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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, seventh edition: ‘Cats slide after road losses

Where does Northwestern fall in the Big Ten after a tough week?

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just over a month out from March Madness, and the Big Ten has seen some wild games in the last week. The Wildcats played some heartbreaking contests, falling to Purdue and Minnesota in overtime, but how does the rest of the conference look? Let’s see which B1G squads are rising and falling in early February.

1. No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 21-2 (10-2 B1G)

Next game: vs. Indiana

Now on a seven-game win streak, the Boilermakers almost dropped their second overtime loss of the season to Northwestern. Nonetheless, Purdue managed to hang on at home in a 105-96 shootout. The Boilermakers were able to right the ship against then-No. 6 Wisconsin, defeating the Badgers 75-69 in Madison on Sunday. Zach Edey and company have a light schedule for the rest of February before facing Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin in their final three games of the season.

2. No. 10 Illinois Fighting Illini

Record: 17-5 (8-3 B1G)

Next game: at Michigan State

What a win for the Illini. Despite Keisei Tominaga’s 31 points, the Fighting Illini took down Nebraska in overtime 87-84. It was a balanced scoring effort as Coleman Hawkins, Marcus Domask and Terrence Shannon Jr. all dropped at least 18 at home. Illinois shot just 26.5% from deep, but the team snatched a whopping 50 rebounds. If the Fighting Illini continue to crash the boards, they’ll be able to make a deep run in March.

3. No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 16-6 (8-3 B1G)

Next game: at Michigan

After dropping games to Nebraska and Purdue, the Badgers must take down Michigan in Ann Arbor to avoid their first three-game losing streak. That shouldn’t be too difficult of a task, but Wisconsin has some things to resolve before Wednesday night. In Sunday night’s loss against Purdue, the Badgers shot just 34.7% from the field outside of Tyler Wahl’s contributions. AJ Storr had an uncharacteristically rough night, 4-of-15 from the field, but others have to step up in February.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 16-7 (6-6 B1G)

Next game: at Northwestern

Two overtime games this week, two different results. The Cornhuskers took down then-No. 6 Wisconsin at home before falling to then-No. 14 Illinois on the road. The latter result, despite the loss, was a very encouraging performance for Nebraska. Tominaga can get hot enough to carry the offense in stretches, while Rienk Mast has been crucial down low. Nebraska will look to complete the season sweep against Northwestern in Evanston.

5. Northwestern Wildcats

Record: 15-7 (6-5 B1G)

Next game: vs. Nebraska

The ‘Cats had a heartbreaking week, losing in overtime to Purdue and dropping a winnable game at Minnesota. In West Lafayette, it was the free throws that killed NU — the purple-and-white shot just eight compared to Purdue’s 46. Meanwhile, strangely sloppy play plagued the ‘Cats in Minneapolis. They totaled 17 turnovers, a far cry from their season average of 9.2. NU’s home clash against Nebraska is a must-win to stay in postseason contention.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 15-7 (6-5 B1G)

Next game: at Iowa

The Golden Gophers are on a tear.

After defeating the Wildcats in overtime, they took down Michigan State in a 59-56 defensive showdown. UMN bounced back after dropping four straight in January, rattling off a three-game win streak. Minnesota is now fourth in the Big Ten and will look to make ground in the conference against No. 10 Illinois in late February.

7. Michigan State Spartans

Record: 14-9 (6-6 B1G)

Next game: vs. Illinois

Tom Izzo’s squad is difficult to evaluate.

The Spartans shut down Maryland at home on Saturday 63-54 but fell to Minnesota in an important game on Tuesday night. Michigan State is 6-6 in conference play and hasn’t won a true statement game against a top team. Saturday’s clash against Illinois will be crucial to the Spartans’ postseason chances.

8. Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 14-9 (6-6 B1G)

Next game: at Purdue

The Hoosiers had an uneven performance this week, first falling to Penn State 85-71 at home and then sneaking past Ohio State 76-73. Indiana is getting good effort from Malik Reneau and Kel’el Ware, but the team is just 6-6 in conference play. Why? It’s hard to win games when you give up more points (74.3) than you score (73.5). To make matters worse, the Hoosiers head to West Lafayette for a daunting matchup against No. 2 Purdue on Saturday.

9. Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 13-9 (5-6 B1G)

Next game: at Penn State

Offense can only take you so far.

The Hawkeyes have dropped three of their last five games, only picking up wins against struggling Michigan and Ohio State teams. Iowa is averaging an impressive 84.2 points per game but surrenders 77.2 points to their opponents — second-worst in the conference. Fran McCaffery’s guys have to buy into defense to keep their slim March Madness hopes afloat.

10. Maryland Terrapins

Record: 13-10 (5-7 B1G)

Next game: at Ohio State

The Terrapins are a wildly confusing team. After soundly beating Nebraska by 21, Maryland lost to Michigan State and Rutgers this week, posting just 53 points in the latter contest. Jahmir Young and Julian Reese are an excellent tandem when both are humming, but a cold night for either star is typically too much for the Terrapins to overcome. They’ll look to avoid their third straight loss on Saturday in Columbus.

11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 12-10 (4-7 B1G)

Next game: vs. Wisconsin

The Scarlet Knights had themselves a great week, picking up wins against Michigan and Maryland while allowing just 112 combined points. They’re good at winning ugly games, putting pressure on their defense to perform. With that being said, Rutgers doesn’t have a reliable go-to option when it needs a bucket. Leading scorer Aundre Hyatt is averaging under 12 points per game on 39% shooting.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 11-11 (5-6 B1G)

Next game: vs. Iowa

The Nittany Lions had a solid week, knocking off Rutgers and Indiana in convincing fashion. They held the Scarlet Knights to just 46 points in Piscataway and rode an impressive offensive showing of 85 points in Bloomington. This season hasn’t gone as planned for new head coach Mike Rhoades, but Penn State has made some marked improvements as of late.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 13-10 (3-9 B1G)

Next game: vs. Maryland

A trying season just got a whole lot worse. With their loss to Indiana on Tuesday, the Buckeyes have now lost eight of their last nine games. They just look wiped as a team, seen in the 18-point lead they blew against the Hoosiers. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Ohio State fires head coach Chris Holtmann at the end of the season.

14. Michigan Wolverines

Record: 7-15 (2-9 B1G)

Next game: vs. Wisconsin

The misery continues. The Wolverines have lost five straight, falling to Michigan State and Rutgers this week. With Dug McDaniel out for road games, Michigan has failed to find any sort of consistent effort. Things won’t get much better for Juwan Howard’s squad — the Wolverines’ next six opponents are Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue. There’s a double-digit losing streak in the making, folks.