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Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings, ninth edition: Uncertainty at the top

We’re in for a great finish to conference play as there are a number of teams that have a legitimate shot at the crown.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Parity is always present in the Big Ten, but not always at the top of the conference. In the past ten days, powerhouses have lost their momentum and some surprise programs have truly broken through.

Here’s where every team stands as we head into the last full month of the conference slate:

1. Maryland (18-4, 8-3)

Last week’s ranking: 3

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The ‘Terps are quickly establishing themselves as a premier team in the conference, and it’s translating into slowly becoming a national title threat. Having won five in a row, Maryland has shown it is capable of winning games on both sides of the floor, and that should scare the Big Ten.

Mark Turgeon’s squad will face off with Illinois on Friday, in a game that is sure to be one of the best conference battles of the season.

2. Illinois (16-6, 8-3)

Last week’s ranking: 6

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing a tough road matchup against Iowa, Illinois has taken seven of its last eight and is in serious contention to win the conference. At the very least, the Illini have a chance to get a double bye in the Big Ten tournament for the first time since the conference’s latest expansion.

Illinois will be heavily reliant on youth, but Kofi Cockburn and co. have proven that they are ready to perform on the big stage.

3. Michigan State (16-7, 8-4)

Last week’s ranking: 1

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

When MSU loses on the road, it’s one thing, but for Penn State to enter East Lansing and pick up a win, that’s alarming. Tom Izzo’s group has now lost two in a row and has lost its grasp on the conference.

If the Spartans are going to become a legitimate threat to compete for a national title, it’s going to have to start with a significant run in conference first.

4. Penn State (17-5, 7-4)

Last week’s ranking: 7

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions are one of the best stories in the Big Ten this year and they are on a ridiculously impressive streak. PSU has won five in a row, including road victories over both teams in Michigan.

If the team’s offensive success continues (77 ppg), and it can maintain its progression on the defensive end, it has a chance to become a serious contender in conference.

5. Iowa (16-6, 7-4)

Last week’s ranking: 5

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part, Iowa has taken care of business when it has needed to, and a win over Maryland is currently its prized accomplishment, but the team’s progression without its best guard in Jordan Bohannon has been the squad’s most impressive feat.

Joe Wieskamp and CJ Frederick will need to continue to pick up a majority of the minutes in the Hawkeyes’ backcourt, and if they can maintain their pace, Luka Garza will do the rest.

6. Rutgers (16-7, 7-5)

Last week’s ranking: 2

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Scarlet Knights regressed from their scorching hot pace, but the Rutgers faithful still have to be pleased with their team’s progression. The team has it all to play for in the final stretch of the season, and it’ll have plenty of opportunities to establish a spot in the tournament.

7. Ohio State (15-7, 5-6)

Last week’s ranking: 10

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State was on the brink of falling out of the tournament picture, and the Buckeyes responded exactly how they needed to. Three consecutive wins, including a road victory in Ann Arbor, have Chris Holtmann’s group back on the right path.

8. Purdue (12-10, 5-6)

Last week’s ranking: 11

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Another team that absolutely had to turn it around, Purdue was minutes from seeing all of its season goals fall apart in Evanston. A crucial 11-0 run in the final four minutes of the contest kept Purdue’s hopes of success alive, all while putting yet another dagger in Northwestern’s season.

9. Wisconsin (13-9, 6-5)

Last week’s ranking: 4

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin is 1-2 in its last three contests, but that is far from the most pressing news on the Madison front right now. Second leading scorer Kobe King decided to leave the team due to frustrations with coach Greg Gard, leaving a lot of questions to be answered about the state of his program.

10. Indiana (15-7, 5-6)

Last week’s ranking: 8

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoosiers had a chance to make a statement and take down an elite Maryland team, but they just missed out and have since lost another two games. Indiana is firmly on the tournament bubble, and the end of the Big Ten season will determine its fate.

11. Michigan (13-9, 4-7)

Last week’s ranking: 9

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Juwan Howard’s team was in a similar predicament to its rivals two weeks ago, but it wasn’t able to mount the same turnaround. The Wolverines haven’t been able to nab any impressive conference wins, and a loss to Ohio State at home is as demoralizing of a loss as Michigan can have.

12. Minnesota (13-9, 5-6)

Last week’s ranking: 12

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Oturu has tried to will his team into wins, but he can only do so much, and the team’s overall deficiencies are beginning to become more and more evident. Minnesota hasn’t cracked 65 points since January 15, and its defense hasn’t been able to generate many wins.

13. Northwestern (6-15, 1-10)

Last week’s ranking: 13

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

What is there to say about the state of this team? Up eight with just over four minutes to play, Northwestern scored zero points and dropped another Big Ten game. Sitting at 6-15, this is an ugly of a year as a Big Ten team can have, and it isn’t likely to get better.

14. Nebraska (7-15, 2-9)

Last week’s ranking: 14

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cornhuskers are right there with the ‘Cats, and the race to the bottom of the conference will be a thrilling piece of entertainment. I’m kidding, but it’s pretty much all either NU has at this point.