Week 11 B1G basketball power rankings: Purdue stays at top as everyone else jockeys to catch up
Purdue holds on to its top spot in the Big Ten.
But behind the Boilermakers, the league is a jumble of similar teams, all competing to be Purdue’s No. 1 challenger. Who is emerging as the biggest threat? Let’s take a look at our Week 11 B1G basketball power rankings:
Record: 7-8 overall, 1-4 in the Big Ten | Last week: 14
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The Gophers seemed poised for a victory at Ohio State, after having lost their previous 2 Big Ten games by a combined 5 points. And although Minnesota was a 14-point underdog, it upset the Buckeyes — and got the benefit of a late-game non-call by a referee, too — behind an incredible performance by Dawson Garcia, who had 28 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists, and didn’t turn the ball over in 38 minutes. The win wasn’t quite enough to get the Gophers out of the basement, but they’re trending closer.
Record: 9-9, 2-5 | Last week: 13
Nebraska too frequently plays as if it is a bunch of pieces thrown together at the last minute, probably because it is a team of a bunch of pieces thrown together at the last minute. It’s certainly looked like that its past 2 outings, when the Cornhuskers scored 50 and 55 points in a 26-point home loss to Illinois, then an 18-point defeat at Purdue. Those feel-good moments from earlier in the Big Ten, when Nebraska nearly upset the Boilermakers, then smashed Iowa seem so long ago. Sam Griesel has a hip injury that forced him to miss the Purdue game; something to watch.
Record: 11-6, 2-4 | Last week: 8
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Maryland’s scoring lapses are painfully acute on the road, where it dropped to 0-4 in the Big Ten following its loss at Iowa on Sunday. The Terrapins challenged at times, including a run to get within 3 with 7 minutes left. But they couldn’t contain the Hawkeyes late. Maybe it’s the lack of depth that hurts the Terps offensively, as they’re prone to dry spells that end up their undoing. Maryland gets Michigan at home next — it lost by 35 in Ann Arbor — but if it can’t figure out how to win away, then the NCAA Tournament is a dream.
11. Ohio State
Record: 10-7, 2-4 | Last week: 6
What’s up with Ohio State, which has seen its losing streak expand now to 4 straight games? Maybe the youth is a problem, because the Buckeyes are closing out games in the final minutes. The 4 losses have been by a combined 16 points, including 3 by a combined 9. Brice Sensabaugh has been absolutely fantastic this season — and he had 20 points and 11 rebounds at Rutgers — but he threw up a bad shot at a bad moment vs. the Scarlet Knights, the kind of thing rookies can do on occasion. But the mental mistakes are hurting an otherwise talented team.
Record: 11-6, 2-4 | Last week: 12
Indiana might have saved its season on Saturday by stomping all over Wisconsin in Assembly Hall. The defense, which had been missing for weeks, finally showed up, holding the Badgers to only 45 points. Is it sustainable? That’ll be the question for IU going forward, especially as it deals with the injuries to starters Xavier Thompson and Race Thompson. Jordan Geronimo was the hero vs. Wisconsin, not only because of his double-double (12 points and 11 rebounds) but because he played with energy that proved infectious at the defensive end.
9. Penn State
Record: 12-5, 3-3 | Last week: 9
Penn State played only once last week, taking advantage of Indiana’s non-existent defense Wednesday to hit a program record-tying 18 3-pointers, which the Nittany Lions had set earlier this season vs. Winthrop. Leaving Lions open is a recipe to get blistered, which they showed the Hoosiers — and the rest of the league — in a 19-point win. The victory was huge for PSU, which had lost 2 straight and needed to get right to keep its hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid alive. The Lions are only 1-2 in road games, but are at Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Record: 10-7, 4-2 | Last week: 10
Michigan rebounded from a 2-game losing streak, which included a tough overtime loss at Iowa, by beating Northwestern on Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor. Juwan Howard decided to play his 2 centers — Hunter Dickinson and Tarris Reed Jr. — together against the undersized Wildcats, and it worked. Over a 7-minute stretch in the 2nd half, when they played side-by-side, the Wolverines turned a 1-point deficit into a 10-point lead. They dominated defensively and on the glass, forcing Northwestern in a bunch of misses and one-opportunity possessions.
Record: 11-5, 3-3 | Last week: 3
What have we learned about Wisconsin? The Badgers need Tyler Wahl in the lineup. The versatile veteran has missed the last 3 games due to an injured ankle, forcing him to watch from the bench as Wisconsin struggles offensively, as they’ve done in 3 straight losses to Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana. It’s possible that Wahl will be well enough to return to the lineup Tuesday, when Wisconsin hosts Penn State. Perhaps a bright spot recently has been the play of freshman Connor Essegian, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds at Indiana.
Record: 12-5, 3-3 | Last week: 4
Northwestern has one of the best, if not the best, guard combinations in the Big Ten in Boo Buie and Chase Audige, but the problem for the Wildcats is when they face bigger, more physical teams in the paint. And in this conference, that happens quite frequently, and it did at Michigan on Sunday, when the Wolverines simply wore them out on the interior. It marked Northwestern’s 2nd close loss of the week, after the Wildcats had been beaten by Rutgers at home on Wednesday. And it doesn’t get easier, with a road game at Iowa, then a home contest to Wisconsin upcoming.
Record: 12-6, 4-3 | Last week: 11
Whatever was plaguing the Hawkeyes during their 3-game losing streak is erased now. Iowa has recovered to win 4 straight, including against Maryland in Iowa City on Sunday. Then, Tony Perkins had a career-high 22 points, including an emphatic 2nd-half dunk on a breakaway that kept the Terrapins at bay. During the past 10 days, the Hawkeyes have gone from winless in the Big Ten to 4-3 and in 5th place in the standings, not a bad recovery.
4. Michigan State
Record: 12-5, 4-2 | Last week: 2
Michigan State felt like it lost an opportunity at Illinois on Friday night, when the Fighting Illini took control of a back-and-forth game in the final minutes. It didn’t help that Malik Hall was injured — again — with about 7 minutes left, forcing the senior forward to watch from the bench as the Spartans faded. It’s the 2nd ankle injury for Hall this season, after he had missed 8 games earlier this year. Michigan State has been fantastic with Hall in the lineup, and potentially a contender for a conference title, but rather pedestrian without him. Will he play vs. Purdue on Monday afternoon?
Record: 12-5, 3-3 | Last week: 7
Illinois is buying in to what Brad Underwood is preaching, and it’s showing up on the court. Friday night’s win over Michigan State was a great illustration, because the Illini played tenacious defense — they held the Spartans without a 3-pointer — and controlled the paint. Center Dain Dainja looked like the best player on the court, scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 7 rebounds. Illinois has now won 3 straight, each by at least 9 points, and could make it 4 straight with today’s game at Minnesota. All that disfunction seems long ago.
Record: 13-5, 5-2 | Last week: 5
Rutgers is 7-1 in its past 8 games, including an overtime win Sunday that avenged a controversial loss at Ohio State earlier in the season, moving the Scarlet Knights into sole possession of 2nd-place in the Big Ten standings. Not a bad place to be, especially considering they’re the only team to have handed Purdue a loss this season. Rutgers can hurt opponents in a lot of ways, in the paint, from the perimeter, defensively and on the glass, and the Knights showed all of that during the overtime win over the Buckeyes.
Record: 16-1, 5-1 | Last week: 1
Freshman guard Fletcher Loyer has been fantastic during Big Ten play, and was again on Friday night vs. Nebraska, when he scored a career-high 27 points, including a Purdue freshman-record 6 3-pointers. It helped the Boilermakers overcome an quiet game by Zach Edey, at least by his standards (12 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks). Purdue has a huge game this afternoon at Breslin Center. Beat the Spartans and the Boilermakers can further solidify their claim as the team to beat in the Big Ten.