Big Ten men's basketball: Purdue encroaching on Michigan strongboys
Purdue might have elbowed its way into what had been a two-team conversation atop the Big Ten men’s basketball standings.
Michigan and Michigan State have cruised along as the cream of the conference, but the Boilermakers took control early and fended off a late Michigan State run in an eye-opening, 83-73 home win on Sunday.
Elsewhere in the league, Ohio State snapped a five-game losing streak by extending Nebraska’s misery, leaving coach Tim Miles searching for answers. And Indiana’s free-fall continued as coach Archie Miller searches desperately for a consistent third scoring option.
We’ve reached the point of the season where the league will begin to cannibalize itself a bit.
Big risers: Rutgers — yes, Rutgers — and Minnesota both climbed two spots. The Scarlet Knights followed a home win against Nebraska with a four-point win at lowly Penn State, while Minnesota came a basket away from upsetting the Wolverines in Ann Arbor before outscoring Iowa in a dogfight.
Big fallers: The Cornhuskers have fallen four spots and could be headed for an offseason of upheaval after Wisconsin handed them a fourth straight loss. Each loss has been by more points than the one before, and the loss of Isaac Copeland to a torn knee ligament highlights the lack of depth on Miles’ bench.
Big picture: Purdue has the latest edge at being the team mostly likely to dethrone either of the Michigan schools atop the standings on account of its win against the Spartans, but Wisconsin is also starting to distance itself from the pack.
Here are this week’s rankings:
1. Michigan State (18-3, 9-1): The Purdue loss sent a message, but the Spartans still have the best overall body of work. (Last week: 1)
2. Michigan (20-1, 9-1): The Wolverines held Indiana and Ohio State to 46 and 49 points, respectively, in consecutive wins. (LW: 2)
3. Purdue (14-6, 7-2): A supporting cast is developing around Carsen Edwards, and suddenly Purdue has won five straight. (LW: 4)
4. Wisconsin (15-6, 7-3): The Badgers are No. 5 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. (LW: 5)
5. Maryland (17-5, 8-3): It didn’t linger, but a decisive loss to Illinois is among the most puzzling Big Ten results of the year. (LW: 3)
6. Minnesota (15-5, 5-4): After scoring 19 points at Iowa, guard Gabe Kalscheur is quietly making a case for the all-freshman team. (LW: 8)
7. Iowa (16-5, 5-5): Defense remains optional for the Hawkeyes, who allowed an average of 87 points in consecutive losses. (LW: 6)
8. Rutgers (10-9, 3-6): The Scarlet Knights have won consecutive regular-season Big Ten games for the first time. (LW: 10)
9. Ohio State (13-7, 3-6): As other options have emerged, Kaleb Wesson continues to struggle in Big Ten play. (LW: 11)
10. Northwestern (12-9, 3-7): The Wildcats are 1-5 on the road and in a stretch of 7 of 10 games away from home. Not good. (LW: 9)
11. Nebraska (13-8, 3-7): With Isaac Copeland lost for the season, the Cornhuskers have lost four straight and are sinking fast. (LW: 7)
12. Illinois (6-14, 2-7): Ranked sixth nationally in defensive turnover percentage, there are signs the Illini might eventually be all right. (LW: 13)
13. Indiana (12-8, 3-6): The Hoosiers are in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament during Romeo Langford’s expected lone season with the team. (LW: 12)
14. Penn State (7-13, 0-9): This is the worst conference start for the Nittany Lions since the 2013-14 team lost 14 in a row. That mark might be in jeopardy. (LW: 14)