The Big Ten had a quieter week of action, but that’s typical of this time of year when teams typically take their Christmas breaks and time off around exams. Many of the teams only saw one game against underwhelming competition at home. However, there were a few notable results that shook up this list.
So, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week Seven Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (—)
The Boilermakers only had one game this week, which came at home to Jacksonville on Thursday. That one ended as you would expect, with a massive blowout win for Purdue. The team improved to 11-1 overall with the win and has now won four straight.
Purdue will have another quiet slate this time around, with Eastern Kentucky at home on Friday. Win that one and it would set up quite a road game against Maryland on January 2nd.
#2 - Illinois Fighting Illini (—)
The Illini were one of the few teams on this list with a marquee game. Illinois faced off against rival Missouri in St. Louis on Friday. Illinois was favored to win, but had stumbled repeatedly in similar spots in years past, so nobody was quite sure what to expect. Fortunately for fans, Illinois got the job done and scored a double-digit win.
Through 11 games, Illinois is quietly in really good shape. The team is 9-2 overall, 1-0 in Big Ten play, and moved into the top 10 on KenPom following its win over Missouri on Friday. Illinois also has multiple quality wins, including a huge one against Florida Atlantic earlier this month and both of the team’s losses were against elite competition in Marquette and Tennessee.
At this point, Illinois is positioned to be Purdue’s biggest threat to repeat as Big Ten champions. Badger fans will likely disagree with that conclusion, but it’s more a comment about Illinois’ play to date than anything else. If Illinois can keep things rolling, there’s a lot on the table for the team.
Illinois will return to action this week on Friday at home against Fairleigh Dickinson. That should be a win. The team will then get Northwestern at home on January 2nd.
#3 - Wisconsin Badgers (—)
The Badgers cruised in the team’s only game this week, blowing past Chicago State at home on Friday. The win pushed Wisconsin to 9-3 overall. The team has now won two straight and eight of its last night. Like Illinois, Wisconsin has also moved up the KenPom ratings as well over the last month or so, now ranking 14th nationally.
Wisconsin is off this week and will return to action on January 2nd at home against Iowa. It could be the team’s fifth win over a top 60 opponent already this season.
#4 - Ohio State Buckeyes (—)
The Buckeyes won the team’s only game last week, beating New Orleans at home on Thursday in an absolute blowout. Ohio State improved to 10-2 overall with the win. Like Illinois and Wisconsin above, the Buckeyes have been nearly flawless over the last month or so and improving steadily.
Ohio State is one of the few Big Ten teams to get a real test this week as the Buckeyes face off against West Virginia in Cleveland on Saturday. Ohio State is a solid favorite, but the Mountaineers are good enough to make it a game. It’s important for the Buckeyes to find a way to win for the team’s resume as it moves back into Big Ten play. Ohio State already had a rough loss to Penn State and can’t afford a second letdown so soon.
#5 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+2)
The Huskers added another win last week, beating North Dakota at home on Wednesday to improve to 10-2 overall on the season. It was Nebraska’s third straight win. It wasn’t pretty, but kept Nebraska on the right side of the win column.
Nebraska will now prepare to close out non-conference play at home against South Carolina State on Friday. The Huskers are big favorites. Take care of that and it sets up a huge home game against Indiana on January 3rd.
#6 - Michigan State Spartans (—)
The Spartans had a productive week, beating Oakland and Stony Brook at home to improve to 7-5 overall. After the horrid start to the season, Michigan State has been building steam over the last two weeks and is starting to round into form.
Michigan State only had one game this week, but it comes against a surprisingly good Indiana State squad at home on Saturday. The Sycamores are 11-1 and rated 59th on KenPom, which means this is roughly equivalent to an average Big Ten team coming to town. In fact, Indiana State is only five spots before Nebraska on KenPom, who already beat Michigan State this season, so the Spartans are going to need to be ready for this one.
#7 - Northwestern Wildcats (—)
The Wildcats had a tremendous week, blowing out a decent Arizona State team in Phoenix on Wednesday. The win pushed Northwestern to 9-2 overall and added another win to help the team make up for its loss to Chicago State earlier this month.
Northwestern still has one of the more bizarre resumes you’ll see anywhere in the country. The Wildcats have arguably the best win of anybody in the country (vs Purdue), but also have one of the worst losses (vs Chicago State). Add in a split against Dayton and Mississippi State and mixed advanced stats (56th on KenPom) and it’s hard to tell what this team will be this season. Things could vary wildly moving forward.
This week, Northwestern will wrap up non-conference play at home against Jackson State on Friday. The Wildcats will then go on the road to face Illinois on January 2nd. That figures to be one of its toughest games of the season.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (—)
The Hoosiers grabbed two wins this week, beating Morehead State at home on Tuesday and North Alabama at home on Thursday. While the game against Morehead State was closer than expected (requiring a miracle finish for Indiana to survive), the Hoosiers still won both games and improved to 9-3 overall.
Indiana will wrap up non-conference play this week at home against Kennesaw State. It should be another win for the Hoosiers, assuming Indiana plays anywhere near its potential.
#9 - Maryland Terrapins (+3)
The Terps had a fantastic week, beating Nicholls State at home on Tuesday and following it up with a road win over UCLA on Friday. The win over the Bruins pushed Maryland to 8-4 overall. The team has also won four straight and seven of its last eight games.
Maryland remains well short of its preseason projections, even with the win over UCLA. However, it’s worth recognizing the process the Terps have shown in recent weeks. The team is a defensive force and is starting to grind out games when needed. If the offense can even improve modestly, Maryland has a chance to make some noise.
Things will be quiet for the Terps this week with the team’s only game at home against Coppin State on Thursday. However, there’s a massive home game against Purdue awaiting after that, so Maryland needs to use the last week of 2023 to get ready for that one.
#10 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines played a real game this week, facing off against Florida in the Jumpman Invitational on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the team fell short in double overtime to fall to 6-6 overall. Michigan led for significant portions of the second half, but the team (once again) couldn’t close out the win.
It’s odd to say about a team in December, but Michigan now finds itself with its back against the wall. The Wolverines’ struggles have largely left them without a margin for error moving forward. In fact, TRank currently only gives Michigan a 0.1 percent chance of earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. And even if those numbers are off, that’s a horrible place for Michigan to find itself with just one game left in December.
The good news for Michigan is the team has plenty of opportunities ahead to start building its resume. That will begin on Friday with a relatively tough McNeese State squad at home. It is a “must win” game for the Wolverines.
#11 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
The Scarlet Knights lost the team’s only game last week, falling against a really good Mississippi State team in Newark on Saturday. The game was competitive, but Rutgers’ offense underwhelmed and the team eventually fell by a 70-60 final margin. The loss dropped Rutgers to 7-4 overall.
Like Michigan above, it’s getting late early for the Scarlet Knights. The team had solid preseason projections, but now finds itself well on the wrong side of the bubble in late December. If Rutgers is going to resurrect its season, it’s going to need to get on track in short order. Fans will hope that starts with Stonehill at home on Saturday.
#12 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-1)
The Hawkeyes scored an easy win in the team’s only game last week, besting UMBC at home on Wednesday night. The win pushed Iowa to 7-5 overall. The team will return to action this week at home against Northern Illinois on Friday to close out non-conference play.
#13 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (—)
The Gophers scored an easy win its only game last week at home against Ball State on Thursday. Minnesota now sits at 9-3 overall. The team will return to action against Maine at home on Friday.
#14 - Penn State Nittany Lions (—)
The Nittany Lions beat Le Moyne at home on Thursday in the team’s only game of the week, pushing Penn State’s record to 6-6 on the season. Penn State will return to action on Friday at home against Rider.