday night. Iowa will then get Northwestern at home on Sunday afternoon.
#6 - Maryland Terrapins (-2)
Two weeks ago, Maryland fans couldn’t be feeling any better about where the Terps were sitting. The team had won seven straight games, including six against top 100 opponents and three on the road. The Terps had gone from a bubble team into a relatively safe pick for the NCAA Tournament.
But two weeks later, things look a bit different.
Maryland followed that up by losing on the road against Michigan State and then falling on a neutral court to a struggling Illinois team. And this week, Maryland beat Northwestern at home on Tuesday, but fell on the road against Wisconsin on Friday night. The split left the Terps at 17-6 overall and 8-4 in Big Ten play.
Fans will hope that the Terps can get things back on track this week with Nebraska on the road on Wednesday night. What looked like a loss earlier in the season actually looks pretty winnable right now.
#7 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)
The Gophers had mixed results last week. Minnesota opened with a win at home against Illinois on Wednesday, but followed that up with a loss on the road against Purdue on Sunday. At times, Minnesota looked like it might escape Mackey with a win, but just didn’t quite have enough to get the job done. The team now sits at 16-6 overall.
Minnesota now has a big week sitting ahead of it with two marquee opponents on the docket. The Gophers will face arch-rival Wisconsin at home on Wednesday before taking a trip to East Lansing on Saturday. A win in either game would be pretty massive.
#8 - Ohio State Buckeyes (--)
The Buckeyes split the team’s games this week with a loss on the road to Michigan and a win against Rutgers on Saturday. Both results were expected, but Buckeye fans were hoping the team could pull off the upset against the Wolverines. As a result, Ohio State now sits at 14-7 overall and 4-6 in Big Ten play.
This week, Ohio State will get two intriguing, but winnable games. The Buckeyes will face Penn State at home on Thursday and Indiana on the road on Sunday. Given recent results, Ohio State needs to be hoping for two wins in this stretch.
#9 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+4)
The Scarlet Knights continued the team’s rise last week with a home win against Indiana on Wednesday night. While Rutgers did follow that with a loss on the road to Ohio State on Saturday, it’s still been quite a last few weeks for the program. This is undeniably Rutgers’ best performance in league play since joining the Big Ten.
Rutgers will hope to continue its momentum with two challenging games this week. The Scarlet Knights will host Michigan on Tuesday night and will go on the road to face Illinois on Saturday. A win in either game would be huge.
#10 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
The Hoosiers had a complete swing of emotions this week. Indiana opened things up by losing on the road against Rutgers on Wednesday, but rebounded with a massive road win against Michigan State on Saturday. It was the first time the Spartans have lost at home since January of last season. An impressive run snapped by the Hoosiers.
But even with the win, Indiana still has quite a bit of work to do if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament at season’s end. And that has to start with two important games on the docket this week. Indiana gets Iowa at home on Thursday and Ohio State at home on Sunday. Neither of those are locks, but both probably need to be wins for the team to feel good about its postseason hopes moving forward.
#11 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats only had one game this week and fell in it on the road against Maryland on Tuesday night. The loss dropped Northwestern to 12-9 overall and 3-7 in Big Ten play. Northwestern continues to present itself as an NIT contender, but not quite good enough to get into the NCAA conversation.
This week, Northwestern will get Penn State at home on Monday and Iowa on the road on Sunday. Fans should be expecting at least a split.
#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini were another team that had mixed results this week. Illinois opened with a loss on the road against Minnesota on Wednesday, but rebounded with a win against Nebraska at home on Saturday. The split left Illinois at 7-15 overall.
This week, Illinois will get Michigan state at home on Tuesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. Fans are hoping to score a marquee upset against the Spartans.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-2)
The Huskers are in major trouble. After starting the season with such promise, Nebraska is now firmly on the outside of the bubble heading into the heart of Big Ten play. The team has now lost five in a row with the latest two losses coming last week. Nebraska lost at home to Wisconsin on Tuesday night and on the road to Illinois on Saturday. The losses dropped the Huskers to 13-9 overall and 3-8 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska still has a route to the NCAA Tournament, but the margin for error has shrunk considerably. The team needs to start winning 50-50 games and stop losing to underwhelming opponents. Fans will hope that starts this week with Maryland at home on Wednesday and Purdue on the road on Saturday.
#14 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions only had one game last week and lost at home against Purdue in overtime to fall to 7-14 overall and 0-10 in Big Ten play. This is the second time that Pat Chambers has started a season at 0-10 in conference play since taking over at Penn State.
Fans will hope the team can rebound on the road against Northwestern on Monday and on the road against Ohio State on Thursday. Simply put, Penn State just needs to find a way to win a game.