After COVID-19 cases caused several Big Ten programs to pause their basketball operations, everyone in the conference got back to playing this week. Even though the tiers of the conference seem to have been established, there was a lot of upsets that took place.
1. No. 9 Maryland (13-2, 9-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 1
The Terrapins played just one game this week after their contests against Michigan and Michigan State were postponed, and they certainly made it count. Maryland obliterated Wisconsin 84-48 with six players scoring in double figures, continuing its dominant season thus far. With just under a month of conference play remaining, the Terps look like the frontrunners to repeat as Big Ten champs.
2. No. 15 Indiana (12-4, 10-2)
Last week: 4
Following a close loss to Ohio State two weeks ago, the Hoosiers have reeled off three straight wins in double-digit fashion since then. Although none of those games were against ranked opponents, IU’s consistency this week has moved it further toward the top of the standings. Although the team’s ceiling may not be as high as that of Maryland, the Hoosiers have won all of their games in which they were favored, something other ranked teams in the conference have struggled to do.
3. No. 12 Michigan (11-1, 6-1)
Last week: 5
The Wolverines picked up right where they left off, beating Purdue 62-49 on Thursday in their first game in nearly three weeks. Leigha Brown and Naz Hillmon combined for 41 points, and the guard-forward duo looked as lethal as ever despite the prolonged absence. Michigan has only played seven conference games this season, but if they can stay healthy until the end of conference play, the Wolverines could do some real damage come March. They face a big test next Thursday against No. 15 Indiana.
4. No. 21 Northwestern (11-4, 9-4)
Last week: 3
After a close victory over a tough Michigan State team, Northwestern suffered a disappointing loss to Rutgers. As has been the case in most of their losses this season, the Wildcats’ offense simply fell flat in the second half as they shot just 32% from the field after the break. The ‘Cats have shown flashes of excellence but have struggled to stay consistent enough to repeat as conference champions, especially as they’ve been hit by injuries.
5. No. 12 Ohio State (12-3, 8-3)
Last week: 2
The Buckeyes’ season has been defined by the highest of highs and lowest of lows. They have beaten the three best teams in the conference in Maryland, Indiana and Michigan but were upset by bottom-feeder Wisconsin 75-70 this past week. The loss puts them Buckeyes 1.5 games out of first place.
6. Iowa (11-6, 7-6)
Last week: 6
Iowa dropped two of three games this week, but Ls came against ranked opponents in Iowa and Ohio State. It bounced back by beating Nebraska 88-81 behind a 39-point (!) performance from freshman point guard Caitlin Clark on 12-of-18 shooting from the field. Despite Iowa’s relatively mediocre season so far, Clark has emerged as a star for the Hawkeyes, averaging 33 points per game over their last three contests. She may end up the National Freshman of the Year.
7. Michigan State (11-5, 6-5)
Last week: 8
The Spartans almost went 3-0 this week, as they cruised by Illinois and Penn State after losing a close game to Northwestern. Despite its record, MSU has played well all season long, with just two of their five losses coming by more than 10 points. Sparty’s remaining schedule is also very favorable, as it doesn’t play another ranked opponent for the rest of the regular season.
8. Rutgers (7-3, 3-3)
Last week: 10
A 1-3 start to the year followed by a month-long program shutdown due to COVID-19 cases is not the best way to start the season by any means. But the Scarlet Knights have roared back, dismantling Nebraska 78-62 and upsetting No. 21 Northwestern 70-54. It’s still unclear as to the level of this team, and Rutgers doesn’t face another ranked opponent for the rest of the season. If it continues to play at a high level, though, it could sneak into the Big Dance come March.
9. Nebraska (9-8, 7-7)
Last week: 7
It’s been a tough week for the Huskers, who lost all three of their games against unranked opponents. It doesn’t get any easier for Amy Williams’ squad heading into season’s final stretch, as it plays No. 9 Maryland next, followed by No. 21 Northwestern.
10. Penn State (8-9, 5-8)
Last week: 9
The Lady Lions’ four-game winning streak came to an end this week with blowout losses to to Indiana and Michigan State. These losses certainly aren’t good for PSU, but it’s still in a position to make a late season push.
11. Minnesota (6-9, 5-8)
Last week: 12
Minnesota was handed an ugly 85-59 loss to Ohio State and before Sara Scalia and her 23 points led the Gophers to an 83-73 win over last-place Illinois. Lindsey Whalen’s squad has made tangible strides from last year, and it has a chance to climb closer to .500 in conference with a showdown against Wisconsin on Sunday.
12. Purdue (6-10, 3-9)
Last week: 11
After writing about how the Boilermakers had lost six of their last seven in our previous power rankings, things have only gotten worse. This week, Purdue was upset by then-winless Illinois 54-49 and also fell to No. 12 Michigan 62-49. In the loss to Illinois, the Boilermakers continued their stretch of poor shooting, shooting just 32 percent from the field and 15 percent from three. It’s not looking good for Sharon Versyp and co.
13. Wisconsin (5-13, 2-13)
Last week: 13
After what has been a season to forget for Wisconsin, it picked up a huge win on Wednesday at home against No. 12 Ohio State. The Badgers fought back and forth with the talented Buckeyes all game long and managed to pull away at the very end behind a 27-point performance from Imani Lewis. UW has struggled with its offense all season, so to dispatch a top-15 team was impressive, especially with how the Badgers have looked all yearr.
14. Illinois (3-12, 1-11)
Last week: 14
The Illini won this week! They took down struggling Purdue behind stifling defense and timely buckets, two issues that have plagued them all season. Now they’ve got Rutgers and Maryland this week. Nice reward, huh?