Week 13 B1G basketball power rankings: Illinois, Purdue emerge at top, but who is No. 1?
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Illinois and Purdue have separated themselves at the top of the Big Ten.
Which makes Tuesday night’s game — No. 13 Illinois plays at No. 3 Purdue at 9 p.m. ET — a big one: Either Illinois can even up the season series and create some space at the top of the conference standings, or Purdue can win another triller, control the tiebreaker and even the teams’ records at 10-3.
But before that game, and other big ones in the Big Ten this week, let’s take a look at the Week 13, Feb. 8, rankings in the B1G:
Record: 6-17 overall, 0-12 in the Big Ten | Last week: 14
Nebraska squandered its best opportunity to pick up its first Big Ten victory Saturday by completely falling on its face against Northwestern. The Cornhuskers were disinterested — and that might be an understatement — in putting up resistance to a Wildcats team that came in with only 3 victories. Instead, Northwestern blitzed Nebraska for 49 first-half points on its way to a 24-point thrashing. Ugly. Coach Fred Hoiberg took an earful from fans on his radio show Monday night, according to reports, including from a first caller asking the 3rd-year boss to justify why he’s still in Lincoln. It’s a good question.
Record: 11-9, 2-9 | Last week: 12
Reality has set in for Minnesota, which has lost 4 straight games to sink toward the bottom of the Big Ten standings after a nonconference run that made the Golden Gophers one of the surprise teams of the league. But while first-year coach Ben Johnson appears to have his team ready to play every game, Minnesota doesn’t have all the pieces yet to consistently beat Big Ten opponents. For one, the Gophers need to be bigger and more physical, because they’re having trouble matching up with the litany of big men they see in the conference.
Record: 11-12, 3-9 | Last week: 11
The brief pulse Maryland showed in back-to-back wins late last month has flatlined, leaving the Terrapins with little hope of a second-half turnaround. It’s unfortunate that what should be one of the premier basketball programs in the Big Ten has instead turned into this. The priority now is finding a coach to replace interim Danny Manning, who hasn’t done anything to distinguish himself as a viable candidate. And the new coach will have a significant rebuild, most likely through the transfer portal because Maryland doesn’t currently have any 2022 high school signees.
11. Penn State
Record: 9-10, 4-7 | Last week: 9
Penn State had a chance to pull off one of the bigger stunners of the Big Ten season Saturday night, but Myles Dread’s 3-pointer with 4 seconds left missed the mark in a 2-point loss. It was a tremendously ugly basketball game, with the teams combining for only 31 first-half points. And PSU had only 13 of those. But the Nittany Lions don’t have the offensive firepower to play any other way, and they’ve been able to muddy the waters for a lot of teams in the conference. PSU might be able to play a part in the Big Ten race, with games still remaining vs. Michigan State and at Illinois.
Record: 11-10, 4-8 | Last week: 13
At least for the last week, Northwestern has looked more like the team that many expected before the season. Its veterans, particularly point guard Boo Buie, played big in back-to-back wins over Rutgers and at Nebraska. Buie has 45 points in the past 2 outings, including 8 3-pointers, with 7 assists. If he plays like that, then it makes the Wildcats a difficult out. The problem for Buie over the years, and thus for Northwestern, is that he’s suffered bouts of inconsistency. But considering the way Buie and his teammates have played the past 2, Indiana will likely be on high alert when it comes into Welsh-Ryan late Tuesday night.
Record: 15-7, 5-6 | Last week: 10
Iowa won in an unusual fashion on Sunday. First, it didn’t have Fran McCaffery on the sidelines due to COVID, but perhaps even more noteworthy, the Hawkeyes beat the Golden Gophers by locking down on defense in the final 20 minutes. In the second half, Iowa allowed Minnesota only 21 points on 23.3% shooting, turning a 4-point deficit into a 12-point win. It’s rare to see the Hawkeyes swarm an opponent, but the Hawkeyes did so, turning up the pressure on their traps and forcing Minnesota into turnovers and bad shots.
Record: 11-9, 5-5 | Last week: 8
Michigan is a team that doesn’t do anything particularly well, nor does it do much particularly poorly. It just is what it is, and that’s put the Wolverines at only a couple games over .500 overall and at the mark exactly in the Big Ten. The Wolverines did so things well in the loss at Purdue on Saturday, like their perimeter defense, but they continue to suffer inside. Without a true backup 5, Hunter Dickinson has to play less physical than desired. And when he checks out, the lack of interior girth becomes even more apparent. UM still does have a path back into the Field of 68, with 6 of its last 10 at home, including several potential Quad 1 wins, but the question is whether the Wolverines are capable of a run.
Record: 13-9, 7-5 | Last week: 7
Rutgers is one of the most inconsistent teams in the NCAA this season, and we’ve seen that continue over the last week, when the Scarlet Knights lost a 1-point contest at Northwestern only to come home and smoke then-No. 13 Michigan State by 21 on Saturday. It’s like Rutgers is 2 different teams, home vs. away. In Jersey Mike’s — RIP “the RAC” — Rutgers is 11-2, with huge wins, like vs. Purdue and MSU, but it’s only 2-7 in true road games. A little consistency might go a long way toward getting the Knights into the NCAA, but Rutgers is going to have chances to prove itself. Five of the next 6 games are against ranked opponents, and 3 are at home.
Record: 16-6, 7-5 | Last week: 5
Even though Indiana is coming off a home loss to Illinois, only IU’s 2nd loss in Assembly Hall this season, the Hoosiers feel good about where they stand. But there is potential danger ahead: Indiana plays its next 2 on the road, where it’s not been nearly as good this season, starting Tuesday night at Northwestern, before heading to Michigan State on Saturday. For IU to get a couple wins, or maybe even a split, center Trayce Jackson-Davis must stay out of foul trouble; IU has a major deficit inside when he has to come out of the game, like he did in the loss to the Illini.
5. Ohio State
Record: 14-5, 7-3 | Last week: 6
Justin Ahrens has to be feeling a little bit better today, after a 4-of-7 shooting performance in Ohio State’s win over Maryland on Sunday. The veteran sharpshooter, who will go down as one of the best in Buckeye history, had been mired in a lengthy slump, with 3-point makes in only 9 of his previous 42 attempts over 9 games, but had shown signs of breaking out before he did vs. the Terps. OSU could certainly use another consistent threat to offset EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham. The Buckeyes, who have seen more postponements than anyone in the Big Ten this season, have a busy stretch, with 3 games in a 7-day window starting with a game at Rutgers Wednesday.
4. Michigan State
Record: 17-5, 8-3 | Last week: 3
Did Michigan State feast on an easy first half of the Big Ten? Well, maybe. An answer to that might come over the next month, when the Spartans have only 3 (of their remaining 9) games vs. sub-.500 teams, and 2 of those (Penn State and Iowa) are on the road at difficult places to win. MSU was hammered in its last outing, as the Spartans usually solid defense was missing in giving up 84 points at Rutgers. Will that linger? Michigan State hopes not, as it has Wisconsin and Indiana in back-to-back home games this week.
Record: 18-4, 9-3 | Last week: 1
Wisconsin’s offense has hit a slump of late, with the Badgers scoring below their season average of 71.2 points in 3 consecutive games, including their 51-49 escape over Penn State on Saturday. What gives? Well, Johnny Davis and Brad Davison have seen their production drop, as opponents have focused on trying to slow down the Badger guards. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard is also concerned about the schedule: Wisconsin had practiced or played for 14 straight days, so he’s hoping the day off Sunday will help pump life back into his players’ legs.
Record: 17-5, 10-2 | Last week: 4
Brad Underwood — finally — has a roster that’s at full strength and the results have been positive, with the Fighting Illini having won 4 straight heading into their showdown against Purdue in Mackey Arena late tonight. Illinois has a bevy of scoring options, inside and out, and it’s proving hard for opponents to lock the Illini down. In the win at Indiana Saturday, the Fighting Illini had 3 in double-figures, led by Trent Frazier’s 23, hit 10 3-pointers and dominated in the paint. Finally, it seems, others are taking notice; Illinois is up to a season-high 13th in the latest AP poll.
Record: 20-3, 9-3 | Last week: 2
In the last 4 weeks, the team that has been No. 1 in the power ranking has lost its midweek game, so if the trend continues then Purdue is in danger vs. Illinois tonight. Chances are, however, that Coach Matt Painter is less concerned about that and more so about the Fighting Illini, who match up with the Boilermakers probably better than anyone else in the league. That was the case a couple of weeks ago, in what has been the best Big Ten game to date, a double-overtime Purdue victory. The Boilermakers have won 5 straight, putting themselves in position for a share of first place if they can beat Illinois again. It will be an electric atmosphere in Mackey Arena on Tuesday night.