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Big Ten power rankings: A new No. 1 after Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin each lose

After nine consecutive losses to in-state rival Purdue, Indiana stunned the Boilermakers thanks to a game-winning 3-pointer by Rob Phinisee. But the Hoosiers followed up that emotional win with their first home loss of the season to Michigan, which capped off another thrilling week in Big Ten basketball.

Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois all lost at least one game this week, causing some changes to this week’s power rankings. Here’s how I see things as we enter the final week of January. (Stats through Jan. 23).

1) Michigan State (15-3, 6-1)

Best win: 86-74 at No. 11 Wisconsin

Worst loss: 64-62 vs. Northwestern

Recent standout: Malik Hall (14 pts, 8 reb at Wisconsin)

AP poll: 10

NET: 18

KenPom: 19

SOS: 21

Quad 1 record: 3-2

The Spartans are the only Big Ten team left with just one conference loss and picked up their biggest win of the season on Friday in Madison. Michigan State dominated all 40 minutes of the game and found production in all areas.

Six Spartans scored nine or more points against Wisconsin while also dominating the glass with a 39-20 rebound advantage. I’ve been saying it all year, but this is the deepest and most balanced team Tom Izzo has had in years. As we approach the midway point of conference play, the Spartans are my favorite to win the Big Ten.

2) Purdue (16-3, 5-3)

Best win: 80-74 vs. No. 14 Villanova (neutral site)

Worst loss: 70-68 at Rutgers

Recent standout: Sasha Stefanovic (22 pts, 6-10 3pt FG vs. Northwestern)

AP poll: 6

NET: 8

KenPom: 6

SOS: 51

Quad 1 record: 3-2

Purdue lost its third conference game of the season on Saturday in front of a raucous crowd at Assembly Hall. After trailing for most of the second half, the Boilermakers were a play away from sneaking out with a win but failed to execute in the final minute.

After a 1-for-7 night from beyond the arc at Indiana, Sasha Stefanovic rebounded in a big way in Purdue’s 20-point win over Northwestern at Mackey Arena by shooting 6-for-10 from 3. Playing without Jaden Ivey, seven Boilermakers stepped up to score seven or more points.

3) Wisconsin (15-3, 6-2)

Best win: 74-69 at No. 6 Purdue

Worst loss: 73-55 at No. 16 Ohio State

Recent standout:

AP poll: 11

NET: 21

KenPom: 28

SOS: 5

Quad 1 record: 5-2

Wisconsin dropped out of the top 10 this week after a 12-point loss at home to Michigan State. Johnny Davis was his usual self, dropping 25 points with five rebounds and four assists, but Brad Davison’s 22 points made him the only other Badger in double figures.

Wisconsin gets a bit of a pass for this poor performance due to the absence of Tyler Wahl (11 ppg, 5.7 rpg) that exposed the Badgers’ lack of depth. Still,  Wisconsin is one of two teams in the country with 10 wins over quadrant one and two opponents. 

4) Illinois (13-5, 6-2)

Best win: 76-53 at Minnesota

Worst loss: 81-65 at Maryland

Recent standout: Alfonso Plummer (18 pts, 4 reb at Maryland)

AP poll: 24

NET: 13

KenPom: 15

SOS: 34

Quad 1 record: 1-3

Illinois only played one game this week, and it was ugly. Playing without Kofi Cockburn (concussion), the Illini lost by 16 points at Maryland. Alfonso Plummer attempted to shoot Illinois to victory (5-for-11 3-pt FG), but his squad was outscored 29-10 in the final 10 minutes of play.

Illinois’ ceiling will be reliant upon Cockburn’s health and Andre Curbelo’s consistency -- Curbelo scored 20 points versus Purdue but only four at Maryland -- as they battle for what should be a tightly-contested race for the Big Ten title. The Illini typically pass the eye test this season, but have just one win over quadrant one opponents. 

5) Michigan (9-7, 3-3)

Best win: 80-62 at Indiana

Worst loss: 75-65 vs. Minnesota

Recent standout: Hunter Dickinson (25 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast at Indiana)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 38

KenPom: 24

SOS: 26

Quad 1 record: 1-4

Michigan is the team I have criticized the most this season, but the Wolverines made me eat my words on Saturday at Assembly Hall. Dominating the game from start to finish, Michigan shot 11-for-17 from 3, outrebounded Indiana by 10 and looked like a team that is poised to go on a tear in the second half of Big Ten play.

After shooting just over 30 percent from 3 this season, freshman Caleb Houstan shot 8-for-11 from beyond the arc in Michigan’s wins over Maryland and Indiana this week. The talent was always there, but it looks like Juwan Howard has figured out how to make his team click.

6) Iowa (14-5, 4-4)

Best win: 83-74 vs. Indiana

Worst loss: 73-53 at Iowa State

Recent standout: Keegan Murray (15 pts, 8 reb vs. Penn State)

AP poll: 11th in receiving votes

NET: 22

KenPom: 20

SOS: 61

Quad 1 record: 0-4

In one of the most controversial finishes of the season, Iowa was called for a foul 30 feet away from the basket on the final possession of a tie game. Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr. sunk two free throws to win a game that made Iowa fans sick to their stomachs. 

The Hawkeyes returned to Iowa City with an edge and led for nearly the entire game in a 17-point win over Penn State. Despite shooting 31 percent from 3 as a team, Iowa saw contributions from the entire rotation, which was an intriguing sign moving forward. An opportunity for a résumé-boosting win lays ahead on Thursday when Purdue travels to Iowa City. 

7) Indiana (14-5, 5-4)

Best win: 68-65 vs. No. 6 Purdue

Worst loss: 80-62 vs. Michigan

Recent standout: Xavier Johnson (18 pts vs. Purdue, 14 pts vs. Michigan)

AP poll: 10th in receiving votes

NET: 42

KenPom: 33

SOS: 86

Quad 1 record: 2-2

Indiana managed to pick up its best win and worst loss of the season in the same week. Rob Phinisee ended Indiana’s losing streak to Purdue with a game-winning 3-pointer, which felt like a turning point for the Hoosiers. But the Hoosiers lost their first home game of the season three days later when they were run out of the gym by Michigan.

Indiana is still allowing the fewest points per game of any Big Ten team but couldn’t string together stops against Michigan. Juwan Howard elected to full-court press and play a 2-3 zone against Indiana, which kept the Hoosiers uncomfortable. Year one of the Mike Woodson era has already had its ups and downs, but barring collapse, Indiana is still on pace to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016. 

8) Ohio State (12-4, 5-2)

Best win: 71-66 vs. No. 9 Duke

Worst loss: 71-68 vs. Florida (neutral site)

Recent standout: Eugene Brown III (14 pts, 4 reb vs. IUPUI)

AP poll: 16

NET: 23

KenPom: 26

SOS: 16

Quad 1 record: 3-4

Ohio State’s only game this week was an 83-37 embarrassment of IUPUI (1-17), who might be the worst team in college basketball this season. The Buckeyes’ home game against Nebraska was postponed, leaving little to say about Ohio State recently.

With its only wins coming against Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and IUPUI since Dec. 12, it’s hard to know what to expect of Ohio State, but tough road games with Minnesota and Purdue lay ahead this week. With E.J. Lidell leading the way and a talented group of young guards, the Buckeyes can still compete for a Big Ten title. 

9) Rutgers (11-7, 5-3)

Best win: 70-68 vs. No. 6 Purdue

Worst loss: 53-51 vs. Lafayette

Recent standout: Geo Baker (25 pts at Minnesota)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 107

KenPom: 91

SOS: 59

Quad 1 record: 2-2

The Scarlet Knights snuck away with a win over Iowa in a low-scoring affair that ended in controversy, but Ron Harper Jr. sealed it in the end. Rutgers then lost a nailbiter at Minnesota in a game that saw constant lead changes throughout the second half. In the end, it was Rutgers’ inability to contain Payton Willis, who scored 32 points, that led to the loss.

After a disastrous start to the season, Steve Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights have turned things around and have a promising Big Ten schedule moving forward. A home game against Maryland is up on Tuesday, followed by road games with Nebraska and Northwestern. If Rutgers wins three in a row, its NCAA Tournament chances will skyrocket. 

10) Maryland (10-9, 2-6)

Best win: 81-65 vs. No. 24 Illinois

Worst loss: 71-66 vs. George Mason

Recent standout: Donta Scott (25 pts, 6 reb)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 99

KenPom: 82

SOS: 36

Quad 1 record: 2-4

Maryland fell victim to Michigan’s recent turnaround in a 19-point loss on the road, but claimed its biggest win of the season when Illinois arrived in College Park. Donta Scott took advantage of Kofi Cockburn’s absence to score 25 points and grab six rebounds in Maryland’s 16-point win over Illinois. 

Maryland is still a longshot to reach .500 in Big Ten play by the end of the season. Its offense ranks 11th in scoring and connects on just 31 percent of 3-point attempts. And after a trip to Piscataway on Tuesday, Maryland will face a brutal stretch against Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue. 

11) Minnesota (11-5, 2-5)

Best win: 81-76 at Mississippi State

Worst loss: 81-71 vs. Iowa

Recent standout:

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 79

KenPom: 88

SOS: 37

Quad 1 record: 2-5

Minnesota ended its four-game losing streak with a three-point win over Rutgers thanks to 32 points from Payton Willis. In a game where Minnesota leading scorer Jamison Battle didn’t play, Willis stepped up to drain 8 of 13 3-point attempts. 

Minnesota doesn’t necessarily have any woeful losses this year, but its 2-5 record against quadrant one and two opponents reveals the Golden Gophers are a tier below NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents. 

12) Penn State (8-8, 3-5)

Best win: 61-58 vs. Indiana

Worst loss: 81-56 at UMass

Recent standout:

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 89

KenPom: 78

SOS: 9

Quad 1 record: 0-6

Penn State hung around for the first half at Iowa, but was blown out in the second half in a 17-point loss. The Nittany Lions have now lost three of their past four games to halt any momentum built during a 3-1 stretch to begin 2022. 

While Penn State allows the third fewest points of any Big Ten team, it’s also scoring at the lowest rate. The Nittany Lions want to play slow, physical games, but their Big Ten-worst turnover margin (-3.5 per game) is holding them back. 

13) Northwestern (9-8, 2-6)

Best win: 64-62 at No. 14 Michigan State

Worst loss: 97-87 (2OT) vs. Maryland

Recent standout: Chase Audige (23 pts vs. Wisconsin)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 81

KenPom: 66

SOS: 25

Quad 1 record: 1-6

The return of leading scorer Pete Nance immediately following Northwestern’s win at Michigan State felt like a turning point for the Wildcats, but it was followed up by losses to Wisconsin and at Purdue this week. The Wildcats have now lost six of their past seven games, and things don’t get easier this week with a trip to Michigan and home matchup with Illinois.

Northwestern is the Big Ten’s fourth highest scoring team this year (76.5) and have the second best turnover margin (+4.71 per game), but it has led to a 2-6 record in conference play with very little hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament. 

14) Nebraska (6-13, 0-8)

Best win: 74-65 vs. Sam Houston

Worst loss: 75-74 vs. Western Illinois

Recent standout: Bryce McGowens (20 pts, 5 reb vs. Indiana)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 193

KenPom: 160

SOS: 22

Quad 1 record: 0-6

Besides freshman phenom Bryce McGowens, there’s not much to be excited about when watching Nebraska. The Cornhuskers lost by seven at home to Indiana in their only game of the week as a road matchup with Ohio State was postponed. 

Nebraska allows the most points per game of any Big Ten team and has the worst 3-point shooting percentage in the conference. It’s likely Nebraska will remain at the bottom of these rankings for the rest of the season.

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