Three top 25 battles. An unbeaten goes down. Only a handful of road victories. You know that they say, “Just another week in the Big Ten.” New Rankings. New number one. Let’s jump right in.
1) Indiana 15-1(3-0): Upcoming: Wisconsin (1/15), @Northwestern (1/20) The Hoosiers are back in the one slot. In their last two Big Ten games, Indiana is outscoring their opponent 96-56. Obviously, as evident by the second half of their game against Minnesota, the second half point differential is a totally different story. The first half is clearly where they win their games. Since Big Ten play began, the Hoosiers have trailed a grand total of 2:29, including not trailing once against a top ten team on Saturday. Indiana may have looked shaky in the second half, especially from the free throw line and lack of bench scoring, but as Zach Osterman stated on Twitter, “Noon games are weird.” Hoosiers look to gain sole possession of first place in the Big Ten this Tuesday.
2) Michigan 16-1(3-1): Upcoming: @Minnesota (1/17) Untested young squad losing their first conference road test? Shocking. Michigan went into Sunday’s matchup against Ohio State as the sole remaining undefeated team in Division 1. They left with their first loss. Ohio State was the Wolverines’ toughest test yet. Getting behind 29-8 didn’t help matters either. Shooting about 13 points below their season average, Michigan’s offense was somewhat stagnant in their last two games. Shooting 38% on the road in the Big Ten will put you in the loss column every time. Things don’t get easier this week as they battle the Golden Gophers on the road.
3) Michigan State 14-3(3-1): Upcoming: @Penn State (1/16), Ohio State (1/19) Michigan State had two close games this week. One on road at Iowa, and a shocker at home against Nebraska. They came away with two wins, however, and improve to 3-1 in B1G play. The backcourt duo of Keith Appling and Gary Harris continue to work wonders for Tom Izzo’s squad. The Spartans seem to be flying under the radar for now though. With Ohio State coming to town on Saturday, MSU has a chance for a nice conference win to legitimize themselves as real threats to win the Big Ten.
4) Minnesota 15-2(3-1): Upcoming: Michigan (1/17) Minnesota started off the week with a nice road win over Illinois and ended it with a tough road loss to Indiana. Utterly dominating Illinois in the second half, Minnesota cruised to arguably the best B1G road win to date. Saturday didn’t go so smoothly, however. The Gophers were thrashed in the first half 52-29, but proceeded to make a valiant comeback before losing 88-81. Surprisingly, they were outrebounded by the Hoosiers. With a blowout win and a valiant effort after being down 23, Minnesota proved they are a legit contender for the B1G title.
5) Ohio State 13-3(3-1): Upcoming: @Michigan State (1/19) Nice week for Ohio State. Coach Thad Matta earned his 100th B1G win, the 19th person to reach that milestone, before they defeated Michigan for the 17th time in the last 20 meetings. What a win that was for the Buckeyes. They quickly jumped out to a 29-8 lead before almost choking away the game. This marks the OSU’s first notable victory, but it wasn’t pretty. Their offense seems to be Deshaun Thomas or bust, and they didn’t play to put Michigan away. Ohio State may have won, but they have a lot of work left to do. They travel to Michigan State this Saturday, which figures to be a good top 25 matchup.
6) Wisconsin 12-4(3-0): Upcoming: @Indiana (1/15), @Iowa (1/19) Wisconsin has had a cakewalk early conference schedule. They’ve played Penn State at home, Nebraska on the road, and an Illinois squad that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn this week. Because of their schedule, their 3-0 conference record is a bit deceiving. The Badgers impressed the nation with their win over Illinois, but 9-point wins over Penn State are nothing special. Wisconsin will finally get tested when they play Indiana, who they always seem to play tough.
7) Illinois 14-4(1-3): Upcoming: Northwestern (1/17) How in the world did Illinois beat Ohio State so badly? Over the past week, Illinois has been terrible. Although they only made three, they shot 24 threes against Minnesota. Against Wisconsin, they were 2 of 14 from three. Yikes. The Illini live and die by the three. This week, they died. Illinois wasn’t particularly good from three to begin with, but this week was just embarrassingly bad. Unless they find a shot soon, they’ll plummet in the Big Ten standings and Top 25 rankings. They’ll look for a confidence booster against Northwestern on Thursday.
8) Iowa 12-5(1-3): Upcoming: Wisconsin (1/19) Nobody had a tougher early conference schedule than Iowa. A gauntlet that featured Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State, Iowa simply couldn’t steal a win out of those three games. Roy Devyn Marble, arguably the Hawkeyes’ best player, couldn’t play against MSU because of an ankle injury, and that may have cost them that game. Iowa was leading much of the game before the Spartans overtook the lead in the waning minutes to hand Iowa another heartbreaking home loss. Things are looking up, however, as they routed Northwestern last Sunday. Iowa will get Wisconsin at home, another good chance for a Big Ten victory.
9) Purdue 8-8(2-2): Upcoming: @Nebraska (1/16), West Virginia (1/19) In what was a battle to the end, Purdue played Ohio State close at home before losing by ten. The Boilermakers then defeated Penn State 60-42 to put them back at .500 for the season. Purdue, lacking the talent of previous years, is showing improvement but can’t compete with the big boys yet. Obviously, they’ll thrive against teams like Penn State and Nebraska, however. Luckily for them, they’ll get a break from conference play when they take on West Virginia.
10) Nebraska 9-8(0-4): Purdue (1/16), @Penn State (1/19) When you’re Nebraska, all you can ask for is effort and improvement. The Cornhuskers are delivering just that. In the past week, they’ve made Michigan sweat a little in Ann Arbor and almost pulled off the upset over Michigan State. This comes after just a six-point loss to Wisconsin. Nebraska still has no real expectations, but they could notch two wins this week against an awful Penn State squad and a down Purdue team. Could the Cornhuskers earn two B1G wins before the likes of Iowa and Illinois?
11) Northwestern 10-7(1-3): @Illinois (1/17), Indiana (1/20) I think it’s safe to say that Northwestern is one of, if not, the worst teams in the Big Ten. They have one win over Penn State, but have lost by 18+ points in their other three conference games, including a 28-point home loss to Michigan. They’ll continue to get destroyed by everyone this season not named Nebraska or Penn State. Minus their assist numbers, Northwestern is awful at just about everything. This week they’ll take on Illinois at the Fake Assembly Hall and Indiana at home. No one would be surprised if they lost by 20+ each of those games.
12) Penn State 8-8(0-4): Upcoming: Michigan State (1/16), Nebraska (1/19) Penn State began conference play with a 60-51 loss to Wisconsin, a nice moral victory. Since then, they’ve been embarrassed by Indiana, Northwestern, and Purdue. More tough times await PSU with a game against Michigan State coming up, and a game against a Nebraska team that has done rather well lately. Who knows when/if the Nittany Lions will notch their first B1G win of the year.
Some teams are feeling great going into the third week of Big Ten play. Some are feeling terrible. Nevertheless, the Big Ten remains the best conference in the nation and will be a gauntlet for anyone. As teams begin to shift in the Big Ten standings, we’ll begin to know who’s real and who’s a fraud. March Madness is inching closer and closer.