While the early portions of the week were a bit quiet for the league, things went off with a bang over the weekend as conference play returned and we got some shocking results. While teams like Iowa and Maryland stumbled, others like Nebraska and Penn State rose.
So, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week Eight Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (—)
The Boilermakers had another successful week, beating Florida A&M at home on Thursday to improve to 13-0 on the season. The game was never competitive and rightfully so, as Purdue entered as a substantial favorite and cruised to an easy win.
Purdue will now prepare for arguably its toughest week of the season, and easily its toughest since Thanksgiving when the Boilers faced West Virginia, Gonzaga, and Duke in a matter of four days. The Boilers will get Rutgers at home on Monday, Ohio State on the road on Thursday, and Penn State in Philadelphia on Sunday. All three games project as legitimate challenges.
#2 - Wisconsin Badgers (—)
The Badgers won the team’s only game last week, beating an underwhelming Western Michigan team at home on Friday. The win pushed the team to 10-2 overall. It was Wisconsin’s fifth straight win after some hiccups in late November.
Wisconsin will now prepare for an intriguing week of play, with arch-rival Minnesota at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Saturday. The Badgers are favored in the first game and will be moderate underdogs in the second. Of course, sweeping the games would significantly boost the team’s Big Ten title hopes.
#3 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers were off this week after closing out non-conference play before Christmas. Indiana remains 10-3 overall and will prepare for a challenging slate of games later in the week against Iowa on the road on Thursday and Northwestern at home on Sunday. Both games project as relative toss ups. As such, Indiana needs to go at least 1-1 to keep pace in the Big Ten race.
#4 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
The Illini won the team’s only game last week, beating Bethune Cookman at home on Thursday night. The win pushed Illinois to 9-4 overall. It was the team’s second straight home win and wrapped up a successful non-conference slate.
Illinois will now prepare for a crucial week of play with Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Wisconsin at home on Saturday. Both games project as relative tossups. KenPom presently projects the Illini as minor favorites against the Wildcats and decent favorites against the Badgers. It’s a great opportunity for the team to get itself back into the Big Ten title race.
#5 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+1)
The Nittany Lions had another great week of play, beating Delaware State at home on Thursday and knocking off Iowa at home on Sunday. The latter win took some work, but Jalen Pickett got the team across the finish line with 26 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. The senior guard remains on an All-American pace. The wins pushed Penn State to 11-3 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play. The team remains in good shape for an NCAA bid.
Penn State will now prepare for a tricky slate of games with Michigan on the road on Wednesday and Purdue in Philadelphia on Sunday. KenPom projects the Nittany Lions as underdogs in both games, but only narrowly. As such, it’s a great opportunity for Penn State to defy the odds and “steal” one of those games.
#6 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes had another productive week of play, beating Alabama A&M at home on Thursday and Northwestern on the road on Sunday. The win over the Wildcats was particularly impressive as Northwestern had been on a recent tear and the Buckeyes won the game by 16 points. The sweep improved the team to 10-3 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
Ohio State will now get a monster week of play with Purdue at home on Thursday and Maryland on the road on Sunday. KenPom likes the Buckeyes in both games, though only barely. The game against the Boilers is looking like a monster game that could have serious Big Ten title implications. Buckle up.
#7 - Maryland Terrapins (-4)
The Terps had a pretty disappointing week of play. While Maryland opened with a win over UMBC on Thursday, it nosedived on the road over the weekend, getting blown out by a Michigan squad that was coming off a loss to Central Michigan. It was an inexplicable effort where the Terps finished with an almost impossibly bad 15 points in the first half. The loss dropped Maryland to 10-4 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play.
Frankly, it’s difficult to make sense of Maryland’s performance on Sunday. While the team had declined a bit over the last few weeks after a fast start, Maryland had never shown anything like what happened in Ann Arbor. The Terps have been solid across the board and really consistent. Going on the road and getting embarrassed by an underwhelming Michigan squad was shocking, to say the least. Fans simply have to hope it was a bad day at the office. Because if Maryland plays anything like it did on Sunday moving forward, it’s going to be a long few months for Terp fans.
Maryland will hope to get back on track this week with Rutgers on the road on Thursday and Ohio State at home on Sunday. Both teams look significantly tougher than Michigan, so it could be quite a challenge for the Terps. Fans should hope for a split.
#8 - Michigan State Spartans (—)
The Spartans had a solid week of play, beating Oakland at home on Wednesday and Buffalo at home on Friday. Both wins came by double-digits and pushed Michigan State to 9-4 overall. Michigan State has now won four straight dating back to its home loss to Northwestern in early December.
This week, Michigan State will get Nebraska at home on Tuesday and arch-rival Michigan at home on Saturday. Both games should be wins, so the goal for the Spartans needs to be taking care of business against a manageable slate. A loss to either would be devastating.
#9 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+1)
The Scarlet Knights won the team’s only game this week, beating Coppin State at home on Friday to improve to 9-4 overall. The team has now won three straight, including a blowout win over a top 100 Wake Forest team earlier this month.
Rutgers will get a particularly challenging slate this week, with Purdue on the road on Monday, Maryland at home on Thursday, and Iowa at home on Sunday. Given the difficulty, fans should hope for a 2-1 performance. Do that or find a way to sweep the games and Rutgers’ resume would improve tremendously.
#10 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats went 1-1 in the team’s games last week, beating Brown at home on Thursday and falling at home to Ohio State on Sunday. The loss to the Buckeyes was particularly disappointing as Northwestern had won five straight heading into the matchup. The split left Northwestern sitting at 10-3 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play.
Through 13 games, Northwestern has an odd resume. The team doesn’t have a ton of quality wins, but has a handful of respectable wins and all of its losses have come against quality competition, with the potential exception of a loss against Pittsburgh right after Thanksgiving. The question moving forward will be whether the Wildcats can stack a few marquee wins to get on the right side of the NCAA bubble. Because that’s what it’s going to take for the Wildcats to make the cut. It should be an interesting storyline to follow.
This week, Northwestern will get arch-rival Illinois at home on Wednesday and Indiana on the road on Sunday. Neither game looks particularly easy, but the Wildcats need to find a way to steal one of the games.
#11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers had a fantastic week of play, beating rival Iowa at home on Thursday by double-digits to improve to 8-6 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play. It was Nebraska’s first win over Iowa since January of 2020 and should inject plenty of energy into the team and the fan base moving forward.
The biggest driver for Nebraska over the last few months has been the team’s improved defense. The Huskers have done a great job limiting mistakes on that side of the floor and have now risen to 41st nationally in defensive efficiency. Thursday’s performance was particularly impressive, as Nebraska held an Iowa program known for high-powered offenses to just 50 points.
Nebraska will now prepare for a challenging week of play with Michigan State on the road on Tuesday and Minnesota on the road on Saturday. The team desperately needs to split the games if it hopes to make the postseason.
#12 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines had one of the more bizarre weeks you’ll ever see, as the team opened things up with a loss to Central Michigan at home on Thursday and followed it with an absolute blowout of Maryland at home on Sunday. The victory over the Terps was so one-sided it bumped Michigan up 19 spots on KenPom in one evening. The split left Michigan sitting at 8-5 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
Michigan will now prepare for a pivotal week of play with Penn State at home on Wednesday and rival Michigan State on the road on Saturday. Like a few of the other teams described above, the two games project as relative toss ups, which mean it’s a slate of opportunity. Outperform expectations even moderately and the team could easily go 2-0. However, underperform even slightly and Michigan could go 0-2 as well. We’ll have to wait and see which Michigan squad shows up.
#13 - Iowa Hawkeyes (—)
The Hawkeyes had another horrendous week of play, dropping both of the team’s games last week. Iowa opened things up with a loss on the road to Nebraska on Thursday and followed it up with another loss to Penn State on the road on Sunday. The losses dropped Iowa to 8-6 overall and 0-3 in Big Ten play.
Obviously, Iowa fans were hoping the team’s loss to Eastern Illinois was a fluke and wasn’t something that was going to roll over into other games. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. While neither of last week’s losses by themselves were anything jarring, losing both is a statement, especially after the Eastern Illinois debacle. Iowa is clearly in free fall and there’s no telling where it could land with a difficult slate in January approaching.
Fans will hope Iowa can reverse this trend with two difficult games on the docket over the weekend. The Hawkeyes get Indiana at home on Thursday and Rutgers on the road on Sunday. KenPom projects Iowa as an underdog in both games. We’ll have to wait and see if the Hawkeyes can pull off an upset.
#14 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (—)
The Gophers were off this week after wrapping up non-conference play before Christmas. Minnesota will return to action on Tuesday on the road against arch-rival Wisconsin. The team will then get Nebraska at home on Saturday. The game against the Huskers projects as the team’s most winnable remaining game of the season, so fans will be desperately hoping for a win.