Last week was a great one for Big Ten basketball and fans across the nation. We got treated to a number of marquee games, including a handful of ranked matchups and a huge rivalry showdown on Thursday night between Indiana and Purdue. And of course, those games shook up things in these Power Rankings as well. Teams like Iowa moved up while others like Illinois 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 Eight Power Rankings
#1 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes only had one game this week and cruised in it, beating Northwestern at by 23 points on Sunday afternoon. The win pushed Iowa to 12-2 overall and 6-1 in Big Ten play. The 12-2 start through 14 games ties the program’s best start since the 2004-’05 season. And considering the limited non-conference games available this year, that’s really saying something.
This week, Iowa will get Indiana at home on Thursday night after the team’s game against Nebraska was postponed for COVID-19 related concerns. The Hawkeyes are currently projected as 10-point favorites by KenPom over the Hoosiers.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
Talk about an up and down week of play. Michigan opened the week by steamrolling Wisconsin at home on Tuesday night, but followed it up with a dud on the road against Minnesota on Saturday. The split left the Wolverines sitting at 11-1 overall and 6-1 in Big Ten play. The loss to the Gophers snapped Michigan’s undefeated start to the season.
However, even if the loss to Minnesota was disappointing, there’s still a lot to like about the Wolverines moving forward. The team looks incredibly balanced, continues to rise up in the advanced metrics, and has a bonafide star in Hunter Dickinson. Michigan has a brutal slate in the coming months and needs to show a bit more on the road, but an 11-1 start with eight games against top 100 opponents is pretty impressive, especially when the lone loss was on the road against a ranked opponent without one of its starting guards.
The win over Wisconsin also deserves a call out here. The final score read 77-54, but the game wasn’t even as close to as competitive as that score suggests. The Wolverines led by as much as 40 in the game and things were never really competitive after a few minutes into the second half. It was as convincing of a beat down of Wisconsin as you will ever see.
Michigan is now slated to get two intriguing games this week with Maryland at home on Tuesday and Purdue on the road on Friday. The Wolverines should be favored in both, but the Terps have been oddly good away from home and Purdue is always dangerous in Mackey Arena. We’ll see if Michigan can make it out unscathed.
#3 - Wisconsin Badgers (--)
The Badgers had a mixed week. Wisconsin opened things up by getting run off the court by Michigan on Tuesday night, but rebounded with a win at Rutgers on Friday night. The split left the team sitting at 11-3 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin’s three losses this season have all come in different ways, but fans have to be pleased with how the team has responded to each. All three loses were followed by a significant win for the Badgers. Wisconsin responded to the Marquette loss with a win over a solid Rhode Island team, then beat Minnesota after falling to Maryland, and now beat Rutgers after the embarrassing outing against Michigan earlier in the week.
Bouncing back from adversity is a great sign for a team and shows the Badgers are a team with experience that knows what Big Ten play is like. You’re going to have good and bad nights. The key is taking it step by step and not overreacting to anything, whether good or bad. The Badgers are excelling in that regard.
Wisconsin will get two more interesting games this week with Northwestern at home on Wednesday and Ohio State at home on Saturday. Both games look winnable. We’ll see if the Badgers can take care of business.
#4 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+2)
The Gophers only had one game this week, but scored a huge win in it against a previously undefeated Michigan at home on Saturday afternoon. And the win came in convincing fashion, as Minnesota cruised to an 18-point win over the Wolverines to improve to 11-4 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play with the win.
This week, Minnesota will get Maryland at home on Saturday for its lone game of the coming days. The Gophers should be significant favorites in the matchup.
#5 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+2)
The Buckeyes have spent much of this season under the radar, but that changed some this week with two impressive wins. Ohio State handled Northwestern at home on Wednesday night and followed it up with a massive win on the road against Illinois.
The two wins pushed Ohio State to 11-3 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten play, and on the verge of the Big Ten title race. The Buckeyes are now just two games out of the lead with plenty of opportunities to move up in the coming weeks. It’s still quite a long shot, but Ohio State could change that narrative this week with two huge wins. The Buckeyes get Purdue at home on Tuesday and Wisconsin on the road on Saturday.
#6 - Purdue Boilermakers (+2)
The Boilermakers scored two nice wins this week, beating arch-rival Indiana on the road on Thursday night and Penn State at home on Sunday. The wins pushed Purdue to 10-5 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten play, and 27th on KenPom.
Like Ohio State described above, Purdue is on the verge of getting a spot in the Big Ten title race. However, it’s just that. Purdue is close to having a seat at the table, but isn’t quite there yet. And it sets up for a “make or break” week in that context with Purdue facing Ohio State on the road on Tuesday and Michigan at home on Friday. The Boilermakers need a split or sweep if the team hopes to keep pace. Both look to be really difficult games.
#7 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-3)
CBS called Illinois the nation’s most unreliable good team and it’s hard to disagree. After blowing a game at home to Maryland last Sunday, most figured Illinois would come out of the gates firing this week and respond with an emphatic win over Ohio State. Instead, the team put up another dud and fell to the Buckeyes at home.
Saturday’s loss was bad in its own right, but it’s even worse when you consider what it could do to the team’s Big Ten title hopes. Illinois was considered the preseason favorite (or close to it) for the Big Ten’s regular season crown and now finds itself sitting at 9-5 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten play, and in a three-way tie for fourth place in the league standings.
And those standings look even worse when you remember Illinois hasn’t even played Iowa, Michigan, or Wisconsin yet. Yes, it’s possible Illinois could sweep its games against those three, but that’s asking for a lot. It really seems like Illinois is approaching that fine line where a conference title is out of the picture. We’re not there yet, but we’re close.
Illinois will hope to make up some ground this week with Penn State at home on Tuesday and Michigan State on the road on Saturday. The team really needs a sweep.
#8 - Northwestern Wildcats (-3)
The Wildcats had another rough week, falling on the road to Ohio State on Wednesday and at home against Iowa on Sunday. The losses left Northwestern sitting at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play. The team has now lost five straight dating back to December 29th.
Many out there have been suggesting Northwestern’s early Big Ten wins were a “mirage,” but it seems a bit early to say that. While the Wildcats have lost five straight, it’s important to remember all five games came against teams ranked in the top 16 on KenPom. Northwestern may be better than preseason expectations, but expecting it to compete against teams that good is probably asking a bit much. We’ll have to wait and see how the team performs when the schedule comes back to earth.
Unfortunately, things won’t get much easier this week. Northwestern will face Wisconsin on the road on Wednesday and Penn State on the road on Saturday. Fans should be hoping for a split in this week’s games.
#9 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps only had one game last week, beating Wingate at home on Friday in a rare January non-conference game after some COVID-19 postponements. Maryland will return to action this week on the road against Michigan on Tuesday and on the road against Minnesota on Saturday. Both look like challenging games.
#10 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers had a rough week, falling at home against arch-rival Purdue on Thursday night in the team’s only game. It was the program’s eighth straight loss to the Boilermakers and Archie Miller’s sixth straight loss as head coach. Indiana now sits at 8-6 overall and 3-4 in Big Ten play following the home defeat.
There are no “must win” games in January, but it’s getting late early in Bloomington. If Indiana is going to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, it’s going to need to turn things around and start winning some of these toss up games.
That might sound simple, but the Big Ten slate is absolutely brutal this year. You need to take care of business when you have the chance, and that certainly includes home games against similarly ranked teams like last Thursday. KenPom ranked Indiana above Purdue before Thursday’s loss to the Boilermakers at home. An NCAA team finds a way to win a game like that. Indiana’s simply letting too many of those slip away right now.
Indiana will now enter this week with even more pressure as the Hoosiers prepare for two more difficult games. Indiana gets Iowa on the road on Thursday and Rutgers at home on Sunday. The team absolutely must find a way to at least split these games.
#11 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans were off after some COVID-19 related postponements. Michigan State is set to return to action on Saturday at home against Illinois. The team currently sits at 8-4 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play.
#12 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights lost the team’s only game this week, falling at home to Wisconsin on Friday night. It was a disappointing loss and marks the latest in a recent trend of missteps. Rutgers has now lost four straight and five of its last six games. Like Indiana, it’s time to start worrying about where things are heading here.
Rutgers will hope to turn things around this week with two pretty manageable games. The team gets Penn State on the road on Thursday and Indiana on the road on Sunday. Neither is anything close to a guaranteed win, but neither looks unwinnable either.
#13 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions finally got back into action this week after a brief pause to all team activities. Unfortunately, things didn’t end well as Penn State lost its only game on the road against Purdue on Sunday. The loss dropped the team to 3-5 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play.
Penn State will now get a brutal three-game week in an effort to make up its postponed matchups with Illinois on the road on Tuesday, Rutgers at home on Thursday, and Northwestern at home on Saturday. Fans will hope Penn State can find a way to win one or two of these games.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers were off after some COVID-19 related postponements. Nebraska is set to return to action on Saturday at home against Penn State. The team currently sits at 4-8 overall and 0-5 in Big Ten play.