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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, sixth edition

No game is predictable in this wild, wild conference

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Big Ten continued to prove that all of its games are entirely unpredictable, and we shouldn’t even try. Things like score predictions or power rankings really shouldn’t even be attempted when analyzing a conference with as much parity as this one. However, we’ll continue to try. Here’s how things look this week:

1. No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 21-1 (10-1 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Penn State

Last Ranking: 1

Purdue remains the unquestioned best team in the conference. In a league where anyone can lose to anyone, well, the Boilermakers seem to be immune. Led by Zach Edey, this team is a popular pick to win the tournament this year, and it certainly isn’t a far-fetched guess.

2. Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 15-6 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: at Maryland

Last Ranking: 2

It says a lot that the second-best team in the Big Ten this year is only two games above .500 at the midway point of conference play. The Hoosiers have had a weird season, in which they’ve looked dominant at times and wildly overrated at others. Recently, though, Indiana has been on a roll, winning its last five games.

3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 14-7 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

Last Ranking: 3

Rutgers looked dominant at home against Penn State on Tuesday, but then lost in a 93-82 shootout at Iowa on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights have tons of upside, and have ranked as high as 23rd in the nation, but they’ve struggled with consistency and have had a difficult time winning on the road.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 15-6 (6-4 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Nebraska

Last Ranking: 4

The Illini have appeared to come out on the other side of whatever was plaguing them early in conference play, and look more like the squad that was in the top 25 throughout November and most of December. With wins against Ohio State and Wisconsin last week, Illinois doesn’t quite leapfrog Rutgers, but it’s definitely close.

5. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 15-5 (6-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Iowa

Last Ranking: 6

Northwestern took care of business last week against the two worst teams in the conference, winning handedly at Nebraska and then at home against Minnesota. The ‘Cats’ defense is stout, and Boo Buie and Chase Audige contend for the best backcourt in the Big Ten. Are there holes? Yeah, absolutely; this is far from a perfect team. But a tournament bid is Northwestern’s to lose right now.

6. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 14-8 (6-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

Last Ranking: 5

Sparty won one and lost one last week, but the loss was on the road at Purdue. Its home win, however, was a two point, unconvincing victory against Iowa. Tom Izzo’s team has held its own in conference play so far, but it’s squarely in the center of a crowded middle tier of teams.

7. Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 13-8 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Northwestern

Last Ranking: 7

The Hawkeyes are coming off a huge win against Rutgers in which they hung 93 points on the Scarlet Knights and won by double digits. The return of Patrick McCaffery was the big storyline for Iowa, though. The junior forward averaged 12.8 points per game through December before taking a break from basketball for mental health purposes. He picked up right where he left off on Sunday, sinking a trio of three-pointers in just 13 minutes.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 14-7 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Purdue

Last Ranking: 9

Penn State brought the hammer down on a struggling Michigan team on Sunday, blowing out the Wolverines by a score of 83-61. The Nittany Lions are led by senior guard Jalen Pickett, and they are starting to prove that they can contend in this conference with everybody else.

9. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 14-7 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Indiana

Last Ranking: 10

Maryland had a fantastic week on paper, but its two wins came against teams that may just be bad. The first win was at home against Wisconsin, and the Badgers looked awful. Then, the Terps took down Nebraska at home, which was a game they needed to have. Maryland is still a difficult team to evaluate at this point in the season, but we should start to have a better idea of where they’ll end up in the next couple weeks.

10. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 11-10 (3-7 B1G)

Next Game: vs Wisconsin

Last Ranking: 11

The Buckeyes only move up out of necessity because other teams have been worse. Ohio State is a bit of a train wreck right now. The talent is there, but the results aren’t. At all. With two more losses last week, they’ve dug themselves a hole that they’ll need to climb out of to secure a tournament bid.

11. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 12-8 (4-6 B1G)

Next Game: at Ohio State

Last Ranking: 12

Similarly to Ohio State, the Badgers have talent. It was just weeks ago that Wisconsin was ranked 14th in the entire nation. But, man, they have looked terrible recently. Last week, Maryland whooped them, and then Illinois took care of business in Madison, beating the Badgers 61-51. This team is on the brink of losing what once looked to be a super likely tournament bid, and badly needs to turn things around.

12. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 11-10 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Northwestern

Last Ranking: 12

The Wolverines are capable of beating most teams in the conference, but you never know what you’re going to get out of Juwan Howard’s squad. The team that hung with Purdue on Thursday is very different from the team that got blown out by Penn State three days later. It’s weird to see Michigan this low in a Big Ten power rankings, but other teams have simply looked better and done more this season.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 10-12 (3-8 B1G)

Next Game: at Illinois

Last Ranking: 13

Nebraska is the first team on this list that is probably eliminated from tournament contention. Other than its win against Ohio State, the team just doesn’t boast any impressive wins. At 3-8, things are starting to look bleak for the Cornhuskers.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 7-13 (1-9 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

Last Ranking: 14

The Gophers have heart. That’s about it. After a fairly impressive loss at home against Indiana in which it only lost by four, Minnesota laid a complete egg against Northwestern, losing by 20. The ‘Cats dominated from tip-off to the buzzer, and Minnesota looked exactly like what it is: the worst team in the Big Ten.