Michigan’s stunning unbeaten run to open the college basketball season has come and gone. In handing the Wolverines their first loss of the season, Wisconsin also regained some much-needed mojo while shaking off consecutive four-point losses.
The Badgers’ 64-54 win in Madison on Saturday is another example of how challenging life remains on the road in the Big Ten this season. Wisconsin’s win came two days before Rutgers knocked off Nebraska at home, pulling the Scarlet Knights back to .500 for the season and showing further growth for Steve Pikiell’s group.
Meanwhile, Michigan State continues to cruise along. The Spartans lost their Nov. 6 season opener against Kansas, dropped a four-point overtime loss at Louisville three weeks later and have not been defeated since.
After losing Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson from last year’s team, Michigan State is asserting itself as not only the cream of the conference but also one of the nation’s elite. The Spartans have won 20 straight Big Ten games dating to last season.
Here’s a look at this week’s movers in the power rankings:
* Big risers: Purdue has dominated its rivalry with Indiana in recent years, and that again proved to be the case in this year’s first installment. A 15-point win gave the Boilermakers six wins in their last seven games, and they are getting contributions from players not named Carsen Edwards. That’s a dangerous scenario for the rest of the league.
* Big fallers: Nebraska has a solid resume to fall back on, and the Cornhuskers will be a dangerous postseason out. But a road loss to Rutgers is never a good way to follow up a disappointing, hard-nosed home loss to Michigan State. Just ask Ohio State. Oh, and Indiana has lost five straight — four of which have been on the road, but still.
* Big picture: Michigan State and Michigan have remained Nos. 1 and 2 despite the Wolverines taking their first loss, but Maryland is gaining ground. The Spartans beat the Terrapins in the Breslin Center on Monday, but the Wolverines needed a buzzer-beater to fend off Minnesota on Tuesday after their loss at Wisconsin.
Here are this week’s rankings:
1. Michigan State (17-2, 8-0): No Joshua Langford? No problem. The Spartans look like legitimate national-title contenders. (Last week: 1)
2. Michigan (18-1, 7-1): The gap is narrowing between the Wolverines and Maryland. The Wolverines didn’t look impressive in a rebound win against Minnesota. (LW: 2)
3. Maryland (16-4, 7-2): After scoring at least 20 points in four straight games, Anthony Cowan scored a season-low seven in the loss to the Spartans. (LW: 3)
4. Purdue (12-6, 5-2): Freshman center Trevion Williams has developed, playing 60 minutes in the past three games after totaling 85 to that point. (LW: 5)
5. Wisconsin (12-6, 4-3): The Badgers forced Michigan into 16 turnovers in their season-changing, upset win. (LW: 8)
6. Iowa (16-3, 5-3): The best-scoring offense in Big Ten play (78.3 points per game) has powered a five-game winning streak. (LW: 6)
7. Nebraska (13-6, 3-5): All’s not lost, but back-to-back losses have the Cornhuskers reeling a bit. (LW: 4)
8. Minnesota (14-5, 4-4): After a missed opportunity to steal a win at Michigan, the Golden Gophers are still in search of consecutive Big Ten wins. (LW: 7)
9. Northwestern (12-7, 3-5): Aaron Falzon’s career-high 21 points in a win against Indiana gave Chris Collins his 100th win. (LW: 12)
10. Rutgers (9-9, 2-6): Eugene Omoyuri remains hobbled, but he gritted out a key role in a home win against Nebraska. (LW: 10)
11. Ohio State (12-5, 2-4): The Buckeyes went 10-1 in the non-conference against a schedule ranked the 254th toughest by Kenpom.com. (LW: 11)
12. Indiana (12-7, 3-5): First, the Hoosiers suspended Davonte Green. Then that night, they lost at Northwestern. That’s five straight. (LW: 9)
13. Illinois (5-13, 1-6): A 27-point home win against Minnesota might be the most baffling Big Ten result of the season. (LW: 14)
14. Penn State (7-12, 0-8): After a one-point loss at Minnesota, the Nittany Lions are the lone winless team in the Big Ten. (LW: 13)