#1 Iowa (11-2, 5-1) (E)
Two games this week and two nice double digit wins for the Hawkeyes. First they took down Maryland by 22 then followed that up with a Sunday afternoon 15 point beat down of Minnesota to avenge their only conference loss of the season. Those two wins are more than enough to keep Iowa number 1 in my Big 10 rankings as well as maybe even move them up to number 4 in the AP poll especially with all of Villanova’s Covid issues. Either way, the Hawkeyes look like the Big 10’s best chance to break their 20 year championship drought. This week Iowa only has 1 game and it will be at home vs a struggling Michigan State team. I expect Iowa to win that one handily.
#2. Wisconsin (10-2, 4-1) (E)
After the Penn State game got postponed, Wisconsin was left with only one game last week. On Thursday, the Badgers were able to do just enough to squeak by Indiana in double overtime 80-73. D’Mitrk Trice led the way again for the Badgers with 21 points and 7 assists.
A couple key stats that jumped out at me for Wisconsin were winning the rebound game with a margin of +7, they also had only 7 turnovers compared to 10 steals. Finally, one of the biggest reasons Wisconsin won was the work at the foul line. UW made 16 of their 20 free throws to shoot an impressive 80%. Stat lines like that will win this team a lot of games. Wisconsin returns to action next week for two road games at Michigan then at Rutgers. I believe Wisconsin will win both of these but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them lose either or even both of these games.
#3. Michigan (10-0, 5-0) (+2)
Honestly, that was the first win that really impressed me all season by the Wolverines. The win over Northwestern was pretty good but I think the Wildcats are now falling back to Earth, but Michigan absolutely dominated #16 Minnesota with a 25 point victory in Ann Arbor. Hunter Dickinson continues to impress as he not only led all scorers, he doubled up the next closest scorer with a season high 28 points. Michigan dominated the Gophers in pretty much every category that matters: FG%, 3 point %, rebounds, and assists. Offensively, the Wolverines were a machine like shooting 56.9% from the field while assisting on an impressive 17 of their 33 total baskets. Defensively, Michigan held Minnesota to 32% shooting as well as won the rebounding game with a +9 rebound margin. If Michigan can keep up this level of play they WILL be wearing the Big 10 crown when the dust settles, especially with their much easier schedule than the other Big 10 title contenders. Very big prove it week for Big Blue as Michigan faces #8 Wisconsin followed by a rematch at the Barn vs Minnesota. I am gonna go out on a limb and say that Michigan loses both of these games, but I would not be surprised if they win both of these games either.
#4. Illinois (9-4,5-2) (E)
For the 3rd time this year, Illinois has followed up an impressive win with a surprise loss. First they demolished Duke on the road, and in the next game they lost to Missouri. Second, they beat previously unbeaten Minnesota by 27, and in the following game, they lost to Rutgers. Finally this week, the Illini brought the hammer down on in-state rival Northwestern, winning by 25, and they followed that up with a most surprising upset loss to a .500 Maryland squad. Illinois had a great offensive performance vs Northwestern as they poured in 49% from the field, while locking down the Wildcats holding them to 32% shooting. In their loss to the Terps, however, Illinois shot only 41% from the field, including 33% from deep. This week the Illini will face Nebraska followed by a date with #21 Ohio State. I expect Illinois to win both of these games.
#5. Rutgers (7-2,3-2) (-2)
That was a terrible week for the Scarlet Knights. They were blown out in both contests this week, starting with a 23 point loss to MSU, followed by an 11 point loss to OSU at home. Rutgers struggled mightily from deep in both games as they shot exactly 25% in each. They also continued their poor free throw shooting as they shot 35% vs Michigan State and 50% vs Ohio State. The loss to Ohio State really shocked me though because their only other loss in the RAC was to top 5 team in the country Iowa. Ron Harper Jr had a tough week coming back from injury as he only scored 24 points combined in the 2 losses. Unfortunately, Penn State would have been a nice bounce back opportunity for the Scarlet Knights but that game has been postponed. That leaves Rutgers with another difficult task of battling Wisconsin this week. I think Rutgers will lose in a tough fought game to extend their losing streak.
#6 Minnesota (10-4,3-4) (E)
Not a great week by Minnesota, but it wasn’t unexpected as the Gophers lost to Michigan and Iowa on the road. What was a little unexpected, was the fact that they were not even within shouting distance of either game as they lost by 25 then 15 points respectively. It is looking like the Gophers are a better version of last year’s team: Great at home, mediocre on the road. Both the Hawkeyes and the Wolverines did a great job bottling up Marcus Carr. He was only able to score 27 combined points between the 2 games. He and the Gophers look to bounce back this week as they rematch with Michigan on Saturday in the Barn. I like the Gophers chances to pull off the upset.
#7. Purdue (8-5, 3-3) (+2)
Trevion Williams for the win! I will take this week to go full fan for my Boilermakers as they pulled off a stunner erasing a 17 point 2nd half deficit on the road to take down Michigan State! On a night when Purdue could not buy a basket from deep (they were 3-24, 12.5%) Trevion stole the show as he bullied the Spartans in the paint to score a game high 26 points to go along with 9 rebounds. Purdue won this game because of their defense and rebounding. Even though they were not shooting well, the Boilers held MSU to 39% shooting from the floor and 23.1% from deep while forcing the Spartans into 14 turnovers including one in the final minute that set up the game winning basket. Purdue outrebounded Michigan State 37-31 including a 16-7 offensive rebounding advantage. This game might be the difference to put Purdue over the edge for making the NCAA tournament. In the short term, Purdue travels to IU for their 4th straight road game followed by a much welcome trip home to take on Penn State. The Boilermakers should easily handle the Nittany Lions, and while the IU game will be a tight contest, I like Purdue’s chances to pull off their 5th straight win in Assembly Hall.
#8. Northwestern (6-4,3-3) (-1)
After shooting out of a cannon to a 3-0 start to conference play, the crash back down to reality continues for the Wildcats after another drubbing by one of the conference’s elite, this time at the hands of Illinois by 25 points. That makes three straight losses by 15 points, 21 points, and 25 points respectively. Now those losses were all to top 4 teams in the conference, so they are not bad losses, but the team that started 3-0 in the Big 10 should not have been embarrassed in these games like they have. They continue to have a very difficult schedule coming up as well as I can only see 1 likely win coming in their next 6 games (vs Penn State). The Wildcats will need to get their form back quickly or they will see their place in the Big 10 standings as well as a possible NCAA bid slip away. This week Northwestern plays at Ohio State then comes home to play Iowa. NW will lose to Iowa, but they need to find a way to beat the Buckeyes for a 2nd time this year to stop the bleeding. I don’t like the Wildcats odds in this one though as the Buckeyes are going to come out at home looking to avenge their loss from earlier in the season.
#9. Ohio State (9-3, 3-3) (+1)
Similar to last year’s iteration of the team, this year’s version of the Buckeyes is tough to figure out. Last Sunday they got blasted by Minnesota, this week, after having a tune up game vs Penn State postponed, OSU went into the rack and pulled out a double digit upset win over Rutgers. Great team effort by the Buckeyes in that one as they shot 51% as a team and had 4 of their 5 starters in double figures. They absolutely dominated on the boards as well ending the game with a +14 rebound margin over the Scarlet Knights. Ohio State has 2 games this week, first at home vs Northwestern followed by a road game at Illinois. My guess is that Ohio State will easily avenge their loss to the Wildcats from earlier in the season, but then will lose to Illinois on the road.
#10. Michigan State (8-4, 2-4) (-2)
Michigan State played 4 halves of basketball this week; three of them were excellent and were as good as Sparty has played all year, the last half was disastrous. Starting with the positive. Michigan State destroyed #15 Rutgers winning by 23 in East Lansing. Aaron Henry led the way for the Spartans with 20 points, 8 rebounds and even 4 blocks. The Spartans smothered the Scarlet knights on defense holding them to 30% shooting from the field and 25% from deep. The Spartans also dominated on the glass posting a +20 rebound margin. MSU continued their defensive aggressiveness holding Purdue to just 16 first half points including forcing the Boilers to go 0-12 from deep. Then it fell apart as the Spartans got sloppy with turnovers, went cold shooting and let Trevion Williams dominate the paint as Purdue chipped their way back to pull out the upset. Overall, Michigan State has an awesome defense that will keep them in most games, but they occasionally will go cold shooting which will get them in trouble like it did against Purdue. MSU goes back to work next week as they take on Iowa on the road, followed by a home game vs Indiana. I bet that the Spartans will split these games with a loss to the Hawkeyes and a victory over the Hoosiers.
#11. Maryland (7-6, 2-5) (E)
For pretty much the entire week I was ready to give this spot back to the Hoosiers after they beat the Terps by 8 in Bloomington, but then Maryland walked into Champaign and pulled off the upset over #12 Illinois. This week perfectly displays the inconsistency that is the Maryland Terrapins. A team that didn’t score for over 6 minutes against Indiana with losses to the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers is the same team that has stormed into the homes of 2 of the top 4 teams in the conference (Illinois and Wisconsin) and come away with victories. One of the biggest commonalities that I saw in both wins was excellent free throw shooting and taking care of the basketball. In the Wisconsin game, the Terps shot 80% from the line (12/15) and only turned the ball over 9 times. In the Illinois game, the Terps shot 82% from the line (14/17) and only turned the ball over 10 times. This week Maryland starts at home vs Nebraska then heads out to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. I believe that Maryland will easily beat Nebraska then lose to Michigan.
#12. Indiana (8-5, 3-3) (E)
Pretty good week overall for the Hoosiers winning 2 out of the three games. Funny enough, their best played game was probably their only loss of the week, as they took #8 Wisconsin to the brink only to fall short in double overtime. The Hoosiers had their issues in their victories as they had a poor offensive performance against Maryland (37% FG and 18% from deep), but were thankfully saved by Trayce Jackson-Davis literally putting the team on his back scoring 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. In the Nebraska game, the Hoosiers almost fell apart blowing an 18 point lead to the worst team in the conference. Luckily they were able to salvage a win at the end, but a loss in that game would have been disastrous for IU. They need the team from the Wisconsin game to show up this week as they have 2 winnable games, home against Purdue and on the road against a surprisingly struggling MSU team. Indiana is capable of winning both games, but my gut tells me that they will lose both games.
#13. Penn State (3-4, 0-3) (E)
No action for the Nittany Lions as they already have a game next week postponed due to COVID, bringing their total postponed in a row to 4 games now. As of now their next scheduled game will hopefully be Sunday at Purdue. Hopefully they will get to play that game and get their season back on track. If they do end up playing that game though I think it will be pretty rusty game and a big loss for Penn State.
#14. Nebraska (4-8, 0-5) (E)
Say something nice about the Cornhuskers time. After their absolute embarrassment to Ohio State at home, Nebraska has kept both of their last two games competitive. Last week only losing to MSU by 7, and this week the Huskers only lost to IU by 8. Especially in their game vs the Hoosiers this week, I was impressed that the Cornhuskers fought back from 18 down to even take the lead and keep it close up until the last couple minutes of the game. Teddy Allen had another great game as he led the Huskers with 21 points to go along with 5 rebounds. This week Nebraska will face Illinois then travel to Maryland to take on the Terps. Different week, same story, as I expect Nebraska will lose both of these games.