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Big Ten power rankings: Preseason

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

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Three days from now we’ll be settling into our seats at the Big House or our favorite couch or chair getting ready to watch the Maize and Blue run out of the tunnel, leap up and touch the banner, and begin their quest toward a Big Ten championship. The bad news is that we all still have to make it through three more days. Welcome to our first Big Ten Power Rankings of the season, where we rank each team in the conference. Since no games have been played yet, this week’s power rankings are essentially predictions of where each team should be ranked. Beginning next week, and continuing throughout the season, the power rankings will be reflective of each team’s performance in the game(s) they have played.

As the dawn of college football season draws ever nearer, the Big Ten finds itself facing low expectations once again. Largely considered a three-team league, the Big Ten suffered a huge blow with the news that Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller would miss the entire 2014 campaign.

Now, teams on the brink of breaking through have to step up and help the Big Ten resurface as a power conference. Gone are the days when the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl would give the Big Ten a chance to shine on the national stage, because now the four-team playoff will act as the means by which conference strength is measured. Teams like Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan have to take that next step and give the conference the boost it needs to send a representative into that playoff.

If the Big Ten gets left out of the playoff this season, it will set the tone for a format that figures to rule the sport for the foreseeable future. At least six teams have a realistic shot at winning the Big Ten, and the conference needs each of them to perform in 2014.

East Division
1. Michigan State
Last Week: N/A This Week: Friday vs Jacksonville State, 7:30pm, BTN

The defending Big Ten champions became heavy favorites to repeat in 2014 after Ohio State’s Braxton Miller went down for the season. Michigan State lost plenty of talent to the NFL, but that defense still figures to be the best in the league.

2. Ohio State
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Navy, 12pm, CBS Sports Network

Miller’s season-ending injury put a damper on Ohio State’s championship aspirations, but Urban Meyer’s team is still strong enough to compete for the first Big Ten East Division championship. The Nov. 8 game in East Lansing is the biggest speed bump on the Buckeyes’ road to Indianapolis.

3. Michigan
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs. Appalachian State, 12pm, ESPN2

If Michigan finishes outside the top three in the division, then things need to change in Ann Arbor. Four straight years of strong recruiting has left Brady Hoke with a talented enough roster to win nine or more games. An underrated defense should give Michigan a chance in all 12 games.

4. Penn State
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs UCF, 8:30am, ESPN2

The Nittany Lions still can’t play in a bowl game this season, but new head coach James Franklin managed to hang on to talented quarterback Christian Hackenberg and a team that won seven games last year. Penn State could make a big splash in the standings on Oct. 25 when Ohio State visits Happy Valley, one of the hardest places for visiting teams to win at night.

5. Indiana
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Indiana State, 12pm, ESPNews

Much like they were last year, the Hoosiers are expected to be a group led by an elite offense. Unfortunately, the Big Ten is a difficult conference to win without a strong defense, and the Hoosiers gave up 38.8 points per game last season, good for 117th in college football.

6. Maryland
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs James Madison, 3:30pm, BTN

Maryland joins the Big Ten after a mediocre 7-6 record in the ACC last year. The Terrapins’ 85th-ranked offense will have a tough time scoring enough points in the Big Ten against defenses like that of Michigan State and Michigan, so don’t expect Maryland to compete for a division title in year one.

7. Rutgers
Last Week: N/A This Week: Thursday at Washington State, 10pm, FoxSports1

A 2-6 finish to the 2013 season will set the tone for Rutgers’ first season in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights lost six games by double digits last year during an average year in the ACC, so the powerful Big Ten East could be a rude awakening in 2014.

West Division
1. Wisconsin
Last Week: This Week: Saturday vs LSU, 9pm, ESPN

With Ohio State moving over to the East Division, Wisconsin sits firmly in the driver’s seat to represent the West in Indy this year. Melvin Gordon became the top Heisman candidate in the Big Ten after Miller’s injury and should lead a prototypical Wisconsin running attack that will tear apart opposing defenses.

2. Iowa
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Northern Iowa, 12pm, BTN

Iowa played good enough defense in 2013 to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl, but an inconsistent offense held the team to an 8-5 overall record. If the Hawkeyes post another top-10 defensive effort this season, they could find themselves matching up with Michigan State in Indianapolis in a low-scoring game.

3. Northwestern
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Cal, 3:30pm, ABC

Every season Northwestern looks primed for a breakout, but this year their talent is nowhere near the level of teams like Wisconsin or Iowa. The Wildcats lost four games by one possession last season, so they were close to living up to the preseason hype. But the loss of Venric Mark and a tough conference schedule will make things tough on Northwestern this year.

4. Nebraska
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Florida Atlantic, 3:30pm, BTN

The nation is expecting big things out of Nebraska after finishing a disappointing finish to the conference season last year. If this offense can rush for over 200 yards per game again this season, it has a chance to put the Cornhuskers in the hunt for the title.

5. Minnesota
Last Week: N/A This Week: Thursday vs Eastern Illinois, 7pm, BTN

Minnesota was one of the quietest surprises in the country last season, starting 8-2 before three hard-fought losses to end the year. This season will be a real test for the Gophers as they try to build off of what they started in 2013 and break a decade-long streak of irrelevance.

6. Illinois
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday at Youngstown State, 12:05pm, BTN

It could be another tough year for Illinois after finishing 4-8 with just one conference win last season. After a nonconference schedule that features three easy wins, the Fighting Illini will only be favored in one conference game: at home against the Purdue team they beat in 2013.

7. Purdue
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Western Michigan, 12pm, ESPNU

2013 was an abomination for Purdue, as it went 1-11 with a six-point victory over a division 1-AA opponent. Illinois was the only team that Purdue was within 10 points of beating. It won’t get any easier for the Boilermakers in conference this year.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

As the Big Ten regular season wrapped up on Sunday Michigan was able to sit back and relax having wrapped up the outright conference title by three games and the number one seed in this week’s tournament. The Wolverines will face the winner of the last two teams they faced to close the season, Illinois and Indiana, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The rest of the tournament bracket can be found here

As the conference heads to Indianapolis to battle it out for the automatic NCAA Tournament berth, we took another look at the power rankings.

1. Michigan (23-7, 15-3)  Even
Last week: Mar. 4 W at Illinois 84-53, Mar. 8 W vs Indiana 84-80
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (8) Indiana or (9) Illinois 12pm ESPN/ESPN2

Michigan finished off an incredible conference season by outlasting Indiana on senior night. Jordan Morgan went out with a bang, recording his first double-double of the season and keeping the Wolverines alive early with critical offensive rebounds. The Big Ten outright champions earned the top seed in the conference tournament after running away from the pack and finishing three games ahead of second-place Wisconsin and Michigan State. 

2. Nebraska (19-11, 11-7) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W at Indiana 60-50, Mar. 9 W vs #9 Wisconsin 77-68
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (5) Ohio State or (12) Purdue 2:25pm ESPN/ESPN2

In its biggest game of the season Sunday, Nebraska beat Wisconsin to finish the year with a league-best 15-1 home record. Incredibly, the preseason pick to finish dead last in the Big Ten earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament and landed just one game out of second place. 

3. Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W vs Purdue 76-70, Mar. 9 L at Nebraska 68-77
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (7) Minnesota or (10) Penn State 6:30pm BTN

Bo Ryan’s Badgers had their eyes set on a prize outside the Big Ten: A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A nine-point loss to Nebraska seemingly eliminated Wisconsin from that discussion, but it still earned the second seed in the conference tournament after an 8-1 finish.

4. Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 6 W vs #24 Iowa 86-76, Mar. 9 L at Ohio State 67-69
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (6) Iowa or (11) Northwestern 8:55pm BTN

Michigan State looked like it was back on track after a win over Iowa on senior night. However, a loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale dropped the Spartans to just 5-7 in their last 12 games and 1-2 since sending a healthy starting lineup back on the court.

5. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs #22 Michigan State 69-67
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (12) Purdue 2:25pm BTN

At the beginning of the conference schedule, Sunday’s Michigan State-Ohio State game looked like a potential shootout for the regular season championship. In reality, the game meant very little to the final Big Ten standings. But Aaron Craft did get a win on senior night, and the Buckeyes just barely managed to finish above .500 in the conference.

6. Illinois (18-13, 7-11) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 4 L vs #12 Michigan 53-84, Mar. 8 W at #24 Iowa 66-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (8) Indiana 12pm BTN

John Groce’s team could’ve thrown in the towel after a nine-game losing streak planted it firmly in last place. Instead, the Illini rallied and won four of their last five games, all of which were against NCAA Tournament hopefuls (Minnesota is the only non-lock at this point).

7. Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) • Up 2
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs Penn State 81-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (10) Penn State 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota put itself into a very tough position heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Losses in nine of 14 games put Minnesota on the outside of the tournament bubble looking in with just a home game against Penn State left. The Gophers did what they had to do, blowing out the Nittany Lions 81-63, but it still may not be enough.

8. Iowa (22-11, 9-9) • Down 2
Last week: Mar. 6 L at #22 Michigan State 76-86, Mar. 8 L vs Illinois 63-66
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (11) Northwestern 8:55pm ESPN2

Near the midway point of the season, Iowa was ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll and competing for a Big Ten championship. After five losses in its final six games, this team is reeling at the worst possible time. Iowa drew a favorable matchup in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, facing a Northwestern team that it beat by 26 points — twice.

9. Indiana (17-14, 7-11) • Down 5
Last week: Mar. 5 L vs Nebraska 60-70, Mar. 8 L at #12 Michigan 80-84
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (9) Illinois 12pm BTN

The preseason top-25 Hoosiers know there’s only one route to the Big Dance now: winning the conference tournament. Indiana dropped its last two games to land in the No. 8 slot in Indianapolis and a matchup against the streaking Fighting Illini.

10. Penn State (15-16, 6-12) • Even
Last week: Mar. 6 W at Northwestern 59-32, Mar. 9 L at Minnesota 63-81
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (7) Minnesota 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota waxed Penn State in the final road game for the Nittany Lions, but they still managed to finish the conference season with a 6-6 record in the final 12 games after losing the first six. Penn State drew a rematch against the Gophers in the first round Thursday — a chance to strengthen its NIT resume.

11. Northwestern (13-18, 6-12) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 6 L vs Penn State 32-59, Mar. 9 W at Purdue 74-65
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (6) Iowa 8:55pm ESPN2

Northwestern quietly earned a big road win on Sunday to stay out of the cellar and finish 11th in the Big Ten. The Wildcats held much higher expectations after a 5-5 start, but a seven-game losing streak put any hopes of contending quickly to rest.

12. Purdue (15-16, 5-3) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 L at #9 Wisconsin 70-76, Mar. 9 L vs Northwestern 65-74
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (5) Ohio State 2:25pm BTN

Matt Painter’s team sure hit rock bottom this season. After nearly dethroning the first-place Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago, Purdue had its heart ripped out and lost its three final games. The Boilermakers finished the season by losing 11 of 13 games, including the final six.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

This week’s edition of the Big Ten power rankings features more movement than usual as the conference continues to deal surprise after surprise. With March upon us, teams that play well down the stretch often outperform teams with more impressive overall resumes in postseason tournaments.

While teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa will certainly make the field of 68, playing poorly in late February and early March can really take the steam out of a potential deep run in the Big Dance. Meanwhile, teams that streak into the tournament on the final days of the season (Nebraska? Indiana?) represent extremely dangerous matchups.

So here’s how the Big Ten teams are playing with less than a week remaining before they head to Indianapolis.

1. Michigan (21-7, 13-3)  Even
Last week: Feb. 26 W at Purdue 77-76 OT, Mar. 1 W vs Minnesota 66-56
This week: Tuesday at Illinois 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Indiana 6pm 

The in-state rival Spartans lost just before tip-off in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and after Michigan took care of Minnesota, it officially clinched at least a share of the regular season Big Ten championship. John Beilein’s surprise team can seal the title alone with a win at Illinois tonight or against Indiana on Saturday. 

2. Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5) • Even
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs Indiana 69-58, Mar. 2 W at Penn State 71-66
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 7:30pm 

History shows that no matter what happens early in the season, a hot team is dangerous in March. The Badgers are red-hot heading into the final week of conference play, riding a seven-game winning streak and tied with Michigan State for second place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin could represent the most dangerous team in the conference, but clinching a share of the title gave Michigan the nod at No. 1 for now. 

3. Nebraska (17-11, 9-7) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 26 L at Illinois 49-60, Mar. 1 W vs Northwestern 54-47
This week: Wednesday at Indiana 7pm BTN, Sunday vs #9 Wisconsin 7:30pm

Despite last week’s loss to Illinois, which looks slightly less egregious after the Illini won in East Lansing on Saturday, Nebraska finds itself contending for a first-round bye in Indianapolis. Tim Miles’s team held off Northwestern on Saturday and can secure a winning conference record with a win in either of its final two games (at Indiana on Wednesday or against Wisconsin on Sunday).

4. Indiana (17-12, 7-9) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 25 L at #14 Wisc. 58-69, Feb. 27 W vs #20 Iowa 93-86, Mar. 2 W vs #22 OSU 72-64
This week: Wednesday vs Nebraska 7pm BTN, Saturday at #12 Michigan 6pm

Don’t look now, but Indiana is making the run that Big Ten fans were waiting for. Indiana knocked off two straight top-25 teams last week to keep its dim tournament hopes alive. They may not recover from the 3-7 stretch that plagued the heart of their conference schedule, but the Hoosiers aren’t going down without a fight. It may take a win in Ann Arbor in the season finale to put Indiana over the hump.

5. Iowa (17-12, 6-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 26 W vs Nebraska 60-49, Mar. 1 W at #18 Michigan State 53-46
This week: Tuesday vs #12 Michigan 7pm ESPN, Saturday at #24 Iowa 8:30pm

John Groce waited nearly two whole months of Big Ten play for his team to show some life, and although it’s likely too late to join an already-crowded NCAA Tournament bubble, Illinois played spoiler three times in the past two weeks. A win over Michigan State in East Lansing proved the most impressive feat for Illinois on the season, but beating Minnesota and Nebraska the week before was more nationally significant, as both teams have tournament hopes that hang by a thread.

6. Iowa (20-9, 9-7) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 25 L at Minnesota 89-95, Feb. 27 L at Indiana 86-93, Mar. 2 W vs Purdue 83-76
This week: Thursday at #22 Michigan State 9pm ESPN, Saturday vs Illinois 8:30pm

When both Michigan and Michigan State faltered on their home courts on Feb. 16, Iowa climbed to within one game of the conference co-leaders in the loss column. The Hawkeyes responded by losing their next three games and falling completely out of contention. After struggling to beat Purdue at home, Iowa looks to take advantage of an equally-wounded Spartan squad on Thursday.

7. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) • Down 3
Last week: Mar. 1 L vs Illinois 46-53
This week: Thursday vs #24 Iowa 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Ohio State 4:30pm

All season long Tom Izzo stuck to the same story: when Michigan State returned all of its injured players, the miraculous turnaround would begin. Well on Saturday Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all played against Illinois and the Spartans lost on their home court, and scored just 46 points in the process. The time to start worrying about Michigan State has arrived, as it has dropped six of its last 10 games, with half of those coming at home.

8. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8) • Down 5
Last week: Feb. 27 L at Penn State 63-65, Mar. 2 L at Indiana 64-72
This week: Sunday vs #22 Michigan State 4:30pm CBS

The last time Ohio State lost to Penn State, it responded by winning six of its next seven games. This time, the Buckeyes followed up with a loss to Indiana. Unfortunately for Thad Matta’s squad, the most glaring part of the statement is that the Buckeyes have lost to the 5-11 Nittany Lions twice.

9. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Mar. 1 L at #16 Michigan 56-66
This week: Saturday vs Penn State 8:30pm

Minnesota nearly punched its NCAA Tournament ticket for good Saturday when a furious second-half charge brought it to within two points of first-place Michigan. The visible frustration on coach Richard Pitino’s face as the game slipped away perfectly sums up the remainder of his team’s season. Minnesota will sit and watch the rest of the bubble teams play during the week before hosting Penn State in a game that does little to strengthen its tournament resume. As Joe Lunardi’s “last team in,” this stressful week could turn Pitino’s hair a few shades closer to his father’s.

10. Penn State (14-15, 5-11) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 27 W vs #22 Ohio State 65-63, Mar. 2 L vs #14 Wisconsin 66-71
This week: Thursday at Northwestern 7pm ESPNU, Saturday at Minnesota 8:30pm

Though Penn State is unlikely to win its final two road games and finish the season with an overall .500 record, it did complete a sweep of the preseason No. 11 Buckeyes on Thursday. After losing their first six conference games, the Nittany Lions can settle for morale victories.

11. Purdue (15-14, 5-11) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 26 L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Mar. 2 L vs #20 Iowa 76-83
This week: Wednesday at #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday vs Northwestern 12pm

Purdue played both Michigan and Iowa to the end last week, but the end result was two losses, bringing the streak to a total of four. The Boilermakers’ last chance to play spoiler against a tournament team comes on Wednesday, when they travel to Madison to battle the streaking Badgers.

12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) • Even
Last week: Mar. 1 L at Nebraska 47-54
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 7pm ESPNU, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Northwestern crashed and burned after a strong start to the conference season, currently riding a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats do have an opportunity to finish on a positive note as the final two regular-season games come against fellow last place Big Ten opponents.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

1. Michigan (20-7, 12-3)  Up 2
Last week: Feb. 23 W vs 13 Michigan State 79-70
This week: Wednesday W at Purdue 77-76 OTSaturday vs Minnesota 6pm BTN

In the biggest game in the Big Ten this season, Michigan completed a sweep against conference co-leader Michigan State and regained sole possession of first place. The Wolverines then avoided disaster on Wednesday night at Purdue thanks to a last-second bank shot from Glenn Robinson III. 

2. Wisconsin (23-5, 10-5) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 22 W at #15 Iowa 79-74
This week: Tuesday W vs Indiana 69-58, Sunday at Penn State 12pm BTN

The Badgers had another tremendous week, knocking off Iowa on the road and bouncing back from a poor 19-point first half performance to hold off Indiana on Monday. Wisconsin owns the longest current winning streak in the Big Ten at six. 

3. Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 19 W vs Northwestern 76-60, Feb. 22 W vs Minnesota 64-46
This week: Thursday at Penn State 7pm ESPN2, Sunday at Indiana 4pm

Sam Thomson and the Buckeyes have quietly reclaimed one of the top four spots in the Big Ten. With wins in six of its past seven games, Ohio State sits in position to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

4. Michigan State (22-6, 11-4) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 20 W vs Purdue 94-79, Feb. 23 L at Michigan 70-79
This week: Saturday vs Illinois 4pm ESPN

The Spartans continued their recent trend of losing every other game when they dropped another game to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Michigan State is likely to get back on track Saturday against Illinois.

5. Iowa (19-8, 8-6) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 22 L vs #16 Wisconsin 74-79
This week: Tuesday L at Minnesota 89-95, Thursday at Indiana 9pm ESPN, Sunday vs Purdue 2:05pm

For the first time all season, Iowa has lost two straight games and dropped to fifth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Wisconsin. The makeup game in Assembly Hall Thursday night could be a make-or-break game for Iowa’s hopes of earning a first-round Big Ten Tournament bye.

6. Minnesota (18-11, 7-9) • Up 1
Last week: Feb.19 L vs Illinois 49-62, Feb. 22 L at #24 Ohio State 46-64
This week: Tuesday W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Saturday at #16 Michigan 6pm BTN

Richard Pitino’s team found its back up against the wall on Monday after dropping eight of its last 12 Big Ten games. The Gophers somehow found a way to hold on against Iowa and move back on the right side of the NCAA bubble, for now.

7. Nebraska (16-11, 8-7) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 20 W vs Penn State 80-67, Feb. 23 W vs Purdue 76-57
This week: Wednesday L at Illinois 49-60, Saturday vs Northwestern 5pm ESPNU

Just when it looked like Nebraska’s Cinderella story run to the NCAA Tournament could become a reality, it dropped a must-have game to Illinois. Now only a deep conference tournament run could put Tim Miles’s crew back in the conversation.

8. Illinois (16-12, 5-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 19 W at Minnesota 62-49
This week: Wednesday W vs Nebraska 60-49, Saturday at #18 Michigan State 4pm ESPN

After losing 10 of 11 games during the heart of the Big Ten season, Illinois has no chance of earning an at-large bid into the Dance. But the Fighting Illini are bursting a few other Big Ten bubbles with wins over Minnesota and Nebraska in the past week.

9. Indiana (15-12, 5-9) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 22 W at Northwestern 61-56
This week: Tuesday L at #14 Wisconsin 58-69, Thursday vs #20 Iowa 9pm, Sunday vs #22 Ohio State 4pm

It was a great week for Indiana basketball. Not only did the Hoosiers pick up a road win against Northwestern, but Assembly Hall has been repaired and deemed safe enough to play the previously-scheduled game against Iowa on Thursday.

10. Purdue (15-13, 5-10) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 20 L vs #13 Michigan State 79-94, Feb. 23 L at Nebraska 57-76
This week: Wednesday L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Sunday at #20 Iowa 2:05pm BTN

Purdue missed a golden opportunity at a marquee win on Wednesday night after getting waxed in back-to-back games by Michigan State and Nebraska. Purdue’s schedule doesn’t get any easier after the overtime loss as trips to Iowa and Wisconsin loom.

11. Penn State (13-14, 4-10) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 20 L at Nebraska 67-80
This week: Thursday vs #22 Ohio State 7pm ESPN2, Sunday vs #14 Wisconsin 12pm

Pat Chambers’s team is reeling after a 13-point loss at the hands of Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a chance to sweep Ohio State when the Buckeyes visit State College on Thursday.

12. Northwestern (12-16, 5-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 19 L at #24 Ohio State 60-76, Feb. 22 L vs Indiana 56-61
This week: Saturday at Nebraska 5pm ESPNU 

Remember when four out of five wins put Northwestern in the top four spots in the conference? Now the only cause for celebration in Evanston is that the Wildcats get to host the proverbial last-place game against Penn State next week.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 7

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

1. Wisconsin (21-5, 8-5)  Up 2
Last week: Feb. 13 W vs Minnesota 78-70, Feb. 16 W at #15 Michigan 75-62
This week: Saturday at #15 Iowa 12pm ESPN2

After a difficult late January stretch in which it went 1-5, Wisconsin has rallied to win four straight conference games, including victories over each of the co-leaders, Michigan and Michigan State. A trip to Iowa on Saturday is a must win. 

2. Iowa (19-6, 8-4) • Up 2
Last week: Feb. 15 W at Penn State 82-70
This week: Tuesday at Indiana (postponed), Saturday vs #16 Wisconsin 12pm

Iowa would be sitting atop the conference if it hadn’t dropped two home games late in the second half to Michigan State and Ohio State. However, losses by the two top teams on Sunday brings the surprising Hawkeyes within one game of first place in the loss column. Saturday’s matchup with Wisconsin will be big for both teams’ hopes of staying within reach. 

3. Michigan (18-7, 10-3) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 11 W at #22 Ohio State 70-60, Feb. 16 L vs #21 Wisconsin 62-75
This week: Sunday vs #13 Michigan State 1pm CBS

Michigan remains atop the Big Ten, but it has scuffled of late. After a magical 8-0 conference start, the Wolverines have dropped three of their last five games and the rest of the conference has chipped away at the gap separating the two Michigan schools.

4. Nebraska (14-10, 6-6) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 12 W vs Illinois 67-58, Feb. 16 W at #9 Michigan State 60-51
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 7pm ESPNU, Sunday vs Purdue 4:15pm

Nebraska coach Tim Miles has done an incredible job with a team that looked years away from being competitive in the Big Ten. Now his team has won five of six games and moved onto the fringes of the bubble conversation. Sunday’s win at Michigan State was a huge hurdle cleared for a program that has struggled to win on the road the past few years.

5. Michigan State (21-5, 10-3) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 13 W vs Penn State 85-70, Feb. 16 L vs Nebraska 51-60
This week: Thursday at Purdue 7pm ESPN, Sunday at #20 Michigan 1pm CBS

The Spartans dropped another shocker on Sunday when Nebraska picked up just its second road win of the season in East Lansing. Michigan State is now 3-4 in its past seven games, including a non-conference loss to Georgetown.

6. Ohio State (20-6, 7-6) • Even
Last week: Feb. 11 L vs #15 Michigan 60-70, Feb.15 W at Illinois 48-39
This week: Wednesday vs Northwestern 7pm BTN, Saturday vs Minnesota 7pm

Ohio State’s three-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt in Columbus when the rival Wolverines won there for the first time since 2003. The Buckeyes followed the loss with an ugly 48-39 win at Illinois.

7. Minnesota (17-9, 6-7) • Up 2
Last week: Feb. 13 L at #21 Wisconsin 70-78, Feb. 16 W at Northwestern 54-48
This week: Wednesday vs Illinois 9pm BTN, Saturday at #24 Ohio State 6pm

The Gophers are holding on for dear life, winning just two of their last six games, both by a mere six points. Minnesota has a tough remaining schedule with games in Ann Arbor and Columbus looming and home tilt against the hot Hawkeyes.

8. Purdue (15-10, 5-7) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 15 W vs Indiana 82-64
This week: Wednesday vs #13 Michigan State 7pm ESPN, Sunday at Nebraska 4:15pm

While Purdue doesn’t figure to be much of a factor in the Big Ten down the stretch, it got a big moral victory on Saturday when it waxed rival Indiana by 18 in West Lafayette.

9. Northwestern (12-14, 5-8) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 13 L at #9 Michigan State 70-85, Feb. 16 L vs Minnesota 48-54
This week: Wednesday at #24 Ohio State 7pm BTN, Saturday vs Indiana 8:15pm

A few weeks ago, Northwestern was shocking the conference by winning four of five and vaulting into fourth place. Now, the Wildcats have lost three straight games, including two winnable matchups at home, and dropped out of the picture.

10. Penn State (13-13, 4-9) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 12 W at Indiana 66-65, Feb. 15 L vs #16 Iowa 70-82
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 7pm ESPNU

The Nittany Lions picked up a great win at Indiana last week, but couldn’t hold on to beat Iowa at home on Saturday. Unfortunately for this team, the rest of the games on the schedule look like tall orders.

11. Illinois (14-12, 3-10) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 12 L at Nebraska 58-67, Feb. 15 L vs #22 Ohio State 39-48
This week: Wednesday at Minnesota 9pm BTN

Illinois has looked much more competitive since its win over Penn State on Feb. 9, losing to both Nebraska and Ohio State by just single-digits. But at the end of the day, Illinois has lost 10 of 11 games and sits in the cellar of the Big Ten.

12. Indiana (14-11, 4-8) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 12 L vs Penn State 65-66, Feb. 15 L at Purdue 64-82
This week: Tuesday vs #15 Iowa (postponed), Saturday at Northwestern 8:15pm 

About the only thing that could stop Indiana from losing happened on Tuesday — the arena started caving in. A large beam fell inside Assembly Hall, causing the game with Iowa to be postponed, signaling that the collapse of the 2014 Hoosiers has officially started physically affecting their stadium. Even Illinois’ losing streak can’t boast that.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 6 – Friday edition

Friday, February 14th, 2014

1. Michigan (18-6, 10-2)  Even
Last week: Feb. 5 W vs Nebraska 79-50, Feb. 8 L at Iowa 67-85
This week: Tuesday W at #22 Ohio State 70-60, Sunday vs #21 Wisconsin 1pm CBS

Michigan needed to stop the bleeding after a drubbing in Iowa resulted in its second loss in three games. The team that won 10 games in a row showed up in the second half in Columbus, leading Michigan to its first win there since 2003 and putting the Wolverines back atop the Big Ten standings.

2. Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) • Even
Last week: Feb. 6 W vs Penn State 82-67, Feb. 9 L at Wisconsin 58-60
This week: Thursday W vs Northwestern 85-70, Sunday vs Nebraska 3pm

The Spartans are mired in a tough stretch in which they had lost three of their  last five games. Last night’s win over Northwestern and upcoming games against Nebraska and Purdue should provide an opportunity to get back on track before the big showdown in Ann Arbor on February 23.

3. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5) • Up 7
Last week: Feb. 4 W at Illinois 75-63, Feb. 9 W vs #9 Michigan State 60-58
This week: Thursday W vs Minnesota 78-70, Sunday at #15 Michigan 1pm CBS

Although a win over Illinois ended a streak of five losses in six games for the Badgers, beating first-place Michigan State hinted at a possible return of the Wisconsin that started the season ranked in the top 10.

4. Iowa (18-6, 7-4) • Even
Last week: Feb. 4 L vs Ohio State 69-76, Feb. 8 W vs #10 Michigan 85-67
This week: Saturday at Penn State 1pm ESPNU

In its last six games, Iowa has rotated between wins and losses, making it difficult to gain any ground in the Big Ten standings. Its inconsistency was nowhere to be found on Saturday, though, as it dominated Michigan on national television.

5. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 L at #10 Michigan 50-79, Feb. 8 W at Northwestern 53-49
This week: Wednesday W vs Illinois 67-58, Sunday at #9 Michigan State 3pm BTN

Tim Miles’s team finally picked up a road win last Saturday with a win over the streaking Wildcats in Evanston. Nebraska continues to protect its home court, moving to 11-1 with its second straight win on Wednesday night.

6. Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) • Up 2
Last week: Feb. 4 W at #17 Iowa 76-69, Feb. 8 W vs Purdue 67-49
This week: Tuesday L to #15 Michigan 60-70, Saturday at Illinois 8pm BTN

Just when Aaron Craft and his crew began to look like the preseason top 10 team they were four months ago, Michigan went into Columbus and won for the first time since 2003. Ohio State had won three games before the loss to Michigan, and the schedule offers an opportunity to build another winning streak into March.

7. Northwestern (12-13, 5-7) • Down 4
Last week: Feb. 8 L vs Nebraska 49-53
This week: Thursday L at #9 Michigan State 70-85, Sunday vs Minnesota 6pm BTN

Northwestern’s magical stretch that brought it as high as fourth in the Big Ten came to an abrupt halt Saturday when it became the first team to lose to Nebraska at home this season. An extremely busy week lies ahead for Chris Collins’s crew, as it will host Minnesota in between trips to East Lansing and Columbus.

8. Penn State (13-12, 4-8) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 6 L at #9 Michigan State 82-67, Feb. 9 L vs Illinois 55-60
This week: Wednesday W at Indiana 66-65, Saturday vs #16 Iowa 1pm ESPNU

The Big Ten’s last place team shook up the conference with a three-game winning streak last week, but followed up by losing twice in four days. Penn State got back on track Wednesday night by pulling off a shocker on the road against Indiana.

9. Minnesota (16-9, 5-7) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 L at Purdue 74-77 3OT, Feb. 8 W vs Indiana 66-60
This week: Thursday L at #21 Wisconsin 70-78, Sunday at Northwestern 6pm BTN

An outstanding non-conference performance by Minnesota evaporated during Big Ten play, in which it has lost five of its last eight. Before beating Indiana last Saturday, Richard Pitino’s team dropped three straight against teams with losing conference records.

10. Indiana (14-10, 4-7) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 8 L at Minnesota 60-66
This week: Wednesday L to Penn State 65-66, Saturday at Purdue 4pm ESPN

Indiana got the enormous win it needed to turn its season around when it handed the first-place Wolverines their first conference loss. Unfortunately for this team, the next two games featured losses to Minnesota and Penn State, dropping the Hoosiers right back to where they were.

11. Purdue (14-10, 4-7) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 W vs Minnesota 77-75 3OT, Feb. 8 L at Ohio State 49-67
This week: Saturday vs Indiana 4pm ESPN

Fans in West Lafayette enjoyed a thrilling triple-overtime win over Minnesota last week, but Purdue’s struggles leave little reason for hope as the Big Ten season nears a close.

12. Illinois (14-11, 3-9) • Even
Last week: Feb. 4 L vs Wisconsin 63-75, Feb. 9 W at Penn State 60-55
This week: Wednesday L at Nebraska 58-67, Saturday vs #22 Ohio State 8pm BTN

In its last 10 games, Illinois does boast a win over 11th-place Penn State, but the other nine games are all loses. Chances of making the NCAA Tournament in 2014 have evaporated for this young team.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 5

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

1. Michigan (16-5, 8-1)  Even
Last week: Jan. 30 W vs Purdue 75-66, Feb. 2 L vs Indiana 52-63
This week: Wednesday vs Nebraska 6:30pm BTN, Saturday at Iowa 2pm

Even though Michigan lost a tough road game in Bloomington on Sunday, it still holds the tiebreaker with in-state rival Michigan State and remains atop the conference standings. The 10-game winning streak is over, but the Wolverines maintained their top-10 ranking in the AP Poll.

2. Michigan State (19-3, 8-1) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 28 W vs #15 Iowa 71-69, Feb. 2 L vs Georgetown 60-64
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at Wisconsin 1pm

Tom Izzo’s team lost its second game in three tries Saturday, falling 64-60 at the hands of Georgetown (13-9, 4-6 Big East). The Spartans are still comfortably towards the top of the Big Ten, but they look much more vulnerable without their two post presences.

3. Northwestern (12-11, 5-5) • Up 4
Last week: Jan. 29 W at #14 Wisconsin 65-56, Feb. 1 W at Minnesota 55-54
This week: Saturday vs Nebraska 1pm ESPNU

Chris Collins completely changed the culture of Northwestern basketball in 2014 and the Wildcats have won four of five games. They would receive a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament if it started today. Last week, Northwestern picked up two valuable road victories with back-to-back wins against Wisconsin and Minnesota.

4. Iowa (17-5, 6-3) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 28 L vs #7 Michigan State 69-71, Feb. 1 W at Illinois 81-74
This week: Tuesday vs Ohio State 7pm ESPN, Saturday at #10 Michigan 2pm

Iowa avoided disaster on Saturday, coming back to beat Illinois in the final minutes and stay firmly in third place in the Big Ten. After a scorching start to the season, the Hawkeyes are cooling off a little bit with two losses and a scare against the Fighting Illini among their last four games.

5. Nebraska (11-9, 3-5) • Up 3
Last week: Jan. 30 W vs Indiana 60-55
This week: Wednesday at #10 Michigan 6:30pm BTN, Saturday at Northwestern 1pm

Despite an 0-4 conference start, Tim Miles’ team is one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, having won three of its last four. The Cornhuskers boast a near-perfect record in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, the only blemish being a one-point thrilling loss to Michigan. Nebraska is a completely different team when it travels, as it has yet to win on the road this season.

6. Penn State (12-10, 3-6) • Up 6
Last week: Jan. 29 W at #24 Ohio State 71-70, Feb. 2 W vs Purdue 79-68
This week: Thursday at #9 Michigan State 9pm ESPN2, Sunday vs Illinois 4:15pm

Penn State began the Big Ten season by losing its first six games by an average of over nine points. But since breaking the ice on January 23, the Nittany Lions haven’t lost. Incredibly, Penn State currently owns the longest winning streak in the conference and sits just a game and a half out of fourth place.

7. Indiana (14-8, 4-5) • Down 1
Last week: Jan. 30 L at Nebraska 55-60, Feb. 2 W vs #10 Michigan 63-52
This week: Saturday at Minnesota 8:15pm BTN

Indiana handed first-place Michigan its first conference loss Sunday in what was a must-win for Tom Crean’s team. Despite the big win, Indiana is probably still sitting on the wrong side of the bubble with a losing conference record and no strong wins outside the Big Ten.

8. Ohio State (17-5, 4-5) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 29 L vs Penn State 70-71, Feb. 1 W at #14 Wisconsin 59-58
This week: Tuesday at #17 Iowa 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Purdue 6pm

Following an embarrassing home loss to Penn State last week, Ohio State took advantage of a reeling Wisconsin squad and survived with a one-point road victory in Madison. The Buckeyes played poorly for six straight games before the win, but Big Ten followers wouldn’t be surprised to see this team make a late run.

9. Minnesota (15-7, 4-5) • Down 4
Last week: Feb. 1 L vs Northwestern 54-55
This week: Wednesday at Purdue 8:30pm BTN, Saturday vs Indiana 8:15pm

Minnesota dominated at the Barn nearly all season long before slipping up against a pesky Northwestern team Saturday. Though Minnesota could have been the team to benefit from collapses in Columbus and Madison, a rough stretch of its own has it sitting under .500, at 4-5.

10. Wisconsin (13-7, 3-4) • Down 6
Last week: Jan. 29 L vs Northwestern 56-65, Feb. 1 L vs #24 Ohio State 58-59
This week: Tuesday at Illinois 9pm BTN, Sunday vs #9 Michigan State 1pm

Wisconsin’s season is quickly spiraling out of control as the former third-ranked Badgers fell out of the rankings on Monday and are 1-5 since January 14. A glance at the upcoming schedule shows that Wisconsin could end up with a losing record in this unpredictable conference.

11. Purdue (13-9, 3-6) • Down 1
Last week: Jan. 30 L at #10 Michigan 66-75, Feb. 2 L at Penn State 68-79
This week: Wednesday vs Minnesota 8:30pm BTN, Saturday at Ohio State 6pm

A grueling four-game stretch completely decimated Purdue over the last two weeks as they fell from 3-2 to 3-6 in the conference. The Boilermakers haven’t scored 70 points since January 12 against Nebraska.

12. Illinois (13-9, 2-7) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 1 L vs #15 Iowa 74-81
This week: Tuesday vs Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday at Penn State 4:15pm

A valiant upset big against Iowa at home fell just short for Illinois on Saturday, as the Big Ten’s longest losing streak ballooned to seven. A recent surge from Penn State makes the Illini streak look like it could reach 12, which would certainly make John Groce’s seat considerably hotter in just his second season with Illinois.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

1. Michigan (15-4, 7-0) Up 1
Last week: Jan. 22 W vs #10 Iowa 75-67, Jan. 25 W at #3 Michigan State 80-75
This week: Thursday vs Purdue 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Indiana 1pm

Michigan is riding one of the most impressive streaks in the nation after knocking off three straight top-10 Big Ten opponents. More importantly, Michigan is undefeated (4-0) in conference road games against four teams that are an otherwise combined 39-1 at home.

2. Iowa (16-4, 5-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 22 L at #21 Michigan 67-75, Jan. 25 W at Northwestern 76-50
This week: Tuesday vs #7 Michigan State 7pm ESPN, Saturday at Illinois 7:30pm

Iowa has not only started the Big Ten season off 5-2, but it has won every game by 10 or more points. The deepest team in the league has been in every game, and the two losses are on the road by a combined 12 points.

3. Michigan State (18-2, 7-1) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 21 W vs Indiana 71-66, Jan. 25 L vs #21 Michigan 75-80
This week: Tuesday at #15 Iowa 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Georgetown 3pm

Although the Spartans are still alone in second place in the conference, the home struggles continued Saturday night against in-state rival Michigan. Michigan State has lost two home games this season, and all three Big Ten wins in the Breslin Center have been in overtime or by five points.

4. Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3) • Even
Last week: Jan. 22 L at Minnesota 68-81, Jan. 25 W at Purdue 72-58
This week: Wednesday vs Northwestern 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #24 Ohio State 12pm

Wisconsin snapped its surprising three-game losing streak with a rare Big Ten road victory against Purdue on Saturday. Sam Dekker has emerged as the team’s top dog, leading in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (6.4).

5. Minnesota (15-6, 4-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 22 W vs #9 Wisconsin 81-68, Jan. 26 L at Nebraska 78-82
This week: Saturday vs Northwestern 2pm BTN

After surviving a brutal stretch in which it played four straight top-15 teams, Minnesota dropped a game to Nebraska Sunday to fall back to even in the conference.

6. Indiana (13-7, 3-4) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 21 L at #3 Michigan State 66-71, Jan. 26 W vs Illinois 56-46
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 8:15pm BTN, Sunday vs #10 Michigan 1pm

Indiana nearly knocked off No. 3 Michigan State in East Lansing last week, but got back on track by beating Illinois at Assembly Hall on Sunday. The Hoosiers will be the next Big Ten team to try its luck against Nebraska in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena.

7. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5) • Even
Last week: Jan. 21 W vs Purdue 63-60 2OT, Jan. 25 L vs #10 Iowa 50-76
This week: Wednesday at #14 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Saturday at Minnesota 2pm

After getting absolutely stomped in each of its first three Big Ten games, Northwestern has bounced back nicely, winning three of its last five. Chris Collins has his team looking competitive, and the road win against Indiana was impressive.

8. Nebraska (10-9, 2-5) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 20 W vs #17 OSU 68-62, Jan. 23 L at Penn State 54-58, Jan. 26 W vs Minnesota 82-78
This week: Thursday vs Indiana 8:15pm BTN,

Tim Miles has turned things around for the Nebraska program and now the Cornhuskers are a force to reckon with in their new arena. Nebraska’s latest win knocked off a hot Minnesota team coming off a big win over Wisconsin.

9. Ohio State (16-4, 3-4) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 20 L at Nebraska 62-68, Jan. 23 W vs Illinois 62-55
This week: Wednesday vs Penn State 7pm BTN, Saturday at #14 Wisconsin 12pm

Ohio State’s four-game losing streak is over, but Thad Matta’s team looked less than impressive in the win over Illinois. The Buckeyes trailed the Illini for much of the second half but pulled away late to win by seven.

10. Purdue (13-7, 3-4) • Down 4
Last week: Jan. 21 L at Northwestern 60-63 2OT, Jan. 25 L vs #9 Wisconsin 58-72
This week: Thursday at #10 Michigan 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Penn State 11:30am

Purdue’s three-game winning streak that brought them above the .500 mark in the conference came to a sudden halt in Evanston last Tuesday when Northwestern took its first lead of the game in double-overtime and held on for the win. Purdue has played a relatively easy Big Ten schedule so far, so the worst is still to come. A trip to red-hot Michigan awaits on Thursday.

11. Illinois (13-8, 2-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 23 L at #17 Ohio State 55-62, Jan. 26 L at Indiana 46-56
This week: Saturday vs #15 Iowa 7:30pm BTN

Although mid-season collapses have become routine for Illinois basketball, losing six in a row after starting 13-2 is a new low. With Iowa and Wisconsin on the horizon, the streak is likely to reach at least eight.

12. Penn State (10-10, 1-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 23 W vs Nebraska 58-54
This week: Wednesday at #24 Ohio State 7pm BTN, Sunday vs Purdue 11:30am

Penn State got its first win of the conference season this week when it held off Nebraska for a 58-54 win at home. The Nittany Lions might be favored in just one more game this season, at home against Illinois on February 9th.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 3

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

1. Michigan State (17-1, 6-0) Even
Last week: Jan. 7 W at Northwestern 54-40, Jan. 18 W at Illinois 78-62
This week: Tuesday vs Indiana 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs #21 Michigan 7pm

The most impressive number that demonstrates what the Spartans have done in Big Ten play is four. Tom Izzo’s team has already won four road games in the conference, something that most teams will be lucky to accomplish throughout the entire 18-game slate.

2. Michigan (13-4, 5-0) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 14 W vs Penn State 80-67, Jan. 18 W at #3 Wisconsin 77-70
This week: Wednesday vs #10 Iowa 7pm BTN, Saturday at #3 Michigan State 7pm

Four non-conference losses and back surgery for Mitch McGary means the Wolverines must be done right? Wrong. The loss of the preseason All-American has rallied the Michigan big men and the combination of Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan has been consistent enough to lead the Maize and Blue to a huge win in Madison.

3. Iowa (15-3, 4-1) • Even
Last week: Jan. 19 W vs Minnesota 94-73
This week: Wednesday at #21 Michigan 7pm BTN, Saturday at Northwestern 12pm

Iowa has impressed the country with a 4-1 conference start that includes a win in Columbus over the then-third-ranked Buckeyes. A trip to Ann Arbor Wednesday will give the Hawkeyes a chance to prove that game wasn’t just a fluke.

4. Wisconsin (16-2, 3-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 14 L at Indiana 72-75, Jan. 18 L vs Michigan 70-77
This week: Wednesday at Minnesota 9pm BTN, Saturday at Purdue 5pm

Nobody expected Wisconsin to lose back-to-back games after starting the season 16-0, but the Badgers still sit inside the top 10 in the country. Wisconsin is one of the most difficult teams in the country to guard, as players like Josh Gasser and Frank Kaminsky stretch the floor with dangerous outside shooting.

5. Minnesota (14-5, 3-3) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 16 W vs #11 Ohio State 63-53, Jan. 19 L at #14 Iowa 94-73
This week: Wednesday vs #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 6pm

Minnesota has had one of the more difficult conference schedules through six games. Although the Gophers have lost to the top three teams in the conference, wins over Ohio State and Purdue could end up being critical tie-breakers for the middle seeds of the Big Ten tournament.

6. Purdue (13-5, 3-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 15 W at Illinois 66-58, Jan. 18 W vs Penn State 65-64
This week: Tuesday at Northwestern 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #9 Wisconsin 5pm

Matt Painter’s team has yet to play a team with a winning Big Ten record. Purdue appears to be the definition of a middle-of-the-pack conference team, as all five games have been decided by single digits thus far.

7. Northwestern (9-10, 2-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 15 L vs #4 Michigan State 40-54, Jan. 18 W at Indiana 54-47
This week: Tuesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #10 Iowa 12pm

Chris Collins is coming off the most surprising week in the Big Ten this season. The Wildcats got their first conference win against No. 23 Illinois last Sunday, hung with Michigan State on Wednesday and beat Indiana on the road Saturday.

8. Indiana (12-6, 2-3) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 14 W vs #3 Wisconsin 75-72, Jan. 18 L vs Northwestern 47-54
This week: Tuesday at #3 Michigan State 7pm ESPN, Sunday vs Illinois 3pm

Indiana appeared to be turning things around after an 0-2 conference start with a win at Penn State and upset over No. 3 Wisconsin. Then, the streak came to an abrupt halt in Evanston, where Northwestern shocked the streaking Hoosiers, 54-47.

9. Nebraska (9-8, 1-4) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 12 L at Purdue 64-70
This week: Monday W vs #17 Ohio State 68-62, Thursday at Penn State 8pm, Sunday vs Minnesota 6pm

After missing three layups to lose to Michigan by one point and falling at Purdue by six, Nebraska finally broke through to get its first Big Ten win Monday night against No. 17 Ohio State. Remember, power rankings demonstrate how teams are playing right now, and Nebraska has definitely looked better than Ohio State and Illinois, which are currently on a combined eight-game losing streak.

10. Ohio State (15-4, 2-4) • Down 5
Last week: Jan. 12 L vs #20 Iowa 74-84, Jan. 16 L at Minnesota 53-63
This week: Monday L at Nebraska 62-68, Thursday vs Illinois 7pm ESPN

The Buckeyes’ four-game losing streak has covered every side of the Big Ten spectrum. They have lost on the road (Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska) and at home (Iowa). They’ve lost to an undefeated conference opponent (Michigan State) and a previously-winless one (Nebraska). Thad Matta’s team will almost surely get things back on track soon, but right now Ohio State is absolutely reeling.

11. Illinois (13-6, 2-4) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 12 L at Northwestern 43-49, Jan. 15 L vs Purdue 58-66, Jan. 18 L vs #4 MSU 62-78
This week: Thursday at #17 Ohio State 7pm ESPN, Sunday at Indiana 3pm

The difference between Ohio State’s four-game losing streak and that of Illinois is simple: the Buckeyes’ streak will likely end on Thursday. The Fighting Illini have shown no signs of being able to come out of Columbus with a victory, and the losing streak will likely reach at least eight before they visit Penn State on February 9th.

12. Penn State (9-10, 0-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 14 L at Michigan 67-80, Jan. 18 L at Purdue 64-65
This week: Thursday vs Nebraska 8pm ESPNU

Pat Chambers’ team missed a real opportunity to get off the schneid on Saturday. Penn State held a lead late on the road and allowed Purdue to steal away a chance at a valuable Big Ten road win in the final seconds.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 2

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

1. Michigan State (15-1, 4-0) Even
Last week: Jan. 7 W vs #3 Ohio State 72-68 OT, Jan. 11 W vs Minnesota 87-75 OT
This week: Wednesday at Northwestern 7pm on BTN

The Spartans have remained undefeated in the Big Ten by winning their previous two games in overtime at the Breslin Center. Though the performance against Minnesota was less impressive, the victory over Ohio State is enough to make Michigan State the frontrunner through two weeks.

2. Wisconsin (16-0, 3-0) • Even
Last week: Jan. 8 W vs #23 Illinois 95-70
This week: Tuesday at Indiana 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Michigan 6pm

As the highest ranked team in the conference, Wisconsin has taken down a couple of top 25 Big Ten teams in its past two games. A comeback win over Iowa was followed by a 25-point dismantling of Illinois in which Bo Ryan’s team scored an uncharacteristic 95 points. Wisconsin is dangerous in 2014.

3. Iowa (14-3, 3-1) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 8 W vs Northwestern 93-67, Jan. 12 W at #3 Ohio State 84-74
This week: Sunday vs Minnesota 1pm BTN

Iowa has had a brutal early Big Ten schedule, travelling to both Madison and Columbus to play top 5 teams. After blowing a second half lead against the Badgers, the Hawkeyes came up with the best win in the conference so far by beating the Buckeyes on the road. Iowa’s offense ranking in the top 10 nationally in points, rebounds and assists per game.

4. Michigan (11-4, 3-0) • Even
Last week: Jan. 9 W at Nebraska 71-70
This week: Tuesday vs Penn State 8pm BTN, Saturday at #3 Wisconsin 6pm

The Wolverines have had a cakewalk of a conference schedule so far, playing three teams with a combined 3-9 Big Ten record. A close call in Lincoln proved just how deadly this conference can be in road games, so the 2-0 record away from Ann Arbor is a welcome start for a McGary-less Michigan team.

5. Ohio State (15-2, 2-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 7 L at #5 Michigan State 68-72 OT, Jan. 12 L vs #20 Iowa 74-84
This week: Thursday at Minnesota 9pm ESPN2

After starting the season win 15 wins, the Big Ten schedule has hit Ohio State in the mouth. Michigan State won a hard-fought battle in East Lansing after Aaron Craft led a strong fourth quarter comeback to force overtime. Just five days later, Iowa walked into Columbus and stunned Thad Matta’s team, which now sits at just 2-2.

6. Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 8 W at Penn State 68-65, Jan. 11 L at #5 Michigan State 75-87 OT
This week: Thursday vs #11 Ohio State 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at #14 Iowa 1pm

Minnesota has looked shaky since the start of Big Ten play, winning two games over Penn State and Purdue by three points each. On the other hand, both losses have come to undefeated Big Ten teams, one by just three points and one in overtime on the road. All signs point to the Gophers playing to the level of their competition, which makes this team dangerous late in the season, but will keep it from contending for the conference title.

7. Northwestern (8-9, 1-3) • Up 5
Last week: Jan. 9 L at #20 Iowa 67-93, Jan. 12 W vs #23 Illinois 49-43
This week: Wednesday vs #4 Michigan State 7pm BTN, Saturday at Indiana 2:30pm

Chris Collins’ team came from nowhere to upset No. 23 Illinois and get its first Big Ten win Sunday. After losing their first three conference games by 27, 23 and 26, the Wildcats held Illinois to just 43 points in Evanston.

8. Purdue (11-5, 1-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 12 W vs Nebraska 70-64
This week: Wednesday at Illinois 9pm BTN, Saturday vs Penn State 7pm

Purdue has a losing record early in Big Ten play, but single-digit losses to Ohio State and Minnesota suggest that Matt Painter has his team of Johnsons ready to play this season. A 10-3 non-conference finish was a success, too.

9. Illinois (10-5, 0-2) • Down 3
Last week: Jan. 8 L at #3 Wisconsin 70-95, Jan. 12 L at Northwestern 43-49
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #4 Michigan State 8pm

Through 17 games, Illinois ranks outside the top 290 teams nationally in both assists per game and field goal percentage. What does that mean? The team doesn’t make good decisions. Illinois seems to impress the country each year during the non-conference schedule only to struggle through the tough Big Ten slate. After being embarrassed by Wisconsin and losing a laugher to Northwestern, John Groce’s team appears to be heading down that same path in 2014.

10. Indiana (11-5, 1-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 11 W at Penn State 79-76
This week: Tuesday vs #3 Wisconsin 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Northwestern 2:30pm

Easily the most disappointing team in the Big Ten so far is Indiana. The Hoosiers have yet to put a complete game together after losing to both Illinois and Michigan State and squeaking out a three point win against the Nittany Lions. A home game against Wisconsin tonight offers a chance to turn things around in a big way.

11. Nebraska (8-8, 0-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 9 L vs Michigan 70-71, Jan. 12 L at Purdue 64-70
This week: None (Jan. 20 vs #11 Ohio State)

Nebraska is much closer to being competitive than it was last season. Three of the four Big Ten losses so far have come by 10 or less points. Three missed layups in the final seconds against Michigan snatched away the chance to open the new Pinnacle Bank Arena with a Big Ten win.

12. Penn State (9-8, 0-4) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 8 L vs Minnesota 65-68, Jan. 11 L vs Indiana 76-79
This week: Tuesday at Michigan 8pm BTN, Saturday at Purdue 7pm

Unfortunately for Penn State, the return of star guard Tim Frazier has done little to make the team more successful. Eight losses, including the first four of Big Ten play have Penn State sitting at 9-8 halfway through the season.