This article is exactly what the headline tells you it will be. After the Big Ten had a truly mediocre start to the season, the last week has been a godsend for Jim Delany and the conference’s reputation.
1. Michigan State (10-1, 2-0 B1G)
Michigan State, incidentally, was one of the few teams that did not impress this weekend, despite being universally slated as the best team in the conference right now. The Spartans’ game against Oakland was far closer than it should’ve been (MSU had a one-point lead late in the second half) and a simple win over Southern Utah won’t turn any heads. However, Michigan State took care of business, and until we see them fail, it’s impossible to knock them off the No. 1 spot.
2. Purdue (11-2, 2-0 B1G)
Purdue dismantled Butler in the Crossroads Classic. The Boilermakers look downright dangerous now. Their early-season kinks in the Bahamas seem like a distant memory when the team shoots 60 percent from two and 42 percent from three. Butler’s a decent team that beat Ohio State and has a top-40 defense on KenPom. Purdue doesn’t play Michigan State until February 10th, but that could be the decider for the Big Ten regular season crown the way things are going. Michigan State and Purdue are No. 2 and No. 6 in KenPom’s rankings. No other Big Ten team is in the top 30.
3. Oh gosh you’re making me pick a team?
The next four are basically interchangeable.
3. Uh, well, let’s go with Michigan (10-3, 1-1 B1G)
Michigan picked up an impressive 59-52 road win over Texas, which will be great for the Wolverines’ RPI and morale. Along with a nice OT win over UCLA, John Beilein’s squad looks set for another NCAA Tournament appearance through 13 games. With the likes of Charles Matthews, Mo Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman, this Michigan team is a veteran squad that will probably win 10 Big Ten games through sheer experience. Given how inconsistent the rest of the conference has been, that’s good enough for third right now.
4. Maryland (10-3, 1-1 B1G)
Maryland was ranked No. 4 on this list 9 days ago, and it won two games against Gardner-Webb and Catholic. That’s just enough to keep the Terrapins at number four, although this team is super young and impossible to get a read on right now. I think Anthony Cowan is really good. The third-best Justin Jackson and Angolan freshman Bruno Fernando? I have no idea. Come back to me in a few weeks.
5. Ohio State (9-3, 2-0 B1G)
That Chris Holtman can coach, huh? Ohio State backed up its win over Michigan with two dominant wins over William & Mary and Appalachian State. Those aren’t good enough opponents to vault them over Michigan and Maryland, but if the Buckeyes keep this up they could be a real threat in the Big Ten this year.
6. Minnesota (9-3, 1-1 B1G)
Minnesota will be good this year, at some point. There’s too much talent on this roster for the team to tank and win 6 games in conference. But man, the Gophers are struggling right now. First, they went to Arkansas and got smacked by the Razorbacks. That’s fine, Arkansas is good. Then, two days later, Minnesota messed around with Drake and nearly lost, eventually escaping with a one-point win. Minnesota should not be mucking around with mediocre mid-major teams at home. Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey and Nate Mason are so much better than this.
7. Northwestern (8-4, 1-1 B1G)
Northwestern is one spot lower than last time. This will come as a surprise to some, as Northwestern played its two best games of the season against Chicago State and Valpo before leaving DePaul with a nice, tough win. However, that Chicago State game is essentially meaningless, and the DePaul game exposed many of the flaws that Northwestern had during November. The offense looked sluggish, and if Vic Law is out for a bit, that will be disastrous for the team’s NCAA Tournament prospects. I can’t put them above seventh right now. The way I see it, Northwestern would be underdogs on the road against all the four teams above, and any game at Allstate Arena would be around even. Thus, the Wildcats are at No. 7.
8. Penn State (9-3, 1-1 B1G)
PENN STATE ISLAND IS BACK! The resorts are rebuilding after the disastrous effects of Hurricane Happ, taking down George Washington and George Mason in the process. What does Tony Carr have against Founding Fathers named George? Seems pretty un-American to me.
9. Indiana (6-5, 1-1 B1G)
Hey, Indiana looks competent again. After losing a close one to Louisville, Indiana came to the Crossroads Classic as big underdogs to a ranked Notre Dame team. Then, they blew Gus Johnson’s voice box out.
Archie Madness!— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 16, 2017
Juwan Morgan brought buckets to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, converting on several crucial late chances to give @IndianaMBB the comeback victory over Notre Dame: pic.twitter.com/cBMeCfgoOI
There’s one of those nonsensical Indiana wins I’m used to. That was fun. Indiana is somewhat fun. Are they good? Debatable. But they have potential.
10. Rutgers (10-3, 0-2 B1G)
It’s time to give Rutgers some respect (and its proper spelling). The Scarlet Knights earned their first ranked win since 2015 by defeating No. 15 Seton Hall at the RAC on Saturday. The fans stormed the court. It was an emotional moment. For all that Rutgers fans have suffered through since they joined the Big Ten, this was a truly outstanding win. And it was over an in-state rival. Steve Pikiell is the real deal, even if I constantly want to call him “Steve Pickle” instead of “Steve Pike-uhl.” We should all root for Steve. His daughter Brooke is a walk-on for the Northwestern women’s basketball team.
11. Nebraska (7-5, 1-1 B1G)
Hey, Nebrasketball is back! And by back, I mean Nebrasketball is back to giving you hope and cruelly takes it away in frustrating fashion. The Huskers started the week by almost beating Creighton in a fun in-state matchup. It was a close, entertaining game, but Nebraska came out as losers. Then, Tim Miles’ squad hosted Kansas. This is not a great Kansas team. I have serious doubts on whether Bill Self can muster this roster to another Big 12 title (that conference is loaded). However, Nebraska still had a chance to say it beat a ranked Kansas team, and the Huskers came agonizingly close. Up by two with less than a minute to go...
SVI FOR (A CLUTCH) THREE #KUbball pic.twitter.com/0pGaRzsPh8— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) December 17, 2017
Oh never mind, basketball is actually bad, Nebrasketball especially so.
12. Wisconsin (5-7, 1-1 B1G)
They are very bad and do not deserve your time.
Oh, you want to know why? You really don’t.
Fine. As you know, Wisconsin has always played the worst style of basketball you’ll ever see. Usually the Badgers had good players to make this somewhat watchable, but now it’s just Ethan Happ and a bunch of unknowns. This week, Wisconsin got blown out by Marquette and barely beat Western Kentucky thanks to this absolutely awful call.
Great players make great plays. Smart players make smart plays.@braddavi34 takes a charge & hits a late free throw for the @BadgerMBB victory!! #Badgers pic.twitter.com/l7rtQCXGCl— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) December 14, 2017
Awful, awful, awful. HE ISN’T EVEN SET!! HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK? HOW IS THAT A BLOCKING FOUL?! HE RAN INTO HIM INTENTIONALLY!?!
So, so, so done with Wisconsin...
13. Illinois (8-5, 0-2 B1G)
Illinois lost to UNLV and New Mexico State. *shrugs*
14. Iowa (6-6, 0-2 B1G)
Good news, Iowa won two games in a row! Bad news, Iowa is still bad. They will pass Illinois on this list very soon, though.