Make no mistake about it: college basketball season is in full swing. Whether you’ve watched every Wildcat game this season, have peeped by Welsh-Ryan Arena some nights or are just vaguely familiar with the concept of sports, you’ll probably encounter someone ranting or raving about basketball this quarter.
This handy little power ranking of every team in the Big Ten conference is based on a host of facts, opinions and biases, but will hopefully get you thinking about college basketball more this year and prepare you for the frenzy of March Madness. From ranking the lowly #14 team to the vaunted #1, this piece strives to ensure the freshest updates this season.
14. Penn State (0-8 conference, 7-12 overall)
Recent games: 82-89 L vs. Iowa, 64-65 L @ Minnesota
Penn State won the National Invitational Tournament last year, so is this really the best they can offer? They blew a lead against Minnesota for their eighth Big Ten loss, and if they lose at home to Rutgers on Saturday they could seriously pull a Pittsburgh and go winless in conference play.
13. Rutgers (1-6 conference, 8-9 overall)
Recent games: 54-89 L @ Purdue, 57-65 L vs. Northwestern
Rutgers had hope at one point, believe it or not. Back to reality, their lone conference win against Ohio State is looking worse each day, and they need Eugene Omoruyi to help bring them back to any sort of relevance.
12. Illinois (1-6 conference, 5-13 overall)
Recent games: 95-68 W vs. Minnesota, 71-95 L @ Iowa
In typical Illini fashion, a dominating win against Minnesota was followed by a harsh defeat to Iowa. Their abysmal overall record shows that they’ve struggled to compete all year, but at least they have a conference victory to their name and weren’t destroyed by Michigan.
11. Northwestern (2-5 conference, 11-7 overall)
Recent game: 65-57 W @ Rutgers
If you went into this season expecting Northwestern to hang around in NCAA tournament talks, it’s about time to face reality. The gauntlet of talented conference opponents is going to continue to wear down on a team whose best player, Vic Law, has been struggling as of late, and who’s had no consistent performer outside of Dererk Pardon.
10. Ohio State (2-4 conference, 12-5 overall)
Recent game: 61-75 L vs. Maryland
Speaking of teams who’ve fallen far, Ohio State was once ranked 13th in the nation...but then they lost to Rutgers, and the rest is shaping up to be history. Their recent losses to Iowa and Maryland are great examples of their trajectory: The Buckeyes buckled once the second halves started.
9. Indiana (3-4 conference, 12-6 overall)
Recent games: 51-66 L vs. Nebraska, 55-70 L @ Purdue
Take a look at the Hoosiers and you'll see four straight losses, including a collapse to Maryland, then remember that their 3-0 conference start came from wins against bottom-tier teams. Suddenly this team’s hype is vanishing, as is star freshman Romeo Langford’s efficiency.
8. Minnesota (4-3 conference, 14-4 overall)
Recent games: 68-95 L @ Illinois, 65-64 W vs. Penn State
Minnesota started off pretty decent heading into this week, until they decided to get blown out by Illinois while barely surviving an upset by Penn State. Amir Coffey in particular would probably like to have a do-over: He had a combined 5-for-24 from the field across both games.
7. Nebraska (3-4 conference, 13-5 overall)
Recent games: 66-51 W @ Indiana, 64-70 L vs. Michigan State
Nebrasketball so far has been a safe middle-of-the-pack bet: They've had good wins over lesser teams, and close defeats to better opponents. One thing to note: leading scorer James Palmer Jr. has one of the worst shooting averages in the Big Ten.
6. Iowa (5-3 conference, 16-3 overall)
Recent games: 89-82 W @ Penn State, 95-71 W vs. Illinois
Iowa hasn’t had the best time in conference play so far, and their away games are particularly discomforting. But when they keep winning it’s hard to discredit them, especially when they ran the table in non-conference play and just annihilated Illinois with some insane shooting: 68 percent from the field, 71.4 percent beyond the arc.
5. Wisconsin (4-3 conference, 12-6 overall)
Recent games: 60-64 @ vs. Maryland, 64-54 W vs. Michigan
Call it a curse or call it an off game, but when Michigan rolled around Madison Saturday, Wisconsin (reeling from close losses to good teams) balled their hearts out for their best win of the season. Ethan Happ had a fantastic performance, and the team’s shutdown defense outdid the Wolverines.
4. Purdue (5-2 conference, 12-6 overall)
Recent games: 89-54 W vs. Rutgers, 70-55 W vs. Indiana
Purdue had a rough schedule from November to late December, but things have finally been clicking for the team. Carsen Edwards is making his case for Big Ten MVP with an insane 24.6 points per game, well above the next-best conference scorer.
3. Maryland (7-1 conference, 16-3 overall)
Recent games: 64-60 W vs. Wisconsin, 75-61 W @ Ohio State
A close away loss to Purdue early in the season is all that’s kept Maryland from a perfect conference record. The team followed up a scare against Wisconsin with a fantastic offensive performance against Ohio State, where Bruno Fernando kept up averaging a double-double on the season.
2. Michigan (6-1 conference, 17-1 overall)
Recent game: 54-64 L @ Wisconsin
For as good as Michigan has been with its victories over ranked teams, their conference schedule and results left a lot to be desired heading into the week. And when finally faced with a formidable Big Ten challenge in Wisconsin, they (read: Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews) came up short.
1. Michigan State (7-0 conference, 16-2 overall)
Recent game: 70-64 W @ Nebraska
No other team in the Big Ten can boast a conference resume like Michigan State’s, who’ve quietly turned themselves into an apex predator in the college basketball world. Cassius Winston had an excellent night against Nebraska, and the Spartans were able to pull away late for another win.