Big Ten men's basketball: Maryland, Nebraska pushing Michigan programs in power rankings
With talk that as many as 10 teams from the Big Ten could make the NCAA Tournament, the middle of the conference continues to slug things out as Michigan and Michigan State remain perched atop the chaos.
Six teams are clustered with conference records between 3-2 and 2-3, with Maryland threatening to elbow its way into the conversation with the two teams from Michigan.
The Wolverines and Spartans won’t face each other until Feb. 24, when Michigan hosts the first showdown in the series. Will both teams still be unbeaten in conference play?
Big risers: Nebraska has needed some sort of statement to prove it is the team the preseason projections were calling for. That came with a thorough road beatdown of Indiana that moved the Cornhuskers to No. 11 in the KenPom.com national rankings.
Big fallers: Ohio State and Indiana. Two of the league’s flagship programs have come crashing back to earth after near-identical starts. The Buckeyes were 12-1 overall and the Hoosiers 12-2, but both have lost three straight and look to be searching for answers.
Big picture: Maryland and Nebraska are sending signals that this won’t just be a two-horse race between Michigan and Michigan State.
Here are this week’s rankings (all records and statistics through Tuesday’s games):
1. Michigan State (15-2, 6-0): An easy win at Penn State opened a stretch of four out of five games away from the Breslin Center. (Last week: 1)
2. Michigan (17-0, 6-0): Only one team has scored more than 70 points against the Wolverines, who are off to the best start in school history. (LW: 2)
3. Maryland (15-3, 6-1): Don’t look now, but the Terrapins have just one loss since Dec. 6. Bruno Fernando is a bonafide star. (LW: 3)
4. Nebraska (13-4, 3-3): The Cornhuskers led wire-to-wire while holding Indiana to 51 points on its home court. Impressive. (LW: 10)
5. Purdue (11-6, 4-2): Overtime wins at Wisconsin are nothing to sniff at. The Boilermakers are showing more signs of cohesion. (LW: 7)
6. Iowa (14-3, 3-3): That much-maligned defense did a solid job of slowing the Buckeyes. Now, can Tyler Cook stay healthy? (LW: 9)
7. Minnesota (13-3, 3-2): Amir Coffey is averaging a league-best 23.4 points per game in conference play. (LW: 8)
8. Wisconsin (11-6, 3-3): A furious comeback fell short at Maryland. The Badgers have lost two straight games by four points each. (LW: 6)
9. Indiana (12-5, 3-3): A listless loss to Nebraska was concerning. Coach Archie Miller is searching for something to believe in right now. (LW: 4)
10. Rutgers (8-8, 1-5): The Scarlet Knights ended a 23-game conference losing streak against ranked teams with a three-point upset of the No. 16 Buckeyes. (LW: 12)
11. Ohio State (12-4, 2-3): Losing at Rutgers is never a good look, and coach Chris Holtmann has an avalanche of questions about his team right now. (LW: 5)
12. Northwestern (10-7, 1-5): The Wildcats have the second-worst scoring margin in Big Ten play at minus-9.7 points per game. (LW: 11)
13. Penn State (7-10, 0-6): The worst-shooting team in Big Ten play (38.2 percent) is averaging a league-low 58 points per game. (LW: 13)
14. Illinois (4-12, 0-6): The Fighting Illini have lost 14 straight games against top-25 teams. Michigan extended that streak in convincing fashion. (LW: 14)