This league is deep. We’ve said it before, but nearly every team has a shot to make the tournament. As we gear up to watch some of the best teams in the country duke it out in conference play, here’s how the Big Ten stacks up:
1. Iowa (6-0)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Hawkeyes’ explosive offense put on a show this week, outscoring its opponents 304-210. Against UNC, its toughest opponent to date, this Iowa team showed it has more to offer than just Luka Garza. While Garza was uncharacteristically quiet, CJ Fredrick, Jordan Bohannan and Joe Weiskamp took over, scoring a combined 64 points. Following some foul trouble in the first half against Iowa State, Garza went on to score 21 straight Hawkeye points and finish the game with 34 points in just 17 minutes on the court.
2. Michigan State (6-0)
Last week’s ranking: 2
After the Spartans’ highly anticipated matchup against Virginia was derailed by COVID, Tom Izzo’s team defeated Oakland in a high-scoring outing at the Breslin Center. Despite a slow start, Gabe Brown, Aaron Henry and Josh Langford led the team to a 65-point second half. The Spartans were great on the glass, with 53 rebounds (and 28 second-chance points) to the Golden Grizzlies’ 19 boards. The depth of this team is not to be understated, as the MSU bench had a combined 62 total points against Oakland.
3. Illinois (4-2)
Last week’s ranking: 4
While the Illini took a massive skid in this week’s AP Poll, dropping from No. 5 to No. 13, there is plenty of reason to stay aboard the Illinois bandwagon. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn led the team to a win against Duke at Cameron Indoor, but Illinois was unable to continue their momentum against Missouri, despite a 36 point effort from Dosunmu. Brad Underwood’s group had an immensely challenging nonconference slate, which should serve them well as they head into the gauntlet of league play.
4. Rutgers (4-0, 1,0)
Last week’s ranking: 5
The Scarlet Knights pulled out a quality win against Syracuse, with Ron Harper Jr. and Jacob Young stepping up to lead the team in a 17-4 run to end the game. Rutgers also went head-to-head with Maryland, this time with the help of Geo Baker, who had previously been on the bench dealing with an ankle injury. Baker and Ron Harper Jr. proved to be a lethal combo against the Terps, putting up a combined 42 points. The Scarlet Knights are poised to be a major force in this conference, as Rutgers’ trademark lockdown-D has finally clicked with some explosive offense.
5. Wisconsin (4-1)
Last week’s ranking: 3
The Badgers took on Rhode Island this week in a last minute addition to their schedule, due to a COVID cancellation against Louisville. After a rough showing against Marquette, Brad Davison came up big for Wisconsin against Rhody, leading all scorers with 23 points. One notable improvement came on the defensive end, with the Badgers only allowing 0.899 points per possession.
6. Michigan (6-0, 1-0)
Last week’s ranking: 8
Despite missing Austin Davis, their starting center, Michigan managed to defeat Penn State in its first conference matchup. The Wolverines put on a gritty defensive performance in the second half but were plagued by turnovers throughout the game. However, a career high scoring performance from freshman Hunter Dickinson and some clutch Isaiah Livers free throws led this team to its first conference win.
7. Indiana (4-2)
Last week’s ranking: 7
Archie Miller’s squad came close to knocking off Florida State in Tallahassee, ultimately falling by two in overtime. Trayce Jackson-Davis led the Hoosiers with 25 points and 17 boards, but the rest of the team struggled, especially from beyond the arc. In Indiana’s win over North Alabama, sophomore Armaan Franklin had a breakout game, scoring 19 and going 5-of-7 from three.
8. Ohio State (5-0)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Ohio State was able to escape what looked to be an impending upset by Prentiss Hubb and Notre Dame after clawing back from an 11-point second-half deficit. EJ Liddell, who had 19 points against the Irish, is now out indefinitely with mononucleosis. The absence of Liddell was evident in a close game against Cleveland State, as OSU was outscored and out-rebounded in the paint by a Vikings team coming off a 55-point loss to Ohio University. Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker helped scrape out a win, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively.
9. Minnesota (6-0)
Last week’s ranking: 12
Marcus Carr has found a much-needed supporting cast in two transfers: Both Gach (Utah) and Liam Robbins (Drake). In the Golden Gophers’ win against Boston College, Gach had 16 points and nine boards, while Carr continued his red-hot start to the season with 22 total points — nine of them in overtime. Liam Robbins, the 7-foot junior, put up 27 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in Minnesota’s victory over UMKC. Keep an eye on Carr and company, as they’ve got the potential to shake things up in conference matchups.
10. Penn State (2-1, 0-1)
Last week’s ranking: 13
Thanks to a 24-point performance from Izaiah Brockington and three other PSU players scoring in double figures, the Nittany Lions secured an upset against No. 15 Virginia Tech. The team played strong defense, forcing the Hokies to turn it over 14 times. Penn State kept it close in a hard-fought contest against Michigan, but even another strong performance from Brockington wasn’t enough to pull away from the Wolverines. If the Nittany Lions can continue to show this type of effort day in and day out, expect some upsets in Happy Valley.
11. Purdue (4-2)
Last week’s ranking: 10
This team has come up short in their two biggest tests of the season, falling to both Clemson and Miami. Despite leading by as much as 20 in its contest against Miami, the Boilermakers were unable to finish the game. Purdue’s two leading scorers, freshman Zach Edey and junior Trevion Williams, both found themselves in foul trouble against the Hurricanes. Williams put on a clinic against Indiana State, finishing with 30 points and 11 rebounds. If Edey and Williams remain physical and out of foul trouble, this team will wreak havoc in the paint.
12. Maryland (4-2, 0-1)
Last week’s ranking: 9
The Terps struggled offensively against Clemson, with more turnovers than made buckets in the first half. Maryland’s scoring woes continued in its first conference matchup of the season against a talented Rutgers squad. The bench rotation has been key for Mark Turgeon’s team in the past few matchups, but in a game riddled with foul trouble, the bench could not deliver, ultimately only tacking on nine points.
13. Northwestern (2-1)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Here we go again. In a game that seemed all too reminiscent of last season, the ‘Cats fell to Pitt after coughing up a lead late in the second half. This Northwestern team got crushed on the glass and made crucial mistakes in the final two minutes. The ‘Cats are now 3-16 in games decided by five or fewer points or in overtime since the start of the 2018-19 season.
14. Nebraska (3-3)
Last week’s ranking: 14
Nebraska struggles to play for a full 40 minutes. While the Huskers were able to hang with in-state rival No. 9 Creighton early in the matchup, the team ultimately collapsed in the second half. These second-half struggles looked to be a continuation from the team’s game against Georgia Tech. Fred Hoiberg’s team will need to learn to finish, as the matchups don’t look to be getting any easier heading into league play.