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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, eighth edition

This conference is going to be a bracket maker’s nightmare.


In the legendary words of Jon Rothstein: “Anarchy? Nope. Just college basketball.” The Big Ten has had a lot of great basketball this year, but with the top dogs in the conference starting to play consistently, there’s a lot of anarchy coming. And with the former undisputed top team in the conference suffering two defeats in three days, it’s anyone’s guess as to which team will be this March’s mania. Let’s dive right into it, with a decision that will shock most readers.

1. No. 14 Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 18-7 (9-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Northwestern

Last Ranking: 2

I am very aware this decision will lead to controversy, but I am set on this team being the best in the conference until further notice. The Hoosiers are one of just two teams to have won their last three games, including handing former No. 1 Purdue what was (at the time) just its second loss of the season. Trayce Jackson-Davis’s statline since the calendar flipped to February? 24.3 points, 12 rebounds, 2.7 blocks per game. Look out for the Hoosiers.

2. No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 23-3 (12-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Maryland

Last Ranking: 1

Yes, the team that’s been the best in the conference — and probably the nation — all year isn’t on top in these power rankings. Sue me. The biggest issue right now for the Boilermakers: teams have figured out how to survive Zach Edey’s big nights. Before February, their lone loss was a game in which Edey scored just 19 points and grabbed just 11 rebounds. Since then, they’ve suffered losses in games where Edey slapped up 33 and 18 (Indiana) and 24 and eight (Northwestern). If freshmen Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith don’t mature quickly (7-of-33 from the field combined in Purdue’s most recent losses), the Boilermakers could be ripe for a few more upsets.

3. Northwestern Wildcats (!!!)

Record: 18-7 (9-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 18 Indiana

Last Ranking: 6

I’m probably drinking the Kool-Aid and riding the high from Sunday’s upset, but I can justify this. Northwestern is currently in a tie for second in the conference and is just two games back of Purdue. It’s the only Big Ten team with two players in the top 10 in the conference in scoring, and have also won three games in a row. This team has five Quad 1 wins, behind only Purdue and Iowa in the conference. Also, the AP Poll just ranked them third in the conference. How high is the ceiling? We might find out Wednesday against Indiana.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 17-7 (8-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Penn State

Last Ranking: 5

Illinois is really starting to click. Its two losses since Jan. 5 can be explained by Indiana shooting a ridiculous 62% from the field and Iowa making 26 of 30 free throws. Other than those two games, Illinois has been cruising. Each of its eight wins in this roughly five-week span have been by at least nine points. There’s a reason they’re 22nd in NET, and the Illini could easily climb higher if they keep winning.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 16-9 (8-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Ohio State

Last Ranking: 4

I can’t ding the Hawkeyes too much for falling to Purdue, especially in a game where the Hawkeyes were out rebounded by 20. The offense is still very good — top 20 in the nation at 81.1 points per game — which is a little odd to say about an Iowa team, but I digress. Kris Murray is one of the best scorers in the Big Ten, and if Iowa can get a bit more consistency out of Tony Perkins, it could put a real scare into some good teams over the next couple of weeks.

6. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 16-9 (8-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Minnesota

Last Ranking: 7

Tom Izzo and spring basketball is a very dangerous combination. After Sparty’s shellacking of Ohio State, it’s clear that this team is ready for the stretch run. Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker are two of the best long-range shooters in the country, but you won’t find them on stat leaderboard websites because they don’t take enough shots. That’s because, once again, Michigan State is focused on winning games with defense, giving up just 65.6 points per game. Considering they’ve only got Iowa and Minnesota left on the schedule, it’s pretty easy to imagine yet another 20-win season for Michigan State.

7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 16-9 (8-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Nebraska

Last Ranking: 3

This is a pretty steep drop for a team that’s still a borderline top-20 team by NET, but the last week was not great for Rutgers. They failed to crack 40% shooting against both Illinois and Indiana, and lost defensive slugfests in both games. The Scarlet Knights’ main issue is that their offensive leader (Clifford Omoruyi) is a big man who takes just 10 shots a game, and teams centered around a big man who can’t create his own shot tend to falter in late-season affairs. Their next five games are all against teams who fall below them on this power ranking, but if they can’t win most of those, it might be time to start talking about a problem in Piscataway.

8. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 17-8 (8-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs. No. 1 Purdue

Last Ranking: 8

There’s not too much to say here. The Terps lost a tough road game against Michigan State and survived a tough battle with Penn State. We’ll see what they’re really made of when Purdue comes to town.

9. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 14-11 (8-6 B1G)

Next Game: at Wisconsin

Last Ranking: 9

A three-game winning streak leading into a one-point loss to Indiana is certainly nothing to be disappointed in. But being held scoreless for the final five minutes of a conference matchup — AT HOME — loses you a lot of style points with the committee (me). Also, when should we talk about the fact that Hunter Dickinson’s stats looked better last year?

10. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 14-10 (6-8 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Michigan

Last Ranking: 10

Another team remaining stagnant in these rankings. Wisconsin simply cannot win a game on the road. In Big Ten play, they’re 3-3 at home and 3-5 on the road. It doesn’t help that the Badgers only have two players (Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian) who are actual threats from beyond the arc.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 12-14 (5-10 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

Last Ranking: 13

The Cornhuskers have found their identity. They’re a team that won’t challenge anyone on the road, but will make you scratch and claw for every win in Lincoln. Coming back from down 17 against Wisconsin to win proves that. If junior Keisei Tominaga is able to keep shooting well from three, Nebraska may be able to spoil some teams down the home stretch.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 14-11 (5-9 B1G)

Next Game: vs. Illinois

Last Ranking: 11

After a tough loss to Nebraska, Penn State needed to do something to keep its tournament hopes alive. That something was probably not losing to both Wisconsin and Maryland to extend their losing streak to four games. The Nittany Lions’ roar has been basically silenced, but they should still be able to beat the teams below them later this month.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 11-14 (3-11 B1G)

Next Game: at Iowa

Last Ranking: 12

Hello, football school. Since Jan. 2, the Buckeyes are a putrid 1-11. The lowlight: putting up just 41 points against Michigan State in a 21-point loss. There’s a real chance they close the season on a 12-game losing streak.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 7-16 (1-12 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan State

Last Ranking: 14

The Golden Gophers might also close the season on a losing streak, but theirs would last 15 games. Their best option for a win is Penn State at home? Nebraska on the road? It’s really tough sledding in Minnesota, and it’s unlikely to get better for a team currently sitting at 241st in the NET rankings.