1. Michigan (18-1, 13-1)
Who else could really make a case for the #1 spot at this point? Michigan is 18-1 on the season and holds a three-game lead over Illinois in the conference standings, is the only team in the country to post Top Five rankings in both offensive and defensive efficiency according to KenPom, and their commanding win over the Hawkeyes showed that the Wolverines have finally found a defensive answer to Luka Garza, a player who torched them for 77 points over two games last season. Any way you slice it, this team is an NCAA title contender.
(Last Week: 1)
2. Illinois (18-6, 14-4)
Last week was a very up and down one for the Illini. On one hand, Brad Underwood’s team picked up two more conference wins, have locked down the double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, and are projected as a #1 seed in CBS’ latest mock bracket. On the other hand, the Illini not only lost by nine points to Michigan State, but also lost their best player Ayo Dosunmu to a broken nose during this contest. If Dosunmu isn’t available for this week’s pivotal games against Michigan and Ohio State, the Illini could see their stock take an unfortunate tumble right before the Big Ten Tournament.
(Last Week: 2)
3. Iowa (18-7, 12-6)
The Hawkeyes were blown out on the road against Michigan but rebounded by getting their best win of the season in a 73-57 drubbing of #4 Ohio State on the road. The loss of Jack Nunge for the season to a torn meniscus will seriously hurt Iowa’s frontcourt depth going forward, but freshman Keegan Murray was excellent on both ends against the Buckeyes, and the Hawks still boast America’s best college player in center Luka Garza, so don’t expect the team’s interior game to crumble any time soon.
(Last Week: 4)
4. Purdue (16-8, 11-6)
Purdue likely isn’t as good a team as Ohio State, but gets the nod over them for the #4 spot in these rankings by virtue of its three game winning streak and it’s 2-0 record against the Buckeyes this season. The Boilermakers took care of business in their only game last week, easily dispatching of Penn State in a 73-52 road win. Purdue is eyeing upcoming games against Wisconsin and Indiana for a shot to earn a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, something which would have been considered improbable until fairly recently.
(Last Week: 5)
5. Ohio State (18-7, 12-7)
Losses last week to Michigan State and Iowa dropped the Buckeyes to fifth place in both the conference standings and our power rankings, but the sky is certainly not falling even with the team riding a three-game losing streak. Ohio State remains the #7 team in both the current AP poll and KenPom’s rankings, boasts one of the country’s truly elite offenses (even if they didn’t show it against Iowa), and senior forward Kyle Young appears to have recovered from his injury after playing 25 minutes on Sunday. A win over Illinois on this Saturday would be go a long way towards easing the concerns of Buckeye fans heading into the conference tournament.
(Last Week: 3)
6. Maryland (15-10, 9-9)
Michigan State looked like one of the country’s hottest teams after pulling off consecutive upset victories over Illinois and Ohio State, but Maryland managed to scorch the Spartans in Sunday’s 18-point victory that was punctuated by an emphatic dunk from Aaron Wiggins in the final minutes. The Terrapins have likely played their way into the NCAA Tournament field after months of mediocrity, and will look to bolster their resume with wins over Northwestern and Penn State this week.
(Last Week: 7)
7. Wisconsin (16-9, 10-8)
The Badgers have lost three of their last four games, but it’s important for Wisconsin fans not to overreact to this trend. Losses to Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois don’t make the Badgers a bad team, even if they do signal that Wisconsin is not among the conference’s elite programs this season. Difficult road trips to Iowa and Purdue await Greg Gard’s team this week, and victories over one or both opponents could help create some positive momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament, especially if D’Mitrik Trice is able to continue his incredible play from the final moment’s of the Illinois game.
(Last Week: 6)
8. Rutgers (13-9, 9-9)
Rutgers defeated Indiana in the only game last week and may have finally put the Hoosiers out of their misery in doing so. Readers will already know the final score of yesterday’s game between the Scarlet Knights and the Nebraska Cornhuskers by the time this article is released. Later in the week, Rutgers will travel to the Minneapolis seeking a season sweep of an increasingly desperate Minnesota Golden Gopher team.
(Last Week: 8)
9. Michigan State (13-10, 7-10)
Michigan State earned its two best wins of the season by taking down #5 Illinois and #4 Ohio State last week. However, the Spartans’ 73-55 debacle against Maryland complicates their potential NCAA Tournament bid, and most brackets have the team barely sneaking in to the tournament field. Tom Izzo’s squad has three regular season games remaining to prove they deserve a shot to contend for a national title, including two contests against in-state rival Michigan. Finishing 2-1 in these remaining games would likely clinch their bid, going 1-2 might leave some work to be done in the Big Ten Tournament depending on where the win comes, and losing out could be the dagger to the heart of their NCAA aspirations.
(Last Week: 11)
10. Indiana (12-12, 7-10)
The Hoosiers have now lost their past three games, including double-digit defeats to both Rutgers and Michigan last week. Upcoming road trips to Michigan State and Purdue give Indiana a chance to boost their overall record above .500, and wins in both games are likely needed for the Hoosiers to have any chance to sneak into the NCAA Tournament absent running the table in Indianapolis.
(Last Week: 9)
11. Minnesota (13-12, 6-12)
Minnesota was counting on two easy wins against the dregs of the Big Ten to help boost their NCAA Tournament resume. However, the Gophers’ tournament chances are on life support after dropping games against Northwester and Nebraska last week, and head coach Richard Pitino’s seat must be scalding hot after last week’s performances. The Gophers have wins against four of the conference’s top five teams, but with the losses mounting and their first road victory remaining elusive, Minnesota is dangerously close to watching its season slip away, if it hasn’t done so already. Getting big man Liam Robbins back on the floor would help things, and the Gophers need to go 2-0 this week in the worst way.
(Last Week: 10)
12. Penn State (8-13, 5-12)
The Nittany Lions may have gotten blown out by Purdue, but at least they proved that they were slightly better than Nebraska, which is a nice feather in their cap in a season full of disappointment and unmet expectations.
(Last Week: 12)
13. Northwestern (7-14, 4-13)
Northwester has FINALLY ended its losing streak at 13 games, begging the question of whether the Wildcats have figured things out, or whether Minnesota is really just that bad.
(Last Week: 13)
14. Nebraska (6-17, 2-14)
Big Red’s win over Minnesota has been largely soured by the news that the team’s leading scorer Teddy Allen is leaving the program. Iowa fans should be VERY excited to play this team on Thursday.
(Last Week: 14)