Whew. What a week. Big Ten play restarted last week with a bang. We got to see a marquee rivalry matchup on Sunday, some upsets, and an absolute classic between Minnesota and Purdue on Thursday night. All told, things certainly got shaken up.
So, 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 Nine Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
There’s no change at the top this week and rightfully so. Michigan State had two really interesting (and challenging) games at home and found a way to come out with convincing wins in both of them. The Spartans beat Illinois by 20 points on Thursday night and followed it up with a double-digit win over arch-rival Michigan on Sunday.
With these two wins, Michigan State now sits at 12-3 overall and 4-0 in league play. The Spartans have also won seven straight and have risen back up to third nationally on KenPom. A lot of people panicked about this team after some early missteps, but Michigan State is playing at a really high level and certainly looks like the best team in the league right now.
This week, Michigan State will get two more major challenges with Minnesota at home on Thursday and Purdue on the road on Sunday. If the Spartans sweep those games, it’s going to turn a lot of heads nationally. A split seems most likely.
#2 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+1)
The Nittany Lions only had one game last week, but it was a big one. Penn State faced off against a ranked Iowa team in Philadelphia on Saturday. It was a major opportunity for the team to prove itself against a quality opponent. Penn State answered the bell, scoring a win over the Hawkeyes to improve to 12-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play.
Penn State has now won five in a row and seven of its last eight, with the only loss coming on the road against Ohio State. This team looks more than capable of making the NCAA Tournament and will get two more interesting games this week with Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Wisconsin at home on Saturday.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (+2)
The Terps also only had one game this week, but were able to score a solid win in it, blowing out Indiana at home on Saturday. The win pushed Maryland to 12-2 overall and 2-1 in league play. Maryland also currently sits eighth nationally on KenPom and is projected to finish well north of 20 wins.
Despite having all the general markings of a top 10 team, there are still plenty who are skeptical of the Terps and their potential moving forward. The good news is that, for better or worse, fans are going to find out a lot this week as the Terps face Ohio State at home on Tuesday and Iowa on the road on Saturday. Both figure to be really difficult games. Maryland has a chance to really cement itself as a Big Ten title contender with two wins.
#4 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-2)
Whether Buckeye fans wanted to admit it or not, Ohio State’s red hot start to the season was always going to come to an end. The question wasn’t if, but when the team’s momentum would give out. Outside of a handful of all-time great teams, everyone goes through a rough stretch or two during a season.
And Ohio State is officially in one now.
Despite starting the season 9-0, Ohio State has now lost three of its last four games, including a tough one last week to Wisconsin at home on Friday night. The game was competitive, but the Buckeyes couldn’t get enough offense in the second half to hold off the Badgers. The loss dropped the team to 11-3 overall and to 1-2 in league play.
Ohio State’s overall resume remains really strong. However, fans have to be getting uncomfortable with the recent losses. And given Ohio State’s late season slides the last two years, one has to wonder whether a trend could be starting. We’ll have to see how the team rebounds this week with two challenging games on the docket. Ohio State gets Maryland on the road on Tuesday and Indiana on the road on Saturday.
#5 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines dropped the team’s only game this week, falling on the road to Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. Michigan held its own for large segments of the game, but ultimately fell short against the Spartans. The loss dropped the team to 10-4 overall and to 1-2 in league play. Michigan is also just 1-4 in its last five games against quality opponents.
Like some of the other teams noted above, Michigan has struggled recently, but remains in solid shape moving forward. However, the team is going to have to stop dropping games to avoid sliding in a really tough Big Ten. We’ll see if the Wolverines can figure things out this week against Purdue at home on Thursday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday.
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes also only had one game last week, but fell in it on the road against a ranked Penn State team. The loss dropped Iowa to 10-4 overall and 1-2 in league play. The game was extremely competitive. However, Iowa just couldn’t close it out against Penn State.
This week, Iowa will get two really interesting games with Nebraska on the road on Tuesday and Maryland at home on Friday. The Hawkeyes have a serious chance to sweep both games. If so, Iowa could really improve its resume.
#7 - Wisconsin Badgers (+4)
The Badgers are hot. Like, really, really hot right now. After stumbling out of the gate to start the season, Wisconsin has now won four in a row and five of its last six games. And two recent wins have been particularly impressive, coming on the road against Tennessee and Ohio State. The win over the Buckeyes was particularly impressive, given how well Ohio State played to start the season. Absolutely nobody wants to play Wisconsin right now.
Of course, the natural question now is whether this is a blip in the radar, or whether the Badgers have genuinely taken the next steps forward. My gut says it’s a little of both. Wisconsin probably won’t keep up this level of play all year, but the team has certainly grown since those losses to New Mexico and Richmond. And naturally, the entrance of Micah Potter has played a mixed in that.
The good news is the team will have two great opportunities to prove itself this week with Illinois at home on Wednesday and Penn State on the road on Saturday. Neither game is out of reach, but neither is a gimme either. The Badgers will have to work for both wins.
#8 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+1)
The Scarlet Knights deserve some credit. Despite a few tough losses to start the season, Rutgers has really started to get things going. And that continued last week with a win over Caldwell at home on Monday and Nebraska on the road on Friday. The two wins pushed Rutgers to 11-3 overall and 2-1 in league play.
A lot of programs might overlook what Rutgers has accomplished so far this season, but it deserves a lot of praise. This is the program’s best overall start since 2012-’13 and the first time Rutgers has won five games in a row, including at least one conference game, in the history of KenPom. Rutgers is literally changing the record books this year.
The question moving forward will be whether Rutgers can keep this up. And with Geo Baker sidelined, things could get even tougher. We’ll see this week with Penn State at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Saturday. Even a split would be massive.
#9 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
The Boilermakers split the team’s games this week, barely beating Minnesota in double overtime on Thursday and falling to Illinois on the road on Sunday. As a result, Purdue sits at 9-6 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play.
At this point of the season, Purdue’s resume is really wild. The Boilermakers have some great wins, a handful of underwhelming performances, and one loss that’s downright bad. Nonetheless, the team remains highly rated in the advanced stats and still seems in good shape to make a postseason run. However, it’s hard to tell whether this team is a Big Ten title contender or pretender. We’ll find out in the weeks to come.
This week, Purdue gets Michigan on the road on Thursday and Michigan State at home on Sunday. Even a split would be good given that schedule.
#10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers split the team’s two games last week, but it didn’t feel like it. Minnesota barely lost in double overtime on the road against Purdue on Thursday and then beat Northwestern at home on Sunday. As a result, Minnesota now sits at 8-6 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play. The team also sits 36th nationally on KenPom.
What’s really interesting about Minnesota to date is that things could really swing in any direction going forward. The Gophers could make a serious run for the NCAAs, fall apart in the weeks to come, or have mixed results. It’s anyone’s guess. And this week is a perfect example with Michigan State on the road on Thursday and Michigan at home on Sunday. Those two games could easily swing any way. We’ll see what happens.
#11 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
The Illini had mixed results this week, losing on the road to Michigan State on Thursday, but rebounding with a convincing win over Purdue on Sunday evening. The split left Illinois sitting at 10-5 overall and 2-2 in league play. Illinois remains extremely dangerous when it’s playing well and quite beatable when it’s not.
Illinois will get two interesting games this week with Wisconsin on the road on Wednesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. The Illini really need to at least split these games.
#12 - Indiana Hoosiers (-5)
Well, that didn’t go well. Indiana only had one game last week, but got absolutely embarrassed in it, losing by 16 on the road against Maryland. It was the team’s second straight loss and its third loss in six games. The Hoosiers have still yet to beat anyone on the road, despite having an 11-3 overall record.
Many are ripping the Hoosiers after the loss on Saturday. However, it really does feel like a bit of an overreaction. Indiana clearly isn’t as good as its overall record indicates, but the Hoosiers aren’t terrible either. And losing on the road to a team like Maryland isn’t exactly something to lose sleep over. The Terps are gonna beat a lot of people at home.
But can Indiana get things turned around? We’ll see this week with two huge opportunities at home. The Hoosiers get Northwestern at home on Wednesday and Ohio State at home on Saturday. Indiana needs to find a way to win both games.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers lost the team’s only game this week, falling at home to Rutgers on Friday night. It wasn’t a highly competitive matchup and was out of reach well before the final buzzer. Nebraska will hope to regroup for two games this week. Nebraska faces Iowa at home on Tuesday and Northwestern on the road on Saturday.
#14 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats also lost the team’s only game this week, falling short on the road against Minnesota on Sunday. The loss dropped Northwestern to 5-7 overall. Fans will hope the team can get things turned around this week with Indiana on the road on Wednesday and Nebraska at home on Saturday.