I figured there would be some upheaval in the top of the rankings this week, given that so many of the teams near the top were going to be playing each other last week. And, sure enough, upheaval has struck. As always, the full rankings can be found at The B1G Time here.
1) INDIANA (21-3 overall, 9-2 B1G) (LAST WEEK: 1st)
LAST WEEK: L, 74-72 at Illinois; W, 81-68 at Ohio State
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Nebraska, Saturday vs. Purdue
Hey, if leaving Indiana at #1 is good enough for the AP, it's good enough for me. The truth is, you could throw the first five teams here into a hat and probably be fine with whatever order emerged. Indiana's loss to Illinois was bad (although given some of the other scalps Illinois has claimed this year, it's not that bad), but they followed that up with an impressive road win over Ohio State in Columbus. In fact, the strength of that performance -- they thrashed a good OSU team on the road -- was enough to get me to keep them in the top spot here. But I would certainly listen to other suggestions.
2) MICHIGAN STATE (20-4, 9-2) (LAST WEEK: 3rd)
LAST WEEK: W, 61-50 against Minnesota; W, 78-65 at Purdue
THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Michigan, Saturday at Nebraska
While Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio State were beating each others' heads in last week, Michigan State flew a bit under the radar and picked up a pair of wins over Minnesota (avenging their loss from the opening of conference play) and adding to Purdue's recent misery. And all of a sudden Sparty finds themselves tied with Indiana for the best record in the league. That crafty Izzo. They get a big-time test against Michigan this week, though.
3) WISCONSIN (17-7, 8-3) (LAST WEEK: 5th)
LAST WEEK: W, 74-70 (2OT) vs. Iowa; W, 65-62 (OT) vs. Michigan
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Minnesota; Sunday vs. Ohio State
If not for two wacky threes, one from Traevon Jackson and one from Ben Brust, Wisconsin would probably rank a few slots lower on this list. But that's just the way the ball bounces sometimes; last week it was definitely rolling Wisconsin's way at the end of games. This week brings two more difficult tests: a road trip to a possibly desperate Minnesota team and then a home game with a difficult Ohio State team.
4) MICHIGAN (21-3, 8-3) (LAST WEEK: 2nd)
LAST WEEK: W, 76-74 (OT) vs. Ohio State; L, 65-62 (OT) at Wisconsin
THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Michigan State; Sunday vs. Penn State
This probably isn't fair -- Michigan is still a very, very good team. They recorded a solid comeback win against a good Ohio State team and but for a completely bonkers 3 from Brust, they would have gone 2-0 last week and finished tied for the B1G lead with Indiana and Michigan State. Beat Michigan State tonight and I'll slide them up the rankings.
5) OHIO STATE (17-6, 7-4) (LAST WEEK: 4th)
LAST WEEK: L, 76-74 (OT) at Michigan; L, 81-68 vs. Indiana
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Northwestern; Sunday at Wisconsin
Last week was Ohio State's version of Hell Week -- back-to-back games against teams ranked (at the time) #1 and #3 in the nation -- and while they came up short, it wasn't by much. They were very close to sweeping Michigan this season and while the Indiana game got away from them late, they were able to make a good second-half push to make things interesting. But Ohio State remains 2-3 this season against the teams ranked ahead of them on this list; hard to win a Big Ten championship with a record like that.
6) ILLINOIS (17-8, 4-7) (LAST WEEK: 10th)
LAST WEEK: W, 74-72 vs. Indiana; W, 57-53 at Minnesota
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Purdue; Sunday at Northwestern
Oh, hello there, zombie Illinois. I guess you're not dead and buried after all. Illinois emerged from the coma they spent the month of January in to knock off Indiana in a thriller with the best back-door cut of the year and then follow that up with a hard-fought road win over Minnesota. Three of their four B1G wins this season have come against Ohio State, Indiana, and Minnesota -- that's not too shabby. (It's also a big reason why I have them ahead of Iowa in these rankings.) The trick this week will be for the streaky Illini to avoid floundering against a pair of teams they "should" beat, Purdue and Northwestern. They've already lost to both (NW beat them by 14 in Champaign), so it's by no means guaranteed.
7) MINNESOTA (17-7, 5-6) (LAST WEEK: 6th)
LAST WEEK: L, 61-50 at Michigan State; L, 57-53 vs. Illinois
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Wisconsin; Sunday at Iowa
Oh, Minneosta. Is it just that time of year again? Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his hole in the ground to look for his shadow and the Phil's rodent relatives go into a funk. Minnesota turned their season around with a pair of wins a few weeks ago, but things took a hit last week with losses to Michigan State (understandable) and Illinois (less understandable). They haven't played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament yet, but their Big Ten title dreams are a pipe dream at this point, which is a surprise when they came into the league as one of the favorites. Up next? A pair of border battles with Wisconsin and Iowa.
8) PURDUE (12-12, 5-6) (LAST WEEK: 8th)
LAST WEEK: W, 58-49 at Penn State; W, L, 78-65 vs. Michigan State
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Illinois; Saturday at Indiana
Purdue did what they were supposed to do in beating Penn State, everyone's favorite punching bag, then dropped a home game to Michigan State. They performed pretty much exactly as you'd expect, which is a good enough reason to leave them in the same spot they were in last week. Road games against a resurgent Illinois and a riding-high Indiana team don't bode well for the Boilers this week, though.
9) IOWA (15-9, 4-7) (LAST WEEK: 10th)
LAST WEEK: L, 74-70 (2OT) at Wisconsin; W, 71-57 vs, Northwestern
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Penn State; Sunday vs. Minnesota
I'm such a hater. Iowa has the same number of B1G wins as Illinois, but the latter's conference wins are far more impressive (Ohio State, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota vs. Northwestern x2, Wisconsin, and Penn State). Iowa also has head-to-head losses against Minnesota and Purdue (as well as a worse resume than the Gophers), which keeps them lower on my rankings. Thursday's game with Penn State is less a "must win" than a "can't lose," but the Sunday home game with Minnesota is a big game, both for their standing in the rankings here and (much more importantly) for their flickering NCAA Tournament hopes.
10) NORTHWESTERN (13-11, 4-7) (LAST WEEK: 7th)
LAST WEEK: L, 71-57 at Iowa
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Ohio State; Sunday vs. Illinois
One game, one loss, one drop in the rankings. Northwestern fell apart in the second half against Iowa and with injuries continuing to take their toll on the Wildcats (the latest long-term absentee is Jared Swopshire, who suffered a freak knee injury in the Iowa game), just finishing .500 overall may be an accomplishment this season.
11) NEBRASKA (12-12, 3-8) (LAST WEEK: 11th)
LAST WEEK: W, 67-53 vs. Penn State
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Indiana; Saturday vs. Michigan State
Nebraska maintained their stranglehold on 11th place in the Big Ten standings (or, as it's otherwise known: not last) by completing the season sweep over Penn State. In fact, did you know that they have three B1G wins, just one fewer than Illinois, Iowa, and Northwestern? They might be pushing for a move out of the 11th spot at this rate. But probably not this week, with games against Indiana and Michigan State. This week is gonna suck for Nebrasketball.
12) PENN STATE (8-15, 0-11) (LAST WEEK: 12th)
LAST WEEK: L, 58-49 vs. Purdue; L, 67-53 at Nebraska
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Iowa; Sunday at Michigan
Two more games, two more losses, two more steps closer to the ignominy of 0-18. A home game with a so-so Purdue team and a road game against fellow cellar dweller Nebraska actually represented two of Penn State's best opportunities to score a win, so to come up short (again)... that stings. This week brings one of their few remaining decent shots at a win (a home game with Iowa; the other good shot is a road game against Northwestern in a few weeks), as well as a road tilt with Michigan, a game that should probably be rated TV-MA (for graphic violence) if aired on television.