The Big Ten had plenty of action this week, highlighted by a meeting between two of the conference’s top teams on Sunday and a plethora of bubble battles. It all led to movement on this list.
So, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
Big Ten Week 13 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (—)
The Boilermakers had one of the team’s best weeks of the season, scoring two massive conference wins in just five days. The first was a dramatic win over a feisty Northwestern squad at home in overtime and the second was a road win over Wisconsin, who spent most of the year atop the Big Ten standings after Purdue’s letdown against the Wildcats in December. The wins left Purdue sitting at 21-2 overall and 10-2 in Big Ten play.
With just eight regular season games remaining, Purdue now finds itself in full control of the Big Ten title race. The Boilers are not only up a game and a half in the standings, but have a pretty manageable slate moving forward with just one truly difficult road game (at Illinois) remaining. And based on what the other contenders (Illinois and Wisconsin) have on their slates, there’s a decent chance Purdue can afford another loss and still win an outright title.
To put Purdue’s lead in proper perspective, look now further than TRank, which now gives Purdue a 94.6 percent chance to win at least a share of the title. That’s an incredible measure with a month and a half of the regular season remaining. It speaks to Purdue’s talent and the significance of the two wins last week. At this point, if anybody but the Boilermakers win the title, it would be a surprise.
Purdue will now get a few days off before returning to action on Saturday at home against arch-rival Indiana. Expect a great environment for that one.
#2 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
Illinois scored two solid wins last week, beating Ohio State on the road on Tuesday and holding off Nebraska’s upset effort on Sunday in overtime. Illinois was in firm control of the game against the Huskers heading into the closing minutes before a frantic effort by Nebraska forced it into overtime. The two wins pushed Illinois to 17-5 overall and 8-3 in Big Ten play.
Heading into last week, Illinois was clearly a step back from Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title race. However, as noted repeatedly on this site, if Illinois simply took care of business, somebody would slip up and the team would get back in the picture. And that’s exactly what happened, as the Badgers dropped games against Nebraska and Purdue.
The question is now whether Illinois can stay in the race. The team only has one game this week, but it will be a challenging one on the road against Michigan State on Saturday. A loss there would be a huge blow to the team’s title hopes.
#3 - Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
Heading into last week, there was little denying the difficult slate facing Wisconsin. The Badgers opened with Nebraska on the road on Thursday before turning around to face Purdue at home on Sunday. While it was a chance for Wisconsin to take control of the conference, there was also a possibility the Badgers came up short.
Unfortunately for Badger fans, it was the latter.
Wisconsin opened the week with an emotional overtime loss on the road against Nebraska on Thursday and followed it with a loss to Purdue at home on Sunday. The Badgers played decently in both outings, but came up a bit short. It happens in a season. Unfortunately, it happened in a crucial two-game window.
As noted above with Purdue, Wisconsin’s pursuit of a Big Ten title isn’t over. The Badgers still have plenty of time to get back on track and technically still control their own destiny, since the team rematches Purdue in March. However, it’s now going to be a major uphill climb for the Badgers.
That effort will begin this week with Michigan on the road on Wednesday and Rutgers on the road on Saturday. The Badgers are solid favorites in both games.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (+1)
The Spartans had a fantastic week, beating arch-rival Michigan at home on Tuesday and following it up with a win over Maryland at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Michigan State to 14-8 overall and 6-5 in Big Ten play.
While Michigan State isn’t getting much national attention, the team’s hotter than some might think. The Spartans have now won two straight, five of the team’s last six games, and 10 of its last 13. That’s a solid run, regardless of strength of schedule and puts the team on the verge of locking up an NCAA bid.
The team will get two more major opportunities this week with Minnesota on the road on Tuesday and Illinois at home on Saturday. Two wins would drastically change the tone of this season.
#5 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats lost both of the team’s games this week, but still had a mixed performance. While Northwestern opened with a loss on the road against Purdue on Tuesday, the game was hard fought and was decided by just a few buckets in overtime. The team followed it with a major letdown on the road against Minnesota on Saturday.
Through 22 games, Northwestern finds itself sitting at 15-7 overall and 6-5 in Big Ten play. Those are fantastic marks considering where the team was projected even just a few months ago. However, the missteps against Nebraska and Minnesota over the last five games have prevented Northwestern from elevating into a higher tier. That leaves Chris Collins and crew with more work to accomplish in February.
Northwestern will return to action on Wednesday at home against Nebraska and then against Penn State at home on Sunday. KenPom favors the Wildcats solidly in both games. Two wins would put the team on the verge of locking up an NCAA bid.
#6 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers had a solid week, splitting games against Wisconsin and Illinois. Nebraska narrowly upset the Badgers on Thursday in overtime but couldn’t complete the comeback on the road against Illinois on Sunday. The split left Illinois sitting at 16-7 overall and 6-6 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska remains on pace to make the NCAA Tournament after last week’s results. However, the team’s continued road losses are preventing the Huskers from closing the door. At some point, Nebraska is going to need to win a conference road game.
The team will get two winnable games this week, with Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Michigan at home on Saturday. KenPom expects a split.
#7 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
The Terps lost the team’s only game last week, falling on the road to Michigan State on Saturday. The loss was a major blow to Maryland’s faint postseason hopes and dropped it to 13-9 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten play.
Theoretically speaking, Maryland still has a chance to put together a late NCAA run and make some noise in the Big Ten. However, the loss to Michigan State is going to weigh heavily on those efforts. Maryland is operating on the slimmest of margins, so there wasn’t much room for a loss before the team fell to the Spartans. It’s now going to be even harder to get back into serious postseason consideration.
Fans will hope Kevin Willard can work some magic against what presents as two winnable games this week. Maryland gets Rutgers at home on Tuesday and Ohio State on the road on Saturday. Two wins would at least keep the team’s hopes alive for another week.
#8 - Iowa Hawkeyes (—)
The Hawkeyes had a mixed week, falling on the road to Indiana and bouncing back at home against Ohio State on Friday. The win over the Buckeyes pushed Iowa to 13-9 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten play. The team has quietly won two of its last three games and five of its last eight.
Despite a bit of an upward trend over the last few weeks, Iowa’s postseason hopes remain slim. The missteps have simply been too frequent. However, the team’s going to get some major opportunities to close the season with Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. It’s hard to see Iowa beating them with how the team has performed to date, but even one upset would be significant. The key for Iowa will be winning enough games to put it in position that an upset will matter.
That effort will begin this week with Penn State on the road on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. The Hawkeyes are favored in both games. Sweep them and the NCAA dream can at least stay alive for another week.
#9 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+4)
The Nittany Lions won both of the team’s games last week, beating Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Indiana on the road on Saturday. Both results were pretty surprising, but the win over the Hoosiers turned a lot of heads. Penn State improved to 11-11 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten play with the sweep.
Penn State will hope to keep the momentum going this week with Iowa at home on Thursday and Northwestern on the road on Sunday. The Nittany Lions are currently underdogs in both games.
#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (—)
The Scarlet Knights had a wild week, falling to Penn State at home on Wednesday in a putrid outing, but rebounding with a shocking comeback win against Michigan on the road on Saturday. The split left Rutgers sitting at 11-10 overall and 3-7 in Big Ten play.
While Saturday’s win over Michigan won’t resurrect Rutgers’ season, it’s hard to understate how emotional it was for the Scarlet Knights and its potential to roll over into other games moving forward. Wins like that don’t come around very often and fans will hope it over with a manageable slate going forward. Rutgers will get Maryland on the road on Tuesday and Wisconsin at home on Saturday.
#11 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Gophers had a productive week, winning the team’s only game of the week at home on Saturday against Northwestern. The win pushed Minnesota to 14-7 overall and 5-5 in Big Ten play. It was the team’s second straight win after snapping a four-game skid.
Minnesota enters its final 10 games in an interesting spot. The overall record is there, but the program’s weak non-conference scheduling is a major obstacle to earning any type of postseason bid. Realistically speaking, Minnesota is probably going to need to get to 20 wins to feel any confidence about an NCAA bid, which is a pretty tough mark. KenPom projects the Gophers to finish at the 18-win mark, so hitting 20 would be seriously outperforming expectations.
The team will get two really challenging games this week. Minnesota faces Michigan State at home on Tuesday and Iowa on the road on Sunday. Two wins would dramatically change expectations for Minnesota’s season.
#12 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
The Hoosiers had a relatively disappointing week. Indiana opened up with a win over Iowa at home on Tuesday, but followed it with a devastating loss to Penn State at home on Saturday by 14 points. The loss dropped Indiana to 13-9 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten play.
While Saturday’s loss was painful enough by itself, what it meant for the season had to be equally (if not more) crushing for Hoosier fans. Over the last few months, Indiana has desperately tried to climb into serious NCAA Tournament contention. However, losses to top 15 opponents and road missteps have plagued the program. Before Saturday, we had yet to see Indiana lose to anyone outside the top 15 on KenPom at home.
Unfortunately for Indiana, that ended with Penn State and it left a corresponding mark on the team’s resume. At this point, it’s hard to see the Hoosiers getting anywhere close to the NCAA field. That has to be disappointing for fans after what seemed to be a promising first two seasons with Mike Woodson at the helm.
Indiana will hope to get back on track against a challenging slate this week. The team gets Ohio State on the road on Tuesday and arch-rival Purdue on the road on Saturday. KenPom expects the Hoosiers to lose both games.
#13 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-4)
The Buckeyes had another rough week, dropping both of the team’s games. Ohio State lost at home to Illinois on Tuesday and followed it with a heart breaker on the road against Iowa on Friday. The losses dropped Ohio State to 13-9 overall and 3-8 in Big Ten play.
At this point, Buckeye fans should be hitting the panic button. Ohio State is in absolute free fall, having lost four straight and seven of the team’s last eight games. The team similarly remains winless on the road this season and hasn’t beaten a top 100 KenPom opponent since December 16th. Those are concerning stats given Ohio State’s final nine games are all against top 100 opponents or on the road.
The recent struggles have caused many Ohio State fans to point the finger at Chris Holtmann and raise questions about his status with the program. And, frankly, those are reasonable questions given what the Buckeyes have (or have not) accomplished the last three seasons. Assuming Ohio State’s spiral keeps it out of the Big Dance this year, that would be two straight missed NCAA Tournaments and at least three relatively lackluster years. At some point, a blip becomes a trend and the Buckeyes are starting to get there.
Ohio State will try and reverse things this week with Indiana at home on Tuesday and Maryland at home on Saturday. KenPom favors the Buckeyes in both games. Even one loss probably ends any realistic hope of the NCAA Tournament.
#14 - Michigan Wolverines (—)
The Wolverines hit new lows this week in an already rough season, dropping a game on the road to Michigan State on Tuesday and a game at home to Rutgers on Saturday. The loss to the Scarlet Knights was particularly rough, as Michigan led the game by 15 points in the second half, but fell by a 10-point margin. The losses left Michigan at 7-15 overall and 2-9 in Big Ten play.
At this point, there’s not much else to say about Michigan’s season. It’s been an absolute disaster. Save for a surprising win against Ohio State on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Michigan is winless since mid-December. During that time, Michigan has fallen to 101st on KenPom and 189th in defensive efficiency and things only seem to be spiraling, with a brutal slate of games awaiting next.
Michigan has enough talent on its roster to win some games down the stretch. However, until it shows it can do anything in a second half, it’s hard to see. The team returns to action this week with Wisconsin at home on Wednesday and Nebraska on the road on Saturday.