This week featured some conference shake-ups as Big Ten teams continue to battle on a nightly basis. Let’s see how this week’s power rankings take shape.
1. No. 7 Michigan (13-1, 8-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Wolverines finally showed some signs of weakness against Minnesota, losing to the Gophers by 18 earlier in the week before regaining their form and beating Maryland and Purdue by an average of 20 points. The Wolverines continue to play clean basketball, as lead the Big Ten at just over 13 turnovers per game. Unfortunately for Juwan Howard’s squad, COVID-19 has entered the program and will force the team off the court for at least the next two weeks.
2. No. 4 Iowa (12-3, 6-2 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 2
Iowa has become reliant on its deadly three-point shooting, which proved costly in the loss to Indiana where the Hawkeyes shot 5-for-23 (22%) from deep. CJ Frederick got hurt in the middle of the second half, and the Hawkeyes fell apart without any other pure ballhandlers on the team. Iowa will have an extended break before looking to get back in the win column at Illinois Friday night.
3. No. 15 Ohio State (6-4, 12-4 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Outside of a brutal come from behind loss to Purdue, the Buckeyes have been on fire. Seth Towns has emerged as a reliable shooter from the outside and dynamic freshman Meechie Johnson Jr. has added a huge spark off the bench. E.J. Liddell looked dominant against Wisconsin Saturday, and the Bucks just keep getting better defensively. Lookout in March.
4. No. 22 Illinois (10-5, 6-3 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 3
After back-to-back losses, Illinois found its way back in a strong showing versus Penn State. The Fighting Illini continue to have a high-octane offense averaging 82.9 points per game. The defensive end is what continues to kill Brad Underwood’s team, giving up over 81 points per game in their five Iosses on the season. Kofi Cockburn continues to be this squad's sparkplug, but he’s not always at 100%. It remains to be seen what the Fighting Illini can accomplish if Cockburn and Dosunmu get going at the same time.
5. No. 10 Wisconsin (12-4, 6-3 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Wisconsin continues to get love from the AP Rankings despite looking faltering over the past two weeks. The Badgers have been dominated by the inside presence of the Wolverines and Buckeyes. D’Mitrik Trice continues to play effective basketball at the point guard position but hasn’t received much help. Greg Gard really needs to find a way to shake this team up. Wisconsin seems to be only as good as its three-point shooting, as the Badgers have shot 39% from deep this season, which is 23rd in the nation; UW shot under 30% from deep in the two losses to Michigan and Ohio State.
6. Indiana (9-6, 4-4 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 9
Indiana looked dominant Thursday in their 12 point win over Iowa, and Trayce Jackson-Davis might be the best player in the Big Ten not named Luka Garza. His supporting cast looks like they have hit their stride as well, with Phinisee and Durham leading the charge. The catalyst for this Hoosiers team might be their defense with a current ranking of fifth in Big Ten scoring defense, a stat they ranked ninth in a season ago.
7. No. 17 Minnesota (11-5, 4-5 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 5
It’s impossible to tell which Minnesota team will come out on any given night. Are the Golden Gophers more like the team with wins over Michigan and Iowa or the one that suffered a brutal loss at home to Maryland? Marcus Carr and Liam Robbins need to continue to answer the bell for a Pitino team that seems reliant on their two-man game.
8. Purdue (11-6, 6-4 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 10
Before a blowout loss to Michigan, the Boilermakers had looked like the hottest team in the Big Ten, securing four straight wins over Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State. They have maintained their identity as a three-and-D team, allowing opponents to shoot only 32.5% from deep on the year. As long as Trevion Williams continues to be a force inside, Purdue can compete with almost anyone in the Big Ten.
9. Maryland (9-5, 3-6 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 12
Every season it seems like Mark Turgeon is on the hot seat before he finds a way to put together winning streaks down the stretch. This season, after an extremely poor recruiting effort, his seat has cooled due to Maryland’s performance in big games. The Terps have only three conference wins but against the likes of Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Eric Ayala looked back in form Saturday as UMD led Minnesota from wire to wire.
10. Michigan State (8-4, 2-4 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 7
The Spartans should finally return Thursday against a desperate Rutgers squad they already crushed once this season. The time off came at the worst possible time for Izzo’s group as it was just finding its groove.
11. Rutgers (7-6, 3-6 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 8
It would be fair to categorize Rutgers’ four-game losing streak as brutal scheduling with losses to Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, but a fifth straight loss to lowly Penn State changes Rutgers’ season. The Scarlet Knights need to find a way to claw back into relevancy before it’s too late. That will start with reestablishing their identity, which comes with hard-nosed defensive basketball and a lack of careless turnovers. Free-throws continue to kill Steve Pikiell’s team, with a collective 57% clip.
12. Penn State (4-6, 2-5 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 13
Penn State has looked like a more confident basketball team in its last two games, victories over spiraling programs in Rutgers and Northwestern. The Nittany Lions have found ways to get the ball inside, instead of relying on their inconsistent three-point shot. Myreon Jones’ team-leading 16 points per game is finally being bolstered by Brockington, Lundy and a breakout campaign for Sam Sessoms. Look for PSU to find ways to keep games close late with an extremely tough stretch upcoming.
13. Northwestern (6-8, 3-7 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Northwestern has hit what could be considered rock bottom. After a season where there were no expectations, the ‘Cats looked ready to compete in the Big Ten before seven straight conference losses. Chris Collin’s team can’t even keep games close, with the seven loss coming by an average of almost 16 points. Boo Buie has lost his shooting touch, shooting under 27% from the field over that stretch. This team needs to find a way to come together before it’s too late.
14. Nebraska (4-8, 0-5 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 14
Nebraska has not played a game since their January 10 loss to Indiana. Recent updates within the program say the team won’t be cleared to return to the court until at least January 30. This layoff might not be the worst thing for Nebraska’s program because the Huskers can’t lose games they don't play.