The Big Ten had a relatively quiet week. While there were a handful of marquee matchups across the league, this is traditionally a pretty quiet part of the year. Many teams take breaks for exams and Christmas, so the schedule is usually thin. However, it is even lighter this year thanks to a handful of COVID-19 related cancellations.
So, you won’t see a ton of changes in this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week Six Power Rankings
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-)
The Buckeyes’ only game this week was cancelled due to COVID-19 related issues. The team was supposed to play Kentucky in Las Vegas on Saturday. It would have been an exciting matchup between two of the nation’s better teams. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see it, as it’s unlikely the game will be rescheduled this season.
Ohio State was supposed to face Tennessee Martin at home on Tuesday for the team’s only game this week. However, the game has since been cancelled. The program’s release cancelling the game advised the matchup would not be rescheduled this season. As such, Ohio State is set to remain off until December 28th when it will face off against New Orleans at home. Hopefully, the Buckeyes are well enough to play that game.
#2 - Purdue Boilermakers (-)
The Boilermakers only played one game this week, but were impressive in it, blowing out Butler in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday. It was the team’s sixth win over a top 110 KenPom opponent already this season, with a few of those coming by double-digits. Purdue now sits at 10-1 overall and No. 1 nationally in offensive efficiency.
Purdue will now prepare for a relatively quiet week. The Boilers only have one game, which will come at home against Incarnate Word on Monday. KenPom presently has Purdue as a 39-point favorite in that one, so don’t expect too much excitement for the team this week.
#3 - Michigan State Spartans (-)
The Spartans were off this week. Michigan State will return to action on Tuesday in Detroit against Oakland. It should be a fun in-state battle.
#4 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
Illinois won its only game this week, blowing the doors off St. Francis (PA) on Saturday. It was as lopsided game as you’ll see, ending with a 106-48 final score. To put it in perspective, Illinois moved up four spots on KenPom from the win alone, which is pretty remarkably considering St. Francis (PA)’s lowly ranking outside the top 200.
It was a complete and utter beat down.
This week, Illinois gets Missouri on Wednesday in the annual Braggin’ Rights game. It’s the team’s only game of the week and there’s little doubt Illinois will be looking to avenge last year’s crushing loss against the Tigers. Illinois should be favored before tip.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes scored a much needed win this week, beating Utah State in Sioux Falls on Saturday night. The Aggies entered the game at 8-3 and actually had a pretty decent resume, despite what some might believe based on the program’s history. The win pushed Iowa to 8-3 overall. It was the team’s second win over a top 60 KenPom opponent this season.
Iowa will get a few days off before facing Southeastern Louisiana at home on Tuesday. It’s the team’s only game of the week.
#6 - Wisconsin Badgers (-2)
The Badgers won their only game this week, beating Nicholls State at home on Wednesday night. The game was far too close for comfort, as Wisconsin struggled to beat what presented as a pretty underwhelming Nicholls State team. The Colonels were viewed as a decent mid-major opponent, but are still outside the top 200 on KenPom. It was a concerning result for the Badgers, even if Jonathan Davis was sidelined with an illness.
Wisconsin’s only game this week will be on Thursday, when the Badgers face off against Morgan State at home. It should be a lopsided affair. However, with Wisconsin’s recent play, fans will be on high alert before tip.
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (-)
The Hoosiers beat Notre Dame on Saturday in the team’s only game of the week. It was a notable win for a few reasons. To start, Indiana desperately needed to get a quality win after the missteps against Wisconsin earlier this year. Moreover, Indiana needed a marquee win. The team has played a decent slate so far, but primarily against weak competition. And even if Notre Dame isn’t an elite team, it is a good squad who just knocked off Kentucky.
Following the win, Indiana now sits at 9-2 overall. The Hoosiers only have one game this week, coming against Northern Kentucky at home on Wednesday. If all goes well, Indiana could be setting up for a massive showdown against Ohio State at home on January 6th. It’s likely the two teams will enter in strong top 25 consideration.
#8 - Northwestern Wildcats (-)
The Wildcats were off this week after the team’s game against DePaul on Saturday was cancelled because of COVID-19 issues. Northwestern will hope to return to action on Monday at home against Illinois Springfield. Expect a victory for the Wildcats.
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-)
The Gophers won the team’s only game this week, beating Texas A&M Corpus Christi at home on Tuesday night. The win pushed Minnesota to 9-1 overall. Minnesota continues to get great play from its backcourt and Jamison Battle.
Minnesota will return to action on Wednesday at home against Green Bay. KenPom has the Gophers as 19-point favorites. If Minnesota wins, it would be the team’s best start through 11 games since the 2016-’17 season and tie its best start since 2012.
#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-)
The Scarlet Knights were off this week after the team’s game against Rider was postponed because of COVID-19 issues. Rutgers is presently scheduled to return to action against Central Connecticut at home on Thursday. The Scarlet Knights figure to be significant favorites in that game.
#11 - Michigan Wolverines (-)
The Wolverines had a nice performance this week, blowing out a decent Southern Utah team at home on Saturday evening. Michigan improved to 7-4 overall with the win and really looked impressive. Hunter Dickinson dominated down low, DeVante’ Jones performed well in the backcourt, and Moussa Diabate showed encouraging signs as well.
Michigan has one game this week, which will come at home on Tuesday against Purdue Fort Wayne. KenPom has the Wolverines as significant favorites in that one.
#12 - Maryland Terrapins (-)
The Terps were off this week, which was much needed after the team’s disastrous run in late November and early December. Maryland remains 6-4 overall, 0-1 in Big Ten play, and 51st on KenPom. This week, Maryland is presently set to be off again before getting back into action against Loyola (MD) at home on the 28th.
#13 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-)
The Nittany Lions were off this week after the team’s game against VCU on Saturday was cancelled as the result of COVID-19 issues. Penn State is presently scheduled to return to action against Delaware State at home on Wednesday. Penn State figures to be a significant favorite in that game.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-)
The Huskers had another rough week, losing the team’s only game against Kansas State on Sunday. Once again, Nebraska showed promise in the game before collapsing in excruciating fashion. The Huskers actually led Kansas State by double-digits at one point in Sunday’s matchup. Unfortunately, Nebraska gave it all up by halftime and more. The team just can’t find enough consistency to beat quality opponents.
With the loss, Nebraska now sits at 5-7 overall and without a win over a team ranked above 234th on KenPom two months into the season. And while many of those losses have come against good teams like Creighton and Auburn, not all of them have. Nebraska dropped its opener against Western Illinois, lost a winnable road game against North Carolina State, and had opportunities against Michigan and Kansas State at home. Those losses are why Nebraska has dropped nearly 50 spots on KenPom since the season began.
There’s a chance Nebraska can turn things around. After all, we’ve seen some crazy things in Big Ten play before. However, it’s looking painfully obvious this is going to be another lost year in Lincoln. KenPom projects Nebraska to finish 10-21 overall and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. This team feels like a hodgepodge of players that don’t fit or play particularly well together. And there aren’t many obvious solutions on the roster.
Another loss season would also raise obvious questions about Fred Hoiberg and his future with the program. We’ll have plenty of time to dissect those in the months ahead, but it’s probably time to start having that discussion. This is Hoiberg’s third year and he’s 19-52 (.268) overall and 5-36 (.122) in Big Ten play. It’s hard to believe another coach couldn’t match those kind of numbers and Hoiberg’s marks might get even worse with so many tough opponents ahead. We’ll have to wait and see how things shake out. Even with Hoiberg’s struggles, the Big Ten is notorious for giving its head coaches time.
This week, Nebraska will get Kennesaw State at home on Wednesday. This should be and needs to be a win.