February 6, 2023

The gap from the top of the Big Ten to the middle continues to widen as Purdue remains with one loss.

What an absolute mess. Purdue keeps winning and everyone else in all of college basketball keeps losing. Especially in the Big Ten, where Kenpom has predicted seven teams will finish with a record 500 in the Big Ten.

It’s crazy. Purdue have a two-game lead in the conference with 11 conference games on their schedule.

Rutgers proved to be probably the second-best team in the conference by beating Purdue, but they also just got treated on the road by Michigan State.

Izzo and everyone else in the Big Ten, with the exception of Minnesota, fall into the convoluted, insecure flavor of B10 left basketball. Where everyone is both good and bad, seemingly in the same game. So let’s move on to Volume 2 of the Power Rankings to try and understand this league.

1. Purdue 19-1 (8-1)

It wasn’t pretty, but Purdue keeps winning and here it is again as the nation’s No. 1, narrowly overtaking Alabama in the polls.

Purdue is a no-brainer on my list and nearing lapping of the rest of the Big Ten. Since we last spoke, they’ve gone to East Lansing and won, held a Big Ten team to 12 points in one half, and won another tight game against a Maryland team that always plays hard against Purdue .

Zach Edey is a 20-10 machine, and Purdue has found multiple second and third options to feature every game with him. They defend at the top 20 level and now have the best offense and defense in the conference. They’re national title contenders, a No. 1 seed at the moment, and the sole favorite to win the Big Ten.

2.Rutgers 13-6 (5-3)

Rutgers has the only real marquee win in the Big Ten to this point by beating Purdue. If you do it at Purdue, its weight will carry you all the way into the season. They’re also an elite defensive team…even if their offense lacks shot power.

They’ve stumbled a little in the last four, losing to Iowa at Michigan St. and at home, but a solid win over Ohio State that’s not looking great anymore and a win at Northwestern that’s starting to impress looks helps Rutgers stay in 2nd place.

3. Indiana 13-6 (4-4)

Indiana has brought back Race Thompson and won three straight games after it looked like its season was about to collapse. Good wins against Wisconsin and Michigan State and an away win in Illinois herald Indiana’s return to the national scene. (If not the winners themselves, then certainly their fans on Twitter.)

Trayce Jackson-Davis was fantastic, stepping into the playmaker role and doing everything on offense. It worked for the Hoosiers. Indiana has won three straight games by double digits, while TJD has been eliminated and has 30+ points in consecutive games.

Suddenly, Purdue’s trip to Bloomington looks like a rivalry match worthy of the history of the two programs.

4. Michigan St. 13-7 (4-4)

Michigan State has had tough games in their last four games going to Illinois, hosting Purdue and Rutgers and traveling to Indiana. None of these losses are disgraceful, but losing 3 out of 4 is worrying for a team that only has one win versus a top 20 win. But Rutgers’ win was good and they were there until the last second against Purdue.

They get a chance for a rematch at Mackey Arena on Sunday.

5. Maryland 12-7 (3-5)

Maryland’s big guards took on Purdue and mounted a second-half run that nearly saw Purdue have their second loss at home, but Maryland was never able to close the gap, and Purdue walked away with a win. The Terrapins always play tough against Purdue, and that apparently carried over to Kevin Willard’s regime.

Maryland also lost en route to Iowa but won at home to Michigan. Your record is a little deceptive. Her start on the Big Ten schedule was already brutal, with road trips to Purdue, Iowa, Rutgers and Michigan.

They’re going to get a nice break and host three right at home over the next week.

6. Iowa 12-7 (4-4)

Iowa has an elite offense, no surprise, the fifth best in the country according to KenPom. They won four straight games, including a nice road win at Rutgers, before losing to Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday. They seem to be playing their best basketball of the season as they start to get healthy.

But they have some brutal road games on the horizon, heading to East Lansing on Thursday to take on the Spartans and Purdue on February 9th.

They still have one of the most stunning losses of the season against Eastern Illinois and really struggled on the road, but it could be that their triple losing streak was more of a blip than a trend.

7.Michigan 11-8 (5-3)

Losers of 3 of their last 5, Michigan hopes Purdue will travel to Ann Arbor like it did last year – with a shock blow to the Boilermakers. In last year’s competition, Michigan rose early and kept that lead. It would be a signature win for a team that has yet to beat anyone of importance. They have only two top 40 wins, both at home, against Maryland and Penn State.

Throw in Jett Howard’s injury and the Wolverines season, which has already been a bit up and down, could continue to disappoint.

8. Ohio St. 11-8 (3-5)

What a strange, strange time of year. Ohio State was 10-3 and seemed to go toe-to-toe with Purdue. A freshman three-pointer is the only thing standing between the Buckeyes and their biggest win of the season. But Loyer’s three went in and Ohio State started to turn.

After losing to Purdue, they also lost to Maryland on the Road, Rutgers and Nebraska. All semi-excusable losses in harsh environments.

But lose at home to Minnesota? Even if Minnesota got a call too late, there’s no excuse that the one Golden Gophers conference win this season should ever challenge another Big Ten team. It was a bewildering loss, and if Brice Sensabaugh wasn’t so damn good, it would be worth damning Ohio State for the rest of the season. They also just bounced back with a nice home win over Iowa.

9. Pennsylvania 13-6 (4-4)

Why Penn State over a hugely successful Northwest team with probably a more impressive win than the Nittany Lions? Jalen Pickett.

Pickett plays for Penn State, not Northwestern, and he’s good enough to even out differences between teams. Penn State’s offense is in the top-30 and the program is clearly on the rise. A triple-double threat, Pickett is one of the few players capable of winning a game all by himself.

10. Northwest 13-5 (4-3)

Northwestern can’t score, but they know how to defend. Chris Collins lets his boys play at that end of the floor, with the 19th best defense in the country. They’ve also had some quality wins, going to Indiana and winning and beating Illinois and Wisconsin at home.

But Northwestern got Indiana at the right time and they have a lot of away games ahead of them.

They still have to go to Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers. I don’t think they have the score to keep up with the rest of their Big Ten schedule.

11 Illinois 13-6 (4-4)

Illinois used a soft portion of the Big Ten’s schedule, winning against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Michigan State.

But they just got trampled at home by Indiana.

Analytically, they’re one of the strongest teams in the Big Ten with a top-50 offense and 29th-best defense, but they also have a tough road ahead with games in Purdue, Ohio State, Indiana, Penn State, and Iowa Wisconsin.

There isn’t a team that makes less play in the conference and they flip the ball over too much. Both are death on the road. Sometimes it seems like Underwood lost his team. It’s too gross to believe in the Illini.

12.Wisconsin 12-6 (4-4)

Tyler Wahl hasn’t been quite right since returning from a three-game injury layoff. Without Wahl, which is excellent, this team just isn’t that menacing. Scoring is just too hard for Wisconsin and despite the prolific shooting efficiency of Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian, there just isn’t enough juice around them.

You don’t get offensive rebounds. You can’t get to the free-throw line. They have lost 4 of their last 5 and will be out for 4 of their next 6 games. Things don’t get any easier for a team that makes putting the ball in the basket look like a grind.

13.Nebraska 10-10 (3-6)

A win against Ohio State keeps a landslide from the last four games in which Nebraska has lost every other game by double digits. Nebraska has a lot of fun bits, but again, Hoiberg failed to put it all together.

Derrick Walker was good but he has no help night after night. Too many one-way players for the Cornhuskers and not nearly enough shots saved them at the bottom of the Big Ten…

14.Minnesota 7-11 (1-7)

A shock Ohio State road win could be the lone highlight of a tough season for Ben Johnson and his Golden Gophers.

Minnesota has no wins against top-130 teams other than the win against the Buckeyes.

It’s a young squad that might not lose anyone for next year and at this point the team is playing to build habits for next season.

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