While Michigan and Rutgers continued to deal with postponements due to COVID-19, the rest of the conference had another busy week. With five nationally ranked teams at the top of the conference and a couple other contenders lagging behind, we’re in for a great end to the regular season. Here’s how to the teams compare after the eighth week of play.
1. No. 10 Maryland (12-2, 8-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 2
The Terrapins only had one game this week to bounce back from their loss against Ohio State, but they made it count. Maryland steamrolled Michigan State 92-52 behind 20-point nights from starting guards Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu. Not only does UMD have the best offense in the Big Ten, but it’s the forth best three-point shooting team in the country.
2. No. 11 Ohio State (10-2, 6-2)
Last week: 1
The Buckeyes made it three straight wins against ranked opponents with their victory in Bloomington last Thursday, but they couldn’t make it four as they lost to Northwestern on Monday. Although OSU remains one of the best teams in the conference, their inability to produce much offense when the shots aren’t falling gives Maryland a slight advantage over them.
3. No. 22 Northwestern (10-3, 8-3)
Last week: 5
With wins against Iowa and Ohio State, Northwestern has now won six of its last seven. The Wildcats’ turnover-powered defense leads the Big Ten in forced steals, while the tandem of Veronica Burton and Lindsey Pulliam stuffs the stat sheet every game. The ‘Cats will look to stay hot as they travel to East Lansing for a Sunday matinee against the Spartans.
4. No. 17 Indiana (10-4, 8-2)
Last week: 4
After a loss to Ohio State in which junior guard Grace Berger put up an impressive 26 points and 10 rebounds, the Hoosiers go back on track with a 79-67 victory over MSU. Scheduled games against Rutgers and Iowa give them an opportunity to stay in the upper echelon of the Big Ten.
5. No. 13 Michigan (10-2, 5-1)
Last week: 3
The Wolverines have yet to play a game since January 21, when they suffered their first and only loss of the season. The prolonged absence, due to a state health department mandated pause of the school’s athletic department due to cases of the new B.1.1.7. COVID-19 variant among athletes, is the only reason for their slide in the rankings. It may take a few games to shake off the rust, and hopefully they’ll be back on the court sometime next week. Michigan is undoubtedly a top three, if not top two team in the conference when playing.
6. Iowa (10-4, 6-4)
Last week: 7
In a back-and-forth battle against Northwestern, Iowa fell 87-80 despite near perfect shooting from Monika Czinano, who finished with 34 points on 17-19 shooting from the field. The Hawkeyes recovered quickly though, routing Minnesota thanks to a 28-8 advantage in the third quarter. Their schedule only gets tougher as they face Ohio State and Indiana this week.
7. Nebraska (9-5, 7-4)
Last week: 8
Nebraska got a break from its early season gauntlet this week, collecting wins against struggling Wisconsin and Illinois. Sam Haiby has stepped up as the team’s minutes, points and assists leader. The junior guard has now scored 20 or more points in three straight games. The Huskers need wins against Rutgers and Penn State to preserve NCAA Tournament hopes this week before facing Northwestern and Maryland.
8. Michigan State (9-4, 4-4)
Last week: 6
The Spartans had a week to forget. A forty-point defeat at the hands of Maryland and a loss to Indiana, in which they lead by eight at halftime, certainly set them back as MSU now sits at just .500 in the conference. Michigan State’s game against the floundering Illini becomes a must-win, especially given their matchup with the streaking ‘Cats on Sunday.
9. Penn State (6-7, 3-6)
Last week: 12
The Nits picked up two wins this week, which is more than most sub-.500 Big Ten teams can say. Even though they only scraped past Illinois, the Lions beat Purdue handily behind Johnasia Cash’s 28 points and 12 boards off the bench. Perhaps these wins signify an upward trend for PSU, which has two more winnable games against Nebraska and Wisconsin coming up as it tries to make a second-half push.
10. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3)
Last week: 10
If there’s a chance Michigan will be rusty coming off its shutdown, it’s almost a certainty for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ last game was a whole month ago, but they’re finally expected to play Thursday against Indiana. With a slow conference start and a stacked schedule for the next month, the Knights are going to have to reload quickly.
11. Purdue (6-8, 3-7)
Last week: 9
The Boilermakers are heading in the wrong direction, having lost six of their last seven after a solid start. Their three-point shooting has all but disappeared, and in losses to Minnesota and Penn State last week, Purdue had multiple defensive lapses in the fourth quarter. Their upcoming game against Illinois is a perfect chance to recapture some of their early season successes.
12. Minnesota (5-8, 4-7)
Last week: 11
Minnesota extended its win streak to three with a win against Purdue, powered by Sara Scalia’s 30 points on 6-of-10 three-point shooting. The Golden Gophers then fell back to earth with a crushing 94-68 loss to Iowa. Lindsey Whalen’s squad showed has shown some more promise than earlier this season, but the Gophers are still quite the project.
13. Wisconsin (4-11, 1-11)
Last week: 13
The only thing keeping a team that’s lost nine of its last ten from the bottom spot is a team that’s lost its last nine games. In a battle of the Big Ten’s worst teams, Wisconsin picked up a win against Illinois thanks to Imani Lewis’s 22 points and 16 rebounds. With a game against Penn State this weekend, the Badgers will look to distance themselves further from last place.
14. Illinois (2-10, 0-9)
Last week: 14
With its loss to Wisconsin, Illinois is the sole remaining winless team in the Big Ten. There’s only so much you can go when you’re dead last in field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, assists and, of course, total offense. The Illini will continue chasing that elusive first conference win in matchups against Michigan State and Purdue this week.