This week, we saw quite a few teams in the middle of the pack try to separate themselves from the pack. Some succeeded while others didn’t. Luckily, outside of the Michigan basketball program, most others weren’t affected nearly as much by Covid, so we got a full slate of games. Now just two months away from the Big Ten Tournament, the conference predictably remains a jumbled mess.
Previous Ranking: 1
Purdue’s only game since our last power rankings was a 74-67 win at Penn State. The Boilermakers struggled to pull away and are regressing a bit on defense. A few weeks ago, it was very much Purdue vs. the field for the Big Ten title. That is certainly not the case now. Purdue is a mediocre performance or two away from being dethroned.
2. Illinois Fighting Illini 11-3 (4-0)
Previous Ranking: 3
Illinois is now ranked but only at No. 25. The Fighting Illini had two easier wins this week against Minnesota and Maryland and have climbed all the way up to No. 11 per KenPom. The disparity between KenPom and the AP Poll continues to be stunning while Illinois just keeps on winning.
Previous Ranking: 5
Wisconsin easily handled an underrated Iowa team before surviving a blown 21-point lead against Maryland. However, Johnny Davis continues to steal the show. Now solidly into the season, Davis still leads the Badgers in points (22.3), rebounds (7.4), assists (2.6), and steals (1.4). The Badgers are all the way up to No. 13 nationally and have to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2021-22 season.
Previous Ranking: 4
Michigan State had no trouble with Nebraska prior to its rivalry game with Michigan being postponed. The Spartans are loved by both KenPom and the polls despite not having the toughest of schedules so far this season. The meat of the schedule is still a few weeks away so expect Tom Izzo and company to keep climbing in the meantime.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes 10-3 (4-1)
Previous Ranking: 2
The Buckeyes hit their first real rough patch of the season with a lopsided defeat to Indiana, 67-51, followed up by listless defensive performance against Northwestern in a 95-87 win. The fact the Hoosiers beat the Buckeyes wasn’t stunning in and of itself. The manner in which the Hoosiers won was what was stunning. Trayce Jackson-Davis imposed his will, going 11-of-17 from the field while E.J. Liddell just couldn’t get going, shooting 3-of-12.
Previous Ranking: 7
The Hoosiers had as big a week as anyone in the conference this week with wins over Ohio State and Minnesota. Those are both big, statement wins coming off a loss to Penn State just after the New Year. Next up is Iowa on Thursday in what should be another tight conference game.
Previous Ranking: 6
Iowa couldn’t hang with a red-hot Wisconsin team, falling 87-78. Keegan Murray again exploded for 27 points but didn’t get much help. KenPom has Iowa at No. 26 and I fully believe this is a good Hawkeye squad. However, if they can’t turn their potential into wins, they won’t be able to contend in the conference, let alone nationally.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 9-5 (3-1)
Previous Ranking: 11
Rutgers also had a solid week in conference play. The Scarlet Knights took down Michigan at home, 75-67, and then demolished Nebraska, 93-65. I may have underestimated Rutgers early on this season. I had expected the Scarlet Knights to take a significant step back thanks to all the transfers they lost. Rutgers appears just as good, if not better than last year.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers 10-3 (1-3)
Previous Ranking: 8
On the flip side from Rutgers, Minnesota had a rough week. The Golden Gophers were only able to put together 53 points in a losing effort against Illinois and 60 points in a loss to Indiana. It’s safe to say their offensive attack is struggling and the schedule doesn’t get any easier from here. Minnesota travels to East Lansing on Wednesday for a showdown with No. 10 Michigan State.
Previous Ranking: 9
Prior to being plagued by Covid issues within the program, Michigan’s lone performance of the week was an uninspired effort against Rutgers. At this point, the situation is dire in Ann Arbor and things need to change in a hurry if the Wolverines want to even sniff the NCAA Tournament. But the team needs to get healthy before any of that happens.
Previous Ranking: 12
Penn State took care of Northwestern before putting up a valiant effort in a loss to Purdue. Jalen Pickett has been a pleasant surprise of late for the Nittany Lions by putting up 18 and 21 points respectively in their last two games. Next up is Rutgers before a trip to Columbus on Sunday.
Previous Ranking: 10
Northwestern has now lost three straight as it was unable to squeak out wins against Michigan State, Penn State or Ohio State. The Wildcats hung tough in all three and didn’t lose by double-digits in any of the contests. However, staying close won’t get you a tournament bid. They desperately need a win in their next game against the....
Previous Ranking: 13
Last week we mentioned Maryland needing a jolt in the post-Turgeon era. One week later and the Terrapins still need an injection of energy. With losses to Illinois and a heartbreaker against Wisconsin, Maryland is now 0-4 in conference play. Any hope of a turnaround appears to be lost.
Previous Ranking: 14
Not much is going right in Lincoln these days. The Cornhuskers at least managed to stay in the game against Michigan State before finally falling. However, a blowout loss to Rutgers seemed more par for the course.