Some things change and some things stay the same. We wrapped up another week of Big Ten action on Sunday and things largely remain unchanged. Yes, we had a bunch of drama over the last seven days on the court, but when all was said and done, we’re largely where we were: Nobody has any idea what’s going on in this league. Everyone seems good, but nobody seems elite. And the standings reflect that uncertainty with no clear divides.
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 11 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans only had one game last week and acquitted themselves well, beating a hot Wisconsin team at home on Friday night. The win pushed Michigan State to 14-4 overall and to 6-1 in Big Ten play. The Spartans now sit atop the Big Ten standings by 1.5 games and remain in the top 10 nationally on KenPom.
Perhaps the lone concern for the Spartans moving forward is the team’s schedule. Michigan State has gotten a pretty favorable draw in league play so far. In fact, KenPom says Michigan State has gotten the easiest schedule in the Big Ten to date. Five of Michigan State’s first seven league games have come at home and one of the two road games came against Northwestern. It’s hard to complain much about that draw.
As a result of that favorable stretch, things are going to get much tougher moving forward. Of course, that has some concerned about how Michigan State will perform against a more challenging slate, particularly on the road. The Spartans got blown out in the team’s last road game against Purdue. And with five of the team’s next seven games away from East Lansing, improving from that outing is going to be essential.
We’ll get a good taste of whether Michigan State has improved from that Purdue loss this week with Indiana on the road on Thursday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday. The Spartans are projected to be narrow favorites in both games.
#2 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+2)
Few teams have improved as much as the Hawkeyes this season. Despite an underwhelming first few weeks in November, Iowa has steadily improved. The Hawkeyes were ranked 56th on KenPom on November 21st and have risen all the way to 15th on the site following Friday’s win over Michigan. That win pushed Iowa to 13-5 overall and to 4-3 in Big Ten play after also beating Northwestern on the road on Tuesday night.
And the biggest story for Iowa during this rise has been the superb play of Luka Garza. He now leads KenPom’s Player of the Year standings and had another huge week of play with 27 points against Northwestern and 33 points against Michigan. The big man is an absolute monster down low and is undoubtedly on track to be an All-American by season’s end. And if he can keep up this level of play, Iowa could be in the conference title picture as well.
This week, Iowa only gets one game with Rutgers at home on Wednesday night. A win there and the Hawkeyes should be near the top of the Big Ten standings. It’s time to start getting excited in Iowa City.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
The Terps had a mixed week of play with a loss on the road against Wisconsin on Tuesday night and a win over Purdue at home on Saturday. The split left Maryland sitting at 14-4 overall and 4-3 in league play. Maryland also maintains a good share of momentum with a top 12 rating on KenPom and a 4-2 record over the team’s last six games.
Maryland seems to be stuck in the spot many others are in the Big Ten this year. The Terps are good enough to beat just about anybody at home, but aren’t consistent enough to beat the better teams on the road. However, with Northwestern on the road on Tuesday and Indiana on the road on Sunday, we should get to learn whether Maryland can beat some of the league’s “weaker” teams away from home this week.
#4 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)
The Illini only had one game this week, but took care of business in it, beating Northwestern at home on Saturday night. The win pushed Illinois to 13-5 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play. We’ll get to learn a lot more about Illinois this week with Purdue on the road on Tuesday and Michigan on the road on Saturday. Even a split with those two games would be huge.
#5 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+2)
The Scarlet Knights entered last week sitting at 12-4 overall with a major opportunity lying ahead as Rutgers had two winnable games on the docket. The question was whether the team could take care of business and avoid a letdown. Well, the team did just that, beating Indiana at home on Wednesday and Minnesota at home on Sunday.
Let’s be very clear about this. Rutgers is a good team and deserves all the praise it’s getting right now. The Scarlet Knights have earned this. The team’s defense is elite and the Scarlet Knights have won many of these games comfortably. And while the schedule has had some favorable breaks, Rutgers already has five wins against top 50 KenPom teams. This isn’t a situation where the Scarlet Knights are just beating up on bad teams.
All this success has Rutgers in the NCAA Tournament conversation and for good reason. It would now be surprising if the Scarlet Knights don’t make the Big Dance. If the team pulls it off, it would be the program’s first appearance since 1991. We’ll see how those efforts start this week with Iowa on the road on Wednesday and Nebraska at home on Saturday. Rutgers really needs to find a way to split those two games.
#6 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers split the team’s games last week, beating Maryland at home on Tuesday and falling on the road against Michigan State on Friday. As a result, Wisconsin now sits at 11-7 overall and 4-3 in league play.
It’s a big early to speculate too much about Selection Sunday, but one has to wonder if Wisconsin is going to start suffering from the (outdated) win total narratives moving forward. The Badgers are 22nd nationally on KenPom and seem like a legitimately good team. However, Wisconsin is also narrowly above .500 and could very easily drop a bunch of games moving forward. Protecting home court will be crucial.
This week, Wisconsin will get Nebraska at home on Tuesday and Purdue on the road on Friday. Badger fans need to be hoping for at least a split in those two games.
#7 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+1)
The Nittany Lions also had a mixed performance, with a loss on the road against Minnesota on Wednesday and a win over Ohio State at home on Saturday. The split left Penn State sitting at 13-5 overall and 3-5 in league play. Penn State will hope to build off that Ohio State win this week with Michigan on the road on Wednesday.
#8 - Michigan Wolverines (-5)
The Wolverines only had one game this week and fell short in it, losing on the road against Iowa on Friday night. The loss dropped Michigan to 11-6 overall and to 2-4 in league play. Notably, Michigan is just 4-6 over its last 10 games and hasn’t won a game away from home since beating Gonzaga in the Bahamas in late November.
It’s hard to know how much to criticize Michigan at this point. The Wolverines clearly aren’t playing the way they did earlier in the season, but they’re also without Isaiah Livers and haven’t been losing against bad teams. After all, five of the team’s six losses came on the road against top 40 opponents and the sixth was a double overtime loss against Oregon. It seems unreasonably tough to criticize a team for failing to win games like that. Still, losses are losses and Michigan needs to drop as a result.
This week will give us a lot more information about Michigan moving forward. The Wolverines get Penn State at home on Wednesday and Illinois at home on Saturday. Michigan is a decent favorite in both games. If the team wants to get back on track and feel comfortable about Selection Sunday, these need to be wins.
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Gophers had mixed results last week with a win over Penn State at home on Wednesday and a loss on the road against Rutgers on Sunday. The split left the team sitting at 10-8 overall and 4-4 in league play. Minnesota still remains in decent shape, having won three of the team’s last four games.
Minnesota will get two really challenging games this week with Ohio State on the road on Thursday and Michigan State at home on Sunday. The Gophers figure to be underdogs in both games. We’ll see if they can pull off an upset or two.
#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
Purdue dropped its only game last week on the road against Maryland on Saturday. While it was the team’s third loss in four games, it’s hard to get any gauge on this team. Here’s a look at Purdue’s last five games:
- 1/2 - Home win over Minnesota in 2OT
- 1/5 - 26-point loss at Illinois
- 1/9 - 2OT loss at Purdue
- 1/12 - 29-point win over MSU at home
- 1/18 - 7-point loss to Maryland
To put things more simply, Purdue has two double overtime games, a blowout loss, a blowout win, and a loss to Maryland that probably wasn’t as close as the final score. You’re not going to find many teams out there with a five-game run like that. It’s also why the Boilermakers have remained in the top 20 on KenPom, despite losing three of four.
It’s really anyone’s guess how Purdue’s going to perform moving forward. The good news is that Purdue should have a solid shot to add two wins this week, with two games at home. The Boilermakers will face Illinois on Tuesday and Wisconsin on Friday.
#11 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers had an underwhelming week of play with a loss on the road against Rutgers on Wednesday and a narrow win over Nebraska on Saturday. As a result, Indiana now sits at 14-4 overall and 4-3 in Big Ten play.
Indiana will enter this week with a massive opportunity on the docket. The Hoosiers get Michigan State at home on Thursday and Maryland at home on Sunday. KenPom currently projects Indiana as a narrow underdog in both games. But perform a bit above expectations and the Hoosiers could add two marquee wins. Even one would do quite a bit to boost Indiana’s resume moving forward. We’ll see if the Hoosiers can pull off an upset.
#12 - Ohio State Buckeyes (--)
The Buckeyes had another tough week. Ohio State beat Nebraska at home on Tuesday night, but fell on the road against Penn State on Saturday. The split left the team sitting at 12-6 overall and just 2-5 in league play. Ohio State has now lost five of its last six games and is just 3-6 over its last nine games.
Part of Ohio State’s struggles have been a byproduct of a tough slate. The Buckeyes have played a lot of challenging opponents away from home. However, the team has been underperforming vs expectations as well. Ohio State has dropped 12 spots on KenPom during its recent struggles. We’ll see if the team can bounce back this week with Minnesota at home on Thursday and Northwestern on the road on Sunday.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had a rough week, falling at home against Iowa on Tuesday and to Illinois on the road on Saturday. The losses dropped Northwestern to 6-11 overall and 1-6 in league play. This week, Northwestern will get Maryland at home on Tuesday and Ohio State at home on Sunday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers lost both of the team’s games last week, falling on the road to Ohio State on Tuesday and at home against Indiana on Saturday. Nebraska now sits at 7-11 overall and will hope to get back on track this week with Wisconsin on the road on Tuesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday.