1. Maryland (20-4, 10-3)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The ‘Terps are riding a seven game win streak after squeaking by Nebraska and picking up a nice win at Illinois. Maryland looks like a legitimate title contender behind the play of stars Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, who look like first team All-Big Ten players.
A huge Saturday matchup at Michigan State looms, as the Spartans sit just a game and a half out of first place.
2. Penn State (19-5, 9-4)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Penn State is somehow just as hot as Maryland, as it will also be coming into their next game on a seven game winning streak. Lamar Stevens and the Nittany Lions are primed to reach the tournament for only the second time since 2001. If they can stay consistent, Penn State might not just make the tournament, but make some noise once they get there.
The Nittany Lions will host Northwestern this week before a crucial game against Illinois follows.
3. Michigan State (17-8, 9-5)
Last week’s ranking: 3
Xavier Tillman’s huge putback slam saved Michigan State from pulling out the panic button after the Spartan’s nearly blew a 20-point lead at Illinois. This would have been a crushing loss for the Spartans who had lost three in a row and were in danger of falling to two and a half games back of first with little time to spare.
If the Spartans can beat Maryland at home this week, it could turn their season around. A win would mean Tom Izzo’s team would sit just a half game behind the ‘Terps with another matchup on the horizon. Get your popcorn ready.
4. Rutgers (17-8, 8-6)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Rutgers became one of the many teams to storm back from a huge deficit to take down the ‘Cats, rallying behind the clutch shooting of Geo Baker and its dominance on the boards. The Scarlet Knights then fell behind early against Ohio State in their next game and could never find their groove.
5. Iowa (17-8, 8-6)
Last week’s ranking: 5
Iowa had an ugly week, as it sandwiched a win against a terrible Nebraska team between two losses at Purdue and Indiana. Luka Garza continues to dominate and is one of the front runners for Big Ten Player of the Year, and although they’ve had some losses they should be a dangerous team come March.
The Hawkeyes can’t slip up this week against teams they should beat if they hope to keep pace with the conference leaders.
6. Illinois (16-8, 8-5)
Last week’s ranking: 2
Illinois only played two games, but it took three crushing losses this week. While the losses against Maryland and Michigan State were big missed opportunities, the knee injury to Ayo Dosunmu hurt the most. While he thankfully learned that there was no structural damage, his status is still unknown. Losing a star point guard in the midst of one of Illinois’ best seasons in recent memory is a tough pill to swallow.
We’ll see how the Illini manage his injury during tough matchups against Rutgers and Penn State.
7. Purdue (14-11, 7-7)
Last week’s ranking: 8
Purdue had a strong week, blowing out Iowa and beating Indiana before dropping one against a very good Penn State team. This is a deep squad with five different players averaging nine or more points per game. While the Big Ten title is likely out of reach, Purdue needs to string together some wins if they hope to improve their tournament seeding.
The Boilermakers have a big two game road trip coming up with games at Ohio State and then Michigan.
8. Wisconsin (14-10, 7-6)
Last week’s ranking: 9
Wisconsin got pounded by rival Minnesota before rebounding with a big win against Ohio State. While the Buckeyes seem to have a higher ceiling than Wisconsin, particularly after Kobe King’s departure, the two head-to-head wins make it hard to make a case for Ohio State to be ranked ahead of them.
The Badgers will go to Lincoln for what should be easy win, before hosting Matt Painter’s Purdue squad.
9. Ohio State (16-8, 6-7)
Last week’s ranking: 7
Big performances by the Wesson brothers allowed Ohio State to salvage its week with a win over Rutgers after losing to Wisconsin earlier. The Buckeyes will need more of the same from the brothers in order to not waste their phenomenal start to the season.
Games against Purdue and Iowa are on the way, and winning both would be a massive boost for Chris Holtmann’s team.
10. Michigan (15-9, 6-7)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Michigan picked up a gigantic win against a reeling Michigan State team before coming into Welsh-Ryan Arena and stomping the ‘Cats. The Wolverines have now won four out of five after a tough stretch in the middle of the season.
Juwan Howard’s group will look to stay hot against Indiana and Rutgers this week.
11. Indiana (15-8, 5-7)
Last week’s ranking: 10
Indiana had a good week as a whole thanks to a timely win against Iowa that snapped a four game losing streak. Hoosier fans were also treated to a special moment this week as legendary coach Bob Knight made his return to Assembly Hall for the first time in 20 years.
A two-game road trip is on the way with visits to Michigan and Minnesota coming.
12. Minnesota (12-11, 6-7)
Last week’s ranking: 12
Minnesota can’t seem to string together many wins in a row, but its tournament hopes are still alive thanks to the depth of the Big Ten. Big man Daniel Oturu has been one of the best players in the conference, but he really needs to get some consistent help if the Gophers want to keep their hopes alive.
Minnesota can start to get it going this week with home games against Iowa and Indiana.
13. Northwestern (6-17, 1-12)
Last week’s ranking: 13
The ‘Cats had yet another brutal week due to a heartbreaker at Rutgers and a beatdown at the hands of Michigan. This young team just can’t seem to put it together for a full 40 minutes, leading to some devastating losses.
Things don’t get any easier as Chris Collins’ team travels to face the two best teams in the conference this week.
14. Nebraska (7-17, 2-11)
Last week’s ranking: 14
Nebraska nearly pulled off a miraculous upset at Maryland before falling just short. It remains behind the ‘Cats due to the head to head matchup, but there isn’t much separating the two worst teams in the conference.