Glad to see you came back for more power rankings. Here’s a quick summary of this week's Big Ten men's basketball action…
After starting to make a climb last week, Penn State and Indiana go a combined 0-3. Illinois, Iowa and Rutgers continue to struggle. Michigan slips up in one of their three games this week. Michigan State starts to look like they are back to being a legitimate one-seed. Finally, Purdue and Ohio State continue to remain unbeaten in conference play, preparing for their early-February showdown.
With all that said, here is how I have the big ten stacking up as we approach the halfway point of the conference season…
14. Illinois (10-10, 0-7)
Last Week: 75-50 LOSS at Wisconsin
This has been a season to forget for Illini fans, but this was to be expected. Coach Underwood knew he would have his work cut out for him with this roster. With that being said, outside the Wisconsin game on Friday night, they have been very competitive this conference season. They lost to Minnesota and Michigan by 10, Iowa by seven in overtime and Nebraska by one. They’ve been competitive, they just haven’t broken through in conference yet.
Previous Ranking: 14
13. Iowa (10-11, 1-7)
Last Week: 80-64 LOSS at Rutgers; 87-64 LOSS vs Purdue
Iowa doesn’t have a lot to work with, but they still should be better than they have been this season. You would have to think Fran McCaffery is on thin ice in Iowa City. Two ugly loses to Rutgers and Purdue this week didn’t help the cause. There’s a good chance Fran is coaching for his job down the stretch of the season.
Previous Ranking: 13
12. Rutgers (12-9, 2-6)
Last Week: 80-64 WIN vs Iowa; 62-47 LOSS at Michigan
I do believe that Rutgers is making progress. It isn’t showing in their record, but you can see it in their games. They dominated Iowa for 40 minutes, and they were competitive in Ann Arbor against Michigan. The record doesn’t show what Steve Pikiell is doing in Piscataway and Rutgers fans should be optimistic about the future.
Previous Ranking: 12
11. Wisconsin (10-10, 3-4)
Last Week: 78-50 LOSS at Purdue; 75-50 WIN vs Illinois
Ethan Happ can make any team a tournament caliber team, with the proper supporting cast. Injuries have hampered Wisconsin’s chances this year, but the roster is also just not what it needs to be to make a tournament run. Wisconsin still has a chance to play spoiler in the Big Ten with Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan all coming to the Kohl Center later this year.
Previous Ranking: 11
10. Minnesota (14-8, 3-6)
Last Week: 95-84 WIN at Penn State; 77-66 LOSS at Maryland; 67-49 LOSS vs Ohio State
Some people still have Minnesota on the fringe of their tournament predictions. I’m off their bandwagon at this point. Without Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch, this team just doesn’t have the firepower and the depth to contend in the Big Ten. People are still holding on to the top-15 team they were back in November, but they aren’t anymore. It will take a lot to get them back in the tournament conversation for me.
Previous Ranking: T9
9. Northwestern (12-9, 3-5)
Last Week: 71-65 LOSS vs Ohio State; 70-61 WIN vs Penn State
Last week I tried to keep my hopes up for Northwestern, knowing the talent and the potential this team has. It’s not that they underperformed, it’s that they missed an opportunity. Beating Ohio State at home would have been a huge boost to what is a very lackluster resume for the Wildcats. Still unclear of what went wrong for Northwestern this season, but they need a late season surge to have any postseason hopes.
Previous Ranking: 8
8. Penn State (13-8, 3-5)
Last Week: 95-84 LOSS vs Minnesota; 70-61 LOSS at Northwestern
I really thought Penn State could make an NCAA Tournament run this year. While it’s not over yet, this week really hurt them. In the Big Ten this season, you have to win your home games against the middle of the pack, and steal a few against those teams on the road. Penn State lost to both Minnesota and Northwestern this week, dropping them to 3-5 in the conference and arein dire need of some big wins coming up at Ohio State and Michigan State in the coming weeks.
Previous Ranking: 6
7. Maryland (15-6, 4-4)
Last Week: 68-67 LOSS at Michigan; 77-66 WIN vs Minnesota
I realized that most people are higher on Maryland than I was last week. That plus good performances against Michigan and Minnesota this week brought them up a few spots in my rankings. They have a lot of talent on the roster even without Justin Jackson as Michal Cekovsky, Darryl Morsell, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter all scored in double figures against Minnesota. Cekovsky could be a matchup nightmare against IU, especially if Morgan is out.
Previous Ranking: T9
6. Indiana (11-8, 4-3)
Last Week: 85-57 LOSS at Michigan State
This ranking could get worse depending on the severity of Juwan Morgan’s apparent ankle injury he suffered toward the end of the first half against Michigan State. Robert Johnson is doing his best to keep the Hoosiers alive, performing well in the three-game win streak. But they will need more than him down the stretch, and they will definitely need a healthy Morgan. Maryland and Illinois are must wins this week and Purdue is a huge tournament resume opportunity at home on Sunday.
Previous Ranking: 5
5. Nebraska (14-7, 5-3)
Last Week: 64-63 WIN vs Illinois; 72-52 WIN vs Michigan
This was a great week for Nebraska. Yes, they squeaked by Illinois at home, but nothing is handed to you in the Big Ten and James Palmer Jr. hit a big shot to win the game. Then they dismantled Michigan at home. If this team wants to jump into the tournament conversation, a win at Ohio State Monday night would help. They could also use Palmer Jr.’s play to continue, scoring 24 and 19 this past week.
Previous Ranking: 7
4. Michigan (17-5, 6-3)
Last Week: 68-67 WIN vs Maryland; 72-52 LOSS at Nebraska; 62-47 WIN vs Rutgers
Michigan’s schedule was the cause of a sloppy start to the week, squeaking by Maryland and getting the doors blown off them in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers. With the new Big Ten schedule this year, Michigan has played five games in the last 12 days. Road wins are hard to come by anywhere in the Big Ten, so a loss at Nebraska isn’t a complete shocker. They get another shot at Purdue this week when they travel to West Lafayette after losing in the last seconds when Purdue came to town on January 9.
Previous Ranking: 3
3. Michigan State (17-3, 5-2)
Last Week: 85-57 WIN vs Indiana
I think we got a glimpse at the Michigan State team that was ranked No. 1 earlier this season. Granted, IU had no answer in the paint against the likes of Ward, Jackson and Bridges. However, Michigan State showed us why they can win it all come March. One game isn’t enough to fully say that the Spartans are back, but they only have one ranked team left on the schedule, a home game against Purdue, so they will have plenty of time to get their act together before March.
Previous Ranking: 4
2. Ohio State (17-4, 8-0)
Last Week: 71-65 WIN at Northwestern; 67-49 WIN vs Minnesota
I keep waiting for Ohio State to lose. There’s no way this team can continue to run the table, right? Well they keep winning, and in impressive fashion. I thought a road game at Northwestern could do it, and they showed a lot of fight and won a big road game in the Big Ten. Then, after a slow start against Minnesota in Madison Square Garden, they didn’t miss a beat and blew out the Gophers. Ohio State has passed every test out there, and now they have four straight games at home against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten teams. Good chance for Ohio State to realistically be 12-0 when they head to West Lafayette.
Previous Ranking: 2
1. Purdue (19-2, 8-0)
Last Week: 78-50 WIN vs Wisconsin; 87-64 WIN at Iowa
This team is good. If you haven’t accepted that at this point, it’s time. Can they win a national championship? Sure, but I’m positive there are plenty of Purdue fans that have seen this show before, and need to see success in March before they buy in fully. But, they have been arguably the most impressive team since November, having not lost on the mainland all season. The combination of Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards in the front court and Carsen Edwards in the backcourt is something most teams can’t match. The difference between this Purdue team and past Purdue teams, they can really shoot the 3-ball. They hit a Big Ten record 20 threes in the win over Iowa.
Previous Ranking: 1