New Year’s is always an exciting time and the Big Ten was no exception to that fun and enjoyment. Fans got to enjoy a number of marquee games this week, including a handful of matchups between ranked opponents. Few made it through the week unscathed.
And of course, we got to see a number of changes as a result of those games. Teams like Illinois and Iowa rose, while others like Ohio State and Purdue 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 Six Power Rankings
#1 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
The Illini won the team’s only game this week, beating Purdue at home on Saturday afternoon. The win pushed Illinois to 8-3 overall, 4-1 in Big Ten play, and seventh nationally on KenPom. It’s the program’s highest mark since December 8, 2010 on the advanced stats site, when Bruce Weber was still leading things in Champaign.
Perhaps the bench’s surprising production was the most notable part of Illinois’ victory on Saturday. Illinois has largely depended on Ayo Dosunmu to carry things this season, but Da’Monte Williams and Adam Miller were the stars this week. The two combined for an impressive 22 points and 13 rebounds on the night. If Illinois is going to win the Big Ten title and do some damage in March, it’s going to need the bench to continue to show up well.
This week, Illinois will get arch-rival Northwestern on the road on Thursday and Maryland at home on Sunday. Both games look very winnable on paper. If Illinois is going to go on to win the Big Ten title, this feels like a great week to get some separation with two wins.
#2 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes won both of the team’s games last week, beating Northwestern at home on Tuesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. The win over the Scarlet Knights was particularly impressive, as Rutgers has been nearly unbeatable at home over the last two years. Iowa now sits at 9-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play with the wins. It’s tied for the program’s best start through 11 games since the 2013-’14 season.
Luka Garza continued his incredible run this week with 18 points in the win over Northwestern and 25 points in the win over Rutgers. However, a few other players turned some heads as well. CJ Fredrick had 18 points against the Wildcats and Keegan Murray had 14 points in the win over the Scarlet Knights as well. It’s an encouraging sign for the months ahead, as Iowa will need a lot from the role players as the season continues.
Iowa will get two intriguing games this week with Maryland on the road on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. Both games look pretty manageable. Like Illinois above, this is a week for the Hawkeyes to move up in the league standings.
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (+2)
The Wolverines had a phenomenal week with two convincing wins. Michigan went on the road and beat Maryland on New Year’s Eve and followed that up by throttling a ranked Northwestern team at home on Sunday evening. The two wins pushed Michigan to 9-0 overall, 4-0 in Big Ten play, and into the top 10 nationally on KenPom. Michigan remains the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten.
Michigan has yet to play an elite opponent, but it’s hard to critique much about the team’s performance so far this season. The Wolverines are undefeated with five wins over top 100 teams and seven wins against top 125 opponents and virtually every win has come in convincing fashion. Hunter Dickinson has been incredible down low and players like Chaundee Brown and Franz Wagner are coming around as well. At this point, Michigan has the look of a second or third weekend NCAA team.
This week, Michigan will get two more intriguing matchups with Minnesota at home on Wednesday night and Penn State on the road on Saturday. Michigan projects to be favored in both games.
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (-3)
The Badgers split the team’s games this week, falling at home to Maryland on Monday night and rebounding with a win over arch-rival Minnesota on Thursday. Wisconsin was also supposed to play Penn State, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The mixed results left the Badgers sitting at 9-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. But even with the recent loss, Wisconsin remains in great shape having won six of the team’s last seven games.
Micah Potter and D’Mitrik Trice remain the centerpieces for Wisconsin. Potter has been incredibly efficient, a threat from deep, and has avoided making mistakes like turnovers this season. Trice has also taken another step forward this year and has been really good from deep, converting 44.0 percent of his attempts from three-point range. The Badger guard is fifth in the league in usage, which is telling given his substantial playing time,
Wisconsin presently only has one game slated for this week, facing Indiana at home on Thursday night. The Badgers should be favored in that one. We’ll have to wait and see when the Penn State game gets rescheduled.
#5 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
The Scarlet Knights had mixed results this week with a win over Purdue at home on Tuesday and a tight loss to Iowa at home on Saturday. The game against Iowa was particularly entertaining, with a number of back-and-forth stretches and a tight finish. The split left Rutgers sitting at 7-2 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play.
Generally speaking, Scarlet Knight fans should still feel good about where things sit for the team moving forward. Rutgers remains top 20 on KenPom and split last week’s games despite an injured roster, including a limited Ron Harper. If Rutgers is playing this well with players like Harper banged up, fans should be excited about where things could trend as the team gets healthier.
This week, Rutgers will get Michigan State on the road on Tuesday and Ohio State at home on Saturday. Rutgers figures to be favored in both games.
#6 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had a rough week, falling to Iowa on the road on Tuesday and Michigan on the road on Sunday. The two losses dropped Northwestern to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. Fans will hope the team can turn things around this week with Illinois at home on Thursday. The Wildcats figure to be underdogs in the matchup.
#7 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3)
The Gophers had an unusual week with a double-digit loss to Wisconsin on Thursday and a 17-point win over Ohio State at home on Sunday. The split left Minnesota sitting at 10-2 overall, 3-2 in Big Ten play, and 23rd on KenPom.
Minnesota is now set for an absolutely brutal slate this week with Michigan on the road on Wednesday and Iowa on the road on Sunday. That’s two road games against top 15 KenPom teams in five days. Even a split would be a major accomplishment for the Gophers.
#8 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-1)
The Buckeyes split the team’s games this week with a win over Nebraska at home on Wednesday and a loss to Minnesota on the road on Sunday. Ohio State now sits at 8-2 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play following the mixed results. Star forwards EJ Liddell and Seth Towns are still working to get back to 100 percent.
Ohio State will now enter perhaps its most important week of the season so far. The team gets Penn State at home on Wednesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. If the Buckeyes are going to make a run for the top of the conference, it feels like both of these games need to be wins. We’ll see how things turn out.
#9 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers lost both of the team’s games this week, falling on the road against Rutgers on Tuesday and on the road against Illinois on Saturday. The two losses dropped Purdue to 7-5 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play.
While Purdue has lost three of its last four games, things aren’t nearly as bad as they might seem to outsiders. For example, Purdue has lost five games already this season, but four of the losses were against top 20 KenPom opponents and all of the team’s losses were away from home. Purdue is going to need to beat some top end opponents to make the postseason, but the Boilermakers are generally meeting expectations. Things just look rough because the Big Ten is so deep this year. You would guess some of these missteps decrease with more home games and a (marginally) easier slate.
This week, Purdue gets Nebraska at home on Tuesday and Michigan State on the road on Friday. The game against the Huskers looks pretty winnable and the matchup against the Spartans figures to be a toss up. Fans will hope for a sweep.
#10 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers won the team’s only game this week, beating Penn State at home in overtime on Wednesday night. The win pushed Indiana to 6-4 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play. Indiana will hope to keep that momentum going this week with Maryland at home on Monday, Wisconsin on the road on Thursday, and Nebraska on the road on Sunday. Fans have to be hoping the team will go at least 2-1 in those outings.
#11 - Maryland Terrapins (+2)
The Terps had quite a wild week of action, beating Wisconsin on the road on Monday night and falling to Michigan at home on Thursday in a pretty entertaining game. Maryland now sits at 6-4 overall and 1-3 in league play with the split. The loss to Michigan will sting, but it’s hard to complain too much about a 1-1 performance against two top 10 KenPom teams.
Unfortunately for Terp fans hoping for things to get easier, that won’t be the case this week. Maryland has three games on the docket and all of them look challenging. The Terps get Indiana on the road on Monday night, Iowa at home on Thursday, and Illinois on the road on Sunday. KenPom projects Maryland as an underdog in all three games. Fans will have to hope the Terps can pull off an upset or two. Otherwise, things could really start trending in the wrong direction this season.
#12 - Michigan State Spartans (-4)
The Spartans had an underwhelming week, losing by nearly 30 points on the road to Minnesota on Monday night and rebounding with a win over Nebraska on the road on Saturday night. The split left Michigan State sitting at 7-3 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play.
Through 10 games, it’s hard to feel too optimistic about where Michigan State is heading. The Spartans are 7-3 and nearly all those wins have come against pretty weak competition. And the resume continues to look worse as we move forward. For instance, Michigan State sits at 50th on KenPom (not entirely bad), but that still includes preseason projections. If you only look at games since Michigan State started Big Ten play, TRank has the Spartans ranked 110th nationally. Obviously, that ain’t going to cut it in this year’s Big Ten.
The point here is Michigan State needs to make substantial progress and needs to do it quickly. Otherwise, it’s hard to see this group making the NCAA Tournament, let alone getting back into the good graces of the Big Ten.
It’s still January and there’s plenty of time to turn things around, but Michigan State really needs to get things figured out quickly. While that might sound hyperbolic, the data here suggests it could be getting late early in East Lansing. For example, KenPom gives the Spartans at least 46 percent odds in six remaining games, but two of those are this week. More simply stated, if Michigan State doesn’t captalize here, things could get really tough.
That effort will start this week with Rutgers at home on Tuesday night and Purdue at home on Friday. KenPom projects both games as toss ups. Michigan State really needs at least a split to stay in good position moving forward.
#13 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-1)
The Nittany Lions were supposed to play two games last week, but only played one after the game against Wisconsin was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. The other game was against Indiana on the road on Wednesday and the Nittany Lions fell short in it in overtime.
Penn State is slated to get two important games this week with Ohio State on the road on Wednesday and Michigan at home on Saturday. The Nittany Lions figure to be underdogs in both games, but not to be the point where either looks unwinnable.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers lost both of the team’s games this week, falling on the road to Ohio State on Wednesday and at home against Michigan State on Saturday. Nebraska now sits at 4-7 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play following the two losses. Fans will hope the team can score its first Big Ten win this week. The Huskers will get Purdue on the road on Tuesday and Indiana at home on Sunday. Both games look challenging.