With the Super Bowl wrapping up last Sunday, this was the first week of the season where basketball took the center stage. And boy did it deliver, with rivalry week and a plethora of exciting games. It also had a huge impact on the Big Ten standings and the league’s NCAA Tournament chances.
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 14 Power Rankings
#1 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps had two huge games on the docket last week and came out on top in both, beating Rutgers at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Friday. The wins pushed Maryland to 19-4 overall, to 9-3 in Big Ten play, and atop the Big Ten standings. Maryland has also now risen to 8th nationally on KenPom.
Ever since Maryland got things rolling in early January, many have wondered about the team’s long-term potential. More simply stated, many have theorized about when the other shoe would drop with this team and the Terps would fall into a tailspin. It’s undoubtedly a side effect from the slides in previous season under Mark Turgeon, but it was certainly there. While Maryland looked great on paper, it still felt like we needed to see more.
Well, as of Friday night, we’ve officially seen it.
Maryland will still likely have some hiccups over the final weeks of the season, but there’s no way to look at this team and think it’s anything other than great. The Terps are 19-4 and lead the Big Ten by a full game with just eight games remaining. And the team is projected to be favored in six of those remaining games. It’s an exciting time to be a Terps fan.
This week, Maryland will have an interesting set of games with Nebraska at home on Tuesday and Michigan State on the road on Saturday. The road game in East Lansing projects to be the team’s toughest remaining game. So, if Maryland finds a way to win these two, the Big Ten title seems more than likely.
#2 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+3)
The Nittany Lions had a lot of critics (including myself) coming into the season. Many didn’t believe Pat Chambers would be able to put together a team at Penn State capable of making the NCAA Tournament. However, Penn State is not only making a serious push toward the postseason, but also toward the Big Ten title.
And last week was arguably Penn State’s most impressive week of the season. The Nittany Lions went on the road and beat Michigan State on Tuesday and followed that up with a win against solid Minnesota team at home on Saturday. The wins pushed Penn State to 18-5 overall and 8-4 in Big Ten play. The team is now just one game out of first place in the Big Ten. A remarkable achievement.
Penn State will now look to lock up an NCAA bid this week with Purdue on the road on Tuesday and Northwestern at home on Saturday. Even a split probably gets the Nittany Lions into the field.
#3 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-1)
The Hawkeyes split the team’s games last week, with a loss on the road to Purdue on Wednesday night and a win over Nebraska on Saturday. As a result, Iowa now sits at 17-7 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play. Despite a relatively rough week, the team still remains in good shape and has won seven of its last nine games.
With all that said, Iowa’s last two results were quite bizarre. The Hawkeyes went on the road and got absolutely walloped by Purdue on Wednesday, but responded by beating down Nebraska (who beat Iowa earlier this season) at home on Saturday. Iowa swung 50 points in point-differential in the two games. Locations and opponents aside, that’s an incredible two-game set. And it makes it hard to take anything too significant away from those results.
Iowa will now prepare for one of its most challenging set of games remaining this week with Indiana on the road on Thursday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday. Even a split in those two games would be notable.
#4 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
The Illini only had one game this week and fell short in it, falling at home to a red hot Maryland team on Friday night. It was the team’s second straight loss and dropped the Illini to 16-7 overall and 8-4 in Big Ten play. Illinois now sits in second in the Big Ten standings after briefly leading the standings.
Illinois still sits in a great spot, but will now enter an absolutely vital week. The Illini will face Michigan State at home on Tuesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. Both games figure to be difficult ones. It’s the type of week that can either establish Illinois as a legitimate Big Ten title contender or evaporate the team’s chances. Fans will hope the team can deliver after two recent missteps.
#5 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+1)
The Scarlet Knights had an eventful week. Rutgers began the week by playing really well on the road against Maryland on Tuesday night despite a loss, but followed it up by needing overtime to beat a struggling Northwestern squad. As a result, Rutgers now sits at 17-7 overall and is 8-5 in Big Ten play.
By any general measure, Rutgers has already had a great season. The Scarlet Knights have vastly overachieved and now have great odds of making the Big Dance on Selection Sunday. No matter what happens going forward, fans should be thrilled.
With all that said, this is a week where Rutgers can truly prove it belongs in the top tier of the Big Ten. The team will get Ohio State on the road on Wednesday and Illinois at home on Saturday. Win both, or even split, and Rutgers will have a serious shot at a double-bye heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
#6 - Purdue Boilermakers (+4)
After an up and down season, Purdue just put together arguably its best two games of the entire year. The Boilermakers blew the doors off of Iowa at home on Wednesday night and followed that up with a 12-point win on the road against arch-rival Indiana. The wins pushed Purdue to 14-10 overall and 7-6 in Big Ten play.
With seven regular season games remaining, Purdue sits in a unique position. The team probably needs to go at least 4-3 in those games to even have a shot at an at-large NCAA bid. Luckily for fans, Purdue is currently projected by KenPom to hit that win total in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, the tough part will be going beyond that, as the team still has some challenging remaining road games against Iowa, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. It seems likely Purdue will need to win at least one of those to have a legitimate shot at making the NCAAs without a Big Ten Tournament run.
Purdue will get started on those efforts this week with a red hot Penn State at home on Tuesday and Ohio State on the road on Saturday. The team needs to at least split these games.
#7 - Michigan State Spartans (-3)
The Spartans had a rough week, losing at home to Penn State on Tuesday and to arch-rival Michigan on the road on Saturday. The losses dropped Michigan State to 16-8 overall, to 8-5 in Big Ten play, and two games back in the Big Ten standings. The team has now lost three in a row and five of its last eight games.
Despite what critics may say, Michigan State is still a good team and more than capable of making some noise in March. After all, the team is still 16-8 overall, is ranked 10th nationally on KenPom, and has eight wins over top 100 opponents. Bad teams don’t put together stats like that.
But with all that said, Michigan State is clearly struggling and has been really underwhelming away from home so far this season. The bench rotation needs some work and the team is overly reliant on Cassius Winston. And with a brutal upcoming slate, things could get even more dangerous in the weeks ahead. Simply put, this team needs to get things figured out. And soon.
That brutal stretch will start this week with Illinois on the road on Tuesday and Maryland at home on Saturday. Even a split here would be notable. It will probably take a sweep for the Spartans to seriously get back in the Big Ten title race.
#8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Gophers had mixed results last week, beating Wisconsin at home on Wednesday and falling on the road against Penn State on Saturday. The split left Minnesota sitting at 12-11 overall and 6-7 in league play.
Unfortunately, the mixed results last week have put Minnesota into a tough spot moving forward. With only seven regular season games remaining, Minnesota’s best case scenario is a 19-11 overall record heading into the Big Ten Tournament. That would put Minnesota squarely on the bubble and that’s assuming the Gophers have a perfect finish to the regular season. And considering the team still has remaining games against opponents like Iowa and Maryland, pulling that off won’t be easy.
Minnesota only has one game this week, which will come at home against Iowa on Sunday afternoon. The Gophers are projected to be mild favorites in the game and it’s a must win if the team wants to make a serious NCAA push.
#9 - Wisconsin Badgers (-2)
The Badgers had two games last week and split those games, falling on the road against Minnesota on Wednesday and beating Ohio State at home on Sunday. The mixed results left Wisconsin sitting at 14-10 overall and 7-6 in Big Ten play. The team has now won two of its last three games after a few rough results.
This week, Wisconsin only has one game, which will come on the road against Nebraska on Saturday. This is a must win if the Badgers hope to have a serious shot at an at-large NCAA bid.
#10 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-2)
The Buckeyes had a tough slate last week and performed relatively well, all things considered. Ohio State beat arch-rival Michigan on the road on Tuesday in dramatic fashion, but fell on the road by double-digits to Wisconsin on Sunday. The split left Ohio State sitting at 15-8 overall and 5-7 in Big Ten play.
The good news is that things should get easier this week. Ohio State has two challenging opponents on the docket, but both games will come at home. The Buckeyes will face Rutgers at home on Wednesday and Purdue at home on Saturday. KenPom gives Ohio State at least 64 percent odds in both games.
#11 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines went 1-1 in the team’s games last week, but did relatively well. While Michigan lost in dramatic fashion at home against Ohio State on Tuesday, the team responded with a huge win against Michigan State at home on Saturday. Star forward Isaiah Livers returned for the second game and provided a huge boost.
Michigan is another one of these teams squarely on the bubble and needing every win it can get moving forward. The Wolverines will have two winnable games on the docket this week and desperately need to find a way to win both. Michigan will face Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Indiana at home on Sunday.
#12 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers had a really rough week. Indiana only had one game, but came up really small in it, losing at home to arch-rival Purdue on Saturday. It was the team’s fourth straight loss and fifth loss in seven games. Indiana is now just 15-8 overall and is another group projected to finish in the 18-win range.
Indiana will get two vitally important games this week with Iowa at home on Thursday and Michigan on the road on Sunday. The Hoosiers figure to be underdogs in both games, but desperately need to at least split. We’ll see if the team can deliver.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (+1)
The Wildcats fought really well this week, but fell short in the team’s only game this week on the road against Rutgers on Sunday. The loss dropped Northwestern to 6-16 overall and to a dreadful 1-11 mark in Big Ten play. It was the team’s seventh straight loss.
Obviously, a lot of fans are frustrated with how this season has gone and rightfully so. You can’t explain away a 6-16 overall record. With that said, it’s important to keep things in perspective for teams like Nebraska and Northwestern. This is probably the best top 12 this league has even seen. As such, even winning a single game is a huge challenge.
Northwestern and Nebraska aren’t great teams, but they aren’t nearly as bad as people think. For instance, Minnesota was ranked 117th on KenPom a few years back (where Northwestern is now) and went 4-14 in Big Ten play. Rutgers also went 3-15 in conference play with a 130th nationally rating. This is just a rough year to be mediocre to bad.
This week, Northwestern will hope to bounce back with Michigan at home on Wednesday and Penn State on the road on Saturday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1)
The Huskers only had one game this week and fell in it, on the road against a ranked Iowa squad. As a result, Nebraska fell to 7-16 overall and 2-10 in Big Ten play. The Huskers will hope to get back on track this week with Maryland on the road on Tuesday and Wisconsin at home on Saturday.