The Big Ten title race really got moving this week, as some of the leading contenders went on the road to face pivotal challenges. Other NCAA hopefuls like Michigan and Rutgers also looked to score quality wins. Of course, it all had an impact on this week’s Power Rankings.
So, with that, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week 13 Power Rankings
#1 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)
Illinois had a tremendous week of play, beating Wisconsin at home on Wednesday and blasting Indiana on the road on Saturday. Both wins came by double-digits, which is quite a statement about how Illinois is playing right now. It’s not exactly easier to beat the Badgers or win in Bloomington generally, let alone by double-digits. The victories pushed Illinois to 17-5 overall and 10-2 in Big Ten play. The team has now won four straight.
With less than a month of the regular season remaining, Illinois enters this week in a desirable position. The good news: Illinois presently sits alone in first place of the Big Ten standings, a full game above anyone else. The bad news: that could all come crashing down in a few days with Purdue on the road on Tuesday. Illinois also gets a tricky Northwestern squad a home on Sunday after that. The final push won’t be easy.
If you were are a gambler, Illinois wouldn’t be a bad team to pick for a share of the Big Ten title at this point. The team is playing better than anyone in the conference right now and has a chance to take a commanding lead in the Big Ten standings with a win over Purdue on Tuesday. However, these things rarely play out as expected. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. That game on Tuesday is looking massive.
#2 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
The Boilermakers scored two quality wins last week, beating Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and Michigan at home on Saturday. The wins pushed Purdue to 20-3 overall and 9-3 in Big Ten play. Purdue is now on a five-game winning streak dating back to the heart breaker against Indiana.
Zach Edey was particularly impressive in the two wins, scoring double-digits in both games and grabbing 12 rebounds against Minnesota. He also showed quite a bit of durability against the Gophers, finishing with 27 minutes in the win. That’s a good sign for the Boilermakers as we move closer to March.
Purdue enters this week with its future firmly in its control. The Boilermakers are just a game out of first place in the conference standings and play the first place team (Illinois) at home on Tuesday. Win that game and a Big Ten title looks likely. Purdue will also face Michigan on the road on Thursday and Maryland at home on Sunday this week. All three games pose their challenges, but Purdue likely needs to go 2-1 or 3-0 in the games to grab a share of the Big Ten title. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.
#3 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
The Badgers split the team’s games last week, falling on the road against Illinois on Wednesday and beating Penn State on Saturday. Neither game was particularly pretty for Wisconsin as the team lost by double-digits against Illinois and had a putrid offensive effort against the Nittany Lions.
For better or worse, Wisconsin remains incredibly reliant on Johnny Davis. When he’s putting up numbers, the Badgers look like a top 10 team. However, when he’s off (like he was last week), Wisconsin looks mortal. It’s probably too late in the season to hope for too many other players to emerge, but it remains a priority goal for the Badgers. If even one or two other guys could take a step forward, Wisconsin would be incredible.
Like the teams above, Wisconsin remains in the Big Ten title race at 9-3 in conference play. However, the Badgers feel a notch behind the other contenders right now and have a pretty challenging slate moving forward starting with Michigan State on the road on Tuesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. Even a 1-1 performance in those two games might be too much for the team to overcome down the stretch.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (-)
The Spartans had an underwhelming week, barely beating Maryland on the road on Tuesday and falling by 21 points on the road against Rutgers on Saturday. The split left Michigan State sitting at 17-5 overall and 8-3 in Big Ten play.
Michigan State will get two great opportunities to build its resume this week with Wisconsin at home on Tuesday and Indiana at home on Saturday. The Spartans will be favored in both games. We’ll see if they can get the job done.
#5 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+2)
The Buckeyes won the team’s only game this week, besting Maryland at home on Sunday afternoon. The win pushed Ohio State to 14-5 overall and 7-3 in Big Ten play. Ohio State has now won four of its last five games dating back to early January.
Despite little coverage, Ohio State also enters the last month of the regular season with a legitimate shot at the conference title. The Buckeyes are just a game out of first place and have two pretty manageable games this week with Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Michigan on the road on Saturday. Ohio State will need two wins to keep pace in the Big Ten race.
#6 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
The Hoosiers lost the team’s only game this week, falling at home to Illinois. The loss dropped Indiana to 16-6 overall and 7-5 in Big Ten play. However, while a disappointing loss, the game felt like it had more to do with Illinois hitting its stride than any missteps by the Hoosiers. Indiana simply ran into a buzz saw.
Indiana will get two road opportunities this week with Northwestern on the road on Tuesday and Michigan State on the road on Saturday. KenPom projects the Hoosiers as underdogs in both games, but only mildly. As such, even a split would be a pretty good result.
#7 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-1)
The Hawkeyes split the team’s games this week, falling on the road to Penn State in double overtime on Monday and beating Minnesota at home on Sunday. The mixed results left Iowa sitting at 15-7 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten play.
The win over Minnesota was also particularly impressive, as Iowa showed some genuine growth on the defensive side of the floor. The Hawkeyes slowed down Minnesota’s backcourt, which is something Iowa has rarely done in recent years. If that keeps up, Iowa could win a lot of games down the stretch.
This week, Iowa gets two great opportunities with Maryland on the road on Thursday and Nebraska at home on Sunday. KenPom favors the Hawkeyes in both games. Anything but a 2-0 performance in the games would be a disappointment.
#8 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-)
The Scarlet Knights had mixed results this week, falling to Northwestern on the road in overtime on Tuesday and beating Michigan State on Saturday. The win over the Spartans was surprising for a variety of reasons, but particularly because of the game’s margin, as Rutgers ended up winning by 21 points. It’s rare to see that happen to a Tom Izzo squad.
Beating Michigan State like that sent shock waves across the conference, but it also kept Rutgers’ postseason hopes alive. And while those hopes remain slim, there’s a path to the Big Dance that’s still on the table. It’s just going to take a monumental effort. Here’s what the team has over the next few weeks with KenPom’s game odds noted with each matchup:
- 2/9 - Ohio State (38%)
- 2/12 - at Wisconsin (23%)
- 2/16 - Illinois (30%)
- 2/20 - at Purdue (9%)
- 2/23 - at Michigan (26%)
- 2/26 - Wisconsin (44%)
- 3/2 - at Indiana (24%)
- 3/6 - Penn State (60%)
It’s hard to look at that slate and feel great about things, but it’s not impossible either. The Ohio State and Wisconsin games are in (or near) toss up range and Rutgers projects as an outright favorite against Penn State. Win those and you get to 16 wins, likely just one or two shy of being right there on the bubble. And considering two of the road games (Purdue and Michigan) are against teams Rutgers already beat, there are possibilities.
Again, anyway you break this down, we’re still talking about a long shot. This isn’t a situation where Rutgers can simply “win the games it should” and get in. That scenario is out the door. But there is a path on the table, especially with a win or two in the Big Ten Tournament. And that’s not half bad considering where things were a month or two ago.
#9 - Michigan Wolverines (-)
The Wolverines had an underwhelming week, barely beating Nebraska at home on Tuesday and falling short against Purdue on the road on Saturday. The split left Michigan sitting at 11-9 overall and 5-5 in Big Ten play.
While Michigan is in significantly better position than Rutgers for the postseason, it enters the final month with a similar outlook. The path is there, it’s just going to take some serious work and an upset or two along the way to feel good about things. This is what Michigan has remaining with KenPom’s game odds noted alongside each matchup:
- 2/8 - at Penn St (50%)
- 2/10 - Purdue (34%)
- 2/12 - Ohio State (52%)
- 2/17 - at Iowa (30%)
- 2/20 - at Wisconsin (35%)
- 2/23 - Rutgers (74%)
- 2/27 - Illinois (43%)
- 3/1 - Michigan State (55%)
- 3/3 - Iowa (52%)
- 3/6 - at Ohio State (29%)
That’s 10 games where perspective can get you in a lot of different places. On the one hand, Michigan is an outright favorite in five remaining games and a narrow underdog in another. Win those and knock off one more and you’ll enter Indy in a relatively decent position given Michigan’s strength of schedule numbers. However, on the other hand, that’s also an incredibly dangerous slate. Not a single game looks guaranteed. Have an off night or two and you could quickly see your NCAA hopes go up in flames.
Despite some recent missteps, Michigan still has a path to the postseason. However, this is a vital week of play. The team absolutely must go 2-1 or better to feel good about its postseason hopes. And that will be a tall task.
#10 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions had a mixed week, beating Iowa at home on Monday in double overtime and falling to Wisconsin on the road in a slug fest on Saturday. The split left Penn State sitting at 9-10 overall and 4-7 in Big Ten play.
Penn State will get two intriguing games this week with Michigan at home on Tuesday and Minnesota on the road on Saturday. Both games look winnable.
#11 - Northwestern Wildcats (+2)
The Wildcats had the team’s best week in months, beating Rutgers at home on Tuesday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday. The win against the Huskers came by 24 points was also one of the team’s best conference road victories in years. Northwestern now sits at 11-10 overall and 4-8 in Big Ten play.
Northwestern will hope to continue its momentum this week with Indiana at home on Tuesday and arch-rival Illinois on the road on Sunday. The former looks like a pretty winnable game against a reeling Hoosier squad.
#12 - Maryland Terrapins (-2)
The Terps had a rough week, falling at home to Michigan State on Tuesday and on the road against Ohio State on Sunday. The two losses dropped Maryland to 11-12 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play and killed any faint remaining at-large NCAA hopes.
Maryland will hope to get some momentum back this week with Iowa at home on Thursday and Purdue on the road on Sunday. The Terps will be underdogs in both games.
#13 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-2)
The Gophers also lost both of their games last week, falling by double-digits to Purdue at home on Wednesday and in a relatively competitive game against Iowa on the road on Sunday. Minnesota now sits at 11-9 overall and 2-9 in Big Ten play.
Minnesota figures to have two manageable games this week with Nebraska on the road on Wednesday and Penn State at home on Saturday. We’ll have to see if the Gophers can snap their four-game losing streak.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-)
The Huskers lost two more games this week. Nebraska fell to Michigan on the road on Tuesday and fell flat against Northwestern at home on Saturday. The two losses dropped Nebraska to 6-17 overall and 0-12 in Big Ten play. Nebraska will hope to bounce back this week with Minnesota at home on Wednesday and Iowa on the road on Sunday. The game against the Gophers projects as Nebraska’s most winnable remaining game.