It’s officially 2020. College football relinquishes attention to Big Ten basketball. Teams across the conference closed out a light week of work to wrap up their holiday breaks, and now they meet face-to-face with the brutal grind of a Big Ten conference slate.
As one of the strongest conferences in the country, the Big Ten is going to shuffle in terms of rankings consistently. We have seen how closely teams all across Division I can play each other. Conference play will feature upsets, crazy finishes, and plenty of blowouts as well.
The very top and very bottom might be easier to predict, but there is truly a Big Ten bloodbath in the middle. Take, for example, Indiana, who only has two losses on the season. The Hoosiers have defeated a top-20 team in FSU by double digits, but have also lost at home to Arkansas and by 20 in Madison. You also have teams like Purdue that have five losses, but also have a dominant victory over top-5 (at the time) Virginia. Rankings are going to be random, but fun, for the remainder of the season.
January 3, 2020 Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings
No. 14 Northwestern (5-7, 0-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 13; Last Week: Loss vs. Harford 66-67
A loss to Hartford out of the America East Conference punctuated a horrible non-conference season for Northwestern that included home defeats to Radford and Merrimack. Sophomore Miller Kopp has elevated his play this season, hitting 41.5% from 3 this year and scoring at least 24 points the last two games.
No. 13 Nebraska (6-7, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 13; Last Week: Win vs. TAMU-CC 73-52, Loss at Purdue 78-83 (2OT)
Fred Hoiberg’s squad recorded a comfortable win to close out non-conference play, even with explosive guard Dachon Burke going 1-13 from the floor. Rutgers and Iowa come to Lincoln, and then the Huskers go to Northwestern. Could Nebraska start conference play 4-1? Update: no.
No. 12 Rutgers (10-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last Week: Win vs. Caldwell 94-49
Rutgers handled business this week by taking care of a non-Division I opponent by a significant margin. The Scarlet Knights have a top 30 defense paired with a nearly top 100 offense. They’ll get a winnable game at Nebraska next on their schedule.
No. 11 Minnesota (7-6, 1-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 9; Last Week: Win vs. FIU 89-62, Loss at Purdue 78-83 (2OT)
The Gophers seem to be one of the half-dozen or so teams in the middle of the conference that could go 7-13 in Big Ten play or 13-7. Minnesota will regret a major missed opportunity Thursday night at Purdue, where they gave up a late 5-point lead and a game-tying 3 in the final seconds of regulation, leading to a double overtime loss. Sophomore center Daniel Oturu, the reigning Big Ten POTW, put up 29 and 18 in West Lafayette to continue his strong season.
No. 10 Illinois (9-5, 1-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 8; Last Week: Win vs. NC A&T 95-64, Loss at #14 MSU 56-76
Despite the next level play of Kofi Cockburn, the Illini appear to be near the bottom of the Big Ten for another year. If the rest of the team does not toughen up as well, they will likely struggle with the remainder of conference play. On the bright side, this should be the best season under Underwood and three of their players are averaging over 10 points a game, so it is possible they can pull off some upsets in conference play.
No. 9 Indiana (11-2, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 7; Last Week: Loss vs. Arkansas 64-71
A disappointing loss to Arkansas by the Hoosiers stings and ruins their perfect non-conference record. They will have a lot to prove throughout conference play and still have a good chance at being a tournament team under Archie Miller for his first time in his time at IU.
No. 8 Wisconsin (8-5, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 12; Last Week: Win at Tennessee 68-48, Win vs. Rider 65-37
Wisconsin picked up the most impressive victory of the week by taking a road game against the once-ranked Volunteers. The Badgers are one of the stranger teams in the league as they have not been consistent, especially on the road. That being said, when they are good, they have a ceiling as high as any in the league. Kobe King is a hot or cold player, but he has been a true difference maker for Greg Gard.
No. 7 Purdue (9-5, 2-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 10; Last Week: Win vs. Central Michigan 97-62, Win vs. Minnesota 83-78 (2OT)
After suffering a frightening head injury at Nebraska on Dec. 15, junior center Matt Haarms logged a career-high 40 minutes and 26 points in a heroic effort as the Boilermakers knocked off Minnesota in a thriller. Rated KenPom’s #13 team in the country, the Boilermakers face a daunting 4-game stretch coming up: at Illinois, at Michigan, vs. MSU, and at Maryland.
No. 6 Iowa (10-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 6; Last Week: Win vs. Kennesaw St. 93-51, Win vs. Kennesaw St. 93-51
Iowa had a soft week dealing with an overmatched Kennesaw State and will be tested as they play the Nittany Lions next in Philadelphia. It will be their first test in a few weeks and expect Luka Garza to be the center of attention that game. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, Nebraska and Northwestern show up on the schedule in the next two weeks.
No. 5 Penn State (11-2, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 5; Last Week: Win vs. Cornell 90-59
Through 13 games this season, Penn State looks like a team closer to the top of the conference than the mishmash in the middle. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has PSU as a 5-seed in the most recent listing he tweeted out last weekend. #23 Iowa comes to Philadelphia on Saturday to face Penn State (2p ET, BTN) in what will be a must-see rocking atmosphere in the Palestra.
No. 4 Maryland (11-2, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 3; Last Week: Win vs. Bryant 84-70
In the last month, the Terrapins lost two road games they should have won, and if they won those games, they would probably have solidified themselves as one of the best teams in the Big Ten as well as the entire nation. Now they’re back in the mix with rest of the current top 25 Big Ten teams. Winning on the road seems to be problem for this team. Luckily, they face IU and OSU, two solid teams, at home. Winning those games would get this team significantly back on track as real contenders.
No. 3 Michigan State (11-3, 3-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 4; Last Week: Win vs. Western Michigan 95-62, Win vs. Illinois 76-56
The Spartans have started off conference play strong after a dismal non-conference performance. When looking at the conference victories, they were against Rutgers, Northwestern on the road, and Illinois. These teams may seem like pushovers, but it is clear that it is difficult this year to win on the road in the Big Ten, so these wins are commendable. Their next game is close to a must-win as they host the Wolverines, whom we currently rate as the best team in the conference.
No. 2 Ohio State (11-2, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 1; Last Week: Loss vs. #22 WVU (Neut.) 59-67
While Ohio State has had an outstanding start to the season, a couple recent stumbles likely has Chris Holtmann asking some questions about his team at the start of the New Year. A tricky stretch awaits OSU; a hot Badgers team comes to Columbus on Friday, and then back-to-back road games at Maryland and Indiana.
No. 1 Michigan (10-3, 1-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 2; Last Week: Win vs. UMass Lowell 86-60
Standout junior Isaiah Livers being out indefinitely with a groin injury is unfortunate news for the Wolverines as he’s currently averaging close to 14 points per game, hitting 90% of his free throws, and 50% of his threes.The timing of this injury is also unfortunate as the Wolverines face Michigan State this Sunday, a crucial game for both of these conference contenders. Let’s see if Michigan can break their losing streak against the Spartans.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ