After a tumultuous couple of weeks filled with cancellations and postponements, the Big Ten roared back into action this week, highlighted by some great conference games over the weekend. The litany of games had quite an impact on this week’s Big Ten Power Rankings, which is nice to see after so little action beforehand.
So, with that, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week Eight Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
The Boilermakers won in the team’s only game this week, knocking off Nicholls State at home on Wednesday. The win pushed Purdue to 12-1 overall heading into the restart of conference play. Purdue remains the league’s highest rated team in the advanced numbers and the polls, so fans have to feel confident coming into Big Ten play.
This week, Purdue gets Wisconsin at home on Monday and Penn State on the road on Saturday. Both of these should be wins. We’ll see if the Boilers can take care of business.
#2 - Michigan State Spartans (+1)
The Spartans scored two solid wins this week, beating High Point at home on Wednesday with a limited rotation and Northwestern on the road on Sunday. The second win was particularly impressive, as the Wildcats have been playing really well over the last month and jumped out to an early win. The two wins pushed Michigan State to 11-2 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play. The Spartans are also undefeated since losing to Baylor on Black Friday.
Michigan State now gets one of those stretches where it has a chance to elevate itself even further up the conference and national rankings. The Spartans get Nebraska at home on Wednesday and a reeling Michigan team on the road on Saturday. Sweep these games and Michigan State becomes an unquestioned Big Ten title contender.
#3 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-2)
The Buckeyes finally returned from a COVID-19 pause earlier this week and scored a valuable road win on Sunday night, beating Nebraska to improve to 9-2 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play. Unfortunately, the game was closer than expected. Ohio State struggled to slow Nebraska’s offense and needed overtime to grab the win.
Let’s be clear. Needing overtime to beat Nebraska, even on the road, isn’t an encouraging sign for a team hoping to compete for a Big Ten title. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The game against the Huskers was Ohio State’s first since December 11th and the team’s first road game since December 5th. As such, it’s reasonable to give the Buckeyes a little more time to get back into the flow of things before drawing major conclusions. After all, this was a team that’s been on a COVID-19 pause for some time.
Ohio State will hope to build on its current five-game winning streak this week with Indiana on the road on Thursday and Northwestern at home on Sunday. If the Buckeyes play like they did against Nebraska, expect at least a loss. Fans will hope for a better performance.
#4 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-)
Illinois was off this week after closing December with some momentum. The team remains 9-3 overall heading into a key week of Big Ten action. Illinois gets Minnesota on the road on Tuesday and Maryland at home on Thursday. Both are intriguing games, given Illinois will be favored in each, but not by enough to think they’re easy wins. We’ll see what happens. Illinois probably needs two wins to help its Big Ten title positioning.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-)
The Hawkeyes won the team’s only game this week, beating Western Illinois at home on Wednesday. The win pushed Iowa to 10-3 overall heading into the restart of Big Ten play. Iowa has recovered nicely from some missteps in early December.
This week, Iowa will get two vital games with Maryland at home on Monday and Wisconsin on the road on Thursday. While both of these games look winnable, they project as relative coin flips heading into tip. Hawkeye fans will hope the team can overachieve and steal both. However, a split seems like the most likely outcome.
#6 - Wisconsin Badgers (-)
The Badgers had a relatively disappointing week. While Wisconsin won its only matchup of the week against Illinois State, it needed overtime to do it. And given Illinois State’s profile, that’s not exactly encouraging. In fact, this has been a trend for Wisconsin dating back to the team’s win over Indiana last month. Wisconsin has underachieved in all of its recent outings, dropping 13 spots on KenPom during that time. It’s been a rough go of things.
Wisconsin will hope to bounce back this week with three pivotal games. The Badgers go on the road to face Purdue on Monday, host Iowa on Thursday, and then travel to face Maryland on Sunday. If Wisconsin plays how it has recently, all three will be losses. We’ll have to wait and see if the team comes out with more fire. Losing all three would have a devastating impact to the team’s goals.
#7 - Northwestern Wildcats (+1)
The Wildcats had a relatively tough week. Northwestern opened up things with a win over Illinois-Springfield at home on Monday night, but fell at home against Michigan State in the team’s first game of the new year on Sunday. Northwestern actually jumped out to a significant lead over the Spartans in the first half, but gradually allowed Michigan State back into the game and then blew multiple opportunities to win the game in the closing minutes.
Let’s be clear. Even with Sunday’s loss, Wildcat fans should be excited about this team and where it’s headed. Northwestern is a legitimately good team that has a serious shot at hearing its name called on Selection Sunday. It’s got some work to do to get there, but the Wildcats continue to trend up nationally. This is a dangerous squad.
Northwestern will hope to bounce back from its loss to Michigan State this week with Penn State at home on Wednesday and Ohio State on the road on Sunday. Even a split there would be an encouraging result.
#8 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Gophers were off this week. As such, Minnesota remains 10-1 overall heading into the restart of Big Ten play. The team will get Illinois at home on Tuesday and Indiana on the road on Sunday. Both present real opportunities for Minnesota to prove itself. If the team splits or somehow sweeps the two games, the NCAA Tournament will start looking realistic.
#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (-2)
The Hoosiers had a rough week, losing the team’s only game on the road against Penn State on Sunday. It was the team’s first loss since December 8th and arguably its worst loss of the season, especially considering the long pause Penn State had beforehand. As a result, Indiana now sits at 10-3 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play.
Despite Sunday’s loss, Indiana’s overall profile still looks decent at the moment. The Hoosiers are perfect at home and have quality wins over teams like Notre Dame and St. John’s. However, it’s also clear Indiana is a step (and maybe more) removed from being a national contender. And that’s a scary thought with so many tough Big Ten opponents sitting on the schedule this month. It doesn’t leave much margin for error.
This week feels like a statement opportunity for the Hoosiers. Indiana gets Ohio State at home on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. KenPom currently favors the Hoosiers in both games, but can Indiana beat two teams who have shown remarkable resiliency so far this season? Stay tuned.
#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-)
The Scarlet Knights were one of the few Big Ten teams that played multiple games this week. Fortunately for fans, Rutgers came out on top in both outings, beating Maine at home on Thursday and Central Connecticut at home on Saturday. Neither opponent was particularly strong, but Rutgers got the job done. The two wins pushed Rutgers to 7-5 overall heading into the restart of Big Ten play.
This week, Rutgers gets Michigan at home on Tuesday and Nebraska at home on Saturday. Fans should be hoping for a clean sweep. The Wolverines have been struggling lately and the Huskers are a mess. The two games should be a great opportunity for Steve Pikiell and his squad. Win both and many of the non-conference struggles will be forgotten.
#11 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions finally returned after nearly a month off due to COVID-19 related issues. And boy did the team ever return. Penn State hosted Indiana on Sunday afternoon and came away with a big win, improving to 6-5 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play. Myles Dread led the way with 12 points and four rebounds. It’s easily the team’s most impressive win of the season and the team’s defense was fantastic, holding Indiana to 0.98 points per possession.
Penn State will now have a chance to build on its upset over Indiana this week with Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Purdue at home on Saturday. A split would be a solid result and two wins would be massive, putting Penn State into the NCAA discussion.
#12 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
The Terps scored two wins this week, beating Lehigh at home on Tuesday and Brown at home on Thursday to improve to 8-4 on the season. Maryland has now won three straight dating back to early December. The Terps will now prepare for a huge week of play with Iowa on the road on Monday, Illinois on the road on Thursday, and Wisconsin at home on Sunday. Maryland will need to win at least one of those to feel good about its performance.
#13 - Michigan Wolverines (-2)
The Wolverines had a rough week, losing the team’s only outing on the road against UCF on Thursday night. Michigan was actually in position to win the game well into the second half, but its defense then imploded, costing Juwan Howard and his staff a shot at a decent road win. The loss dropped Michigan to 7-5 overall and put the team in pretty precarious postseason positioning heading into the restart of conference play.
There’s still plenty of time and opportunities for Michigan to resurrect itself. However, it would be misleading to suggest the Wolverines were in decent NCAA position after its loss to UCF. It’s now January and Michigan is still without a marquee win. The team’s lineup has looked like a mess since early on and the defense continues to regress.
Michigan now gets a vital week of play with Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Michigan State at home on Saturday. Two wins would get the Wolverines right back in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament. However, two losses would really tank the team’s postseason hopes. Frankly, it would be hard to see Michigan coming back from two losses without a run in the Big Ten Tournament.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-)
The Huskers lost the team’s only game this week against Ohio State at home on Sunday night. Nebraska showed some promising signs in the game, including an 18-point performance from Bryce McGowens. However, it still wasn’t enough. The loss dropped Nebraska to 6-8 overall and 0-3 in Big Ten play.
This week, Nebraska gets Michigan State on the road on Wednesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. Even one win would be significant for the Huskers.