Week 15 B1G basketball power rankings: After Purdue loses again, can Boilermakers still cling to top spot?
Purdue’s weeks-long hold on No. 1 in the power rankings is weakening.
The Boilermakers have lost 2 of their past 3 and have shown weaknesses over the past couple weeks, most glaringly in their inability to hold on to the ball. And now Purdue’s once-seemingly insurmountable lead in the Big Ten is only at 2 games, with Indiana and Northwestern (and maybe others) lurking.
How does the Big Ten shake out in Week 15?
Let’s take a look at our power rankings:
Record: 7-16 (1-12 Big Ten)
Last week: 14
The Golden Gophers returned from their brief COVID pause to lose yet again == it’s up to 8 in a row now following Sunday’s home loss to Iowa — but at least Ben Johnson feels he’s building something for the future. Four freshmen started against the Hawkeyes, combining for 27 points in a 68-56 loss. Maybe that bodes well for the future, but it is causing growing pains right now, to say the least.
13. Ohio State
Record: 11-14 (3-11)
Last week: 13
For whatever reason, Ohio State was a favorite at home against Michigan State on Sunday. Easy money. The Spartans blasted the Buckeyes, 62-41, in a listless effort by the home team that might prove to be the 1 that forces Chris Holtmann’s offseason departure. OSU has now lost 11 of 12 since being ranked at the start of the calendar year. What gives? Especially for a team as talented as the Buckeyes? Maybe Holtmann will be given another year. But perhaps he won’t.
Record: 12-14 (5-10)
Last week: 12
Speaking of jobs, Fred Hoiberg might be saving his. Injuries have depleted Nebraska’s talent the past few weeks, but Hoiberg has countered by putting together a scrappy bunch led by the sensational Keisei Tominaga, who has emerged as the Cornhuskers’ focal point offensively. The lefty guard sparked the Cornhuskers’ 2nd-half comeback in an overtime win against Wisconsin on Saturday. Does anyone really want to play them right now?
11. Penn State
Record: 14-11 (5-9)
Last week: 10
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Penn State might be falling out of the NCAA Tournament picture, having lost 4 in a row, including Saturday at Maryland. The Nittany Lions are now only 1-7 away from home in the Big Ten, not a compelling résumé for the NCAA committee. There is still time, but PSU might need to finish 5-1 over the last 6. Can it? Yes, because the schedule seems doable, since the road games are at Minnesota, at Ohio State and at Northwestern (which won’t be easy). But is it likely? No.
Record: 14-10 (6-8)
Last week: 11
Seems crazy to move the Badgers up following a loss to Nebraska, but they scored a more critical win earlier in the week, when they went to Penn State and pulled out a narrow victory. It at least keeps Wisconsin on the bubble, although the Cornhusker loss probably puts the Badgers back on the wrong side of it. Wisconsin has 3 consecutive home games up next — Michigan, Rutgers and Iowa — and winning at least 2 is a must.
Record: 14-11 (8-6)
Last week: 9
Michigan looked terrible in the last 4 minutes against Indiana on Saturday, ruining a chance to score a big NCAA résumé builder. Instead, it leaves Juwan Howard with a lot of questions. What happened down the stretch, when the Wolverines’ offense completely collapsed? And who’s to blame? The last possession, following a Howard timeout, was a mess, when Michigan failed to get the ball in to Hunter Dickinson, then settled for a Jett Howard heave. Now, 4 of UM’s last 6 are on the road, where it’s 2-4 this season.
8. Michigan State
Record: 16-9 (8-6)
Last week: 8
The Spartans blasted the Buckeyes over the weekend, with a stifling defense that prevented Ohio State from doing much of anything right. And that can be momentum-building for a Michigan State team that will need to rely on its defense, more than anything else, if it is to make a late-season run, potentially to the double-bye of the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans get Minnesota and Michigan this week, although the latter is in Ann Arbor.
Record: 16-9 (8-6)
Last week: 3
Rutgers knew it was heading into a difficult week with road games at Indiana and Illinois, but wins would have put the Scarlet Knights in great position in the Big Ten. Didn’t happen. Rutgers is great on defense, but the offense isn’t reliable enough to not suffer through scoring droughts, especially away from home. The biggest problem might be in the post, where after Cliff
Record: 17-7 (8-5)
Last week: 6
The Fighting Illini have won 4 of their past 5 games, the latest a home victory against Rutgers in which they held the Scarlet Knights to less than 35 percent shooting. That’ll win a lot of games. That, in combination with a dialed-in Coleman Hawkins, makes for a dangerous team. Hawkins scored 18 points against Rutgers, plus had 8 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. He can be such a dynamic player when he’s not just settling for jumpers.
Record: 17-8 (8-6)
Last week: 5
Maryland has surged at the right time. Since losing at Purdue on Jan. 22, the Terrapins have won 5 of 6, including against Penn State on Saturday following the only loss in this stretch, at Michigan State earlier in the week. Now, the Terps try to get revenge against the Boilermakers, who come to town on Thursday night. If they can get another W then, then they’ll arguably be the hottest team in the Big Ten (with Indiana).
Record: 16-9 (8-6)
Last week: 4
Iowa is surging in the right direction at the right time, having won 4 of 5 (with the only loss being at Purdue, where many teams will lose). Although the Hawkeyes lost to the Boilermakers, they might have exposed a weakness in the process, when their pressure turned Purdue over multiple times in the 2nd half. Could be an intriguing matchup should the teams meet again in the Big Ten Tournament.
Record: 18-7 (9-5)
Last week: 7
Northwestern made a furious comeback in the final 4 minutes against Purdue on Sunday, outscoring the Boilermakers 17-3 down the stretch to run away with a win, 1 that likely punches the Wildcats’ ticket to the Big Dance. What a story it’s been for Chris Collins and Co. Chase Audige, who had struggled through much of the game, led the charge, showing what kind of game-changer he can be when he’s dialed in. If Northwestern can finish strongly — and the schedule is difficult — then it can sneak into the conference tourney double bye.
Record: 18-7 (9-5)
Last week: 2
If there’s a threat to Purdue’s supremacy in the Big Ten, then it’s the Hoosiers. A couple reasons: Indiana is playing great right now, having won 8 of its past 9, including slipping out of Ann Arbor with a 1-point victory. And the Hoosiers still have a rematch at Purdue on Feb. 25, when they can gain back a game on the Boilermakers. IU is finding great balance between Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino as a solid inside-outside punch. And Xavier Johnson could be back soon.
Record: 23-3 (12-3)
Last week: 1
Opponents have found a weakness in what had seemed like Purdue’s impenetrable armor: turnovers. The Boilermakers have committed 49 in their past 3 games, 2 of them losses. Purdue was particularly loose with the ball in the final minutes of its road losses at Indiana and Northwestern. The good news: It’s a fixable problem. But Purdue’s freshmen backcourt of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer need a big bounce-back at Maryland on Thursday.