It’s 2023 and from here on out, we will only witness Big Ten on Big Ten action until the NCAA Tournament. The speculation of the rankings for non-conference play is now irrelevant. Every team is on an even level and each has the opportunity ahead of them to be dancing in March if they perform well during conference play.
With that said, several talented teams, like the Michigan Wolverines, are off to slow starts with ugly losses in the early going. Even the best, Purdue, can fall on any given day.
As the action is underway, let’s take a look at where the teams stack up:
No. 14: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last week: 14)
Sitting at 6-6 overall and 0-2 in the conference, Minnesota hits the road to face the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers after a long layoff due to a cancelation of its game against Alcorn State. I don’t like the Gopher’s chances for this one and many games down the stretch for them.
No. 13: Northwestern Wildcats (Last week: 11)
The Wildcats performed admirably in the non-conference, starting the season 10-2. But, as has been my concern with this team, I don’t know how well they stack up with the Big Ten. A 73-57 blowout loss to Ohio State in Evanston to start the New Year definitely doesn’t help. Especially with games against Illinois and Indiana looming.
No. 12: Michigan Wolverines (Last week: 10)
It was an up-and-down week for the Wolverines, and they have not shown the consistency to be much higher than this. Talent-wise, they should be in the top eight of the conference, but they continue to not put the pieces together. A stunning loss to Central Michigan puts a massive blemish on their resume. They’ll need to be great in Big Ten play to earn an NCAA Tournament spot. Their response against Maryland was mighty impressive, but they have a long way to go to make their season a successful one.
No. 11: Iowa Hawkeyes (Last week: 7)
Make it three straight losses for the Hawkeyes now WITH Kris Murray back in the lineup. Again, this is a team that should be ranked higher because of their losses. The Big Ten is extremely competitive and you have to win in hostile environments. Iowa has not proved it can do that yet.
No. 10: Nebraska Cornhuskers (Last Week: 13)
Nebraska is one of those teams that beat Iowa this week. The Cornhuskers play really well at home, upsetting the Hawkeyes and taking Purdue to OT earlier this year in Lincoln. They also have a signature win over Creighton. The question is if they will compete on the road, and that will be tested in their next two games at Michigan State and at Minnesota.
No. 9: Maryland Terrapins (Last week: 4)
In their last four games against Power 6 opponents, the Terps are 0-4. They were embarrassed by Hunter Dickinson and the Wolverines in an 81-46 loss in their most recent contest. Their 8-0 start was fun, but it’s starting to look more and more like that wasn’t the team they will be throughout the course of the year.
No. 8: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Last Week: 12)
On Monday night, Rutgers pulled off the biggest upset of the year taking down No. 1 Purdue. The Scarlet Knights have now won four in a row and their previous two losses came by a combined three points against Seton Hall and Ohio State. After spanking Indiana earlier this season, they have proved they can compete with anyone.
No. 7: Penn State Nittany Lions (Last week: 9)
Don’t look now, but Penn State has won five in a row, a streak that started and ended with upset wins over Big Ten opponents. Their win against Illinois was a blowout, but the Nittany Lions just beat Iowa on a night Kris Murray scored 32 points. They’ve shown they can hang with anyone in the conference. Unfortunately, their upcoming schedule may be the most difficult in the country. They head to Michigan before playing three straight games against ranked opponents. We're going to find out very quickly how real they are.
No. 6: Michigan State Spartans (Last week: 8)
A big matchup awaits in East Lansing between Michigan and Michigan State this weekend. The Spartans have won three straight at home against mid-major programs, including a 21-point blowout over Buffalo on the last day of 2022. They play Nebraska on Tuesday night first, a game that sneakily could be pretty good.
No. 5: Illinois Fighting Illini (Last week: 6)
Illinois really needs to start stringing together some wins, and it certainly have the names on paper to make a run in the Big Ten. A late-night game on the road against Northwestern appears to be a good opportunity to earn a win against a team with a good record who may not be on the same level. This will be a great indicator of where both teams are at.
No. 4: Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 5)
A team that did just beat Northwestern in Evanston is these Buckeyes. Brice Sensabaugh continues to perform well and when he does well, it makes Ohio State really tough to beat. The Buckeyes will get a shot at Purdue this week for a fun matchup of some talented freshmen guards in the Big Ten.
No. 3: Indiana Hoosiers (Last week: 3)
After consecutive losses to top-10 teams, the Hoosiers have righted the ship with two easy wins over Elon and Kennesaw State. They play a floundering Iowa squad in Iowa City on Thursday in what should be a great game.
No. 2: Wisconsin Badgers (Last week: 2)
Wisconsin is coming off a double-digit win over Western Michigan. After a bout with Minnesota, the Badgers will head to Illinois for a great test on Saturday. Tyler Wahl and Chucky Hepburn continue to be two of the most improved players in the conference and I think they are capable of winning the conference altogether.
No. 1: Purdue Boilermakers (Last week: 1)
Purdue is no longer perfect, but is still the best team in the Big Ten. Rutgers caught the Boilermakers on a cold night on Monday — they shot just 30.4% from deep and 39.6% from the field and still only lost by one point. As long as Zach Edey is averaging 21 and 13, they are going to be one of the toughest teams to beat in college basketball.