Northwestern, you blew it. Michigan State is now the lone team at the top of the Big Ten with a 2-0 conference record. In the middle, you have 12 teams tied with a 1-1 record. At the bottom, the Wildcats are looking for their first conference victory. Their loss against Michigan State in Evanston was the first game lost by a home team in conference game all season.
With the most parity in recent history between among in the Big Ten (and in college basketball as a whole), this season will certainly bring additional unpredictability. Truly any team can defeat any other team in the Big Ten, and that trend is not expected to go away any time soon. While power rankings become more complex, more variable and more volatile, we’ll continue to stay on top of the league to recognize the teams that are hot and teams that are not.
December 20, 2019 Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings
No. 14 Northwestern (5-5, 0-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 13; Last Week: Win vs. SIU-Edwardsville 72-54, Loss vs. #15 Michigan St. 72-77
Northwestern was able to split the week with a win and a loss respectively. The Wildcats took Tom Izzo and the Spartans down to the wire, but were unable to pull off the upset. Chris Collins’ team faces off against DePaul on Saturday who have won 11 out of their 12 games this season.
No. 13 Nebraska (5-6, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 14; Last Week: Loss at Indiana 90-96 (OT), Win vs. Purdue 70-56
Entering last week, Nebraska had lost two straight games by a combined 36 points. Then the Cornhuskers looked like a completely different team. Fred Hoiberg’s squad gave Indiana all they could handle in a six-point overtime loss to the Hoosiers. Two days later, Nebraska defeated Purdue by 14 points. With two games before conference play resumes the young Cornhuskers have a chance to gain momentum to start the new year.
No. 12 Wisconsin (5-5, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last Week: Loss at Rutgers 65-72
Wisconsin continues to struggle on offense, which has been a theme for this Greg Gard-led team. After a lights out display at home against Indiana, the Badgers continued to show their lethargic offense on the road against Rutgers. Wisconsin will get some help starting on Saturday against Milwaukee; forward Micah Potter, who transferred from Ohio State, will become eligible and make his season debut.
No. 11 Minnesota (5-5, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 12; Last Week: Win vs. #3 Ohio St. 84-71
After a 20-point loss to the Hawkeyes, Minnesota shocked the college basketball world by upsetting Ohio State by double digits. The Gophers shot over 54% from the field and were led by sophomore guard Marcus Carr with 35 points. Minnesota is back to .500 on the season and are back in action on Saturday with a “neutral” site game against Oklahoma State in Tulsa, OK.
No. 10 Rutgers (8-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 10; Last Week: Win vs. #22 Seton Hall 68-48, Win vs Wisconsin 72-65
With eight wins, the Scarlet Knights have already surpassed the half way mark of last year’s season total in wins, which was 14. Rutgers has a lot to be hopeful for after two important victories this week against a ranked Seton Hall team and a Big Ten foe Wisconsin. Can they emerge out of the bottom tier of the Big Ten?
No. 9 Purdue (7-4, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 8; Last Week: Loss at Nebraska 56-70, Win at Ohio 69-51
It’s difficult to figure out the Boilermakers right now. At their best, they’re capable of a 29-point win over a top-5 opponent. At their worst, they struggle to a 30% shooting night and a double-digit loss to Nebraska (#128 in KenPom). With center Matt Haarms still unable to practice after suffering a concussion on Sunday, Purdue will likely be shorthanded when facing #17 Butler this weekend.
No. 8 Iowa (8-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 9; Last Week: No Games
Iowa took the week off, but they have had three victories over top 65 teams and three losses against top 65 teams. They were the nation’s top offense per Kenpom, but have fallen to No. 2 (Gonzaga is No. 1). Forward Luka Garza is still by far the highest scorer in the Big Ten with 22.4 ppg and is top 10 in the nation.
No. 7 Illinois (8-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 6; Last Week: Win vs. Old Dominion 69-55
Illinois put themselves in a small hole with their non-conference losses early in the season, but after winning the last two games have set them up for a good start to the heart of conference play next year. Cockburn has already equaled the record for double-doubles by a freshman at Illinois and will easily break it this season.
No. 6 Indiana (10-1, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 7; Last Week: Win vs. Nebraska 96-90 (OT)
Indiana survived a scare at home by holding off Nebraska in OT this week. This young Hoosier squad still needs to be tested before a good idea of their standing is made. If Indiana cruises to a victory over ND and Arkansas before the end of the year, they are likely to be considered in the top-25.
No. 5 Penn State (9-2, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 5; Last Week: Win vs. Alabama 73-71
After another double-double (and six assists and five blocks) in a win against Alabama, forward Lamar Stevens won his first career Big Ten Player of the Week award. At this point, it’s hard to envision the Nittany Lions missing out on the Big Dance. Wrapping up the calendar year with wins over two sub-250 KenPom opponents will be PSU’s top priority.
No. 3 (Tie) Michigan State (8-3, 2-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 4; Last Week: Win vs. Oakland (Neut.) 72-49, Win at Northwestern 77-72
Michigan State broke the Big Ten road curse and won against Northwestern. Unfortunately, the win is not very impressive as Northwestern is one of the worst teams in the conference. The Spartans have another two light games coming up against Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. Regarding conference play, however, Cassius Winston has to get help from his supporting cast.
No. 3 (Tie) Maryland (10-2, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 2; Last Week: Loss at #23 Penn State 69-76, Loss at Seton Hall 48-52
Maryland is up there with Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State as serious contenders for the Big Ten title. However, road losses to Penn State and a Seton Hall team who was blown out by Rutgers and didn’t have their star Myles Powell do not help their cause. We also can’t forget that Maryland barely won against an Illinois team at home, who was up almost the entire game until the very end. We’ll see if they can figure it out before they face the Hoosiers on January 4th.
No. 2 Michigan (8-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 3; Last Week: Loss vs. #10 Oregon 70-71 (OT)
After starting the season as one of the best teams in the nation, the Wolverines are suffering through a two-game losing streak. After losing on the road to Illinois, they lost at home to a highly ranked Oregon Ducks team. The game was extremely close, and Michigan still deserves to be highly ranked. It’s surprising how the Wolverines shot above 40% from three and still lost. That’s unlikely to happen again.
No. 1 Ohio State (10-1, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 1; Last Week: Loss at Minnesota 71-84, Win vs. SE Missouri St. 80-48
The Buckeyes’ unbeaten run came to an end last weekend, but they remain atop the rankings after losses by Michigan and Maryland. OSU’s two Big Ten opponents each topped 70 points while none of their non-conference adversaries have even reached 60. Which version of the Buckeyes defense will show up against Kentucky on Saturday?
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ