Big Ten basketball has been as unpredictable as winter weather in Indiana this season. We started the season with Michigan State being the heavy favorite, followed by the second tier of Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern. Coaching changes were expected to hamper Indiana, Ohio State and Illinois early on, and the likes of Michigan and Nebraska had big question marks around them after losing talent from the previous season.
Since then, Minnesota has lost Amir Coffey to injury and may or may not be losing Reggie Lynch. Northwestern hasn’t looked anything like the NCAA Tournament team from a year ago, even though they returned virtually everyone. Ohio State and Michigan have stepped into the upper tier, if there is such a thing in this year’s sluggish Big Ten. And Purdue is crushing everyone in their way. Here’s how they stack up a third of the way through the season…
14. Illinois (10-8, 0-5)
Last Week: 104-97 LOSS (OT) vs Iowa
Illinois had a 20 POINT LEAD at home against Iowa, and they had to hit an off-balance three just to send the game to overtime. They now head on the road to Nebraska and Wisconsin next week before hosting Michigan State.
13. Iowa (10-9, 1-5)
Last Week: 104-97 WIN (OT) at Illinois
This win pulled Iowa out of the cellar of the Big Ten, for now. It’s been a long season for Hawkeye fans and for Fran McCaffrey’s anger, including an ejection at Maryland. Iowa visits Rutgers and hosts Purdue this week.
12. Rutgers (11-7, 1-5)
Last Week: 76-72 (OT) LOSS at Michigan State; 68-46 LOSS vs Ohio State
Rutgers has shown at times this season they can compete. They took Michigan State to overtime, beat Wisconsin and upset then No. 15 Seton Hall. But they’ve also lost to Stony Brook, Howard, and just got the doors blown off of them by Ohio State Sunday. Steve Pikiell seems to be the right guy for the job, but they need more than Corey Sanders to make any noise this season.
11. Wisconsin (9-9, 2-3)
Last Week: 63-59 LOSS at Nebraska
I’m as shocked about this ranking as you are. Wisconsin has been top four in the big ten the last 17 years. That is in serious jeopardy this year. Injuries have hurt Wisconsin. Both Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice are “out indefinitely.” Ethan Happ has to do so much for this team, and when it’s not enough to beat Rutgers, Wisconsin could be in trouble.
T9. Maryland (14-5, 3-3)
Last Week: 91-69 LOSS at Ohio State
Don’t let that 14-5 record fool you, this team is hurting with star sophomore Justin Jackson out for the season. Guys like Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando have to really step up their play, and they didn’t the other night in Columbus. Maryland hasn’t been competitive on the road as of late, and now they head to Michigan this week.
T9. Minnesota (13-6, 2-4)
Last Week: 83-60 LOSS at Northwestern; 81-47 LOSS vs Purdue
Minnesota is free falling. The loss of Reggie Lynch and Amir Coffey has hurt this team more than we could have ever imagined. Since it all went down, they’ve lost to IU, Northwestern by 23, and Purdue by 34. This could be a long finish to the season for Minnesota fans.
8. Northwestern (11-8, 2-4)
Last Week: 83-60 WIN vs Minnesota; 66-46 LOSS at Indiana
Northwestern has heavily disappointed this season. They returned almost everyone from last year’s magical tournament team. However, their performance has dipped tremendously, and a 20-point loss at IU seemed to uncover more issues in Evanston. The effort wasn’t there, they couldn’t make shots, and for periods of time they couldn’t defend Indiana’s perimeter shooting. This team could be one of the biggest disappointments across college basketball.
7. Nebraska (12-7, 3-3)
Last Week: 63-59 WIN vs Wisconsin; 76-74 LOSS (OT) at Penn State
Nebraska has been a pleasant surprise in the Big Ten this year. Tim Miles was arguably on the hot seat to start the year, but they have had a solid season. They beat Minnesota in the early Big Ten slate, then competed on the road with top-25 Creighton and took Kansas down to the wire, losing by one. They’ve returned to Big Ten play with wins at Northwestern and against Wisconsin, and lost in overtime at Penn State. Nebraska is not an easy out this season.
6. Penn State (13-6, 3-3)
Last Week: 74-70 LOSS at Indiana; 76-74 WIN (OT) vs Nebraska
Penn State lost at Indiana, but they were missing Josh Reaves. Still without him, they got a big win over a solid Nebraska team in overtime. Those are the games you have to win to make the tournament, and that’s what Penn State did. The combination of Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens will be tough to answer for any Big Ten team.
5. Indiana (11-7, 4-2)
Last Week: 74-70 WIN vs Penn State; 66-46 WIN Northwestern
The Hoosiers have been a roll as of late, and they’re playing “Archie ball.” IU is winning with defense, and the guard play is getting better and better each game. Indiana needs to continue to feed off their defense and knock down some threes to stay in the conversation in the Big Ten. IU travels to Michigan State Friday with a huge opportunity to prove they’re a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.
4. Michigan State (16-3, 4-2)
Last Week: 76-72 WIN (OT) vs Rutgers; 82-72 LOSS vs Michigan
Don’t get me wrong. Michigan State will be in the national championship conversation come March, but for now, they are in a lull. They had two home games this week, beating Rutgers in overtime, and losing to in-state rival Michigan by 10. Until they figure things out, I’m going to continue to slide them down the rankings.
3. Michigan (15-4, 4-2)
Last Week: 70-69 LOSS vs Purdue; 82-72 WIN at Michigan State
Michigan has been playing some great basketball as of late. Their only losses are on the road at Ohio State and a loss to Purdue on some interesting officiating down the stretch. They just went to East Lansing and won, which is why they are, for the moment, ahead of Michigan State. John Beilein always makes his teams better as the season goes on, and he’s doing that again this year.
2. Ohio State (15-4, 6-0)
Last Week: 91-69 WIN vs Maryland; 68-46 WIN at Rutgers
This could be the Big Ten’s biggest surprise of the year, and one of college basketball’s biggest surprises. Chris Holtmann was said to have a huge rebuilding process ahead of him in Columbus, but Keita Bates-Diop had other plans. The Buckeyes are undefeated in conference, and have won by 16+ in their last 3 games, including Michigan State. The showdown with Purdue on February 7 is all the sudden squaring up to be a huge one for the Big Ten.
1. Purdue (17-2, 6-0)
Last Week: 70-69 WIN at Michigan; 81-47 WIN at Minnesota
They still haven’t lost on the mainland this season. And if that’s not enough, they are dominating teams. They beat Rutgers by 31, Nebraska by 12, and now Minnesota by 34 on the road. Purdue is the best all-around team in the Big Ten and maybe even the country. There is a big gap right now between Purdue and the rest of the conference. Vince Edwards and Carsen Edwards are playing incredible, and no team other than Arizona (who Purdue dominated) can match the two 7+ foot big guys down low in Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms.