It was a great week to be a bottom-feeder in the Big Ten. What to make of a week that saw Indiana win at Michigan State – in overtime, no less – Illinois knock off the Spartans on its home court and Penn State just actually beating anybody?
The talk of the Big Ten being the deepest conference in the nation continues to escalate as the lower echelons of the league carve out shocking wins, muddying the title race in the process. Entering Wednesday, six of the league’s teams had either three or four Big Ten wins.
Some call that parity. Some call it depth. Either way, the stage is set for a fascinating second half of the new 20-game slate.
Big risers: Purdue ascends to the top spot after an overtime road win at Penn State and a breezy home win against Minnesota. Trevion Williams’ rapid maturation has made the Boilermakers a more-balanced team, and with Carsen Edwards running the show things are falling into place in West Lafayette.
Big fallers: What is happening at Michigan State? After a high-octane duel with Purdue, the Spartans lost at home in overtime to an Indiana team nursing a seven-game losing streak and followed that up with a road loss at Illinois. What looked like a speed bump for Tom Izzo’s team is starting to look like a lane change.
Big picture: The two longest winning streaks in the league belong to the Boilermakers (seven) and Badgers (five). Given how those teams are playing, it’s hard not to elevate them against the two Michigan teams. The Spartans and Wolverines had held a stronghold on the top of the power rankings all season long.
Here are this week’s rankings:
1. Purdue (16-6, 9-2): Matt Painter is the front-runner for Big Ten coach of the year. The Boilermakers look dangerous. (Last week: 3)
2. Wisconsin (16-6, 8-3): When the Badgers are hitting their threes, they almost look unbeatable. (LW: 4)
3. Michigan (21-2, 10-2): The 74-59 loss at Iowa was Michigan’s worst-rated offensive performance of the year. (LW: 2)
4. Iowa (17-5, 6-5): The Hawkeyes are one of two teams to score more than 70 points against Michigan, and they came in a signature win. (LW: 7)
5. Michigan State (18-5, 9-3): Somebody poke Sparty with a stick. Losing Joshua Langford for the season doesn’t excuse losses to Indiana and Illinois. (LW: 1)
6. Maryland (17-6, 8-4): A five-day break will let the Terrapins wonder how they let one slip away at Wisconsin. (LW: 5)
7. Minnesota (16-6, 6-5): If not for that 21-2 run by Purdue, the Golden Gophers had a real shot at the upset. (LW: 6)
8. Ohio State (14-7, 4-6): The schedule lightens up for the Buckeyes. Also good news: Kaleb Wesson had 27 points against Rutgers. (LW: 9)
9. Indiana (13-9, 4-7): The ESPN “30 for 30” movie on the overtime win at Michigan State will be a fantastic future watch. (LW: 13)
10. Illinois (8-15, 4-8): The Fighting Illini are making their first strides under Brad Underwood, and the Michigan State win proves it. (LW: 12)
11. Rutgers (11-11, 4-8): Four Big Ten wins are already a single-season program record for the Scarlet Knights. (LW: 8)
12. Nebraska (13-9, 3-8): Dark clouds are gathering in Lincoln, where the losing streak has reached five games. (LW: 11)
13. Penn State (8-14, 1-10): Someone had to win when Penn State played Northwestern. The Nittany Lions found a way. (LW: 14)
14. Northwestern (12-10, 3-8): There’s no explaining away a home loss to an 0-10 Penn State team at your newly renovated arena. (LW: 10)