The Big Ten and college basketball had quite a week. Things started off with the 2020 Big Ten-ACC Challenge and wrapped up with the opening of conference play on Sunday with a matchup between Michigan and Penn State. We got to see a litany of marquee matchups and the games lived up to the hype.
And of course, we got to see a number of changes in these rankings as a result. Teams like Iowa and Michigan State rolled on, while others like Illinois and Purdue struggled. It should all set up for some wild weeks ahead with conference play beginning.
So, without further adieu, here are my current Big Ten power rankings:
Big Ten Week Three Power Rankings
#1 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes had an incredible run this week. Iowa opened up things by beating North Carolina by double-digits on Tuesday and followed that up with blowout wins against Iowa State on Friday and Northern Illinois on Sunday. The three wins pushed Iowa to 6-0 with every win coming by 13 points or more. It’s been about as good of a start to the season as fans could ask for.
And what’s been particularly impressive about Iowa’s performance has been how solid and replicable it’s looked. Luka Garza has been fantastic, but it hasn’t all been about the big man. Iowa has gotten great contributions from the backcourt and wing groups and Joe Wieskamp looks like a legitimate Robin to Garza’s Batman. Unlike in years past with Fran McCaffery at the helm, this doesn’t have the feel of a team running ahead of its skis. In fact, this feels like a Final Four team capable of winning it all in April.
And fortunately for Hawkeye fans (and college basketball fans in general), we might get a look at a Final Four game this week with Iowa facing off against Gonzaga on Saturday. It projects to be one of the best non-conference games of the regular season. Whoever wins will almost certainly sit atop the polls next Monday. Get your popcorn ready.
#2 - Michigan State Spartans (-1)
The Spartans had an eventful, but solid week of play. Michigan State was initially slated to play two games with a massive showdown against Virginia on the road on Wednesday and a matchup against Oakland at home on Sunday. Unfortunately, Virginia had to back out because of COVID-19 protocols, so we only got to see Michigan State play against the Golden Grizzlies. The Spartans proved victorious in that one, cruising to an easy win and to an impressive 6-0 mark.
Based on the above, one might wonder why Michigan State dropped on this list. The reality is it had more to do with Iowa’s rise than anything Michigan State did or didn’t do. The Hawkeyes simply proved too much last week not to move to the top spot. The Spartans remain a really solid team and should be in the Big Ten hunt by season’s end.
Former transfer forward Joey Hauser also remains a difference maker. If Michigan State is going to win big this season (as most expect), Hauser is going to be a big part of it. Keep an eye on how the team prioritizes his play against the tougher opponents ahead.
Moving forward, Michigan State gets most of this week off before going on the road to face Northwestern on Sunday. The Spartans should be significant favorites at tip.
#3 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini remain a mystery. By now, it seems like Illinois has established itself as a national player and one of the best teams on the scene this year. However, it’s hard to tell whether the Illini are merely a good team or a great one.
Illinois looked great in the team’s first game last week, beating Duke on the road by double-digits. Unfortunately, the group followed that up with a letdown, losing to Missouri on the road on Saturday. The split left the team sitting at 4-2 overall heading into conference play.
From an on-court perspective, Illinois has a fantastic offense and star contributors in Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu. However, the defense has left a lot to be desired and the bench and freshmen role players have been inconsistent. It’s going to be crucial for the team to improve on defense and to get more consistent contributors from players like Adam Miller, who’s only scored 15 points in the last 82 minutes of play.
Illinois will now prepare for a really interesting week of play with Minnesota at home on Tuesday and Rutgers on the road on Sunday. Both games look fairly winnable, but they’re far from guarantees as well. The Illini need to go at least 1-1 in the two outings.
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (--)
The Badgers were supposed to play Louisville at home on Wednesday night. But after a COVID-19 related postponement, Wisconsin ended up playing and beating a pretty solid Rhode Island team at home instead. Brad Davison led the way with 23 points. The win pushed the Badgers to 4-1 overall. Notably, that Louisville game is supposed to be rescheduled at some point.
Through five games, Wisconsin has essentially performed as expected. The Badgers are really consistent, play great defense, and avoid mistakes. The team let a key opportunity slip away on the road against Marquette, but have looked good so far. We’ll see if the Badgers can continue the momentum moving forward. Wisconsin was supposed to play Northern Iowa at home on Wednesday, but the game was also cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. The game was replaced with a matchup against Loyola (CHI) on Tuesday.
#5 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights only had one game this week, but it was a big one. Rutgers hosted Syracuse at home on Tuesday night and was able to come away with a huge win against the Orange. The win pushed Rutgers to 4-0 for the first time in three years and the first time in forever against a slate with real opponents.
Myles Johnson also really impressed in the matchup against Syracuse. He was a monster on the boards and blew up Syracuse’s vaunted zone for much of the night. It’s a perfect example of the depth and diversity of play Rutgers has this season.
This week, Rutgers has a great set of matchups lying ahead. The team will travel to face Maryland on Monday night and follow that up with Illinois at home on Sunday. KenPom projects both games at around 50-50 before tip. Buckle up.
#6 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes had quite a week. Ohio State opened things up with a narrow win on the road against Notre Dame on Tuesday and followed it up with another victory on Sunday at home against Cleveland State. The sweep left the Buckeyes sitting at 5-0 entering league play.
Unfortunately for Ohio State, the news reported between the two games might be more significant than either result. The program announced EJ Liddell would be sitting out with a non-COVID illness with no specific date of return noted. Liddell was excellent in the team’s win over the Irish and he only adds to an already limited roster with Seth Towns sidelined as well. Fans are going to have to hope he can return in the coming weeks.
The good news for fans is the team is still undefeated and has survived the speed bumps to date. However, things could get more difficult moving forward as Ohio State is set to face Purdue on the road on Wednesday and North Carolina in Cleveland on Saturday. KenPom projects the Buckeyes will go 1-1 in those two, but that’s with a full roster. We’ll have to wait and see if the team can overcome the additional challenges.
#7 - Michigan Wolverines (+1)
The Wolverines had two challenging games this week and come out on top in both, beating Toledo at home on Wednesday and Penn State on Sunday. The two wins pushed Michigan to 6-0 overall. Michigan was originally slated to play North Carolina State at home on Wednesday, but the game was cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns.
While Michigan’s resume doesn’t look particularly impressive upon first glance, it’s actually sneakily good. The win over Penn State should age well and Ball State, Bowling Green, and Toledo are better than many believe. We still haven’t seen the Wolverines against a legitimately great team, but so far, so good.
This week, Michigan gets a week off before going on the road to face Nebraska on Christmas Day. We’ll see how the Wolverines do in the team’s first road trip of the season. The game should also provide another look at how the team plays without Austin Davis, assuming the big man remains sidelined.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers had a mixed week. Indiana opened up the week by falling on the road against Florida State in overtime, but rebounded with a win over North Alabama at home on Sunday. The split left Indiana sitting at 4-2 overall heading into the last week of non-conference play.
So far, Indiana has looked markedly improved on last season. The Hoosiers have played great defense and shown a lot of fight, even against great opponents. Unfortunately, the team just fell short in two big outings against Texas and Florida State. The second one particularly stings, as Indiana was able to push things to overtime before falling short. A win over the Seminoles would have been really valuable moving forward.
Indiana will now prepare to close out non-conference play this week with the Crossroads Classic on Saturday against Butler in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs have regressed some from last year, but offer a shot at a marquee win.
#9 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions had a week filled with highs and lows. Penn State blew out a top 15 Virginia Tech team on Tuesday as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, but followed that up with a tight loss to Michigan on the road on Sunday. The split left Penn State sitting at 3-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
In hindsight, many are going to say Virginia Tech was overrated and correspondingly minimize Penn State’s win. However, such comments seem misguided to me. If Penn State barely beat Virginia Tech at home, those kind of remarks might count for something, but the Nittany Lions utterly decimated Virginia Tech. That’s what a quality team does against an overrated opponent and it’s exactly what Penn State did on Tuesday. Conference play will remain tough, but the Nittany Lions have performed well.
Moving forward, Penn State will get a week off before facing Illinois at home on Christmas Eve Eve. It should give the team some time to recover from a grueling opening five-game slate.
#10 - Maryland Terrapins (-4)
The Terps only had one game this week and fell short in it on the road against Clemson on Wednesday. Given Clemson’s resume to date and upward trend in recent years, falling against the Tigers on the road is nothing to be ashamed about. However, Maryland’s offense really underwhelmed in the matchup. Fans are hoping that improves going forward.
This week, Maryland will get a nice opportunity to get back on track with Rutgers at home on Monday night. A win there would erase much of the frustration from last week.
#11 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
The Boilermakers split the team’s games this week with a loss on the road against Miami (FL) on Tuesday and a win over Indiana State at home on Saturday. The loss was particularly frustrating, as Purdue grabbed a huge first half lead, only to blow it later on. Following the split, Purdue sits at 4-2 overall.
This week, Purdue will get a really intriguing set of games with Ohio State at home on Wednesday and Notre Dame on a neutral court on Saturday. Grabbing two wins here looks like a tough task, but not impossible, especially with a banged up Ohio State. Should Purdue get the job done and grab two wins, it would be huge for the team’s postseason hopes.
#12 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers went 2-0 in the team’s games this week, beating Boston College in an overtime thriller on Tuesday and UMKC at home on Thursday. The two wins pushed Minnesota to 6-0 overall. Even if the wins came against a weak slate, 6-0 deserves some respect. And half of Minnesota’s opponents to date have ranked in the top 135 on KenPom, making the 6-0 mark even more impressive.
Minnesota will now prepare for its most challenging week yet with Illinois on the road on Tuesday and Saint Louis at home on Sunday. Both teams are ranked in the top 40 on KenPom and the Illini are considered a top 10 squad. Even a split here would be huge.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats only had one game this week and fell short in it on Wednesday night at home against Pittsburgh. Northwestern was supposed to play SIU-Edwardsville on Sunday, but it was cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. The loss to the Panthers dropped Northwestern to 2-1 overall. The team will hope to get back on track next week against Quincy at home on Tuesday night.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers had a frustrating week, dropping to Georgia Tech at home on Wednesday and rival Creighton on the road on Friday. The losses dropped Nebraska to 3-3 overall heading into conference play. Nebraska will now get a week off before an absolutely brutal slate for Christmas. The Huskers will get Wisconsin on the road on Monday and Michigan at home on Friday. Even winning one of those two would do wonders for the team’s morale. Unfortunately, that’s going to be a challenge, as Nebraska will enter both games as a double-digit underdog.