Every team is now at least halfway through Big Ten play as we turn the page to February. Right now, four teams have proven themselves to be contenders not only in the B1G, but nationally as well.
However, with just about a month of regular season play left, three things are for certain: the regular season title is still up for grabs, the conference is arguably the deepest in the country, and the middle tier continues to cannibalize itself.
Without further ado, here is the third edition of these power rankings:
#1: #18 Iowa (18-3, 9-1 B1G)
Last Week: 1
It remains to be seen if the Hawkeyes are truly the team to beat in the Big Ten. At 9-1 in conference, though, there’s no sense in moving them out of the top spot. We will see if Lisa Bluder’s squad remains top dog in two weeks when it plays at Maryland.
#2: #17 Maryland (17-4, 8-2)
Last Week: 3
Ranking the Terps ahead of Northwestern might not play well among the Wildcat faithful, but they have shown they are beginning to put things together. After impressive wins over both NU and Ohio State last week, Maryland’s road of tests is only ratcheting up. Three of their next four games are against consensus top-five teams in the conference.
#3: #23 Northwestern (18-3, 8-2)
Last Week: 2
The loss at Maryland doesn’t mean much besides standings proceedings. What’s important is the ‘Cats are now 3-0 following losses after their shootout win versus Michigan. Northwestern has looked far from perfect at times this season, but they’ve continued to win. With no currently-ranked teams left on the schedule, this team could push 25 wins for the regular season and should secure a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament.
#4: #20 Indiana (17-5, 7-3)
Last Week: 5
After three consecutive losses (albeit to the top three teams in the B1G) there was cause for concern in Bloomington. However, playing three of the conference’s poorest teams will help stop the bleeding, and the Hoosiers got back on track with a string wins. Maryland looms this week.
#5: Rutgers (16-4, 6-3)
Last Week: 5
As Mac said last week, Rutgers has yet to earn a signature win. That didn’t change this week. The Scarlet Knights took care of bottom-feeder Illinois, and they have a good opportunity to pick up two more wins in the coming week against Minnesota and Penn State. Still, we don’t really know how good this team is.
#6: Nebraska (15-6, 5-5)
Last Week: 9
The Huskers define “middle-of-the-pack Big Ten.” Thanks to their three-point shooting ability, they’ve won close games against other middle-tier teams. They’ve also blown some like they did at Minnesota on Thursday night. The loss booted them out of the top 50 in RPI, but with a few more quality wins this team is in line to make the tournament.
#7: Purdue (15-7, 6-4)
Last Week: 7
The numbers continue to love Purdue. The Boilermakers sit at 26th in the RPI despite not having a great win yet. They took care of business this week, dispatching Penn State and Michigan State. Indiana and Iowa present chances for signature wins in two of their next three games.
#8: Michigan (13-7, 4-5)
Last Week: 10
Did someone say parity? The Wolverines earned a nice win over Rutgers before falling short to Northwestern after a good fight. Where Michigan struggles is from downtown: in conference play they are third-worst at shooting it and worst at defending it. Someone’s gotta help Naz Hillmon out.
#9: Michigan State (11-10, 4-6)
Last Week: 6
Rough week for Sparty. Winning at Iowa was never happening, and the loss to Purdue at home was tough. After winning three in a row and looking like a disruptor in the Big Ten, MSU has proceeded to lose thrice. Sounds about right for this team.
#10: Ohio State (11-9, 4-5)
Last Week: 8
Talk about average. The Buckeyes are seventh in scoring offense and eighth in scoring defense during Big Ten play. Despite their record, RPI ranks them a stunning 30th. This week was unquestionably their toughest, falling to both Iowa and Maryland. The next two weeks present favorable contests as OSU tries to improve its record.
#11: Minnesota (13-8, 3-7)
Last Week: 12
Things are rocky in the Twin Cities. Since Destiny Pitts’ feud with head coach Lindsey Whalen boiled over during the Northwestern game, Minnesota has been wildly inconsistent. Their most recent win over Nebraska improved them to 63rd in RPI, so if they can scrap together some cohesion and consistency, there’s a chance for the Gophers to dance.
#12: Wisconsin (10-11, 2-8)
Last Week: 11
The Badgers barely fell short against Nebraska at home before nearly upsetting IU on the road. Though the record isn’t aesthetically pleasing, UW has proved to be pesky for some of the conference’s strongest, and it has two upcoming winnable games.
#13: Illinois (10-10, 1-8 B1G)
Last Week: 13
The Illini started the year 9-1 before Northwestern came to town. Since then, they are 1-9, and the one win was the only competitive game. A tough scene down in Champaign.
#14: Penn State (7-14, 1-9 B1G)
Last Week: 14
Well. I guess losing each of their games this week by fewer than 15 points is a step in the right direction?