Since establishing itself as a conference with some of the best teams in the country, the Big Ten found its depth this week, as upsets and close games defined the first batch of conference matchups.
Here’s where the conference now stands:
1. Ohio State (9-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
After going into North Carolina and dominating the Tar Heels, Ohio State returned to Columbus and didn’t miss a beat. The Buckeyes put up 106 points on Penn State en route to a near 30-point win. If you had any belief that Chris Holtmann’s team would slow down soon, they’re putting that to rest.
OSU won’t really be tested in its next two matchups, as it should be able to handle Minnesota and Southeast Missouri State with ease. The interesting battle will be when the Buckeyes travell to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky. If they can take that one, something special may really be brewing for the scarlet and gray.
2. Maryland (10-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
The Terrapins suffered a disappointing loss in State College, but that shouldn’t take away from the work they’ve done thus far. Home teams in the Big Ten are undefeated thus far, so the loss isn’t a true indication of issues for Maryland, who deserves to maintain their position in second place.
Its schedule ahead will be a true litmus test for the squad. Games against Seton Hall, Ohio State and Indiana await Maryland.
3. Michigan (8-2)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
It was an interesting week for Juwan Howard’s team, who is coming back down to earth after a scorching hot start to the year. Michigan defeated Iowa at home by a wild score of 103-91, before only putting up 62 points in a loss to Illinois. The Wolverines never seemed to have a chance in the second half, and were thoroughly dominated in the paint.
That being said, it was the team’s first Big Ten road game, and I’m not sure you can gather much from the performance. Like Maryland, games against Michigan State and Oregon will offer a clearer picture of how good this team is.
4. Michigan State (6-3)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
Though the Spartans have disappointed as a whole, they won their first Big Ten game of the year against a gritty Rutgers squad and will have some time to find their footing before facing a true quality opponent. Expect MSU to get hot and go on a little bit of a run.
5. Penn State (8-2)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
In beating Maryland, the Nittany Lions sent the first shockwave through the conference. Penn State sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten that it is going to be a legitimate tournament threat this year for the first time in a while.
Through its first 10 games, Penn State also has wins against a quality Yale team and Georgetown. This may be the year PSU really breaks through.
6. Purdue (6-3)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Sure, Purdue’s win against a Northwestern team that possesses an anemic offense isn’t that impressive, but after beating Virginia, Purdue is beginning to put some momentum together. Matchups with Butler and Illinois loom for the Boilermakers.
7. Indiana (9-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
In its first crack at a Big Ten matchup, Indiana failed to deliver. The Hoosiers coasted through a mainly cupcake start to the season, and they were exposed in Wisconsin, getting walloped by the Badgers. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow when they face off with Nebraska.
8. Illinois (7-3)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
Brad Underwood has a special team in Champaign. While Illinois’ ranking on this list is a reflection of the depth of the conference, the Fighting Illini looked like a top 25 team last night in its win against Michigan. Kofi Cockburn is going to be one of the best bigs in the country by the end of the year, and his supporting cast is incredibly skilled as well.
Watch out for Illinois.
9. Iowa (7-3)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
The Hawkeyes fell in a shootout to Michigan, but responded well in a dominant victory against Minnesota. This is a team that is yet to figure out what it’s going to be this year, and contests with Cincinnati and Iowa State will help determine that before Iowa returns to conference play.
10. Rutgers (7-3)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
There are years in which wins over Wisconsin would be indications of a good team. This is not one of them. Rutgers found a good win at the RAC after falling to Michigan State, but the Scarlet Knights don’t have any true quality wins yet. They’ll have a chance to do that against a high powered Seton Hall team on Saturday.
11. Minnesota (4-5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 11
As good as the top half of the Big Ten is, the bottom four teams in the conference are far from it. There is a big gap in the conference that starts with Minnesota. The Gophers were dominated by Iowa on Monday, and they won’t be returning to their tournament level of last year.
12. Wisconsin (5-5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 13
No, this Badgers team isn’t going to do any damage in the conference, but their win against Indiana brought some holiday cheer to Madison. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, it wasn’t able to follow the win up in New Jersey, as the Badgers fell to Rutgers.
13. Northwestern (4-4)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
The Wildcats of this year are beginning to resemble the Wildcats of last year. Impressive defense will be nullified by horrific offense on a daily basis, and it’ll be tough for NU to find conference wins. Against Purdue, Northwestern was hard done by due to some tough calls from the officials, but its offense was lackluster all day nonetheless.
Chris Collins’ team has a game against SIU-Edwardsville on Sunday before facing another quality opponent in Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan. It’ll be interesting to see if the ‘Cats can compete.
14. Nebraska (4-5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 14
Nebraska and Northwestern will compete for the bottom of the Big Ten this year, but right now the Cornhuskers are just awful. It’s going to be a long season in Lincoln, and another double digit loss to Creighton displayed that. The ‘Huskers face off with Northwestern on the 11th of January. Get hyped.