Big Ten Power Rankings

There's nothing like a good flat top to go with your Tuesday Power Rankings.

1. OHIO STATE

Last time around: 1

This week: at Wisconsin (Feb. 4)

The Buckeyes are about as untouchable as teams come in the Big Ten this year, and if you twist my arm, I’d say they were a lock for the Final Four, if the NCAA Tournament started today. Of course, a lot can happen in February before March Madness begins, and that’s especially true for Ohio State, which heads to Madison for a showdown this week with the conference’s hottest team. If the Buckeyes leave Wisconsin unscathed, this team will only have Michigan State standing in between it and a top seed in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

2. MICHIGAN STATE

Last time around: 2

This week: Michigan (Feb. 5)

Tom Izzo’s team put its back-to-back losses behind them with back-to-back wins against Minnesota and Purdue, both by big margins. Keith Appling has hit a bit of a slump, but the Spartans haven’t noticed much as Draymond Green’s body of work continues to be ridiculous this season. He has double-digit rebounds in every game he’s played since 2012 began, and he’s also averaging around five assists in that period. Michigan State, with its superior coaching and talent-loaded roster, is only going to get hotter from here, and the Spartans are going to be contenders come Tourney time.

3. WISCONSIN

Last time around: 3

This week: at Penn State (tonight), Ohio State (Feb. 4)

I still maintain that the Badgers aren’t playing as good of basketball as they did last season with guys like Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankavil, but Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans are doing an admirable job filling in lately and there’s no doubting that Wisconsin is the hottest team in the conference. Remember when they lost at home to Iowa? Yeah, me neither. The Badgers have won five straight games — two of those over ranked Big Ten opponents — and will likely make it six on Tuesday night against Penn State. The real matchup will be when the Buckeyes come to town, which promises to be a brutal game for all those brave enough to watch from start to finish.

4. MICHIGAN

Last time around: 3

This week: Indiana (Feb. 1), at Michigan State (Feb. 5)

Michigan gave Ohio State its best effort for about 30 minutes on Sunday but just couldn’t hang with the big boys. And on the road, that’s been an expected outcome this season for the Wolverines. Within the confines of Crisler Arena though, Michigan has been perfect — literally. A 12-0 record at home is nothing to slouch at, and Indiana will have a tough challenge on Wednesday to unseat Michigan on its home court. Trey Burke has been especially dominant at home, and Tim Hardaway Jr. is starting to do better with his shot selection, scoring 15 and 19 points in his last two games. It’s a big week for the Wolverines, and if they can manage two wins, Michigan could be moving up this list fast.

5. INDIANA

Last time around: 4

This week: at Michigan (Feb. 1), at Purdue (Feb. 4)

The Hoosiers are back on track, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear yet. Wins against Penn State and Iowa at home are nice for kicking a three-game skid, but a win against Michigan, Purdue, or both on the road would make a much bigger statement. There’s an argument to be made that Cody Zeller is playing the best of any freshman in the nation right now, and with guys like Verdell Jones looking like they’re back on track, Indiana could very quickly return to its early-season, tip-top form. This week feels like a turning point though, as the Hoosiers desperately need to prove that they can win on the road. A ‘W’ at Penn State just doesn’t cut it for a team hoping to be a No. 3, 4, or 5 seed in the Dance.

6. PURDUE

Last time around: 7

This week: Indiana (Feb. 4)

Purdue has wins in just two of its last five games and barely eeked out a victory over a Northwestern team that seems bent on its own self-destruction. The Boilermakers just aren’t that good this year. That being said, Lewis Jackson is playing much better than he did to start the season, and Robbie Hummel is getting a bit of a shooting stroke back. But the fact of the matter is this team already has two losses at Mackey Arena and might just get a third when Indiana comes to town on February 4. Lucky for them, they only play Ohio State once, but if it wasn’t for the remainder of the conference’s bottom tier tripping below them, Purdue wouldn’t be moving up in these rankings.

7. MINNESOTA

Last time around: 8

This week:at Iowa (Feb. 1), at Nebraska (Feb. 5)

I was tempted to move Minnesota even higher on this list, but there’s still something about the Golden Gophers that makes you wonder whether this overachieving will come to a screeching halt at any given moment. The Gophers have won four of five, including a tough, grind-it-out victory over Illinois in overtime. The only loss Tubby Smith’s team sustained in that period was to Michigan State on the road. Rodney Williams continues to be Minnesota’s mainstay in the lineup, and he’ll need to be especially spectacular if Minnesota expects to compete in a five-game, mid-February stretch that includes Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Indiana. Then, we can say if the Gophers are indeed for real.

8. ILLINOIS

Last time around: 6

This week: Michigan State (tonight), Northwestern (Feb. 5)

Talk about a freefall. After upsetting Ohio State on Jan. 10, the Illini have lost an embarrassing game on the road to Penn State, a tough game at home against Wisconsin, and an overtime choke-induced loss to Minnesota on the road. And looking forward, the schedule doesn’t get very easy from here. Illinois has yet to play Indiana and has two matchups remaining with Michigan, not to mention a road game against Ohio State. Those all seem like losses at this point, as Illinois continues to tiptoe the line of NCAA Tournament eligibility. There’s no team that’s more up and down on this list than Illinois.

9. NEBRASKA

Last time around: 11

This week: at Northwestern (Feb. 2), Minnesota (Feb. 5)

It was an ugly welcome to the Big Ten with four straight losses, but the Huskers seem to be back on the right (or at least consistent) track. They aren’t talented enough to beat teams like Wisconsin on the road, despite hanging with the Badgers until the bitter end. But Nebraska will play bracket buster down the stretch, especially if it continues to steal wins like it did against Indiana. That makes the Huskers an interesting team to watch going forward, as the Big Ten newbies have some winnable games in their remaining schedule. They only play two ranked teams and only one of them (Michigan State) is on the road. I’ve underestimated Nebraska so far this season, and part of me thinks they’re primed for a surprising run in the conference tournament.

10. NORTHWESTERN

Last time around: 10

This week: Nebraska (Feb. 2), Illinois (Feb. 5)

I can’t help but feel bad for Northwestern. The Wildcats looked like they were ready to get over the hump, stop being just a bridesmaid, and find themselves in the NCAA Tournament. But that looks more like a pipe dream now. The schedule isn’t terribly difficult going forward, but this team doesn’t seem to have the fight in it that it did in its win over Michigan State. That being said, John Shurna and Drew Crawford are still All-Big Ten caliber talent. So what’s wrong in Evanston? Beats me.

11. IOWA

Last time around: 9

This week: Minnesota (Feb. 1), vs Penn State (Feb. 4)

I haven’t seen many Big Ten defenses in my experience watching basketball in the conference perform as badly as Iowa’s did against Indiana on Sunday night. Whew, it was bad. The Hawkeyes are beginning to look more and more like the team that lost to Campbell in the non-conference slate and not the team that upset Wisconsin at home. Losing six of your last seven games will do that and barely being competitive in those games makes it even worse. Iowa has shown flashes this season — Matt Gatens just tries so hard — but this team isn’t ready to be anyone’s dark horse.

12. PENN STATE

Last time around: 12

This week: Wisconsin (tonight), at Iowa (Feb. 4)

If you could believe it, Penn State is actually getting worse at shooting the ball. Already in the bottom third of the NCAA, the Nittany Lions are now one of the top 10 worst shooting teams in the country. The win at home against Illinois was nice, but Penn State — a team just ahead of Stony Brook and behind in-state Penn in KenPom.com’s rankings — might not win another game this season. It’s too bad, considering how hard new coach Pat Chambers has his team working and fighting. But talent tends to win out in cases like this, and the Nittany Lions just don’t have much of it outside of point guard Tim Frazier.

5 comments

  1. Iowa’s defense was as awful against Indiana as you described, but in my honest opinion, IU’s defense was not much better.

  2. Chris
    Oglesby came in and was hot getting 24 points
    He was pretty wide open , but I don’t think he was a concentration of the defense.
    Based on his min and pt production from 4 games prior.

    Of course, Iowa was not expecting 3 3pt from Elston.

    I think they were focused on McCabe and shut him down pretty well.

    Who’s guarding Hardaway Wed?

  3. I’d say IU’s defense was worse than Iowa’s considering we let a “scrub” team shoot 80% in a half.

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