Another week of Big Ten play and another week or pure chaos. Things are as unpredictable in the Big Ten as they’ve ever been since this site existed. There are 12 teams who think they have a serious NCAA Tournament shot and these Power Rankings reflect that chaos.
So, with that, let’s jump into this week’s 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 10 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
It feels wrong to leave a team at the top spot after a blowout loss, but I don’t see any other reasonable option at this point. The Spartans still look like the best team in the league, only have one conference loss so far this season, and virtually everyone behind them took at least one tough loss in the last two weeks.
During last week, Michigan State split its games with a win over Minnesota at home on Thursday and a tough loss on the road against Purdue on Sunday. The split left the team sitting at 13-4 overall and 5-1 in league play. Prior to the loss to the Boilermakers, Michigan State had won eight in a row, including four against top 40 KenPom opponents. One loss, even one that bad, shouldn’t derail nearly two months of quality play.
Michigan State will have a chance to respond to its recent misstep this week with a marquee opportunity at home on Friday night against Wisconsin. A win there and most will forget about the loss to Purdue.
#2 - Maryland Terrapins (+1)
The Terps were another team that had mixed results last week. Maryland scored a massive win at home on Tuesday night against Ohio State, but followed it up with a loss on the road against Iowa on Friday night. The split left the team sitting at 13-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play. Heading into this week, Maryland has won three of its last four games.
Many have been mixed about Maryland so far this season, but the team’s resume remains really impressive. The Terps have 13 wins so far this season and eight came against top 100 KenPom opponents. And the team’s record looks even more impressive when you consider that all of Maryland’s losses all came on the road against top 40 teams. There aren’t many people who will complain about a resume like that this time of year.
This week, Maryland will have two huge opportunities to continue to build its resume with Wisconsin on the road on Tuesday and Purdue at home on Saturday. This is the kind of week where the Terps can make a serious Big Ten title push. Win these two and Maryland should be right there with Michigan state moving forward.
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (+2)
The Wolverines also had a mixed week of play, besting Purdue at home on Thursday and falling on the road against Minnesota on Sunday. The split left Michigan sitting at 11-5 overall and 2-3 in league play.Michigan normally wouldn’t have moved up with this type of performance, but the Big Ten is a mess right now and there weren’t any better picks.
Through 16 games, Michigan’s resume still looks pretty good. The Wolverines have six wins over top 90 KenPom opponents, including a win over Gonzaga on a neutral court. However, Michigan has also clearly faded over the last few weeks, losing four of its last seven games and dropping from 12th to 21st on KenPom. Nothing looks alarming at first glance, but you can see some cracks forming. It’s going to be up to Juwan Howard and his staff to prevent this from snowballing.
Michigan will hope to bounce back this week as it travels to face Iowa on the road on Friday. The Wolverines have been horrid in Iowa City in recent years. We’ll see if Howard can reverse that trend.
#4 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+2)
Like about every team on this list, Iowa also had mixed results last week. The Hawkeyes fell on the road against Nebraska on Tuesday, but rebounded with a huge upset over Maryland at home on Friday. The split left the team sitting at 11-5 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten.
Iowa might have its best opportunity to build momentum this season with Northwestern on the road on Tuesday and Michigan at home on Friday. Both are absolutely winnable games. If the Hawkeyes can win both, it would certainly turn a lot of heads nationally.
#5 - Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
The Badgers only went 1-1 last week, but Wisconsin’s recent play remains impressive. The team has won five of its last six games. Last week, Wisconsin fell at home against Illinois on Wednesday, but responded with a road win over a ranked Penn State team on Saturday. The team improved to 10-6 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play as a result.
Through mid-January, Purdue and Wisconsin have arguably the most bizarre resumes of any teams in the country. We’ll get to Purdue in a second, but take a quick glance at Wisconsin’s resume and that reality becomes apparent. To date, Wisconsin’s resume has a unique combination of great wins (Indiana, OSU, Tennessee), a mediocre record (10-6), and some really underwhelming losses (New Mexico, Richmond). Balancing those results gets really confusing. It’s just not something you see everyday.
Wisconsin will now hope to continue to build on its recent moment with two huge games this week. The Badgers get Maryland at home on Tuesday and will follow that up with a road trip to East Lansing on Friday. Both should be great games.
#6 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+6)
The Illini arguably had a better performance than anyone else in the Big Ten last week, beating Wisconsin on the road on Wednesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. The wins pushed Illinois to 12-5 overall and 4-2 in league play.
Illinois only gets one game this week, but it’s a winnable one. The team will host a struggling Northwestern team at home on Saturday. On paper, it should be a win. We’ll see if Brad Underwood and his group can take care of business.
#7 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+1)
The Scarlet Knights split the team’s games last week, beating Penn State at home on Tuesday and falling to Illinois on the road on Saturday. Rutgers now sits at 12-4 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play. The team has also won six of its last seven games.
Rutgers will get two huge opportunities at home this week with Indiana at home on Wednesday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights are currently favored in both games. If the team is truly going to make an NCAA Tournament push, this is a great time to start.
#8 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-6)
The Nittany Lions are one of a few teams that dropped significantly in this week’s Power Rankings. As noted above, this has a lot more to do with the Big Ten’s general craziness this season than anything else. It’s just a weird year.
Last week, Penn State dropped both of its games, falling on the road against Rutgers on Tuesday and at home against Wisconsin on Saturday. The team still sits at 12-4 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play after the losses. Fans will hope Penn State can rebound this week with Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and Ohio State at home on Saturday.
#9 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers were another team that split its games last week, falling on the road against Michigan in double overtime on Thursday and blowing out Michigan State at home on Sunday. It was an utterly bizarre set of results that shows how unpredictable things are in the Big Ten this season.
Like Wisconsin above, it’s hard to figure out Purdue at this point. The Boilermakers are clearly dangerous at home and a solid group, but it’s hard to tell whether the team will be able to put together enough wins to do anything significant. We’ll have to wait and see. Those efforts will begin this week with Maryland on the road on Saturday.
#10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers didn’t move up this week, despite playing pretty well. Unfortunately, it’s just another byproduct of the Big Ten’s insane depth. Last week, Minnesota fell on the road to Michigan State on Thursday, but responded with a win over Michigan at home on Sunday. The split left the team sitting at 9-7 overall and 3-3 in league play.
This week, Minnesota gets two interesting games with Penn State at home on Wednesday and Rutgers on the road on Sunday. This is another situation where both games are winnable, but neither is guaranteed. However, two wins would go a long way toward the team’s NCAA hopes.
#11 - Indiana Hoosiers (+2)
The Hoosiers had two games at home last week and came out on top in both. Indiana beat Northwestern on Wednesday and followed that up with a monster upset over Ohio State on Saturday. The two wins pushed Indiana to 13-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play. This team seems to be surviving by its fingertips in a lot of these games, but it keeps winning.
Indiana will get two challenging games this week with Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. This will offer the team two opportunities to score its first road win of the season.
#12 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-8)
Let’s be very clear before we get into this. Ohio State probably shouldn’t be this low. Yes, the team has lost four in a row, but it hasn’t been losing in embarrassing fashion or against bad competition. While the Buckeyes aren’t playing well, we shouldn’t panic about losing a road game to team like Maryland or Indiana. However, I had to drop Ohio State in light of its recent losing streak and it all sort of came together this week. Add in a chaotic Big Ten and you get this. Most simply stated, Ohio State was simply the victim of the chaos. Don’t expect the team to stay this low for very long.
The question most Buckeye fans are asking now is whether these recent losses are an outlier or a sign of bigger things to come. For me, it’s a little of both. Ohio State clearly isn’t as good as people thought in early December, but it’s not as bad as others believe right now either. Just put it this way. despite the recent losses, Ohio State is still sitting in the top 10 on KenPom. This is a good team that’s just struggling right now.
This week, Ohio State projects to get one of its most manageable remaining slates with Nebraska at home on Tuesday and Penn State on the road on Saturday. If the Buckeyes struggle in these games, it’s probably time to start worrying.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (+1)
The Wildcats had a relatively decent week. The team fell on the road to Indiana on Wednesday in a competitive game, but responded with a nice win over Nebraska at home on Saturday. As a result, Northwestern now sits at 6-9 overall and 1-4 in league play. This week, the Wildcats get Iowa at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Saturday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1)
The Huskers had a mixed week of play. Nebraska was able to upset Iowa at home on Tuesday, but fell on the road to Northwestern on Saturday. The split left the team sitting at 7-9 overall and 2-3 in league play. Nebraska will hope to score another upset this week with Ohio State on the road on Tuesday and Indiana at home on Saturday.