Stability has (finally) hit the power rankings -- or at least the top half of the power rankings. Things are still a little fuzzy in the lower reaches of the rankings. But at the top things are much more settled -- for now. There are four games between teams ranked in the top-6 this week, which could lead to some volatility in next week's rankings. (As always, the full power rankings can be found at The B1G Time.)
1) INDIANA (20-2 overall, 8-1 B1G) (LAST WEEK: 1st)
LAST WEEK: W, 97-60 at Purdue; W, 81-73 vs. Michigan
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Illinois; Sunday at Ohio State
Indiana had an impressive week as they solidified their position on top of the power rankings. They didn't just derail Purdue in their win earlier in the week -- they annihilated them. In West Lafayette, no less. I'm guessing Purdue won't be forgetting that loss anytime soon -- and they'll be eager to dish out a little payback when they get the opportunity (which probably won't be this year). They followed that by knocking off then-#1 Michigan in an impressive showing on Saturday. Aside from that home loss to the pesky Badgers, Indiana's answered all their challenges in impressive fashion in league play. The one caveat with their sterling 8-1 conference record is that so far all of their big wins have come in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall: Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Their best road win might be Iowa still. That will change this week, with road trips against a reeling Illinois and an Ohio State team eager to knock of the B1G's other heavyweight.
2) MICHIGAN (20-2, 7-2) (LAST WEEK: 2nd)
LAST WEEK: W, 68-43 vs. Northwestern; L, 81-73 at Indiana
THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Ohio State; Saturday at Wisconsin
They cruised past Northwestern in mid-week, but fell prey to the Hoosier buzzsaw in Bloomington on the weekend. They'll get another crack at Indiana in Ann Arbor on the last day of the regular season and that game might determine the B1G regular season champion. In the meantime, though, Michigan has two tough games this week: a home rematch with the Ohio State team that beat them in Columbus a few weeks ago and the always-daunting road trip to the Kohl Center to take on the Badgers. A pair of wins in those games would definitely solidify Michigan as the second-best team in the league.
3) MICHIGAN STATE (18-4, 7-2) (LAST WEEK: 3rd)
LAST WEEK: W, 80-75 vs. Illinois
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Minnesota; Saturday at Purdue
Sparty had just one game last week, a closer-than-expected home win over a crumbling (but desperate) Illini squad. Still, Sparty has quietly slid into a tie for second-place in the league, with home games remaining against Michigan and Indiana (plus road games with Michigan and Ohio State). Keep winning and Izzo will be the one having the last laugh in the league this year. This week brings a rematch with one of the two teams to hang a loss on the Spartans in league play (Minnesota) as well as a road trip to Purdue; these are two games Michigan State really ought to win if they want to remain serious contenders in the league title race.
4) OHIO STATE (17-4, 7-2) (LAST WEEK: 4th)
LAST WEEK: W, 58-49 vs. Wisconsin; W, 63-56 at Nebraska
THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Michigan; Sunday vs. Indiana
Ohio State isn't exactly playing the prettiest basketball in the Big Ten right now (they've topped 70 points in just one of their last six games, against Iowa, and they've been in the 50s in three of those games), but it's been effective -- they're 5-1 in their last six games, with the lone loss being a 59-56 squeaker to Sparty. Ugly or not, if Ohio State pulls out two wins this week then they'll absolutely deserve to be taken seriously as Big Ten title contenders. But Michigan and Indiana is a pretty murderous back-to-back -- just getting a split here would probably qualify as a success.
5) WISCONSIN (15-7, 6-3) (LAST WEEK: 5th)
LAST WEEK: L, 58-49 at Ohio State; W, 74-68 at Illinois
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Iowa; Sunday vs. Michigan
Wisconsin scored under 50 for their third-straight game in their loss to Ohio State early in the week (they lost two of those three games; even BoBall needs to top 50 points in order to be effective), but the offense found its form on the weekend against that desperate-but-fading Illinois team. This week they're back home for a twofer: Iowa in mid-week and Michigan on the weekend. Wisconsin looks like a second-tier Big Ten outfit at this point, but beating Michigan could throw a monkey wrench into things. They'll also be looking to end their three-game losing streak to Iowa. (Here's hoping they fail.)
6) MINNESOTA (17-5, 5-4) (LAST WEEK: 8th)
LAST WEEK: W, 84-65 vs. Nebraska; W, 62-59 vs. Iowa
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Michigan State; Sunday vs. Illinois
Minnesota needed two wins out of their games last week and they got them -- barely. They smashed Nebrasketball up and down the court in The Barn, but came achingly close to losing to Iowa on the weekend. Still, all that matters is the W and Minnesota got two of them and is now back on the right side of .500 in conference play. This week they're going for the season sweep of Michigan State and looking to add a little more misery to Illinois' increasingly crappy season.
7) NORTHWESTERN (13-10, 4-6) (LAST WEEK: 7th)
LAST WEEK: L, 68-46 at Michigan; W, 75-60 vs. Purdue
THIS WEEK: Saturday at Iowa
Northwestern got their ass kicked by Michigan on Wednesday, then turned around and kicked Purdue's ass on Saturday. It's the circle of life, B1G style! This week Northwestern's lone game is a weekend tilt at Iowa; Northwestern's own at-large shots seem pretty faint at this point, but they could do serious damage to Iowa's hopes with a win in Iowa City.
8) PURDUE (11-11, 4-5) (LAST WEEK: 6th)
LAST WEEK: L, 97-60 vs. Indiana; L, 75-60 at Northwestern
THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Penn State; Saturday vs. Michigan State
Sometimes you're the train... and sometimes you're the helpless cow trapped on the tracks in front of the train. Last week Purdue played the part of that exploded bovine, spilling their guts all over the place against Indiana and Northwestern. Losing to Indiana is one thing, but losing by 37 points? At home? Yeah, that one's going to sting a while. Fortunately, this week leads off with a good bounce-back opportunity in their game with Penn State, but Purdue needs to be ready to play better than they did last week -- Penn State is desperate to get that first B1G win and a wounded, disinterested Purdue team could be one of their best bets to snare that win.
9) IOWA (14-8, 3-6) (LAST WEEK: 10th)
LAST WEEK: W, 76-67 vs. Penn State; L, 62-59 at Minnesota
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Wisconsin; Saturday vs. Northwestern
Same old story for Iowa in the Big Ten this year: they beat the teams they should beat, but come up short against everyone else. Close games continue to be a serious issue for them, as poor late-game execution doomed them against Minnesota, just as it did a week ago against Purdue. This week offers two games against team Iowa has already played -- and beaten -- this year. Sweeping both Wisconsin and Northwestern would do a lot to keep Iowa's bubble dreams alive.
10) ILLINOIS (15-8, 2-7) (LAST WEEK: 9th)
LAST WEEK: L, 80-75 at Michigan State; L, 74-68 vs. Wisconsin
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Indiana; Sunday at Minnesota
The U.S.S. Illini continues taking on water at a frankly alarming rate. This team was 13-1 in non-conference play with wins over Butler and Gonzaga; they're now just 2-7 in B1G play. Taken individually, Illinois' losses to Michigan State (on the road) and Wisconsin (at home) aren't awful, but they are part of an awful trend: Illinois' disastrous in-conference play. This week doesn't offer too much hope that things will turn around, either, with a game against conference kingpin Indiana and then a road trip to The Barn to face Minnesota.
11) NEBRASKA (11-12, 2-8) (LAST WEEK: 11th)
LAST WEEK: L, 84-65 at Minnesota; L, 63-56 vs. Ohio State
THIS WEEK: Saturday vs. Penn State
Nebraska got blasted by Minnesota, but put one hell of a scare into Ohio State on the weekend. They hung with the Buckeyes to the bitter end, which was pretty impressive. They're not a good team, but they're pesky and they seem certain to pick off a few more B1G teams this year. This week offers a great opportunity for another league win, with Penn State visiting the home of Nebrasketball. Nebraska beat PSU in Happy Valley, so they'll certainly be favored to make it a sweep with a win in Lincoln.
12) PENN STATE (8-13, 0-9) (LAST WEEK: 12th)
LAST WEEK: L, 76-67 at Iowa
THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Purdue; Saturday at Nebraska
I don't want to be too alarmist, but if Penn State fails to get a win this week with a home game against a beaten-down Purdue team and a road game against fellow Big Ten lightweight Nebraska, then we can probably go ahead and raise the warning level on an 0-18 season to Defcon 3 or Defcon 2 for them. Outside of a home game against Iowa (on Valentine's Day), these two games are easily the most winnable games left on the slate for Penn State. (Illinois and Northwestern aren't anything great this year, but I certainly wouldn't fancy Penn State on the road against them or, frankly, anyone.) They put forth a spirited effort in their 76-67 loss to Iowa, but moral victories alone aren't going to erase that donut in the win column for them in B1G play.