After months of waiting, college basketball finally returned last week. And what it week it was for the Big Ten and the nation at large. We got to see a boatload of games and more than enough marquee matchups to keep things interesting.
So, with nearly a week of play in the books, let’s take a look at this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week One Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines had a solid opening week of play. Michigan held off a solid Buffalo team at home on Wednesday and steamrolled Prairie View A&M on a neutral court on Saturday. The second game was part of the Coaches vs. Racism series. The two wins pushed Michigan to 2-0 on the season and the Wolverines remain ranked second nationally on KenPom.
Perhaps the most notable development for Michigan this week was the debut of the program’s lauded group of newcomers. The program welcomed the league’s best 2021 recruiting class and talented transfer DeVante’ Jones. All told, the group made quite an impact. Jones and Caleb Houstan earned starting roles and freshman Moussa Diabate played extremely well in the team’s win over Buffalo on Wednesday. There’s clearly still some room to grow for this group, but it’s hard not to be excited about their future.
Michigan will now prepare for a massive week of play with Seton Hall at home on Tuesday and the Roman Main Event this weekend, where the team will face UNLV on Friday and either Arizona or Wichita State on Sunday. This will arguably be the team’s toughest week of play until January.
#2 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini opened things up with two utterly dominant wins over Jackson State and Arkansas State at home. The games were never in doubt and Brad Underwood got plenty of time to see the team’s backups in action. Notably, the wins came without star Kofi Cockburn, who sat out due to NCAA issues. Coleman Hawkins played extremely well in his absence, scoring double-digits in both games and posting a double-double against Arkansas State.
This week, Illinois only has one game, but it’s a big one with Marquette on the road on Monday night as part of the Gavitt Games. It’s the team’s first real challenge of the season, as both opponents last week were ranked well outside the top 150 on KenPom. Marquette also enters the game with a perfect 2-0 record.
#3 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers won both of the team’s games last week by nearly identical margins, beating Bellarmine by a 96-67 final and Indiana State by a 92-67 final. The wins pushed Purdue to 2-0 overall. Zach Edey led the way, scoring 38 total points in the games.
The team is now primed for a heck of a week with a feisty Wright State at home on Tuesday and the Hall of Fame Tournament over the weekend. In that event, Purdue will get North Carolina on Saturday and either Tennessee or Villanova on Sunday. Obviously, two wins there would be massive for the team’s resume, especially considering Tennessee and Villanova are both currently ranked in KenPom’s top 10.
#4 - Maryland Terrapins (+1)
The Terps lead the Big Ten in total wins after opening things up with three wins. Like some of the other teams in these rankings, Maryland didn’t win all of its games in dominant fashion, but the team got the job done. The Terps beats Quinnipiac on Tuesday, George Washington on Thursday, and a top 100 Vermont team on Saturday.
Qudus Wahab also made quite a debut this week, scoring 17 points against Quinnipiac and 18 points against George Washington. And that’s great news for Terp fans, as few were confident in the team’s frontcourt entering the season. Fans will hope he and the other newcomers can continue to grow.
Maryland will get two more tuneup games this week with George Mason at home on Wednesday and Hofstra at home on Friday. KenPom gives the Terps more than a 90 percent chance to win each of the two games.
#5 - Michigan State Spartans (+1)
The Spartans had a mixed week of play. Michigan State fell short against Kansas on Tuesday night, but rebounded with an easy win over Western Michigan on Friday. The split left Michigan State sitting at 1-1 overall. The Spartans dropped to 4-7 in the Champions Classic with the loss to Kansas on Tuesday night.
Michigan State will get another marquee game this week with Butler on the road on Wednesday night. The team will also get Eastern Michigan at home on Saturday. Fans will be hoping for two wins, but it won’t be easy.
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+2)
The Hawkeyes kept things pretty boring this week, cruising to massive wins over Longwood and UMKC to open up the season. Both opponents are rated outside the top 250 on KenPom and offered little resistance to Iowa’s high powered offense. Keegan Murray also looked like a potential All-Big Ten first team player, scoring 49 total points in the two games.
This week, Iowa will get two more tune up games with North Carolina Central at home on Tuesday and Alabama State at home on Thursday. Both opponents are abysmal, ranking outside the top 300 on KenPom.
#7 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-3)
The Buckeyes had a rough week of play. Despite winning both of the team’s games, it’s hard to feel great about how things went. Ohio State needed a buzzer beater to hold off Akron on Tuesday and played a relatively competitive game against Niagara on Friday. This team is going to need some serious improvement to avoid stumbling in the weeks ahead.
Perhaps the most concerning part of the team is the backcourt. Jamari Wheeler was supposed to address the team’s offseason departures at guard, but he struggled significantly in his two outings last week. He finished with two points in 29 minutes against Akron and had nine points in 33 minutes against Niagara. Don’t be surprised if the team starts looking at alternatives if things don’t improve.
Ohio State will get two intriguing tests this week. The Buckeyes get Bowling Green at home on Monday and Xavier on the road on Thursday. Without some improvement, it’s hard to see the team remaining unbeaten after those two.
#8 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
The Badgers opened the season with two wins against throughly overmatched opponents. Wisconsin beat St. Francis (NY) on Tuesday and Green Bay on Friday. The win over the Phoenix was particularly impressive, coming by a 72-34 margin. Wisconsin now sits at 2-0 overall and moved up to 40th on KenPom following the wins.
Wisconsin only gets one game this week, but it’s a big one, coming against Providence at home on Monday night. The Friars are ranked 78th on KenPom and are more than capable of putting up a fight. Look for a physical game.
#9 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-2)
The Scarlet Knights were another team that throughly underwhelmed. Despite scoring wins in each of the team’s opening games, Rutgers needed overtime to beat Lehigh at home on Wednesday night and only beat Merrimack by seven points in a sloppy game on Saturday. Neither win was particularly impressive.
Rutgers should get two more “easy” games this week with NJIT at home on Tuesday and DePaul on the road on Thursday. However, both of these opponents are rated above Lehigh, who took Rutgers to overtime last week, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. This is the seventh straight season Rutgers has started the season with a 2-0 record.
#10 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers had mixed results. While Indiana won both of its games, it showed some scars along the way. Indiana narrowly avoided losing to Eastern Michigan at home on Tuesday and won convincingly over Northern Illinois on Friday. It was a pretty shaky 2-0 start.
Perhaps the most important takeaway was the team’s continued struggles from deep. Many were hoping some of the new additions and Mike Woodson’s leadership could help Indiana’s shooting woes. However, Indiana remained putrid from deep, shooting 25.5 percent from three through two games. It was also particularly rough against Eastern Michigan, as the team shot 16.7 percent from three-point range. Teams can survive rough shooting, but you’re not going anywhere significant in 2021 with those kind of numbers. The team and coaching staff have their work cut out.
Indiana will get challenging games this week with St. John’s at home on Wednesday and Louisiana at home on Sunday. Both are substantially better than the two teams the Hoosiers faced last week. It should be a statement week for the program.
#11 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3)
The Gophers had a fantastic opening week of play, going 3-0 against a pretty solid slate. Minnesota beat UMKC in the opener and Western Kentucky and Princeton over the weekend in a neutral site event. The game against Princeton was particularly close, needing double overtime to settle things. Payton Willis led the way with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
Minnesota will now get a pretty relaxed week of play, with only one game against Purdue Fort Wayne no Friday at home. The Gophers will be heavily favored to get to 4-0, which is notable given the team’s underwhelming preseason expectations.
#12 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had a nice week, scoring wins over Eastern Illinois and High Point to improve to 2-0 on the season. Pete Nance led the way, scoring 13 points in the opening and posting 22 points and 10 rebounds in the game against High Point.
Northwestern gets two more beatable opponents this week with New Orleans at home on Tuesday and Fairleigh Dickinson at home on Thursday. These should be good opportunities to keep working the newcomers into the rotation.
#13 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions only had one game last week, but came out on top in it. Penn State knocked off Youngstown State on Wednesday, giving Micah Shrewsberry his first win as the program’s head coach. The team will now get ready for a challenging week of play with UMass on the road on Monday and St. Francis (NY) at home on Thursday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-3)
The Huskers had a dreadful opening week of play, falling to Western Illinois in the opener and beating Sam Houston State in a relatively close second game. Bryce McGowens showed some promising signs in his first few games, but little else went right. The frontcourt looked rough and the bench was underwhelming as well.
Nebraska will get three games this week with Creighton at home on Tuesday, Idaho State at home on Friday, and Southern at home on Sunday. If the Huskers can go 3-0 in those games, many would likely overlook the early struggles.