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Big Ten power rankings: Purdue reclaims top spot after 2OT win at Illinois

This weekend in Big Ten basketball was headlined by Northwestern’s upset win at No. 14 Michigan State and one of the most exciting games in all of college hoops when Purdue won a 2OT thriller at Illinois. 

The Wildcats were without leading scorer Pete Nance, but locked in defensively down the stretch to stun the Spartans on their home floor. Purdue and Illinois certainly look like Final Four contenders, finding themselves at the top of this week’s Big Ten power rankings. (Stats through Jan. 17)

1) Purdue (15-2, 4-2)

Best win: 80-74 vs. No. 11 Villanova (neutral site)

Worst loss: 70-68 at Rutgers

Recent standout: Sasha Stefanovic (22 pts, 8 reb vs. Illinois)

AP poll: 4

NET: 7

KenPom: 4

SOS: 57

Quad 1 record: 4-1

Zach Edey won the battle of seven-footers when the Boilermaker big man scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Kofi Cockburn in Champaign. On an afternoon where Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams combined to shoot 9-for-28 from the field, Sasha Stefanovic stepped up to drill five of eight 3-point attempts.

It feels like Purdue and Illinois have separated themselves from the rest of the Big Ten and are the conference’s best chances at a deep run in the NCAA tournament. When the Boilermakers are hitting shots from deep, it makes the Edey-Williams duo even more difficult to slow down. 

2) Illinois (13-4, 6-1)

Best win: 76-53 at Minnesota

Worst loss: 71-51 vs. Cincinnati, (neutral site)

Recent standout: Andre Curbelo (20 pts, 6 reb vs. No. 4 Purdue)

AP poll: 17

NET: 12

KenPom: 12

SOS: 40

Quad 1 record: 1-3

The Illini walked off their home court with their heads down, but deep down Brad Underwood is smiling at the return of Andre Curbelo. The point guard played his first game since Nov. 23 and scored 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting.

But the most important stat of the game for Illinois? Zero turnovers for Curbelo. The sophomore floor general received heavy criticism from fans after 16 turnovers in 89 minutes of play to start his season, but looked much more composed on Monday. When Curbelo is at the top of his game, Illinois can hang with just about any team in the country. 

3) Wisconsin (14-2, 5-1)

Best win: 74-69 at No. 4 Purdue

Worst loss: 73-55 at No. 19 Ohio State

Recent standout: Brad Davison (25 pts vs. Ohio State)

AP poll: 8

NET: 18

KenPom: 27

SOS: 7

Quad 1 record: 5-1

Wisconsin’s fall in these rankings has nothing to do with the Badgers’ recent play, but rather how impressive both Purdue and Illinois were on Monday. Wisconsin has a 9-2 record against quad one and quad two opponents and still has the Big Ten’s best conference win: a five-point victory at Purdue. 

The Badgers rose to No. 8 in this week’s AP poll – their highest ranking of the year – and have a chance to further improve their résumé with a home game against No. 14 Michigan State on Friday. Tyler Wahl and Brad Davison combining for 45 points in Wisconsin’s win over No. 19 Ohio State is a scary sight for opponents. 

4) Michigan State (14-3, 5-1)

Best win: 64-60 vs. No. 25 UConn (neutral site)

Worst loss: 64-62 vs. Northwestern

Recent standout: Julius Marble II (18 pts vs. Northwestern)

AP poll: 14

NET: 23

KenPom: 22

SOS: 25

Quad 1 record: 3-2

In one of the more shocking results of the season, Michigan State lost at home to a Northwestern team playing without Pete Nance. The referees nearly bailed Michigan State out by calling a foul with less than a second left, but Marcus Bingham missed the front end of the one-and-one to seal the loss.

This could be Tom Izzo’s deepest and most versatile team in recent years, but either Gabe Brown or Max Christie need to establish themselves as consistent, reliable scorers in order for Michigan State to compete with Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin. 

5) Iowa (13-4, 3-3)

Best win: 83-74 vs. Indiana

Worst loss: 73-53 at No. 15 Iowa State

Recent standout: Kris Murray (career-high 29 pts, 11 reb vs. Indiana)

AP poll: First in receiving votes

NET: 19

KenPom: 19

SOS: 44

Quad 1 record: 0-4

After a slow start to Big Ten play, Iowa claimed two important wins versus Indiana and at Minnesota. Both wins came by nine or more points, and it was the Murray brothers leading the way. Keegan is the projected lottery pick, but Kris has looked just as good at times.

Against Indiana, Kris seized the opportunity after Keegan’s foul trouble to score a career-high 29 points and 11 rebounds. Keegan bounced back for a double-double of his own against Iowa (25 pts, 10 rebounds) despite uncharacteristic poor 3-point shooting from the Hawkeyes. 

6) Indiana (13-4, 4-3)

Best win: 67-51 vs. No. 19 Ohio State

Worst loss: 61-58 at Penn State

Recent standout: Jordan Geronimo (10 pts, 8 reb vs. Nebraska)

AP poll: 13th in receiving votes

NET: 34

KenPom: 28

SOS: 124

Quad 1 record: 1-2

Indiana split a pair of road contests this week to win its first true road game in over a year. Jordan Geronimo and Trey Galloway again provided a boost off the bench, combining for 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 from the free-throw line.

Trayce Jackson-Davis went down hard after being fouled and was seen icing his tailbone on the bench during the final seven minutes of Indiana’s win at Nebraska. The preseason All-American forward ensured fans that he will be ready to go against Purdue on Thursday. The Boilermakers have beaten Indiana in nine consecutive matchups. 

7) Ohio State (11-4, 5-2)

Best win: 71-66 vs. No. 6 Duke

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

Recent standout: 

AP poll: 19

NET: 25

KenPom: 23

SOS: 5

Quad 1 record: 3-4

Ohio State stayed in the AP rankings this week but hasn’t looked like the same team that beat Duke. The Buckeyes lost by 10 points at Wisconsin in a game where they shot 3-for-19 from beyond the arc and allowed 16 points off turnovers. Since Dec. 12, Ohio State's only wins have come against Nebraska in overtime and at home against Northwestern and Penn State. 

Chris Holtman’s squad snuck away with a home win against the Nittany Lions, but again didn’t possess the same 3-point shooting (6-for-22) or depth it had shown early in the season. E.J. Liddell hasn’t skipped a beat, but the rest of the Buckeyes have struggled since their over two-week break due to COVID-19. The Buckeyes may not be clicking right now, but don't count them out to compete for the Big Ten title.

8) Northwestern (9-6, 2-4)

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

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

Recent standout: Ryan Young (18 pts, 8 reb vs. Michigan State)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 72

KenPom: 53

SOS: 64

Quad 1 record: 1-4

No Pete Nance? No problem, said the Wildcats on Saturday. Northwestern went into the Breslin Center and came away with a two-point win over Michigan State. In Nance’s absence, Ryan Young poured in 18 points, snagged eight rebounds and held opposing big man Marcus Bingham Jr. to two point and two rebounds.

It’s been difficult to assess just how good Chris Collins’ squad is this season, but when it’s playing cohesive defense that leads to 10 steals and 16 forced turnovers, it will stay in most games. Up next is a home game with Wisconsin that represents a shot at a big résumé-boosting win. 

9) Penn State (8-7, 3-4)

Best win: 61-58 vs. Indiana

Worst loss: 81-56 at UMass

Recent standout: Sam Sessoms (17 pts, 6 ast vs. Rutgers)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 87

KenPom: 66

SOS: 12

Quad 1 record: 1-5

The Nittany Lions demolished Rutgers last Tuesday with stingy defense and strong rebounding. Penn State out rebounded the Scarlet Knights by eight and scored 18 of its points off turnovers. As Micah Shrewsberry gets more comfortable in his first year as head coach, so are his players.

The Nittany Lions nearly pulled off an upset win at Ohio State thanks to balanced scoring and taking care of the ball. John Harrar (10.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg) might be the most underrated player in the Big Ten amongst a crowded group of frontcourt stars.

10) Rutgers (10-6, 4-2)

Best win: 70-68 vs. No. 4 Purdue

Worst loss: 53-51 vs. Lafayette

Recent standout: Ron Harper Jr. (31 pts vs. Maryland)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 116

KenPom: 93

SOS: 80

Quad 1 record: 1-2

After a blowout loss at Penn State, Rutgers returned to Jersey Mike’s Arena on Saturday to grab a double-digit win over Maryland. Ron Harper Jr. was the star, leading all scorers with 31 points on 6-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

It’s been quite the up-and-down season for Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights have won five of their past six games and have plenty of opportunities for wins ahead. After a home contest with Iowa, Rutgers will face off against Minnesota, Maryland, Nebraska and Northwestern, which could be a recipe for a rise in the Big Ten standings. 

11) Michigan (7-7, 1-3)

Best win: 72-58 vs. San Diego State

Worst loss: 75-65 vs. Minnesota

Recent standout: DeVante Jones (17 pts, 6 reb at Illinois)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 61

KenPom: 32

SOS: 20

Quad 1 record: 0-4

Michigan’s last win came on Dec. 18 against Southern Utah. Let that sink in. The Wolverines were picked by many to win the Big Ten this year, but now are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament with losses to Minnesota, Rutgers and Illinois in their past three conference tilts.

Michigan’s next game is a must-win at home against Maryland, which could be the start of a turnaround or the tipping point of a collapse. On paper, all the talent is there for Juwan Howard, but finding the right rotations has been a struggle. I'm not sure how Michigan has maintained solid standing in the computer rankings, but they surely aren't passing the eye test. 

12) Maryland (9-8, 1-5)

Best win: 70-68 vs. Florida

Worst loss: 71-66 vs. George Mason

Recent standout: Eric Ayala (26 pts, 11 reb at Northwestern)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 107

KenPom: 85

SOS: 58

Quad 1 record: 2-3

Maryland came out on top in a 2OT nail-biter at Northwestern only to lose by 11 points at home against Rutgers. The Terrapins struggled from 3-point land (6-for-25) while allowing Rutgers to hit from deep all night (10-for-22).

It appears Maryland’s starting five is starting to play with some chemistry, but it has gotten close to no production from its bench. In the past two games Maryland’s bench has scored just 14 total points. 

13) Minnesota (10-5, 1-5)

Best win: 81-76 at Mississippi State

Worst loss: 81-71 vs. Iowa

Recent standout: Eylijah Stephens (22 pts vs. Iowa)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 79

KenPom: 90

SOS: 27

Quad 1 record: 2-5

After a 10-1 start to the season, Minnesota has dropped four games in a row. Its last win came on Dec. 22 against Green Bay, and the Golden Gophers have failed to be competitive in many games since. 

During its four-game losing streak, Minnesota has lost three games by double digits and lost a heartbreaker at Michigan State last Wednesday. The Golden Gophers have come back to Earth after a surprisingly hot start, but things won’t get easier moving forward as three of their next five games are against ranked opponents. 

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)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 204

KenPom: 162

SOS: 23

Quad 1 record: 0-6

It was good news for Nebraska when Trey McGowens returned from injury on Monday against Indiana and hit his first 3-point attempt of the game, but McGowens’ return came with yet another loss. The Cornhuskers are at risk of going winless in the Big Ten this year as things in Lincoln don’t seem to be improving under head coach Fred Hoiberg.

Alonzo Verge Jr. and freshman five-star recruit Bryce McGowens is a competitive backcourt duo, but Nebraska has gotten beat in the paint all year. 

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