Today is Feb. 1, which means we are officially one month closer to the best month of the year for college basketball fans. The top of the Big Ten has started to pull away a bit, as five teams really stand out above the rest. Let’s get to this week’s power rankings.
Previous Ranking: 1
Purdue gave its best attempt at choking away a 17-point second-half lead to Ohio State but managed to hang on. That win and a solid win at Iowa have the Boilermakers in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten, as they have been most of the year. Are they good enough to end the drought of a Big Ten team making it to the national championship? I doubt it, but they are certainly the conference’s best shot.
2. Illinois Fighting Illini 15-5 (8-2)
Previous Ranking: 2
Illinois fended off a Michigan State rally to win, 56-55, despite not scoring a single point in the last 5:33. Despite the lack of closing ability, the win itself was massive for the Fighting Illini. Trent Frazier has blossomed into a star and has Illinois sitting at the top of the standings. With that being said, Illinois’s long-term history of crashing out of the big dance doesn’t give me much confidence until I’m proven otherwise.
Previous Ranking: 3
It’s easy to beat your in-state rival at home when you shoot scorched-earth in front of your home crowd. Tom Izzo and the Spartans narrowly fell to Illinois this week prior to shredding the Wolverines at home on Saturday. Michigan State will easily remain in the thick of the Big Ten race, but will need to reach that next level if it wants to compete nationally.
Previous Ranking: 4
Wisconsin got back into the win column twice by beating Nebraska and Minnesota in somewhat-underwhelming performances. Now winners of nine of their last 10, the Badgers have cemented themselves as a Big Ten contender thanks to some great performances by Johnny Davis’s supporting cast. They will have a chance to move up this list in the next eight days as they travel to both Illinois and Michigan State.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes 13-5 (6-3)
Previous Ranking: 5
Ohio State took care of business against Minnesota prior to coming oh-so-close to beating Purdue in Mackey Arena in what would have been a signature win for the Buckeyes. Instead, they’ll have to take care of a relatively weak schedule with their next six games against unranked opponents. Time will tell if they can take care of business.
Previous Ranking: 6
Following the loss to Michigan, Indiana has had two nice wins against Penn State and a surging Maryland team. In case you were wondering, I’m still very much on the fence about this Hoosier team. With four of their next five games against ranked competition, we’ll have a much better sense of where they belong shortly.
Previous Ranking: 7
The wheels have begun to fall off for the Hawkeyes. Losers of three of their last four, they couldn’t get the job done against Purdue or in double-overtime at Penn State, falling 90-86. I so desperately wanted to drop them down in these power rankings, but there were no teams deserving enough to move up, so I had no choice but to keep them there.
Previous Ranking: 10
Make no mistake, the Wolverines didn’t deserve to move up two spots in this week’s power rankings due to their play in the second half on Saturday against Michigan State. A miserable effort on the defensive end of the floor has set Michigan back quite a bit in its hunt for the tournament. But in the grand scheme of things, a 1-1 week with a loss to a top-10 team is forgivable compared to the remaining teams in the Big Ten.
9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 12-8 (6-4)
Previous Ranking: 9
It must be frustrating to be a Scarlet Knights basketball fan. The team is good enough to beat Purdue and Iowa but are so inconsistent that they fall to teams like Maryland in critical situations. They couldn’t defend the three-point line, as Maryland shot 48% from deep. They did have a bounce-back win against Nebraska, 63-61, but at this point only beating Nebraska by two is a disappointment.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers 11-7 (2-7)
Previous Ranking: 8
Minnesota hit arguably the roughest part of its schedule and paid the price for it. The Golden Gophers fell to Ohio State, 75-64, and subsequently Wisconsin, 66-60. Next up in their gauntlet are Purdue and Iowa on the road. If they can pick up one win out of those two, it would do wonders for program morale.
Previous Ranking: 11
Penn State struggled mightily in a loss to Indiana at Assembly Hall but bounced back nicely in a thrilling, double-overtime win against Iowa. Penn State had five players in double figures and out-rebounded Iowa 53-43. This isn’t necessarily a good Penn State team, but they’ve done a nice job of staying competitive throughout the season.
Previous Ranking: 12
The Terrapins played one of their best games of the season on Tuesday against Rutgers in a 68-60 win. They have officially gotten up off the mat and should stay solidly out of the Big Ten cellar through the rest of this year. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep the momentum going against Indiana.
Previous Ranking: 13
This iteration of Northwestern basketball is certainly fun, despite not being able to win many games. The Wildcats are becoming a one-trick pony by taking every game down to the wire before inevitably falling. This week, Northwestern lost heartbreakers to both Michigan and Illinois. If moral victories were a thing, the Wildcats would be 2-0 on the week. Sadly, they aren’t.
Previous Ranking: 14
Nebraska stayed shockingly competitive in both games this week, but lost both. Say what you will about Fred Hoiberg and company, but the fight and effort are still there.