Week 10 B1G basketball power rankings: Purdue suffers loss, but can it hang on to No. 1?
On any night in the Big Ten, it seems anything is possible.
This week alone saw Purdue lose at home, then recover to earn victories at Ohio State and Penn State (in Philadelphia). Iowa, which looked like a lost team only a few days ago, rallied from down 21 to beat visiting Indiana, then went on the road to get a win at Rutgers, at one of the most challenging venues in the country. Michigan State has won 6 straight, after looking like injuries would sap the Spartans of a chance at a Big Ten run.
Where does that leave everyone in Week 10? Let’s take a look at our B1G power rankings:
Record: 6-8 overall, 0-4 in the Big Ten | Last week: 14
After falling to Nebraska in overtime at home on Saturday, the Golden Gophers dropped to 0-4 in Big Ten play without an obvious end to the conference losing streak. They’ll get the Cornhuskers again on Feb. 25, but that’s in the 3rd-to-last game of the season and it’s in Lincoln. Minnesota has at least shown a willingness to battle, as the lost 2 losses are by 3 (at Wisconsin) and by 2 (in OT to Nebraska). Nobody is showing up to watch at The Barn either, which adds to the depression in Minneapolis.
Record: 9-7, 2-3 | Last week: 11
A loss at Minnesota would have nuked the narrative that the Cornhuskers are improved this season, so by that standard it was a gigantic victory. Forward Derrick Walker had a big game, helping to rally Nebraska with 22 points and a career-high 7 rebounds. Nebraska has won 2 of its past 3, perhaps taking a bit of a step forward but the next week — a home game vs. Illinois Tuesday, then a trip to Purdue on Friday — will be a better measuring stick for progress.
Record: 10-5, 1-3 | Last week: 4
IU is a shell of what it thought it would be right now, with Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson both sidelined by injuries indefinitely. That has forced the Hoosiers to lean heavily on Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had 18 points and 24 rebounds but in a loss to Northwestern on Sunday in Bloomington. Here’s the real issue: Indiana isn’t playing defense, and that started before the injuries set in. In its past 5 games against power conference opponents, IU is giving up an average of 84 points. Even with the emergence of Jalen Hood-Schifino (33 points vs. NU), the Hoosiers aren’t talented enough offensively to play that style and win.
Record: 10-6, 2-3 | Last week: 13
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Iowa might have salvaged its season by winning back-to-back games against Indiana and at Rutgers in the last week, ending what had been a miserable 3-game slid. The win in Jersey Mike’s might be particularly important when looking at NCAA résumés in early March, because the Hawkeyes are going to have to do as much as possible to erase the stain of the Eastern Illinois home loss. Payton Sandfort broke out of his sophomore slump at Rutgers, where he scored 22 points, including 14 in the 2nd half. He’ll be a critically important player as Patrick McCaffery (mental health check) takes a leave from the team.
Record: 9-6, 3-1 | Last week: 12
Michigan sits 3-1 in Big Ten play, just a half-game behind Purdue for 1st place in the league, so that’s good news. But the bad news seems more relevant; Michigan is still woefully inconsistent, as it showed in a loss at Michigan State on Saturday, when the Wolverines received good games from Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard, but little else. Howard hit a couple 3-pointers, but his teammates combined to go 1-of-14. Michigan’s next 4 games (at Iowa, Northwestern, at Maryland and Minnesota) are a manageable slate, so the time to build consistency is now.
9. Penn State
Record: 11-5, 2-3 | Last week: 5
Jalen Pickett is an absolute star and probably the best guard in the Big Ten. But for Penn State, he has to do a little bit of everything — and maybe too much, really — including be the Nittany Lions’ only interior scorer. And that narrow margin, as PSU must shoot well to win, provides a challenge for Micah Shrewsberry’s group. It was in a loss to Purdue on Sunday in the Palestra, when the Boilermakers locked down on the Lions’ shooters in the 2nd half. Shrewsberry complained about officiating after the loss, not so much blaming the defeat on bad calls, but feeling like his team, Pickett in particular, should be getting to the line more frequently.
Record: 11-5, 2-3 | Last week: 9
Jahmir Young to the rescue. The transfer had 30 points and 11 rebounds in a home victory over Ohio State on Sunday, ending Maryland’s 3-game conference losing streak (and 5 games to major conference opponents). Frankly, the game felt like a must-win, even in early January, if the Terrapins are to harbor confidence that they can finish in the top half of the Big Ten and be a surprise NCAA qualifier. Scoring 80 against the Buckeyes, with all 5 starters in double-figures, was a good sign for a basketball team that had undergone incredible dry spells offensively in recent weeks.
Record: 11-5, 2-3 | Last week: 6
Signs of life in Champaign, with the Fighting Illini securing their biggest win in a month over Wisconsin on Saturday. Now, can Illinois built on it? The Illini have rotated wins with loses for 9 consecutive games dating back to late November, meaning they’re due for a loss at Nebraska on Tuesday. Illinois seemed a more cohesive group vs. the Badgers — and Brad Underwood a little more relaxed — which showed up in a 10-point win. There’s plenty of talent there, but one player will be missing for now (and maybe longer), as highly-regarded freshman Skyy Clark has stepped away from the team.
6. Ohio State
Record: 10-5, 2-2 | Last week: 3
Zed Key’s injury against Purdue has been costly this week, leaving the Buckeyes without their big center in losses to the Boilermakers and the Terrapins in Maryland. Key’s a big presence and one of the best centers in the league. Felix Okpara started vs. the Terps, putting a 3rd freshmen into the starting lineup for Ohio State. The Young Bucks seemed on the verge, having won 5-of-6 before the Purdue game, but they faded late against the Boilermakers, then lost at Maryland.
Record: 11-5, 3-2 | Last week: 8
Rutgers doesn’t lose many home games, nor does it frequently give up more than 75 points, but the Scarlet Knights did both Sunday vs. Iowa. And so it nuked a chance for Rutgers to have a share of the Big Ten lead, as it’s a game behind Purdue in the league standings. Still, the Scarlet Knights might have picked up the biggest win in conference play this season, when they beat the Boilers in West Lafayette early in the week, getting a big 3 from Cam Spencer then holding on in the closing seconds.
Record: 12-3, 3-1 | Last week: 10
Is Northwestern really the Big Ten’s 4th-best team? Well, the Wildcats are building a résumé for inclusion; whether it holds up for a 20-game conference season is a question, especially if Chase Audige continues to deal with a sore back, as he did in the 2nd half of Northwestern’s win at Indiana on Saturday. But Audige and Boo Buie arguably combine for one of the best, if not the best, backcourts in the Big Ten, as they have not only scoring ability but veteran savvy. We’ll know more Wednesday, when the ‘Cats host Rutgers.
Record: 11-4, 3-2 | Last week: 2
Without Tyler Wahl, who has an ankle injury, Wisconsin saw its 6-game winning streak come to an end at Illinois on Saturday. The Badgers couldn’t hit 3-pointers, nor could they defend them. The Badgers probably don’t have the variety of scorers to be successful without Wahl, their most-versatile scorer, so his health is of upmost concern. But Wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of time to try to get him healthy, as the Badgers welcome Michigan State to Madison on Tuesday before heading to Indiana Saturday.
2. Michigan State
Record: 11-4, 3-1 | Last week: 7
Michigan State has upped its winning streak to 6 consecutive games, the latest when it out-physicaled Michigan in the Breslin Center, winning an ugly 59-53 rivalry game. Now back at full strength — Malik Hall had 15 points in only 23 minutes vs. the Wolverines, as he works back in after a foot injury — Tom Izzo thinks he has the goods to compete for a Big Ten championship. Maybe so. The Spartans certainly aren’t going to back down from anyone, but they’ve got a big week, with consecutive road games at Wisconsin and Illinois before a home showdown with Purdue on Jan. 16.
Record: 15-1, 4-1 | Last week: 1
The Boilermakers were tested this week after the loss to Rutgers, but they passed with gigantic 2nd halves in rallying to beat Ohio State on Thursday, then Penn State on Sunday, both of them away from Mackey Arena. The all-freshmen backcourt of Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, the latter of whom was challenged by Matt Painter following the loss, was terrific in the consecutive wins, as was the play of big man Zach Edey. The center had 30 points and 13 rebounds vs. Penn State in Philadelphia. Purdue now has a loss, but it’s still the clear No. 1 in the Big Ten.