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2020-’21 Week 5 Big Ten Power Rankings - Iowa Falls

Check out BTP's current set of Big Ten power rankings.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Things are usually quiet for the Big Ten during Christmas, but that wasn’t the case this year. Fans got to enjoy four marquee matchups on Christmas Day and plenty of other intriguing matchups in the surrounding days as well.

And of course, we got to see a number of changes as a result of those games. Teams like Illinois and Wisconsin rose, while others like Iowa and Michigan State dropped. It should set up another interesting week of play.

So, without further adieu, here are my current Big Ten power rankings:

Big Ten Week Five Power Rankings

#1 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)

The Badgers scored wins in each of the team’s games last week, beating Nebraska at home on Tuesday and Michigan State on the road on Christmas Day. The two wins pushed Wisconsin to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play.

At this point, there’s little debating Wisconsin is playing better than anybody else in the Big Ten. Through nine games, the team has knocked off eight opponents and four have ranked among the top 80 on KenPom. Those wins also include convincing victories over Louisville and Michigan State. Wins like that don’t come easy and Wisconsin already has two. The Badgers remain an experienced and balanced outfit and the clear favorite for the Big Ten regular season title on account of the team’s impressive consistency.

Wisconsin will get three solid opportunities to add wins to its resume this week with Maryland at home on Monday night, Minnesota at home on New Year’s Eve, and Penn State on the road on Sunday. KenPom gives the Badgers solid odds in all three games, with an 80 percent chance to win the first two and a 69 percent chance of beating Penn State. Three victories could really put Wisconsin into great position in the Big Ten title race.

#2 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)

The Illini had two challenging games this week and answered the bell in both outings. Illinois went on the road and knocked off Penn State on Wednesday and followed that up with a win over Indiana at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Illinois to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play.

Despite some early missteps, it’s hard to complain much about how Illinois has played through 10 games so far this season. The Illini have looked like a top 25 team, have four wins over top 60 opponents already, and the team’s only losses came against top 40 teams away from home, including a game against a fantastic Baylor squad. Ayo Dosunmu has also been fantastic and is playing like a National Player of the Year candidate.

Illinois will now get a few days off before playing in the team’s lone game this week at home against Purdue on Saturday. This should be a win for the Illini. We’ll see if the team can get the job done and improve to 8-3 overall.

#3 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-2)

The Hawkeyes had a mixed week of play. Iowa opened things up with a convincing win over Purdue at home on Tuesday night, but couldn’t follow up on that win on the road against Minnesota on Christmas Day. The overtime loss to the Gophers dropped the team to 7-2 overall and 1-1 in league play.

Unfortunately for Hawkeye fans, the team continues to struggle defensively. Iowa’s underwhelming defense plagued it last season and it seems to be trending that way again this year. While Iowa ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency, it’s fallen all the way to 91st in defensive efficiency. And regardless of how good Luka Garza and the offense are this year, defensive numbers like that simply aren’t going to cut it in March. If Iowa is going to deliver on its substantial preseason hype, those numbers need to improve.

This week, Iowa has some major challenges on its plate. Iowa gets a red hot Northwestern team at home on Tuesday night and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. KenPom favors the Hawkeyes in both games, but it’s hard to feel confident in either after Iowa’s poor showing against Minnesota on Friday. Expect two highly competitive matchups.

#4 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)

The Scarlet Knights only played one game last week and fell short in it, falling on the road against Ohio State on Wednesday. It was the team’s first loss of the season and came in frustrating fashion. Rutgers controlled the first half, but fell apart when Myles Johnson fouled out of the game.

But despite the loss, Rutgers remains in good position and will get two massive opportunities to improve its standing this week with Purdue at home on Tuesday and Iowa at home on Saturday. Both games look like tossups. We’ll have to wait and see if the Scarlet Knights can score a huge win or two. It seems likely.

#5 - Michigan Wolverines (+1)

The Wolverines were back in action this week with a road game against Nebraska on Christmas Day. After a competitive first half, Michigan took over in the second and was able to cruise to a double-digit win. The victory pushed Michigan to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. Michigan is now the last remaining undefeated Big Ten team, though it’s played a much easier slate than most of the league to date.

Things will be really interesting for Michigan this week with Maryland on the road on New Year’s Eve and Northwestern at home on Sunday. KenPom favors Michigan in both games, but neither looks anywhere close to a gimme, especially the matchup against the Wildcats. This should offer a good opportunity to see whether this Michigan team is for real.

#6 - Northwestern Wildcats (+5)

The Wildcats continued the team’s rise this week with two more upset wins. Northwestern knocked off Indiana on the road on Wednesday and followed that up with a win against a ranked Ohio State team at home on Saturday afternoon. The two wins pushed the Wildcats to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play. It’s the program’s best start in conference play since the 1967-’68 season.

And while most win streaks are led by a player or two, that hasn’t been the case for the Wildcats. This has been a true team effort. Boo Buie led things against Michigan State, Chase Audige led things against Indiana, and Miller Kopp led things against Ohio State. Contributions have come from all over. It’s been an incredible run.

The natural question is how long the magic can continue. The Wildcats are clearly better than the team’s preseason projections, but can fans really expect Northwestern to continue tearing through top 25 teams? It seems like a hard sell. We’ll get an answer quickly, though, as the team will face Iowa on the road on Tuesday and Michigan on the road on Sunday this week. Fans will be hoping Northwestern can find a way to pull off another upset or two.

#7 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)

The Buckeyes split the team’s games last week, beating Rutgers at home on Wednesday and falling on the road to Northwestern on Saturday. The mixed results left Ohio State sitting at 7-2 overall and 1-2 in league play. Ohio State continues to be a bit of a mystery this season, as the team is still waiting for players like EJ Liddell and Seth Towns to get back to 100 percent. Until those two get back, it’s hard to know where this team sits.

This week, Ohio State will get Nebraska at home on Wednesday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday. Both games look relatively winnable, at least on paper.

#8 - Michigan State Spartans (-3)

The Spartans were hoping to bounce back this week after a shocking loss to Northwestern on the road on the 20th. Instead, Michigan State ended up losing its only matchup of the week at home against Wisconsin on Christmas Day. The loss dropped the Spartans to 6-2 overall and 0-2 in league play.

After Friday’s loss, many are criticizing Michigan State’s performance this season and wondering whether Tom Izzo and staff can get things figured out. However, the critics seem a little overblown at this point. The loss to Northwestern looked horrid at the time, but looks less shocking with Northwestern’s two subsequent wins. And a loss to Wisconsin (ranked fourth nationally on KenPom), is never anything to be embarrassed about.

Spartan fans are probably bothered with the team losing two in a row, but it’s just a function of this year’s Big Ten. There are no easy games. Underperform for a night or two and you’re going to pay. And that’s what Michigan State did last week. This is still a solid team with plenty of upside moving forward.

Unfortunately for fans, things won’t get much easier this week. Michigan State gets Minnesota on the road on Monday night and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. The Spartans need to at least split those games if the team hopes to keep pace in the Big Ten title race.

#9 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)

The Boilermakers split the team’s games this week, falling on the road against Iowa on Tuesday and bouncing back at home against Maryland on Christmas Day. The mixed results left Purdue sitting at 7-3 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play. The win over the Terps marked Purdue’s third win over a top 100 opponents already this season.

Purdue will now prepare for its most challenging week of the season to date with Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Saturday. The Boilermakers will be underdogs in both games, so even a split would be a huge accomplishment.

#10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3)

The Gophers had quite a week. After an inconsistent last few weeks, Minnesota got an opportunity at a marquee win on Christmas Day and delivered, beating a top five Iowa team in overtime. The game was highly competitive and came down to the final minutes. Marcus Carr led the way with 30 points. Minnesota now sits at 8-1 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play.

Minnesota will now get another week with marquee matchups. The Gophers will face Michigan State at home on Monday night, Wisconsin on the road on Thursday, and Ohio State at home on Sunday. All three games look tremendously challenging. Fans will have to hope the team can at least protect home court.

#11 - Indiana Hoosiers (-4)

The Hoosiers had a rough week, falling at home to Northwestern on Wednesday and on the road against Illinois on Saturday. The losses dropped Indiana to 5-4 overall and 0-2 in league play. They also raise serious concerns about Indiana’s path forward and whether the team can get to the NCAA Tournament.

Indiana’s primary issue remains the team’s underwhelming three-point shooting. The Hoosiers are 124th in perimeter shooting this year and desperately need the backcourt to get more consistent as well. Trayce Jackson-Davis has been impressive, but one player can’t carry a team in a conference like the Big Ten alone. He needs help and it’s up to Archie Miller and his staff to find it.

It’s still too early to throw around phases like “must win,” but there’s little debating the next few games will be crucial for the Hoosiers. And that starts this week with Penn State at home on Wednesday. This needs to be a win.

#12 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-3)

The Nittany Lions had one game this week and fell short in it at home against Illinois on Wednesday. The loss dropped Penn State to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play. Fans will hope the team can bounce back this week with Indiana on the road on Wednesday and Wisconsin at home on Sunday.

#13 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)

The Terps had another tough stretch, falling on the road against Purdue on Christmas Day in the team’s only game of the week. The loss dropped Maryland to 5-3 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play. Maryland started the season well, but is now eight games into the season and has still yet to beat a top 115 team on KenPom. And with a brutal slate ahead, it’s hard to feel good about where things could be heading for the Terps.

Maryland will now prepare for a crucial week of the season with Wisconsin on the road on Monday and Michigan at home on New Year’s Eve. Two losses here would likely derail the remainder of the season. Pulling off an upset is an absolute necessity.

#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)

The Huskers had a disappointing week, falling to Wisconsin on the road on Tuesday and Michigan at home on Christmas Day. The two losses dropped Nebraska to 4-5 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play. Fans will hope the team can rebound this week with Ohio State on the road on Wednesday and Michigan State at home on Saturday.