1. Iowa (12-2, 6-1)
The Hawkeyes missed an opportunity to gain a quality win when last Thursday’s contest against Michigan State was cancelled, but the Hawkeyes managed to crowd out Michigan for the top spot this week on the strength of their 96-73 win over Northwestern and Michigan’s loss to Minnesota. KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric ranks Iowa’s offense as the nation’s best and the highest scoring team per 100 possessions since the 2017-18 Villanova squad that steamrolled the entire field en route to winning a national title.
(Last Week: 2nd)
2. Michigan (11-1, 6-1)
Michigan’s loss to Minnesota was as decisive as it was surprising. The Wolverines are among the nation’s most consistent teams on both offense and defense but struggled mightily on both ends of the court against the Gophers in their 75-57 loss. This was Michigan’s first loss of the season, but it highlighted ball security as an area where the Wolverines must work to improve if they hope to win the conference. Michigan leads the league in turnovers per game against conference opponents with 13.7, and star freshman center Hunter Dickinson (five giveaways against Minnesota) is arguably the team’s worst offender. Still, the Wolverines remain tied for the first place in the league, and their big win over the conference’s #3 team prevents them from slipping past the #2 spot.
Last Week: 1st
3. Wisconsin (11-3, 5-2)
The Badgers took a tough L against Michigan last Tuesday, shooting only 30% from the field and surrendering nine blocked shots over the course of the game. However, Greg Gard’s program bounced back with a physical road win against Rutgers on the strength of Brad Davison’s gutty 14-point, seven rebound, three steal performance. Davison has to lead any conference power ranking of the Big Ten’s most obnoxious players, but his pesky play on the perimeter really does help set the tone for a Badger team that boasts the conference’s best defense according to KenPom.
(Last Week: 3rd)
4. Ohio State (11-3, 5-3)
Aside from Iowa, is there a hotter team in the Big Ten right now than Ohio State? The Buckeyes have won three straight games, including a double-digit win over Northwestern to avenge a loss from earlier in the season and an impressive upset victory against Illinois on the road. The Buckeyes are firing on all cylinders offensively after looking somewhat sluggish at times this season, and games against Purdue and Wisconsin this week will give them a chance to stake their claim as one of the Big Ten’s elite teams.
(Last Week: 5th)
5. Illinois (9-5, 5-3)
Illinois has as much talent as any team in the league, yet Brad Underwood’s team is sitting at 5-3 in league play with four games yet to come against the conference’s top three schools in Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Illini can score with any school in the country, but have struggled in close games this season, including last week’s 87-81 loss to Ohio State. Illinois should be able to get back on track in Tuesday’s matchup against Penn State, but Saturday’s trip to the Breslin Center could carry some upset potential if the Spartans are back to full strength.
(Last Week: 4th)
6. Minnesota (11-4, 4-4)
Just when it looked like the Gophers were starting to lose their magic after two consecutive double-digit losses, they bounced back in a major way with a decisive victory against Michigan at home. Minnesota has now split their season series against the two teams tied for first place in the conference and remains unbeaten at home. Liam Robbins was scintillating against the Wolverines, and the Drake transfer continues to establish himself as one of the most well-rounded big men in the entire conference.
(Last Week: 7th)
7. Purdue (10-5, 5-3)
Don’t look now, but the Boilermakers seem to have found their legs. Matt Painter’s squad has looked like a different team since the second half of its win against Michigan State, and continued that hot play last week with wins over Indiana and Penn State. Purdue’s perimeter defense has particularly excelled in recent games, as the Boilers held Indiana to only 3-18 shooting from the perimeter before forcing a whopping 29 missed three pointers in their game against Penn State. All told, conference opponents are shooting only 31.5% from three against the Boilermakers.
(Last Week: 6th)
8. Indiana (8-6, 3-4)
How did the Hoosiers rise in the rankings despite losing their only game last week? Let’s just say it has more to do with what their fellow Big Ten teams failed to accomplish than anything Archie Miller’s squad achieved. At 8-6 and 3-4 in league play, the Hoosiers still have several opportunities remaining to earn marquee wins this season, with the next one coming in this week’s matchup against Iowa.
(Last Week: 9th)
9. Rutgers (7-5, 3-5)
Rutgers has lost its last four games and has won only a single contest in its last six attempts. The offensive attack that appeared so promising early in the season has been mired with inefficiency, and their staggering inability to convert from the free throw line (the Scarlet Knights are shooting only 55.3% from the line in conference play) has continued to hamper them, including in last week’s narrow loss to Wisconsin. It’s not crazy to say that this week’s games against Penn State and Indiana should be considered near must-wins.
(Last Week: 10th)
10. Northwestern (6-6, 3-5)
Speaking of tanking, Northwestern has really entered into a tailspin. The Wildcats have lost five straight since their 71-70 victory over Ohio State in late December, and while these losses have come against some of the conference’s toughest teams, their 6-6 record hardly inspires confidence that Chris Collins’ squad can claw their way to an NCAA berth. Wednesday’s matchup against Wisconsin will offer little quarter, but things will get easier with Penn State on the schedule later this week.
(Last Week: 8th)
11. Michigan State (8-4, 2-4)
Michigan State has had several games cancelled now due to the coronavirus, so here’s hoping their players and staff can weather this storm and return to action this week.
(Last Week: 11th)
12. Maryland (8-6, 2-5)
Maryland didn’t play a single conference opponent this week, but it did beat Wingate by over 40 points, which I guess is better than losing to Wingate, even if playing a Division II squad in January is only slightly preferable to not playing at all.
(Last Week: 12th)
13. Penn State (3-5, 0-4)
Penn State finally emerged from its coronavirus outbreak, but quickly got back to its losing ways. With games against Illinois, Rutgers, and Northwestern this week, the Nittany Lions will have several opportunities to get back on track, or to dig themselves into an even deeper hole.
(Last Week: 13th)
14. Nebraska (4-8, 0-5)
Nebraska is the latest Big Ten team to suffer a coronavirus outbreak and will be idle until it takes on Penn State on January 30.
(Last Week: 14th)