It’s been a few weeks, but my latest Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal, features the same No. 1 team for consecutive weeks.
That team is Purdue, of course, winners of five in a row and eight of nine.
See my full latest list below.
Editor’s note: Team records are through Sunday, Feb. 19, action.
1. Purdue (22-5, 11-3). This is one of the most balanced teams in the country, and the Boilermakers seem to be getting better from week to week. Caleb Swanigan is gaining steam in the NPOY race and understandably so. Leading the nation in double-doubles might have gotten fans outside of the Big Ten to watch the Boilers, but it’s been his play on the floor that has got them all singing his praise.
Last week: 1
2. Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3). I had serious concerns about the Badgers following consecutive losses to Northwestern and Michigan. Nigel Hayes and Wisconsin, however, looked like the Badgers we expect to see in Sunday’s win vs. Maryland. Hayes is a tough guy to double, as he’s able to work in space in face-up situations and passes the ball very well. If he continues to attack and be aggressive, it could be the offense Greg Gard and the Badgers desperately need going forward.
Last week: 2
3. Maryland (22-4, 10-4). Mark Turgeon has done a terrific job with this young team, and he certainly understands how much he has relied on Melo Trimble all season. As good as the freshmen have been, I feel like it’s ultimately going to fall on Trimble if the Terps want to finish strong and gain momentum going into March.
Last week: 3
4. Northwestern (20-7, 9-5). Chris Collins has a great case for Big Ten Coach of the Year. The award may be for a strong performance this season, but you have to appreciate the lasting changes he’s brought to Northwestern University. There’s an excitement about Northwestern basketball and it goes beyond the fact that they will (my opinion) make the NCAA tournament this season. I can see the Wildcats being a top 5 Big Ten for years to come.
Last week: 4
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5. Michigan State (16-11, 8-6). The Spartans were dealt yet another blow when Eron Harris went down with a season-ending knee injury at Purdue. I feel like Michigan State will rally together and make its 20th consecutive NCAA tournament. You could see what Harris means to his teammates and coaches by the looks and tears in their eyes as Harris was carted off the floor. As much as he’ll be missed, I can see motivation to achieve peeking following the Purdue game. I truly wish for a successful surgery and speedy recovery for Harris.
Last week: 5
6. Minnesota (20-7, 8-6). The Minnesota-Michigan game Sunday evening felt like a Big Ten tourney preview. I expect to see more high-level games like that in D.C. in March. Michigan is certainly for real, and Minnesota has continued to find a way to win close games; in fact, it’s followed up that five-game losing streak with a five-game wining streak. The play of Eric Curry could be what makes the Gophers an even more dangerous NCAA tournament team.
Last week: 7
7. Michigan (17-10, 7-7). Derrick Walton Jr. and the Wolverines put up a valiant effort Sunday at Minnesota following an impressive win vs. Wisconsin on Thursday. It appears as though Michigan is playing with significantly more confidence on both ends of the floor, and chemistry continues to grow. It all will come down to Walton Jr., though, if they want to finish conference play strong and get serious NCAA tournament consideration.
Last week: 6
8. Nebraska (12-14, 6-8). As much as I like Iowa in this spot, I see the Huskers coming together at the right time. The play of Jordy Tshimanga and Ed Morrow down low has taken a lot of defensive attention away from Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr., plus is has helped provide much-needed balance for Tim Miles. We’ve seen that Nebraska can win anywhere, can beat anyone in the conference, and I get the sense they’re close to figuring out how good they can be.
Last week: 12
9. Iowa (14-13, 6-8). Even in a home loss to Illinois, I continue to see the potential of this young team. Peter Jok wasn’t able to find many opportunities on the offensive end Saturday, which puts a lot of pressure on the young players to execute to score. There may be a few ups and downs along the way, but I honestly believe this team will be competing for a Big Ten title in the next two years.
Last week: 8
10. Indiana (15-12, 5-9). Coming from someone who was a part of one of UCLA’s worst seasons, I understand the pressure and expectation that comes with being an Indiana Hoosier. The hope and key is for this team to find confidence, one way or another, and make a run to get back into the NCAA tourney conversation. At this point, it may require some outside-of-the-box thinking from Tom Crean as well as stronger leadership from James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Thomas Bryant.
Last week: 9
11. Penn State (14-13, 6-8). The Nittany Lions are consistent offensive execution and higher 3-point shooting percentage away from being a serious contender in the conference. If you haven’t seen Penn State play yet, you may want to check it out, as it will be a force for years to come. Pat Chambers has created a competitive culture and now has the talent to take it to a higher level.
Last week: 10
12. Illinois (15-12, 5-9). The Illini reminded us how good they could be with a strong performance Saturday at Iowa. The perimeter defenders did a terrific job of protecting the 3-point line but didn’t give up easy baskets either. Malcolm Hill continues to be one of my favorite players in the conference with his persistence, patience and constant determination. Just like last season, the Illini could end up making noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
Last week: 13
13. Ohio State (15-13, 5-10). It’s hard to believe the Buckeyes are 5-10 in conference play. The personnel is strong, the potential is high, but the consistency and chemistry just don’t seem to be there. It’s impossible not to believe that losing Keita Bates-Diop hurt this team’s chances in conference play, although it still has enough firepower to be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team.
Last week: 11
14. Rutgers (13-15, 2-13). Our colleague Shon Morris made a great point about why Steve Pikiell should be considered in the Big Ten Coach of the Year race. While it won’t happen, I understand the logic. Pikiell has changed the perception of this program among Big Ten opponents, and by next season fans will have a new appreciation for Rutgers, as well. He created the foundation for success this year and has pieces in place that will make this team a winner next season.
Last week: 14