Another Big Ten basketball season has begun and this year, like many, appears to show a conference riddled with talented teams that will beat up on each other. There is a legitimate chance 13 of the 14 programs will fight for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. This week proved how tough each team will have it once the conference full season begins.
Let’s recap this week and see where each program stands:
No. 14: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last week: 14)
Minnesota got demolished by Michigan and Mississippi State in a forgettable week. The Gophers have some winnable games coming up, but they just don’t appear to be a team capable of competing in this conference.
No. 13: Northwestern Wildcats (Last week: 13)
Northwestern beat Michigan State in East Lansing recently but had just one game this week: a 61-51 win over Prarie View A&M. That was a two-point game with less than five minutes to go. I still question the legitimacy of its 7-2 start.
No. 12: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Last week: 9)
Rutgers should have beaten Ohio State but was robbed by the refs. That’s not the bad part, though. A loss to Seton Hall a game later, where it scored 43 points and shot 32.6% from the field at home, makes it tough to rank them much higher in a crowded Big Ten.
No. 11: Nebraska Cornhuskers (Last week: 8)
Despite their best efforts, the Cornhuskers couldn’t take down Purdue in overtime. Their guards are exciting, but this was the first Big Ten road test for the Boilermakers. I account for this game being close due to that more than anything else. A blowout loss to Indiana certainly did not help either.
No. 10: Penn State Nittany Lions (Last week: 12)
Penn State lost to Michigan State at home but upset Illinois in Champaign. Jalen Pickett continues to look like one of the best players in the conference. This team proved it can hang with anyone in this conference. Big ups to them, but definitely a lot more for this team to prove.
No. 9: Michigan State Spartans (Last week: 10)
The Spartans beat Penn State in Happy Valley and controlled most of the game in a win over Brown. Their next two weeks should be easy with contests against Oakland and Buffalo.
No. 8: Michigan Wolverines (Last week: 11)
Listen, I ranked the Wolverines rather low last week for two reasons — they had lost consecutive games to opponents they should have beaten, and Jaelin Llewellyn’s injury appeared serious and I questioned what the guard play would look like at the point guard positions. But Dug McDaniel won Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his play against Minnesota and Kobe Bufkin showed flashes in that role, too. There is reason to be encouraged and a game against Lipscomb is another great warm-up opportunity.
No. 7: Iowa Hawkeyes (Last week: 7)
Iowa started on a 15-0 run and cruised to a 21-point win over then-ranked Iowa State. Then, the Hawkeyes took Wisconsin to overtime before losing on a last-second bucket. This team is dangerous and it feels like they could beat any team in the country on a given night.
No. 6: Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 5)
This might be spite, or how the rest of the conference looked this week, but Ohio State drops in my rankings. Its only game should have been a loss at home to Rutgers. Instead, a buzzer-beater that shouldn’t have counted pushed it to a win.
No. 5: Illinois Fighting Illini (Last week: 4)
What a strange week of for Illinois. The Illini beat the No. 2 overall team in the country in an 85-78 win over Texas, and then followed that up with a blowout loss to Penn State. After the game, head coach Brad Underwood ripped his team. It’s tough to even rank them this high after he said this:
"The lack of leadership on this team is zero, it's none. Inexcusable"#Illini coach Brad Underwood on a 74-59 loss to Penn St.— Bret Beherns (@WCIA3Bret) December 10, 2022
"We have been atrocious in practice, maybe the 2 worst days of practice leading up to a game I've been part of...put it bold damn print, leadership" pic.twitter.com/ywXzqJE5Cx
No. 4: Maryland Terrapins (Last week: 2)
After an 8-0 start, Maryland lost both their games this week. The Terps just didn’t have enough in the second half to keep up with Wisconsin. A three-point loss to Tennessee followed that, but they showed a lot of fight after going into the half losing 34-17. I have a feeling this team isn’t going anywhere. With that being said, they face a tough UCLA team this week.
No. 3: Indiana Hoosiers (Last week: 3)
Indiana blew out Nebraska at home to rebound after a loss to Rutgers, but then Arizona controlled the entire game in Las Vegas. The Hoosiers have a chance to redeem themselves on the road against the reigning-National Champion Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday.
No. 2: Wisconsin Badgers (Last week: 6)
Man, have the Badgers looked good this year. They beat Iowa on the road after handing Maryland its first loss of the season. They very nearly upset Kansas earlier this year and their next four games should be easy wins. Their resume stacks up with the best in the Big Ten right now and they could very easily be at the top by the end of the year.
No. 1: Purdue Boilermakers (Last week: 1)
The Boilermakers are currently ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, and they deserve every bit of respect they have received so far. Their true freshmen are playing outstanding basketball alongside the best big man in the nation, Zach Edey. A close call against Nebraska showed that their young guys aren’t fazed in the most difficult of moments. If they keep up this play, they are by far the favorite to win the conference.