Now that we’re a few weeks into the 2021-22 college basketball season, we have a much clearer picture of how the Big Ten may shake out this year. What has been a mostly disappointing season for Michigan still has promise since it begins conference play today.
The conference has also already seen Ohio State knock off national No. 1 Duke, and Purdue has risen all the way to the peak. Here is our first iteration of the Big Ten power rankings. Expect to see these every Tuesday moving forward throughout the hoops season.
Purdue has essentially demolished everything that has crossed its path. Winners of all eight contests they’ve played, the Boilermakers have marquee wins against No. 5 Villanova as well as No. 18 North Carolina. Even more impressively, they beat the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, a feat Michigan was unable to pull off just a few weeks later. The Boilermakers absolutely deserve to be No. 1 in the country, at least for now.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes struggled out the gate with two losses against Xavier and No. 23 Florida, as well as two uninspiring wins over Akron and Niagara. But since then they’ve been on a tear. Ohio State took care of No. 21 Seton Hall a week before knocking off then-No. 1 Duke, 71-66. EJ Liddell has set a blistering pace with 20.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.4 BPG and 2.5 APG. Those are All-American caliber stats in a small sample size.
I have significant doubts about the makeup of this Michigan State team. With that being said, the Spartans have beaten everyone on their schedule they were supposed to beat and have only lost to elite teams — No. 3 Kansas and No. 6 Baylor. Max Christie appears to be the real deal as Tom Izzo continues to develop the rest of his roster.
Illinois has battled through Kofi Cockburn’s suspension as well as several significant injuries. All the while the Illini only dropped two games, though one was a clunker against Cincinnati. Fully healthy, this is one of the best teams in the conference, as they’ve knocked off Notre Dame and Rutgers in convincing fashion since Thanksgiving.
I expected very, very little from this iteration of Wisconsin given it had almost an entire roster turnover from last year with the exception of Brad Davison. Johnny Davis has smashed all reasonable expectations and led the Badgers to a 7-1 start. Davis is averaging 20.1 PPG and 5.6 RPG to lead the Badgers.
Iowa jumped out to a fantastic start by winning the first seven games, including a 75-74 win at Virginia. However the Hawkeyes weren’t able to pull off the upset at Purdue on Friday night. Keegan Murray has paced them so far to the tune of 24.6 PPG. I expected a sophomore jump from Murray but not quite to this extent.
Michigan’s problems have been well-documented by our site. However, the Wolverines may have had a breakthrough against San Diego State on Saturday afternoon. Frankie Collins may be the answer at point guard and Hunter Dickinson finally flashed his long-range shooting. KenPom still loves the Wolverines, having them at No. 17 despite the three losses.
The Hoosiers are off to a 7-1 start but haven’t had the stiffest of schedules. Their sole loss came in double-overtime to Syracuse in a 112-110 thriller. Trayce Jackson-Davis has been as advertised yet again, but he’ll need help in order for Indiana to compete for the conference.
Expectations were low in Evanston this year, but by all accounts the Wildcats have gotten off to a nice start. With wins over Georgia and Maryland, Northwestern has now won six of its first eight. Last year, the Wildcats struggled mightily in conference play. Time will tell how they fare in the Big Ten this year.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Similar to Northwestern, expectations are low this season for the Golden Gophers. However, they’re off to a 7-0 start against subpar competition. The real challenge begins this week as Minnesota hosts Michigan State on Wednesday and travels to Michigan on Saturday evening.
Penn State has struggled to start the season, dropping four contests already including a loss at UMass. The constant theme in Happy Valley has been a consistent lack of top-tier talent. That appears to be the case again this year. It’s going to be a long season for the Nittany Lions.
Things have gone from bad to worse for the Terrapins lately. Maryland already has four losses, including to George Mason and at home against Northwestern. Mark Turgeon went from a hot name in coaching circles last year and a heated argument opponent of Juwan Howard’s to a mutual parting of ways in under a year. Not many would have expected that given how successful the Terrapins were in the transfer portal over the offseason.
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Since Thanksgiving, Rutgers has lost to UMass, defeated Clemson, and was destroyed by Illinois. Ron Harper Jr. has been largely held in check, and the Scarlet Knights badly miss the transfers they lost in the offseason. It has the feeling of a long year for them.
Nebraska fans had unbridled optimism heading into this season thanks to the McGowens brother’s arrival in Lincoln. That optimism quickly faded in the season opener as they fell to Western Illinois. Nebraska may not be as atrocious as it has been of late, but there is still a long way to go before competency.