Heading into last week, my prediction was that we’d start to finally see some separation in the league. And to a certain extent, that was the case. We saw a few teams fade and others rise up. However, things remain incredibly tight in the Big Ten. And that all makes for a wild league that twists on a weekly basis.
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 12 Power Rankings
#1 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+3)
The Illini entered the season with a wide variety of expectations, but one thing was clear. This was set to be the most talented and maybe the deepest Illinois roster in years. If the pieces could come together and Brad Underwood could figure out an interesting frontcourt rotation, the sky was the limit.
Well, we’re 20 games in and it’s clearly working.
Illinois entered last week with a four-game winning streak and only added to it, beating Purdue on the road on Tuesday by 17 points and getting a dramatic win over Michigan on the road on Saturday. The two wins pushed the team to 15-5 overall and to 7-2 in league play. The Illini have now won six in a row, including three games on the road.
At this point, the only real question about Illinois is how far this run can continue. And given how the Illini have played the last few weeks, it’s anyone’s guess. No game looks unwinnable moving forward and the team is going to be expected to keep things rolling. That will start this week with Minnesota at home on Thursday and Illinois on the road on Sunday. Two wins and Illinois could become the clear leader in the Big Ten moving forward.
#2 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes only had one game last week, but acquitted themselves well, beating a ranked Rutgers team at home on Wednesday night. The win pushed Iowa to 14-5 overall and to 5-3 in Big Ten play. Iowa has now won four in a row and will have three huge opportunities this week with Wisconsin at home on Monday, Maryland on the road on Thursday, and Illinois at home on Sunday. If Iowa can even go 2-1 in those games, it will turn a lot of heads nationally.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps had two games last week and scored two wins. Maryland beat Northwestern on the road on Tuesday night and followed that up with a win in Bloomington on Sunday against a pretty hot Indiana team. The wins pushed Maryland to 16-4 overall and to 6-3 in Big Ten play. From a resume perspective, Maryland is in outstanding shape.
Like the other teams in this portion of the rankings, the main question is whether Maryland can keep up this level of play. The Terps have won three in a row and six of the team’s last eight games. Maryland will look to keep that rolling this week with Iowa at home on Thursday night. A win there and the Terps will be back in the Big Ten title hunt.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (-3)
The Spartans actually had a decent week, despite dropping a few spots due to how teams like Illinois and Iowa performed. The team dropped a road game to Indiana on Thursday night, but followed it up with a double-digit win at Minnesota on Sunday. Following the split, Michigan State now sits at 15-5 overall and 7-2 in Big Ten play.
Michigan State will get two interesting games this week with Northwestern at home on Thursday night and Wisconsin on the road on Saturday. Spartan fans need to be hoping for a sweep of these games.
#5 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights had a mixed week with a loss on the road to Iowa on Wednesday and a win over Nebraska on Saturday. The split left Rutgers sitting at 15-5 overall and 6-3 in Big Ten play. Rutgers still remains in good shape, having won three of its last four games.
This week will be a huge one for Rutgers as the team hosts Purdue on Tuesday night and faces Michigan in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights figure to be favorites in both games. A sweep here and the NCAA Tournament will be a near guarantee.
#6 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+1)
The Nittany Lions only had one game last week, but scored a huge win in it, beating Michigan on the road for the first time in roughly a decade. It was a massive win for Penn State and should be a valuable one on Selection Sunday.
Penn State will now get two intriguing games this week with Indiana at home on Wednesday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. Both of these look really winnable, at least on paper. Indiana’s been underwhelming away from home and the Huskers have struggled all season. And if Penn State can score two wins, it would really be sitting on the right side of the NCAA bubble moving forward.
#7 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers also split the team’s games last week, beating Nebraska at home on Tuesday and falling on the road to Purdue on Friday night. Wisconsin ended up sitting at 12-8 overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play as a result. The team will hope to rebound this week with Iowa on the road on Monday and Michigan State at home on Saturday.
#8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Gophers had a relatively solid week. Minnesota beat Ohio State on the road on Thursday before falling to Michigan State at home on Sunday. Fans were hoping for two wins instead of a split, but that’s still a relatively solid performance. Minnesota now sits at 11-9 overall and 5-5 in league play. This week, Minnesota will look to score a huge win in its only game on the road against Illinois on Thursday.
#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (+2)
The Hoosiers split the team’s games this week, upsetting Michigan State at home on Thursday and falling to Maryland at home on Sunday. Indiana now sits at 15-5 overall and 5-4 in league play. Both games ended up coming down to the last few seconds.
It feels like I write this about Indiana on a weekly basis, but the Hoosiers still don’t feel as good as the team’s record. And that’s probably why Indiana still only sits at 38th nationally on KenPom, despite having a really solid record in a great conference. Indiana keeps winning, but it’s generally by slim margins and only at home. The good news is the wins still count and are going to look really impressive on Selection Sunday.
We’re set to learn a lot more about this Indiana team this week as the Hoosiers are set to go on the road twice in the coming days. The team will face Penn State on Wednesday and Ohio State on Saturday. Even a split would be a pretty good result.
#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
Another week and another two divergent results for this Boilermaker squad. Purdue opened up the week by losing by 17 points at home to Illinois on Tuesday. Nonetheless, the team responded with a dominating win over a pretty good Wisconsin team on Friday. The split left Purdue sitting at 11-9 overall and 4-4 over the team’s last eight games. And the last eight games have largely fit with what happened last week.
Just take a look at those results here:
- 12/28 - Blowout win over Central Michigan
- 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
- 1/21 - 17-point home loss to Illinois
- 1/24 - 19-point win over Wisconsin at home
Regardless of the team or league you follow, that’s a pretty bizarre eight-game run. Over less than a month, Purdue has played like a championship contender, a bottom dweller, and everything in between. It’s been all over the place and it’s anybody’s guess what fans are going to get on a nightly basis.
The unfortunate thing for Purdue is that time is starting to run out on the team’s postseason hopes. There’s still plenty of time for the Boilermakers to build the team’s resume, but at some point, Purdue’s going to need to win more than it loses if it hopes to make the NCAAs.
And that makes this week particularly important with Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Northwestern on the road on Saturday. Purdue should have a chance in both games. If the Boilermakers can score two wins, the team’s resume could get a huge bump.
#11 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes opened the week by suffering another frustrating loss on Thursday at home against Minnesota. However, Ohio State bounced back with a win over Northwestern on the road on Sunday. The split left the team sitting at 13-7 overall and 3-6 in league play.
Like most of the teams in this portion of these Power Rankings, Ohio State sits in an awkward spot for its postseason hopes. The team has clearly been struggling as of late, but there’s still more than enough time to right the ship. But yes, the clock has started to run. We’re almost to February. It’s time to start figuring things out.
And we’ll get a chance to see if Ohio State can build off its win over the Wildcats on Sunday at home against Indiana on Saturday. It should be a fun one with both teams really desperate to score a win.
#12 - Michigan Wolverines (-4)
The Wolverines had two games last week and fell short in both, losing against Penn State at home on Wednesday and narrowly to Illinois at home on Saturday. Michigan is now in a full blown slide, having lost four in a row and five of six. The team is also just 4-8 over its last 12 games dating back to its triumphant run in the Bahamas.
At this point, it’s hard to say Michigan is going to turn it around. The Wolverines have regressed significantly and can’t find any consistency offensively. The injury to Isaiah Livers on Saturday also raises serious concerns. Many thought the team would come around when Livers returned to the lineup, but if he’s not coming back, that boost won’t be coming.
There are no must win games in January, but this week feels like a huge one for Michigan with Nebraska on the road on Tuesday and Rutgers in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Two losses would realistically doom Michigan’s at-large hopes.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers dropped both of the team’s games last week, falling on the road against Wisconsin on Tuesday and on the road against Rutgers on Saturday. Despite the losses, Nebraska actually showed a lot of fight. The Huskers were in both games for large segments of the night and very easily could have beaten Rutgers. This week, Nebraska will hope to beat Michigan at home on Tuesday and Penn State at home on Saturday.
#14 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats also lost the team’s two games this week, falling at home to Maryland on Tuesday and to Ohio State at home on Sunday. Northwestern fell to 6-13 overall as a result of the two losses. The team will hope to get back on track this week with Michigan State on the road on Wednesday and Purdue at home on Saturday.