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Big Ten Hoops Power Rankings: January 18

Purdue’s thrilling 2OT win over Illinois highlighted an action-packed week of conference play.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Since last Tuesday, we’ve seen some thrilling Big Ten basketball around the conference. Notably, Rutgers suffered a terrible loss to Penn State while Northwestern shocked an unexpecting Michigan State. However, in the highlight of the slate, Purdue took down Illinois in double-overtime on Monday afternoon. Let’s examine how these games shake up our rankings this week.

1. Purdue Boilermakers 15-2 (4-2)

Previous Ranking: 1

I mentioned last week that I was ready to knock the Boilermakers down a notch if they faltered this week. How did Purdue respond to some subpar performances? They demolished Nebraska and beat the second best team in the conference, Illinois, in double-overtime. Zach Edey has been praised all year long for his development, but I wanted to see how things would go against Kofi Cockburn before I gave him too much praise. He passed the test with flying colors as Cockburn fouled out and Edey put up 20 points and eight rebounds.

2. Illinois Fighting Illini 13-4 (6-1)

Previous Ranking: 2

Illinois dispatched a short-handed Michigan team with relative ease at home on Friday night. The Illini then fell just short of knocking off No. 4 Purdue in a thriller. With Andre Curbelo finally back, the sky is the limit for this team in the postseason.

3. Wisconsin Badgers 14-2 (5-1)

Previous Ranking: 3

Wisconsin just keeps on winning. Having beaten yet another ranked team in Ohio State, the Badgers are now 14-2 on the year and have won six straight. Even more importantly, Johnny Davis is finally getting some help. Against the Buckeyes, Brad Davison scored 25 while Tyler Wahl chipped in 20. This kind of production by non-Davis Badgers will be pivotal down the stretch.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes 11-4 (5-2)

Previous Ranking: 5

Ohio State continued to scuffle this week, relatively speaking. The Buckeyes couldn’t overcome the Badgers, falling 78-68, prior to another uninspiring win over Penn State, 61-56. The Buckeyes are one of the most talented teams in the Big Ten top to bottom, but things just aren’t clicking yet in Columbus. Luckily, the schedule gets way easier as they host IUPUI and Nebraska this week.

5. Michigan State Spartans 14-3 (5-1)

Previous Ranking: 4

Michigan State suffered one of the more stunning losses of the season, losing to Northwestern 64-62. The Spartans coughed the ball up 17 times and their offense never really got going, with the entire starting five only accounting for 25 points. This was quite an embarrassing performance on their home floor, but should be a one-off for the season.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes 13-4 (3-3)

Previous Ranking: 7

Last week, we questioned Iowa’s staying power due to its ability to stay in big games but an inability to finish. This week, the Hawkeyes had a big win over Indiana, 83-74, and a solid win at the Barn in Minnesota, 81-71. Iowa’s got a shot at being ranked in the upcoming rankings and has a relatively easy schedule coming up with Rutgers and Penn State on the docket.

7. Indiana Hoosiers 13-4 (4-3)

Previous Ranking: 6

Right after a huge week with wins over Ohio State and Minnesota, the Hoosiers fell back down to Earth with a loss at Iowa and a lackluster win at Nebraska. Indiana continues to be the hardest team to rank week in and week out as you never know which Indiana team you’ll get. However, at this point I think there’s a pretty clear top seven in the conference that ends with Indiana included.

Large Gap

8. Penn State Nittany Lions 8-7 (3-4)

Previous Ranking: 11

Penn State smashed Rutgers, 66-49, prior to hanging tough in a five-point loss at Ohio State. I may be overreacting to the win over Rutgers, but Penn State’s only conference losses are to Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have had no trouble with the bottom half of the conference. Do I believe they’ll stay this high the remainder of the season? Probably not, but for now they deserve to be eighth.

9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 10-6 (4-2)

Previous Ranking: 8

On the flip side to Penn State, Rutgers had an up and down week. The Scarlet Knights were crushed by Penn State but rebounded nicely with a win at Maryland. Ron Harper Jr. has been on fire of late, scoring 31 points on 16 shots against the Terrapins. However, the bench has barely existed, only scoring eight total points against Maryland. Rutgers will need to be more consistent if it wants to compete in the conference.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers 10-5 (1-5)

Previous Ranking: 9

The Golden Gophers had a rough week, albeit against tough competition. They fell to Michigan State in East Lansing, 71-69 thanks to a Joey Hauser buzzer-beater prior to falling at home against Iowa, 81-71. Jamison Battle continues to lead the way in scoring on a team that lacks a true scoring threat. Penn State and Rutgers are up next in a chance for Minnesota to change their fortunes.

11. Michigan Wolverines 7-7 (1-3)

Previous Ranking: 10

Michigan returned from their Covid pause by falling to Illinois, 68-53. If you’re a glass half-full type of person, it’s easy to say this was the Wolverines’ best effort to date in conference play despite no Hunter Dickinson or Brandon Johns Jr. If you’re a glass half-empty type of person, all you’d have to do is point out Michigan’s best effort to date still resulted in a 15-point loss.

12. Maryland Terrapins 9-8 (1-5)

Previous Ranking: 13

Maryland finally picked up its first conference win this week against Northwestern, 94-87, before falling to Rutgers. The win over the Wildcats was desperately needed and it was a solid all-around effort, as four Terrapins scored 17 or more points. There’s still a long, likely insurmountable road in front of them to climb back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble.

13. Northwestern Wildcats 9-6 (2-4)

Previous Ranking: 12

I wanted to give Northwestern more credit for having its biggest win of the season this week against Michigan State. However, I just couldn’t do it when it also lost to one of the worst teams in the conference. The Wildcats will likely be a team nobody wants to play in the Big Ten Tournament, but that’s about it.

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers 6-13 (0-8)

Previous Ranking: 14

An 0-3 week certainly didn’t help Fred Hoiberg’s job security as the Cornhuskers losing streak extended to six games. Up next for Nebraska are a trip to Columbus before Wisconsin heads to town. I’d be shocked if Nebraska’s losing streak didn’t extend to eight games at the least.