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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings: sixth edition

The ‘Cats are moving up after a couple of huge home court victories

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

After a fantastic week of Northwestern basketball, the Big Ten looks a bit different than it did last week. Here’s a look at where our power rankings stand as we head into the second month of conference play:

1. No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 19-2 (8-2 B1G)

Next Game: vs Northwestern

Purdue has only played once since our last rankings, beating Rutgers by eight in the RAC. The margin was uninspiring against a struggling team like the Scarlet Knights, but a Big Ten road win is a Big Ten road win. Zach Edey is a monster. The presumptive Big Ten player of the year (again) hasn’t slowed down all season, averaging a double-double.

The supplementary pieces are good, not great, which may catch up to the Boilermakers again in postseason play. But for now, they are the kings of the conference and don’t appear to be going anywhere. Northwestern has beaten them twice in a row, but this time the ‘Cats are going into Mackey Arena, so Purdue has a great opportunity to exact its revenge on its home court.

2. No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 19-2 (8-1 B1G)

Next Game: at Nebraska

The Badgers are real, ladies and gentlemen. With players who can reliably put the basketball through the hoop at every position, Wisconsin is about as balanced and deep of a team as I can remember in college hoops. It just has a bunch of dudes, and it’s working. The Badgers sit atop the conference and show no signs of slowing down.

While the offensive production has been impressive, the defense has arguably been even more dominant. Wisconsin holds opponents to 66.9 points per game, the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten. The Badgers play a sound game on both sides of the ball, and they limit turnovers. So far, that’s been a recipe for success.

3. No. 14 Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 16-5 (7-3 B1G)

Next Game: vs Nebraska

Illinois lost to Northwestern on the road this week in what was a mildly disappointing game for Illini faithful given the 30-point bashing their team subjected the ‘Cats to a few weeks back. Then again, not to beat a dead horse, but road wins are difficult to come by, and NU is at least an above-average team in the conference. However, the Illini rebounded, winning two straight against Indiana and then Ohio State. No alarm bells necessary in Champagne because this team is talented and as good as ever.

4. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 15-5 (6-3 B1G)

Next Game: at Purdue

Is it possible to give Chris Collins another extension?

What a week for the Wildcats. First, Boo Buie dropped 29 points en route to a massive overtime home victory against cross-state rival Illinois. Three nights later, the ‘Cats turned around and demolished Ohio State at Welsh Ryan. Northwestern is for real, and a March Madness birth is firmly within the “control your own destiny” range.

At Welsh-Ryan Arena, the ‘Cats have yet to lose with a true home crowd present. It’s very possible that they can keep that up, and, if they do, they’re probably going dancing.

5. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 13-8 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: at Michigan State

Ok, so a six-spot rise from the Terps feels like a lot.

I know it is; however, I also know that Maryland won two games since our last update, one of which was an elusive road victory against an Iowa team that’s playing good basketball right now, and the other was a 22-point annihilation of a Nebraska team that we all thought was pretty good.

Jahmir Young is an absolute stud. Northwestern fans might not want to hear this, but he and Buie are neck and neck, but Young probably gets the nod as the best guard in the conference. Julian Reese is also awesome, averaging a double-double. Maryland has the pieces, and it’s starting to figure things out.

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 15-6 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs Wisconsin

The Huskers had their butts handed to them at Maryland, but overall it’s not a deal-breaker loss. Nebraska’s March hopes are very much still alive, and its improvement from last year is undeniable. The Huskers shoot the three-ball well, scoring at the fifth-best rate in the conference. Yet, the defense is what lets them down sometimes, ranking in the bottom five in the conference.

7. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 13-8 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs Maryland

It turns out MSU just isn’t an elite Big Ten team like we all thought.

The Spartans lost to Wisconsin in Madison but rebounded at home when they thrashed Michigan. They’re good, but they have no business competing with the likes of Purdue or Wisconsin. Make no mistake, Michigan State is in a lower tier. Despite the struggles, Tyson Walker gives them a chance every night. Man is that guy good.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 13-7 (4-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs Northwestern

The Gophers haven’t played much this week, but their one game was a road victory against Penn State. Coming off a two-point loss to Wisconsin, Minnesota played well against the Nittany Lions. Dawson Garcia had 22 points in the win, and the junior averages 17.5 points per game this season to go along with seven rebounds and a 45.5% field goal percentage.

There’s nothing all that special about this Minnesota team; it ranks in the middle of the pack both offensively and defensively. But, similarly to Nebraska, it’s definitely a better squad than it was last year. That’s progress.

9. Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 12-9 (4-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs Ohio State

Indiana did beat Iowa this week, but the Hawkeyes will stay ahead after a couple of difficult, close losses sandwiched around an impressive road win. Losing to Maryland at home wasn’t great but beating Michigan by ten on the road and taking Indiana down to the wire in Bloomington are both impressive outcomes.

Iowa doesn’t play defense, and that certainly catches up to the Hawkeyes, but when they shoot the ball well, they can compete with anybody. They’re going to have to make that happen more often if they want to vault themselves into an NCAA tournament birth.

10. Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 13-8 (5-5 B1G)

Next Game: vs Penn State

The Hoosiers had Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois back-to-back-to-back on their schedule, with the last two being road games. That’s pretty much the most brutal possible stretch a team can have. They lost all three, but to their credit, they picked themselves up off the mat at home against Iowa and got the job done. The schedule still includes rematches with Purdue and Wisconsin, but otherwise gets easier. There’s nothing like the nightmarish stretch IU just endured.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 9-11 (3-6 B1G)

Next Game: at Rutgers

The Nittany Lions lost to what appears to be a bad Ohio State team by 13 last week and took a nine-point loss on the chin against Minnesota. That’s a bad couple of games, and I should maybe punish them more than I have here. They’ll slot in at 11 just because I think the teams below them are worse; but make no mistake, the Nittany Lions seem to be toast this season.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 10-9 (2-6 B1G)

Next Game: vs Penn State

Rutgers just doesn’t have the horses this year.

Cliff Omoruyi is still a force, and Aundre Hyatt is pretty good, but it just isn’t enough. Despite boasting the third-least points per game in the conference, the Scarlet Knights are the worst offense. If they can’t find a way to start scoring the basketball more consistently, it will continue to be a long, ugly year.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 13-8 (3-7 B1G)

Next Game: at Iowa

The Buckeyes were supposed to improve after last year’s inconsistent, unsuccessful campaign, but they haven’t.

OSU had a miserable week, losing by a million at Northwestern, and then promptly enduring a walloping by Illinois in Columbus. The Buckeyes are undisciplined, and, similarly to Rutgers, don’t score enough. Without Bruce Thornton leading the way, this team wouldn’t have a prayer against Big Ten foes.

14. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 7-14 (2-8 B1G)

Next Game: vs Rutgers

Michigan is a rough watch this season. It has some individual talents in Dug McDaniel and Oliver Nkamhoua, but that hasn’t translated into winning. The Wolverines have the opposite problem that Rutgers has; they can score some but don’t play any defense. That’s their Achilles heel, and it keeps resulting in losses.