Week 8 B1G basketball power rankings: Purdue falls as new No. 1 rises
Purdue has been beaten again.
No. 23 Wisconsin’s upset of the 3rd-ranked Boilermakers on Monday night, Purdue’s second loss in the Big Ten in only 3 games, causes a major shake-up in this week’s B1G power rankings. The Boilermakers drop out of the No. 1 spot, but how far? And who ascends to No. 1?
Let’s take a look at the Week 8, Jan. 4, rankings:
Record: 6-8 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten | Last week: 13
The Cornhuskers showed life against Ohio State in a weekend clash in Lincoln, leading the Buckeyes by 5 with 36 seconds to go. But as teams that are accustomed to losing frequently do — and this was too reminiscent of the football program — Nebraska found a way to give the game back to the Buckeyes. OSU survived in overtime. But perhaps NU can take away positives, in that it repeatedly fought back against Ohio State, with freshman Bryce McGowens going for 18 points. But the loss was Nebraska’s 7th, with no victories, against power conference competition this season.
Record: 7-5, 1-1 | Last week: 12
Rutgers resumes Big Ten play tonight vs. Michigan, after scoring a couple easy non-conference wins around the holiday, its first conference game since shocking then-No. 1 Purdue on Dec. 9. What do the Scarlet Knights need to do to climb the Big Ten ladder? Well, continue to rely on Ron Harper Jr. as their lead guard, because they go as he goes. Rutgers is 4-1 this season when Harper scores at least 15 points, but 3-4 when he does not. On a squad with limited scoring options, it needs Harper to be able to get open looks and knock them down. If not, the Knights’ margin for victory becomes razor thin.
12. Penn State
Record: 6-5, 1-2 | Last week: 14
It’s not going to be easy on the road this season in the B1G, just ask Indiana. Micah Shrewberry picked up his first Big Ten win as the Penn State head coach this weekend when his Lions held off the visiting Hoosiers. PSU has limitations, but it’s going to play good, fundamental basketball, particularly on the defensive end. And now with Greg Lee back healthy, Shrewsberry has 2 quality big men — John Harrar being the other — who are willing to physically mix it up with the opponent in the paint. IU forward Trayce Jackson-Davis felt the brunt of that on Sunday.
Record: 8-5, 0-2 | Last week: 11
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
Maryland couldn’t hold off a second-half surge by Iowa in its Big Ten re-opener late Monday night, yet there were still some positives to take from the loss. The Terrapins scored 75 (albeit at Iowa, which doesn’t always embrace defense), with all 5 of their starters scoring in double-figures. It marked the 4th straight game in which Maryland scored more than 70 points, perhaps a sign that under Danny Manning the offense will start to show some versatility. But it’s a brutal stretch to restart the conference for Maryland, which heads to Illinois and then hosts Wisconsin.
Record: 8-3, 1-1 | Last week: 10
Had 1 or 2 plays gone its direction — and maybe Chase Audige not missed a wide-open triple with a minute left — then maybe Northwestern would have pulled off a huge victory over Michigan State early in the Big Ten, as it did a year ago. Instead, the Wildcats blew a 7-point halftime lead in a loss. Northwestern shot poorly, from the field and the line, and its stars — Audige, Boo Buie and Pete Nance — couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm. It probably doesn’t help NU either that its students are currently barred from Welsh-Ryan because of the school’s decision to go to remote-learning for a period this winter as part of its Covid response. It made Welsh-Ryan quieter than desired for a big Big Ten clash.
Record: 7-5, 1-1 | Last week: 9
Michigan is at a crossroads. If it is to make the NCAA Tournament this season – and heck, the Wolverines were the preseason pick to win the Big Ten — then it’s going to have to find answers. Today. Not much has gone right for UM through the first 2 months of the season, all of which was exposed in the final non-conference loss at UCF. Roles on offense, outside of Hunter Dickinson, have yet to be figured out, and the defense is leaky, to say the least. UCF shot 72 percent in the second half of its 14-point win over Michigan last Thursday. A recovery needs to come quickly; the Wolverines first 4 games of the Big Ten re-start: at Rutgers, home to Michigan State and Purdue, then at Illinois.
Record: 10-3, 1-2 | Last week: 8
Indiana’s problems are the same as they’ve been: The Hoosiers don’t shoot the ball well enough from the perimeter to take the pressure off Jackson-Davis inside. And when teams can bully the All-Big Ten forward, as Penn State did Sunday, then IU doesn’t have much of a counter-punch. Against PSU, Jackson-Davis scored 20, but it came on 18 field goal attempts, and he was the only Hoosier in double-figures. Plus, IU made only 4 of its 17 3-point attempts. In the Hoosiers’ 2 Big Ten losses, at Wisconsin and at Penn State, they’ve scored only 59 and 58 points, respectively. The defense has been solid, and that’s great, but it’s near impossible to win in the 50s.
Record: 10-1, 1-1 | Last week: 6
Minnesota starts the second portion of Big Ten play a little later than originally planned, as it and Illinois rescheduled tonight’s game from Sunday due to Covid protocols within the Illini program. It’s a big game. For Minnesota, the matchup vs. Illinois provides an opportunity to prove that its first 11 games were no joke. The Gophers will need to find a way to slow Kofi Cockburn while also limiting the 3-point shooting of the Illini, but Minnesota is No. 1 in the league in perimeter defense, allowing opponents to shoot less than 25 percent from distance. Opponents have only 55 makes against Minnesota, by far the fewest against any Big Ten team.
Record: 11-3, 1-2 | Last week: 7
Keegan Murray is good. The sophomore forward tied his career-high with 35 points in the win over Maryland Monday night, as the Hawkeyes repeatedly held off the Terrapins. It was Iowa’s 4th straight victory. The ability of Murray gives Iowa a chance against anyone in the league, because he’s so long, athletic and versatile. If the Hawkeyes otherwise get even an ounce of defense, especially on the interior, then it could make a Big Ten run. It’s next game, at Wisconsin, will be an interesting contrast of styles, with the Murray-led Iowa offense vs. the Badgers’ punch-you-in-the-face — not quite literally — physical defense.
Record: 12-2, 1-2 | Last week: 1
Purdue is under .500 in the Big Ten, not a place it expected to be at the start of the new year. But the Boilermakers are struggling to match the intensity of their opponents, which was on display yet again vs. Wisconsin in Mackey Arena on Monday. The Boilermakers let the Badgers be the aggressor. Wisconsin was more physical in the paint, hit big shots, beat Purdue to loose balls and made game-deciding plays. Only when Purdue decides it can’t just out-score teams will the Boilermakers reach their potential, but Matt Painter must be the one to show them that’s the case. If not, Purdue might continue to flounder.
Record: 11-2, 2-1 | Last week: 5
Wisconsin showed the Big Ten the way to beat Purdue. It did so by bullying the Boilermakers, muddying up the game in the paint and keeping them from finding easy looks inside. It helps too when a team has a player as great as Johnny Davis, who affected about all aspects of Wisconsin’s upset win in Mackey Arena: He scored 37 points and had 14 rebounds, plus 3 assists and 2 blocks. The sophomore guard scored 19 in the final 11 minutes, helping the Badgers rally from a 7-point deficit. In a league stacked with great players, Davis might be a frontrunner for Player of the Year.
3. Ohio State
Record: 9-2, 3-0 | Last week: 3
During Ohio State’s 22-day Covid pause, freshman Malaki Branham must have taken the opportunity to get up a few extra shots in the gym, because once the Buckeyes resumed play, against Nebraska on Sunday, the guard had found his stroke. Branham, who hadn’t scored more than 11 in his OSU career, poured in a career-high 35 points with 6 rebounds and 2 assists in the overtime win in Lincoln. While others seemed affected by the long layoff — EJ Liddell had only 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting — Branham had fresh legs, and he hit 6 of his 10 3-pointers. Adding another 3-point threat would make the Buckeyes a matchup nightmare for many.
Record: 9-3, 2-0 | Last week: 2
Illinois has been on a Covid pause since its Dec. 22 punishment of Missouri, but will get started again in a delayed matchup at Minnesota tonight. Perhaps the Illini, some of whom could be wearing masks in the game, will still be feeling some ill effects of the layoff, so having their restart vs. a solid Minnesota team in The Barn probably isn’t ideal. Brad Underwood says Andre Curbelo will remain out for the contest; the sophomore point guard has played only limited games this season due to a concussion.
1. Michigan State
Record: 12-2, 3-0 | Last week: 4
Gabe Brown has long wanted to be a No. 1 scoring option, but only now as a senior is he getting that opportunity for the Spartans. The senior has turned in back-to-back 20-point performances, including scoring 15 in the second half of MSU’s come-from-behind victory at Northwestern, and is now averaging close to 15 points per game while shooting almost 40 percent from 3-point range. It feels like the Spartans are quietly plugging along, maybe because they were under the radar to start the season. But Michigan State has won 7 straight, is playing great and has a schedule that might position it as the team to beat in the Big Ten.