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Week 21 Big Ten basketball power rankings

Michigan State and Iowa stay put atop the Big Ten, but the rest of the teams are in for a shuffle.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Iowa
Luka Garza has been balling, and he’s one of the main reasons for Iowa basketball’s success.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 — Nebraska

7-14, 2-8 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new: Absolutely nothing, except Bo Pelini was hired by national champion LSU as its new defensive coordinator. Remember him? The guy Nebraska fans ran out of town? In the basketball world, the Huskers lost two straight games since last week’s power rankings.

Reason for ranking: Nebraska has lost its last six games in the Big Ten. Fred Hoiberg’s squad is about to face three consecutive ranked teams. Godspeed.

No. 13 — Northwestern

6-14, 1-9 in the Big Ten, no change

What’s new: Losses, losses, and more losses. 10 losses in the last 12 games for Northwestern, actually. So, nothing new, actually.

Reason for the ranking: Northwestern has played teams close this season. I’ll give it that. But this team isn’t fun to watch.

No. 12 — Ohio State

13-7, 3-6 in the Big Ten, no change

What’s new: Nothing worthy of a change in the rankings, at least. Ohio State lost to Minnesota in Columbus but took down Northwestern on the road. Neither of the two are impressive.

Reason for ranking: Ohio State has been in quite the funk in conference play. I think the Buckeyes are better than their record shows, but that doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

No. 11 — Purdue

11-10, 4-6 in the Big Ten, -1

What’s new: Purdue pummeled Wisconsin before losing on the road to Rutgers. The Boilermaker win over the Badgers reminded me of the scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie beats the snot out of Scott Farkus. So much pent-up frustration.

Reason for the ranking: The win over Wisconsin was a step in the right direction for a Boilermaker team having lost four of its last five up until that game. While the loss to Rutgers is a still a loss, it’s not a bad one. It’s almost like you could flip a coin to determine which Purdue team shows up each game.

No. 10 — Michigan

12-8, 3-6 in the Big Ten, -5

What’s new: Michigan finally accomplished something all but two teams in the Big Ten have this season: win three conference games. The Wolverines lost to the Illini on a last-second shot, handing them their fourth straight defeat in the Big Ten. Luckily for Michigan, it faced Nebraska as a follow-up, and the Wolverines won by nine points.

Reason for the ranking: I have a hard time believing the Michigan will end the season in the bottom half of the Big Ten, but time is ticking. For now, the teams in front of the Wolverines have looked better over the past week

No. 9 — Wisconsin

12-9, 5-5 in the Big Ten, -2

What’s new: Wisconsin lost its last two games to Purdue and Iowa. The 19-point loss to the Boilermakers was borderline pathetic. The loss to Iowa was essentially a game Wisconsin seemed to have midway through the second half.

Reason for the ranking: Wisconsin has gone into a spin after sitting at 4-2 after a win over Maryland. The last two losses gotta hurt if you’re a Badgers fan.

No. 8 — Minnesota

11-9, 5-5 in the Big Ten, +1

What’s new: The Gophers split their last two games, taking down Ohio State by three points and losing by 18 to Michigan State in East Lansing.

Reason for the ranking: The Gophers aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. Minnesota (to this point) appears to be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team.

No. 7 — Indiana

15-6, 5-5 in the Big Ten, +2

What’s new: What a week it’s been for Indiana basketball. After taking down Michigan State on Jan. 23, the Hoosiers lost a heart-breaker to Maryland on Jan. 26 before losing by 15 to Penn State on Wednesday.

Reason for ranking: Indiana might be a team that sneaks up on people late in the season. The Hoosiers are talented — after all, this team not only beat Michigan State, it toppled Florida State earlier — but it’s just a matter of putting things together consistently.

No. 6 — Penn State

15-5, 5-4 in the Big Ten, +5

What’s new: Penn State rattled off a win over Indiana on Wednesday, dominating the Hoosiers in the second half en route to a 64-49 win. The Nittany Lions’ three-game winning streak is tied for the third-longest in the Big Ten.

Reason for the ranking: It’s a cluttered mess outside the top five spots in the rankings, but Penn State’s winning streak and convincing win over Indiana put the Nittany Lions at No. 6.

No. 5 — Rutgers

16-5, 7-3 in the Big Ten, +1

What’s new: Rutgers continues to be perfect in Piscataway, New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights won their last two games, taking down Nebraska on a last-second 3-pointer and beating Purdue by seven points. Not a bad response after losing in Iowa City on Jan. 22.

Reason for the ranking: Rutgers’ three Big Ten losses are to three of the top five teams (Michigan State, Iowa, and Illinois), and all have come on the road. Two of those losses came by five points or fewer.

No. 4 — Maryland

16-4, 6-3 in the Big Ten, - 1

What’s new: Maryland took down Indiana 77-76 on Jan. 26 thanks to a shot by Jalen Smith in the final 15 seconds of the game. Smith is one of the conference’s top big men and showed just why against the Hoosiers (29 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks).

Reason for the ranking: I had a tough time debating whether or not to switch Maryland and Illinois in this week’s rankings. It’s close, but I think Illinois might be onto something.

No. 3 — Illinois

15-5, 7-2 in the Big Ten, + 1

What’s new: Illinois continued its winning streak, extending it to six games in conference play, thanks to a big-time shot by Ayo Dosunmu. His jumper with 2 seconds left in regulation proved to be the game-winner. Yes, Michigan has gone on quite the slide, but it’s a quality road win for Illinois.

Reason for ranking: It’s tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, regardless of the opponent. Credit to the Illini.

No. 2 — Iowa

15-5, 6-3 in the Big Ten, no change

What’s new: Iowa won back-to-back home contests against Rutgers and Wisconsin. Neither of the two were flashy victories. Luka Garza keeps doing Luka Garza things (21 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks against the Badgers), and the Hawkeyes extended their winning streak to five games.

Reason for ranking: No style points for Iowa this week, but these gritty, grind-it-out wins are impressive, nevertheless. These next two games (away contests against Illinois and Maryland) will determine if Iowa holds onto this No. 2 spot next week.

No. 1 — Michigan State

16-5, 8-2 in the Big Ten, no change

What’s new: The Spartans lost just their second conference matchup of the season on Jan. 23 against Indiana. It followed up that loss with a convincing 18-point win over Minnesota on Jan. 26 and a 29-point whooping on Northwestern.

Reason for ranking: Unless the Spartans rattle off some head-scratching losses, they aren’t moving. Michigan State has looked great since its loss to Indiana.