We are still feeling out which conference is going to be the best in college basketball this season, and the Big Ten failed in a week that could have shifted a narrative. There is a ton of depth in the conference this season, but there doesn’t appear to be as many elite programs as what was originally thought at the beginning of the year.
In total, the Big Ten went 9-14 against ranked non-conference opponents in the early season. That’s not a record you would like to boast for getting 10+ teams in the tournament in March. From here on out, the conference has limited opportunities to show its strength against any of the other Power 6 programs.
As we approach conference play in 2023, here are how the teams in the Big Ten stack up:
No. 14: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last week: 14)
It’s copy and paste for this bottom spot in the Big Ten. Minnesota let 3-9 Arkansas-Pine Bluff stick around until the final 10 minutes of the game when it pulled away. The Golden Gophers aren’t going anywhere this year.
No. 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers (Last Week: 11)
I was pretty high on Nebraska a couple weeks ago, but now has lost three straight after being blown out on the road in a 71-56 loss to Kansas State. The Cornhuskers shot 19% from three and 32.1% from the field while turning it over 18 times. The kind of inconsistency they have shown makes it tough to rank them much higher, even with some impressive games.
No. 12: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Last Week: 12)
No movement here for Rutgers despite an impressive win over Wake Forest. I suspect it will challenge some of the top teams in the Big Ten this season and hover in the bubble for most of the year.
No. 11: Northwestern Wildcats (Last week: 13)
The Wildcats are making me put a little respect on their name. Boo Buie and Chase Audige have been playing at a really high level and combined for 45 points in a beatdown of DePaul where the Blue Demons only scored 25 points themselves. But they still have a lot to prove once we get into conference play.
No. 10: Penn State Nittany Lions (Last week: 10)
The Nittany Lions' offense exploded to a 55-point second half in their 97-67 win over the Canisius Golden Griffins. They look to make it a three-game winning streak this week against Quinnipiac.
No. 9: Michigan State Spartans (Last week: 9)
The Spartans haven't played since Dec. 10 but host Oakland this week in their penultimate game before the new year.
No. 8: Michigan Wolverines (Last week: 8)
The Wolverines conquered Lipscomb in a game too close for comfort in Ann Arbor. Kobe Bufkin played phenomenally and continues to develop; he and Dug McDaniel will dictate how far Michigan goes this year. They’ll need consistent play from their point guards to be successful in this conference. Wednesday’s matchup with North Carolina will be a nice indicator to see where this team is at heading into 2023.
No. 7: Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 6)
The Buckeyes lost to those Tar Heels on Saturday in overtime. This team has a lot of grit to keep games close, but they lost to North Carolina after needing a buzzer-beater to beat Rutgers (on a play that shouldn't have counted) at home. They’ve played just one true road game this season where they fell to Duke. It’ll be interesting to see where this team is when they are traveling to Big Ten teams consistently.
No. 6: Maryland Terrapins (Last week: 4)
After starting 8-0, the Terps are on a three-game skid to really tough opponents. They would not have slid this far if it were not for a 27-point blowout loss to UCLA. Maryland showed no fight at home, had 16 turnovers and were losing 49-20 at halftime. They’ve opened up the skeptics about if their hot start was a fluke.
No. 5: Iowa Hawkeyes (Last week: 7)
Iowa scores the 15th-most points per game in this season. They put up 106 in a win over Southeast Missouri State where senior forward Filip Rebraca dropped a 30-piece. The Hawkeyes have four players averaging more than 10 points a game and look dangerous heading into 2023. I just have more confidence in their leadership and offense than I do in OSU or Maryland which is why they are ranked higher.
No. 4: Indiana Hoosiers (Last week: 3)
The Hoosiers came into 2022 as potentially the favorite to win the conference. Now they have lost three of four, including some embarrassing performances at No. 8 Kansas and at home against No. 10 Arizona. Indiana is clearly a good team, but has not stepped up to the mark of being a great one.
No. 3: Illinois Fighting Illini (Last week: 5)
It’s so hard to rank Illinois this high, but I’m struggling to find a team deserving of pushing the top-two. If there is going to be a team that can do it, it’s this Illinois squad. Last week, Brad Underwood sat at the mic and called for leadership after losing to Penn State at home. I’m not sure how much you can take away from a 68-47 win over Alabama State, but it at least got the Fighting Illini back in the win column.
No. 2: Wisconsin Badgers (Last week: 2)
Lehigh went into the half in Madison with a 32-31 advantage, but a 47-25 second half for the Badgers showed how dangerous they can be. Outside of Purdue, they have been the most impressive team in the Big Ten this season and have hung around in every game. They’re four points away from being a perfect 11-0. Watch out for Wisco in 2023.
No. 1: Purdue Boilermakers (Last week: 1)
Purdue is locked in at the No. 1 spot in the country for the second week after beating Davidson at home. The problem is when its freshman guards aren’t playing well. That’s happened in the last two games and it’s why those two games have been close. Zach Edey continues to bolster his National Player of the Year odds after a 29/16 performance. If all goes right, there is a real chance Purdue can move into mid-to-late January undefeated. The Boilermakers are the only team that gets the “elite” tag in the Big Ten a third of the way through the season.