This conference is a blessing and a curse, depending on who you ask.
From the perspective of a neutral outsider, the Big Ten is a thrilling league where upsets can happen any given day and from which teams will certainly have deep runs come March.
From the perspective of a coach or a player, the Big Ten is a brutal monster where no team is assured a win and the only time you can catch your breath is once the game clock hits zero.
And from my perspective, as a power ranker, the Big Ten is a mess of teams that seem to have no real clear directions or trends anymore. Nevertheless, I persist on.
This handy little power ranking of every team in the 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 (0-9 conference, 7-13 overall)
Previous Rank: 14
Recent game: 60-64 L vs. Rutgers
There seems to be only one certainty in Big Ten basketball this year: Penn State is bad. While the Rutgers team they lost to is certainly no pushover like their football counterpart, the Nittany Lions’ only role for the rest of the season is to try and play spoiler against better teams. Even with no expectations, that’s a tall order.
13. Illinois (2-7 conference, 6-14 overall)
Previous Rank: 12
Recent games: 60-72 L vs. Wisconsin, 78-67 W vs. Maryland
Illinois probably played Wisconsin way closer than they should have, but a win against Maryland at Madison Square Garden could bode well for their future. Their solid defensive potential was on display against the Terrapins, and their bench had a strong showing. Even with a dismal season so far, this team has some life.
12. Rutgers (3-6 conference, 10-9 overall)
Previous Rank: 13
Recent games: 76-69 W vs. Nebraska, 64-60 W @ Penn State
Good on the Scarlet Knights for having a successful week against beatable opponents. Managing to pull out a win late against the Nebraska and to not choke on the road against Penn State affords this team some confidence. Tune in next week to see if that actually translates into anything.
11. Indiana (3-6 conference, 12-8 overall)
Previous Rank: 9
Recent games: 66-73 L @ Northwestern, 46-69 L @ Michigan
I’m sure Juwan Morgan has had enough. This team will get anywhere if Romeo Langford and the rest of the squad keep on being no-shows. The Indiana faithful shouldn’t be calling for second-year head coach Archie Miller’s head yet, but it doesn’t appear they’re headed to the NCAA Tournament this year.
10. Northwestern (3-6 conference, 12-8 overall)
Previous Rank: 11
Recent games: 73-66 W vs. Indiana, 46-62 L @ Wisconsin
The Wildcats have yet to beat any solid teams this season, and their second-half performance against the Badgers shows why. There simply isn’t enough offense on this team outside of random standout performances (*cough* Aaron Falzon *cough*). Law has been much more productive defensively as of late, but the problem is that his shot has vanished.
9. Nebraska (3-6 conference, 13-7 overall)
Previous Rank: 7
Recent games: 69-76 L @ Rutgers, 60-70 L vs. Ohio State
Nebraska going 0-2 this week could be a bad turning point halfway through Big Ten play. The bench scored a total of nine points in the Huskers’ two games this week, which is in itself not a good look. It gets even worse, however, when you realize that Isaac Copeland Jr. is out for the rest of the season and that there may be no real solution for his absence.
8. Ohio State (3-5 conference, 13-6 overall)
Previous Rank: 10
Recent game: 67-79 L vs. Purdue, 70-60 W @ Nebraska
If Copeland isn’t injured in Ohio State’s game against Nebraska, it’s very possible that the Buckeyes would be staring at six straight losses right now. They’re up a couple spots because of the disappointing performances of other teams. They do have a favorable stretch of the schedule coming up, but first they have to face Michigan on the road, which could get ugly.
7. Iowa (5-5 conference, 16-5 overall)
Previous Rank: 6
Recent games: 67-82 L vs. Michigan State, 87-92 L @ Minnesota
The Hawkeyes are a much better team than their ranking on this competitive list would indicate. They played up to Michigan State until the second half, and went to the wire in a thriller against Minnesota. Tyler Cook is great, but their heavy paint presence will probably be exploited by a better team in March.
6. Minnesota (5-4 conference, 15-5 overall)
Previous Rank: 8
Recent games: 57-59 L @ Michigan, 92-87 W vs. Iowa
The Gophers are way too slept on, especially by this writer. Jordan Murphy is a serious threat, and their near upset over the Wolverines at Ann Arbor could’ve really boosted their resume. They could be a trendy pick for a surprising deep run in either the Big Ten or the NCAA tournament.
5. Wisconsin (6-3 conference, 14-6 overall)
Previous Rank: 5
Recent games: 72-60 W @ Illinois, 62-46 W vs. Northwestern
They didn’t get wins against high quality opponents, but Wisconsin performed fine enough. Remember how I said Carsen Edwards is at the level of conference player of the year? Also in the running is Ethan Happ, who recorded his second career triple-double against the Wildcats and is averaging 18.9 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.
4. Maryland (7-3 conference, 16-5 overall)
Previous Rank: 3
Recent games: 55-69 L @ Michigan State, 67-78 L vs. Illinois
Sure, there were two losses after a near flawless conference record, but it’s not time to panic in Maryland. The Terrapins were handled by a competitive Michigan State team, and were frustrated defensively, but not overwhelmed, by Illinois. They have a difficult schedule coming up that will test their mettle and see to which seed they’ll take in March.
3. Purdue (7-2 conference, 14-6 overall)
Previous Rank: 4
Recent games: 79-67 W @ Ohio State, 73-63 W vs. Michigan State
The Boilermakers are the hottest team in the conference right now, and every other team in the Big Ten should be worried about them. They faced a Spartans team that has shown second half fortitude multiple times, and won in part thanks to clutch free throws shooting. Their rough start to the season is limiting them to #3 for now (especially when considering there's still two one-loss teams), but it’s likely they move up soon.
2. Michigan (8-1 conference, 19-1 overall)
Previous Rank: 2
Recent games: 59-57 W vs. Minnesota, 69-46 W @ Indiana
Surviving Minnesota and then blowing out Indiana is a great example of how Michigan is certainly beatable, but threatening enough to worry the nation. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them beat a very good team (#11 North Carolina). They need a solid conference win so we can see if they have what it takes to win the Big Ten Championship again.
1. Michigan State (9-1 conference, 18-3 overall)
Previous Rank: 1
Recent games: 69-55 W vs. Maryland, 82-67 W @ Iowa, 63-73 L @ Purdue
They lost to Purdue, so why are they still my top team? I’ll stop you right there: a three game week against solid conference opponents doesn’t afford a team much rest, and their defeat was to the surging Boilermakers on their home court. And they’re still playing well even without Joshua Langford, furthering my belief that they’ll continue to be a fantastic team whether or not he’s in the lineup.