Another week and another week of unpredictable play in the Big Ten. This week featured several key Big Ten matchups including MSU vs. Wisconsin, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin, and MSU vs. Indiana. The Big Ten is still very competitive, with five teams within one game of each other, but several tiers have started to space out. There is still plenty to be decided, but fans are starting to get an idea of how things will finish this year. Here are this week's Big Ten power rankings:
Coach Tom Crean and his star Victor Oladipo are primed for their showdown against Michigan this Saturday
#1 - Michigan (6-1) - (No Change)
It seems like the Wolverines should have to start paying rent for the #1 spot since they have been here so often this season. Michigan didn't have any major challenges this week, but they did record solid wins over Purdue at home and Illinois on the road, which secured a #1 overall ranking for Michigan for the first time in almost twenty years. As John Beilein said, the #1 ranking in January means very little, but for a program that missed the NCAA Tournament for a 10 year stretch when Beilein first arrived in Ann Arbor, moving to the top of the polls would be quite significant. Remaining at #1 following this week will be difficult for Michigan with Northwestern at home and Indiana on the road, but Michigan has certainly shown it is an improved squad that can get things done both at home and on the road.
#2 - Indiana (6-1) - (No Change)
The Hoosiers narrowly held on to the 2nd spot last week, but firmly defended it by defeating Penn State and MSU during this week. Penn State is clearly the worst team in the Big Ten, but Indiana took an MSU team that had the best conference record in the Big Ten and had won 6 straight games and beat them at home. It was a close and hard fought game, but Indiana ultimately pulled out the win. Indiana still has a lot of question marks, especially on the defensive side, but their uptempo game can be difficult to stop and they have improved significantly on defense, especially with the development of Victor Oladipo, who is making a case for Player of the Year discussion. Indiana has a great shot at taking control of the Big Ten this week with games against Purdue and Michigan. Rival Purdue will be tough on the road and what should be the #1 Wolverines at home will be tough, but Indiana certainly has the team to win both games and move solely in 1st place of the Big Ten.
#3 - Michigan State (6-2) - (No Change)
MSU moved into 3rd place last week with an impressive win over Ohio State. This week, they had one of the most challenging back-to-back stretches of any team this season with Wisconsin and Indiana on the road. The Spartans were able to scrape out a win against the Badgers, but fell short against the Hoosiers on Sunday. MSU is still a good team and is much improved over their early season play, but they still haven't shown they can compete with the elite Big Ten teams this year (Michigan, Indiana). Their next chance to do so will be on Febuary 12th against Michigan at home. For now, the Spartans have a good shot at maintaining or moving up with only a game against Illinois at home this week. With the continued development of Harris and Dawson, they have a shot at some big things.
#4 - Wisconsin (5-2) - (+1)
This was a spot that got a bit of debate this week. Many will be confused to see the Badgers here. Wisconsin went 1-1 this week, which typically means moving down. This team probably doesn't have enough offense to make a big run at the Big Ten championship, but they just might have enough to keep the streak of Top 4 Big Ten finishes going for Bo Ryan. In the previous eleven seasons at Wisconsin, Bo Ryan has led Wisconsin to at least a 4th place regular season finish in the Big Ten. There was some serious doubt that Wisconsin could do it this year, but with only one game against Michigan (at home) coming up, no games against Indiana, and only one against MSU (on the road), there's a pretty good chance for the Badgers to be able to sneak in at #4 this season. This week, Wisconsin has to go on the road against Ohio State, which could be a key game in that journey towards #4 or better.
#5 - Ohio State (5-2) - (+1)
The Buckeyes move up a spot this week, but largely due so because of the poor play of Minnesota. Ohio State was able to pull off victories over Iowa and Penn State, but are still struggling with a lack of quality wins so far this season. They were able to sneak by Michigan at home and lost closely to MSU on the road, but the Buckeyes are 5-2 in the Big Ten and only one of those wins came against a team in the top half of this week's power rankings. They get their next chance this Tuesday at home against Wisconsin. If they can do well in that game, they have a good chance at moving up next week since their only other game this week is against Nebraska, a team still struggling to compete in the Big Ten.
#6 - Minnesota (3-4) - (-2)
It's rare that a team that loses 4 straight games will ever be this high on a power rankings list. However, when 3 out of those 4 games are on the road and the only home game is against Michigan, there is some room for excuses. The only game where Minnesota was not close at the end of the game was against Michigan, but not very many opponents have been close to the Wolverines this season. This is a crucial point in the schedule for Minnesota. They still have a deeply talented roster that should be able to make a run at the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament, but if they can't rebound against Nebraska and Iowa, they are in some serious trouble. The remainder of Minnesota's schedule is much easier than their last few games, but if they continue to lose to teams like Northwestern, they won't be able to hold on to the #6 spot for much longer.
#7 - Purdue (4-3) - (+1)
Their win over Illinois is looking far less impressive now than it did earlier this year, but they still have a winning record (4-3) in the Big Ten after seven games, which is pretty impressive considering they were 6-6 before Big Ten play began. Along with this, they have won 4 out of their last 5 games and the only loss was on the road against Michigan. They do have the challenge of facing Indiana at home and Northwestern on the road this week, but they certainly at least have a chance against both of these teams.
#8 - Iowa (2-5) - (-1)
With back-to-back wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern, things seemed poised for a turnaround, but Iowa had a let down overtime loss against Purdue on Sunday that caused them to move down in this week's power rankings. Losing in overtime on the road is nothing to be ashamed about, but for a team hoping to go to the NCAA Tournament, winnable road games are vitally important. Iowa still has a great chance to get to .500 in Big Ten play (many say is the magic number for the NCAA Tournament), but they are going to need some road wins to do so. They get their chance to get back on track against Penn State at home and Minnesota on the road this week.
#9- Illinois (2-5) - (No Change)
Illinois is still relying too heavily on Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson to carry them, but they still have a very talented roster and a pretty impressive resume. Unfortunately, things don't get easier for Illinois this week with MSU on the road and Wisconsin at home. If they can rebound with at least a win, they have a shot at maintaining their #9 spot, but if they continue to slid, they may finally move down to the Big Ten's bottom tier.
#10 - Northwestern (3-5) - (No Change)
Purdue may be the most improved team in the Big Ten, but Northwestern can certainly make a case for 2nd. They have won 3 of their last 6 games including wins over Illinois and Minnesota. Unfortunately for Northwestern fans, their loss to Nebraska halted much of their momentum and kept them out of #9 in this week's power rankings. Even though the game was on the road, losing to Nebraska is not something easily excused. Don't expect any big jump this week for Northwestern with a road trip to Ann Arbor looming and a home game against Purdue over the weekend.
#11 - Nebraska (2-6) - (No Change)
This has been a big couple of weeks for the Cornhuskers. Not only did they recently record their first Big Ten victory of the season over Penn State, but they backed that up with a win over Northwestern to give them two Big Ten victories this season, which might have seemed impossible before the year began. Nebraska is gradually getting more competitive, but with Minnesota and Ohio State on the slate this week, Nebraska will probably be right around #11 next week.
#12 - Penn State (0-8) - (No Change)
Penn State still has zero Big Ten wins this season. Many viewed Nebraska as the worst team in the Big Ten, but without Tim Frazier, the Nittany Lions could become one of the worst Big Ten teams in years. Any move up seems highly unlikely. They have Iowa on the road this week.
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