Due to many schools being in finals week and a handful of Covid cancellations, only 10 games were played this week involving Big Ten teams. In those 10 games, the conference went 9-1 with the lone loss being Nebraska on Sunday.
The schedule remains a bit bleak through the holidays but then ramps up almost immediately in January. Let’s reassess where things stand leading up to Christmas.
1. Purdue Boilermakers
Previous Ranking: 1
Purdue continued to impress with routes over both Butler and Incarnate Word. Jaden Ivey went a perfect 6-for-6 from three against Butler as Ivey, Williams and Edey continue to pace the Boilermakers. Ivey’s ascent up draft boards is something to watch as Big Ten play ramps up.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Previous Ranking: 2
The Buckeyes were idle this week due to Covid. Their next scheduled game isn’t until Dec. 28 against New Orleans prior to traveling to Nebraska on Jan. 2.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Previous Ranking: 3
The Spartans were idle this week as they prepare to face Oakland. That game will be played at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit tonight.
4. Illinois Fighting Illini
Previous Ranking: 4
Illinois bounced back from its loss to Arizona with an absolute demolition of St. Francis (Pennsylvania), 106-48. In what was clearly a buy-game, Kofi Cockburn put up 21 points and 11 rebounds on only 11 shots. Next up is an intriguing matchup with Mizzou on Wednesday.
5. Indiana Hoosiers
Previous Ranking: 6
The Hoosiers had the best win of the week in the Big Ten by knocking off Notre Dame at a neutral site, 64-56. Indiana had four players in double-figures and held the Fighting Irish to just 4-of-22 shooting from three-point land. IU is now 9-2 with a chance to get to 10 wins before Christmas with a win against Northern Kentucky on Wednesday.
6. Wisconsin Badgers
Previous Ranking: 5
I may look like a hypocrite for placing the Hoosiers above the Badgers, given Wisconsin defeated Indiana just two week ago. However, in those two weeks all Wisconsin has done is get clobbered by Ohio State and have to come from behind in the second half to defeat Nicholls, 71-68. Johnny Davis missed the Nicholls game due to illness, but showed just how valuable he is to the Badger offense as they struggled to score without him.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes
Previous Ranking: 7
Iowa easily handled Utah State this week, 94-75. Keegan Murray is quietly putting together a spectacular year. Against the Aggies, Murray dropped 35 points on only 17 shot equivalents. That kind of efficiency is generally unheard of at the college level. The sophomore out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is going to need more help if the Hawkeyes are going to make a run this year.
8. Michigan Wolverines
Previous Ranking: 9
Michigan took care of business against Southern Utah on Saturday. I hesitate to call this a bounce-back game as we’ve seen the Wolverines dominate lesser competition routinely this year after losses, only for the turnaround to be fool’s gold. However, some of the signs of progress we saw may be able to stick, such as more aggressiveness out of DeVante’ Jones on offense and better spacing.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous Ranking: 8
Minnesota won its one and only game this week against Texas A&M, 79-71. However, it’s hard to feel great about the effort as the Golden Gophers were up by 19 at halftime before almost squandering a second-half lead. Again, I know it may be hypocritical to place the Wolverines above the Golden Gophers despite the head-to-head result recently, but I still believe Michigan deserves to be higher.
10. Northwestern Wildcats
Previous Ranking: 10
Northwestern continued to play one of the easiest schedules in the country by easily dispatching Illinois-Springfield, 90-50. The scoring was very balanced and the Wildcats now sit at 8-2. However, until the schedule stiffens up, I don’t think anyone will be able to take them seriously.
11. Maryland Terrapins
Previous Ranking: 11
The Terrapins were idle this week.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Previous Ranking: 12
The Scarlet Knights were idle this week thanks to a cancellation and a postponement. Next up is a matchup with Maine on Dec. 29 prior to a trip to Ann Arbor on Jan. 4.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions
Previous Ranking: 13
The Nittany Lions were idle this week as both their games were cancelled. Next up is a non-conference game with lowly Delaware State.
14. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous Ranking: 14
Nebraska lost its sole game this week against Kansas State, but they put up a better fight than expected. Now 5-7, it will be tough for Fred Hoiberg to keep the wheels from falling off. The Huskers will need more from Keisei Tominaga as he is supposed to be their three-point specialist but shot only 2-of-10 from deep against the Wildcats.