1. Michigan (14-1, 9-1)
The impressive nature of Michigan’s recent victory over Wisconsin cannot be overstated. The Wolverines had not played in three weeks and had engaged in virtually no practice or team activities between their previous game and Sunday’s tilt, but the Wolverines still managed to post an eight-point win on the road against the nation’s #21 team. Juwan Howard deserves tremendous credit for keeping his team dialed in during this lengthy absence, and if Michigan can continue to find its legs in the coming weeks, they have to be considered one of the leading contenders to cut down the nets in March.
(Last Week: 1)
2. Ohio State (17-4, 11-4)
The Buckeyes did absolutely nothing to lose their top spot from last week, and their occupancy of the #2 ranking has more to do with Michigan’s stunning return to action than a slip in Ohio State’s performance. Chris Holtmann’s team remains one of the hottest squads in college basketball having won nine of its last ten games, including five road contests. Sunday’s game between Michigan and Ohio State will be a must-watch contest.
(Last Week: 2)
3. Illinois (14-5, 10-3)
The Illini’s overtime victory over Nebraska last week was far closer than it had any business being, but good teams find a way to win their clunkers. Brad Underwood’s team has won five straight contests and should be favored to win their games this week against Northwestern and Minnesota, and unless they look as sluggish offensively in these matchups as they did against the Cornhuskers, there shouldn’t be much reason for concern. Luka Garza is the player of the year in the Big Ten, but in any other year, Ayo Dosunmu would be the runaway favorite to win the award.
(Last Week: 3)
4. Iowa (15-6, 9-5)
The Hawkeyes finally corrected their skid last week, earning big victories against Rutgers and Michigan State. Iowa handed Spartans coach Tom Izzo the largest home loss of his 26-year career, which was particularly encouraging given that it came in what was arguably Luka Garza’s worst game of the season. If Iowa’s role players like Connor McCaffery, Keegan Murray, and Jack Nunge can shoot as well as they did against Michigan State in the games that follow, the Hawkeyes will be a tough out for any team come March. In the meantime, Iowa must weather a particularly difficult five-game stretch involving two games against Wisconsin and matchups against Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State.
(Last Week: 5)
5. Wisconsin (15-7, 9-6)
The Badgers remain an exceptionally difficult out for any Big Ten team, but Greg Gard’s squad has lost two of its last three games, with its sole win coming against lowly Nebraska. Wisconsin’s vaunted defense, which allows only 62.6 points per game and is rated as a top ten unit according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, will be tested when it faces off against the Hawkeyes and their top-ranked offense when the two rivals renew their series this Thursday, a game which should have major implications for the seeding of both squads.
(Last Week: 4)
6. Rutgers (12-7, 8-7)
Rutgers has won five of its last six games, with its one loss coming during last week’s visit to Carver-Hawkeye arena. The Scarlet Knights have a fantastic defense but need to improve their offensive consistency if they hope to make a run in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournaments. Rutgers has eclipsed 70 points only once in their last five games, and the team’s poor free throw shooting (the Scarlet Knights are connecting on only 61.6% of attempts from the line this season) remains a concerning trend that casts doubt on their ability to in big games in the final minutes.
(Last Week: 7)
7. Purdue (13-8, 8-6)
Purdue dropped its only game last week in a frustrating loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. However, the Boilermakers remain a formidable team capable of wreaking havoc in the Big Ten Tournament this March. Matt Painter’s team is ranked 22nd in the country in KenPom’s rankings and is a top 30 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency despite playing one of the most difficult schedules in college basketball. If the Boilermakers can win their games against Northwestern and Michigan State this week, they should be in a good position to punch their NCAA Tournament ticket.
(Last Week: 6)
8. Minnesota (13-8, 6-8)
The Gophers may have lost to Maryland on Sunday night, but their fans still have plenty to feel good about after a week that saw them win two games, including a hard-fought win against Purdue to avenge its loss from a few weeks ago. This week will see the Gophers take on both Illinois and Indiana, and they will need more efficient shooting performances from Marcus Carr if they hope to pull out wins in these important matchups. Minnesota’s guard shot 38% and 26% in his last two outings, and the Gophers tend to struggle when their high-volume leading scorer struggles to make shots from the field.
(Last Week 10)
9. Indiana (11-9, 6-7)
Indiana managed to (eventually) gut out a double overtime win against Northwestern but was soundly defeated in its matchup against Ohio State later in the week. This week’s games against Minnesota and Michigan State present realistic opportunities for the Hoosiers to secure two much-needed wins to bolster their tournament resumes, but it’s tough to project a sweep of these contests with any confidence given Indiana’s inconsistent play throughout most of the season.
(Last Week: 8)
10. Maryland (11-10, 5-9)
The significant others of Maryland’s basketball players likely weren’t crazy about their dates spending the Valentine’s evening in the gym instead of taking them out for a romantic night on the town, but the Terrapins made the most out of the situation by notching a nice win over Minnesota. With three winnable games on the schedule this week (two matchups against Nebraska and one against Rutgers, a team the Terps played evenly through most of the game the last time the two schools met), it may be now or never for Maryland to being playing its way off the NCAA Tournament bubble and into the field of 68.
(Last Week: 11)
11. Michigan State (10-8, 4-8)
Sparty’s win over Penn State was a nice feather in its cap, but any good feelings produced by this victory were largely offset by the beatdown they suffered at the hands of Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeye squad on Saturday. The Spartan offense remains frustratingly inconsistent, and it’s tough to win many games against competent offensive teams when you shoot under 30% from beyond the arc the way Michigan State did against Iowa. Upcoming games against Indiana and Purdue will provide Michigan State with a chance to claim some quality wins, but based on their play of late, it’s tough to project wins in either contest.
(Last Week: 12)
12. Penn State (7-10, 4-9)
I wrote some nice things about Penn State in last week’s power rankings, but after handing Nebraska their first conference win of the season, I’m more than prepared to stick a fork in the Nittany Lions in 2020-2021.
(Last Week: 9)
13. Nebraska (4-12, 1-9)
Between beating Penn State and taking Illinois to overtime, Fred Hoiberg’s team may finally be starting to develop a pulse. Too bad this “hot streak” is coming in mid-February after an 0-9 start in conference play.
(Last Week: 14)
14. Northwestern (6-12, 3-11)
Was Northwestern always this terrible, or did Iowa just break their spirit when they started the Wildcats’ 11-game losing streak by beating them 87-72 back in December? In hindsight, Northwestern’s win over Ohio State might be the biggest upset to hit college basketball this season.
(Last Week: 13)