Big Ten play is upon us, and that means meaningful basketball games essentially every night at this time of year. The conference remains among the two best in the nation, with four teams in the Associated Press top 25 and six others receiving votes to occupy spots Nos. 27-32.
Big risers: Maryland held on for a two-point home win against Nebraska, then went on the road for wins against Rutgers and Minnesota. Suddenly the Terrapins are knocking on the ceiling of the Big Ten standings.
Big fallers: In the long run, Nebraska likely will be fine. The Cornhuskers are deep and experienced, but they have lost two straight to drop to 1-3 in Big Ten play. All three losses were on the road, and that record should even out when the home games kick in, but you get the feeling Nebraska should have won at least one of those three losses.
Big picture: Michigan and Michigan State continue to separate themselves as the teams to beat, the middle remains as muddled as ever and the basement triumvirate of Penn State, Rutgers and Illinois looks entrenched.
Here are this week’s rankings:
(all records through Tuesday’s games)
1. Michigan State (14-2, 5-0): Wins against Ohio State and Purdue continue to show that the Spartans are the cream of the crop. (Last week: 1)
2. Michigan (15-0, 4-0): The Wolverines took the starch out of a showdown with Indiana to move within a game of the best start in program history. (LW: 2)
3. Maryland (13-3, 4-1): Three wins in one week, including two on the road, lead to a major jump for the Terrapins. (LW: 9)
4. Indiana (12-3, 3-1): Foul troubles dulled an expected shootout with Michigan and snapped a seven-game winning streak. (LW: 3)
5. Ohio State (12-2, 2-1): The Buckeyes proved their mettle but couldn’t close at home against the Spartans. Maybe not a paper tiger. (LW: 5)
6. Wisconsin (11-4, 3-1): In holding Penn State to a season-low 52 points, the Badgers ended a two-game losing streak. (LW: 6)
7. Purdue (9-6, 2-2): Carsen Edwards occasionally looked disinterested in the loss to Michigan State. Someone has to provide more support for him. (LW: 7)
8. Minnesota (12-3, 2-2): The Gophers are looking as dangerous as anyone in the league, but fell apart at home against Maryland’s seldom-used zone. (LW: 10)
9. Iowa (12-3, 1-3): The Hawkeyes lead the nation in free throws per game but are still No. 125 in adjusted defensive efficiency, more than 40 spots worse than any other Big Ten team. (LW: 8)
10. Nebraska (11-4, 1-3): The schedule hasn’t helped, but the Cornhuskers need to start winning some road games. (LW: 4)
11. Northwestern (10-5, 1-3): It took a last-second three-pointer to fend off woeful Illinois. The Wildcats have a glaring need at point guard. (LW: 11)
12. Rutgers (7-6, 0-3): The Scarlet Knights are 22nd nationally in offensive rebound percentage in part because they are 276th in field-goal percentage. (LW: 13)
13. Penn State (7-8, 0-4): Coach Pat Chambers was suspended for a 19-point home loss to Wisconsin after pushing a player during a timeout during the Lions’ previous game. (LW: 12)
14. Illinois (4-11, 0-4): In a two-point loss to Northwestern, Illinois missed all 11 three-point attempts after averaging 9.2 per game to that point. (LW: 14)