The Big Ten had another week filled with action, highlighted by another of marquee games for teams like Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. And we got some dramatic results as well, including a massive upset win for the Badgers. All of that shook things up considerably.
So, with that, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
#1 – Michigan State Spartans (+1)
The Spartans had a relatively positive week, holding off Nebraska at home on Wednesday to improve to 13-2 overall and 4-0 in Big Ten play. The team was also set to face arch-rival Michigan on the road on Saturday, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 related issues. The game will reportedly be rescheduled later in the season.
Michigan State will now enter a week of opportunity. The Spartans get Minnesota at home on Wednesday and Northwestern at home on Saturday. Neither of those games are gimmes, but Michigan State will certainly be favored to win both, especially considering the Spartans already beat both teams on the road. However, drop one and the team suddenly takes a big hit to its Big Ten title odds. So, like I said above, it’s a week of opportunity. Michigan State needs two wins.
#2 – Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)
Illinois had a fantastic week of action, blowing out Minnesota on Tuesday and handling Maryland at home on Thursday. The two wins pushed Illinois to 11-3 overall and 4-0 in Big Ten play. All told, Illinois is 9-1 overall in its last 10 games, including six wins against top 90 KenPom opponents. It’s been an incredible run, though it’s fallen under the radar nationally.
The biggest part of the team’s success is Kofi Cockburn. The big man had 52 points and 28 rebounds in the two wins this week, continuing his push for All-American honors. He’s also posted offensive ratings above 125 in his last four outings and earned KenPom MVP honors in each of the team’s last four wins. Illinois has risen to 11th nationally on KenPom as well.
This week, Illinois will get Nebraska on the road on Tuesday and Michigan at home on Friday. Both of these should be wins. We’ll see if Illinois can take care of business.
#3 – Wisconsin Badgers (+3)
The Badgers had an exceptional week of play, beating Purdue on the road on Monday, Iowa at home on Thursday, and Maryland on the road on Sunday. It’s not often you beat a top five on the road and add two more quality wins in a week, but that’s exactly what Wisconsin did this week. It was an incredible performance and pushed the Badgers to 13-2 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play.
Of course, the star for Wisconsin has been Johnny Davis. He’s been playing at an All-American level, scoring 37 points and grabbing 14 rebounds against Purdue and a combined 45 in the latter two games. It seems like an unsustainable pace, but we’ll see. If he does keep it up, Wisconsin’s probably winning the Big Ten outright.
This week, Wisconsin will get Ohio State at home on Thursday for its lone game of the week. It’s a great chance for the Badgers to get revenge against the Buckeyes, who beat up on Wisconsin in early December. It’s Wisconsin’s lone loss since November.
#4 – Purdue Boilermakers (-3)
The Boilermakers had a mixed week, losing against Wisconsin at home on Monday and bouncing back with a road win over Penn State on Saturday. Frankly, Purdue didn’t look much like a top five team in either game, struggling to slow down Wisconsin’s offense on Monday and needing some late game heroics to avoid another loss on Saturday.
Still, even with the underwhelming results, Purdue sits at 13-2 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play heading into the second week of January. Things could be a lot worse and Purdue has two winnable games on the docket in the coming days, with Michigan on the road on Tuesday and Nebraska at home on Friday. Win those two games and the Boilers will be right back in the hunt for the Big Ten title.
#5 – Ohio State Buckeyes (-2)
The Buckeyes had a mixed week, falling on the road to Indiana on Thursday, but rebounding with a win over Northwestern at home on Sunday. The split left Ohio State sitting at 10-3 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play. Notably, the win over Northwestern came without Chris Holtmann, as the program’s head coach was sidelined due to COVID-19 concerns.
Generally speaking, Ohio State remains in good shape. The team has a great resume and finally got back on track after weeks of question marks and COVID-19 issues. And while the team isn’t yet completely out of the gate (Holtmann’s absence is evidence of that), getting a win over Northwestern was a welcome reprieve.
Ohio State will now prepare for Wisconsin on the road on Thursday and Penn State at home on Sunday. Both look like challenging outings, especially with how those teams have been playing recently.
#6 – Iowa Hawkeyes (-1)
The Hawkeyes had a mixed week of play, beating Maryland at home on Monday and falling on the road to Wisconsin on Thursday. The split left Iowa sitting at 11-4 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play. Despite the loss, Iowa has still won four of the team’s last five games.
Iowa will get two pivotal games this week with Indiana at home on Thursday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday. The Hawkeyes are presently favored in both games, but not significantly. Fans should be hoping for at least a split.
#7 – Indiana Hoosiers (+2)
The Hoosiers were another team that had substantial success this week, knocking off Ohio State at home on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. The two wins pushed Indiana to 12-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play. The win over the Buckeyes was the program’s first over a top 25 team since February of last year.
Indiana only gets one game this week, but it should be a challenging one against Iowa on the road on Thursday. It should be a fun battle between the two teams.
#8 – Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+2)
The Scarlet Knights had a great week of play, beating Michigan at home on Tuesday and Nebraska at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Rutgers to 9-5 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. All told, Rutgers has won four straight and five of the team’s last six games. Rutgers has also risen to 87th on KenPom after a few weeks outside the top 100.
Rutgers’ biggest contributor this week was certainly Ron Harper. The senior had 20 points against the Wolverines and 29 against the Huskers, with much of his production coming from outside the three-point line. Geo Baker also stepped up against Michigan, finishing with 27 points, four assists, and four rebounds. Fans have to be pleased with that kind of senior leadership.
This week, Rutgers has a challenging slate with Penn State on the road on Tuesday and Maryland on the road on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are projected as underdogs in both games, but all three teams have been relatively unpredictable this year. Fans should be hoping Rutgers can find a way to split the games.
#9 – Penn State Nittany Lions (+2)
The Nittany Lions had a relatively positive week. Penn State opened the week with a win over Northwestern on the road before falling against Purdue at home on Saturday. The split left the team sitting at 7-6 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play. Notably, Penn State is 3-2 overall its last five games with the only two losses coming against top 10 opponents. Not bad for a team purportedly in a complete rebuild.
Penn State will return to action this week with Rutgers at home on Tuesday and Ohio State on the road on Sunday. Even a split would be a great performance.
#10 – Minnesota Golden Gophers (-2)
The Gophers had a rough go this week, losing at home to Illinois on Tuesday and Indiana on the road on Sunday. The two losses dropped Minnesota to 10-3 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play. Both losses also came by double-digits.
Minnesota will now get Michigan State on the road on Wednesday and Iowa at home on Sunday. While it might sound hyperbolic, Minnesota really needs to win one of these two. Otherwise, the team’s going to have lost four straight heading into another road game. Not exactly a good spot for a team hoping for an NCAA slot.
#11 – Northwestern Wildcats (-4)
The Wildcats had a rough week, falling at home to Penn State on Wednesday and on the road against Ohio State on Sunday. The two losses dropped Northwestern to 8-5 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play. It also took much of the air out of Northwestern’s fast start.
Northwestern will get Maryland at home on Wednesday and Michigan State on the road on Saturday. A loss to the Terps would be particularly rough.
#12 – Maryland Terrapins (-)
The Terps lost all three of the team’s games this week, falling on the road to Iowa on Monday, on the road to Illinois on Thursday, and Wisconsin at home on Sunday. It was a heartbreaking week and killed a lot of the team’s recent momentum. Maryland now sits at 8-7 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play.
This week, Maryland gets two pivotal games with Northwestern on the road on Wednesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. Two losses would effectively end the team’s postseason hopes.
#13 – Michigan Wolverines (-)
The Wolverines had an awful week, falling on the road to Rutgers on Tuesday and then pausing team activities due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The latter included cancellation of Michigan’s game against rival Michigan State. It’s one of the more disappointing postponements we’ve seen in college basketball so far this season.
Michigan is presently scheduled to return to action this week against Purdue at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Friday. However, those dates seem optimistic given Michigan’s cancellation on Saturday. We’ll have to wait and see, but it seems unrealistic to think Michigan couldn’t field a team on Saturday, but can on Tuesday.
Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, the COVID-19 issues couldn’t have come at a worse time. Michigan desperately needs marquee wins to help build its resume and the next few weeks figured to be the team’s best opportunity. The Wolverines were slated to get two top 10 teams at home (MSU and Purdue) and a top 15 KenPom opponent (Illinois) on the road a few days later. Get hot and you could have resurrected your season. But, now, those games are likely get jammed in between games later in the season with quick turnarounds. That doesn’t seem like a good recipe for Michigan’s postseason hopes.
#14 – Nebraska Cornhuskers (-)
The Huskers lost both of the team’s games this week, falling on the road to Michigan State on Wednesday and on the road against Rutgers on Saturday. The losses dropped Nebraska to 6-10 overall and 0-5 in Big Ten play. This is the second straight season Nebraska has opened Big Ten play at 0-5 and the third straight with five losses in the team’s first six conference games. Not exactly marks fans are happy to see.
Nebraska will hope to bounce back this week with Illinois at home on Tuesday and Purdue on the road on Friday. Both games look immensely challenging.