1. Michigan (13-1, 8-1)
The Wolverines reclaimed the top spot in our power rankings after scoring big wins at home against Maryland and on the road against Purdue, but those triumphs feel somewhat hollow in light of the news that Michigan is suspending all athletics activities due to an outbreak of the coronavirus. This temporary shutdown sidelines the Wolverines right as Isaiah Livers appears to be hitting is stride and could have a serious impact on Michigan’s conference title aspirations. The health and safety of the university’s athletes have to come first, but in the interest of fierce competition, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the Wolverines can get back on the court sooner rather than later.
Last Week: 2
2. Iowa (12-3, 6-2)
Iowa’s maddening collapse at home against Indiana was enough to knock them out of the top spot, though the COVID drama affecting the current frontrunner puts them in a prime position to retake the lead if they can fix the issues that plagued them in last Thursday’s loss. The Hawkeyes should have plenty of time to right the ship, with their next game not coming until Friday night against Illinois.
Last Week: 1
3. Ohio State (12-4, 6-4)
The Buckeyes are winners of four of their last five games, with their sole loss during this run coming on a clutch three-pointer from Purdue in the closing seconds of the contest. Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin on Saturday showed the clear blueprint for the Buckeyes to continue their run as one of the Big Ten’s top teams; attack the basket with E.J. Liddell, get to the line as often as possible, and lean on their suffocating defense to force their opponent into taking bad shots.
Last Week: 4
4. Wisconsin (12-4, 6-3)
The Badgers may have dropped a frustrating home game to the Buckeyes, but Greg Gard’s team continues to prove that they can play defense at the level of a conference champion. Wisconsin boast’s the nation’s 7th best defensive efficiency rating according to KenPom and suffocated the Northwestern Wildcats in last Wednesday’s game, holding them to a mere 52 points while controlling the pace of play throughout the contest.
Last Week: 3
5. Illinois (10-5, 6-3)
The Illini won their only game last week in a 79-65 home victory over Purdue. Despite shooting poorly from the field as a team, Illinois rode a dominant performance from Kofi Cockburn (21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks) while also benefiting from some strong bench contributions from freshman big man Coleman Hawkins, who contributed three blocks of his own in 14 minutes. Illinois’ primetime Friday night matchup against the Hawkeyes should feature two teams with fresh legs thanks to the postponement of this week’s scheduled game against Michigan State.
Last Week: 5
6. Purdue (11-6, 6-4)
Jaden Ivey came up big to propel the Boilermakers to a road win against Ohio State, hitting a game-winning three with five second left on the clock. Still, Ivey’s clutch performance served to mask an otherwise inconsistent offensive showing, and these problems manifested themselves again in Purdue’s 70-53 loss to Michigan. The Boilers are scoring only 66.5 points per game against Big Ten opponents, a number which must go up if they hope to rise in the rankings. This will be tough to do with Sasha Stefanovic, one of their best shooters, out due to the coronavirus.
Last Week: 7
7. Minnesota (11-5, 4-5)
Talk about a letdown game! The Gophers followed up their stunning 75-57 win over previously unbeaten Michigan with a horrendous 63-49 loss to Maryland at home, ending their 12-game winning streak of victories at Williams Arena. This Saturday’s game against Purdue should do a lot to clarify the relative positioning of two teams jockeying to play themselves out of the middle of the pack.
Last Week: 6
8. Indiana (9-7, 4-5)
Speaking of letdowns, the Hoosiers failed to build on the momentum of their gutsy upset of the Hawkeyes, losing 74-70 to Rutgers at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers proved that their ceiling is much higher than most Big Ten watchers thought, but that their baseline level of play remains somewhere around league average.
Last Week: 8
9. Maryland (9-7, 3-6)
Maryland is far from being a contender in the Big Ten title race, but watch out for the Terrapins as a team that could cause some major chaos in the conference tournament. Mark Turgeon’s team is the rare squad that plays better on the road than they do at home, and Maryland just claimed its third road victory over a ranked team this season in their blowout win over Minnesota. Can the Terps build on this win in a way they were unable to with previous victories? They will have to beat a Wisconsin team hungry for revenge if they hope to do so.
Last Week: 12
10. Rutgers (8-6, 4-6)
Rutgers needed its win against Indiana in the worst way possible, especially after losing to hapless Penn State earlier in the week. Upcoming contests against Michigan State and Northwestern provide winnable opportunities for the Scarlet Knights to get their feet under them once again and turn their listless season around.
Last Week: 9
11. Michigan State (8-4, 2-4)
The poor Spartans haven’t set foot on the court since January 8 due to an outbreak of the coronavirus, and have to dive headfirst back into Big Ten action by playing two of the conference’s most physical teams in Rutgers and Ohio State. If the Spartans hope to make a run up the conference standings, they can ill afford a rocky transition period back into the swing of league play.
Last Week: 11
12. Penn State (5-6, 2-5)
Welcome back, Nittany Lions! After losing five straight games, Penn State is starting to claw its way back to respectability after notching consecutive wins over Rutgers and Northwestern. It may prove too little too late for the 5-6 team from State College, but it’s nice to see some fight from the blue and white after what has been a very challenging period since last year’s season was cut short.
Last Week: 13
13. Northwestern (6-8, 3-7)
Remember when Northwestern was ranked #19 in the country and looked like the most dangerous sleeper in the conference? The Wildcats seem to have regressed to the mean after playing well above their station in December. Perhaps a long layoff before their Sunday night game against Rutgers will give them the time they need to right the ship?
Last Week: 10
14. Nebraska (4-8, 0-5)
The Huskers have had four games postponed due to COVID outbreaks, but let’s be honest, it’s not like they were going to win them anyway.
Last Week: 14